Archive for the ‘F1 Addicts Anonymous’ Category

Time to get Silly as F1 takes a holiday

Posted: August 1, 2012 by thevillainf1 in F1 Addicts Anonymous, Insights

While the F1 crowd is off to a month long holiday (well the factories are only closed for two weeks) any F1 news will quickly start dying down untill all that is left by mid-August will be some unfounded rumors of this or that driver being ‘in the picture’ at an F1 team for a 2013 seat. August is where the silly season will really kick into gear as there is not other news to report.

As we are no different at backmarkers, and after some prodding on twitter, I figured I’d slap up a post with my dream grid for 2013, and invite you to do the same in the comments below. In fact, it will not be a total fantasy grid but more like a wishlist while keeping in mind the realistic possibilities for 2013. For instance, with Webber re-signing it is clear no Red Bull seat will be available next year.

I’ve tried writing this a few times before but it gets really hard when you try to factor in which young drivers you want to give a rookie season in F1, and which guys you really want to see move up to more competitive machinery. One thing which wasn’t very hard for me was to decide which driver I’d have pulling ovals in NASCAR or Lada racing instead of another F1 season.

True to the blog’s name, let’s start off with the backmarker teams first:

HRT:  

Alguersuari – Razia

The fledgling team clearly wants to go Spanish, and while Pedro is a likeable guy and his long experience as a test driver could be valuable, with an eye to the future Jaime is the obvious choice. He probably deserves a better seat but I don’t see many other options available to him. After a year on the sidelines he’s probably desperate enough to accept an HRT seat as well.  Pedro can even stay on as an advisor to help guide the project, but get him out of that seat. Alongside Jaime I’d put a young gun to get a taste of F1. It’s no gift to be handed such an uncompetitive car as a rookie, but guys like Pic at Marussia are showing that you can still impress in them if you can beat your teammate. However HRT needs money more than anything else so they’ll need a pay driver rookie, the likes of Razia would therefore be a good choice for them. I’m not particularly a fan of Razia but he’s got money and a decent amount of talent so would be a good choice for HRT. Narain should go spend his rupis elsewhere, while he’s not embarassing himself, aside from his nationality he brings nothing to F1.

Marussia:

Pic – Glock

A bit unspectacular to stick with the same line-up but I believe it is the best way forward for the team. Pic’s performances should really let him escape the fate of former Marussia rookies Di Grassi and D’Ambrosio of getting dumped after 1 year as the team found a bigger wallet to squeeze out despite more than decent seasons for both. However Pic is the one who has shown more than his predecessors that he has what it takes to handle the experienced Glock, regularly beating him already in the first half of the season. Of course one could wonder how motivated Glock still is driving a dog of a car for 3 years running, but that doesnt take away from Pic’s performances. On top of it Pic comes with a good sponsorship package so they would be foolish to let him go. Marussia should be happy to have a driver of Glock’s caliber and since he can’t really go anywhere else he’s kind of doomed to stay on and improve the team if he ever wants to get close to the points again.

Caterham:

Rossi – Kovalainen

I was a bit torn on what to do with Heikki as he does deserve another crack at a good ride, but on the other hand not many drivers can say they drove for Renault and Mclaren. granted the Renault wasn’t a great car but still relatively competitive, and at Mclaren well he just got destroyed by Hamilton. While Caterham has been disappointing this season, still not having made that definite step up into the midfield, they are doing all the right things, hiring the right people and setting up a good structure so they will get there eventually. Heikki has been an integral part of the team since the launch and therefore I’d like to see him take those first points for the team. With F1 set to attempt to conquer America (again), it would be a smart move to promote Alexander Rossi to an F1 race seat as well. While not setting WSR alight this year, he is doing well in a startup team there and has shown to possess some real talent. Therefore Petrov can go ice rink racing again.

