Bottas wins chaotic Austrian Grand Prix as Norris claims debut podium

Valtteri Bottas has taken victory at a chaotic Austrian Grand Prix that saw just eleven cars reach the chequered flag, with Charles Leclerc in P2 and Lando Norris claiming his first ever podium in P3. Lewis Hamilton finished second on the road but dropped to fourth due to a five-second penalty he received for a collision with Alex Albon.

The race was sedate enough for the first ten laps. Bottas built up a 3.2-second gap to Verstappen, while Norris slipped back to P5 behind Albon and Hamilton. On lap 11, though, Verstappen lost power on the approach to Turn 3 and told his engineer that his car kept going into anti-stall. He limped back to the pits and retired on lap 13.

LAT Images

The next casualties were Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll. Ricciardo pulled into his garage with a cooling issue while Stroll, who had been struggling with a lack of power for several laps, retired due to a sensor issue.

Bottas had built up a six-second gap to Hamilton by lap 17, but on lap 21 Hamilton set a new fastest lap and began to reel his team-mate in. Four laps later, the gap was down to 3.8 seconds.

Lap 26 saw the first safety car of the race, brought out due to Kevin Magnussen suffering a brake failure at Turn 3. A flurry of pitstops ensued with every driver opting for the hard tyres except for Perez, who went with the mediums.

When the safety car period ended, Vettel lunged down the inside of Carlos Sainz going into Turn 3. He misjudged the attempt and span, dropping down the order to P15. While the incident was noted, no investigation was deemed necessary by the stewards.

On lap 42, Bottas and Hamilton were warned about sensor issues that had been detected in the gearbox of both cars and were told to stay off the kerbs. This warning was repeated several times and the gap between the two widened as Hamilton eased off slightly. Despite this apparent issue, the duo were still over ten seconds ahead of third-placed Alex Albon.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 51 saw the next retirements. George Russell ground to a halt from what had been a promising P12 and brought out the second safety car of the day. Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, ran off the track at the final corner and pulled into the pits with seemingly the same brake problem that curtailed team-mate Magnussen’s race.

Red Bull chose to bring in Albon for a change to the soft tyres, losing P3 to Perez in the process, while both Mercedes stayed out on hard tyres that had already completed 25 laps by that point.

The Safety Car came in on lap 54 briefly, after which Albon re-took third place from Perez after Perez locked up going into Turn 3.

At that exact moment, however, the safety car was brought out again, this time because Kimi Raikkonen’s front-left tyre had come clean off the chassis going into the final corner. It was initially unclear whether it was Albon or Perez who had been ahead at the moment the safety car came out, but it was decided a few laps later that Albon had been slightly ahead of Perez and thus the Red Bull driver slotted into P3.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 60 saw the safety car come back in and Albon set about chasing after Hamilton on his newer soft tyres. He saw an opportunity going into Turn 4 and went for it, only for the two to come to blows. Albon span and fell down the order to last place. The incident was duly noted and investigated, with Hamilton being given a five-second penalty.

Albon slowed a couple of laps later, saying over the radio that his engine was stopping. He wound up finishing P13, or last.

Between lap 64 and lap 66, Leclerc got past Norris and then Perez to find himself in P3 behind the Mercedes duo. It looked as if Perez was in with a shout of finishing on the podium due to Hamilton’s penalty, only for his hopes to be dashed when he was awarded a five-second penalty of his own for speeding in the pitlane and then being overtaken by Norris.

Lap 70 saw the last retirement of the race when one of Daniil Kvyat’s tyres disintegrated going into Turn 1. He managed to bring the car to a stop behind the barriers at a marshall post.

Bottas crossed the line to take the chequered flag at the end of lap 71 with Hamilton in P2, Leclerc in P3 and Norris in P4. Hamilton’s penalty, though, dropped him to P4 and promoted Leclerc to second and Norris to the final podium position.

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Austrian Grand Prix Preview: F1 is back, but not as we know it

112 days after the opener in Melbourne was supposed to get underway, the Formula One season will finally begin in Austria this Sunday.

As with the return of most sport during the COVID-19 pandemic however, things will work a little differently in the F1 paddock. Media presence will be lower, the freedom of the drivers to roam around the surrounding area during race week will decrease and, perhaps most prominently, there will be a complete absence of fans.

The Austrian Grand Prix will mark the first of two races at the 4.3-kilometre Red Bull Ring, with the Styrian Grand Prix following just a week later. This is all part of the FIA’s plan to satiate the year with as many races as possible so as to create as exhaustive a calendar as possible for the world championship season, which needs to be at least eight races long to classify as such.

Normally by this point of the year, we would know who is competitive and who is not, but the cars have not run since testing in Barcelona at the beginning of the year and, as we learned last year especially, testing pace is little to go by.

