Category Archives: Motor Racing

Simona de Silvestro – the Talented Swiss Miss

The Sauber F1 team’s announcement that they had signed a contract with 25-year-old Simona de Silvestro for her to be an affiliated driver with the team shocked a few people in the F1 world.  The Swiss Miss has always said her ambition was to race in Formula 1, and now her dream has come a little closer to being realised.

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De Silvestro becomes the fifth driver to be signed to some kind of contract with Sauber this year, joining race drivers Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez, reserve driver Giedo van der Garde, and test driver Sergey Sirotkin.

But who is Simona de Silvestro, and why have the Sauber team signed her up?

De Silvestro began her open wheel career in 2005, aged 17, in the Formula Renault 2.0 Italy series.  The following year she moved to the United States to compete in races there, first of all in the Formula BMW USA series, where she won her first race in 2006.  She then progressed into the support series for the Champ Car series, the Atlantic Championship.  She made steady progress in her three years there, and in her final year in 2009, she won four times and finished third in the championship.

She moved into the IndyCar Series in 2010, debuting with the HVM Racing team.  She had a best finish of eighth in her rookie season at Mid-Ohio, but impressed the paddock with her skills.  She even lead laps in Brazil!  She remained in the team for 2011, and finished fourth around the streets of St. Petersburg.

A third year with HVM came in 2012, but with Lotus engines – the only team to run them all season long – she was not a serious contender for big results.  She was very lucky to even qualify for the Indianapolis 500 due to the severity of the underpowered Lotus engine.

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She spent a fourth year in the IndyCar series, this time with the KV Racing Technology team as team-mate to Tony Kanaan – the first time in four years she had a team-mate.  She had a much more impressive year, culminating in a maiden podium finish around the streets of Houston.

“In my mind, she’s the best female racer on the planet,” Jimmy Vasser, the team boss of KV Racing Technology. “I haven’t seen anybody else with her abilities across the board. She’s the best, hands down.

“Danica [Patrick] did a great job to open doors and break down barriers. But she’s so petite, and that made it harder for her to compete on road and street races.  But Simona can hang in there all day long with the big boys. She’s the world’s best female racer, in my opinion.”

Her first year with a team-mate enabled her to learn from Tony Kanaan, who won the 2013 Indianapolis 500.  Kanaan made a bold statement of his own regarding de Silvestro.

“She’s better at this point in her career than anyone else I’ve taught,” admits Kanaan, who made his own debut in Indycar back in 2002.

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“She got her confidence back this year.  She’s never had a teammate to tell her that what she’s doing is OK. She knows what she wants.

“She knows exactly what she needs. I try to help her as much as I can, but it’s not like she needs that much help.”

De Silvestro admits that she learns every time she goes out in a racecar.  She has the strength, the stamina to compete with the best of what IndyCar have to offer, and she is very precise and accurate with a steering wheel in hand.

“I’ve always been the type of driver who learns something every time out,” said de Silvestro.

“It’s still going on for me. There are a lot of things I need to improve, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve always been the type of person who doubts themselves when there’s nothing on paper that proves you’re getting faster.  I have to know I’m constantly improving.

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“The thing I hear in that regard that is flattering is when people say I’m a good driver on road and street courses. You always hear that a woman can’t drive on a road course because it’s more physical than an oval. It’s cool to hear people say I can race on road courses.”

With the news of her Sauber contract being announced, de Silvestro admitted that Formula 1 has always been her lifelong ambition.

“This is a major step towards me achieving a life-long dream and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to take this step with such a great team. The Sauber F1 Team is a team with a legacy and the only Swiss team in Formula One, which I think makes this even more exciting. I can’t thank Monisha Kaltenborn and Peter Sauber enough for their support and belief in my abilities and for giving me this chance. I’m thrilled to have this extremely unique platform on which to prepare myself to take on the challenge.”

Monisha Kaltenborn, one of only two female team principals in Formula 1 alongside Williams’ Claire Williams, said de Silvestro was a very gifted driver, and the team were happy to be assisting her attempt to get a race seat in F1.

“After four years in IndyCar, Simona’s ambition is to enter Formula one in 2015,” said Kaltenborn.

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“We regard her as a very talented race driver, and we, therefore, decided to take her on board as an “affiliated driver” and support her on her way to the pinnacle of motorsport.”

Her contract with Sauber enables her to join a preparation programme, which will enable de Silvestro to obtain a super licence and prepare her for Formula 1 in 2015.  Sauber will give her time on track and in a simulator, plus help her with physical and mental preparations.

The road to Formula 1 is a long one for many drivers, and Simona de Silvestro is no exception.  There has not been a female racing driver in the sport since 1992, when Giovanna Amati attempted to qualify a Brabham unsuccessfully.  In between then and now, Katherine Legge, Susie Wolff and the late Maria de Villota have all tested F1 cars, but none have made the jump up to race driver.

Just because she has a contract with Sauber does not guarantee her a race seat.  Sauber already have Sergey Sirotkin under a similar contract, and his Russian backers are expecting him to race in F1 in 2015.  Giedo van der Garde, Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez will also hope to be racing for the team next year.

But her gender should not be the defining entity that decides who gets the drive.  If she proves to the team that she is quick, perhaps quicker than some or all of the other drivers in contention, then she should get the drive.  To me, I am in agreement with Jimmy Vasser that she is the best female driver in the world right now, and on her day, she can beat the best drivers IndyCar has to offer, including champions past and present.

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Is she good enough for F1?  In my opinion, she is, and had I been a team boss, I would have taken a look at her much sooner than now.  Its good news that Sauber have taken her on board, I feel she will prove herself sufficiently in the next twelve months that she will be in Formula 1 as a race driver in 2015.

Watch this space, the Swiss Miss is coming, you’d better be ready!

Sources: Autosport, http://www.sauberf1team.com/, http://www.usatoday.com/

Abt, di Grassi announced as first Formula E drivers!

German GP2 series driver Daniel Abt and Brazilian World Endurance Championship driver Lucas di Grassi have become the first names to be officially announced as drivers for the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship that begins in September.  The two drivers have been confirmed at the Abt Sportsline team.

AbtDi

Former Formula 1 driver di Grassi was originally Formula E’s official development driver, but gave up that role in order to chase a race seat in the series.

The Brazilian will be a full-time Audi World Endurance Championship driver for 2014, stepping into the seat vacated by Allan McNish’s retirement.  He is thankful that he can race in both series.

“I’m delighted that Audi is giving me the opportunity to drive in sports car racing as well as in Formula E,” di Grassi said.

“I’ve been watching Abt Sportsline on track for a long time – a very professional and cool outfit and my first contact.

“It’s great that it worked out. We’ve got ambitious plans.”

Team-mate Abt will be racing in his second season of the GP2 Series in 2014 with Hilmer Motorsport.  He came very close to winning the 2012 GP3 series championship but just missed out to Mitch Evans in the season finale.  He is the son of team-owner Hans-Jürgen Abt, and the younger Abt was delighted to be part of the first season of Formula E.

“I was really thrilled with the ideas of Formula E from the very beginning and obviously even more about Abt Sportsline competing with a team of their own,” said Daniel.

“That I’m part of the line-up in the inaugural season is both an honour and a huge challenge.”

Hans-Jürgen Abt says he is pleased with the driver line-up Abt-Sportsline have for the 2014/15 FIA Formula E Championship.

”In Daniel and Lucas we’ve signed our absolutely ideal pairing,” said Hans-Jurgen.

”My thanks go to Audi who released Lucas for the Formula E commitment. He’s been involved in the development of the series right from the beginning and is one of the most sought-after names on the scene – we’re proud that he’s opted for us.”

Sources: Autosport, http://www.fiaformulae.com/

Sims to debut in British GT with BMW & Ecurie Ecosse

British driver Alexander Sims will debut in the British GT championship with Ecurie Ecosse.  The Factory BMW driver will run alongside Marco Attard for six of the seven rounds that make up the season in a Barwell Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3.

Alexander%20Sims

The 2008 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner is confident that he can mount a serious challenge for race wins in his rookie season, and is happy to be back racing in a British championship.

“It’s fantastic to be back racing in a British championship and really exciting to be coming back to British circuits,” said Sims.

“Last year the level was pretty damn high at the front. I haven’t tested but I would hope I would be up to speed very quickly.

“I’m not saying it’s going to be a breeze, but we should consider ourselves contenders.”

The only trouble is that due to a calendar clash, Sims will miss the race weekend at Snetterton, and that could dash his hopes of mounting a serious title challenge.  But he cannot wait for the new challenge that has been presented to him.

“I’m over the moon, as getting a full-time drive in a championship as prestigious as British GT is just fantastic” added Sims.

“It’s a great opportunity to embed myself within BMW’s network of teams, and to work alongside a gentleman driver as talented as Marco. Ecurie Ecosse and Barwell enjoy a very impressive track record together, with last year especially strong thanks to Marco and Olly [Bryant]. I simply cannot wait for us to begin working together.”

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His team-mate Attard is optimistic that he and Sims will be fighting at the front of the field in 2014.  Attard won once with Oliver Bryant during 2013, and is hopeful of more success this year.

“It’s great to be back with Ecurie Ecosse and the guys at Barwell,” said Attard.

