Skip to content

“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.

“Belated Thoughts on the W Series”

Jamie Chadwick took teh first W Series title. © W Series.

Last year’s launch of the W Series was dominated by plenty of criticism, plaudits and discussion – but with the first season completed, did the concept stand up?

“So, what did you make of it all?”

There’s nothing quite like being put on that spot, particularly when it comes from one of the leading behind-the-scenes members of the W Series. For my sins, honesty prevailed and my thoughts from the penultimate day of the season finale – seven weeks ago – to now have not changed.

In one sense, I believed that the W Series had raised the profile of female competitors in motorsport, while at the same time confirming what we already knew – that those at the head of the field were the quickest and seemingly the best prepared for the task going into the opening round in May.

The only big surprise, to me at least, was that Jamie Chadwick went on to claim the first W Series title with a somewhat wobbly display at the Kent circuit the next day. Following her displays at the opening two rounds at Hockenheim and Zolder, I had fully expected Chadwick to have the title wrapped come the penultimate meeting at Assen. Thankfully a persistent Beitske Visser kept Chadwick honest and on her toes.

There were three distinct sides to the field. As noted, out front there were the known racers such as Chadwick and Visser, while Alice Powell and Emma Kimiläinen showed their speed had not reduced, despite the long gaps to their previous single-seater experience.
The biggest surprise was Marta Garcia’s turn of pace, following a couple of solid, but not spectacular years in Spanish F4 in 2016-17. She would go on to take a win a Norisring and showed speed at both Hockenheim and Zolder, before fading later in the season.

Sometimes the challenge for any new championship is not to invite fast drivers to fight for wins, podiums and points – the real fight is to ensure that quality toward the rear of the field stacks up and this is one point where W Series fell down somewhat.
Some drivers from the mid-pack onward appeared to be really quite out of their depth, with some struggling with shaky on-track methodology, resulting in a gap from the rear to the front being far too great, particularly during race sessions.

In saying that, the series’ reverse-grid race at Assen did show that the likes of Megan Gilkes can peddle a car pretty quickly when the circumstances align – her late race defence from Powell, Jessica Hawkins and Sabré Cook proving that there may be something that can built upon, as long as the opportunity to develop is there.

And this may be the greatest barrier to development for those who are struggling. Part of the problem facing the W Series drivers is the severe lack of track time they have over the course of a race meeting. Testing is virtually non-existent and, this year at least, drivers are limited to two 45-minute practice sessions, one 30-minute qualifying session and a race distance that comes in at 30 minutes plus one lap.
As there are only six race meetings (for now), on track running for W Series over the course of a year is severely limited, and this may go some way to slowing the development and preparation for drivers who are close to the back, especially if they do not have easy or ready access to simulators.

On the other hand, the series does run to F3 Regional technical regulations, from which W Series has opted to run with an Alfa Romeo-powered Tatuus T-318; the same engine / car configuration that runs in F3 Asian Championship and the Formula Regional Championship {note 1}.
Any driver that opted to run a parallel campaign in either of those categories would no doubt receive a great advantage against their opponents. Next year, competitors in the W Series can claim Super Licence points and it is a dynamic that will add pressure to the level of competition {note 2}.

Whisper Productions employed plenty of talent for W Series. © W Series.

The one major positive about the W Series was that it did appear to attract plenty of girls and young women to paddocks in a far greater number than I had previously noticed before at a race meeting. There is little doubt that much of this attention came to pass through a big push by the communications team, while the controversy generated by the very existence of a female-only championship certainly didn’t hurt.
Following that up with terrestrial television deal (broadcast by Channel 4 in the UK at least) was the icing on the cake, although it did help that Whisper Productions – the company responsible for producing W Series content for television is itself part-owned by UK terrestrial TV company Channel 4.

Young women in karting do tend to fall off the motorsport radar in and around the time one would jump from karts to cars, but if it helps to promote or strengthen links between these segments of the ladder and raise awareness for sponsors, then that can only be a good thing.
However, there are still quite a few ifs and buts there and indeed quite a few questions regarding the business model of W Series. As it stands, there appears to be a large amount of money going out and – as far as I’m aware – not a whole lot coming in. Yet.

New cars, TV deals, no particular stand-out sponsors, support slots on the DTM, technical back-up from Hitech GP, drivers not paying for their seats and indeed being afforded prize money – this is a not insignificant amount of money.

While there was plenty of curiosity surrounding W Series at the European rounds, it was clear that many of those visiting Brands Hatch for the finale were there to see W Series, almost relegating DTM to a support role.

As related to the aforementioned series’ member, if it inspires girls and young women to make the jump into karts and eventually car racing, then it can be considered a positive result.
On the other hand, it is still both remarkable and sad that the creation of a female-only series may be considered the strongest way to draw females into motorsport. That really doesn’t say much for the rest of the sport.
I still don’t think it is the best answer to increasing inclusiveness for young women in motorsport. Individual championships, rule makers and sponsors also need to examine the invisible barriers they have introduced over the years, through selective business dealings and an in-bred catch-22 scenario that begins and ends with “no women competing in cars, leading to no female winners; therefore women cannot compete and win”. Frankly, that’s all bollocks.

For me, I’m still on the fence. I’m sceptical, but also curious to what happens next and how it grows.

{note 1}
On a visit to the BTCC paddock recently, it was relayed to me by members of the F4 support paddock – who also operate in the Formula Regional European Championship – that Formula Regional may not survive the winter. Either the cars will be sold and refitted with Renault engines, so as to be run in Formula Renault Eurocup. It was also said that some teams may opt to try to enter the EuroFormula Open championship, but that would be a significant investment, as it would require a new engine / car package.

{note 2}
As a reminder, a driver can claim Super Licence points from two championships that finish in a calendar year; however, there must be no overlap. This mean that if a driver competes in two championships during the year, only one of them will count toward Super Licence points.
It is believed that this may boost the popularity of the two main winter series that are currently in existence – the F3 Asian Championship (runs from Dec 2019-Feb 2020) and New Zealand’s Toyota Racing Series (runs from Jan-Feb 2020).

© W Series.

“F1 Russian GP: Joy and relief for Hamilton; Terse and Tense at Ferrari”

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may have rounded off a Mercedes 1-2 at Sochi yesterday to record the German marquee’s sixth win at the Russian Grand Prix, but it was a race that could so easily have belonged to Ferrari {note 1}.

There was a mixture of joy and relief in Parc Fermé and again on the podium following the conclusion of the eighth Russian Grand Prix.

Joy from Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in taking their first win since Hungary in July and also that Hamilton’s Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas came home 2nd.

But there was also relief that nearest rivals Ferrari stumbled to take 3rd place with Charles Leclerc, when the Scuderia looked like wrapping their own 1-2 at the halfway mark, albeit with Sebastien Vettel leading the way. How quickly things turn…

Really though, this should have been Ferrari’s race and the fumbling between the polesitting Leclerc, Vettel and the Ferrari pitwall in the early stages of the Grand Prix was indicative of the difficulties the Scuderia are facing.
Admittedly on one hand, it is a good problem to hand, but on the other hand, squabbling teammates and a tentative team management tiptoeing around pinched egos rarely makes for a positive outcome.

Unless, of course, one possesses a significant car advantage – see McLaren in 1988, Red Bull in 2013 and Mercedes in 2016 – and in this instance, Ferrari do not.

Leclerc had noted prior to the start that pole position was necessarily an advantage at Sochi, due to the long drag around the non-event of turn one and into the hard-braking turn two and so it proved in practice.
From the front row, Leclerc had a reasonable start, while Hamilton was sluggish away on his mediums – Vettel, meanwhile, from 3rd on the grid got away well on his soft Pirelli tyres, drafted Leclerc briefly and slotted into the lead, a lead he held until he stopped on lap 26.

A brief safety car following a crash between Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), Romain Grosjean (Haas) and Daniel Ricciardo (Ricciardo) kept things steady for three tours, but from there, the leading three held their position for that opening stint.
Yet, the gaps spread ever so slightly, as the race aged, while in the 2nd place Ferrari, Leclerc began to boil. Having gained on Leclerc from the line, Vettel was instructed by the Ferrari pitwall to allow Leclerc through. On several occasions, Vettel received the order and, on several occasions, the pitwall informed Leclerc that the swap was coming soon; however, the German insisting he be allowed more time to build a gap to Ferrari’s challengers.

While it was easy to see where Vettel was coming from, it was also clear that he was playing a small game in an attempt to rebalance the roles at Ferrari. Winning last week in Singapore helped – another win would even perception further. Responding on the radio, Leclerc told the pitwall that he respected their decision, but one could hear terse teeth been gritted through the radio static.
Eventually the Ferrari pitwall acquiesced, choosing instead to leave Vettel out for an additional four laps after Leclerc’s stop, giving the Monegasque racer enough of a run on new tyres to jump Vettel.

In theory that should have been it. Having not yet stopped, the Mercedes – with Hamilton ahead of Bottas – led, while the freshly tyred Ferrari ran 3rd and 4th knowing this race was there for the taking.

And then on lap 29, a shudder, a drop of noise and the unwinding and spooling of an MGUK and a hamstrung Vettel parked up by on of Sochi’s many non-descript run-off areas – Virtual Safety Car and a change that played right into Mercedes’ hands. The pace slowed significantly, allowing Hamilton to pit and emerge ahead of Leclerc, with Bottas exiting the pits just behind the Monegasque racer.

But it didn’t stop there. Two laps later, a failure at the front of George Russell’s car sent the young Briton careering into the barriers, forcing the stewards to bring out the full safety car.

So now what? There were two options – a) Ferrari could leave Leclerc in 2nd place in an effort to chase the lead on slightly used medium tyres, or b) bring him in again and change him onto softs, knowing that he would lose a position to Bottas.
It was a risk, but Ferrari chose the second option and brought Leclerc into the pits on lap 31, with the race restarting two laps later, but despite all his momentum, his confidence, his pace, Leclerc was stuck.

Sochi is not the easiest place to pass, even with the ultra-long straight from the final corner to the second turn, the various energy-recovered power boosts and DRS sections available. Indeed, it is one of the reasons Leclerc fell adrift of Vettel in the opening stint – he simply could not get close enough to the car in front – and now he couldn’t get close enough to Bottas.

Once again, strategy and circumstance failed the red team, but this was no complete giveaway – Hamilton raced hard and laid down some very critical fast laps when it was needed. As the final stages of the race unravelled, the five-time champion drew away from Bottas without taking too much from his Pirelli’s and still had enough to set the fastest lap two tours from the end, bagging the extra point as a result. Job done.

Indeed, probably the only moment in the race when Hamilton appeared troubled was the run down from the start of the race toward turn two. His getaway stuttered, allowing not only Vettel through, but also – briefly – Carlos Sainz, although that did not last, as the Mercedes power unit outblasted McLaren’s customer Renault unit.
Bottas, meanwhile, dropped to 5th at the start and eventually took Sainz on lap seven, but by then, Hamilton was already six seconds up the road. Job done – again.

The gap between the two Mercedes was already 15s by the time Vettel’s off brought out the safety car and such was Hamilton’s advantage, Mercedes were easily able to serve both of their cars and still have a breather in between.

Hamilton built a solid four-second cushion over his Mercedes subordinate, while Bottas was doing enough to keep Leclerc at bay, allowing the “Silver Arrows” to take the top two spots. Once again – job done.

Sensing that 2nd place was no longer on the cards, Leclerc dropped back slightly from Bottas and build a gap to allow a last dash run at the fastest lap point, but even this was beyond him, with Leclerc’s lap 52 effort falling four-tenths adrift of Hamilton.
From pole, Leclerc would settle for 3rd spot, allowing Bottas to gain an addition three points over the Ferrari racer in the battle for 2nd in the championship.

Hamilton hasn’t won the title yet, but he may as well have. His fourth win at Sochi means a 73-point gap to Bottas in the standings, with just 125 points left to play for. As the field disassembles and prepares for the Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks, Leclerc now sits some 34 points behind Bottas.
Considering how much Ferrari were expected to win this race as the weekend evolved, this can only could as a successgul save for Mercedes. Joy and relief indeed.

Behind the commotion out front, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took a lonely 4th place. Having started 9th following a grid penalty, Verstappen drew ahead of the slow starting Nico Hülkenberg, made easy work of Sergio Perez (Racing Point, lap 8), Lando Norris (McLaren, lap 12) and Sainz (lap 17), by which stage, the gap to the lead was already 34s.

Following the safety car, the gap extended again with Verstappen ending the race some 14s adrift of race winner Hamilton; however his desire to change tyres late on and go for the fastest lap were stymied by the presence of teammate Alexander Albon in 5th, only 24s adrift in the final tours.
Albon enjoyed a somewhat more entertaining race, as he started in the pitlane and slowly climbed the order and used Russell’s safety car to earn a strategy boost.

Sainz came home 6th ahead of Perez (7th), while Haas’ Kevin Magnussen originally took 8th, only to be dropped to 9th after leaving the track at turn two and not rejoining in the appropriate manner. This promoted Norris to 8th, with the McLaren rookie completed a double-points finish for the Woking team, taking past 100 points in the Constructor’s Championship and well ahead of the works Renault team.
Hülkenberg grabbed 10th and the final point, but not too far ahead of Lance Stroll (Racing Point, 11th).
Daniil Kvyat won the Toro Rosso battle over Pierre Gasly. As Gasly fought hard to jump his Russian stablemate, the Frenchman divebombed Kvyat in turn two, only to outbrake himself and not only lose the position to Kvyat, but also Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, who secured 13th. It proved a disappointing result for Raikkonen, who picked up an early penalty for jumping the start, but looking at Alfa Romeo’s pace, it is unlikely they would have ever threatened the points.
Gasly took home 14th ahead of Giovinazzi (15th), who raced with damage following his first lap contretemps with Grosjean and Ricciardo.

Whereas Grosjean was out on the spot, Ricciardo did continue for 24 laps, before it was decided to bench the knackered Renault and Williams retired Robert Kubica following Russell’s incident fearing a similar mechanical failure may also take the Polish driver out of the race.

{note 1}
This year’s race may have been Mercedes-Benz’ sixth win at Sochi, but the first two Russian Grand Prix (1913-14) were won by Benz, prior to the merger between Benz & Cie and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) in 1926, following which the name ‘Mercedes-Benz’ was adopted in honour of the Mercedes model that Daimler released in 1902.
When World War I was declared, the Russian Grand Prix was put on hold, but not reinstated following the creation of the Soviet Union. This hold came to an end, when the Russian Grand Prix was reinstated for the 2014 Formula One season. As an aside, this is the first time, I have placed a notation in the banner headline.

© FIA.

“Markelov adopts F2 drive in place of Hubert”

MONTE CARLO, MONACO – MAY 24: Artem Markelov (RUS, MP MOTORSPORT) during the Monaco at Monte Carlo on May 24, 2019 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Joe Portlock / LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

Super Formula racer Artem Markelov will re-join the FIA Formula 2 Championship this weekend, replacing the late Anthoine Hubert at Arden.

Markelov moved to Japan’s Super Formula Championship this year but has struggled to adapt to the category since his move to the Far East.

With a best finish of 10th and a single fastest lap at the previous round at Motegi, the Russian racer has yet to register a point and currently sits 19th in the Super Formula standings, ahead of just Pato O’Ward and Harrison Newey.
Team LeMans have not yet announced a replacement, or even if they do intend to replace him.

Expectations had been high for Markelov, marking this as a particularly disappointing season for the 25-year-old. With rumours of a fractured relationship between the driver and his Team LeMans squad, it was already unclear as to whether the relationship would continue into 2020.

A five-year veteran of the F2 championship (previously GP2), Markelov competed in 112 races in the category – 110 of which were for Russian Time – winning nine of them and finishing runner-up to Charles Leclerc in 2017.

For this year’s round at Monaco, Markelov stood in for Jordan King at MP Motorsport, who was competing at the Indianapolis 500.
As of this year, Markelov has 62 Super Licence points, although this will drop to 60 in 2020, when his 2016 GP2 finish drops from contention.

Although apparently dispensed with for the previous round at Monza due to ongoing investigations by Belgian police, there are reportedly financial penalties for teams that do not field two cars for Formula 2 race meetings.
As the season now moves toward its conclusion, it is likely that this dispensation has passed, so a full field is expected for the rounds at Sochi and Abu Dhabi.

“F1: For Kubica and the Fairytale, the Dream is Over”

Robert Kubica’s decision to leave Williams at the end of this season may prove to be the final hurrah for the Polish driver.

It is a sad epilogue for a driver who looked so promising and whose potential was unfulfilled.

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. Such has been the colossal gap between Williams F1’s two drivers – Robert Kubica and George Russell – this season, it was looking desperately unlikely that the Pole would be retained for 2020.

Reports from Poland say that Kubica’s move from Williams may be a joint decision between the driver and his key sponsor PKN Orlen; however, both are looking for further opportunities at the top level of the sport. Whether that is as reserve or development driver with another team is unknown at this stage.

Should Kubica find a reserve/development seat with another F1 team, it does leave open the door for Pole to pursue at DTM drive for 2020 following discussions Kubica’s management recently had with Audi’s top brass.

It is a shame that Kubica’s F1 career may be ending in such a way. Prior to his accident at the Ronde di Andora rally in February 2011 – which partially severed his right arm – Kubica had taken one Grand Prix and was seen as a driver who could have been Poland’s first world champion.
Kubica’s recovery was slowed when he broke his leg a year later, but in 2013 he returned to second-tier rallying in the WRC2 class, before a stint in the European Rally Championship a year later. He progressed to the top level in the WRC in 2015; however, while he showed speed, he appeared to lack the finesse and the control often associated with rallying’s best and crashed numerous times as a result.
Toward the end of that bruising season, a colleague of Kubica mused that he was sometimes trying to drive the rally car as if it were a circuit racing car.

Kubica took part in the Monte Carlo Rally in 2016, before moving back to racing in GT3 competition, before testing the ByKolles LMP1 car with a view to racing in 2017, although he split with the team prior to the opening race of the WEC season. It is not known whether the ByKolles car was on fire at the time or not.
The Pole returned to F1 in 2017 and tested with Renault and later Williams and while the former declined to take the tests any further, Williams signed Kubica as reserve driver for 2018, before being promoted to the race seat at the start of this season.

In returning from such devastating injuries, Kubica displayed a tenacity and determination that could only impress. The background of his story may always be a case of “what could have been”, but the manner in which he fought against all odds to return to motorsport’s top category was truly fascinating and a incredible to watch.

Kubica’s departure increases the likelihood that Formula 2 racer Nicholas Latifi will move to a race seat Williams next year, with the Canadian bringing sponsorship from his father’s food company Sofina Foods Inc. among others.
Latifi has 24 of the required 40 points for his Super Licence and is currently sitting 2nd in the Formula 2 standings – albeit a long way adrift of championship leader Nyck de Vries – meaning the Canadian should have more than enough points to qualify to race in F1 next year {note 1}.

Whether Latifi’s promotion will result in expanded financial commitments from Sofina Foods (etc.) remains to be seen, but if nothing else, it would certainly prove a boost for a team who have been struggling for several years now.
There is no doubt that Latifi is a fine driver, but I have yet to be convinced that the Canadian is at the level of George Russell, although Latifi has impressed somewhat in the free practice sessions that he has driven in.

As an aside, Latifi’s father, Michael, controls Nidala (BVI) Ltd – an investment company that in 2018 invested £200 million in the McLaren Group.

{note 1}
Latifi only requires a 5th place finish in the F2 standings to qualify for a race Super Licence, a position he could solidify with ease at F2’s penultimate round in Sochi next weekend.

“F1: Haas re-sign Grosjean”

American Formula 1 squad Haas F1 have re-signed Romain Grosjean, continuing a partnership with Kevin Magnussen for the 2020 season.

With seats disappearing fast, it is a move that pushes Renault refugee Nico Hülkenberg to the sidelines.

Romain Grosjean has signed for another year with the Haas Formula One team, despite what has been a trying season to date for the Frenchman.

Grosjean – a former GP2 Series champion – has only scored eight points thus far in a year hammered by a problematic car and several notable run-ins with teammate Kevin Magnussen.

As such the team has dropped from 5th in last year’s Constructor’s Championship and currently languishes in 9th position – ahead of only Williams – with just seven races left this season.

With an option to maintain Magnussen for another year, Haas’ decision to re-sign Grosjean seems to be based on the desire for consistency at a time when the American squad has stumbled somewhat.

According to Team Principal Guenther Steiner, “Experience, and the need for it, has been one of the cornerstones of Haas F1 Team, and with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen racing for the team in 2020, we continue to have a driver line-up that offers us a solid platform to continue our growth.”
Steiner added that, “Their understanding of how we work as a team, and our knowledge of what they can deliver behind the wheel, gives us a valued continuity and a strong foundation to keep building our team around.”

Haas have not been shy about the relative lack of performance an inconsistency of the VF-19 machine, to the point where Magnussen and Grosjean ran two different specifications of the car at several Grand Prix this year in order to gain an understanding of where their performance has fallen away. “It’s been a tough year for us in 2019 with the fluctuation in performance of the VF-19,” continued Steiner. “Our ability to tap into our combined experiences will help us learn, improve, and move forward as a unit in 2020.”

Despite this, there has also been plenty of criticism of Grosjean’s performances this season. While the VF-19 has proven inconsistent, Magnussen has clearly made the best of the situation, whereas Grosjean has repeatedly fallen behind or become involved in several incidents, particularly with his teammate
This opened the door to questions regarding Grosjean’s future and with 2015 Le Mans winner Hülkenberg cast aside by Renault for 2020, there was speculation that the German racer would move to Haas to race alongside Magnussen.

If nothing else, it appears that Steiner may have looked to Hülkenberg’s performances through recent seasons and concluded that there was not enough there to move Grosjean aside. It is a situation not too similar to that faced by Ferrari in recent seasons. For all the calls that Kimi Raikkonen was past his best, there were no available drivers thought to be good enough to do a better job – Grosjean and Hülkenberg included.
Alas, such is the strength of the talent pool in Formula One’s midfield at the moment, few of the veteran’s truly stand-out and those who do are either locked into long term contracts or are linked to manufacturer teams (or both).

As noted here previously, while Hülkenberg is certainly a driver of some quality, he is perhaps guilty performing just well enough to defeat teammate, while his stints at Force India and Sauber earned him a spot in the permanent lower points scoring division. From 170 Grand Prix starts, Hülkenberg has still scored no podiums and has fallen behind 2019 teammate Daniel Ricciardo as the Australian has found his feet.

Impressions of Youth (or “The Variables that Deposit Themselves Upon the Youth of Today in a Manner Unlikely to Win Friends, Enemies or Influencers”)”

It is also conceivable that – having borne witness to Haas’ performance this year – Hülkenberg may have opted out of a potential drive with the American team; however, if that is the case, then he may also have shut the door n his Formula One career.
There are possible seats at Alfa Romeo and Williams; however, it is thought that either Robert Kubica or Nicholas Latifi will take the Williams drive, while the list of drivers fighting over the Alfa seat is long.

All that aside, one can’t help but think that 2020 may be Grosjean’s last hurrah. A new generation of drivers is coming through the lower divisions – as seen with the promotions of Lando Norris, George Russell, Alexander Albon and (relative rookie) Antonio Giovinazzi.

Grosjean stated that, “I’ve always stated that it was my desire to remain with Haas F1 Team and keep building on the team’s accomplishments. Having been here since the very beginning and seen the work both Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner put into the team to make it competitive, I’m naturally very happy to continue to be a part of that.”

“DTM: Rast makes it two from three”

© DTM. René Rast took a 2nd DTM title.

Rene Rast reclaimed the DTM crown in stellar fashion at the Nürburgring this weekend, as rivals Nico Müller and Marco Wittmann stumbled.

This year’s DTM was always going to go one of two ways – it could have been an ultra-close-knit three-way fight for the crown, or it would turn in a moment, gifting the title to Rene Rast with not much fanfare.

Sadly, it was the latter.

That the crowning of Rast came on a difficult weekend for Müller and Wittmann merely emphasised the matter somewhat. At the Nürburgring, Rast was – for the most part – imperious, as he maximised his resources, while others floundered.

And he does seem so unflappable. When events have not gone Rast’s way, his demeanour tends to be calm, but still with a serious glint. In the open – at least – there is rarely drama, toys are not thrown, and petulance is absent.

One could argue that Assen was Rast’s weakest round of the season, with the champion taking a 3rd and 5th place finishes, despite starting on pole and the front row in the weekend’s two races. Whereas he did retire from races at the Hockenheimring, Zolder and Lausitzring, he also won races on each of those weekends and took several points from qualifying as well.

Yet tyre struggles at Assen hampered Rast somewhat, dropping him down the order relative to his usual finishing positions. When a driver still manages to score a podium on what might be considered his weakest weekend of the season, that is the form of a champion.
It has often been said that tight championships like DTM are decided by which driver makes the most of the bad weekends. One could also look to Pascal Wehrlein’s DTM title in 2015 and come to the same conclusion.

But let’s not underestimate Rast. He is, after all, also a multiple Porsche Carrera Super Cup and Carrera Cup Germany champion and an ADAC GT champion, as well as an overall winner of the Spa 24 Hours and the Nürburgring 24 Hours and a class winner at Le Mans and the Daytona 24 Hours.

Even when Audi’s struggled early on in 2018, Rast emerged as the leading man for the four rings and even then, still only just missed out on the title to the departing Gary Paffett, despite Rast ending the season with six consecutive wins.

Amidst all this, Müller, too, has stepped up. The Swiss racer has taken the consistency he began to show in 2018 and stepped it up as Audi’s RS5 DTM became the series’ primary performer. Such has been the upturn in performance, Müller’s went from achieving a few 10th place finishes, to scoring more significant points and podiums by year end.
This year, he finally began to turn those performances into victories, but it still wasn’t quite enough and for all his improvements, Müller will need to take yet another step next year if he wants to challenge Rast.
If nothing else, Müller must be disappointed that on the weekend Rast took the title, he did not feature or finish as strongly as he had at earlier rounds, leading to something of a damp squid conclusion.

For BMW’s Wittmann, realistically, the championship had begun to slip after the second race at Brands (he finished 10th) but was dented further by a 4th and a 6th at Lausitzring, while the leading pair of Audi’s won a race each.
It put the German in a position where he would have had to blitz race wins across the final few rounds, but that has never really been Wittmann’s style – he has often been a consistent runner, taking big points and podiums wherever possible. The kind of driver who was often just there at the end of each race.

On the appearance of 2019, “just there” may not be enough for BMW in 2020.

© DTM. Audi Sport Team Rosberg celebrate victory.

“F1: Leclerc – the Prince of Monza”

GP ITALIA F1/2019 – DOMENICA 08/09/2019
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

In winning last week’s Belgian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc raised notice to Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel that change was coming.

By repeating that success at Monza seven days later, the Monegasque became the Scuderia’s new leader in Ferrari’s heartland.

“There are no words to describe the emotions I felt during the race, after the race, or on the podium. It felt ten times stronger than anything I have ever experienced in my whole career. It was very special.”

Raw nerve and steel. If any four words could best describe the last ten days of Charles Leclerc’s life and career, those four would be quite apt.

From taking pole at Spa-Francorchamps, to the tragic death of friend and Formula 2 racer Anthoine Hubert, to victory under pressure from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc succeeded.
But to then take yet another pole – albeit amidst chaotic circumstances – this time at Monza, to securing victory in front of the Tifosi, this time being chased by both Mercedes’ in turn, Leclerc has come out on top of it all.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, these two races were Grand Prix that even pre-season looked like they might favour Ferrari. However, pre-season was six months ago already and prior to arriving in Belgium, the Italian team looked well beaten.

In the end, Ferrari made the most of the straight-line advantage, but it certainly didn’t produce the utterly dominant pace that was expected during testing in February and March. They certainly were not quick enough to escape the Mercedes’ but given the season the German marquee have had thus far, that will doubtful surprise.
That the anticipated “third team” – Red Bull – had claimed two victories before Leclerc achieved success is indicative of just how off the mark pre-season predications have been.

What was originally thought to be a fight between Mercedes and Ferrari for top honours week-in/week-out has, for the most part, been a bit of a Hamilton benefit, with the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas playing occasional guest star alongside the two Ferrari’s and Max Verstappen.
Were it not for Pierre Gasly’s poor form in the first half of the season, this might have turned into a tense fight for 2nd in the Constructor’s Championship, but alas that has not been the case and Ferrari now face an easy run to the runners-up spot, as the Formula One circus departs Europe for events abroad.

Leclerc’s run since Canada – Hockenheim error aside – has been very impressive and – as noted last week – his mistakes of before are becoming less common, whereas Vettel’s continued dip… continues.

Let’s be clear on this though, Leclerc has learned. He took some hard lessons from Austria when Verstappen mashed him to one side in order to take a late win and the Monegasque was not prepared to let that happen again.
At certain times during the race, Leclerc displayed a certain toughness in his defence against the Mercedes and it something that Hamilton and co will certainly be far more aware of now.

Those who saw the race will instantly think of the 24th lap, when Hamilton on medium Pirelli tyres – having stopped at the end of lap 19 – closed right up on Leclerc, who had changed to hard tyres a lap later.
Such was the chase, at nearly at the halfway point in the race, Hamilton was just four-tenths shy of Leclerc, having shadowed him closely in the initial portion of the race. Emerging from the Parabolica corner at the end of the previous lap, Leclerc lost some pace getting by Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, while Hamilton slipped by with the aid of DRS on the start/finish straight moments later.

Showing his nose on the approach to the Retifilo chicane, Hamilton also showed his intention and with the slipstream working in his favour, the Briton closed in around the long lingering Curva Grande and was on the outside of Leclerc on the approach into the Roggia chicane – not alongside, but certainly three-quarters of the way there.
As Hamilton edged into view, the Ferrari pulled to the right slightly, removing the gap from Hamilton and forcing the Mercedes wide on to the run-off area. There are two ways to view this of course – one: Leclerc moved across and denied Hamilton racing room; or two: Hamilton as the attacking driver has the capability to brake as well as accelerate. “Since Austria it’s clear that we can go a bit further in the way that we defend and overtake and yeah, just the aggressivity of us drivers,” commented Leclerc.

It is debateable as to whether Hamilton could have made the move stick or if he would simply have run out of road, but either way, the message was clear: you shall not pass. That toughness that Leclerc learned about in Austria had now become part of his own armoury, with the Ferrari man adding, “I believe that Austria helped me to change this approach and today it’s also thanks to this that I’ve managed to win. It was obviously very on-the-limit but… yeah, I’m happy to race like this.”
Hamilton, while initially furious over the radio, seemed somewhat sanguine following the race. “Yeah, it’s just racing, I guess. I had to avoid colliding with him a couple of times, but I guess that’s how the racing is today. You just move forwards…”

With both Hamilton and Leclerc locked in battle, and rarely more than a second apart, strategy played a part, with Hamilton’s gamble for an earlier stop failing to overhaul the Ferrari.
Although the Mercedes racer had the better initial pace – a result of medium vs hard tyres – Hamilton’s inability to get by Leclerc would eventually bring Bottas into play. As the leading pair played out their fight and with no one challenging from behind, Bottas stayed on what would be considered to be the optimum strategy.
Inevitably Hamilton’s earlier stop would potentially see his pace fall away in the later laps – it did – while Ferrari’s move to the slower hard tyres left Leclerc under threat from the rear, but with the possibility to run a solid pace to the end (also true).

Bottas, meanwhile, stopped for new mediums on lap 27, allowing a free and easy run to the flag. Having fallen some five seconds behind the Leclerc/Hamilton squabble, Bottas settled into a pace in the early-1’23s, matching the front runners. That gap would inevitably shrink as Bottas’ pace held and – in particular – Hamilton faded. Leclerc lost pace too, but not by so much that he would be overhauled.
The change came on lap 42 when a mistake by Hamilton – overshooting the Retifilo chicane – saw him take to the escape road, allowing Bottas to move in 2nd place and challenge the leader.

This was not Bottas’ first attempt to take Hamilton. From the start, both Mercedes’ challenged the polesitting Leclerc into the first corner, with Hamilton on the inside and Bottas on the outside and the Ferrari-man firmly in the middle. “I was giving everything I could for the win,” Bottas said.

As the first crucial metres unfolded, Hamilton began to run out of room on the inside, as Leclerc took the racing line, causing the five-time World Champion to check up slightly, giving Bottas a run to take 2nd on the exit. Yet as the chicane unravelled, the boot was switched to the other foot – now as the outside of the corner became the inside of the corner, Bottas too had to lift-off slight, allowing Hamilton to accelerate earlier and reclaim 2nd spot.

Thereafter the Finn sat in wait, but when 2nd position did eventually come back to him, Bottas hit the same brick wall that Hamilton had for so many laps before him. “The tricky bit was that they were so quick on the straights. It required us to be so close in the corners that it was not really possible to follow, leading the straight, and also getting issues with brakes locking up once getting so close to the car ahead.”

Bottas had one significant opportunity in the final six miles. With just two laps left on the books, Leclerc made a slight mistake exiting the Roggia chicane, gifting Bottas a chance to close on to the tail of the Ferrari.
Staying close, Bottas used both the slipstream and the DRS to bolt himself on to the rear of Leclerc… only to run too deep in the Retifilo chicane on lap 51. “I was pushing hard, so what can I say? Just not quite enough.” Such was the time loss in that one mistake, it all but confirmed Leclerc’s and Ferrari’s victory. “It felt amazing. I have never had a podium with… I’ve never been on a podium with so many people underneath it,” claimed a jubilant Leclerc. “To see that the whole straight was full of people – mostly red – 99 per cent red – was great to see. Yeah, as I said earlier, hearing them cheering, singing was just… a lot of emotions.”

This new aggressive Leclerc is also one that will endear him to the Tifosi – a fandom that still sing the praises of Gilles Villeneuve, Nigel Mansell, Jean Alesi, Gerhard Berger, Fernando Alonso and, of course, Michael Schumacher.

One never quite gets the feeling that the Tifosi feel the same about Vettel, particularly now that his stock is dropping. Although a race winner in red, there has seemingly been a marked distance between the four-time World Champion and the Scuderia’s fanbase, and the distance is now growing.
Never moreso than on Sunday. Having played 2nd fiddle to Leclerc at Spa-Francorchamps last week, Vettel seemed somewhat distant in the early laps at Monza. While the gulf in time was not hugely significant, there did not really seem to be a time when from 4th Vettel would challenge the leading pair.

His spin, unaided, through the second part of the Ascari chicane on lap six was clumsy; however, his attempts to re-join the track as traffic approached must be marked as one of the most astonishingly stupid recoveries performed at a Grand Prix track in a long time.
On one hand, it is not unreasonable to note that Vettel was somewhat unsighted to his left-hand side due to the high cockpit sides and safety structures, yet his re-joining of the circuit blind, during which he narrowed the width of the road to a few metres, before hitting the rear of Lance Stroll was both astonishing and amateurish.
That Stroll did the same thing moments later – sending Gasly flying off the road – despite having complained of Vettel’s action, was quite typically Stroll.

Having damaged his front wing in the incident, Vettel took to the pits at the end of the sixth tour and ran toward the second half of the field for the duration and was eventually lapped by the leaders on the 33rd lap. In the end, Vettel came home a distant 13th place…

As Leclerc and Bottas made their final bids for glory, Hamilton pitted again, this time for used soft tyres. With no challenger from behind, the time loss was insignificant, and it allowed for the Briton to have a final dash for fastest lap, which he duly took – one more point for the driver who is still the odds-on favourite for the title.

It is unlikely that it mattered. All eyes were on the red car out front. A 2nd victory for Leclerc in Ferrari colours and he did it at the most important venue of all. “The first stint was quite controlled,” said Leclerc after the race. “The second stint was a bit less strong on my side, because I had to focus on the car behind me a lot as the gap was closing. It was very difficult, and I had a lot of pressure on me.
“Finally going on the line, I let go all my emotions through the radio. I don’t think you can understand anything that I have said on the radio, but it felt absolutely amazing, and the podium also. It’s going beyond all the dreams I’ve had since I was a child. To see so many people cheering for one team, singing all together, it’s amazing.”

The 21-year-old has placed himself as both the figurative and literal team leader at Ferrari, with this result propelling Leclerc ahead of Vettel in the championship standings. On his current form, it does not seem likely that will change any time soon.

Leclerc wins at Monza. © Scuderia Ferrari

“F1: Is Ferrari’s Inner Fight Already Over?”

Incredible as it may seem, August 26th marked a year since Sebastian Vettel last won a Formula One Grand Prix, when he triumphed at Spa-Francorchamps.

In that year, his form has been blighted by errors and a marked loss of form, while new teammate Charles Leclerc goes from strength-to-strength.

But is this the continued sign of a driver frustrated with his lot, or one limping toward the end of his Formula One career?

GP BELGIO F1/2019 – DOMENICA 01/09/2019
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

If one happened to be a Ferrari fan, the 2019 season would not have made for the prettiest of readings.

Naturally, Charles Leclerc’s emotionally charged victory would have raised the heartbeat somewhat, particularly as he so expertly kept Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton at bay in the final tours.
But for the most part, this year has proved disappointing for the Italian squad. Considering they were talking and being talked up as the team to finally take dethrone Mercedes, helped largely by the 2019 evolution of their power unit, for the most part have been disappointing.

There have been potential shots of victory that have gone away – Bahrain, Monaco, Austria, and Canada come to mind – yet there has been a notable change in form, as it has been Leclerc who has generally shone for Ferrari.

For far too often, Vettel has been absent. With former teammate Kimi Raikkonen now with the Alfa Romeo team – formerly Sauber – Vettel‘s position as the primary driver has been threatened and following Leclerc’s Belgian success, may finally have been overturned.

There are still the occasional flashes of brilliance. During June’s Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel was exceptional for the most part, but as the race aged, Hamilton closed in and Vettel cracked under pressure.


Just as he had at Hockenheim last year, just as he had at Singapore the year before that and just as he had during his final year with Red Bull Racing in 2014, when he was outperformed by Daniel Ricciardo.
The German racer may have taken 1st position on the road on that day in Canada – only to lose it when he received a five-second time penalty for re-joining the track too forcefully in front of Hamilton when the Briton pressed Vettel beyond his capabilities.

His off whilst defending against Hamilton earned him a controversial penalty that gave the Mercedes driver victory and left Vettel and Ferrari seething, but the takeaway from the incident was that Vettel had erred yet again.
It had been an excellent performance up until his mistake, but it did not mark a return to permanent form. Alas, one Swallow does not make a summer.

Until now, Vettel’s experience has helped keep his head in front of Leclerc in the points and arguably, with more nuance, Leclerc may well have been heading Vettel. The young Monegasque driver has made mistakes – crashing during qualifying for Baku being the most obvious – but in general pace, Leclerc is looking stronger now and the 32-year-old Vettel may finally be feeling the push.

As the European season draws to a close, Leclerc sits 5th in the points standings, trailing Vettel by just 12 points, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen a further 12 points ahead in 3rd place.
Both positions are up for grabs and while Verstappen may press harder against the charging Ferrari man, Vettel comes across as a driver already beaten.

On Sunday, for the first time in recent memory, Vettel played wingman to another racer – certainly a far cry from the charging driver who became embroiled in the “multi-21” fiasco with Mark Webber in 2013.
At Spa yesterday, Vettel spent laps 28-32 keeping Hamilton at bay, allowing Leclerc to build a decisive gap that would eventually win him the race, while Vettel would eventually drop behind to assume 4th place.

Next weekend’s race at Monza is expected to be the final track this year that will favour Ferrari’s outright speed. Should Leclerc continue to show the kind of pace he has so far and beat Vettel again, it’s not inconceivable that their positions will in the points standings will swap.
But that would merely be a formalisation of what may have already taken place within the team.

© Ferrari

“Thoughts on Anthoine Hubert and Humanity”

Death, with its noble inevitability, strikes hardest when it so suddenly silences youth in its prime.

Yesterday was a reminder that science and technology, for so long chaperones and guardians in our sport, cannot always protect.

When fate’s hand casts those guardians away, then death’s almost prosaic brutality becomes exposed.

And then everything stops, and the pantomime that are life’s joys and squabbles are bequeathed to mourning.

I met Anthoine Hubert on several occasions – firstly during his time in the FFSA backed Formula 4 championship in France and then again during his stint in the European F3 Championship in 2016 when he drove for van Amersfoort Racing.

Admittedly, there were times that I found him difficult to place. With little of the funds necessary to rise through the annals of motorsport, I did wonder just how far he could make it before reaching the ceiling.

His more recent connections with the Renault Sport Academy finally offered up the possibility and opportunity that he otherwise may well have missed and at the age of 22 and with reverse grid victories in the Monaco and France Formula 2 rounds, there were indications of the potential that lay beneath the surface.

There was still so much to unlock, but the possibilities…

Anthoine Hubert was affable, kindly and good natured. He loved motorsport and he loved racing. He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends and colleagues – my thoughts are with them all.

“F1: Thoughts on Gasly, Albon, Red Bull and Maturity”

Alexander Albon. © Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Monday’s announcement that Alexander Albon was to replace Pierre Gasly at Red Bull Racing may not have been the biggest shock in the world, but its timing most certainly was.

With Monday morning came another change in Red Bull’s Formula One roster, as Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly swapped seats at Red Bull and Toro Rosso.

It marked an early shift in the Formula One driver market. A move, of some sort, had been expected, but not until the end of the season; however, British Grand Prix aside, Gasly’s continuing poor performance – particularly when compared to his race winning teammate Max Verstappen – proved impossible for the Red Bull top brass to ignore.

On the other side of the paddock, the likeable Albon has proved something of a revelation at Toro Rosso. While not soundly beating his experienced teammate Danni Kvyat, Albon has shown enough speed, nuance and intelligence to prove that he is a race driver of high calibre – something that wasn’t always obvious as he rose up the junior ranks.

Through these years, Albon did a reasonable job, but rarely showed himself to be an out-and-out star. From his sole year in Formula 3, he took five podiums with the returning Signature team and showed himself to be quick. It was form that followed through his time in GP3 and Formula 2 as well – numerous race wins and podiums, but there was little to say he was heading for a top seat in Formula One.

And yet, with Toro Rosso, Albon has for the most part looked at home. The definition of his inner speed is improving and his understanding of the task at hand must not be understated.

But… it still feels very soon. Let’s not forget Albon’s Formula One career is after all only twelve races old. The Anglo-Thai racer is still a young man and is still developing and maturing.
In partnering Verstappen, Albon needs to be careful that the swimming pool he has just dipped his toe into is not filled with piranhas and sharks looking for blood. His performances will be closely scrutinised, but if he can keep to a reasonable measure of performance against Verstappen, then he may be in a position to carve a career at Red Bull.

“The Prince of Motorsport: B Bira”

However, factors outside of his control will also be playing their part. There is little doubt that the Albon/Gasly swap plays against Sebastian Vettel’s rumoured return to the Red Bull team, following a stint at Ferrari that has left him damaged.
Should Albon not perform to the required level, will he be moved aside and if so, what to do with Gasly should he still be seen as destabilised material with Toro Rosso? And were Vettel to return, would that further demotivate and disenfranchise both Toro Rosso and the junior programme as a whole?

Beyond their Formula One quartet (Verstappen and Kvyat included), the Milton Keynes based squad and their little sister team from Faenza, near Bologna, are running short on spare drivers that can promptly move to Formula One should the need arise.

For now, there are a total of nine drivers in the Red Bull young driver programme, but only three – Jüri Vips, Liam Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda – have the possibility of entering Formula One in 2020 on the basis of accumulated Super Licence points {note 1}.
Having dropped Dan Ticktum following a disappointing start to the Super Formula season (and an undistinguished part-season run in Asian Formula 3), Red Bull imported Patricio O’Ward from IndyCar to take his place; however, the Mexican O’Ward has no Super Licence points to his name {note 2}. Even then, there is a big question as to whether they would be remotely ready for such a leap – my belief is “no”.

Such is the focus on Super Licence points, the value of maturity has been all but forgotten. Drivers need to grow, to develop and mature – not just as racing drivers, but as people – so that they can acknowledge, process and properly deal with events that happen in and around them at such an extraordinary pace.

Back in 2014, Carlos Sainz’ situation was a rare one indeed, as he was allowed the space to evolve as a person and that evolution and gradual maturing did as much to save his young career as did his Formula Renault 3.5 title. That helped hugely when it came to dealing with the consequences of Verstappen’s promotion ahead of him to Toro Rosso.

Meanwhile for Gasly, this marks not just a very public demotion, but deeply difficult time. Whereas the Frenchman showed well at Toro Rosso last year, it is difficult to gauge just how to good that performance was, given then teammate Brendon Hartley’s difficulties with the 2018-generation Formula One car.
For now, how he deals with this demotion is just as important as the results he can obtain on the track. Should he re-align his head, he could get his career back on track; however, if he struggles to accept his new place in the order and his performance continues to suffer as a result, then his career could be finished very quickly.

Like Albon, there is little doubt that Gasly is a very quick driver; however, his stints in GP2 and Super Formula in 2016 and 2017 respectively took some time to come alive.

Yet underlying all of these movement is the concept of development and maturity and the manner in which it is lacking from the Red Bull’s driver development programme and many of its competitors therein. Not everyone absorbs the world by the age of 18.

{note 1}
Jüri Vips has accumulated Super Licence 22 points over the course of the past two years and he would require a 3rd place finish in the FIA Formula 3 Championship standings to qualify – he currently sits 2nd in points.
Of the three that could go to Formula One, he has the most relevant experience. Liam Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda could also qualify for a Super Licence, but both are desperately far from ready to make the move.

{note 2}
Although O’Ward won last season’s Indy Lights series, there were not enough full-time competitors in the category for Super Licence points to be applied. He will also not qualify for any Super Licence points from 2019, as he is required to complete 80% of a qualifying championship’s season in order to earn them.

“DTM: Wittmann takes Brands race one victory”

BMW racer Marco Wittmann closed in on DTM championship leader Rene Rast today, following victory at the opening Brands Hatch race of the weekend.

The double champion only just edged Rast over the line, taking the win by a mere 0.3s from his Audi rival.

Nico Müller – currently 2nd in points – ended the race a solid 3rd position.

From pole position, Wittmann initially dropped to 2nd place behind the fast starting Paul di Resta (R-Motorsport Aston Martin); however it was quickly deemed that the Scot had just jumped the start, earning di Resta a five second pit penalty for his mandatory stop.

Until his stop, the Aston racer stayed out in front, with Wittmann holding station and keeping the gap to approximately 0.5s, until di Resta pulled off for his stop on lap 16, with the additional five seconds stationary costing di Resta at least seven positions.

Wittmann had already pitted at this stage, having stopped on lap 14 – a factor that came close to altering the final outcome. Emerging on the periphery of the top ten, Wittmann rose back through the order as others pitted for new Hankook’s.
A spectacular move splitting the tyre-worn Jamie Green (Audi) and freshly pitted Rast through Paddock Hill Bend, followed by a slip by Bruno Spengler (BMW) temporarily slowed Wittmann’s progress on the clock, but gave him a few more positions. As final stoppers Robin Frijns (Audi) and Philipp Eng (BMW) pulled away for new rubber, Wittmann took the lead with Rast chasing, some 5.9s adrift with 24 laps in the books.

With two-thirds of the race in the bag, this was proving a vital save for Rast, who had started poorly, with a different starting procedure and wheelspin dropping the 2017 champion from 2nd to 4th by the first turn. Rast changed his Hankook’s one lap after Wittmann – enduring a sluggish stop – but like his German rival, garnered several positions as strategies un ravelled around them.

For a time, it seemed as if the gap between Wittmann and Rast was going to stay at the 5s-5.8s mark, only for the gap to reduce slightly as race entered its final six laps. With four tours to go, that shrank to under five seconds for the first time, before Wittmann dropped another 1.8s and 1.6s in the next two laps.
As the battling duo started the final tour, Wittmann led by 1.4s, as Rast visibly gained on the BMW with each turn, but it would not be enough. As Rast charged hard exiting Clark Curve, Wittmann moved across the racing line to disturb Rast’s efforts and held the lead as they crossed the line to take a close and hard-fought victory.

Behind the Wittmann/Rast battle, Müller secured the final podium position, albeit some eight seconds adrift and with a further seven seconds of a gap behind him. Starting 8th, Müller took three places at the start, but stopped early on, as his Hankook’s began to fall away in the early tours.
It proved a clever strategy. Once his tyres came to temperature, Müller set a good pace, eventually gifting the Audi racer several positions as those ahead set slower times on aging tyres. Müller found himself ahead of Rast once the latter stopped, but could not hold the championship leader at bay, once Rast was in DRS range in the back end of the circuit at the half way mark, dropping Müller to 5th.
Knowing his Hankook’s were going to have to last, Müller kept a solid pace, dropping off of Rast’s tail, but also allowing him to build a gap on those still on their starting tyres and allowing the Swiss racer to claim 3rd once the last of the stoppers removed themselves from the action out front.

Frijns secured 4th with a late charge. As the last driver to stop, the Dutchman led for a brief period in the middle section of the race, but fell to 8th when he peeled off on lap 25. Passes on Green (lap 26), di Resta (lap 27), Rockenfeller (lap 35) and Duval (lap 36) gave Frijns a reasonable top four finish – a reasonable result following a bad start from 5th left him 7th by Druids on the opening tour.

Duval came home 5th in his Audi. From the second row, he lost a place as strategy unfolded and then another when Frijns when by. Duval had to work hatrd to keep a charging Eng at bay in the final tours. A good start from the sixth row propelled Eng to 9th on the opening tour, with the Austrian Eng staying out late in a similar fashion to Frijns.
Eng emerged further down the order, but a late charge taking Jonathan Aberdein (R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage), Sheldon van der Linde (BMW), di Resta (around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend, before finishing the move around Druids) and Rockenfeller brought Eng to the tail of Duval. It was as much as he could do – the BMW racer ended the day some sixth-tenths shy of Duval at the line, but still earning solid points in the process.

Mike Rockenfeller enjoyed a quiet race to claim 7th. Once Eng had passed, the former Le Mans winner fell away from the top six fight but held more than enough of a gap over van der Linde to ease his RS 5 DTM home.
Van der Linde secured 8th and four points, several seconds ahead of the Aberdein and Dani Juncadella fight over 9th and 10th places. It may have a case of “what if” for both drivers, as Aberdein went off during qualifying, forcing him to start last, while Juncadella was involved in a clash with Timo Glock at the start that earned the Spaniard a drive through penalty.

Green endured a tough race to finish 11th, ahead of Spengler (12th), while a hampered Glock took 13th and last. After being hit at the start, the former F1 driver was helpless and could not avoid Jake Dennis (R-Motorsport Aston), with the Briton receiving severe damage, forcing him to retire immediately.
Ferdinand Habsburg’s (R-Motorsport Aston) race became a test session, when his internal jack failed during his pitstop. This forced his team to manually jack up the car to allow a tyre change. He pitted a second time later in the race, as the Austrian secured unfussed laps around the Kent circuit.

Joel Ericsson did not start. The Swede had his qualifying times deleted when his car was worked on during Parc Ferme conditions. The BMW was hampered by broken front and rear anti-roll bars, ending Ericsson’s day before it had even started.

“DTM: Fittipaldi out of Brands Hatch Race 1”

Pietro Fittipaldi will not be taking part in today’s opening DTM race at Brands Hatch, following the Brazilian racer’s big crash during qualifying this morning.

According to WRT Audi’s Sporting Director and Team Manager Thierry Tassin, the team ran out of time to repair Fittipaldi’s car – a task made all the more impossible when the other WRT Audi of Jonathan Aberdein also crashed during qualifying, albeit suffering far less damage as a result. Aberdein will be starting from the pitlane.

Tassin acknowledged that the team are working hard to ensure Fittipaldi’s car will be ready for day two at the Kent circuit.

Meanwhile BMW’s Joel Ericsson had his qualifying time deleted when his M4 DTM machine was worked on during Parc Ferme conditions.

%d bloggers like this: