Fernando Alonso: Ups and downs in an illustrious career

Fernando Alonso is a double World Champion, the man who defeated Michael Schumacher, and a living legend of F1. However,  his career is in a constant decline, and that’s his fault.

In 2001, a young Fernando Alonso came into F1, driving for a backmarker team with a rich history, called Minardi. This was the first F1 drive for a person whose career in karting and junior series was something special. Coming from a country with next to no history in this sport, he made a name for himself, proved himself, and made it to the ‘big league’.

Right from the start, he showed his enormous talent, proving to the big teams that he would become a force to be reckoned with. He went on to become just that. For 2003 he joined Renault, the first time he raced for a good team, fighting for podiums and, in 2004, for wins too.

Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City
Friday 26 October 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _1ST2566

Then came 2005 and 2006, arguably his best years in the business. He beat Michael Schumacher with ease, as if the German were a rookie and not a seven-time world champion. He and Renault made sure they had no obstacles in their path and they pushed through, though not without some controversy.

In fact, Alonso’s entire career is defined by controversy, either through his actions or for what he publicly (and unapologetically) proclaims. Even during his winning tenure with the French team, he was criticizing the FIA for its decisions – most famously at the Italian GP back in 2006 – or attacking Ferrari for no apparent reason. Ironically, he joined them in 2010.

This leads us to another big problem with Alonso: his mouth. As big as his talent may be, he is a man of a lot of words – most of them, unnecessary. He always thought he had the upper hand over everything because that’s how he was taught to act by a certain Flavio Briatore.

The Italian former team boss is the perennial manager of Alonso and has had a big impact on the Spaniard’s attitude since day one. He is a great leader of men, but his approach in F1 is somewhat controversial – especially after the 2008 ‘crashgate’ scandal. This translates on Fernando’s stand on things, on how he sees F1, and himself in it.

He may now be a veteran in F1, a man who has seen and done everything, but that attitude, the feeling that he can control the driver market or that he can knock on every door and have them open, is something that doesn’t know age.

Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico City
Friday 26 October 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _1ST3356

One bad choice after the other defined the second part of his career. His McLaren days in 2007 were the start of his fall, before the five-year tenure with Ferrari seal his fate as far as wins and championships are concerned.

The second stint at McLaren is the latest consequence of his decisions. He seems to be responsible for everything bad (and good) that has happened in his career. It’s a great shame that he leaves F1 with just two championships and 32 wins, but that’s what he could get with his personality, his character and the guidance he had.

This does not undermine his achievements, though. He must and will be remembered as one of the best to ever drive at an F1 track, but history will not be easy on him.

Dimitris Bizas

 

Featured image – Pirelli Media Site

Renault: Building everything from scratch.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Renault Sport F1 Team RS18.
Mexican Grand Prix, Friday 26th October 2018. Mexico City, Mexico.

Photo credits: Renault Mediacentre

2016 marked Renault’s return to Formula 1, A six year plan was put in place for the French marque’s comeback to the top of the grid. Three years into that timetable, things are going well for the team.

At the end of 2015, the Lotus team, powered by Mercedes engines, was in a constant demise. Poor results and a declining financial state had the British-Russian team on the ropes. Renault’s intention to return as a works team was rumoured around the paddock for quite some time, and on 28 September 2015, it was officially announced. The Enstone factory would be yellow again.

We have seen this scenario before, and the examples from recent history are profound. Red Bull did the same thing back in 2005, Mercedes, too, in 2010. And they all succeeded, because they all had a thorough plan.

The fact that the managerial positions in Renault are not being held by the same people anymore does not affect the fact that the French are a ‘work in progress’, with signs of improvement every single year.

Their driver line-up is improving little by little. Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen was just the beginning, although they would love to have Romain Grosjean on board, had he not left for Haas.

2017 saw Nico Hulkenberg joining the team, making him their number one driver, for some reason the German scored points on 7 occasions, finishing 10th on the standings. And for the 2018 season, Carlos Sainz joined him.

