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.
Kimi Raikkonen will rejoin Ferrari on a two-year deal from 2014. This marks the only time in Ferrari’s history that it has re-signed a previous Ferrari World Champion for more than a one-off race. Raikkonen therefore has a unique second bite at the Ferrari apple – a chance to take an already successful history with the famous Italian team and make it even more successful.
Raikkonen joined Ferrari in 2007 from McLaren, replacing the retiring Michael Schumacher. Raikkonen’s team-mate at Ferrari throughout his first stint with the team was Felipe Massa, the same man Raikkonen is now replacing on his return to Maranello. In his very first race for Ferrari, the 2007 Australian Grand Prix, Raikkonen took pole position, set the fastest lap and won the race. It was a stunning statement of intent, particularly considering that he was attempting to fill the biggest shoes of all in F1, those of Michael Schumacher.
The rest of the 2007 season was not so dominant for Raikkonen. He would not win another race until the French Grand Prix, which was the eighth round of the season, and by then it looked like the title would go to one of the McLaren drivers (double World Champion Fernando Alonso or super-quick rookie Lewis Hamilton) or Raikkonen’s own team-mate, Felipe Massa. But the win in France was just the beginning of a charge back to the front for Raikkonen in the second half of the season.
Raikkonen won again at the British Grand Prix, but retired at the next round at the Nurburgring. He then had a string of podium finishes – second at the Hungarian and Turkish Grands Prix and third at Ferrari’s home race at Monza. The next race was at Spa, where Raikkonen had already won twice before during his time at McLaren. He made it three wins in at Spa in 2007, which brought him to within 13 points of championship-leader Lewis Hamilton with three rounds left in the season.
Although Raikkonen had been inching closer to the top of the standings throughout the second half of the 2007 season, his title hopes suffered a major blow at the Japanese Grand Prix, where Hamilton won and Raikkonen came third. He was now 17 points behind with two races remaining in the season. In 2007, 10 points were awarded for a race win, 8 for second place and 6 for third. That meant Raikkonen had to win at least one of the remaining races and could finish no lower than second at the other race in order to even have a chance at the title.
Raikkonen made sure he did everything he could to secure the title. He won in China while Hamilton beached his McLaren in the gravel at the pit entry, his tyres too worn to allow him to take the sharp left-hander at the start of the pit lane. So Raikkonen went to the final race in Brazil 7 points behind Hamilton and three points behind Alonso. Raikkonen was in with a chance, but he was certainly an outsider.
For the final race of the season in Brazil, Raikkonen qualified third, behind Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton. He surged past Hamilton at the start and ran second to team-mate Massa until the second round of pitstops. Raikkonen managed to pass Massa in the second round of stops, although Ferrari would surely have engineered a position change otherwise anyway, as Raikkonen was the only Ferrari driver in with a chance of the title.
From that point on, all Raikkonen could do was win the race and hope Hamilton and Alonso did not score sufficient points to beat him to the title. Hamilton had handed Raikkonen a clear advantage early in the race when he slowed significantly after encountering a problem in his car. He was able to reset the onboard computer in his McLaren which allowed him to get back up to racing speed, but he was 18th by then and a long way out of the points. Alonso ran third throughout the race after passing Hamilton on the opening lap.
For Hamilton to win the title, he needed to finish fifth with Alonso no higher than third. As it happened, Alonso finished third, but Hamilton could do no better than seventh, despite fighting through the field superbly. That made Raikkonen World Champion by a single point from Hamilton and Alonso, who finished equal on points.
For Raikkonen, winning the World Championship in 2007 was the high-point of his Ferrari career, although he would remain with the Scuderia for another two seasons. In 2008, he seemed to be lacking motivation and was outpaced by Felipe Massa. Raikkonen won just two races in 2008, in Malaysia and Spain, compared to six for Massa, and the Finn went on to finish a distant third in the Drivers’ Championship, while Massa lost out on the title by a single point.
2009 saw the unlikely triumph of Brawn GP and the rise to prominence of Red Bull Racing, while Ferrari had a tough season. The Ferrari F60 was off the front-running pace, so much so that it delivered just one victory all season. The win went to Kimi Raikkonen at Spa, his fourth and to-date last Belgian Grand Prix victory, and came at a time when Ferrari were still reeling from Felipe Massa’s horrific accident in Hungary just two races before.
Raikkonen stood on the podium in Ferrari colours for the final time at the next round at Monza, when he finished third in the Italian Grand Prix. At the end of the season, Raikkonen was a distant sixth in the championship with 48 points, marginally more than half the tally of 2009 World Champion Jenson Button.
At the end of 2009, Ferrari and Raikkonen parted ways. Ferrari wanted to sign Fernando Alonso and were not willing to split with Felipe Massa, and as a result they chose to buy Raikkonen out of the rest of his contract. Raikkonen reportedly looked for other drives in Formula One before turning his attention to other racing series. He spent 2010 and 2011 competing without much success in the World Rally Championship. In 2011, he also tried his hand at NASCAR, making appearances in the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series.
Throughout his time away from F1, rumours of a return persisted. In advance of the 2010 season, he was linked with possible drives for McLaren, Mercedes Toyota, although none of those came to fruition. Rumours surfaced of a return to Formula One with Renault in 2011, but those also proved false. Ultimately he would return with Lotus (previously Renault) in 2012, the team with which he won the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and finished the season third in the standings, behind Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Raikkonen has remained with Lotus for 2013, and is currently fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, 88 points behind championship leader Vettel and realistically out of the title race. He won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but has not stood on the top step of the podium since.
In 2014, the Raikkonen-Ferrari story will resume, after it was confirmed today that Raikkonen re-signed by the famous Italian team. He will have a chance of becoming the fourth driver in history to win multiple championships for Ferrari, after Alberto Ascari, Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher. He will also provide followers of Formula One with the opportunity to watch what could become a great Ferrari rivalry, when he lines up on the grid in the same car as Fernando Alonso next season.
Following Ferrari’s announcement today that Kimi Raikkonen will be rejoining the team on a two-year deal from 2014, Raikkonen has expressed his enthusiasm for his historica return to the famous Italian team. Raikkonen told the Ferrari website:
“I am really happy to be returning to Maranello where I previously spent three fantastic and very successful years. I have so many memories of my time at Ferrari, memories which have stayed with me these past years, first and foremost, winning the World Championship title in 2007, which was really unforgettable.
“I can’t wait to be driving a Prancing Horse car again and to reacquaint myself with so many people with whom I had such close links, as well as working with Fernando, whom I consider a great driver, in order to bring the team the success it deserves.”
Raikkonen’s future partnership with Alonso will be watched with interest, as it is expected that Alonso will have a much harder time establishing himself as Ferrari number one with Raikkonen in the team, particularly as Raikkonen has already won the World Championship for Ferrari, whereas Alonso’s two titles came before he joined the Scuderia.
2014 will provide a concrete indication of just how quick Raikkonen is on his return to Formula One. After leaving Ferrari at the end of 2009, Raikkonen spent two season rallying before returning to F1 with Lotus in 2012. He has won two races (in Abu Dhabi last year and Australia this season) and consistently delivered strong points finishes for Lotus, but has had a relatively inexperienced team-mate in Romain Grosjean, which makes it difficult to establish just how well he is driving.
Alongside Alonso, however, measuring Raikkonen’s performance will be no trouble at all. Alonso is considered one of the top drivers in Formula One, and is in perhaps the best form of his career. If Raikkonen can match or beat Alonso, it will confirm the consensus that Raikkonen came back to Formula One perhaps even better than he was before.