It is therefore quite difficult to determine who the favourites are going to be, but the same could generally be said in Spielberg last year. Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari were all competitive last season, with Max Verstappen narrowly beating Charles Leclerc to victory following a controversial overtake at the end of the race, the investigation for which was not concluded until hours after the drivers had stepped off the podium.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

One of the major points of interest is the perennially fascinating midfield battle. The Racing Point, designed on last year’s Mercedes, is tipped to be one of the major challengers to fourth place in the Constructors’ as they look to knock McLaren off their perch as best of the rest. Renault’s inconsistencies over the past couple of seasons will need to be rectified by their new driver-pairing of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon, as the French team consider their future involvement in the sport they have failed to re-master since their return in 2016. Alpha Tauri – rebranded from Toro Rosso – and Alfa Romeo will also have an eye on challenging for the best of the midfield teams.

Haas are understood to be the only constructor not bringing upgrades to this race, as uncertainty looms about their interest in F1 too. Their upgrades last year affected them adversely rather than helping them progress after the first race, and they will look to avoid further regression this year. They managed a fourth and fifth-placed finish in Spielberg in 2018, while Kevin Magnussen qualified an impressive fifth last season. A gearbox penalty and the Haas car’s ghastly race pace saw him finish behind both the Williams cars.

Speaking of which, Williams’ car was three seconds quicker in testing in Spain than it was in the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix, which will lead the British team to believe they can climb off the bottom of the championship table and relieve some of the immense pressure currently on Claire Williams’ shoulders.

One of the shortest tracks on the calendar follows the longest wait for a Formula One season since the World Championship’s inception. The Styrian mountains will not be alive with the sound of fans, but they will still be alive with the sound of Formula One cars.

 

[Featured image – Matthias Heschl/Red Bull Content Pool]

Racing game content creators to follow

In the run-up to the launch of the upcoming F1 game, I know plenty of us are planning on enjoying all there is to offer. Whether you are diving in the deep end with the new My Team mode, ringing the neck out of the four new Michael Schumacher classic cars or just overall being a tool by piledriving into people at the first corner in an online race. However in anticipation of F1 2020 being released, I’d like to let you all know about five content creators who you should consider following if you’re looking for some amazing videos centred on racing games.

Tiametmarduk


This is one that a lot of people in the F1 community will know already. Benjamin Daly is an Australian content creator who has amassed nearly 450,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel. If you subscribe to him, you can expect to find mostly F1 game career mode videos as well as online races, whether it be random lobbies, open to subscribers of his or even organised events.

Daly has been racing a lot of the F1 drivers in the Veloce Esports – of which Daly is a part of – Not The GP events as well as taking part in the last two F1 Virtual Grand Prix races with McLaren (who he has also become the Esports ambassador for). He’s probably the most naturally quick of all the big F1 gaming content creators on YouTube, and plays the game religiously.

This isn’t to say that Daly only ever plays the F1 games, he has branched out a few times though it’s safe to say that as far as the Codemasters F1 games are concerned, he’s the most well known and in my opinion, the best in the business. For a more varied set of racing games, you may like my next pick.

Jimmy Broadbent


Now this is a guy who everyone loves. Known by many names such as Jamble Wanglebork, Sheddy Irvine or the shed dweller, and also for being a bit of a jack of all trades. Jimmy is mainly known for driving more dedicated simulators such as iRacing, rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa Competizione etc. but he also isn’t shy to play the F1 games.

Like Tiametmarduk, Jimmer has been taking part in the Virtual Grand Prix races with Racing Point. Infact where there has been sim racing action in the past few months, it’s been very difficult not to find this wonderful man involved one way or another. Not only that, but Jimmy is also a commentator for the FIA Gran Turismo championships and you can just feel the enthusiasm, this man lives and breathes racing, and it’s just a joy to watch him and his videos.

Broadbent’s YouTube channel hit half a million subscribers during the Le Mans 24 Virtual that he was competing in, and on his birthday too. I cannot stress enough just how wonderful this guy really is and I highly implore you all to go seek out his channel, you will not be disappointed. Also, no he did not portray Frank Butterman in Hot Fuzz.

IntoTheBarrier


A bit of a left field selection I reckon for a lot of you, he’s gone very much under the radar and is someone who I think is very unappreciated. Scott Wallis is someone who I am sure is one of the backbones of the F1 Gaming community on YouTube, as his content is simple yet effective.

Scott often pairs up a short race with overenthusiastic post commentary and throws in a few in-jokes whether that be about aliens, horsey or a very brilliantly delivered “OH NO”. His editing is amazing too, what he lacks in ability on the game (which he would agree with so no I am not insulting him) he makes up for in video making.

What I mean by being a backbone of the F1 Gaming community is that before Scott came along, the F1 games didn’t attract much of an audience on YouTube outside of their little niche. Not many people wanted to hear some monotone 12-year old talk over a car going round a track, but Scott took that concept and perfected it for the mainstream. This opened up the doors for all his peers to start making videos and the F1 games could flourish.

This is why I include IntoTheBarrier here. He’s just short of hitting the 100,000 subscriber mark and he should get there because he deserves it. You have him to thank for the prominence of the F1 gaming community, even if he isn’t as serious or capable at driving as the likes of Tiametmarduk.

He hasn’t been able to participate in a lot of these big Esports races due to the fact he isn’t on PC, but maybe his in-joke about aliens could land him a sponsorship deal with Alienware? Maybe?