Next year Daniel Ricciardo will have the Renault badge on his chest, this shows the team’s determination to push through a really hard driver market and make the necessary moves, to ensure that it can have the drivers who will be able to extract the maximum potential out of the car. Does it ring a bell Red Bull did the same with Mark Webber firstly and Sebastian Vettel two years later; so did Mercedes with Michael Schumacher for its first ‘awkward years’ and Lewis Hamilton for its domination.

Apart from that, Cyril Abiteboul, team principal for Renault Sport, has done a fairly good job recruiting experienced and talented people at the team’s technical side. Marcin Budkowski, Ex FIA man, joined them last April, and James Allison is rumoured to make the step from Brackley to Enstone. It’s highly important for them to have staff that knows how to make the right choices and develop a championship-winning car.

2021 is the biggest chance for Renault to be in the contention for the world title. It is not an easy task, but they have already shown their progress from 2016 to 2017, and from 2017 to 2018. From 9th on the standings, they currently are 4th, having the ‘best of the rest’ car and the ‘best of the rest’ driver in Hulkenberg.

If they can continue like this, success is a matter of time.

Dimitris Bizas

Opinion: Why Fernando Alonso’s charm is wearing thin

Fernando Alonso has never been the humblest of drivers, nor the most understated. He’s also infamous for his fairly horrendous career choices that have left him frustrated in underperforming cars, which is exactly where he finds himself now. His angered, but often humorous, radio messages during his time at McLaren have turned the Spaniard into the ‘meme-king’ of F1, but his off-the-cuff comments are, to some at least, starting to become repetitive and tiresome.

If you had a pound for every time Alonso’s called himself the “best in the world” or a performance the “best of his life” you would be very, very rich. These comments come seemingly every race weekend with the two-time champion desperate to remind everyone just how good he is… even when he’s often knocked out in Q1.

This weekend at Japan he called his qualifying lap “one of the best laps of my life,” saying he didn’t leave anything out on the challenging Suzuka track. That statement is more than credible when taken out of context, but when you add in the fact that he qualified eighteenth and that it’s definitely not the first time he has said that this season… well, this is where I’m coming from.

Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary. .
Sunday 30 July 2017.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _R3I4275

You get the sense that part of Alonso’s reasoning for saying these kinds of things is to tell the world “look how good I am. I’m not bad, the car is”. The Spaniard is well-known for his harsh criticism of underperforming machinery, as Honda found out during their three-year partnership with McLaren. However, these actions, most memorably of which was him shouting “GP2 engine!” over the radio, have already come back to bite him with Honda reportedly denying him an IndyCar drive with a Honda-powered team, not wanting to restart their ever-so-fractious relationship.

If you turn back the clocks to Alonso’s Ferrari years, he often came across as a bit grumpy and generally anything but humorous. He seems to have mellowed somewhat in his challenging years at McLaren, with stunts like the deckchair and rather questionable camera-work in consecutive years at Brazil increasing his popularity.

This was furthered by his trip to the Indy 500 last year where he proved he could fight with the best IndyCar has to offer, though it’s tough to say what would’ve happened had his Honda engine hung on until the end of the 200 laps.

Race driver Fernando Alonso of Spain pulls out of the pit area as he practiced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Wednesday, May 3, Alonso plans to miss the Monaco Grand Prix this year to drive in the Indianapolis 500. 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) ORG XMIT: OTKMC103

His antics have gained him countless fans, loving his outbreaks of personality in amongst the supposedly cold, media-trained youth, but you can’t really say it’s helped him in the matter of trying to get a decent drive. Red Bull said they didn’t want him for his trouble-making tendencies and teams like Mercedes have shied away from him for his potential volatile temperament, not wanting to upset intra-team harmony.

This has left Alonso in the massively underperforming McLaren-Renault that, despite a relatively strong start to the season, has promised much and delivered little. Undoubtedly, Alonso has grown frustrated with this situation and is therefore branching out to find ever more ways to remind everyone of his talent, be it WEC, IndyCar or kart races around his own track. You can’t blame the man for trying!

The problem is, the world hasn’t forgotten how good Alonso is, and it certainly doesn’t need constant reminders by the man himself to know that. Many drivers and teams would say that they like to do their talking on the track but with a lacklustre package, that’s not really an option for Alonso, hence the situation he has found himself in.

Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary.
Saturday 28 July 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren, puts on his helmet in the garage.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _2ST0511

In truth, words can only get you so far, if you are all talk and no trousers, people are going to start taking what you say with more than just a pinch of salt.

His charm is wearing thin on quite a few F1 fans, but it hasn’t worn through and maybe the change of scene next year (wherever that’ll be) will be what Alonso needs, effectively pressing the reset button and, hopefully at least, getting him back to being competitive.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the late great Juan Manuel Fangio that perhaps Alonso should’ve heeded long ago:

“You must always strive to be the best, but you must never believe that you are.”

Nico Hulkenberg targets “positive weekend” ahead of 150th Grand Prix

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg will be starting his 150th Grand Prix at the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix, and he is hoping for a “positive weekend” at a circuit that he sees as something of an anomaly on the F1 calendar.

“It’s a unique Grand Prix in more ways than one,” Hulkenberg said, “and it’s the only real night race we have on the calendar. Racing under artificial lighting does take a little getting used to, but Singapore has been on the calendar for so long now, it feels pretty normal. We don’t see too much daytime there as we’re working on European time. We sleep until lunchtime and then the work begins. The facilities at Singapore are really good, and it’s a very enjoyable venue for a Grand Prix.”

With its relentless twenty-three corner layout and temperatures in excess of thirty degrees even at night, since its inaugural race in 2008 Singapore has developed a reputation for being one of the most physically demanding Grand Prix around.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team.
Singapore Grand Prix, Thursday 13th September 2018. Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore.

“The circuit itself is very physical and puts a lot of strain on the body,” Hulkenberg added. “It’s up there as one of the toughest circuits of the season. It’s a long lap with corners coming thick and fast, with not many straights to have a break. The humidity makes it hard combined with all the action we’re doing at the wheel with non-stop corner combinations and frequent gear changes.”

This weekend’s race is the tenth anniversary of the first Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay and, as mentioned, is also Hulkenberg’s 150th in F1. As such, he is hoping he will be able to move on from the last couple of races, where he has started from the back of the grid thanks to penalties.

“It’s a significant milestone to have been racing in Formula 1 for so long with that many races under my belt. But it’s just a number at this stage and we have a challenge on our hands in the midfield battle, so I’ll be drawing on my experience and targeting a positive weekend in Singapore.

“We did all we could from the back of the grid [in Italy], and I’m pleased with how the weekend progressed. It’s good that the team are back in the points especially at a power-sensitive circuit like Monza. The penalties are hopefully out of the way and we head to Singapore in [a] confident mood aiming to have both cars in the points.”

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team RS18.
Italian Grand Prix, Saturday 1st September 2018. Monza Italy.

Singapore Grand Prix Preview: City lights, crashgate and championship heartbreak

Photo credit, Renault F1

Located just south of Malaysia is the city-state of Singapore, the home of the only F1 street circuit in Asia, and the first ever night race in F1 history.

Singapore may have hosted a race for motorbikes and sportscars as far back as 1966, but the F1 Grand Prix as we know it was introduced in 2008. The five kilometre and 23 corner track, designed by Hermann Tilke, winds its way through Marina Bay, high end hotels, and brilliant road infrastructure, completed by fantastic night lights that reveal the true beauty of the city.

