On This Day: 11 February

There was a time in Formula One when competitive racing would take place in the month of January or February. Such an occasion was the 1973 season which saw the opening Argentine Grand Prix contested in January followed by the Brazilian Grand Prix which took place on 11 February.

Going into the 1973 season Brazilian and Sao Paulo local, Emerson Fittipaldi, had been crowned the 1972 Drivers’ Champion, driving with Team Lotus. At the time the youngest to become world champion having achieved the feat at twenty five years old.

The 1973 Brazilian Grand Prix was the first ever to be included in the Formula One Championship having held a non-championship event the previous season. It took place on the original 7.960 kilometre Interlagos circuit, as opposed to the current 4.309 kilometre circuit used currently.

The configuration of the Interlagos circuit used for the 1973 Brazilian Grand Prix

Pole position had been claimed by Swede, and Fittipaldi’s teammate, Ronnie Peterson. It would be the Brazilian however who would go on to claim victory in front of his home crowd ahead of the Tyrrell of Jackie Stewart and the McLaren of Denny Hulme. The fastest lap, which was a 2:35.0, would end up being shared between Fittipaldi and Hulme.

Fittipaldi’s victory in Brazil was his second of the 1973 season, having also won the opening Grand Prix in Argentina, and the eighth in his Formula One career. The result in Brazil also meant he led the championship after two rounds by eight points from Stewart.

Embed from Getty Images

The McLaren-Honda partnership

As with almost any weekend, ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix focus was on the McLaren-Honda partnership. McLaren driver Fernando Alonso commented during the normal Thursday press conference that if the team won, or close to that, before September he would stay with the team.

Most will see this unlikely as Honda haven’t seemed to have gotten on top of their issues. It was compounded during the weekend when Honda failed to deliver upgrades to their engine for the weekend.

This led in part to McLaren’s executive director, Zak Brown, talking about having to ask the serious question of whether the team continues with the Japanese manufacturer or not into 2018.

McLaren MCL-32 / Fernando Alonso / ESP / McLaren Honda” by Artes Max is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I personally want to see the partnership continue into 2018 and beyond. I also feel McLaren should let Fernando Alonso leave and focus on bringing a driver such as Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo or maybe even Sergio Perez to drive alongside Stoffel Vandoorne.

Why? Having signed a deal with Sauber for 2018, Honda aren’t going to be leaving Formula 1, unless a mutual agreement is made to cancel the deal, and therefore they are in the sport for the long term.

If you look at Renault and how they have approached their return as a factory team, they have stated multiple times that it will take time before they are ready to challenge for wins and championships. This shows to me that Renault are taking a long term view of their Formula 1 project, allowing them time and room to make mistakes, which has happened with their engine, learn from those mistakes and also recruit the right people into the team.

IMG_5168” by rgbRandomizer is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This is an approach McLaren needs to adopt, regardless of whether they have a Honda or a Mercedes engine as it will take time, either way, to get the most out of the engine and therefore get to a point of challenging for podiums and championships. Therefore changing the mindset of the team to a long term project can ultimately help the McLaren-Honda partnership flourish and why it makes sense to me to allow Fernando Alonso to leave and sign someone else to partner Stoffel Vandoorne who is potentially more open to a longer term project.

With Honda also due to supply Sauber, this gives the Japanese manufacturer two more cars running their engine and therefore increases the amount of potential data that can be gathered. Surely the more data Honda collect, the quicker it is to identify issues with the engine as well as find suitable solutions to solve those issues and find performance gains.

The lack of cars running Honda engines out on track has been a serious disadvantage to them since they returned to Formula 1 in 2015, especially in an era where the engine technology is relatively new and there is a lot of possible innovation and performance gains to be found.

Formula 1 engine supply by team per season
2015 2016 2017
Ferrari 3 4 3
Renault 2 2 3
Mercedes 4 4 3
Honda 1 1 1

The above table hopefully shows this disadvantage as even Renault, a team who has struggled in the new V6 turbo hybrid era, has had at least two teams running their engines since 2015, whilst Ferrari and Mercedes have only ever had a minimum of three teams (that’s six cars) running their engines. Compared to Honda’s one, the Japanese manufacturer is in an almost constant state of catch up as they have little data to work with to guide the development of their engine.

It is frustrating to see the partnership failing and having gained little to no progress. But there is hope with Sauber due to run Honda engines in 2018 and the benefits that can bring. McLaren ultimately in 2017 have to decide whether to stick with Honda in the long term, which may mean taking the sacrifice of allowing Fernando Alonso to leave. Or whether they deem Alonso too important to lose and therefore potentially switch to a Mercedes engine.

McLaren Sunset
Sunset, Albert Park Turn 6 & 7” by Joshua Sadli is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Formula 1 2017: A season requiring patience

2017 is a big year for Formula 1 as it races under new technical regulations and its new owners settle in, having completed the takeover of the sport at the beginning of 2017. But, to me, there is plenty of potential for things to go wrong. Therefore I feel a large dose of patience will be required for all of those taking an interest in Formula 1 this year.


Technical Regulations

Formula 1 undergoes a radical change in technical regulations in 2017 with the aim of making the cars more visually appealing and to make them faster. But this has led to some wondering whether the new regulations will lead to more processional races with little overtaking.

With that concern in mind, it will only be right to begin judging the success of the new technical regulations from the Spanish Grand Prix at the earliest.

Valtteri Bottas at the first 2017 preseason test by The MotosportCritic

It may also mean that individual races will be seen as boring but when looking at the season it could be seen as quite entertaining as teams gain and lose ground in the development race that will take place throughout the season. To me it would mean that 2017 is more about the narrative of the season itself, which takes time to develop, rather than the story of individual races when it comes to the entertaining factor of the sport in 2017.


New Owners

Ever since it was reported that Liberty Media would be buying Formula 1, there has been plenty of articles written about what the new owners of the sport will, should or in some cases shouldn’t do in regards to changing the sport.

Many will want to judge quickly the impact of the new owners and whether they have been a positive or negative change for the sport, but this can’t be gauged until 2018 at the very earliest, if not until 2019, as the new owners hold discussions with teams and other stakeholders and then spend time in 2017 debating and initiating change.

Guenther Steiner of Haas F1 Team by The MotorsportCritic

With all of the above in mind, 2017 is set to be a big season for Formula 1, I therefore feel it is best to reserve judgement and have a little patience as this new era of the sport finds its feet.



Film Review: The Green Hell

Amidst all the recent Formula 1 car launches for the upcoming 2017 season, recently I went to see The Green Hell, a documentary about the 15.5 mile track in the Eifel mountains of Germany, the Nürburgring. It was enjoyable but not a groundbreaker like Senna in terms of the way it was made.

Nordschleife Colorkey” by Chris is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The majority of the film is of archive footage and footage of the interviews conducted for the documentary. Those interviewed range from former and current racing drivers, employees of the track and even sim racers.

This is actually where some of the problems are as the interview segments with some current drivers and with the sim racers didn’t seem to add anything which hadn’t already been said by the former racing drivers. Although I can understand that you would want to cover the opinions of every type of racer.

SCG003C // Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus” by Stephan Wershoven is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

What is good about the documentary is that it isn’t just about what has taken place on the track as it takes time to explore the local area, how the track has changed the local economy and some of the non racing stories connected with the circuit. It also doesn’t just focus on a particular racing series and explores why car manufacturers find the circuit so invaluable when it comes to testing production cars.

My own personal grievances about some of the interviews aside, it is a fun and informative look at the Nürburgring and provides a comprehensive story that should be great for either a racing or car enthusiast as well as those who have a more passing interest in either of the two. It may be difficult to see in cinemas as there aren’t many showings, but if you ever come across it elsewhere, it is worth a watch.

Formula 1 Launch Season

The MotoGP and World Superbike series have already begun their 2017 pre-season, edging them that little closer to the start of their 2017 season’s. They have been joined this month by IndyCar who went testing at the Phoenix International Raceway.

But the main focus of this post will be Formula 1 which will see teams launch their 2017 challengers and go testing in late February. With a lot of change having taken place on and off the track, the 2017 pre-season will be a fascinating time for Formula 1, for a few reasons.


Look of the cars

Kimi Raikkonen” by Scott Kilbourne is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The first thing is obviously the new technical regulations which are in part meant to make the cars look more appealing to the eye. After much debate and speculative technical drawings we will finally see the 2017 cars for ourselves. It will therefore be interesting to see whether teams come up with very different designs or whether they will generally look very similar.


Livery changes

There have been several reports stating that some teams will be changing their racing livery for the upcoming season. This includes Scuderia Ferrari returning to an all red livery (having incorporated white in their livery last season and elements of black in previous seasons), and McLaren hinting at incorporating orange into their livery for 2017.

RB11’s Motion Dazzle Livery” by Michael Elleray is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There could also be a livery change at Sauber after Felipe Nasr was not retained by the team and therefore potentially no Banco do Brasil blue and yellow livery for the Swiss team as well as a change of livery for Scuderia Toro Rosso.


How fast?

Although perhaps not in the first test and we won’t truly know until the Australian Grand Prix, but pre-season testing will enable everyone who follows Formula 1 to get their first impressions of how fast the new cars will really be. This after plenty of debating as to whether the new cars will be three seconds faster than last year, or whether they could be five seconds faster.

With the increased speed of the cars in mind, it will be interesting to see what the drivers views are about the new cars and whether they find them more physically demanding to drive, as some hope.

The Grid at the 2012 Formula 1 Santander British Grand Prix” by Silverstone Circuit is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0