“I can hit the ground running now that I’m continuing with the same car and team, and have a full season already under my belt. This, combined with having a driver of Alexander’s calibre alongside me, means I have put myself in the best possible position to challenge for the title again.

“I’ve got good faith in Alexander.  It’s a matter of him pushing me more and more.

“We had a couple of issues last year without which we would have been alright. Hopefully with the combination of Alex and myself we should be up there.”

Barwell Motorsport Team Principal Mark Lemmer is thrilled about his 2014 British GT driver line-up.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have such a fantastic driver line-up across both championships, and it’s great to be able to welcome Alexander to our fold; he is undoubtedly one of the most exciting young British talents in the world of GT racing,” said Lemmer.

“I fully expect Ecurie Ecosse and Barwell to be pushing for both titles!”

The British GT Championship begins in April at Oulton Park.

Sources: Autosport, http://www.ecurieecosse.com/, http://www.britishgt.com/

The Formula E ‘Drivers’ Club

With the inaugural season of the Formula E Championship beginning in September, the series has announced the drivers that are forming the Drivers club.  The scheme features ‘a pool of top, international names that officially endorse the new Formula E Championship’.

Twenty-four names from around the world have joined the scheme, and will be allowed to experience running in the fully electric Spark-Renault SRT_01E Formula E Car.

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Drivers from many different series have endorsed Formula E, including from IndyCar, the World Endurance Championship, the GP2 and GP3 series and DTM.  No less than twelve former Formula 1 drivers are on the list.

Driver

Nationality

Daniel Abt

Germany

Christijan Albers

Netherlands

Jamie Alguersuari

Spain

Marco Andretti

United States

Sebastien Bourdais

France

Alex Brundle

Great Britain

Sebastien Buemi

Switzerland

Karun Chandhok

India

Ben Collins

Great Britain

Conor Daly

United States

Robert Doornbos

Netherlands

Lucas di Grassi

Brazil

J.R. Hildebrand

United States

Ma Qing Hua

China

Narain Karthikeyan

India

Christian Klien

Austria

Katherine Legge

Great Britain

Vitantonio Liuzzi

Italy

Nicolas Minassian

France

Franck Montagny

France

Takuma Sato

Japan

Bruno Senna

Brazil

Oriol Servia

Spain

Adrien Tambay

France

Spanish driver Jamie Alguersuari, who has not raced competitively since being dropped by Toro Rosso after 2011, was happy to be in the Formula E drivers club.

“I’m very pleased to be joining the Formula E Drivers’ Club,” said Alguersuari.

“I think Formula E provides a new concept in motorsport and will be a great challenge to the drivers, especially having to learn new tracks in just one day and to race in city-centres like London and Beijing.”

Fellow former Formula 1 driver Robert Doornbos, who also raced in Indycar in 2011, was proud to become part of the Drivers’ club.

“I believe that Formula E cars are the future of motor racing and I look forward to racing again after a successful career in F1 and Champ/IndyCar,” said Doornbos.

“I’m positive that it will attract a lot of attention worldwide and sponsors will get to experience auto sport on a new level.”

Narain Karthikeyan, who last year raced and won races in the Auto GP World Series, is another driver on the list.

“Sustainability is the current buzzword in automotive technology, and its application in a gruelling motorsport environment like Formula E will definitely help at many different levels,” said Karthikeyan.

“On the racing front as well, the series is breaking new ground by taking the sport to the fans in an unprecedented way across the world. I am happy to be named as a part of the Drivers’ Club and eagerly look forward to the experience.”

Current IndyCar driver and former Toro Rosso F1 driver Sebastien Bourdais says Formula E is a big innovation in motor racing, and is looking forward to being a part of the series.

“You don’t get to be a part of such technological advances very often in a career,” said Bourdais.

“I would be extremely happy to discover the car and begin racing next September, and I believe the best way to achieve that is to be part of the Drivers’ Club.”

Being part of the Formula E Drivers’ club does not guarantee any driver a race seat, with the 10 teams being given a free choice about whom they choose.

Team

Nationality

Drayson Racing Formula E Team

Great Britain

China Racing Formula E Team

China

Andretti Autosport Formula E Team

United States

Dragon Racing Formula E Team

United States

e.dams Formula E Team

France

Super Aguri Formula E Team

Japan

Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team

Germany

Mahindra Racing Formula E Team

India

Virgin Racing Formula E Team

Great Britain

Venturi Grand Prix Formula E Team

Monaco

Lucas di Grassi was the first driver to demonstrate a SRT_01E when he took to the streets of Las Vegas in January.  The car is capable of speeds in excess of 150mph, and has zero emissions.  Many leading names in motorsport have pulled together to bring this car together.  Spark Racing Technology designed and built the car, while Dallara (chassis), Williams (battery design), McLaren (powertrain and electronics), Renault (system integration) and Michelin (tyres) have all assisted in development.

Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings, the promoters of the series, is looking forward to the first season of Formula E.

“2014 is a very big year for Formula E with the championship starting in September so it’s important to be starting on such a positive note,” said Agog on the day of the demonstration.

“Today [06 January] will also be the first of many roadshows we have planned over the coming months as we want as many people as possible to see, and hear, what we believe is the future of motorsport.”

Sources: Autosport, http://www.fiaformulae.com/

Jan Magnussen – The F1 career that got away

When the Australian Grand Prix kicks off the 2014 Formula 1 season in March, Kevin Magnussen will become the latest son of a former F1 driver to race in F1 himself.  His father Jan raced once for McLaren-Mercedes in 1995 then 24 times for the Stewart Grand Prix team in 1997-98, before settling in to a career in GT racing.

The likes of Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill and Nico Rosberg have all followed their fathers – Gilles Villeneuve, Graham Hill and Keke Rosberg respectively – into the top level of motorsport, something Kevin Magnussen has now signed into with the McLaren team.

Let us have a look into Kevin’s father, Jan Magnussen’s F1 debut, at the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix at the Aida circuit in Japan, and his subsequent career in Formula 1.  Regular driver and future double world champion Mika Hakkinen was unwell with appendicitis so Jan stepped in to partner Mark Blundell at the team for this one race.

Jan 1

Prior to F1, Magnussen had broken the British Formula 3 record held by Ayrton Senna of most wins in a season, as he dominated the 1994 season with 14 race wins out of 18 starts driving for Paul Stewart Racing.  This got him noticed and signed to McLaren as part of their young driver programme.

The MP4/10 car and its upgrade, the MP4/10B the team used were not the greatest McLaren F1 cars ever made, and were the first with the Mercedes engine.  A lack of front-end grip was the team’s main handling issue, while the engine was often unreliable.

1995 Pacific Grand Prix – Qualifying Result

Pos

No

Driver

Team

Q1 Time

Q2 Time

Gap

1

6 David Coulthard Williams 1:14.182 1:14.013

2

5 Damon Hill Williams 1:14.289 1:14.213 +0.200

3

1 Michael Schumacher Benetton 1:14.524 1:14.284 +0.271

4

27 Jean Alesi Ferrari 1:14.919 1:15.131 +0.906

5

28 Gerhard Berger Ferrari 1:14.974 1:15.125 +0.961

6

15 Eddie Irvine Jordan 1:15.696 1:15.354 +1.341

7

2 Johnny Herbert Benetton 1:15.561 1:15.556 +1.543

8

30 Heinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber 1:15.942 1:15.561 +1.548

9

26 Olivier Panis Ligier 1:17.071 1:15.621 +1.608

10

7 Mark Blundell McLaren 1:15.652 1:16.166 +1.639

11

14 Rubens Barrichello Jordan 1:16.263 1:15.774 +1.761

12

8 Jan Magnussen McLaren 1:16.339 1:16.368 +2.326

*Times in bold represent the drivers fastest lap*

In his first official time in the car, in the old two-session qualifying format, Magnussen qualified an impressive twelfth on the 24-car grid, only seven tenths of a second behind his vastly more experienced team-mate.  David Coulthard took pole position ahead of his Williams Renault team-mate Damon Hill.

1995 Pacific Grand Prix – Race Result

Pos

No

Driver

Team

Laps

Time/Retired

Grid

Pts

1 1 Michael Schumacher Benetton 83 1:48’49.972 3 10
2 6 David Coulthard Williams 83 +14.920 1 6
3 5 Damon Hill Williams 83 +48.333 2 4
4 28 Gerhard Berger Ferrari 82 +1 Lap 5 3
5 27 Jean Alesi Ferrari 82 +1 Lap 4 2
6 2 Johnny Herbert Benetton 82 +1 Lap 7 1
7 30 Heinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber 82 +1 Lap 8  
8 26 Olivier Panis Ligier 81 +2 Laps 9  
9 7 Mark Blundell McLaren 81 +2 Laps 10  
10 8 Jan Magnussen McLaren 81 +2 Laps 12  

In the race, Magnussen followed his team-mate Blundell home in tenth position, albeit two laps behind race winner Michael Schumacher.  It was the best he could have hoped for in a new car for his first ever grand prix.  He did not put a foot wrong all weekend.

“It’s great for me not only to finish race, but also to make it to the top ten,” said Jan after his debut.

“I had a good fight with [Rubens] Barrichello at the beginning of the race and then towards the end I was closing up on Mark [Blundell]. Even if I had caught him I would not have overtaken though because I did not want to take unnecessary risks.”

Jan 4

Both then McLaren team boss Ron Dennis and then Mercedes boss Norbert Haug were full of praise for Jan’s efforts during his first race.

“Jan did an exceptionally good race for his first Grand Prix and I’m sure he is as pleased with his own performance as we are,” said Dennis.

“Jan was very impressive,” added Haug.  “In his first Grand Prix, he proved to be a real racer, setting the best lap times and being quick coming in and out for each of his three pit stops.”

Mika Hakkinen would return for the remainder of the 1995 Formula 1 season, and it would take Jan until 1997 to get a full-time drive in the sport with the newly formed Stewart Grand Prix outfit.  Ron Dennis advised Jan not to leave McLaren, but the offer of racing was too much for the Dane to turn down.

“Ron advised me against leaving but I didn’t hear a word he said,” said Jan.

“I just wanted to be a Formula One driver and I couldn’t see myself in a McLaren with the driver lineup they had at the time. I should have stayed one or two more years, to have all the things I didn’t have hammered into me by Ron Dennis.

“But McLaren were different then. Since then they have developed a fantastic programme for young drivers, which Kevin is benefiting from. It is a great team of people to have around you. He really is part of the McLaren family. They will take good care of him. For any situation, any question there’s a guy to go to, someone to teach him.

“In my time, though, there was no coaching, no teaching the ropes. There was just me and they expected me to figure it out.”

Jan 2

Jackie Stewart was full of praise for Jan Magnussen when signing the Dane for Stewart, calling him the ‘the greatest driving talent to emerge since Ayrton Senna’, but unfortunately his career at the team did not work out as either he or his team had hoped.  He struggled to match team-mate Rubens Barrichello, and only scored one point in total, for a sixth-placed finish at his final grand prix at Canada in 1998.  He would then be let go, replaced by Dutchman Jos Verstappen, and would never compete in Formula 1 again.  It did not help that he retired from 16 of the 25 races he would compete in.

“My biggest problem was that I didn’t have enough time in the car. It always blew up. We had a lot of mechanical failures. I remember sitting down watching the car burn on too many occasions.”

Jan would move into sports car racing with much more success, and was the 2013 American Le Mans Series champion alongside Spaniard Antonio Garcia, driving for Corvette Racing, winning the title on the same day Kevin would win the Formula Renault 3.5 series title.

But Jan regrets what happened to him during his brief career in F1, and knows he let only had himself to blame.

“I let myself down,” said Jan. “I wish I’d had another chance but Kevin is where he is today because of what happened to me. He can learn from my mistakes.

“He is much more mature than I was at 21. In fact there are no similarities. He’s super hardworking and much more organised than I ever was. I’m sure Ron [Dennis] was frustrated with me. I was a smoker, I didn’t train properly and was not at all organised. I was not ready for F1.”

We can only hope that Kevin Magnussen’s F1 career is more impressive than his fathers.  He seems to have the skill behind the wheel and the ambition to succeed, so we could expect big things from the Danish driver.  Jenson Button might just get a surprise or two in 2014.

Jan 3

“Kevin used to be the son of Jan Magnussen,” said Jan. “Now, suddenly, I am the father of Kevin Magnussen.”

Sources: http://www.theguardian.com, Autosport, FORIX

Max Verstappen – 16, Dutch and (Potentially) F3 Bound

It is very rare for myself to write about a driver who has just made his debut in single-seater racing, but there is a lot of hype surrounding sixteen-year-old Max Verstappen that I just had to look into it myself.

Max-Verstappen-seat-fitting

The latest son-of-a-former-F1-driver to break into motor sport himself, Max Verstappen is following in the footsteps of his father Jos, who raced for Benetton, Simtek, Arrows and Minardi in Formula 1, claiming two podium finishes as Michael Schumacher’s team-mate in the 1994 season.

However Max will want to avoid the pitfalls that befell his father.  He was rushed into the Benetton drive in ‘94 when confirmed driver JJ Lehto crashed and injured his neck, ruling him out for a few races.  It was clear he was not ready, and despite two podium finishes, Benetton did not retain him for 1995.

Max will want to be ready for Formula 1, should he get there.  He made his karting debut at seven years of age, and made his move into international karting competition in 2010.  He finished second racing for the CRG team in the KF3 World Cup, while he won the WSK Euro series crown.

Max-Verstappen-KZ1

He retained his WSK Euro series title in 2011, and then stepped up to KF2 level for 2012, winning the WSK Master Series and finishing second in the World Cup.  In 2013 he raced to the KF2 class European Championship title, while finishing third in the KF1 World Championship.

Max made his debut in a single-seater series in the Florida Winter Series, which is being hosted by the Ferrari Formula 1 team.  In the first race weekend of the series, he topped qualifying in just the second session he tried, and finished a high of fourth in the races.  He subsequently won race three of the second weekend of races at the Palm Beach International Raceway, having once again topped qualifying.  After two events, he sits second in the championship behind Ferrari junior driver Antonio Fuoco, with two more events to come.

Father Jos admits that Max could make the leap straight into the FIA European Formula 3 series for 2014, bypassing the usual route of racing Formula 3 at a national level.  Max tested an F3 car back in December, but the sixteen year old is also contemplating the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series.

“Max is looking at European Formula Renault 2.0, but also European F3,” said Jos.

“Max’s driving style is very suited to F3. These cars have a lot of front end, which he likes a lot, and he was immediately very fast when he tested.”

Setting competitive lap times in your debut test in a car is impressive for anyone, let alone a sixteen year old, who will not turn seventeen until the end of September.  But is he ready for international competition, especially in the ultra-competitive European F3 series.

2014_Max_Verstappen_FWS_PalmBeach_3

Jos will want his son to be competitive, which is for certain.  It might be prudent to allow Max to get experience in single-seater cars under his belt before pushing him into European F3, but the opportunity might not arise again.

“It is better to concentrate on one series and Max needs to learn, but I’m impressed with what he has done so far,” said Jos.  “The speed is there and this is the main thing.”

From what has been seen in his very short career so far, it might be that Max Verstappen is the latest talent on the recent up swing of Dutch motorsport.  Having seen Giedo van der Garde and Robin Frijns reach F1 level, as either race or test drivers, Max could well be the next.  At sixteen he has his career ahead of him, but the initial signs are positive.

Max Verstappen – remember his name, he might just be someone special.  I will be keeping my eyes on him that is for sure.

F1 Teams of the Past – Osella & Fondmetal

Osella were a Formula One team from 1980 to 1990, while Fondmetal were a team in 1991 and 1992 after Gabriele Rumi bought out Osella. Osella raced in 132 races, scoring five points, while Fondmetal competed in 29, but failed to score a single point. Jean-Pierre Jarier scored Osella’s first points, with a fourth place finish in the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix, while Piercarlo Ghinzani scored a fifth place finish in the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix.

Osella began life in F1 in 1980, with Eddie Cheever behind the wheel. They lost promising Italian Riccardo Paletti in a horrific accident at the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix. Towards the end of their existence, it was a struggle even to qualify, though Nicola Larini did put in some good performances, most noticeably in the 1989 Canadian Grand Prix when he retired with mechanical issues while running an excellent third.

Fondmetal took over from Osella for the 1991 and 1992 seasons, first off with Frenchman Olivier Grouillard, and then with Italian Gabriele Tarquini and Swiss driver Andrea Chiesa. Much like the end of Osella’s lifetime, Fondmetal struggled, with the team failing to qualify more times than they qualified, and when they did qualify, they only saw the chequered flag on five occasions.

Osella 1

Osella
1980
Eddie Cheever – American – 10 Starts, 4 DNQ’s, 0 Points, Best Finish 12th in Italy

1981
Miguel Angel Guerra – Argentine – 1 Start, 3 DNQ’s, 0 Points, Did Not Finish only start
Piercarlo Ghinzani – Italian – 1 Start, 1 DNQ, 0 Points, Best Finish 13th in Belgium
Giorgio Francia – Italian – 0 Starts, 1 DNQ
Jean-Pierre Jarier – French – 7 Starts, 0 Points, Best Finish 8th in Germany and Austria
Beppe Gabbiani – Italian – 3 Starts, 12 DNQ’s, Did Not Finish any starts

1982
Jean-Pierre Jarier – French – 13 Starts, 2 DNQ’s, 3 Points, Best Finish 4th in San Marino
Riccardo Paletti – Italian – 2 Starts, 1 DNS, 2 DNQ’s, 3 DNPQ’s, Did Not Finish any starts

1983
Corrado Fabi – Italian – 10 Starts, 5 DNQ’s, 0 Points, Best Finish 10th in Austria
Piercarlo Ghinzani – Italian – 7 Starts, 8 DNQ’s, 0 Points, Best Finish 11th in Austria

1984
Piercarlo Ghinzani – Italian – 14 Starts, 1 DNS, 1 DNQ, 2 Points, Best Finish 5th in Dallas
Jo Gartner – Austrian – 8 Starts, 0 Points, Best Finish 5th in Italy*
*Driver ineligible for points

1985
Piercarlo Ghinzani – Italian – 7 Starts, 1 DNQ, 0 Points, Best Finish 9th in Portugal
Huub Rothengatter – Dutch – 7 Starts, 1 DNQ, 0 Points, Best Finish 7th in Australia

1986
Piercarlo Ghinzani – Italian – 15 Starts, 1 DNQ, 0 Points, Best Finish 11th in Austria
Christian Danner – German – 5 Starts, 1 DNQ, 0 Points, Did Not Finish any starts
Allen Berg – Canadian – 9 Starts, 0 Points, Best Finish 12th in Germany
Alex Caffi – Italian – 1 Start, 0 Points, Best Finish not classfied in Italy

1987
Alex Caffi – Italian – 14 Starts, 2 DNQ’s, 0 Points, Best Finish 12th in San Marino
Gabriele Tarquini – Italian – 1 Start, 0 Points, Did Not Finish only start
Franco Forini – Swiss – 2 Starts, 1 DNQ, 0 Points, Did Not Finish any starts

1988
Nicola Larini – Italian – 11 Starts, 1 DQ, 3 DNQ’s, 2 DNPQ’s, 0 Points, Best Finish 9th in Monaco

1989
Nicola Larini – Italian – 8 Starts, 1 DQ, 8 DNPQ’s, 0 Points, Best Finish 12th in San Marino
Piercarlo Ghinzani – Italian – 3 Starts, 13 DNPQ’s, 0 Points, Did Not Finish any starts

1990
Olivier Grouillard – French – 9 Starts, 5 DNQ’s, 2 DNPQ’s, 0 Points, Best Finish 13th in Canada and Australia

Osella 2

Fondmetal
1991
Olivier Grouillard – French – 4 Starts, 1 DNQ, 8 DNPQ’s, 0 Points, Best Finish 10th in Belgium
Gabriele Tarquini – Italian – 2 Starts, 1 DNPQ, 0 Points, Best Finish 11th in Japan

1992
Gabriele Tarquini – Italian – 13 Starts, 0 Points, Best Finish 14th in Great Britain
Andrea Chiesa – Swiss – 3 Starts, 7 DNQ’s, 0 Points, Did Not Finish any starts
Eric van der Poele – Belgian – 3 Starts, 0 Points, Best Finish 10th in Belgium

Fondmetal

Felix Rosenqvist – Swede On The Rise

1978 was a absolutely devastating year for Swedish motor racing with both Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson losing their lives, Peterson through the after effects of a terrible first lap accident at Monza, while Nilsson lost his battle with testicular cancer.  The following years Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp was cancelled due to the interest in motor racing diminishing after the loss of its two star drivers.  Since that tragic year, only two Swedish drivers have raced in Formula 1, Slim Borgudd, who raced 15 times for ATS and Tyrrell in 1981-1982, and Stefan Johansson, who raced between 1980 and 1991, racing for numerous teams including both Ferrari and McLaren.

However there are signs that a renaissance of Swedish motor racing is on the horizon.  Marcus Ericsson has been racing at or near the front of the GP2 Series for a couple of years now and has been signed to make his Formula 1 debut for the Caterham F1 team in 2014.  Jimmy Eriksson has confirmed his 2014 plans with a second season in the GP3 series, moving from Status Grand Prix to Russian Time, who will be making their debut in the series this year.  A third young Swede is John Bryant-Meisner, who raced in German Formula Three in 2013 and looks to graduate to the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in 2014.

But for me, the brightest talent right now coming from Sweden seems to be Felix Rosenqvist, who was runner up in the 2013 European Formula 3 Championship behind Ferrari Academy Driver Raffaele Marciello.

Rosenqvist 1

22-year-old Rosenqvist made his single-seater debut back in 2007, racing in the Asian Formula Renault Challenge, aged 15.  Driving for March 3 Racing, he won one race in Shanghai and finished on the podium an additional five times en-route to fourth in the championship.

For 2008, he raced in the Formula Asia 2.0 Series, again with March 3 Racing, but dominated the series, winning ten races and claiming the title ahead of Frenchman Matthias Beche by 71 points.  He also made a one-off appearance in the Asian Formula Renault Challenge, and won both races in Shanghai.

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A return to his native Sweden in 2009 saw Rosenqvist win the Formula Renault 2.0 Sweden series driving for BS Motorsport, winning six races on the way to the title.  He also won the Formula Renault 2.0 North European Zone title for the same team, defeating fellow Swede Daniel Roos by a single point.  He also made a one-off appearance in Formula Palmer Audi, winning two of the three races that made up the final weekend of the season in Snetterton.

A move to the German Formula 3 championship in 2010 followed, and two race wins, both in Assen on different weekends, saw Rosenqvist finish fifth in the championship driving for Performance Racing.  He also made his debut around the streets of Macau, finishing ninth in the main race.

Rosenqvist 3

Rosenqvist finished fifth again in 2011, this time in the Formula 3 Euro Series driving for Mücke Motorsport.  He won one race at Hockenheim, and grabbed an additional nine podium places.  In 2012, he continued with Mücke Motorsport in the Euro Series, improving to fourth in the final standings with four wins – one each in Zandvoort and Valencia, and two at Hockenheim.  He also participated in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, being classified third behind Daniel Juncadella and Raffaele Marciello.  And in his second time in Macau, he finished an impressive second behind Antonio Felix da Costa.

Rosenqvist continued in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship for 2013, again with Mücke Motorsport.  He was the only driver to keep Marciello honest all year, and only finished 42.5 points behind the Ferrari-backed driver in the championship.  The Swede won on eleven occasions, including two rare trebles, winning all three races in Austria and the Netherlands.  He finished over 100 points clear of third-placed Alex Lynn.  Unfortunately his third visit to Macau ended up with him crashing out.

Rosenqvist 4

So what next for Felix Rosenqvist?  Over the years, he has clearly shown that he can be a race-winning driver, and as 2013 shows, he can be a championship-challenging driver.  Marciello has advanced to the GP2 series for 2014, while Alex Lynn has moved to the GP3 series.  Surely the Swede has the opportunity to move to one or other of those series for this year.

I feel he can be a force to be reckoned with over the upcoming few years, and could follow Marcus Ericsson and the legends of Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson into Formula 1.

2014 Auto GP Calendar Revealed

autogpws

The 2014 Auto GP World Series calendar has finally been announced, and the series will run alongside the World Touring Car Championship, DTM and European Le Mans Series this year.

It has also been confirmed that Eurosport will show Auto GP live throughout all eight rounds of 2014.

The opening three rounds will follow the WTCC to Marrakech in Morocco, Paul Ricard in France and to the Hungaroring in Hungary.  The fourth event sees the Coloni-run series support the Italian GT Championship at Monza.

A race weekend at the Spielberg track in Austria supporting the European Le Mans Series follows in July, before supporting the DTM series at the Nurburgring in August.

The final two rounds have yet to be announced.  Last year saw two races held in the United Kingdom, supporting the Blancpain Series at Silverstone before racing at Donington Park supporting the Superstars series.  The other race that is currently not on the schedule that was in 2013 is the race at the Masaryk Circuit in the Czech Republic.

“Auto GP is very pleased to continue the collaboration with the WTCC, a consistent partnership that has enabled our drivers to race in an excellent environment and with spectacular crowds over the last few years,” said Enzo Coloni, the Auto GP series boss.

“The same goes for the DTM. We started cooperating with them last season and we look forward to a successful path for the future.

“For the first time we will also line-up together with the ELMS championship.

“We will shortly announce the two final round of the season and there might be some great surprises coming…”

  • April 12-13 – Marrakech, Morocco – WTCC
  • April 19-20 – Paul Ricard, France – WTCC
  • May 03-04 – Hungaroring, Hungary – WTCC
  • May 30-June 01 – Monza, Italy – Italian GT
  • July 19-20 – Spielberg, Austria – ELMS
  • August 16-17 – Nurburgring, Germany – DTM
  • TBA
  • TBA

What I Want To Do

So I arrive at the NEC in Birmingham for the Autosport Show with not a clue what to do with my media pass.  But now I know what I want to do, and that is be a journalist within motorsport.  However what I have learnt today is it will not be easy to get where I want to be.  Age isn’t exactly on my side at 33, and its a high pressure environment that not everyone who wants to be in it will get in it.

Today I have had the pleasure of talking to up-and-coming racer Dan Wells, who showed me that if you don’t give up, the world has a way of opening up for you.  11 months off the track, yet he persevered on trying to make a career in motorsport, and the perseverance paid off as he returned in a Formula Masters car at the end of 2013 and showed his obvious, and very natural talent for the KCMG team, culminating with a P2 finish around the streets of Macau, a legendary race track renowned around the world.  He’s 11 years my junior yet I learnt a lot in the short amount of time I had the pleasure of talking to him for.

I write primarily for www.SportPulse.net at present, with the odd blog post on my own personal blog page here.  But neither get me to where I want to be, they are just a stepping stone to bigger and better things.  I want to attend races, interview drivers, do race reports.  Whether its on the national or international scene, whether its single-seaters, GT or Touring Cars, I want to follow them in a close capacity and be in the paddock every race weekend, doing reports and interviews.

I do have priorities, though F1 is not one of them, though I obviously would not turn down a chance to work in the best motorsport around.  I am a big Blancpain Endurance/Sprint series fan and would love to work there.  But I’m also a fan of the BRDC Formula 4 championship, and would love to work there too.  And then there is GP2, GP3, Formula Renault… the list is almost endless.  Right now, I would work reporting on any series, its my dream.

Just got to keep on it, follow the dream, work my butt off.  I can do this, I just got to persevere.