Speaking of 2008, the first ever Singapore Grand Prix in F1 was won by Fernando Alonso. The race, however, was marred by controversy and drama. Nelson Piquet, Alonso’s Renault team-mate, was told to deliberately crash into the wall so as to bring out a safety car, allowing Alonso to get to the front. As a result, Pat Symonds was suspended from the sport, team boss Flavio Briatore was banned for life, and all this came about after Piquet was sacked by Renault and informed the FIA of the incident.

Singapore’s explosive debut also had massive implications for the championship. Felipe Massa left his pit box with the fuel hose still attached to his car, and the time lost as a result of the team running to the end of the pit lane to get him back on his way saw him finish the race in 13th with no points. He would go on to lose the championship to Lewis Hamilton by just two points.

Singapore has, in fact, been notorious for denting championship hopes. In 2014, Nico Rosberg came into the race 22 points ahead of Hamilton in the championship, but a major engine issue before the race had even started saw him start from the pitlane and eventually retire the car several laps in. Hamilton won the race, and took a three point lead which Rosberg would ultimately be unable to overturn.

And who can forget last year? Sebastian Vettel, who was poised to take the championship lead by starting on pole, moved across on Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen at the start, leading to a crash that eliminated all three of them from the race. Hamilton went on to win, and Vettel found himself 28 points behind Hamilton in the championship.

This year, however, the roles are reversed, and Hamilton finds himself 30 points in front of Vettel in the championship. Vettel may just need some help from the unforgiving Singapore circuit to get himself back into contention.

As Fernando Alonso discovered in that shocking night in 2008, you certainly can take advantage of the safety car in Singapore, which has been deployed a remarkable 17 times in 10 races under the lights.

Vettel, despite his misfortunes last year, is the most successful driver at Marina Bay, winning in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. His title rival Hamilton has won 3 times, in 2009, 2014 and 2017.

As well as crashes, safety cars, and title game changers, Singapore is also famous for its almost unbearable heat. The temperature, even at night, is typically around 30 degrees, and Daniel Ricciardo said after his first race at Singapore in 2011 with HRT that the physical demands of the race gave him a feeling he “never wanted to experience in a race car again”.

With so many variables in Singapore, this could be a chance to start a road to redemption, not only for Vettel’s title challenge but also for several others chasing seats in F1 for 2019, and it’s these variables that have us and the drivers excited about racing under the lights in Singapore.

What went wrong for Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren?

Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne is to leave McLaren at the end of the 2018 season, with Lando Norris set to replace him. Two miserable years with the Woking-based team have led to Vandoorne being shown the door and, with Fernando Alonso having made the decision to retire at the end of the year, McLaren will walk into 2019 with the all-new driver line-up of Norris and Carlos Sainz.

Where, however, did things go so wrong for Vandoorne?

There was a promising future for Stoffel Vandoorne prior to joining McLaren at the start of the 2017 season. The Belgian won championships in Formula 4, Formula Renault 2.0, and GP2, and was hotly tipped to be a success as part of McLaren’s young driver programme.

It was even a promising start to life in F1 – he deputised for the injured Fernando Alonso at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, after the Spaniard’s huge shunt at the previous race in Melbourne. Vandoorne out-qualified Jenson Button in the other McLaren, and took the team’s first point of the season with a P10.

Monza, Italy.
Saturday 1 September 2018.
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, prepares to get into his car.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _2ST7751

Vandoorne was rewarded with a drive for the 2017 season after Jenson Button retired at the end of 2016, but after all the hype and promise surrounding the future of his F1 career, things have not gone well at all for Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was partnered with Alonso for 2017, and since has been out-qualified by him 30 times over the period of the whole of last season and the first fourteen races of 2018. Vandoorne, by stark contrast, has out-qualified Alonso just three times since the start of their partnership, and Vandoorne has been an average of 0.3 seconds slower than Alonso. It’s a big margin.

Vandoorne’s average finishing position in 2018 has been 12th, with Alonso’s being 9th, and he is currently 36 points behind the double world champion in the championship.