Maxime MXM


Another one who may have flown under the radar but understandably so, MaximeMXM is a Dutch content creator who has her channel sitting at 77,000 subscribers, which when you factor in that the content isn’t even in English, it’s honestly very respectable. She used to be a Call of Duty Esports pro player for G2 Esports, but has since focussed more on creating videos on a variety of games, whether that be Call of Duty, Fortnite, but mainly F1 and racing games.

Maxime really turned a lot of heads during F1’s own #ChallengeHeinekenLegends event where former F1 drivers David Coulthard and Nico Rosberg went head-to-head in a series of challenges on the F1 game. In one of the races, Maxime along with a bunch of other content creators (including Tiametmarduk) took to the US Grand Prix venue and she really stole the show. She led a couple of laps and finished third!

She has since been picked up by Veloce Esports and will start uploading English language videos to a second channel called MaxSim, and I for one am very interested to see where this takes her. I would highly recommend subscribing to her.

TRL Limitless


Now for someone who is very alien-level quick on the game. James Doherty is someone you may know from the F1 Esports series, where in 2018 he was drafted by Renault’s Esports team. However he is mainly known for his over 100,000 subscriber YouTube channel in which he uploads setup tutorials, analysis of onboard laps of some of the quickest drivers on the game and he even streams his online league races.

Doherty’s background was in karting, and he competed in both British and European Rotax races. His channel serves as more informative driven rather than entertainment, but his success as one of the most successful F1 game league racers in the world is not to be sniffed at.

Limitless is undoubtedly one of the fastest drivers on the game and his channel is completely dedicated to it so if you want to learn some tips on how to get faster on the F1 game and to learn more about it, then his channel is definitely the one you need to go to.

Honourable mentions

A list about racing game content creators wouldn’t be legitimate without mentioning Aarava. Like his Veloce stablemate Tiametmarduk, his channel is primarily F1 career mode focused but he also doubles that up by being the team principal of Alfa Romeo’s Esports team.

I’d also like to mention Super GT and BlackPanthaa, who both primarily don’t really play the F1 games and are more into Gran Turismo and Need For Speed respectively, but they are both worth a mention if you like those games.

Last but not least though, if you are a fan of GTA Online then you’ll really appreciate the next guy I am going to mention, his name is Broughy1322. He is the go-to guy if you want to know the performance of every car in GTA, as he religiously laps every single car in the game and he doesn’t get enough appreciation.

Alright! Hope I’ve given you all some good channels to go watch whilst we are all stuck inside. Enjoy them as we await the new F1 game!

Ferrari swoop up Sainz and Ricciardo moves to McLaren

In a blockbuster morning of Formula 1 news, Carlos Sainz has been confirmed as a Ferrari driver for the 2021 season, while Daniel Ricciardo will partner Lando Norris at McLaren for the new year.

Sebastian Vettel’s announcement earlier in the week that he is going to leave Ferrari at the end of the current season blew the driver market wide open, and the confirmed news today was swiftly followed as teams already look to complete their line-ups for the 2021 season.

Sainz has signed a two year deal with Ferrari, and will partner Charles Leclerc, who had a hugely impressive debut season with the Scuderia last year, winning two races and finishing third in the championship ahead of team-mate Vettel. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto showed his satisfaction at the move, saying, “We believe that a driver pairing with the talent and personality of Charles and Carlos, the youngest of the past 50 years of the Scuderia, will be the best possible combination to help us reach the goals we have set ourselves.”

Sainz began his career in F1 with Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso, but his frustration at a lack of opportunity at the main Red Bull team led to him joining Renault on loan for the 2018 season, having replaced Jolyon Palmer at the end of 2017. The news of Daniel Ricciardo jumping the Red Bull ship and joining Renault pushed Sainz out of the team, who then joined McLaren in 2019.

His relationship with team-mate Lando Norris was one of the more cheerful sides of the 2019 season, and the two transcended expectations for a team that is embarking on an impressive rebuilding process, which is what has enticed Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo joined Renault from Red Bull for the 2019 season, but has quickly grown impatient at the team’s lack of performance, having seen a slump in pace. They finished fifth in 2019 compared to fourth in 2018, 54 points behind McLaren.

It is unknown the length of the contract Ricciardo has signed at the Woking-based team, but signing a prove race winner and a highly talented racing driver is a revolution in the recovery of the British outfit, and has been described by Racing Chief Executive Zak Brown as “an exciting new dimension to the team”.

Ricciardo and Sainz did, however, seem content enough to stay put at their respective teams, but the domino effect from Vettel’s departure has had a substantial knock-on effect on the rest of the grid.

There is now an vacant seat at Renault, for which the French team have an abundance of options. Sebastian Vettel may or may not retire at the end of the year, and former champion Fernando Alonso has been tipped for a return to partner Esteban Ocon for the new year. F2 stars Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard, who are part of the Renault programme, will also be vying for the seat, while Nico Hulkenberg has been name-dropped for a return. Hulkenberg was forced out of F1 after a contractual agreement between Toto Wolff and Renault saw Esteban Ocon take his seat for the 2020 season, which is expected to start in Austria in July amid the coronavirus crisis.

