Ferrari

Bottas supreme in season opener

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Valtteri Bottas claimed a surprise victory in Australia, with Mercedes showing unexpected post-testing pace, while Max Verstappen edged out the Ferraris to round out the podium.

Despite claiming pole position, Lewis Hamilton made a poor start and fell to P2, before sustaining some damage to his floor that affected his overall pace. After an early pitstop from Ferrari, Hamilton was brought in to cover off a potential under-cut, but with a long second stint ahead of him the potential to challenge for the win quickly faded.

Ferrari seemed to be caught off-guard by Mercedes’ pace, mostly scrapping with each other more than those around them. At the first turn, Leclerc found himself on the outside of Vettel and ran wide, before recovering in the middle phase of the race to be on his teammate’s tail. After asking the team whether he should attack or hold position, he was instructed to fall back. This brings into question Ferrari’s claim that the two are “free to race”, considering team orders were imposed without the championship, or even a race victory, at stake.

Red Bull rounded out the podium with a strong showing from Max Verstappen, delivering Honda’s first F1 podium in 11 years. Pierre Gasly however disappointed during qualifying, being eliminated in Q1, and struggled to make his way through the midfield. Following a pitstop for Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat, it looked like Gasly might jump into the points after emerging ahead of the junior team driver. But a determined Kvyat reclaimed P10 and held off Gasly to claim the final points paying position, justify his reinstatement but causing headaches for Gasly.

Haas showed that their performance during testing was genuine, easily out-pacing their nearest rival Renault. Despite a retirement for Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen delivered a strong haul of points.

Daniel Ricciardo in particular suffered from the home-race curse on debut for Renault. After being forced onto the grass at the start and bouncing over uneven ground, he emerged without a front wing. Pitting for a new nose left him at the rear of the field with almost no hope of points.

Despite the indignation upon it’s introduction, the battle for the Fastest Lap bonus point proved noteworthy. Max Verstappen claimed the Fastest Lap in the late phase of the race as he closed the gap to Hamilton ahead of him, but Bottas snatched the accolade with a blistering lap that denied all challengers any chance.

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner admitted that they were considering pitting Gasly as a sacrifice in the attempt to deny the Mercedes drivers the bonus point. By claiming the Fastest Lap, Gasly would not have been eligible for the point as he didn’t finish within the top 10, but it would have robbed the front-runners. Ferrari also had a chance to pit Leclerc (and if they wanted to also Vettel) to try to claim the extra point, but decided against it, a decision they are reviewing post-race.

In what Bottas called his “best race ever”, he leaves with the odd stat of having the greatest points lead in F1 history over the next driver after round 1. Interestingly, 26 points isn’t the greatest number awarded in a race, that honour going to Lewis Hamilton who claimed all 50 points on offer when double points were available in Abu Dhabi for the final round of the 2014 season.

Raikkonen leaves Ferrari for Sauber, Leclerc joins the Scuderia in 2019

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After eight seasons with Ferrari (2007—2009 and 2014—2018), it has been confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen is leaving the team. At 39, the Finn has signed a two-year deal to drive for Ferrari powered Sauber, with their up-and-coming star Charles Leclerc set to take Raikkonen’s place alongside Sebastian Vettel.

For Raikkonen, he leaves the team with which he claimed his only drivers’ championship. After a disappointing reversal of form in the following years he was replaced by Fernando Alonso in 2010, only to return to later drive alongside the Spaniard.

Despite currently placed 3rd in the drivers’ championship, Kimi is returning to the team where he made his debut.

For Leclerc, it has been a meteoric rise. After claiming the GP3 and Formula 2 titles in his rookie seasons, he was fast-tracked into F1. At 19, he has impressed many in his debut season, claiming points in 5 of the 14 races, including a masterful P6 in Azerbaijan.

Making three Q3 appearances so far this season has demonstrated that Leclerc has raw pace, and isn’t just benefitting from the misfortune of others.

With his promotion, Ferrari have thrown down a marker to their main rivals. After decades of attracting (and retaining) established senior drivers, Leclerc will become the youngest driver to race in red overalls since 1961, and the least experienced since they signed Gilles Villeneuve who had only 1 race finish to his name at the time.

Tell us what you think of the change: Are you sad to see Kimi go, or excited for some fresh blood?

Autosport reveals F1 team earnings for 2015

Autosport have just published the details of F1's profit for 2015 along with the full breakdown of what the each team is paid - and why. As usual it's about as fair and even as the teeth on a rusty wood-saw.

Dieter Rencken and Lawrence Barretto report:

The 2015 total was $965m and this will be distributed across 10 teams through nine monthly payments from April with a final "check" payment - when definitive revenues have been calculated - early in 2017.
There are constructors' championship bonus (CCB) payments for four teams - Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren, which have been agreed in separate deals.
There is also a long-standing team payment for Ferrari and other fixed prize fund payouts such as a heritage bonus for Williams and negotiated payments for Red Bull Racing and Mercedes.

You have to see this chart to believe it. Among the disparities:

  • Force India finished fifth last year and earned less ($67m) than Ferrari were paid as a bonus just for showing up ($70m).
  • Ferrari snagged almost 20% of the total cash pool despite not winning the constructors' championship.
  • Williams ($87m) earned less than half what Ferrari earned ($192m) despite finishing only one place behind them.

Ecclestone has defended paying Ferrari such an exorbitant bounty by claiming "Ferrari is F1" and then compared them to being like the Rolling Stones, because you can always count on Bernie for a relevant cultural reference.

Source: Autosport

French GP 1998: Hey hey, it’s Darryl and AJ!

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My journey through the 1998 F1 season takes me to the French GP, a track that was seemingly created purely for Formula 1 as all the corners are named after other tracks, and a track that hasn't seen top level action since 2008 (no wonder I know jack shit about it). 

Our coverage (sadly the ITV feed and not the rough-and-tumble Channel 9 broadcast) starts with a recap of qualifying where Mika lead Schumacher by a nose to take pole position. Even more entertaining was the pre-race interview with Craig Pollock, Managing Director of the eminent British-American Racing team who was asked, "How difficult is it to set up a new F1 team?"

His response: "I think I'm about to find out." Oh Craig, you have no idea how right you are.

Jos "the boss" Verstappen, who was subbed in for the under-performing Jan Magnussen, stalled his car whilst in grid formation and the grid completed a needless lap before pulling up in the same positions for a restart. For Mika Hakkinen, who had kept Schumacher behind on the opening lap, he had it all to do again and it may have played on his mind a little too much as both Ferraris easily jumped the pole sitter leaving him in P3 and wondering just what went wrong.

With Irvine as a rear-gunner it was going to take something special for Hakkinen to mount a challenge for the lead, and when the Finn found himself in a spin and facing the wrong way on the side of the track it didn't look like he would be conjuring any miracles that day. 

Through the first round of pitstops Hakkinen regained third place from Coulthard when DC’s refuelling rig suffered an abysmal failure. So much time was being lost that the engineers sent Coulthard back out while they sorted out the problem, and pitting again the following lap the problem had not been resolved. When the refuelling rig, which resembles a giant fire hose for those who came to the sport after refuelling was abandoned. 

The second time into the pit did nothing to help Coulthard either, and now the Scot had his work cut out for him if he was even going to leave France with any points whatsoever. 

Despite being the heartland of Formula One, the French Grand Prix was one of the few races during this era that had banned cigarette advertising leading to the unusual spectacle of not only blank sidepods and rear wings (like the Mclarens), alternative logos (the Buzzin’ Hornets design on the Jordans) and the barely disguised Marlboro boards that littered the track.

Outside of the top three it was Villeneuve in the Williams-Mechachrome making hay and eventually putting himself up into 4th place. Behind him Jean Alesi briefly defended from a charging Alexander Wurz, who clearly had the wood on his Benetton teammate that weekend. 

Approaching the end of the grand prix it was Hakkinen that was on a charge, the Finn really showing his class and chasing down Eddie Irvine for P2. Mika started to change his line through the braking zones looking for any small advantages or hoping to surprise Irvine and force him into a mistake. I remember Hakkinen during this period being very predatorial, perhaps second only to Schumacher for “Drivers you’d least like to see in your mirrors”.

Irvine held it together until the very last corner where he defended heavily against Hakkinen and carried very little speed through the corner, Mika meanwhile brought a boatload of momentum through the final corner with him and scrambled to pull alongside Irvine, the two scrambling to the finish line like children on a slip 'n' slide. 

In the end it was Irvine ahead by 0.1 sec, and Coulthard did manage to claim the final points position a lap down on the leaders in P6, edging past Jean Alesi and forcing the Frenchman out of the points. I can still see the disappointment on Alesi’s face from the ’98 Monaco GP where he nearly threw himself into the harbour, and I was glad there was no standing water nearby for Alesi to leap into after another difficult year in the sport.

With his second win in succession Schumacher pushes up into second place in the 1998 drivers’ championship and Murray Walker informs us that Ferrari have achieved their first 1-2 finish in eight years, a factoid courtesy of the boffins themselves Darryl and AJ from Channel 9 who telephoned ITV the old-fashioned way. These days facts like this are not only readily at hand but difficult to avoid, especially when major F1 accounts spoilt the results for me on a semi-regular basis!

Up next it’s the British GP as we continue to inch toward the one everyone is truly waiting for… Belgium.