Toro Rosso: 

Ricciardo – Vergne

I was kind of tempted to say Carlos Sainz jr should get that seat but as has been shown with Alguersuari, throwing a youngster in the deep end like that has a very high risk of burning them and he would be much better served with some more higher level junior series experience as he is still very young and has time on his side. While neither STR driver has particularly impressed me this year, the car they were handed was definitely not a gift either. Vergne however has been quite a big disappointment to me. I was expecting great things from him in F1 but so far he is mostly making a name for himself as a very bad qualifier. The move he pulled on Heikki in Valencia didn’t convince the world of the quality of his racing brain either. Perhaps the teams decision to run two rookies is not heliping as they seems to be going nowhere in terms of car development either as they have the Caterhams at their heels. I’d give both of them another year to settle in and start proving that they have what it takes to take Webbo’s seat when he finally retires. They have their work cut out for them..

Force India:

Paul Di Resta -James Calado

A bit of a punt on this one, with of course everybody knowing that Bianchi is the man waiting in the wings for Force India this year. While Jules can boast a good junior series record, he seems to have tailed off in the past 2 years, and he hasn’t been particularly impressive in the practice outings he’s had with the team. Binning it on his first winter test day wasn’t exactly endearing him to the team either I’m sure.  I’m venturing more into ‘wishful thinking’ territory here by appointing Calado to the Indian squad. Completely under my radar last year in GP3, He has been hugely impressive in his rookie season in GP2, and if not for some rotten luck would be higher up in the standings. We can fault Mallya for many things but one thing FI does is choose its drivers on merit alone, and in that case Calado’s lack of sponsor money becomes less crippling. The second surprise at the team is the disappearance of Hulkenberg and Di Resta staying put. IT will make more sense as we go up the grid as I’m not taking the Hulk out of F1… While Di Resta is probably in pole position for Schumacher’s Merc seat, after a tough first few races to adapt to F1 racing again, I believe the hulk will start showing Di Resta who’s boss…and he’s German. I like Di Resta and think he’s a very competent driver, but do also believe he’s a tad overrated by the british dominated f1 media.

Williams:

Bottas – Raikkonen

The line up they should have already had this year actually. I still cannot believe they passed up the opportunity to have Kimi in the Williams. It probably is good for Bottas though that he got a year to mature and get used to an F1 car with the Friday outings as the jump up from GP3 is huge. Pastor may be a Grand Prix winner now and has some raw speed ‘for sure’, but his behavior on and off track should really see him out of a seat. Very much wishful thinking for Raikkonen to switch from Lotus, especially after last years’ aborted negotiations so realistically it will be Pastor and Bottas in the car, with Bruno probably having spent his last season in an f1 car unless he can dramatically turn the tables on Pastor in the 2nd half of the season.

Sauber

Kobayashi – Gutierrez

Perez is destined for better things and with that second Ferrari seat becoming untenable for Massa there’s only one way to go for Sergio and that’s to Ferrari. Kobayashi is showing he definetely has the skill and bravery, but does seem to be lacking that last extra tenth which makes a guy like Perez a potential superstar and will leave him as ‘just’ a good driver. That said Kamui can put in some great drives in his day and his performances are good enough to warrant another year in the car. With Perez gone, Sauber will need to keep the pesos flowing and with Gutierrez already on their books he’s the only logical replacement for Perez. His performance on track in GP2 also warrant a proper stab at F1 for the youngster.

Mercedes:

Rosberg – Hulkenberg

The Nico Bergs will rule at Mercedes in 2013. Schumacher should head into retirement now that he’s had his comeback podium in Valencia and leave F1 to the youngsters. Even though I’m about to hit old fart territory myself as I’m heading into my thirties tomorrow,  this is not  sport for 44 year olds. As I hinted at above I believe the Hulk will get the final word in at FI in the showdown to see who gets to replace Schumi in the silver arrow. Di Resta may be a long standing Mercedes protege but another all German line-up would still be very enticing to Norbert Haug.