Depending on who does take the seat, the 2021 season could see the youngest grid in the 70 year history of the sport.

 

[Featured image courtesy of McLaren Media Centre]

#SchumiWeek – Michael Schumacher’s Ten Biggest Rivals

Michael Schumacher was in Formula One for nearly 20 years, having raced in 19 seasons from 1991-2012. Over this time he accumulated his fair share of rivals, and people who sought to dethrone the most successful man in the sport’s history.

10 – Nico Rosberg

A somewhat strenuous use of the word rival, in Schumacher’s comeback with Mercedes in 2010, young team mate Rosberg outscored Schumacher in each of the three seasons the pair raced together. Nico also won the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, the first win of Mercedes’ return to the sport. Schumacher had his moments, but was never quite on the pace of his younger team mate, who is often your main rival in motor racing.

9 – Kimi Raikkonen

The spiritual successor to Mika Hakkinen, more on him later, Raikkonen showed what he could do in 2002, earning a handful of podiums in a largely unreliable McLaren. It was 2003 which showed he had the ability to end Schumacher’s run of title wins. Raikkonen only won once, his first win coming in Malaysia, but his consistency and ten podiums from a possible 16, saw Raikkonen in title contention at the final round at Suzuka. Second place wasn’t enough and Schumacher won the title by just two points. However the gauntlet had been laid down to the mercurial German.

8 – Rubens Barrichello

In the years where Ferrari reigned supreme, Barrichello was the only real rival to Schumacher. Spending six years as team mates, Barrichello and Schumacher were largely a good pair, though they had their moments. In Austria in 2002, Schumacher was controversially allowed to win after team orders denied Barrichello, who had led all race. Later in the year at Indianapolis, Rubens was given the win on the line as a token gesture from Schumacher. When no one could touch Schumacher, Barrichello put up a respectable fight. The relationship deteriorated in 2010 at Hungary though, as Schumacher, while defending from Barrichello’s Williams, almost pushed him into the pit wall at 180mph. Barrichello said at the time: “It is the most dangerous thing that I have been through.” Schumacher was handed a ten place grid penalty at the next race and apologised for the incident, despite pleading his innocence following the race.

7 – Ayrton Senna

In a case of ‘What could have been’, Senna and Schumacher only spent two full years on the grid together. But in 1994, Senna famously protested Schumacher’s Benetton B194, which he thought was illegal. Following Senna’s early retirement from the Pacific Grand Prix, Senna stood at the first corner and listened to Schumacher’s car go through, claiming to hear ‘unusual noises’ from the engine. It is largely considered that the B194 was an illegal car, but never was proven. Senna’s tragic death at Imola in 1994 robbed Formula One of what could have been an incredible rivalry between two of the sport’s greats.

6 – Juan Pablo Montoya

This rivalry was short lived but just as fiery. At the 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix, there was a first corner collision between Montoya and Schumacher. Schumacher’s Ferrari understeered into Juan Pablo’s Williams, but it was Montoya who received a penalty. This was ‘overly harsh’ according to Schumacher. The pair collided at the next race at the next race in Brazil, but much less furore this time. Montoya was best of the rest that season, finishing third behind the dominant Ferrari’s. Montoya was part of the next generation who really challenged Michael’s dominance.

5 – David Coulthard

“I’m very lucky to have raced against the most successful driver in the sport,” Coulthard mused in a YouTube series dedicated to Schumacher’s rivalries. “The relationship evolved to friendship in the end, but in the beginning, a respectful rivalry.” There were infamous incidents in Belgium and Argentina in 1998, where Schumacher collided with Coulthard. The incident at Spa, where Schumacher collided with Coulthard while lapping him, prompted the German to run to McLaren’s garage to fight with the Scot. Thankfully team personnel held them apart. At the 2000 French Grand Prix, Schumacher ‘Angered’ Coulthard after Schumacher swerved to hold off the McLaren off the start. “it was like a sporting slap in the face,” the Scot said.  “I reflect on my rivalry with Michael, as thankful to have had the opportunity to share the race track with him. I think racing against Michael made me better.”

4 – Fernando Alonso

One of best contested rivalries over Schumacher’s career. Alonso was the one to finally dethrone Schumacher, winning the title in 2005. “The battles with Michael were the best moments of my career,” Alonso said in an interview. “Going wheel to wheel with Michael was tough. I was intimidated by Michael.” At the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix Alonso and Schumacher had an incredible battle for the lead, with Alonso prevailing with Schumacher on his tail for the final 12 laps. Another example of the mutual respect between the two was the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix, where Alonso overtook Schumacher round the outside of the high speed 130R corner at 180mph. An incredibly difficult move which required respect between the pair, and was executed perfectly by Alonso.

3 – Jacques Villeneuve

The most controversial rivalry on this list, Schumacher and Villeneuve infamously collided at the 1997 season finale at Jerez while fighting for the championship. Villeneuve dived down the inside of Schumacher at the last possible moment, Schumacher was alleged to have turned into Villeneuve to try and take him out, it failed and Schumacher retired. Villeneuve won the title and Schumacher was excluded from it, losing all his points. The counter argument was that Villeneuve wouldn’t have made the corner as he came in too quick. However, 1997 signalled Schumacher and Ferrari were on the rise, and that Williams’ dominance of the 90’s was coming to an end.

2 – Damon Hill

One of the longer lasting rivalries of Schumacher’s career. Damon and Michael came to blows at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix while fighting for the title. Damon made a move on Michael going into a tight right hander. Schumacher closed the door on Hill, with the pair colliding. Michael’s Benetton was sent into the wall and Hill later retired with damage to his suspension from the impact. “I didn’t expect that Michael would be prepared to take me off if I was going to pass him,” Hill said in an interview with the Formula 1 YouTube channel. There were further collisions between the pair in Britain, Belgium and Italy in 1995. While it was a largely respectful rivalry, as most of Michael’s rivalries were, the pair fought hard in the mid 90’s.

1 – Mika Hakkinen

Undoubtedly Michael’s strongest rivalry, as well as Mika being one of the few drivers Michael truly feared. “Challenging Michael it was natural to me, to beat him. But to beat him and challenge him on the race track it was always a fair fight,” Hakkinen said in an interview with Formula 1’s official YouTube channel. This rivalry was incredibly respectful, with both drivers in awe of their adversary’s racing ability. “It’s easy to show frustration in public, and start saying something about your competitor in public, we didn’t start this kind of game,” Hakkinen stated. Arguably the finest overtake in Formula One history was contested between the pair at the 2000 Belgian Grand Prix. On the run down to Les Combes, Hakkinen attempted a move which Michael blocked. Not to be fooled again, Mika tried the move again a lap later while also lapping Ricardo Zonta’s BAR, cutting down the inside of both Zonta and Schumacher, and making the move stick. The late 90’s saw these two light up Formula One with some incredible racing, and Mika brought out the very best in Michael, and vice versa.

Featured image courtesy of Steve Etherington / Mercedes AMG

Schuey’s Moments of Madness

You cannot talk about Michael Schumacher, without bringing up his various incidents on track. I’ve picked out these particular examples, one of which came before his Formula One debut.

1990 Macau Grand Prix

This event, held for Formula Three cars saw a big battle between him and Mika Hakkinen. On the last lap of the event, having just started the final lap Mika was tucked up under the rear wing of Michael’s Reynard, and didn’t need to overtake the German to win the event. As the Finn went to pass his rival, Michael made the one move which would become a signature of his career and the two cars come together. Mika’s car, run by West Surrey Racing, was damaged on the left-hand side, with broken suspension and front wing. Mika was out, and Michael went on to win the event.

 

1994 Australian Grand Prix

For the next incident, we jump forwards to 1994. The battle that year between Damon and Michael was epic. As the two drivers came to the final race of the year, the Australian Grand Prix, held at the iconic Adelaide street circuit, Damon was just a single point behind Michael, after taking victory in a very wet Japanese Grand Prix. Now on lap 35, having taken the lead at the start of the race from Nigel Mansell who was on pole position, the Benetton driver had a moment coming into a left-hand corner, and he caught the rear of the car, but went wide, hitting the wall on the exit, and almost certainly damaging his car. Damon was around two seconds away, and witnessed Michael re-joining the track. The Brit didn’t know that Michael had hit the wall. Coming into the following right-hand corner, Damon moved to the inside of Michael, but the gap closed down, and the two cars came together. Now, Michael certainly knew that his car was damaged, so, did he move over on his championship rival? My opinion is that he did.

 

1997 European Grand Prix

Moving on to the next incident at Jerez at the end of 1997, I believe that this was pretty obvious to all. The battle between Jacques Villeneuve and the German for that season’s title, as Ferrari looked at the time to win their first championship since 1979 was big indeed, and Michael once more was leading the championship by one point as they came to the finale. The top three set the same time in qualifying with the Canadian on pole, followed by Michael, and then Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Michael took the lead, and Jacques dropped behind his teammate to third place. During lap seven, Jacques passed Heinz, and set about closing the gap to Michael. On lap 22 they both pitted, but Michael’s pace on his new set of tyres was not very good, and Jacques closed the gap down. During lap 47 the Canadian was right with Michael, and took a last gasp move up the inside, taking the Ferrari driver by surprise. Michael attempted to stop the Williams driver, by hitting the side of Jacques car, but this resulted in the steering getting broken on the Ferrari, and the car ended up in the gravel trap on the outside of the right-hand corner. It was a blatant move, and the FIA removed Michael from the drivers’ championship standings.

 

2000 Belgian Grand Prix

Moving onto the next big moment, which happened at the Belgian Grand Prix during the 2000 season. This was different from the previous events as it was not a championship decider, but Mika Hakkinen and Michael were still fighting for the championship. It was a wet to dry race and Mika led the race early on, with his rival down in fourth place. By lap 13 Michael was close enough to take advantage of Mika’s spin to take the lead. The Ferrari ace then had a 5.6 second lead at the end of the lap. As we came to the last few laps, Mika had been catching the leader, who had been suffering with tyres that had been overheating for a number of laps. He’d been driving off line on the Kemmel Straight to cool his tyres down, whilst Mika brought the gap down to just 1.6 seconds with just ten laps left. Coming up the Kemmel Straight with just five laps left, Mika was right on the tail of the Ferrari, and took a look up the inside but Michael edged the Ferrari over on the McLaren and Mika had to back out as the gap closed down. It was over the mark though, as Mika was very close to ending up on the grass. The McLaren driver got his own back however on the following lap with a dramatic move, and one that is well known – yes, that move with Ricardo Zonta in his BAR-Honda in the middle.