Vandoorne has visibly struggled for pace in his McLaren, regardless of the comparison with Alonso, who is after all a double world champion and arguably one of the best ever drivers in the sport. The Belgian hasn’t looked comfortable, and has struggled to be on the pace in many of the Grand Prix since the start of 2017.

This is strange. After all, he did a superb job in 2016 in Bahrain, and it was then when many keen eyes in F1 turned to him as a future world champion. The performance issues could potentially have been down to the radical changes to the cars made between 2016 to 2017, or due to the pressure that he may have felt having to try and compete with Alonso.

Earlier this year, Alonso leapt to Vandoorne’s defence and said that past team-mates have been “a lot further away” than him. He was stated that there was a major issue with downforce on Vandoorne’s car, and even urged the team to analyse data to try and resolve the issue.

A lot of scepticism greeted these comments, and many have suggested that Alonso was merely trying to convince us all that Vandoorne’s lack of performance has been the fault of outside factors.

The claims aren’t without substance though. Honda – who were ridiculed for three hapless years supplying McLaren, with reliability failures littered throughout the tenure – have worked very well for Toro Rosso this year, and McLaren have shown little improvement with the Renault engines they expected would take them much further up the field, suggesting a serious problem with the McLaren chassis.

Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.
Sunday 26 August 2018.
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, arrives on the grid.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _2ST5204

This will be of little consolation to Vandoorne, because the circumstances of being in a poor car up against Alonso have still meant that his F1 future dangles on a string.

The car has, however, been very unreliable and slow. The Renault engines have not treated customer teams McLaren or Red Bull well at all this season, and Alonso said after the Italian Grand Prix that McLaren have “taken a step backwards” in terms of reliability this year. That being said, Vandoorne and Alonso have each had two reliability failures this year, and Alonso has still managed to easily out-perform him this year.

Where next for Vandoorne? There is still hope for him. Williams, Haas and Toro Rosso are all still yet to announce their driver line-ups for next year. There is no secure future for Brendon Hartley or Romain Grosjean after disappointing seasons thus far for them, having been out-performed by Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen at Toro Rosso and Haas respectively.

Gasly is moving up to Red Bull to replace Renault-bound Daniel Ricciardo for next year, meaning that there are potentially two seats available at Toro Rosso, with Daniil Kvyat linked with a potential return to F1 with them.

Lance Stroll is set to move to Racing Point Force India following the buyout of the team by his father, and Sergey Sirotkin may yet be dropped by the British team. Sauber are set to keep Marcus Ericsson because of his funding, but Charles Leclerc may well be off to Ferrari if Kimi Raikkonen retires at the end of the year. Rumours are now floating around that Ferrari have agreed a deal with the Monegasque for next year.

Let’s not forget also that, as it is, Esteban Ocon – despite having done such a good job for Racing Point Force India – may well be forced out of the team if and when Stroll is signed to partner Sergio Perez because of the ownership by his father. That then means that he will also be looking for a team for next year.

There is yet hope for Vandoorne, but after such a torrid time with McLaren, his hopes of staying in the pinnacle of motorsport are hanging in the balance.

Austrian Grand Prix: Bottas Claims First Pole of the Year

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Valtteri Bottas has claimed his first pole position of the year, and leads a Mercedes 1-2 into tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Of the big-hitters, only Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a truly clean session. Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel made mistakes early on – at turn three and turn four respectively – and ended up relatively far back after the first Q3 runs had been completed. It took until the last couple of minutes for the pair to pull themselves back up the order – Hamilton ultimately qualified P2, and Vettel P3, with both pushing Kimi Raikkonen down into P4. Vettel was noted as being under investigation for allegedly impeding Carlos Sainz in Q2, but since Sainz did advance to Q3 it is uncertain whether Vettel will receive any penalty.