Lotus

Grosjean – Bianchi

This was a bit of a tricky one to decide with Raikkonen leaving to Williams but I found his stand in with Jules Bianchi. With Boullier not afraid to take a punt on discredited young drivers (though in Bianchi’s case it’s a bit of a stretch to call him discredited, his stock has just fallen a bit over the past 2 years) and he will do so again with Jules. Being French also helps. Bianchi will be pissed off by seeing Perez promoted to the Ferrari seat instead of himself as the former wonderboy of the scuderia untill that pesky Mexican came along, so he will turn his back on them and take this chance with both hands. As said he’s been quite disappointing the past 2 years, but has shown some serious talent in the past and should get a shot.

Ferrari:

Alonso – Perez

Well I don’t think I’ll be surprising anyone massively here. I’ve said it a million times in a thousand different ways: Felipe has to go. Goodbye Felipe baby, you came close, but no cigar. One would be pants on head retarded to do away with Alonso and as explained earlier Perez would be a good sidekick. He’s probably not going to challenge Alonso consistently just yet, but will be much more able than Felipe to take points off the competition and pick up the pieces if ever Alonso would trip up. Also with Felipe doing so horribly the pressure won’t be that high on him…it’s hard to do worse…

Mclaren

Button – Hamilton

Boring I know but at this point there are just no realistic alternatives. I was toying with the idea of shifting Lewis over to Williams and while it would be a huge challenge – in the same league as Schumachers’ move to Ferrari in 96 to rebuild a fledgling but once great team- I just don’t see it in Lewis character. The door to Red Bull is shut with Webber re-signing and Ferrari would never risk having two number ones in their cars and unsettle Alonso. Button could also be a dark horse for the Ferrari seat but I don’t see him signing up to the docile no.2 driver role as his time at Mclaren with Lewis has proven he doesn’t just roll over for his teammate.

Red Bull

Vettel – Webber

I would have preferred to see Webber retire and Hamilton move to give Red Bull a proper teammate war but alas the Aussia bastard has chosen to put another year in. Who can blame him ofcourse in a season where he’s back on form and still in with a shot at the title. Vettel is still married to Red Bull for the time being so has no reason just yet to move. Neither of the 2 youngsters at STR are showing they are ready for it, and Buemi will just be good for being the simulator slave for eternity.

All this makes it pretty boring at the top sadly enough.

 

Since the break is so agonizingly long we invite you all to join in on the fun and send in your wishes for the silly season so we have a bunch of fun stuff to read during the off-time and see where the backmarkersF1 crowd allegiances are.

Write up a post with your grid wishlist and send it to backmarkersf1 [at] yahoo [dot] com and we will post it up here! You can also send nude pictures in support of your application – in fact, it’s recommended –  because it’s Matt opening that mail account anyway so give it your best #BallsyBoullier.

 

I’m surely not the first one to notice this, but as I’m struggling through the off season while watching my collection of season reviews-  from the 70s to 2010-  one thing struck me in particular: the uncanny similarities in the careers of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.
They both impressed right from their debut races. Schumacher took the F1 world by storm by qualifying an impressive 7th in the fairly competitive Jordan at Spa. Alonso, though at the back of the field, still managed to impress in the uncompetitive Minardi by qualifying a whopping 2.6 seconds clear of his teammate Tarso Marques on his debut. Granted, Marques was woefully off the pace there but Alonso also beat a Prost and a Jaguar to line up 19th in his first race and straight away the F1 world started noticing the young Spaniard.
While Schumacher went straight to Bennetton after only one race for Jordan, Alonso had to sit out a full year with Minardi at the back of the grid, and then some time on the benches as reserve driver with Renault before he found a competitive car to race in.  As their careers got underway in earnest with some building years for both driver and team where they both proved their immense talent, both then won back to back world championship with the same upstart team, in Schumi’s days as Benetton and in the Renault guise during Alonso’s reign, a team which despite some great periods of success has never truly managed to join the greats of the sport like Ferrari and Mclaren. A team which in both cases was managed by the most obnoxious man ever to grace F1 (tough Bernie, Ballestre and Mosley put up strong competition for this title) : Mankini Briatore.

Both won titles amidst allegations of some technical irregularities, Benetton for the traction control, and Renault for the mass dampers. At least Alonso did not have to barge anyone off the road to win his first title and the mass dampers were much less dodgy than the Bennetton’s fairly blatant cheating.
Both left the team after back to back world titles, and at both times the team’s performance tailed off in the following seasons. The following year both flirted with a third consecutive world title. The Ferrari’s bad reliability in the first half of the season hampered Schumi’s title charge in 96 in his first year with Ferrari, eventually finishing third in the WDC and unable to challenge the superior Williams consistently. Alonso was in with a serious shot for the title in 2007 with Mclaren but finished 3rd in the WDC as well after a tough year for driver and team.
Here is where the stories diverge a little. While Schumi stayed firmly put with the Scuderia in his quest to return the fledgling squad back to former glories, Alonso spent two years in the wilderness at his old team. Nonetheless, for both drivers their 2nd season after becoming double world champ was stained by scandals. 1997 saw Schumi lose the title to Villeneuve, which became a part of the dark side of Schumacher’s legacy  due to another one of his unsportsmanlike on-track moves in Jerez, while Alonso was in the eye of the storm in the Spygate affair already in 2007, but that was just peanuts compared to Crashgate in 2008 where Briatore ordered Nando’s teammate to crash in Singapore in order to trigger a safety car which would greatly help Nando to win the race.
In the third post-championship year, the stories are not very similar, except that both had overall quite disappointing years. Schumi had to contend with Mika Hakkinen snatching the title away from him, while Alonso was still trudging along in an uncompetitive Renault but their fourth post championship year saw the stories converge again. As Schumacher had done before him, Alonso now tied his fate to the Scuderia on a long term project to bring the team back to the top.

Again Schumacher narrowly missed out on the title against the flying Fin, while Alonso lost the title in the final race to one of the many German offspring Schumi’s F1 success had created. This all made me think that 2011 was surely going to be the year of Fernando Alonso and Ferrari, as it had been for Schumi 5 years after his second world title, but alas yet again Baby-Schumi spoiled the party for Nando.
While the timing may be a tad off, we can still consider the Vettel 2 year interlude much like Hakkinen’s back to back championships run in ’98 and ’99 which tempered Schumacher’s hopes for 2 years running. Perhaps 2012 will indeed be Nando’s time to join the elite club of triple world champions?
After all, Schumi did only win his third title aged 31, and guess which birthday Alonso will be celebrating in July next year?

What Will Williams Do?

Posted: December 22, 2011 by thevillainf1 in F1 Addicts Anonymous

Coming off the teams worst year in its rich formula one history, Williams still seem like a team drifting uncontrollably into the storm. Sure, there were significant changes within the team with Sam Michael getting the boot, Patrick Head stepping down. Frank Williams voice, just like his legendary team, is also fading away sadly enough. They hired Mike Coughlan to head the technical team for 2012 which seemed more like hiring the best available at the time – when early on in the season it was slim pickings – rather than a long term strategy call. That said, while discredited in the whole spygate affair, Coughlan remains a highly competent man so that may still work out for Williams.

While the car is obviously one major worry for the team, their driver situation is not very rosy either. Barrichello seems to have lost quite a bit of pace judging by his lackluster 2011 performance but at least remains very motivated and even desperate to retain his F1 seat. Maldonado has shown brief flashes of talent with some good quail laps and the race in Monaco, but in general was probably the most underwhelming rookie of 2011 and is really only in a race seat because of PVDSA and the reported 28 million USD they bring to the team. While there are some murmurings in Venezuela about that shady sponsorship deal, and with Chavez’s health seemingly waning Pastor may find himself out of a drive after all, at this point it seems rather unlikely.