Ferrari Media

2006 Monaco Grand Prix

We head to Monte Carlo for the next incident, the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix. Towards the end of qualifying, as Michael had already set the fastest time, and was on pole position, he came to La Rascasse, and didn’t make the corner. Meanwhile, his big rival for the championship, Fernando Alonso was on a quick lap, going purple in the first sector. Back at La Rascasse, the German ace was parked up, meaning that there were yellows being waved. Alonso had to back out of his quick lap, and thus it was suspected that Michael had done this deliberately. The FIA believed it, and after several hours the stewards stripped the Ferrari driver of pole, thus elevating the Renault driver who was second fastest.

Ferrari Media

2010 Hungarian Grand Prix

The final moment came in 2010 during the year when Michael made his return to Formula One with Mercedes-Benz, and it was against his former Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello during that years Hungarian Grand Prix. Coming to the end of the race, the Brasilian, who had qualified his Williams-Cosworth in twelfth position, was right on the German’s tail. Coming onto the start finish straight, Michael’s car slid at the rear mid corner point. Rubens was now within a one car length of the Mercedes-Benz, and was benefiting from the tow halfway down the straight. Michael had his car in the middle of the track, giving space to Rubens to go either side. The gap on the inside was starting to close, but there was good space for the Williams driver to make a move up the inside. By the time that Rubens was halfway alongside Michael, the gap had reduced and the pitwall was getting closer and closer as Michael continued to reduce the space that Rubens had. In the end the gap came right down to the point that Rubens left-hand tyres were on the inner white line near the pitwall, with the result that the right-hand side was very close to hitting the pitwall! Thankfully, the pitlane was just beyond, and crucially no-one was exiting the pitlane at that moment! There was immediate criticism after the race of Michael’s actions. One thing was true – he’d lost nothing of his dislike of being overtaken, and was still willing to push the envelope of what was right. Michael was given a ten-place grid penalty for the following race in Belgium, and although he initially defended his actions, he later apologised for his actions.

Mercedes AMG

Summary

Michael Schumacher was an incredible talent – there is no doubt about this. But he really used to push the envelope as to what was acceptable. He became the most successful driver ever, winning 91 races and seven world championships, but there will always be these incidents casting a shadow over his career.

Schumacher Week – Legacy

On July 25th 2004, Michael Schumacher took victory at the Hockenheim circuit in the last of his championship winning cars, the Ferrari F2004. Fifteen years later almost to the day, his 20-year old son Mick drove some demo runs at Hockenheim in that very same car. The crowd were erupting with cheers for Mick, but it was no easy ride to get there.

Mick began his career in 2008 at the same kart track where his father started. For most of his karting career he went by the pseudonym Mick Bestch, using his mother’s maiden name to avoid media attention.

In his first three years, Mick committed to the Kerpen Kartchallenge Bambini races. He finished 4th in 2009 and won the following year. With the KSM Racing Team, he moved up to KF3 for 2011, competing in German championships and even finishing third in the Euro Wintercup. He did so again the following year, as well as securing third place finishes in the ADAC Kart Championship and DMV Kart Championship and 7th in the ADAC Kart Masters.

2013 would be the year that Mick would sneak out of relative anonymity, as he stepped up to compete at a European level. He took part in the CIK-FIA European, WSK Euro Series and WSK Super Master Series KF-Junior championships, and finished third in both the German Junior Kart Championship and the CIK-FIA Super Cup event. With it, the media started picking up that he was in fact Michael’s son.

In what would be Mick’s last year of karting, he would go by a new pseudonym Mick Junior, and finished runner-up in the Deutsche Junior Kart Meisterschaft, and the CIK-FIA European and World KF-Junior Championships. Tragedy followed in late 2013, as Mick was skiing with his father when Michael had the accident that resulted in the injury that has seen him away from the public ever since.

Mick has understandably remained very quiet about that fateful day, but he hasn’t let it prevent him from chasing his dream and, after what was predictably an emotionally difficult final year in karting, he would move up to cars for 2015.

Signing for the Van Amersfoort outfit, Mick would hit the ground running in his first weekend in the opening round of the German ADAC Formula 4 championship with a win in the third race at Oschersleben. He wouldn’t herald much more success that year, with only one further visit to the podium on his way to 10th overall.

For 2016, Mick moved to Prema PowerTeam and doubled up his commitments with a dual campaign in the German and Italian F4 championships. This is the point where Mick began impressing me. He took five wins in both championships and just missed out on winning both. He ended the year by finishing third in the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 winter series.

Mick remained with Prema as he stepped up to the FIA F3 European Championship for the following year. The transition didn’t herald immediate success, with only a single podium and a 12th-place finish overall, third of the first-year F3 drivers behind Jehan Daruvala and outright champion Lando Norris.