Red Bull had expected qualifying to be a struggle compared to Mercedes and Ferrari coming into the weekend. Max Verstappen may have qualified P5 but he was still two tenths behind Raikkonen, and Daniel Ricciardo ended up P7 behind the Haas of an impressive Romain Grosjean. Replays of team radio throughout the session indicated a certain amount of tension in the team, with Ricciardo frustrated that Verstappen did not follow orders to lead the Australian for a lap and give him a tow, as Ricciardo had done for Verstappen the lap before.

Kevin Magnussen and the two Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg complete the top ten.

Further down the order, Charles Leclerc continues to impress in the Sauber. He qualified P13 but carries a five-place grid penalty due to his gearbox needing to be changed following a stoppage on track in FP3.

Force India’s Sergio Perez had a nightmare of a session. The Mexican complained of running out of battery during his first run and of getting stuck in traffic during his second. He failed to make it out of Q1 and starts P17.

It was also a frustrating session for McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. Both were looking to pull themselves out of the drop-zone and into Q2, but encountered yellow flags on their flying laps when Charles Leclerc ran through the gravel trap in the final moments of Q1.

Both Mercedes and Red Bull will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix on the supersoft tyres, with all those around them starting on the ultras. Bottas will be hoping to convert pole position into a win, at the circuit where he claimed his second ever victory in 2017.

Austrian Grand Prix Grid

1. Valtteri Bottas – 1:03.130

2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:03.149

3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:03.464

4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:03.660

5. Max Verstappen – 1:03.840

6. Romain Grosjean – 1:03.892

7. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:03.996

8. Kevin Magnussen – 1:04.051

9. Carlos Sainz – 1:04.725

10. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:05.019

11. Esteban Ocon – 1:04.845

12. Pierre Gasly 0 1:04.874

13. Fernando Alonso – 1:05.058

14. Lance Stroll – 1:05.286

15. Stoffel Vandoorne – 1:05.271

16. Sergio Perez – 1:05.279

17. Sergey Sirotkin – 1:05.322

18. Charles Leclerc – 1:04.979 *5-place penalty for gearbox change

19. Brendon Hartley 1:05.366

20. Marcus Ericsson – 1:05.479

 

Update – 17:30 – Sebastian Vettel has been given a three-place penalty by the stewards for impeding Carlos Sainz at turn one in Q2. The German will now start P6, promoting Kimi Raikkonen to P3, Max Verstappen to P4, and Romain Grosjean to P5.

Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel re-takes the lead as Mercedes failed to deliver

This year, the Canadian grand prix had no surprises. It was a quiet Sunday evening for most of the drivers and especially for the top three.

Vettel’s flying lap on Saturday’s qualification session, was enough to give him the pole position and on Sunday, the German, lead the race for 70 consecutive laps. Bottas, who started second, had to defend his place, on the first lap from Max Verstappen.

The Dutch had a very good Q3 session on the previous day and managed to finish third and get a place on the podium in the Canadian Grand Prix. The only moment where he battled Bottas was at lights out, but the Finn defended very well his place and remained second.

Valtteri Bottas, finished second for the fourth time in seven races this season, he is the driver with the most second place finishes. The Finn, shows his skills this season and it won’t be long till he celebrates his first victory in 20018.

I have to admit that the race didn’t meet my expectations, but still some interesting conclusions can be made.

Ferrari dominated in a circuit which suits Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton won six times in ten attempts in Canada. The Silver Arrows won the last three Grand Prix in Montreal, but this time the team was not able to challenge Ferrari and Hamilton was struggling to stay close to Ricciardo for the fourth place. The British champion complained about the low power that the Mercedes’ engine delivered this week and lost the 14-point lead which he had in the drivers’ championship.

‘’There were lots of hesitations, engine dropping in power, so I thought the engine was going to blow.’’ Hamilton said.

Mercedes had to pit, Lewis, earlier that it was planned to remove some bodywork panels and reduce the engine temperature.

