Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Next Generation - Nico Hülkenberg

At 25, Hülkenberg may seem a bit of stretch to say he's the "next generation", especially considering he is only 1 month younger than double World Champion Sebastian Vettel, however Vettel is, in my opinion, the exception the rule that states drivers don't peak until they are late 20s-early 30s.

Nico had one of the most successful career progressions to F1 in recent history. He dominated the European Formula BMW in 2005, practically single-handedly won the A1 GP series for Germany, taking a staggering 9 wins in his rookie year. He moved to the German F3 series, finishing 5th earning a drive in the full F3 Euro Series. In 2007 he finished 5th, before comprehensively destroying the field in 2008 - taking almost double the points of the runner up. Other winners of this prestigious series include Lewis Hamilton and Paul di Resta, with Vettel finishing as a runner up. This obviously earned the attraction higher up the motor sport ladder, and he won a GP2 drive with ART GP.

A disappointing opening round was soon forgotten, as he became the first man in 3 years to win both the feature and sprint race, and became one of only two drivers to win every point on offer (two wins plus pole and fastest lap). He went on to dominate the series and wrapped up the title with a round to spare, and broke the 100 point barrier in the final round. He crushed team mate Pastor Maldanado 100-36, almost 3 times as many points, an astonishing feat considering he would eventually be replaced by Maldonado and Maldonado would in fact secure a F1 race win, something which has still eluded Hülkenberg.

In 2010, he produced a very solid rookie season, struggling at the beginning of the year he was matching and even beating his much more experienced team-mate Rubens Barrichello. The stand out moment of the year by a long way for Hülkenberg was obviously his outstanding pole position in Brazil, where he qualified over a second ahead of the man in 2nd. It was a stunning lap, and he was fast enough for pole in both of his laps - dismissing claims that he was only on pole due to clever timing. Despite this he was dropped for the much wealthier Maldonado.

A year of testing for Force India in 2011 won him the seat for this year at the expense of countryman Adrian Sutil. Again Hulkenberg started slowly, but since the European Grand Prix he has finished in the points 5 times, with memorable drives to 4th in Spa and most recently to 6th in Korea, where he also pulled off a remarkable double overtake on Hamilton and Grosjean.  As things stand he is ahead of Paul di Resta by a point, but recent drives suggest he could extend that gap by the end of the season.

Rumours were Ferrari were interested in him for 2013, but stuck with Massa, and he looks to have secured a deal to Sauber for the next year, a potentially shrewd move considering Vijay Mallya's predicament. He should look to push on and potentially replace either Massa or move into Red Bull in 2014. A future winner? Most definitely. A future champion? In my opinion the sky is the limit for this boy.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Next Generation - Antonio Felix da Costa

The man who has lit up the Renault World Series (WSR), is a man who finished the season in 4th. Surprised? Read on.

After solid performances in karting (including some national championships in Portugal), he earned a place in Formula Renault, and won the series NEC (Northern European Cup) by 2009. He has also enjoyed success in this years GP3, success that prompted Red Bull to bring him into their young driver programme, potentially seen as a risky move given their reputation for discarding drivers as quickly as they sign them. However, it seems unlikely after some stellar performances in the WSR this season.

Brought in to replace ex-Red Bull young driver programme Lewis Williamson, the season was already 5 races into its stride, this may have played into da Costa's hands as he would have been under little pressure to fight for the championship and could just drive the best he could. Eventual winner Robin Frijns  had already scored 61 points by the time da Costa arrived. Da Costa ended up finishing a mere 29 points adrift.

An average start to his campaign, saw him score 3 times in the next 5 races, matching vastly more experience team-mate Alexander Rossi. However in the final 7 races da Costa outscored everyone, taking 6 podiums, of which 4 were wins! He didn't finish outside the top 4 and completely destroyed his teammate and scored almost 3 times as many points as Rossi. He impressed most in his double podium in France, taking victory in a very difficult, rain-hit Grand Prix.

Due to his Red Bull connections, it is likely we will see this man in an F1 car again very soon (having previously tested for Force India). This is made more likely by the fact the WSR is now regarded as equal to GP2 in terms of quality (Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird have won in both series, and they finished 2nd and 3rd in the championship).

Race winner potential? Almost certainly. World Champion contender? Given the right car, this man is going the right way about it.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Next Generation - Sergio Perez

The obvious choice. At only 22, he is easily the youngest driver to be in the big three (Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull) for next season, and as such has a great chance so early in his career to prove himself as the leader of the next generation.

Perez impressed during karting, regularly being the youngest in the field and finishing on the podium, and then destroyed the formula three (national class - older chassis) field in 2007, finishing all but two races on the podium, and two thirds of the Grand Prix, and finished 4th in the international class. After gaining some experience in GP2 Asia, Perez started GP2 proper and finished the season 12th overall, with 2 podiums to his name, narrowly beating his team mate. In only his second season he finished 2nd overall, only behind the much more experience Pastor Maldanado, and comfortably ahead of the chasing pack, with 5 wins and 2 additional podiums to his name, and he secured a drive with Sauber for the next season of F1.

Now this is where it gets interesting, in only his first race he finished in the points, and was the only driver to have only one stop (something which became a speciality of his), however the Saubers were disqualified over a technicality, he eventually scored his  first points in race 5 in Spain, beating his team mate home to finish 9th. After a scary crash in Monaco, the rest of his season was solid, if unspectacular, which is good for a début season, and eventually finished 16th in the driver's standing, in what was officially the 7th fastest car, showing perhaps a bit of disappointment for the young Mexican, who ended up comprehensively beaten by his more experience team-mate Kamui Kobayashi.

However, if there was a tinge of regret about his first season, he put it behind him with a stellar performance so far this season. Perez has scored in 7 of the 16 races so far, including 3 excellent podiums. A great ability in the wet shone through when he finished 2nd behind Alonso in a changeable Malaysian Grand Prix, and he followed that with podiums in Canada and Monza. However, in both these races a better strategy than those around him seem to help him more than his talent. In Canada, dodgy strategy for Alonso and Vettel cost them, and in Monza a poor qualifying performance meant a great strategy call gave him an excellent end to the race.

Perez has been given a very good chance to perform to show off his talent with a drive at McLaren for 2013, but personally I have my doubts. He seems very inconsistent, and his recent performances in Japan and Korea shows he still has much to learn. A future winner? Undoubtedly. A future champion? I wouldn't think so. Perez needs to develop more abilities than just the ability to preserve his tyres.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Next Generation?

At the moment, F1 is experiencing a 'golden age' of drivers. We have 6 world champions on the grid! (Schumacher, Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Button and Vettel), we also have another 5 Grand Prix winners, with many of the rest experiencing podiums, clearly this is a good time for F1.

However, in 5 years time where will we be? Schumacher will be long gone, as will Raikkonen and probably Button, Alonso may have retired as well. This leaves us with just Vettel and Hamilton, but who are the young guns who will challenge them? This will be a series of posts focussing on the next generation of drivers and champions, including some in the sport, and others from other series.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Romain Grosjean

The topic of conversation for most current F1 viewers is the issue of Romain Grosjean, or as I like to call it "a massive overreaction".

"My thoughts are that, again, he cannot use his mind - even in qualifying. He could've caused a big accident. He's paying for it and he doesn't understand that." Felipe Massa

“This guy will never learn if they don’t do something, because he is a very dangerous driver and he can hurt someone.”Sergio Perez

Firstly some facts, so far this season Romain has been involved in no less than 6 first lap incidents - and one more second lap incident. Clearly this is too much, and Romain payed the penalty for his error of judgement in Spa with a one race ban for Monza - Jerome D'Ambrosio taking his place. At the time is was considered harsh but fair, not only was he a repeat offender, but the incident could have been much more serious, especially involving Alonso's head. He sat out a race and then had a solid, quiet and unspectacular race in Singapore, and it was felt he had learnt his lesson. Fast-forward two weeks and he is involved in another crash, this time with Mark Webber which effectively ended his chance of major points. There is uproar, calls for more race bans, perhaps longer, or even more extreme  a complete ban from F1.

This is completely ridiculous standpoint. Take Pastor Maldanado for example, only 5 races ago people were asking for his exclusion, a bit of TLC, some coaching from Alex Wurz and the fact Grosjean has the limelight has led to some strong performance, beginning to remind us of his form in Spain. Even last season, Lewis Hamilton hogged the limelight, with numerous high profile crashes with Felipe Massa. This season Hamilton has arguably been perfect regarding race conduct (the less said about off-track troubles the better). Those calling for Grosjean's head should look to these examples and see that it is not that big a problem. There's already an offer from Sir Jackie Stewart for coaching, and some claim his most recent crash was a result of trying to avoid Perez, and getting unlucky.

To conclude, banning Grosjean would be a big overreaction. Just wait until the next hothead and all will be forgotten.

Also, Perez was referring to Maldanado and Massa was referring to Hamilton. See, easily forgotten.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Hamilton to Mercedes/Perez to Sauber

This is a very obvious first topic to talk about, but its the story dominating the news at the moment and signals a huge shift in F1. This is the first time since 2009 when Alonso confirmed he was moving to Ferrari and Button moved to McLaren that there have been any big movers. There are a number of reasons why this is significant.

 Lewis Hamilton is widely regarded as one of the 'Big Three' comprising of himself, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. Indeed, he vies only with Vettel (and Usain Bolt) for the title of fastest man in the world. Surely a member of such an elite club would have his pick of the drives amongst the top teams, namely Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull. Thus it seems baffling that he ends up at Mercedes, currently the 5th fastest team in the sport, however when you consider the fact that clearly, Hamilton's relationship with McLaren has soured somewhat, due to many factors, leaving him with two options Red Bull and Ferrari. Many sources have said that Hamilton's agent approached both, Red Bull stuck with Webber and Alonso vetoed his move to Ferrari (apparently). Suddenly Mercedes seem more viable. Take into account Brawn, regulation changes in 2014 and probably a whole lot of freedom sponsorship wise, Hamilton's move is looking better. I think that somewhere in his mind Hamilton thinks a new Schumacher-esque product could come of it.

Schumacher, was widely regarded as one the best. Hamilton is widely regarded as one of the best.
Ferrari were in the doldrums but potentially had huge financial backing. Mercedes are in the doldrums, but could receive huge financial backing.
Ross Brawn. Ross Brawn.

When Schumacher moved a 'dream team' of  5 built up. Schumacher/Brawn/Rory Byrne/Jean Todt/Luca di Montezemolo. Hamilton has but two, himself and Brawn.

As such I believe that Hamilton has made the incorrect decision, but time will tell.

However, what I think the most exciting development is Perez's move to McLaren to fill his shoes. This move has been somewhat ignored. However this move could have much more short-term significance. It is very hard to see a race-winning car in Mercedes next season. However McLaren will almost certainly produce one, and one that Perez will drive. Perez has shone this season for Sauber and secured three magnificent podiums, and deserves the chance in my opinion. Alongside probably the perfect team mate for him, Jenson Button they will make a formidable duo. If Button can reproduce his 2011 form (or 2012 form without the middle bit) McLaren still have a very strong lead driver, in Perez they have a young gun who will definitely be a WDC. This is arguably stronger than great lead driver (Alonso, Vettel) and elder statesman capable on his day (Webber, Massa). I predict good things for McLaren next season. Very good things indeed.

Thanks for reading :) I hope this made some sort of sense

Why the Blog?


This is just a short introduction to who I am, and why I have created this blog. My name is William Ingram and I am in sixth-form. I have followed F1 since 2003, but would say that 2009 was arguably my first proper season, following the sport through all mediums. However, F1 doesn't seem to be that popular a sport where I am, and as such I shall post my inane ramblings about F1 stuff here. There probably won't be race-reviews and the such because I tried that before and failed spectacularly.

Thanks for reading :)