So far, it was a career that was promising but hadn’t been hugely stellar. Understandably, he is carrying the burden of being the son of the most successful F1 driver of all time, and most sons of former drivers get grouped in with pay drivers. But 2018 would prove to be Mick’s year.

Remaining in F3, he began the year under the radar. It would be the second half of the season at the venue where his father had a lot of his career highs though that he would finally find form, Spa-Francorchamps. Earning pole position in the second race but having to retire, he battled team-mates Robert Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong in race three and finally got that first win.

That was the start of a great run of form, as he went on to pick up wins at the following rounds at Silverstone and Misano. At the Nürburgring round, Mick joined an illustrious group of racers by picking up all three wins in a single Euro F3 meeting, a group that includes the likes of Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll.

With two further wins at the following round at Red Bull Ring, he overtook long-time series leader Dan Ticktum, a polarising figure who was being hyped up as Red Bull’s next F1 star. Ticktum openly suggested on his social media that there were factors towards Mick’s success, seemingly an accusation of cheating. Nevertheless, Mick sealed the championship, his first in car racing.

Before his 2019 campaign began, Mick had a choice to make. Prema often houses a lot of Ferrari young drivers, and with the F3 team being powered by Mercedes, Mick had gotten offers from both of his father’s former teams. He ultimately decided to go with Ferrari, the team that his father won five straight championships with, rather than the team he was with for his three-year comeback.

Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

On his debut in the Grand Prix-supported Formula 2 championship, he finished 8th in the feature race at Bahrain, meaning he would start on pole for the sprint race, although he was unable to keep his tyres in good condition. However, the week after driving his dad’s 2004 F1 car, he repeated the performance he’d put in in the Bahrain feature race, this time in Hungary, and went on to win the sprint race too.

He also took part in tests with both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo after the Bahrain Grand Prix, and a seat looks set to open up at Alfa should Ferrari decide to either promote or drop current driver Antonio Giovinazzi from the lease Alfa seat. However, 2020 is a make-or-break year for Schumacher, as he faces stiff competition from his teammate, fellow Ferrari Academy driver and reigning F3 champion Robert Shwartzman.

I do rate Mick, but if he is outperformed in F2 this year by the highly-rated Shwartzman then that theoretically should be it for him. If he isn’t in championship contention or if the Russian outperforms him, I don’t think Mick should get that seat. But I believe Mick will do well, and hopefully he proves his doubters wrong and that he isn’t just there because of the name.

Mick has a cousin too, Ralf Schumacher’s son David who is a runner-up in the German Kart Championship, best-placed rookie in German F4 and will be racing this year in the same paddock, albeit in F3 for Charouz.

The Schumacher legacy lives on. Hopefully Mick does prove this year that he is worthy of a place in F1, and he can forge his own.

Images courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari

Michael Schumacher- The 1994 Spanish Grand Prix in 5th Gear

Michael Schumacher had many incredible races, but this race showed his resilience and determination to finish a race even with his car having mechanical issues.

It was the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona and the first race held after the tragic deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at the previous race at Imola. Schumacher was driving one of the Benetton-Ford cars, with team-mate JJ Lehto in the other.

Several top-level names, including Schumacher, were instrumental in the set-up and running of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA), and the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix was the first race after its formation. They had made the decision to install a temporary chicane before the Nissan corner, which was generally taken at near flat-out speed, in an attempt to improve safety by reducing speed at that point at the track.

Schumacher took pole position, the second of his career and second in a row, some half a second clear of Damon Hill, who in turn had qualified just one thousandth of a second ahead of Mika Hakkinen in third. Schumacher’s team-mate Lehto was fourth.

Jordan’s Rubens Barrichello qualified in fifth, followed by the two Ferrari’s of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. Martin Brundle managed P8 and David Coulthard, who was making his debut in Formula 1 for Williams, replacing Ayrton Senna, qualified a respectable P9. The Tyrrell of Ukyo Katayama completed the top ten.

Andrea Montermini had been elevated from test driver to race driver for Simtek after the death of Roland Ratzenberger, but he crashed heavily into the pit-wall and broke both ankles, this ending his race weekend and also his season.

Beretta retired on the formation lap when his Larousse-Ford’s engine failed on the formation lap. At the start of the 65-lap race, Schumacher led from pole position while Barrichello and Berger collided at the first corner. Neither driver retired as a direct result of the collision, although both did so later on.

Schumacher led for the opening 22 laps of the race before pitting with what looked like gearbox issues. The Benetton was left with only fifth gear still working.

Despite driving the last 40 laps in fifth gear and making another pitstop, in which he managed to not stall the car, Schumacher continued to set respectable lap times considering he was losing up to 20 miles an hour on the main straight. He adjusted his driving style to find new racing lines, backing off early on the straights and rolling through corners, drawing on his past experience as a World Sports Car driver for help.

Schumacher ended up finishing a very respectable P2 some 24 seconds behind the Williams of Damon Hill. It was a stunning drive to adapt to the ailing car and still bring it home on the podium, marking Schumacher as a true racer who kept fighting in conditions that were stacked against him.