Assuming he stays, that starts Williams off with one average driver confirmed for 2011. Now that wouldn’t be so bad if the team had a fast and experienced guy to lead the team and give Maldonado a chance to grow out of the spotlights (if he has any growth left of course, which is doubtful imo), but that is where Barrichello has let them down. Already in 2010, Williams was bullish about its 2011 contender because of the invaluable input Rubens could give with his vast experience, being involved in the car’s development from day 1. As we all know now, the car turned out to be a dog so that’s one strike against Rubens’ usefulness. Now it would be unfair to pin all the development failures on the driver, the tech team already deservedly took the main blame for that, but his experience in car development is one of the main selling points for Rubens.

However, the area where he has no excuses is the driving part, and there as well he has failed to deliver in 2011. The few Q3 appearances for Williams were all for his decidedly average teammate, and while he had the upper hand on race pace, it is inexcusable to be troubled to that degree by Pastor. Even points wise Rubens would have ended up behind Maldonado had it not been for the latter’s tangle with Hamilton in Monaco. Knowing that on merit alone he does not really deserve an F1 seat anymore, Rubens has now gone out with the begging bowl and has reportedly scraped together the not unimpressive sum of 5 million USD in personal sponsorship to bring to the team, which equals the money another prime candidate for the Williams seat brings: Adrian Sutil and his Medion backing. It is a testament to Rubens’ motivation that he didn’t feel too important to refuse to find new sponsors (ahem Hulkenberg), but it is also a bit sad that the loveable veteran had to go there. It may have paid off in the end, as Rubinho has just posted a mysterious tweet about a visit to England and that he’s now awaiting good news from Williams.

For Sutil, the Medion money has been there throughout his career, the backing always insuring him a nice seat at Force India/Spyker and over time he has racked up quite a few years of experience as well. However as reported by paddock insider Joe Saward Sutil is not exactly known for his technical abilities either, and Williams really needs a guy who can drive car development forward. Being quick will simply not be enough to drag Williams out of the swamp. Therefore I think the team really missed out when they failed to conclude negotiations with Raikkonnen who ticks all boxes: speed, skill, technical knowledge, experience and in a way even sponsorship. What the Fin lacks in personal sponsors, he has in bucket loads when it comes to attracting team sponsors: despite being off the grid for two years he is still one of the most popular drivers around with a worldwide fanbase.

Bruno Senna is another driver hovering around the Williams factory as was recently reported, and while I’m a sucker for nostalgia and do like the Brazilian he is just not what the team needs in 2012. To be that man he would have had to replicate his debut performance in Spa quali every time he stepped into that Renault car this year.

With Helmut Marko once again wielding the axe at Toro Rosso, two other hopeful have joined to look into the most coveted seat of the 2 ones that are left – seriously who’d really want to go to HRT ? Of course F1 being F1 there may still be some surprises but those are the only 2 seats officially left open now that STR and Force India have made their choices. It just comes to show how low the team has fallen. While in the past every driver would have given his left nut to drive a Williams (well I would not be surprised if Ayrton actually did offer his left nut to sir Frank in 1992 and 1993), now Williams is reduced to picking out the leftovers. Anyone who lands that F1 seat will surely be relieved, but is also a bit like the fat kid in gym class, always getting picked last because nobody really wants him on their team.

Talking of leftovers, there are still Jerome D’Ambrosio, Tonio Liuzzi, Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov floating about but I doubt these guys have what it takes to convince Williams they are what the team needs. They could also take a punt on a young driver like their very promising reserve driver Bottas. While very impressive at the Abu Dhabi young driver test and driver voted most likely to give me a crisis in the near future – of the good kind –  the step from GP3 to F1 would be huge. He would not be the first Fin to make a similar step though as Raikkonene jumped from F3 to F1, so who knows.

All things said and done it looks like Sutil is currently Williams’ best bet, but Rubinho is not ready to give up so soon.  Their biggest weakness really is that they are so tied to Maldonado’s money that they can’t really take a punt on somebody else. At least Sutil is a known quantity, and has proven in the second half of this year that he does have some serious skill. The showdown seems to be between Sutil and Barrichello, with Bruno Senna as the outsider. To be perfectly honest, reading those three names hardly strengthens my expectations for Williams do play any role of significance next season, so any Williams fans out there, I fear the new year will not be a very happy one for you, but have my best wishes anyway. I’ll be ‘celebrating ‘ Christmas at work in 30C degree temperatures, and hopefully get back to my podcasting ways soon.

So, who do you think should get the Williams drive, and who do you think will get it? – not necesarrily one and the same person 😉

The Rudderless Russian Looking for a new Direction

Posted: December 11, 2011 by thevillainf1 in F1 Addicts Anonymous

While one of the Renault seats was always going to be up for grabs, it came as quite a shocker that  shortly after Kimi’s signing Vitaly got booted out unceremoniously in favor of Romain Grosjean, Boullier’s ‘chouchou’ as they say in La douce France. Would this have happened had Petrov kept his peace instead of going batshit after the Abu Dhabi race? We will never really know, but it’s a clear indication that apparently Vitaly is not pulling in the Russian sponsors at the rate they hoped he would. That combined with an unimpressive second season in F1 the Russian now suddenly finds hiss  F1 career in great jeopardy.

So what next for Vitaly? Back to Lada ice racing? Snow scooters? Run an illegal Vodka distillery? Become Putin’s shoe shiner? No, his best bets now seem to be with the backmarkers HRT and Virgin. Virgin, being renamed Marussia makes some sense with whole the Russian thing, but then again the team have already confirmed both Charles Pic and Timo Glock. With the inexperienced Pic unlikely to be dumped a month after getting signed, it seems Glock’s seat may be a bit under pressure but  it would be foolish to dump Glock who’s done incredibly well in a dog of a car these past two seasons.

Unless Glock lands a drive somewhere higher up the grid – and the only place that’s still all open seems to be Williams which isn’t very far up the grid sadly enough- I do not see Petrov getting a ride for Marussia this year.  With De La Rosa signed HRT will be looking for a paying 2nd driver, and Petrov might just perfectly fit the bill there.

Don’t forget, the Russian lived in Valencia for years– the teams’ new home base – until Renault forced him to move to the UK this year and his money combined with 2 years of F1 experience should be quite attractive to the team, much better than some other untalented pay driver with no experience coming in. For Petrov it would be a great move to keep his career alive in anticipation of a possible move to Marussia in 2013. Therefore, perhaps seemingly illogically, the chances are higher for the Russian to end up a the Spanish team rather than at Marussia this year.

While Grosjean’s chances seemed relatively slim, with Boullier appearing to be under fire within the team, and faced against the might of Senna’s Brazilian and Vitaly’s Russian connections, the Swiss/Frenchman found some major backing with oil giant Total announcing they extended their contract with the team for one year  the same day Grosjean was presented to the press. This is of course a boost to Boullier as well, seeing he landed ‘his’ driver the second seat. Now what would make me even happier is if he manages to land D’Ambrosio at least a reserve driver seat with Lotus, seeing he is still in his management stable and that the Belgian deserves another crack at F1.

Grosjean is of course more Swiss than French being born, raised, and still living in Switzerland  but that’s a whole other matter. If we are brutally honest, we should be happy the most deserving guy got the seat in the end. Grosjean is this year’s very dominant GP2 champ and he was quite impressive in his 2 FP1 outings in the final races. Vitaly and Senna are little more than just another pay driver sadly enough, as we always talk about sponsor money when mentioning them, never just about their talent.