A very productive weekend for Renault, the yellows had the pleasure to see both drivers in the top-10 and they collected some crucial points for the team. Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz finished seventh and eighth respectively. Renault, is currently fourth in the constructors’ championship with 56 points, 16 points ahead of McLaren. The team, looks confident and they have a comfortable lead from McLaren, which is currently struggling to follow the pack.

Charles Leclerc, a young and ambitious driver, which many fans wanting him in Ferrari as soon as possible, finished once again in the points. The rookie driver from Monaco, is keep impressing us with his results. The sixth place in Baku, was not a firework, the Monegasque had to fight with Alonso for the tenth place in Canada. Fernando’s retirement allowed him to finish in the top-10 and score another point for Sauber, which has 12 in total and is ahead of Williams. Charles has 10 points in the championship so far and he is fourteenth, ahead of Vandoorne.

Williams, had another bad weekend. Last season, Stroll scored his first points in his home race, but this time the Canadian retired on the first lap, due to a collision with Brendon Hartley. His team-mate, finished seventeenth.

It was Sebastian Vettel’s 50th victory, a great achievement for the German driver.

There are still many races in the 2018 calendar, it is clear that the drivers’ championship will be a battle between Vettel and Hamilton, but Red Bull is a very capable team and will affect the final outcome of the year.

*Twitter @FP_Passion

Red Bull in talks with Honda

Red Bull to Honda, a gamble worth taking?

Formal talks between Red Bull and Honda started earlier this week for the possibility of the Japanese giants to supply the team for the 2019 season onwards. Informal talks where held prior to the hectic Azerbaijan Grand Prix between Red Bull’s Helmut Marko and Honda’s Masahi Yamamoto.

With Red Bull currently using Renault, and their junior team Toro Rosso using Honda they have the unique capability to review both power units. Red Bull have partnered Renault since the 2007 season. Success peaked with the Red Bull team winning four Driver and Constructors Championships in a row.  Since the 2014 season though when the complicated hybrids were introduced, the relationship has become very fractious publicly and it makes those years seem much longer ago than they were. Renault have had enough and multiple sources late last year said that they want to stop supplying the team.

Cyril Abiteboul from Renault Sport have made it clear to Red Bull they need to know the situation prior to the 15th May. This is the date when they have to provide information to the FIA for next season in regards to which teams they will supply engines too. They need to start organising the amount of parts they need, so Red Bull – Honda will have to conclude discussions pretty quickly. If nothing is completed by that set date Renault are forced to continue to supply Red Bull.

Fernando Alonso with the 2017 Mclaren Honda. Image courtesy of Mclaren

Red Bull’s interest has grown due to Honda coming on leaps and bounds since last season. Throughout pre-season testing they performed with far greater reliability and speed than previous seasons.. It seems from the performance of Toro Rosso thus far, McLaren may have made another mistake to add to their collection in recent years. All the power units are getting closer, its just that Mercedes have that so called party mode to exploit in qualifying. The unreliability of the Honda engine the in the McLaren of previous years wasn’t solely down to Honda, which McLaren, have confirmed since.

So far in 2018 season it seemed all the reliability Honda had in pre-season was lost when Gasly had to retire his car due to a MGU-H problem at the Australian GP. They have had no major problems noted since then. 

Renault are not without their own faults this season. Two most major ones happened at Bahrain. Verstappen suffered from an unexpected power surge causing him to lose the rear end of the car. This made him a passenger as his car collided into the wall ending his qualifying. On the Sunday an energy store problem halted Ricciardo’s drive from a strong position. This ironically gave Gasly a boost up the order, to which he finished an outstanding 4th, after an amazing qualifying on Saturday. This was the best ever result for Honda powered car since their return to the sport.

The talks are ongoing. F1 has recently announced new aero rules have been  for 2019, so albeit 4 races into the season, preparations for the next season will start earlier than usual. The Spanish Grand Prix is when major upgrades are shown and we start to see what the 2018 prototype cars are really capable of. With the forthcoming 15th of May engine deadline falling a few days after the Spanish GP, we are likely to see announcement very soon, if not before the GP.