Schumacher commented after the race, “At the beginning it was a bit difficult to take all the corners in fifth gear, but then I managed to find a good line and keep up lap-times that were more or less good enough to compete against the others behind me.”

It was a truly stunning drive from a true legend.

 

 

[Featured image credit: Martin Lee / Wikimedia Commons]

A case for: The Finnish GP

This weekend would have been the return of the Dutch Grand Prix at the Zandvoort circuit to the F1 calendar, which is only happening because of a certain Max Verstappen. F1 madness has gripped the Netherlands, it only took about five years for a driver to generate enough buzz to get it back on the calendar. But we aren’t talking about that today, instead I’m talking about a country which has had three drivers who have won the Formula One world championship yet have never gotten close to having a Grand Prix in F1’s 70 year history.

1982 champion Keke Rosberg, 1998 and 1999 champion Mika Häkkinen and the much beloved 2007 champion Kimi Räikkönen all hail from a small country up in Scandinavia, you might have heard of it, Finland! A country that has a rich history of motorsport, mainly through rallying with seven drivers who have won the World Rally Championship, and if you ever saw the piece on Top Gear where James May is given racing lessons by Mika Häkkinen, you’ll realise how seriously the Finns take driving.

So why may I ask, has Finland never had a Grand Prix? Maybe the Scandinavian countries aren’t warm enough throughout the year, but immediately I can refute that because Sweden had a Grand Prix between 1973 and 1978. Plus it’s not like there isn’t demand! We always hear about the Finns traveling down to the Hungaroring for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Why should they be made to travel upwards of 2,000 kilometres to attend a Grand Prix?

For this year, construction was completed on a circuit on the Northern Eastern outskirts of Helsinki with the intention of bringing back the Finnish MotoGP. The circuit was called the Kymi Ring, and it hosted an open test shortly after finishing construction with the Grand Prix scheduled for July 12th, but understandably has been postponed in the current circumstances.

Looking at this video of a virtual lap from the newly-released MotoGP 20 game by Milestone, you can see that the Kymi Ring has some rather unique corners. The fast flowing turn one heading into an uphill hairpin, then a long back-straight before a series of very technical, flowing yet tight corners. Plenty of elevation change too, which is always an amazing characteristic with all the great circuits.

Whether F1 could have a good race here is another matter, although it wouldn’t be any worse than Yas Marina and Sochi. In any case, there have been discussions to potentially have other top-line racing series at the Kymi Ring other than MotoGP. This includes Karting, Rallycross, Speedway, Motocross, and even top-line circuit car racing such as World Touring Cars, DTM and the World Endurance Championship!

Those last three in particular should definitely hammer home how serious the Kymi Ring is about being the home of Finnish motorsport. It has gotten the top grades by both the major motorsport governing bodies for motorcycle and car racing, with the FIM giving it a safety grade A for motorcycle racing, and the FIA have granted the circuit and its facilities, grade 1 licence. Thus making it the first and only Nordic circuit to meet the requirements to host an F1 Grand Prix.

So immediately, this track meets the regulations to host F1, so it would beg the question, why isn’t it already trying? Well, as the answer always seem to be, money. MotoGP got priority over F1 because it cost way less, and it may build up the interest of potential investors but even so, I don’t see any reason why Finland wouldn’t be hugely onboard with getting the F1 circus to go there.

It just astounds me to think that it has taken so long to have the conversation about a Finnish F1 Grand Prix, particularly as we have got an aging Kimi Räikkönen – still racing in F1 at 40 – who will at some point overtake Rubens Barrichello for most Grand Prix starts when F1 does resume. Lewis Hamilton has Silverstone, Fernando Alonso had Barcelona and Max Verstappen will have Zandvoort, why can’t Kimi have the Kymi Ring? I mean, I doubt he actually cares but what about the adoring fans?

Like I was saying, the Finns have to make the journey to Budapest if they want to watch Kimi, their other Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas and indeed all the other drivers. Why should they? I’m British, so whether or not the Finns have their own Grand Prix doesn’t effect me hugely, but I think it’s an insult that they have never had one, particularly at the height of Häkkinen’s and Räikkönen’s careers.

One of Finland’s neighbouring countries is Russia, which already has a Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom near the shores of the Black Sea, one of the most southerly points of European Russia. However, there are strong talks of a circuit that has just been completed called Igora Drive, just north of St. Petersburg and not far from the Finnish border potentially taking over the Russian Grand Prix from 2021. This circuit is/was set to host a DTM round this year, and it looks a damn sight better than the current Russian Grand Prix venue.

If it were me organising the schedule, I’d put Kymi Ring and Igora Drive in successive weeks in late July and early August, probably at the expense of the Hungaroring, sorry Hungarians! With the Finnish F1 Grand Prix being a week or two after the MotoGP but before the WRC Rally Finland round. A month’s worth of racing action for the Finns!

As I said earlier, I’m British and none of my family are in any way linked to Finland, nor do I have any special affinity with Finland. But I firmly believe that all you Finns out there deserve a Grand Prix, and I hope it does happen. Kiitos!

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari