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“Lance Stroll, Imola, Pasta and the Art of Preparation”

“Jesus Christ! What that f*** is that!?”

Or something to that effect.

Imola. Friday October 10th, 2014 and a colleague had sent a message urging me to come down to the far end of the paddock. Apparently, there was something that needed to be seen.

Things had quietened down somewhat. Having just finished – and enjoyed – lunch, there was more than enough time for a fifteen-minute stroll to walk off the local pasta and Ragú.

Situated toward the north-east of Italy, the province of Emilia-Romagna can be quite beautiful. By October, the height of the summer heat has dissipated, and the days are shorter, but the region still carries delightful wisps of warmth through the air. Having already taken in the Ayrton Senna memorial site, I started for the support paddock before too much of the day was lost.

In the background, the sombre quiet was punctured by the sound of gaggles of Formula 4 cars in circulation. From time-to-time, the driver’s lack of experience and skill overtook their speed and craft, with the resulting off necessitating brief red flags, during which the noise dissipated again, allowing the Santerno River to sing in ripples.

Being a relatively quiet weekend – European Formula 3 and Italian Formula 4 were supporting Italian GT – and as such, portions of the circuit’s extended paddock were rather empty.

There were scatterings of people around with pictures waiting to be signed. Only two months earlier Van Amersfoort Racing’s Max Verstappen had been announced as Toro Rosso’s 2015 signing, drawing the attention of a few autograph hunters, most of whom departed with a smile.

As well as that, Antonio Fuoco’s fan club arrived that weekend – a curiosity considering the Italian had shown precious little of his championship-winning Formula 4 form in the European Championship.

Unfortunately for Fuoco, the arrival of Verstappen and fellow rookie – and eventual European F3 champion – Esteban Ocon spooked him and apart from occasionally sharp performances, the results simply weren’t there. His inconsistency was carried into later formulae, ensuring Formula One was never going to be a realistic prospect.

There was another prospect at the far end of the paddock and as I crossed the tarmac, detoured around the helipad, a large, mundane grey monstrosity came into view.

“Jesus Christ! What that f*** is that!?” Or something to that effect.

Amidst the simpler awnings oft associated with Formula 4 was the Lance Stroll motorhome – a Formula One sized motorhome, planted at the base of the support paddock. The unpainted, decadent mammoth was a disconcerting statement of intent and a message that the Stroll’s meant serious business.

Having already secured the title, Stroll did not take part in the Italian F4 finale, citing an injury picked up during karting, however this was countered by acknowledgements that Stroll had already been testing a Formula 3 car with Prema Powerteam.

As he was not moving up to F3 until the next year, Stroll was not bound by Formula 3’s testing restrictions. The Canadian was far from alone in taking this option. It was an easy way to ensure a driver could get around the testing limitations. If a driver is not actively participating in Formula 3, then how can a testing restriction possibly be applied to that driver…?

“So, this is how it is now?”

Stroll’s arrival signposted not just his ambitions, but also his father’s. Lawrence may never have been a racing driver – although he has tried a competed in Ferrari Challenge occasionally – however he does have visions for Formula One. In 2018, he led a consortium that bought the Force India team and earlier this year, he led another consortium to invest a 16.7% in the struggling Aston Martin company. All this came after a huge spend in the junior categories.

In the space of a few short years, the goalposts had changed dramatically in Formula 3. Latifi money had come and gone – although that was less opulent – the Gelael funding was in the midst of being spread around everywhere and anywhere and soon, the Mazepin cash cow was being milked. And this is before one even begins to consider to endless flow of monies from the Norris’, the Russell’s, the Schumacher’s, the everyone else.

The denomination really didn’t matter, but it did much to drive costs higher and higher, although those taking the money were not ones to complain too much.

Stroll tested and tested and learned and spent much 2015 crashing very hard. When he won the European Championship the following season, a far more restrained Stroll enjoyed the spoils. The then teenager would regularly qualify up front, taking several wins and podiums with oft unchallenged ease, but when Stroll qualified poorly, he would often make little or no progress through a race.

There had been accusations of team orders during Stroll’s two years in Formula 3. With Stroll being the apparent number one driver at Prema Powerteam, there were curious moments when his teammates Maxi Gunther and Nick Cassidy would lift off in strange places or would leave the door wide open in convenient places.

This was not a popular subject, but it was one that simply never went away. Team orders in junior formulae is a tricky talking point – unlike in Formula One, junior categories are supposed to be every driver for themselves, with all entrants operating on an equal playing field. Alas, some drivers were more equal than others.

While he was winning in Formula 3, the preparation behind the scenes continued. Aided by then-Mercedes DTM racer Gary Paffett, Stroll regularly tested the 2014 Williams F1 car in anticipation of an F1 debut.

With all due respect to Stroll, he has carved out a position in Formula One as a driver who is not bad – especially on quicker circuits – but he is also not particularly stellar. Let’s not forget he is a driver who picked up a well-deserved podium at Baku in 2017 behind the wheel of a Williams. Put the Canadian in a car and on a track and give him a set of tasks and he will likely conclude them with relative success.

But actual racing – as in competing wheel-to-wheel with other drivers – has often been his weak point. Attempted overtakes rarely amount to much more than aimless ill-conceived lunges, and his defensive repertoire – often darting across the track – is unsightly and clumsy.

For the moment, he has a job and is hitting his marks and as long as his father is one of the shareholders of the Racing Point Formula One team, Stroll will most likely continue to achieve those aims. With Racing Point becoming Aston Martin F1 in 2021, it seems highly unlikely that the younger Stroll will be unseated and as rumours around Sebastian Vettel’s move to the Silverstone-based team continue to gather speed, Lawrence Stroll’s ambitions also gather pace.

Stroll – with the rest of the Formula One paddock – return to Imola at the end of October for F1’s first Grand Prix there since 2006. In its current layout, only Stroll, Latifi, Ocon and Verstappen, along with George Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi have experienced Imola but coming as it did in F3 and F4 machinery, none of that experience will of any particular relevance to the Grand Prix.

In saying that, for the build up to this race, simulators will be in heavy use, particularly as at this two-day event, there will only be a single ninety-minute practice session, so any knowledge is key knowledge.

Imola is a stunningly quick and evocative place and there is little doubt that Formula One will be quite special there. It is just a shame that for this occasion, I will not be in the paddock finishing a bowl of delightful pasta and eyeing up endless opulence.

“F1: Nico Hülkenberg’s Last Shot to Somewhere”

(Update)

This morning Racing Point announces Nico Hülkenberg as Sergio Pérez’ replacement, while the latter recovers in isolation from Coronavirus.

—-

Sergio Pérez’ COVID-19 diagnosis may have given Nico Hülkenberg two shots to prove himself again in Formula One.

But even if he takes them, what is the long-term hope for a driver who was once considered ‘the next German star’?

December 1st, 2019 and Nico Hülkenberg’s Formula One career came to a sluggish and anonymous end.

More a sodden squid than anything particularly damp.

Following his Renault teammate Daniel Ricciardo home, Hülkenberg took the chequered flag in 12th position and lapped.

In a season dotted with finishes in the lower points paying positions, he appeared to spend an eternity flirting with anything from 7th to 13th place. A sole top-five at Monza was the only relief in a season where he was classified a solemn 14th in the final standings.

It was over a decade previous when the scope of the younger Hülkenberg’s performances raised eyebrows, as his various titles in Formula BMW, Euro Series F3 and A1 GP attested.

However, it was not just the results that captured eyes, but also the nature of his confidence, which – at times – bordered on irritating arrogance, but was probably closer to a sense of self-belief that was so powerful, as to stun the opposition.

This was most noticeable at a stiflingly hot Valencia. Following a podium in the GP2 Feature Race, Hülkenberg took the Sunday morning Sprint Race win ahead of Sergio Pérez and Vitaly Petrov, after having started 7th.

In the post-race cool down area – which if I remember correctly was behind the podium – Hülkenberg calmly dried his face with a towel and nonchalantly declined a bottle of water, while both Pérez and Petrov were soaked in sweat and breathing heavily.

It was all a show, but one that made a keen impression.

As with his other titles, Hülkenberg took the GP2 title with relative ease that year – and yet for all that promise, apart from several blips, his Formula One career never quite hit the mark.

Admittedly, when the blips blipped, they were very good. Pole at Interlagos with Williams in 2010 was fabulous, as was his challenge for the victory at the same circuit two years later, but beyond that, Hülkenberg’s Formula One tenure was… good. Just not great.

Beyond a few E-sport events, Hülkenberg has not raced since Abu Dhabi. Rumours of a possible DTM drive came to nothing, as did an Indycar opportunity with Ed Carpenter Racing, while the winner of the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours does not have any options to rejoin the World Endurance Championship.

To be fair, the German stated toward the end of last year that even though was no longer drive for Renault, he would still be available and ready to jump into a seat should one come available – although he said this prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pérez’ COVID-19 diagnosis just before the British Grand Prix has opened that door for Hülkenberg and considering Racing Point’s form, should he be confirmed for the Silverstone races, Hülkenberg may be in with a very good chance of finally taking a podium, having missed out on a previous 177 occasions.

But then what? In recent seasons, it has often been unclear what Hülkenberg’s long-term ambition really was. He was dutiful in interviews and said the necessary things, but a great many people have misplaced their ambition while saying all the right things.

Does the 32-year-old see the British Grand Prix and its follow-up as an opportunity to kick start his Formula One career, or this about reinvigorating his racing ambitions elsewhere?

A lot has changed since last December. It is desperately unlikely that he has any option for a Formula One drive in 2021, unless something very drastic happens to Sebastian Vettel’s rumoured Aston Martin deal.

From there, Audi’s imminent withdrawal from DTM means that series may not even exist in 2021 and Hülkenberg’s Indycar negotiations were based around is only driving at the road and street races, while leaving the ovals to “An Other”, which would render any championship challenge null-and-void. Having already won Le Mans with Porsche, it is not entirely clear why he would go back to prototype sportscar racing in the WEC.

Hülkenberg has repeatedly said that he has not had conversations with any teams from Formula E, although with the 2020-21 season now converting to just being the 2021, there are still options for Hülkenberg to join the all-electric series.

However one looks at it, the landscape has altered completely in the space of seven months and the once highly-rated Hülkenberg needs to fit his ambitions into that new landscape.

For the meantime, Hülkenberg has obtained a guest drive in the ADAC GT Masters for mid-August at the Nürburgring.

It may not be Formula One, but it is racing. Yet, it will taste a little different.

“Anatomy of a Story Timeline: the Fast and Slow Reveal of Fernando Alonso”

When Renault F1 announced Fernando Alonso as one of their 2021 driver’s, the story punched a hole in motorsport media for much of the week.

The process was deliberate, intricate, carefully crafted and hugely successful and Renault owned the headlines.

The twitching on Monday evening was pretty hard to miss. After a couple of months of silence amidst the bustles of early-May noise, Renault were finally ready to announce their finalised line-up for the 2021 season.

Had Renault promoted one of the drivers from its academy programme, the news would most likely have raised a temporary blip, before dying down again, but in announcing twice World Champion Fernando Alonso, the French manufacturer were guaranteed headlines.

Despite what one may think of Alonso, the Spanish veteran is a headline generator and the timing and method of the story would have been designed to create maximum noise and coverage.

It is impossible (at this point) to know when the Renault/Alonso deal was done or even when talks began but given the apparent cracks in the relationship between Renault and current pilot Daniel Ricciardo, it would be unsurprising if discussions began quite some time ago. Whatever the case, Renault were in no rush to get this news released.

No matter, the timing still had to be right. It clearly served no purpose for the announcement to be revealed in the same breath as the Sebastian Vettel/Carlos Sainz/Ricciardo musical chairs, as it simply would have been an extra chapter to a story rather than being the story.

Around that time, the Formula One world was flowing with stories and counter-stories regarding the viability of each and every Grand Prix amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.

Acknowledgements that some races would happen – and then not happen – while some venues would take on double-headers – and then not – and the return of some classic races to the calendar – and then not – finding the appropriate space to drop this story was critical.

But Renault could not wait forever. The pin would have to be pulled eventually and the week following the Austrian Grand Prix was a perfect fit.

In following the belated opening race of the season, Renault’s announcement fed on the excitement of Formula One’s return just a few days prior. In addition to this, football across Europe had also returned shortly prior to Formula One, ensuring sporting news as a whole was beginning to emerge from the dark.

Meanwhile in the US, both NASCAR and Indycar had also returned and while Formula One media is of a much smaller scale in the States, the story was enough to create a ripple amidst the general motorsport media.

There was some risk of course. In timing the announcement just after the restart to the season, Renault ran the risk of this news dropping in a time when COVID-19 could have returned to bite the sport hard. Thankfully that did not happen and indeed, the only notable Coronavirus story to have passed through Formula One was the discovery of a couple of infected personnel in the run up to the third race of the year at the Hungaroring, although neither had attended either of the Austrian rounds.

Just placing the story in the week between the Austrian and Styrian Grand Prix was not enough however, as there were still plenty of avenues to navigate, but it was brilliantly managed.

SUNDAY

The Austrian Grand Prix had been held, and, in the aftermath, discussion generally revolved around the race and the weekend’s action, with immediate reaction and analysis being the course of the day.

MONDAY

Through Sunday night and into Monday, additional post-race coverage begins to emerge, with more in-depth examinations of driver and team performances dominating output. This generally falls under the scope of 600-to-1000-word pieces discussing the weekend’s developments and trends, with features generally fixating on a specific person or team in an effort to paint a grander picture of the Grand Prix event.

Monday also offers outlets the opportunity to deliver ubiquitous (and pointless and baseless) driver rankings scheme, sided with bite-sized blurbs that aim to maximise word count and minimise usefulness and imagination.

Interestingly, in the case of the Renault driver reveal, it was on Monday evening that rumours began to surface from Spanish media of a Wednesday announcement, immediately fuelling speculation that Alonso was about to make his return to French squad and quickly forcing writers back to their laptops and workstations. Although there had been rumbles of an Alonso return for some time, this merely adding fuel to the fire.

TUESDAY

And thus, the Monday rumours germinate Tuesday stories. Generally, in European territories, if your audience is primarily based in that time zone, dropping a story such as this can often sink if it falls outside of prime readership periods – a good editor will know when these slots are open.

As it is a story based on a loose rumour, with no confirmation or quotation of any kind, releasing it at a time when readership numbers are likely to be low is of little value. Launching when you are likely to have a prime number of eyeballs is generally a good shout – for many sites, that’s the following morning at around 9am when people are settling into the nine-to-five jobs and looking to burn a bit of time before their meeting or coffee (or both).

Meanwhile, with no confirmation and – most importantly – no denials from the interested parties, the rumour was allowed to gather steam and accelerate and as Tuesday morning passed into the afternoon, follow-up stories emerged, generally along the lines of, “Why Alonso and Renault are back together” and “What Alonso’s return means for F1”, (etc, etc.).

WEDNESDAY

The story is finally launched, details are solidified, quotes are released, and it is the story for the day online and (if they’ve done the mental gymnastics) the print media.
Importantly, in broadcast sports news, this is also critical as specialist television channels obtain media-junket style individual interviews, while others show pre-recorded video clips virtually guaranteeing near 24-hour coverage (unless something hugely unforeseen occurs).

In a way, launching a story such as this on a Wednesday is perfect, as thoughts of the previous week’s Grand Prix have evaporated and also it gives ample time for the media to enjoy a build-up, release and reload before the next race weekend begins.

THURSDAY

Thursday’s coverage allowed for additional reaction and also allowed the story to move on somewhat. The next Grand Prix weekend was officially beginning, and the Thursday Driver Press Conference opened windows to obtain comments from a pre-selected set of drivers about Alonso’s return. Those who bit helped to create additional column inches and stories during an already busy week.

FRIDAY

With some exclusive broadcasters slotting in a Grand Prix’ practice sessions, the news becomes a talking point during on track action, which – to be fair – is often barren of action and information. The inclusion of social media correspondence during these sessions – in an attempt to generate additional discussion – helps to fuel the conversation a little longer, before the story is finally overtaken.

SATURDAY

The last splash before the story finally goes away. This generally involves broadcasters showing segments recorded specifically for the Saturday qualifying build-up show, with news of the reveal, how it affects the driver market and what Alonso’s return for Formula One means for the young drivers who haven’t been promoted.

These are the final embers of the story before it finally ebbs away. It had been brilliantly played by Renault and Fernando Alonso, and while there was some small amount of luck in making each aspect of this story work, one must never overlook the hard work that went on to build this scenario.

“OPINION: F1 – Renault Driver Selection is Symptom of Banality Disguised as Ambition”

Rumours are rife that Renault may be ready to announce Fernando Alonso to replace the departing Daniel Ricciardo on Wednesday.

But is this indicative of Renault’s need for experience amidst restructure or something far more banal?

It may have slipped by many in recent months, but as it stands, there is still a vacant seat at Renault next season.

In the two months since Daniel Ricciardo’s move to McLaren was revealed, things have been very silent on the Renault front. That is – apparently – until this Wednesday, when it is believed that Fernando Alonso’s champion-like return is due to be confirmed.

Alonso’s return to the team where he won his two World Championship’s is all very interesting, but if it proves to be true, it will surely add to growing belief that Renault’s conservative nature in Formula One is indicative of banality disguised as ambition.

Beyond the excitement that will come from seeing Alonso on the grid again next year, what does it say of Renault’s position in Formula One when the question of who will take a factory F1 drive next year merely raises shoulder shrugs of interest?

Much has been made of Renault’s struggles in recent seasons but attempts to bulk up the technical team and facilities in both Enstone and Viry have not been met with reward on track. If anything, based on the weekend’s performance in Styria, the French manufacturer have been overtaken by Racing Point, having fallen further behind McLaren.

Indeed, Sunday’s Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring was another example of how the story of Formula One appears to be passing the French manufacturer by, as Esteban Ocon took a somewhat middling 8th (from only eleven finishers) and Ricciardo retired at the one-third point with a cooling issue.

There is little doubt that the bulk of the team are very good, the drivers are very good, but that there are possible frailties elsewhere, and if one is to believe whispers, fractures sit within and around the management structure of the team.

Those issues can only be fixed in the corridors of France and England, but for now, it does not appear as if they will change and this will only prolong the yellow team’s anonymity in Formula One. Some very tough decisions need to be made at Renault’s hierarchy and until these are made, Renault’s placement will not change for the better, no matter who is behind the wheel.

Alas the tentacles of mediocrity burrow deep, and while bringing Alonso may help bolster results in the short term, with his tenacity and drive pushing team members forward, it will not eliminate pre-existing frailties and if those weaknesses are not rectified, Alonso will simply leave. This time for good.

Ever since the Ricciardo/McLaren announcement, Alonso has seemed to be the most logical fit given Renault’s current situation. There are options beyond the Spaniard of course – the most obvious being Ferrari-reject Sebastian Vettel and while importing Vettel may be a move that could also revitalise Renault, there are questions regarding his motivation, long-term goals and significant salary cost.

Nico Hülkenberg and Kevin Magnussen will also be available come the end of this year, but neither will represent the step-up that the French manufacturer so badly need.

Of the Renault Sport Academy, Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard could possibly make the leap, but only if they take top positions in the Formula 2 Championship to gain the necessary Super Licence points.

Given Renault’s requirements and the young pairing’s largely lukewarm status’, that surely puts them firmly out of the loop – for now. If they, in time, become better than merely good drivers, a future in Formula One is still open.

In the meantime, the pointers are looking at Alonso, as he aims for one last blast back, one final opportunity in Formula One. There is no doubt his presence would be welcome, but one hopes it is not another wasted chance upon which his helmet gets hung.

“F1: And So, It Begins Again”

There may be rain in the Styrian hills. More than a little in fact.

And as it peppers the some re-propositioned stretch of tarmac once called the Öesterreichring, one realises that it really doesn’t matter how long Formula One has been away.

All that matters is that it’s here.

It is not just noise. It’s the hills and how the artificial mesh with nature. And with no fevered, passionate crowd in attendance, the rather tamed Formula One engines – twenty of them, choked at the point of exhaust and exhaustion – will meander and wander and reverberate, before petering out.

Frequencies and sine waves will push and pull, with sound registering in the brain, as the echoes of those very same waves become entangled in the impossibly minuscule hair follicles buried in the inner ear.

The art of hearing is beautiful.

Up close and Formula One can be a punishing experience. Less so today compared to the previous generation’s dreary and tonally vacuous V8s.

There is little doubt that Formula One’s aural experience is part of its appeal, but the V8s has the curious habit of being quite painful to listen to, while simultaneously sending sleep signals to the brain, such was the time spent in the distortion zone.

That was then however, and today as the hybrid regulations enter their seventh year, Formula One will begin to play catch up, as life around the world reawakens.

COVID-19 is still very much with us, and as people continue to die from the virus, fears are ever present. But there are hopes that it will now have slowed to such an extent that life as was once known will eventually begin rear its head, emerging as it were from hibernation like an animal with heavy eyes.

Just not yet though.

To me, it does not matter who wins on Sunday. I have a feeling as to who the victor may be {note 1}, but that is not the most important story right now.

All I am waiting for is the green light at the end of the pit lane and the rumble from the tyres as they power out onto the Red Bull Ring.

I just wish that I could be there.

{note 1}

Lewis Hamilton will win.

“WRC: Four or Five Events Possible – Matton”

© Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

© Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

The FIA’s Rally Director, Yves Matton, believes four-to-five more events will be necessary to validate the World Rally Championship this season.

Yet as the year reaches its halfway point, the task of finding replacement rallies is becoming a trying task, as he tells World in Motorsport.

“It’s not like in racing. We are not able to make rallying without any public,” says Yves Matton firmly.

At one time the Team Principal of Citroën’s post-Sébastien Loeb era, the 52-year-old became the FIA’s Rally director at the beginning of 2018 and although rallying has endured its fair share of difficulties over the past two decades, it is unlikely that Matton has experienced anything quite like this.

With event after event falling due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Matton and his team at the FIA, in conjunction with WRC Promoter are desperately attempting to scramble a revised calendar.

As it stands, the WRC has completed three events before the pandemic took hold – Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico – but nothing since March. However, unlike circuit racing events, which take place in enclosed spaces, the very nature of rallying means that it is more susceptible to disruption due to the virus.
On the other hand, the precarious nature of this arm of motorsport means public support is necessary if it is to continue at pre-COVID-19 levels, as Matton reveals. “For sure, we are highly linked to governments. The constraints are different. It is impossible to say that we could have some events without any public – this is not in the DNA of rallying, because you are going close to the people.
“We are going into their villages, you are going on their roads, so you cannot say to the people that they are not allowed to be there and it [the access] is more difficult to control also.”

Matton reveals that a report detailing the restart of international rallying will be released this month; however, he is in no way downplaying the hugely significant task ahead. “There is a lot of things that we are able to do, and I saw some processes that some organisers issued – I can give you one example; there is Rally Roma [ERC], which runs in July. They have issued a quite precise process to run an event that is controlled to public social distancing and all those things to be able to restart competition at rally level.
“What I can say based on the huge work that the FIA has done for the restart of competition in racing, the huge work they have done for Formula One starting in July, we are working also on a guidance to restart competition at the rally level.”

So far this season, WRC events in Portugal, Kenya, Finland, New Zealand and Great Britain have already been abandoned, with Germany and Japan expected to announce further cancellations shortly. All this in addition to the already cancelled Rally Chile, which was binned late last year, with organisers citing civil unrest in the South American country as a reason for not running the rally.

With so many events having fallen by the wayside, there are now to plans to co-opt some European Rally Championship events – such as Rally Ypres and Rally Liepaja – into the WRC, in order to bolster the 2020 calendar and provide a suitable number of events to validate the season. “We consider that we could have a level number of events to make a title with the right level of value, in a quite specific year,” he says.
Matton concludes, “With the information we have today, we are confident to have four and five events between now and the end of the year and we consider that if we are able to run five events with the three events we ran at the start of the year, we would have had a [representative] level of competition.”

“Super Formula: Provisional Calendar Revealed” (*Updated*)

Juri Vips

The Japanese Super Formula Championship has revealed a reconfigured calendar for the 2020 season.

The rejigged schedule will see all seven rounds crammed into the final four months of the year.

Following many questions and numerous delays, a new provisional calendar for the 2020 Super Formula season has been released.

The provision schedule is as follows, although Super Formula have been keen to emphasise that this could still change at short notice:

Round 1: Motegi (August 30th)
Round 2: Okayama (September 27th)
Round 3: Sugo (October 18th)
Round 4: Autopolis (November 15th)
Round 5: Suzuka (December 5th)
Round 6: Suzuka (December 6th)
Round 7: Fuji (December 20th)

Although not confirmed as of yet, the series is looking to hold two days of testing just prior to the opener at Motegi, possibly over August 27th and 28th. In this instance, practice for Motegi may still run on Saturday (29th), with qualifying moving to raceday morning and a race of between 160-190km to be run that Sunday.

For the Suzuka pair, extensive practice may run on the Friday of the race weekend, with qualifying for both rounds being held on Saturday and Sunday morning’s, followed by races for rounds five and six later on those days.
The December 20th finale at Fuji Speedway will prove to be the latest Super Formula has ever completed a season.

The calendar is no doubt proved tricky to organise. While Super Formula may only contain seven race weekends, due to the high number of competitors who also compete in Super GT, it was necessary to balance calendars against each other to ensure neither championship clash.

There may still be changes to the driver line-up for Super Formula due to current quarantine restrictions in place in Japan that are not due to lifted for some time yet. As it stands, both reigning champion Nick Cassidy and Super Formula rookie Sacha Fenestraz are based in Tokyo and will not be required to quarantine.

However, both Jüri Vips and Tatiana Calderon are based in Estonia and Spain respectively and it is therefore unclear as to whether they will be allowed to compete – at this point, they may miss rounds of the championship, unless Japan softens its stance.
TheMotorsportArchive.com has reached out to Sergio Sette Camara and Charles Milesi, but has not had confirmation from either party as of yet.

Japan’s quarantine rules do contain quarantine exemptions for exceptional circumstances, but as yet, this does not include sporting exemptions.

*Update (June 18th, 2020)
B-Max by Motopark racer Charles Milesi confirmed today that while he tested at Fuji earlier in the year, he is not based in Japan and is currently based in France. According to the 19-year-old Milesi, he acknowledged that “For us the situation is not really clear for the moment, we don’t really know how the situation will be in August but the Japanese embassy told us that they will have more information about that end of June.”

“WRC: Rallying Needs to Act, Not React If It Wants to Survive – Adamo”

For Hyundai’s WRC team boss Andrea Adamo, the pandemic is yet another sign that a new way of thinking is needed if motorsport is to survive.

“If we don’t react now, or if we don’t act now, we will find a problem.”

Andrea Adamo is not a man known for pulling punches. The Italian has a reputation for not dispensing bullshit and getting straight to the point.

It is an approach that some find jarring, but for others, his approach is a breath of fresh air that has earned him a great deal of respect.

With drivers Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen, alongside part-timers Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo, Adamo and his crew delivered Hyundai’s first WRC Manufacturer title, following several seasons of playing 2nd fiddle to Volkswagen, M-Sport Ford and Toyota.

However, as costs have grown under the WRC’s current Group R regulations, the 49-year-old Adamo is adamant that more need to be done to secure the future of teams and manufacturers. “I’m working with my colleagues and working internally to try to protect 2021, because 2020 is in danger, but I think 2021 is even more dangerous situation, because I cannot see how I can have the same budget I had this year,” says Adamo.

With rivals Toyota pushing hard with an-already stellar Yaris and M-Sport clipping at their heels in the Ford Fiesta, Adamo knows significant financial input will be necessary to ensure a fair and convincing title push.

Yet as manufacturers analyse budgets amidst the 2nd global financial meltdown in less than 15 years, Adamo is keen to press that only a budget geared for success will win out. “When we ask for the 2021 budget, if we don’t have a proper action to reduce costs, the risk is that maybe someone has no more money to compete. When you ask the board for the money, they ask ‘how much you need to win’, not ‘[how much do you need] to hang around.’ If they are not able to give me the money to win, they will simply tell me, ‘we won’t give you the money.”

It is no secret that while the current set of WRC cars are incredibly fast and impressive to watch, they are also the most expensive machines the category has ever produced. Reductions in costs are expected when the 2022 regulations come to pass; however, the Hyundai man is keen to press that the FIA and WRC Promoter need to be proactive in times of crises. “We have to act, because if we react to the problems, it will be too late,” warns Adamo. “The problem very clearly, which I already tried to explain to the FIA people and the promoter, is that this thing is not a momentary illness – this is a big problem that we will have in the future.”

While costs remain a worry for the future, Adamo is looking forward to the introduction of the new car in 2022. Although delivering a new car will no doubt bring higher initial costs, the reductions in running WRC machinery thereafter is thought to be encouraging. If not, the fallout could be significant for the WRC. “We have to be smart and make rules that will not oblige us to spend the huge amount of money to make these cars. If it is affordable, we will be there and if not, my bosses tell me what to do.”

There is no doubt that the latest Group R machines made many take another look at the WRC, yet despite this, Adamo thinks the current regulations has turned the top-level of rallying away from its true identity and he cites Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport model as the way forward. “The direction that has been taken with very specific WRC car cannot last forever. It is not in the DNA of rallying and it is not in the DNA of the categories, it is not what is needed. The best example is with what Malcolm has done. He had a market for these cars that sold, so everyone could use them.”

Adamo continues, “If you want to do Formula One [as] rally, you will kill [rallying]. We have seen in the past there has been tried to have a Formula One [in rally] and it has never been a big success.
“Rallies are rallies. Full stop. The DNA is there. You cannot transform rally in Formula One; it will never work.”

Andrea Adamo. © Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

There is little doubt that the advent of Coronavirus has dealt a crushing blow to motorsport activity in 2020.

“OPINION: Bringing it All Back Home”

© Williams Racing

This may come as something of a surprise, but while motorsport’s return to action amidst the Coronavirus slowdown is welcome, the breath and silence the enforced break offered will be missed.

When the green went down at Texas Motor Speedway for the restart of the NTT IndyCar Series on Saturday night, it is certain that feelings of relief and delight were not only mine.

The anxiety of January and February, that fed to the fear, inactivity and insulation through the following months brought death and hardship not felt for generations. A vast majority of outdoor activities to a halt and has severely crippled countless industries and businesses.

From territory to territory, lockdowns followed – some more severe than others – as governments, oppositions, media, scientist, doctors, the ill, the ill-informed and the plagiarists argued their points endlessly.

And just as Formula One dithered and twiddled thumbs and fingers in Melbourne, the curtains of motorsport drew to a slow close and have only in recent weeks began to twitch back into life.

The quiet life has been just that. Avoiding the sim-racing boom for the most part, the past few months has allowed for time to restart work on the next World in Motorsport and also catch up other projects that had been put to one side. What it also did was reduce waste.
With less to report on, the reduction in utter garbage that passes for written content has been notable, as publications moved toward well researched an interviewed works, as opposed to the rambling, inarticulate and often pointless “news” posts that usually fill the void.
In this, the only blip has been the Vettel/Sainz/Ricciardo merry-go-round, but even that died out quickly. By the looks of how things tailed off, no one seems to give a shit who drives the 2nd Renault next year.

There is no doubt of my love of motorsport and in particular Formula One, but I have argued for quite some time the current calendar expansion could be dangerous and recent events have only reinforced that feeling.
Rather than an endless procession of non-descript Grand Prix – most of which could be held anywhere – a direction Formula One seems determined to undertake, one cannot help but believe the top level of our sport requires a selection of high-quality events, that make each race special and not just another Grand Prix.

The extended break offered not just a breath, but also the opportunity to enjoy my work in motorsport far more. Soon the pummelling will start again and I will love it, but also be exhausted by it.

© Indycar

“I Have a Passion for Racing – Barrichello”

© Full Time Spots / Carsten Horst

With 11 wins from 322 Grand Prix over 19 seasons, Rubens Barrichello is fondly remembered as one of the quickest and most highly respected drivers in the history of Formula One.

However, as 2020 stutters along amidst the seemingly endless Coronavirus pandemic, Barrichello – now a stock car racer in South America – is more than just a competitor; he is also a sporting father, as he tells World in Motorsport.

There is an ill-founded propensity for some motorsport followers to assume racing finishes outside the boundaries of Formula One; but even the world feels like it has stopped, on one Thursday morning in Brazil, Rubens Barrichello is a busy fellow.

Despite the long list of cancelled racing activities globally, Barrichello is still a popular interviewee. With slots booked either side of my time with Sao Paulo native, it is for a good reason, for Barrichello can talk easily and at length, without forsaking the listener’s attention, such is the wealth of his knowledge and experience in motorsport.

Having recently turned 48-years-of-age, Barrichello shows no signs of stopping and if anything, is expanding his racing commitments, with his stock car racing programme expanding to include campaigns in Brazil and Argentina.
In the meantime, Barrichello is experiencing one of the happiest periods of his life, especially since embracing the mantle of ‘Racing Dad’. “I had heard that people got into depression and [get] really ill, because all they had known was racing,” Barrichello observes. “I never had that, because although it did feel that I was racing a lot less, my kids were racing go-karts and I started to race back home in go-karts.” This all proved useful for the motorsport veteran, who had enjoyed a brief stint in IndyCar following his departure from Formula 1, before taking up a drive with the Chevrolet-powered Full Time Sports entry in Stock Car Brasil.

While his children Eduardo and Fernando raced, Barrichello joined them on occasion, eventually catching the karting bug. “I started to race shifters. In 2015, I went to Peru to have a chance to qualify for the world championship in Rotax and I qualified in the senior final in Portimão and finished 4th in the world championship.
“I had people calling me, like [Giancarlo] Fisichella and [Jenson] Button… people who were just amazed by that and that showed that I was still so competitive regarding racing and I truly have a passion for it.”

Through Eduardo’s karting and early forays of car racing, the elder Barrichello has been keen to offer some guidance to his son, but knows also that the time has come to begin to withdraw and allow Eduardo to make his own path, as Barrichello relates. “My problem is that I don’t want to be there the whole time, because I know I’m in the middle of a conversation with the engineer and I know that a click of rebound on the rear damper might do the job, but I need to leave him alone. Emotionally, I want to keep on doing, but I need to leave the kids alone.”
Of course, Barrichello’s advice has not always been merely technical. “Once, Eduardo came to me at the beginning of his career and he said, ‘Dad, the kid behind me, he’s giving me so many bumps before the start that it’s taking my attention away.’ I told him, ‘Look, you are in 6th position, so take the guy running in front of you and whenever [the guy behind] bumps you force 1, you give force 2 to the guy in front.’
“He said, ‘Dad, this is not right, the guy in front is nothing to do [with me]’ and [I told him] ‘Just do it.’ After the race, he came to me and said, ‘Dad, it worked – I had a great start, but why did it work?’ I said him, ‘You changed your focus. You were not worried anymore about the guy behind; you were worried about the guy in front.’”

Having recently moved to the US, Eduardo will be competing in his 2nd season of USF2000 this year and Barrichello’s feelings of excitement and anxiety are clear. “I am the worst, because I suffer, I suffer emotionally. I cry a lot, I know what’s going to happen – not that I know what’s going to happen, but I have a feeling for it.”
Eduardo was preparing to compete in the opening round of his campaign – only for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic to see the event cancelled after first practice – at a time when Rubens was in Melbourne to take part in a Grand Prix-supporting Formula 5000 event. “I woke up at 2.45am in Australia to watch his times on the first practice and if I could have opened champagne, he was 1st in practice, I would have done that,” beamed a delighted Barrichello.

Whereas Eduardo has embraced motorsport through his teenage years, Barrichello’s youngest son, Fernando, declared to his father of his desire to play football instead. “When [Fernando] was 13, he came to me and said, ‘Dad, I love karting, but you know how much I love soccer – would you mind if I tried for some time to be a soccer player?’ I said, I don’t mind. I think it’s so courageous, because it’s a different thing.’
“The Barrichello family were all players, they were all soccer players,” he remembers. “It’s not difficult to believe that Fernando would try that and as long as you play sport, I am very, very happy, so I was super happy for him to try that. He raced with us in the 12 Hours here in Brazil and he was so competitive, but I want him to follow the love that is in his heart. I think that’s more important than anything else.”

The pair enjoy football practice at their home, allowing them to connect in a similar way that Barrichello had done with his own father many years beforehand. “I’m doing something that my Dad did with me without knowing,” says Barrichello. “What my Dad with me, for example, the first time when it rained, I had no money to buy wet tyres and he sent me out on slicks, and I became one of the good drivers in the wet maybe because of that.”
Although Barrichello acknowledges that he lacks knowledge or experience of football, the detailed methodology and philosophy that made him such an asset in Formula One still has a part to play. “I don’t have the knowledge of soccer and I don’t have the means to know what to do, but I told him the other day that we have to practice that kick; [the ball] needs to come lower. We developed a way, where he is kicking that ball so strongly and the ball is coming lower, so we test various things and because we are together, we can as two sportsmen we can do that.

“Today we went out and I said, ‘Do you want it tough or do you want it easy,’ and he said, ‘Tough.’ So, I said, ‘Let’s go, 20 seconds uphill, 40 seconds down and then we’ll see how many we can do,’ and he was done by the end of the time. That keeps me excited to keep on training, because he’s only 14,” says Barrichello, laughing in tandem.
“I’m inventing this, and it keeps us happy. You can ask: ‘Rubens, do you exercise as much as you did when you were in Formula One? No, but I’m 75% on it,’ so if I make up one day a week more or do some different stuff, I’m still so competitive.”

For now, neither of Barrichello’s 2020 stock car campaigns have begun, but given the circumstances globally, that is no surprise. From 141 starts, the Brazilian has taken 13 race wins and the Stock Car Brasil title in 2014; however, following seven years behind the wheel of a Chevrolet, Barrichello and his Full Time Sports squad this year opted for Toyota power.
“I had a lot of fun driving those cars. I adapted really fast, didn’t take me that long to win my first race, so therefore I had a lot of fun. It was no virtually pressure or at least a lot less pressure and I was able to keep on doing what I was [doing].”

Stock cars may not have the ultra-intensity of Formula One, but Barrichello is clearly having fun and is still the happy and competitive person that made him a fan favourite for so many years.


For the full version of this interview, as well as conversations with WRC’s Richard Millener, Andrea Adamo, Yves Matton and Colin Clark, come back for the next issue of World in Motorsport, to be published in July.

© Stock Car Brasil / Duda Bairros

“F1: It Was Clear for Me to Change My Life – Gerhard Berger”

Hockenheim II: DTM Hockenheim II 2018 on October, 12, 2018, (Photo by Hoch Zwei)
Pressekonferenz: Gerhard Berger, Vorsitzender ITR e.V.,

Gerhard Berger may be fondly remembered as one of the jokers of Formula One’s past, but with ten victories over the course of fourteen seasons, he is also one of the most highly respected drivers of the 1980s and 90s.

Now 60 and long retired as a Formula One driver, the Austrian tells World in Motorsport of his final year as a driver at motorsport’s top level.

“Y’know there was a funny thing,” Gerhard Berger says dryly. “There was Monza and I was staying in a hotel and I was in the top floor in the penthouse, and when it starts raining.”

Situated toward the rear of the DTM’s paddock motorhome with a few deft touches of the table-top, Berger motioned the changing conditions with the tips of his fingers. “You hear the [rain] tap, tap, tap, tap, because you wake up and over all the years I used to say, ‘Oh great, there’s rain, I have an extra chance and an extra risk.’

“Then suddenly I heard the tap, tap, tap, tap, and I said, ‘Oh shit, it’s raining tomorrow, it’s dangerous’, and I said to myself that it was a clear sign.”

Berger came into the 1997 Formula One season looking to improve on what had been a tough previous year. Having moved from Ferrari to Benetton at the end of 1995, neither Berger nor teammate Jean Alesi were able to come close to emulating the success enjoyed by the Italian team and their German pilot, Michael Schumacher.

From race winners and champions, Benetton were resigned to collecting occasional podia amidst a smattering of points finishes. Indeed, of the 16 Grand Prix held in 1996, Berger failed to finish in eight, including – most gallingly – that year’s German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring, where the Austrian retired three laps from the end, having dominated the event. On the other side of the garage, Alesi fared little better.

Although rumours floated that he was in discussions with Williams and Sauber for 1998, Berger admitted to World in Motorsport that his decision to leave Formula One was made relatively early in 1997, revealing that, “It came from all sides at the same time and it was clear for me to change my life.”
Despite an early season podium at Interlagos, followed by the birth of daughter Heidi the next day, Berger’s season began to unravel after the Spanish Grand Prix in May. Surgery to tackle an inflamed sinus, followed by an aggravated infection and additional surgery, kept Berger out of his Benetton seat for three Grand Prix. During this period, Berger’s father Johann was tragically killed in private aeroplane accident in the mountain regions of Tirol.

Upon his return to Grand Prix competition at the German Grand Prix, Berger once again dominated at the Hockenheimring – this time taking pole, winning the race and apart from the pit stops, he led every lap. It proved a popular victory and is considered the finest of his ten race wins in Formula One. “All the stories are known. The thing with my father, the sickness, the difficult period I had with my team,” he remembers. “Still it worked out. And it wasn’t really a car where we had an advantage to the others and it became so clear – pole position, quickest lap, winning the race.
“My mind said prove again what you are capable of doing and it showed me how much the mind can actually [do]. It’s unbelievable, it proved it even to myself what the mind is able to move and to do.”

Time was moving on however, and at the end of the season, Berger officially announced his retirement from Formula One. “It felt very welcome in the paddock, because I felt people liked me, but at the same time, it was like, ‘What are you doing here? Your time is over.’”
Since retirement, he led BMW’s return to Formula One in the early-2000s, before becoming 50% owner in the early days of Toro Rosso (now Alpha Centauri).
For three years, he was also President of the FIA Single Seat Commission and later became chairman of the ITR – the promoter of the DTM. Although he may not be competing anymore, Berger continues to push and use some of the lessons from his racing in his business dealings.

“This mixture between discipline, killer instinct and competition – you can use it in different ways in business,” says Berger. “I find it is an extremely good advantage. Also, I have my logistics business and my business meetings, and, in the discussions, it is quite interesting, because what you don’t measure has no value. You have to measure numbers, how long you need for this and people are sometimes surprised.
“My life was always measured by a stopwatch and the watch wasn’t lying, the numbers weren’t lying, so forget all your feelings and all these things – get it measured and then get judged by your performance. This basic way of thinking helps you in a lot of ways.”

For the full version of this interview, as well as conversations with and Rubens Barrichello – Formula One’s most experienced driver – and WRC’s Richard Millener, Andrea Adama, Yves Matton and Colin Clark, come back for the next issue of World in Motorsport, to be published in July.

Klettwitz: DTM Lausitzring Test 2019, Klettwitz on April, 16, 2019, (Photo by Hoch Zwei)

“WRC: Safari Rally return pushed back to 2021”

© FIA

The retuning Safari Rally has been pushed back to 2021, it was confirmed today, as the Coronavirus pandemic claimed another victim.

Scheduled for mid-July, this was due to be the event’s first appearance on the WRC calendar since 2002, where the late-Colin McRae took his final win.

However, as countries were forced into lockdown and quarantine procedures in an effort to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 infection, the viability of the event came under question.

Following discussions between the WRC Promoter, FIA and the Government of Kenya, it was decided to postpone the return of the Safari Rally until 2021. “We greatly regret this decision but there was unfortunately no choice given the current global situation,” commented Oliver Ciesla, managing direct of WRC Promoter. “The championship has a duty of care to all stakeholders as well as the wider community and this remains our key focus.

“The return of Safari Rally Kenya was due to be one of the highlights of the WRC season and we extend our gratitude to President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Government of Kenya and the entire team at the WRC Safari Rally Project, headed by Phineas Kimathi, which has worked so hard.
“We look forward to Safari Rally Kenya in 2021.”

“WRC: ‘It’s almost at the point where we say ‘bin the season’’ – Colin Clark”

Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia of team Toyota during Rally Mexico. © Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool // AP

One of the WRC’s leading commentator’s, Colin Clark, believes that it may be time for the FIA to cancel the rest of the season in light of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to World in Motorsport this week, Clark mused that, while there doesn’t appear to be a specified number of events required to complete a WRC season, he believes there may need to be at least four more events to validate the championship.

Beginning in January, the WRC was able to run three events before the spread of the deadly Coronavirus stopped the season in its tracks during Rally Mexico in mid-March.

According to Clark – a regular reporter for the online magazine DirtFish, following several years as stopline report for WRC Rally Radio and All Live – a number of events may potentially be viable, but quarantine measures could hamper event participation and preparation.

“Remember M-Sport are based in the UK, a lot of the media, an awful lot of the WRC infrastructure is based in the UK,” says Clark. “This quarantine period that [the government] are introducing into the UK – if we have to spend two weeks in quarantine every time we come back to the UK it makes the whole thing very, very difficult. Difficult to schedule and difficult to logistically manage.”

One of the most respected and knowledgeable voices in the Service Park, Clark thinks there are opportunities to run the likes of Rally Turkey and Rally Germany, but beyond that, the championship could struggle to pull events together. “I think they’ll struggle to get four more rounds before the end of the year. Very much doubt we’ll go to Italy; GB’s in a lot of doubt; we pretty much know we’re not going to Kenya; Argentina I’m certain won’t be rescheduled and Japan also has to be in a bit of doubt, so I think we’ll struggle to get four rounds by the end of the year.”

So critical are the circumstances, Clark admits that it may be time for the FIA to cancel the rest of this season’s WRC competition, particularly as advice from various governments remains fluid and open to change and differing interpretations. “It’s almost at the point where we say, ‘bin it, bin the season.’
“We need to plan; we need to sit down and talk. We should use the time to address what it is going to be for manufacturers, for privateers, for media, for everyone – it’s going to be a challenging three or four or five years. Rather than constantly firefighting […] because things are changing, or working through potential scenarios, then it changes the following week, just bin the whole thing and let’s plan for a very difficult period to come.”

Beyond the current campaign, Clark also believes the economic aftereffects of the pandemic could also frustrate plans to introduce the new Rally 1 technical regulations. The new rules – planned to begin in 2022 – would see the introduction of a common hybrid drivetrains, as well as a standardised safety structure and a number of common parts.
However, with the collapse of car sales due to the pandemic, Clark believes that a rethink may be required. “We can’t go ahead with plans that were formulated before this virus and this crisis. I think any plans that were formulated, that were discussed, that were decided upon before the virus need to be reworked and looked at again, in particular, the 2022 regulations need to be considered again.
“Now is the time to do that. Now there’s plenty of time for people to virtually sit around the table and discuss, work out and address what are going to be enormously challenging times.”

For the full version of this interview, as well as conversations with Richard Millener of M-Sport and Rubens Barrichello – Formula One’s most experienced driver – come back for the next issue of World in Motorsport, to be published in July.

“F1: Williams recruit Simon Roberts from McLaren”

Simon Roberts will join Williams Racing from June 1st as Managing Director of their F1 programme.

Welcoming Simon Roberts to the team, Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams said, “Simon will bring enormous experience and knowledge to the Williams team, and we are delighted that he is joining us when we head back to work after this long enforced F1 shutdown.”

Previously the Chief Operations Officer of McLaren’s F1 programme, Roberts will takes responsibility for the team’s technical, operational and planning functions, reporting to CEO Mike O’Driscoll.
Roberts also enjoyed experience with Force India (now Racing Point F1 Team) as Chief Operations Officer, as well as a additional stint with McLaren as Operations and General Manager, which he joined in 2003 from Alstom Group.

Williams added, “[Roberts] will lead a highly talented team that’s looking forward to designing & developing the next generation of Williams F1 cars.” Roberts has also previously had broader engineering positions in the car industry, having previously had roles with BMW/Rover & Perkins Engineering.

“The Folly of Licence Points Systems”

Raghunathan struggled throughout his F2 tenure. © Formula Motorsport / LAT

Discussions regarding the application of a drivers’ points system were raised in Formula 2 following Mahaveer Raghunathan’s lack of performance, speed and ability.

But is this the correct way to proceed and does this imply a reaction, rather than a clear solution?

‘At what point does a driver’s lack of ability potentially harm the hard-fought reputation of a championship?’

This is a question that gets raised every-so-often. Generally, it is uttered when a driver proves to be so slow or so completely out of their depth, that they hinder not only their own progress, but also that of other competitors.

In years previous, one could easily look to the likes of Sergio Canamasas or Carmen Jorda for drivers promoted well beyond their capabilities. Last season, Mahaveer Raghunathan joined that list.

Raghunathan was regularly the slowest driver in the field, often some 1.5-2s adrift of the next slowest driver in qualifying. During practice and qualifying sessions, he garnered a reputation for blocking and in races, his pace was such he would either be lapped or come close to being lapped.
In reality, the likes of Raghunathan are blips. Rarely do they reach the heights of Formula 2 and for the most part are rarely so slow as to get lapped during what are relatively brief races with identical cars.

Yet, there are those who point to introducing an entry criterion based on earned licence points – similar to Formula One’s Super Licence – for drivers wishing to race in Formula 2.
While this will undoubtedly cut out drivers that are clearly unqualified for such a level and may also tighten up the overall competitiveness of a given field, as lower quality fluff is replaced with apparently able talent, it may prove too hasty a step and too harsh a barrier. Encouraging top talent and increasing competition are laudable, but there may be too many cons for it to truly be a success.

The narrowing of the driver pool could conceivably create a swath of long-termers in the series – drivers that end up as perennial competitors in the 2nd tier: unable to push forward or unwilling to move aside.
Financial pressures could also be an unintended consequence of this points system. In an already daftly expensive category – cars at Formula 2 level require huge investment to be run to their full potential – several teams have experienced some severe financial difficulty. These pressures often manifest themselves as mid-season driver changes, when larger income – real or promised – becomes more attractive than the numbers already offered by existing racers.

“See also: Costing a Season of European Formula 3”

The business model below Formula One is utterly different and one needs to examine the structure from another angle. If one looked at this process as drivers hiring teams to deliver a raceable product, then you are getting closer to the mark – at its most basic level, that is what happens.
Back in 2016, I asked Stephanie Tindall – Commercial and PR Manager with Carlin Motorsport – about the relationship between drivers and teams at a junior formula level and how it differs from that of leading championships, such as Formula One.
‘Our business model is that drivers come to us and pay us money for us to race them. You might had presumed that we pay our drivers to try for us, but it is the completely the other way around. We are providing a product and […] we have to make sure that we are providing the best product for our drivers; they are selecting us; we are not selecting them.
‘That budget may come from various different places; it may come from big sponsors, it may come from a collection of smaller sponsors, in some instances it even comes from family funds. An example of a big sponsor and most prominently placed is Red Bull.
‘We are in six championships and have 18 cars in total that are racing. We also have test teams as well for younger drivers. If we are not winning and we’re not getting podiums and we are not able to show drivers how they can improve in the car with the services that we can provide, they are not going to come to us.’

By artificially restricting the number of drivers available, one also risks restricting the budget available for teams to operate and that could ultimately cripple squads and the series as a whole if left unchecked.

Should there be stricter parametres applied to driver quality at Formula 2 (and maybe Formula 3) level? Absolutely, but perhaps that is a decision that should left to the series stewards, flanked by experienced top-level drivers.
New drivers wishing to compete at the Indianapolis 500 must complete a rookie orientation day at the oval before they are allowed to enter practice sessions. In this, drivers record several laps at set average speeds in order to demonstrate consistency, ability and safety.

This can only happen if testing is opened up to allow it to happen. Drivers still need to learn somewhere, somehow and ultimately the testing restrictions are harming those who need more time to develop.

This would be a far more equitable solution than the needless introduction of a driver points system.
In the meantime, Raghunathan will not be returning to Formula 2 for 2020.

“Super Formula: No real racing for Real Racing in 2020”

© Super Formula

Super Formula stalwarts Real Racing have withdrawn from the 2020 season, following a tumultuous campaign last time out.

Established by former racer Katsutomo Kaneishi in 2003, Real Racing entered Super Formula’s predecessor – Formula Nippon – in 2011 and have been a near constant presence in the following years, mainly with Koudai Tsukakoshi behind the wheel.

In a season where funding was rumoured to be tight, Real Racing opened the season with the inexperienced Tristan Charpentier driving for one race, before he was ejected in favour for Tsukakoshi.
The veteran Tsukakoshi did not score until the final race of the season, when he registered two points with a 7th place finish at Suzuka.

Real Racing’s departure means the field will retract to twenty entries. The team hope to return in 2021.

“Waiting for the Rain Dance”

Conditions at the DTM finale at Hockenheimring we’re hardly the most representative of early October in the region.

Previous visits to the season ending event tended to be on the dryer side in recent years, flicking between late Autumn wind and warmth to early Winter grey and cool.

For the regulars, the wet weather was an annoyance – the bulk of the titles having been decided at the penultimate round at the Nürburgring – but it proved desperately unfortunate for the three GT500 interlopers from Japan’s Super GT Series.

One of the three, Lexus racer Nick Cassidy, was highest placed on the grid for Sunday’s race, saying beforehand that he was just going to try to have some fun.
He would only last half-a-lap when he spun and crashed in an ill-fated move for position, but given the dreadful conditions, it’s a surprise more didn’t fall off.

It was a disappointing ending to the weekend, particularly as the inaugural ‘Dream Race’ – a non-championship joint event between DTM and GT500 – is only a short time away.
If anything, the GT500 racers were hoping for some dry running to establish a better baseline for the race in Japan.
There was little chance of this, as detailed by the showers that continued through the day and the water in my shoes…

“F1: Bad Strategies Found Fumbling in the Dark”

Sunday morning’s Japanese Grand Prix opened the door to another series of “what ifs” in what has been a topsy-turvy second half to the 2019 season.

The only guarantee was that Mercedes is still very much the dominant force at the top-level of motorsport.

What if Sebastian Vettel had not botched the start, thereby not gifting the lead to Valtteri Bottas?
What if Charles Leclerc had been a little bit more circumspect on the first lap and not clattered into the side of Max Verstappen?
What if Bottas season had not gone to sleep following a brilliant opening to the year?
What if the chequered flag had not been waved a lap early..?
What if Lewis Hamilton had not had his own poor start, dropping him out of the fight for the win by the first corner?

The final entry brings a number of follow-on questions, but one thing is for certain: Hamilton’s easy run to the championship has dissipated somewhat since the season break.

That’s not to say that his charge to a sixth title is under threat – it really isn’t – but rather, this is a deal that, under previous circumstances, would probably been done and dusted had:
Leclerc and Ferrari not come good;
Vettel had not woken from his competitive coma;
Bottas experienced a spike of form in Suzuka.
To be completely fair, Hamilton did win out in Russian a week ago, but again, there was a touch of good fortune there too, when a mechanical issue for Vettel and an ill-time virtual safety car not nobbled Leclerc.

Sometimes though, races are won in just that manner. Hamilton has lost races in similar situations too.

Mercedes have played an odd game of late. Their strategic plays have indicated a lack of decisiveness, particularly when one driver or the other has their race hamstrung as a result.
Indeed, Hamilton was leading with ten laps to go, when Mercedes brought the Briton into the pits for a fresh set of tyres. Although his pace at that point had yet to drop off, it is believed it may have done so, but it is unlikely that leaving Hamilton out on the medium-shod Pirelli’s would have affected the result too much.

Having stopped six laps earlier, Bottas was closing once he has deposed of lapped traffic and was always likely to take the lead away from Hamilton, while Vettel was some 18s adrift. Had Mercedes left Hamilton out on the now aging mediums, it is unclear whether or not Vettel would have caught him, but it is possible.
Alas, Mercedes brought Hamilton in and gave him a set of used softs – the gap was 4.3s once he re-joined and although he quickly drew to the rear of Vettel, Hamilton could do nothing to pass the Ferrari.

But in the meantime, the pair made it quite thrilling. With the gap mere tenths each time by, Vettel used better corner exit and quicker acceleration to great effect, while Hamilton’s prowess came in ultimate top speed and a more defiant braking and corner entry combination.
The gap across the line was just 0.5s, in Vettel’s favour. Hamilton taking the bonus point for the fastest lap eight tours from the end sealed the Constructor’s title for the German marquee, but that could have also been achieved by electing to leave Hamilton on track to finish 2nd (had his tyres held up).

Giving up 2nd place in order to go for the fastest lap bonus does seem en vogue at the moment. Indeed, the situation between Vettel and Hamilton was not too dissimilar to Sochi a week before, when Ferrari pitted Leclerc from what seemed like an assured 2nd place to push for the fastest lap.
In theory, Leclerc would not only set the fastest lap, but also have enough spare to retake the runner-up spot from Bottas. Neither happened – on that occasion, Hamilton had enough in spare to set the fastest lap himself, while Leclerc could not break past Bottas.
Three points dropped to obtain none…

But where Leclerc’s run to a certain victory in Sochi had initially been humbled by an ill-timed virtual safety car, Hamilton’s race was compromised by a sluggish getaway, followed a tentative defence against both McLaren’s of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz through the first few turns.
The former was dispatched easily enough – hung out to dry around the outside of turns one and two, Norris quickly fell from view. Sainz, however, took a little more force and compliance, with the Spaniard giving way into the first part of the ‘S’ curves, knowing full way that if two went in, two would not be coming out.

Hamilton was fortunate in this instance. Despite errors off the line by both Ferrari’s, Hamilton’s own start came close to leaving him mired in the pack. While the Mercedes man defended and attacked the McLaren’s, Verstappen also got by and was about to take 3rd when Leclerc struck the Red Bull Racing Honda in the middle of turn two, taking out the Dutch driver and leaving his Ferrari with a damaged front wing, that would eventually see him pit on lap four.
In only a few moments, the goodwill that Leclerc had built in the past few months took a hit and while he is still learning, these rough edges need to be smoothed out if he is to eventually become a World Champion. Meanwhile, for Hamilton, in a situation where he could easily have dropped to 7th, the soon-to-be six-time champion emerged in 3rd place. Sometimes that’s just how championships are won.

Though the myriad of strategies weaved, unfolded and intersected, for the most part, the leading trio consisted of Bottas leading; Vettel a distant 2nd and Hamilton a distant 3rd.
Mercedes could have altered that by leaving Hamilton out on track, but he had already been complaining about the mediums early in the stint. Sometimes, it is best to placate, but one could almost feel Peter Bonnington’s frustration on the pitwall – even watching from afar, one just wanted Hamilton to put his head down and drive.

Truth be told, this was Bottas’ race. Lining up on the second row was far from ideal, but his pace through the Grand Prix was exceptional and while Hamilton believes he had the pace to win, the evidence suggests otherwise.
In saying that, Hamilton was leading and pitting him on lap 43 removed the equation of having to make Bottas pass him on track. There is little doubt that Bottas probably feels he was “owed” this win, particularly considering how Mercedes hobbled his race in Singapore to ensure Hamilton was ahead at the flag – a strategy that backfired and dropped the Mercedes’ pairing behind both Ferrari’s and Verstappen.

Winning at Suzuka would certain have given Bottas a smile, but while technically the championship is still open and Bottas is the only driver who could potentially catch Hamilton, it is desperately unlikely that it will happen, for Hamilton is 64 points ahead with only 104 left available.

Mercedes are keen to avoid a repeat of 2016, when tensions between Hamilton and the now retired Nico Rosberg came to a head and as such, the manner in which their strategies play out come across as quite odd – almost as if they are attempting to distance their two drivers, whenever Bottas happens to be on song.
Thankfully for Mercedes and Hamilton, that has not happened enough this year and Bottas’ brilliant form in the opening six races faded quickly, allowing Hamilton to dominate.

Now with both Ferrari and Red Bull interloping amongst the leading positions, Mercedes need to start working hard on their strategic references. With only occasional challenges in recent seasons, it is the one area where Mercedes are still very rusty.

Oh, and the race being classified a lap early due to a malfunction on the flag stand. Now, that’s just weird.

“A Confession, of Sorts. A Reprisal, for Certain”

Five weeks ago, I became quite unemployed from my full-time job.

Thankfully, the redundancy was more than ample, and it cured a number of problems and also helped in other areas.

For the period, my goal was to write. Research and write. Research and write. Exercise, lose a little weight and reset my health somewhat.

Until a new job came to pass, my time was to be spent concentrating on that.

Initially, the aim was to find a job that would tie things over until early next year, but by the second week away from my old office, I found that it wasn’t missed at all. My stress levels had decreased significantly, my sleep was much better as I was no longer waking up in the middle of the night in a blind terror and I was no longer having internal panic attacks.

Why on Earth would I put myself through that again?

Upon finishing secondary school in Ireland (many, many years ago), I became heavily involved with music and art, while also putting words to paper. I remember being told many times, by many people that I “should study something sensible to fall back on, just in case things don’t work out.”

The people who passed on such advice may have meant well, but many years on, I wish I had the strength to tell all of those people to get f**ked. From there, I studied chemistry and physics, but it really wasn’t my forte at all and dropped out long before the end.

Eventually, I completed a business course that probably didn’t challenge in the way that it should have and quickly found employment, whereby each day ticked by and with it, so did the years. Alas, the dutiful thing was done and for a long, long time, emptiness followed and swam beneath me.

With the passing of time, I became one of those people who would chat quickly with colleagues in the kitchen as we took both time and tea and professed with a forced smile that “it’s nearly Friday, here comes the weekend…”

It rankled. Why would I wish my life away in such a manner, disregarding five-sevenths of the week? It all seemed so absurd, defeatist and sad.

But truth be told, as long as I was not being challenged, I was quite happy to toe the line and be content to keep people happy and not to rock the boat. Not rock the boat. Just go about your business, do you what you need to do, and everything will fall into place. Or so someone, somewhere says.

While I never quite believed that deep down and never quite believed that I would fall or had fallen into that pattern, life’s dull reality had swallowed me up entirely.

From 2011, my weekends had become somewhat different. Leading up to that time, I was doing a few things on the first version of this website, which – at that time – was more of a fansite for Formula One and other single-seater categories.

Back then, my home was this horrid little houseshare in the East End of London – one of those converted flats, that started out as medium sized three-bed, but ended up getting converted into a five-bedroom property, but with no living space. At its worst, there were six complete strangers living in this place, that was little more than a bed for filth.

The bedroom was about ten feet long and five feet across and the bed itself left just enough spare room for a shelf, a wardrobe and a door that didn’t quite open fully. In addition to this, the window frame was broken, so if you wanted to open it on a hot day, you had to jar it open with a wooden plank.

Digressing slightly, but when living at that place, the one constant was a Zimbabwean chap called “Bruce”. Now I never ever knew Bruce’s surname, nor am I sure if Bruce was even his first name, for the chap never received any mail and he always refused to tell us anything about his past.

He had passed himself off as a cowboy builder and one evening, the pipe under the kitchen sink broke after years of neglect. Suffice to say, his solution of trying to patch it up with sodden toilet roll and chewing gum was not entirely successful.

Anyway… after a period of posting small interviews with drivers from F3, one evening, I received an e-mail out of the blue from the British F3 office encouraging me to apply for media accreditation.

Why not..?

And thus, in March 2011, I was on my way to Monza, with no real clue or concept. The learning curve, as always, in that first year was very steep, but apart from getting lost and stranded in Milan on that trip, things went well.

Each race weekend, whether it Formula One, WEC, DTM, Blancpain, Formula 3 became a release – an opportunity to not just relax professionally and apply my skills, but also to release the haggard nerves of the working week. That work was coming my way just made that feeling better.

Sitting in the commentary box was the icing on the cake and one that I thoroughly enjoy. But it wasn’t just about covering motorsport; this was about making the most of myself, whatever the subject.

Mistakes have also been made, little missteps that one can regret, but also learn from – that’s life. If you don’t go over the line sometimes, then you may never know where you truly are.

These chances don’t come easily or without merit. For all those who want to take the easy steps, who want others to “study something sensible to fall back on, in case it doesn’t work out,” be the one who says “actually no, I’m going to do it my way.”

And that is something you will never regret.

“DTM: Rast wins first Class One ‘joint race’”

Rene Rast made the most of his fast Audi RS5 and the mild conditions at Hockenheim to take his 17th DTM race win.

BMW’s Marco took 2nd place in his M4, while Mike Rockenfeller continued his strong second half of the season to secure the final podium spot for Audi.

From pole position, Rast built a lead of 1.6s in the opening three laps from the quick starting Rockenfeller, before the latter drew back toward Rast and leading a brief challenge to the recently crowned champion.

Rockenfeller’s charge was short-lived and once in his comfort zone, Rast gapped the former champion, building to 2.3s while Rockenfeller fought against a feisty Wittmann. Ultimately it proved fruitless, as the BMW racer forced his way past Rockenfeller into 2nd place at Mercedes corner on the 12th lap and immediately began a charge on the race leader.

Although Wittmann closed in on Rast, the gap between the pair was slow to close, as the leading Audi measured his pace as his Hankook tyres began to age. On a cool and gripless circuit, the leading group began to lose approximately 1.5s per lap compared to the early stoppers.

Searching for an undercut, Wittmann stopped for fresh Hankook’s on lap 18, with Rast doing the same one tour later. “The first stint was OK,” said Wittmann later. “I did fall back to third place, but I managed to work my way back and closed the gap to René Rast just before the pit stop.” The BMW racer’s push was halted when the safety car was called to recover Philipp Eng’s stricken Team RMR machine.

With the field static for just over three laps, Rast led Wittmann and Rockenfeller once more; however, the restart allowed Wittmann a precious opportunity to press for the front once more.
Immediately Rast set the fastest lap of the race, only for Wittmann to go three tenths quick the next lap around and then push his way into the lead on lap 24. Undimmed by losing the top spot, Rast instantly fought back against Wittmann and retook the lead on lap 26 and this time Wittmann had no answer.

His challenge broken, Wittmann dropped over two seconds behind Rast, with the gap holding until the conclusion on lap 38. “That was an outstanding race,” said a jubilant Rast. “In the race, [Wittmann] came very close to me at times. We had a nice battle for some laps but in the end, I was clearly faster and won the race!”

Rockenfeller fell away from the leading pair in the second half of the race, spending much of his time fending off Audi stablemate Nico Müller; however, that fight was called off when Müller was forced to make his mandatory stop five laps from the end. For Rockenfeller, 3rd represented another good result in what has been positive run since Norisring, which leaves him 4th in the points standings.

Robin Frijns enjoyed a quiet run to 4th. The Audi racer was in something of a no man’s land toward the end of the race and was several seconds ahead of 5th place Loïc Duval, making it four Audi’s in the top five.
Duval had enjoyed an on-off battle with Timo Glock through much of the race, as they mixed it with WRT Audi driver Jonathan Aberdein in the early running. Aberdein, however, was removed from contention when he was punted into a spin by teammate Pietro Fittipaldi on lap 21, leaving Aberdein to run around near the back of the pack.

Thereafter Duval battled and swapped positions with Jake Dennis (R-Motorsport) and also passed Glock five tours from the end, eventually closing out the top five. Glock stayed with Duval for a short time, but dropped back as he fought with Paul di Resta (R-Motorsport) and Bruno Spengler (BMW) staying ahead of both to solidify 6th, 7th and 8th positions.

Jenson Button was the highest of the GT500 finishers, with the Honda NSX taking 9th. Starting 6th, Button dropped three places at the start, but lost further ground when he suffered a slow pitstop on lap 18. Emerging from the stops in 15th place, Button had a good restart following the safety car and would eventually take Jamie Green (Audi), Sheldon van der Linde (BMW), and Dennis to come home 9th.
Joel Eriksson enjoyed a quiet day to round out the top ten for BMW, but with Button not scoring points, Dennis took 11th place and the final point, just edging Green by half-a-second across the line.

Ryo Hirakawa stopped twice and ended the day 13th for the KeePer TOM’s Lexus team, while Aberdein could only recover to 14th. Fittipalsi received a drive through penalty for hitting his teammate, which left him a dejected 15th, while van der Linde finished 16th after he received a drive through penalty for forcing Button off the track.
Müller was classified 17th. The one-time championship challenger was adjudged to have taken his stop under the safety car, forcing to take his mandatory tyre change again toward the end of the race.

Tsugio Matsuda missed the first half of the race when his propshaft broke on the warm-up lap. He emerged in the second half of the race to secure some much needed track time, while both Dani Juncadella (R-Motorsport) and Eng stopped with undiagnosed mechanical issues.

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