If Red Bull as expected do move to Honda power, only time will tell if this was the right choice. But do they have any other choice as they have burnt many bridges already in F1?

Featured image courtesy of Redbull content pool

Let the Show Begin, is F1 still boring?

A few months ago, almost everyone was complaining about the Halo. In Spain, where the first off-season test took place, the majority of the F1 fans didn’t like the design of the 2018 cars, especially because of the ‘Sayonara’ shape which is attached on the cockpit.

The next biggest issue that most of us had/have, is the lack of overtaking and suspense. Which I will agree, the past seasons were boring with zero suspense. We knew the winning team from the first race, except last season where Vettel was challenging Hamilton, our agony lasted until the British Grand Prix. The British champion returned to the winning mode and personally, I couldn’t see the Ferrari be able to stop the Silver Arrows.

This year, everything looks different. In Australia, Hamilton took the pole, but Ferrari copied their last year’s recipe and Vettel took the chequered flag. Two weeks later, in Bahrain, Sebastian Vettel drove from the pole till the final lap and scored his second consecutive victory.

Red Bull, which have faced several technical and non-technical issues this season, managed to do the impossible. Daniel Ricciardo, started the race from the fourth place, but after a thrilling race he took the chequered flag.

Lack of suspense

In Bahrain, Ferrari did not have an easy afternoon. Lewis Hamilton, had an impressive race, he managed to finish third from the ninth place, whilst his team-mate, was pushing Vettel, who decided to go for one stop strategy and finished the race on softs. Valtteri was close to Vettel, he had fresher tyres and a harder compound, in the final laps he was less than a second behind the German, but he couldn’t find the space and the speed to pass Vettel’s Ferrari. It was a thrilling race full of suspense and unpredictable until the chequered flag. After 57 laps, Sebastian Vettel finished first, 0.699s ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

The Battle between the Middle Teams

A dreaming start for the McLaren, in their first season with Renault powered engines. In Australia, Fernando Alonso finished fifth, between the two Red Bulls, while his team-mate, Stoffel Vandoorne finished ninth and scored two points for the McLaren. In Bahrain, both McLaren’s drivers finished in the points, Nando and Stoffel scored ten points combined. That was the second consecutive double point finish for McLaren. Fernando Alonso, didn’t stop the good performances in China. The Spaniard finished seventh ahead of Sebastian Vettel, including a great overtake on Vettel.

Renault looks that provides stable engines to McLaren, which is currently fourth in the constructor championship with 28 points. Fernando Alonso has scored 22 points so far, and he is in the sixth place, not far behind from Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen.

Another team, which had an impressive start been Haas, the American team impressed their fans in Australia with their competitiveness and their speed. Unfortunately, both drivers retired after a mistake during their pit-stops.

The two teams which have not met their fans’ expectations are the Force India and Williams. Force India has scored one point until now, they are ninth ahead of Williams which are at the bottom of the championship. Esteban Ocon, finished tenth in Bahrain and scored the only point for Sahara Force India so far.

Mercedes, the calm before the storm

Mercedes looks like the giant who is sleeping and everyone is trying not to wake him up. The Silver Arrows, have the speed and the pace to follow both Ferrari and Red Bull. Some poor strategic decisions cost them the victory in Australia. Bottas was chasing Vettel in Bahrain, but didn’t manage to pass him and in China Valtteri and Hamilton finished second and fourth respectively.

If the Halo makes the cars uglier but the championship more exciting and unpredictable, I would suggest to add more ‘Halos’ to the cars.

For me, the championship has not even started yet, next race takes place in Azerbaijan, which was one of the most unpredictable and emotional race of the 2017 season. Ferrari seems to have the upper hand, but both Mercedes and Red Bull are close and can easily challenge the Italians.

Let the show begin..!

Twitter – @FP_Passion

©2017 The Pitcrewonline