Lewis Hamilton is the reigning Formula 1 World Champion. He is leading the 2015 Drivers’ Championship and is the favourite to be this year’s champion too. One of the reasons for his current dominance is his qualifying performance. Hamilton has qualified in pole position for nine out of the first ten races of the season. That performance is remarkable, and could lead to Hamilton breaking some records in the not too distant future.
What’s perhaps most impressive about Hamilton’s qualifying record in 2015 is how much he has improved since 2014. Last season, Nico Rosberg had team-mate Hamilton soundly beaten in terms of pole positions over the season, taking 11 poles to Hamilton’s seven. In 2014 so far, Rosberg has just one pole position (in Spain), while Hamilton has had the top spot on the grid for every other race.
The record for most pole positions in a season is currently held by Sebastian Vettel, who was on pole an astonishing 15 times out of 19 races in 2011. Hamilton will need another seven pole positions this season to beat Vettel’s record. After this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, there are nine races left in 2015. If Hamilton keeps up his Saturday dominance, there is a distinct possibility that Vettel’s record could be under threat.
Given the dominance of the Mercedes team since the start of 2014, it looks like Hamilton is set to have many more pole positions over the next season or two. And that puts a more significant milestone within reach – Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 career pole positions.
Hamilton is currently on 47 career pole positions (up to and including the 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix), 21 shy of Schumacher’s record. There are not enough races left in 2015 for Hamilton to challenge the record this season, but it could be within reach as soon as the end of 2016 if Mercedes can produce another dominant car for next year.
At just 30 years old, Hamilton still has potentially quite a long career in Formula 1 ahead of him. Even if he finds himself in less than dominant cars for a few seasons, it is still likely that he will ultimately beat Schumacher’s qualifying record.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Sebastian Vettel (currently on 45 pole positions) will get there first.
Ferrari’s challenger for the 2014 Formula One season will be revealed online on 25 January before making its track debut in Jerez three days later.
Ferrari have asked their fans to choose the name of the new car from the following options: F14 T, F14 Maranello, F14 Scuderia, F166 Turbo or F616. Voting takes place on Ferrari’s website.
The response has thus far been overwhelming, according to Ferrari. Within just a few hours, the voting tally stood at over 105,000. As of today (Thursday 16 January 2014) the two most popular names are F14 T and F166 Turbo, with the other three options struggling to keep up.
Whichever name is chosen, it will be revealed on 24 January, the day before the first images of the car will be revealed.
Fernando Alonso, who is entering his fifth season as a Ferrari driver, seems keen on the new car being called “F14 T”. Alonso tweeted yesterday:
— Fernando Alonso (@alo_oficial) January 15, 2014
Formula One teams will continue to use Pirelli tyres exclusively for the next three seasons, the Italian tyre manufacturer confirmed today. Following the World Motor Sport Council’s decision to confirm Pirelli’s status as F1’s sole tyre supplier, Pirelli and the FIA have agreed terms for a three-year contract.
There have been some issues with Pirelli’s tyres over the past three seasons, and those can at least partly be attributed to the limited amount of on-track testing available to Pirelli. As such, there have been some changes made to the sporting regulations ahead of the 2014 season to ensure that Pirelli can develop a safer and more competitve product.
Firstly, one of the 12 pre-season test days will be dedicated exclusively to the testing of Pirelli’s wet weather tyres. Presumably that means Pirelli will wet the track if the weather does not do it for them on that day. It’s not unusual for tyres to be tested on an artificially wet track – Pirelli has been testing their wet tyres in this manner since becoming F1’s sole tyre supplier in 2011. The difference this season is that the wet testing will be done with current F1 cars, whereas previous seasons have seen tyre testing only on F1 cars that were no longer current.
Secondly, each team will be required to allocate one of their eight in-season test days to tyre testing. That way, Pirelli and the teams will be able to concentrate on tyre development during the season, where this has not previously been the case (with one notable exception in 2013 following some spectacular tyre failures). The teams will choose their in-season tyre test days in such a way that at least one team is tyre testing on each of the eight days, and no more than two teams will be tyre testing on the same day.
The 2014 season provides Pirelli with their greatest challenge yet in Formula One. The change in engine formula for this season from naturally aspirated V8s to turbocharged hybrid V6 powerplants will result in the engines producing significantly more torque than before. The additional torque will place extra stress on the rear tyres, which will have to be designed to handle the increased loads.
The majority of Pirelli’s 2014 tyre development should be completed by now, as pre-season testing begins in Jerez, Spain on 28 January, which is just 12 days away.
In addition to their work as F1 tyre supplier, Pirelli have announced that they and the FIA will discuss a possible partnership on the FIA Action for Road Safety campaign.
Of the five top teams in Formula One – Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Lotus – only Lotus have said nothing about their 2014 driver line-ups. McLaren haven’t confirmed Jenson Button yet for next season, but that is a mere formality now that Kimi Raikkonen has signed for Ferrari.
Raikkonen’s departure from Lotus at the end of this season presents a problem for the team from Enstone. They still have Romain Grosjean, who is doing a reasonable job this season, but he is relatively inexperienced. Lotus will want to have a driver who they believe can challenge for the World Championship, and Grosjean (who has yet to win a race) is not at that level at this early stage in his career.
So Lotus are looking for at least one driver for 2014, and they would ideally like to select their team leader from within the ranks of current F1 drivers. They therefore have a few options. Most prominently, now that he’s out of a drive at Ferrari, Felipe Massa is on the market. Massa has won 11 races and narrowly missed out on the Drivers’ Championship in 2008. The experience of fighting for the title could make Massa an attractive option for Lotus, although he has not shown that level of performance in the five subsequent seasons.
Another strong candidate is Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, who has long been rumoured to be on Ferrari’s radar, but missed out on a 2014 Ferrari drive to Kimi Raikkonen. Hulkenberg came into Formula One with Williams in 2010 after winning the 2009 GP2 series comfortably and impressed in his debut F1 season, taking pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix. But he was not retained in 2011 by Williams, who preferred to take advantage of the sponsorship that came with Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.
After spending 2011 as Force India’s test and reserve driver, Hulkenberg landed a race drive at Force India for 2012, but then jumped ship to Sauber in 2013. He has not yet had a chance to show what he can do in a properly competitive car, but has consistently delivered strong performances in each of his three F1 seasons. He is considered a champion of the future and is expected to drive for Ferrari at some point in his career.
Hulkenberg would provide not only talent and a bit of experience to Lotus, but he would also probably be cheaper than a driver of Massa’s success, as he has not yet won a race or even stood on the podium. Lotus could therefore spend more money on developing their car and take advantage of Hulkenberg’s talents at the same time.
Other drivers who have yet to make decisions about 2014 are Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta. Sutil has 102 Grands Prix under his belt, and is well regarded in Formula One. He has only ever driven for Force India (in 2007, he drove for Spyker, which became Force India the following season) and has a good relationship with the team, which suggests that he is likely to extend his Force India contract past the end of 2013.
Di Resta has said right from the beginning of 2013 that he is looking to move to a more competitive team. He looked quick in the early part of this season, before Force India started to struggle when Pirelli revised their 2013 tyres, and recorded an impressive fourth-place finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Heikki Kovalainen, who has won a race for McLaren and is currently assisting Caterham with the development of their car, is probably the most sought-after driver to not have a current F1 race seat, and it seems highly unlikely that he will remain on the sidelines again in 2014. If Lotus were to offer Kovalainen a drive for 2014, he would surely grab it with both hands.
Lotus has two test drivers. Jerome D’Ambrosio raced in Formula One for Virgin (now Marussia) in 2011 and made one appearance for Lotus in 2012, standing in for the banned Romain Grosjean at the Italian Grand Prix, where D’Ambrosio finished 13th. Davide Valsecchi, the other Lotus test driver, is the current GP2 series champion, but has yet to make his Formula One debut. It seems unlikely that either D’Ambrosio or Valsecchi will take the step up to a Lotus race seat in 2014. It is more likely that Lotus will seek a more experienced driver currently on the grid.
However, for the second Lotus seat anything is possible. Romain Grosjean has not been confirmed for 2014, which means his seat is potentially up for grabs. If Lotus decide to replace Grosjean, they could well look to a less experienced driver as a development plan for future seasons. Whatever decision is made, it is likely to be confirmed before the end of the season, as next year’s major regulation changes make it necessary for teams to start 2014 preparations as early as possible, and that includes integrating new drivers into their organisations.