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Tag Archive | Ayrton Senna

Hamilton hunting Prost

Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory at the 2016 United States Grand Prix (Image: Daimler AG)

Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory at the 2016 United States Grand Prix (Image: Daimler AG)

This weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix could see Lewis Hamilton pull level with F1 legend Alain Prost’s tally of race wins. Prost took the chequered flag first 51 times in his illustrious career. Hamilton currently sits on 50 career wins in Formula 1, and shows no signs of stopping just yet.

During the course of his F1 career, Hamilton has accumulated records at a steady rate. He already has more wins (50) and pole positions (58) than any other British driver in the sport’s history (considering the number of British F1 drivers, the comparison is actually meaningful) and is equal with Jackie Stewart for most titles by a British driver (3).

In the overall standings, Hamilton lies third for pole positions on 58, after Michael Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65). If Mercedes remain competitive, it is possible that Hamilton could top the pole position list as soon as 2017.

A more significant record, though, is that for most career victories. Hamilton currently lies third in the overall standings, on 50 wins. Michael Schumacher leads the way by some margin on 91, with Alain Prost second on 51. It’s Prost’s second place that Hamilton seems sure to match, perhaps even in Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Prost achieved his 51st win (at the time a record) in his 196th race entry. Lewis Hamilton (if he wins on Sunday) would match Prost’s tally in only his 186th race, 10 fewer than the illustrious Frenchman. It’s worth noting here that Michael Schumacher’s 51st victory came in just his 158th F1 race when he won the 2001 Hungarian Grand Prix. Also interesting to note is Schumacher and Prost each took their 51st win in the year they won their fourth World Championship (Prost in 1993 and Schumacher in 2001). If Hamilton wins the title this year, he will also match Prost’s tally of 4 titles.

Lewis Hamilton is only 31 years old and potentially has several F1 seasons remaining in his career. It seems virtually certain that he will equal Prost’s tally of wins, perhaps even this weekend. The next target is Schumacher’s mammoth 91 victories. How close can Hamilton get? Time will tell.

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Hamilton on pole yet again in Hungary

Hamilton took his 9th pole position of 2015 in Hungary (Image: Mercedes AMG)

Hamilton took his 9th pole position of 2015 in Hungary (Image: Mercedes AMG)

Hamilton’s incredible run of pole positions continued as the reigning World Champion topped qualifying for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix. Hamilton now has nine pole positions out of ten races in 2015, and five poles in a row. Nico Rosberg completed the front row of the grid for Mercedes, the fifth race in a row that has happened.

Who can beat Hamilton to pole? So far only Nico Rosberg has done so this year, and on only one occasion. The rest of the season, Hamilton has seemed untouchable. In qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, Hamilton lapped over half a second faster than team-mate Rosberg, which is a massive margin in equal equipment. Rosberg didn’t seem to be able to put together a clean lap, perhaps a sign of how hard he is having to push to catch Hamilton.

Hamilton’s five poles in a row equals the most consecutive pole positions by a driver currently racing in Formula 1. Fernando Alonso achieved the feat in 2006 and Sebastian Vettel has done it twice – in 2010-11 and again later in 2011. Hamilton still has a way to go to beat Ayrton Senna’s astonishing record of eight successive pole positions, set in 1988-89, but it is certainly possible that Hamilton might dethrone Senna a bit later in 2015.

In a sport as competitive as Formula 1, any small advantage can be the difference between winning and coming second. Pole position provides at least two such advantages – pole position is generally on the “cleaner”, more grippy side of the track, which makes for a better start to the race than second place; the pole-sitter also controls the pace of the warm-up lap, which allows him to maximise the preparation of his own car for the start of the race. Pole position is definitely the place to be at the start of a Grand Prix.

Tomorrow, Hamilton will start from pole position for the ninth time this season. For the ninth race in 2015, he will have the advantages that make his race start a little bit easier and therefore potentially faster. And the Hungaroring, where the race is taking place, is a track at which overtaking is notoriously difficult. It’s not quite as simple as Hamilton needing to just make a clean start to win the race, but it’s not far off that. If Rosberg can pass Hamilton on track, it will be an impressive move indeed.

Once again, Hamilton has set himself up to have the best chance of victory in a Grand Prix. That’s just one of the many reasons he’s currently the man to beat in Formula 1.

Taken too soon – Jules Bianchi dies

Jules Bianchi, pictured during testing in 2014, has died aged 25 (Image: Ferrari)

Jules Bianchi, pictured during testing in 2014, has died aged 25 (Image: Ferrari)

The Formula 1 community is in mourning following the passing of 25-year old Jules Bianchi on Friday night 17 July 2015. Bianchi had been hospitalised since suffering head trauma during the Japanese Grand Prix on 5 October 2014 and never regained consciousness after the crash..

In a sport that has made enormous developments in driver safety over the past few decades, it comes as a real shock that a driver can die as a result of injuries sustained in a crash during a Grand Prix. Bianchi’s death is a reminder of the inherent dangers in motorsport and the constant need to improve safety wherever possible.

Bianchi’s death marks the second tragedy to befall the Marussia F1 team, after the death of Maria de Villota in October 2013. De Villota was involved in a testing crash in July 2012, as a result of which she lost her right eye. Although she was released from hospital and resumed her public life, on 11 October 2013 De Villota suffered a cardiac arrest, which may have been related to her injuries of a year before. She was dead at just 33-years old.

It’s been 21 years since a driver died as a result of a crash on a Grand Prix weekend. The last driver to do so before Bianchi was, of course, Ayrton Senna. I remember watching Senna’s crash live on television and I remember vividly watching the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix and fearing a similar fate for Bianchi. I’m sure the loss I feel in the wake of Bianchi’s death is but a shadow of the anguish his family is going through. My thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.

Jules Bianchi was a phenomenal talent. He won races in Formula 2, Formula 3, Gp2 and Formula Renault 3.5 before progressing to Formula 1, where he immediately impressed. He scored the first ever points (and only points to-date) for the Marussia F1 team when he finished 9th at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix.

As a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Bianchi was frequently speculated to be in the running for a Ferrari Formula 1 drive, which could well have happened if not for his fatal injury. Bianchi was Ferrari’s test and reserve driver in 2011 and fulfilled the same role for Force India in 2012 before making his F1 race debut in 2013 for Marussia.

Bianchi was considered by many to be a future race winner and potential world champion. In that respect, and in terms of his clear skill behind the wheel of a racing car, comparisons can be drawn with the late Gilles Villeneuve, who is considered one of the great talents of Formula 1 but died without a championship to his name.

Early on Saturday morning 18 July 2015, the Bianchi family released the following statement:

It is with deep sadness that the parents of Jules Bianchi, Philippe and Christine, his brother Tom and sister Mélanie, wish to make it known that Jules passed away last night at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) in Nice, (France) where he was admitted following the accident of 5th October 2014 at Suzuka Circuit during the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix.

“Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end,” said the Bianchi family. “The pain we feel is immense and indescribable. We wish to thank the medical staff at Nice’s CHU who looked after him with love and dedication. We also thank the staff of the General Medical Center in the Mie Prefecture (Japan) who looked after Jules immediately after the accident, as well as all the other doctors who have been involved with his care over the past months.

“Furthermore, we thank Jules’ colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times. Listening to and reading the many messages made us realise just how much Jules had touched the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world.

“We would like to ask that our privacy is respected during this difficult time, while we try to come to terms with the loss of Jules.”

Vettel’s not close to Schumacher’s records

Michael Schumacher congratulates Sebastian Vettel on his third title in 2012 © Daimler

Michael Schumacher congratulates Sebastian Vettel on his third title in 2012 © Daimler

Sebastian Vettel has been so dominant over the last four seasons it’s been suggested that it’s only a matter of time before he overhauls Michael Schumacher’s major records in the sport. But that’s not particularly realistic. Let’s take a look at how things stand right now:

Schumacher Vettel Difference
Championships 7 3 4
Wins 91 33 58
Podiums 155 56 99
Pole Positions 68 41 27
Fastest Laps 77 19 58

Now let’s look at each of these categories separately:

Championships

Vettel is four World Championships behind Michael Schumacher in the record list. That’s the equivalent of the entire career of Alain Prost, who is certainly among the all-time greats. Even assuming Vettel wins the 2013 Drivers’ Championship (which looks pretty much inevitable at this stage of the season), Vettel will still have to win another three titles just to match Schumacher, nevermind exceed his achievements.

Consider the drivers who have finished their F1 careers with three titles: Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna. That’s a formidable list. Vettel has already matched the championship tally of each of these drivers, and won more races than all but Senna, but the task of Vettel doing it all again is a rather tall order indeed.

It’s not fair to Vettel to expect him to overhaul Schumacher’s championship tally. He’s looking set to equal Prost on four. Perhaps he’ll be in a position to win another one and equal Fangio. It’s much too early to start talking about Schumacher’s seven titles.

Wins

Vettel is currently fourth on the list of all-time winners with 33 victories. Schumacher won 91 races, 58 more than Vettel has so far in his F1 career. 58 wins is more than second-placed man Alain Prost won in his career (Prost won 51). So far, Vettel has won 28.95% of the races he has entered. At that rate, he would have to compete for another 200 races to match Schumacher’s victory tally. 200 races is close to double Vettel’s career so far. It’s so far away from being realistic that it’s not worth discussing further for at least another 5 years.

Podiums

Schumacher stood on the podium 155 times. Vettel has so far appeared on the podium 56 times. That’s a difference of 99 podiums, more than Fernando Alonso has achieved in his career, and Alonso is third in that particular all-time list.

Vettel is very far away from matching Schumacher’s podium finishes. Again, let’s come back to this one in a few years.

Pole Positions

At last, here’s a record that Vettel seems likely to challenge in his career. Schumacher’s tally of 68 pole positions is only 27 successful qualifying sessions away for Vettel. If Red Bull continue to produce cars as stunningly fast as those Vettel has raced for the past four seasons, Vettel could (in theory) beat Schumacher’s pole position tally by the end of 2014. He’d have to take pole at every race between now and then, which is not likely. But it does seem inevitable that Vettel will break this particular Schumacher record at some point.

In only his seventh season of Formula One, Vettel has already put himself third in the all-time list of polesitters. He has only Senna (on 65) and Schumacher ahead. It’s a fairly safe bet that the pole position record will have Vettel’s name on it within the next five years, and perhaps a bit sooner than that.

Fastest Laps

Surprisingly, Vettel is not even in the top ten when it comes to setting fastest race laps. He’s recorded just 19, compared to Schumacher’s mammoth total of 77. In fairness to Vettel, his career has taken place almost entirely in the post-refueling era, which makes it much less obvious that the fastest lap should go to the driver of the fastest car. Schumacher was famous for delivering qualifying-style laps just before he pitted for fuel in his Ferrari career, which explains his rather huge fastest lap record (second on the list is Prost on “only” 41). But those days are done, for now at least. If refueling reappears during Vettel’s career, then he might begin to approach this record.

As things stand, Vettel would have to have a very long career indeed to catch up the 58 fastest laps by which he currently trails Schumacher.

Vettel is a great driver. Even at the rather youthful age of 26, he’s worthy of consideration for inclusion in any list of the top 5 drivers of all time. He looks set to feature at the front in Formula One for as long as he is inclined to be a part of the sport.  But it’s far too early in his career to be talking about Schumacher’s records, with the possible exception of the pole position record.

Vodafone to end McLaren sponsorship

For the past six seasons, the Vodafone name and logo have appeared on the side of McLaren’s Formula One cars and in the team’s name – Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. But from the end of 2013, that will no longer be the case; Vodafone is pulling the plug on its Formula One sponsorship.

The move comes as part of Vodafone’s plan to “transform its local and global sponsorship strategy”. In short, Vodafone has enjoyed a successful partnership with McLaren, but now it is time to move on. This was confirmed by a statement from Vodafone Group Chief Commercial Officer Morten Lundal:

“We have been very happy with our engagement with McLaren. Our relationship has been a key ingredient in bringing the Vodafone brand to where it is today. However, our brand is evolving, and we’ve concluded we will have less of a need for this kind of exposure in future. We now look forward to further success and brand engagement with McLaren in 2013.”

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said, “We’re immensely proud that, having been set a number of ambitious challenges by Vodafone back in 2007, together we’ve met or exceeded each and every one… Our focus is on continuing to drive results for all our partners throughout the 2013 season and we look forward to making a major title partnership announcement towards the end of the year.”

Significantly for McLaren, it also comes shortly after the signing of Mexican driver Sergio Perez, who has been supported through his career by billionaire Carlos Slim’s Mexican telecommunications company, Telmex. Perez’s former team, Sauber, continues to display Telmex sponsorship on their 2013 car, and Sauber has a Mexican driver in the form of Esteban Gutierrez for this season. But McLaren, as a higher profile and more competitive team, would provide better return on investment for Telmex, making a switch all the more possible.

McLaren seem to be in the middle of re-aligning their commercial and sporting partnerships. The exit of Vodafone is now confirmed, but what is not yet firmly established is the possibility of a change of engine supplier from Mercedes to Honda. Rumours have surfaced recently that Honda is considering a return to Formula One with the new turbo engine formula that comes into effect in 2014.

While McLaren and Mercedes have enjoyed an extremely successful partnership over the last two decades, Mercedes are now focusing on their own works team, and McLaren will not want to be second on their engine supplier’s priority list. If Honda does make a return to F1, McLaren could easily secure their full commitment. For Formula One fans, the return of the McLaren-Honda combination would be significant and quite emotional – all three of Ayrton Senna’s World Championships came in McLaren cars powered by Honda engines.

For the moment, however, McLaren have a much more immediate priority – the 2013 Formula One season. The first practice session for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix is now a matter of hours away. McLaren will want to start the season with a strong result on Sunday to get their championship campaign underway. It’s been five years since McLaren last won a World Championship, and the team will be anxious not to let it slip away again this season. For Vodafone, as this is their final year of involvement in F1, success for McLaren in 2013 would be the perfect result on which to bow out of the sport.

Di Resta: Schumi’s “a pain in the ****”

Paul di Resta has, quite unexpectedly and very publicly, criticised seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. The young Scot was being interviewed at AUTOSPORT International 2013 and described how Schumacher had gone from being a childhood hero to a nuisance for him in the following words:

English: Formula One 2011 Rd.2 Malaysian GP: M...

Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) overtaking Paul di Resta (Force India) in Malaysia 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I had so much respect and he was my hero and all the rest, and eventually I got to race against him. Now… I feel a bit different about Michael, cos I’m quite glad he’s retired and out of the way… cos he’s a bit of a pain in the **** on the track…”

Di Resta’s comments appear to be completely unprovoked. Yes, he has raced against Schumacher for the past two seasons, but in that time there have been no particular incidents between the two drivers – if there had, they would surely have been dealt with some time ago.

Perhaps di Resta’s comments were simply badly phrased. Schumacher was known throughout his career as an extremely tough driver who pushed the limits of what was fair on the track, something he learned from drivers like Ayrton Senna who was the man to beat when Schumacher’s career started. It paid off in terms of results, but did not make Schumacher many friends among the drivers. Di Resta could simply be referring to Schumacher as a difficult man to beat, in the process highlighting two different approaches to on-track combat from two generations.

Di Resta and Schumacher are on opposite ends of the scale in terms of Formula One success. Schumacher is Formula One’s most successful driver in history, an icon all over the world and one of the most recognisable and respected people in world sport. Di Resta by contrast is a young driver with much potential, but he has yet to have the equipment to show what he can do in Formula One – in two seasons at Force India, he has a best result of fourth at the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix.

Di Resta may not appreciate sharing the track with Schumacher, but he could learn from the seven-time World Champion. Schumacher has not concerned himself with being popular on the track. Instead, he spent his career leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of victory, and that included the cultivation of a tough and ultra-professional image that was certainly present on the track. The results of Schumacher’s approach to winning are likely to remain unchallenged for some time – seven championships and 91 race victories are numbers that even those at the front of the current grid can barely imagine reaching.

The video of the interview is shown below. Di Resta’s comments about Schumacher start at about 01:27:

Perez: “I always pray before I go into the car”

Sergio Perez has been introduced to the world as a McLaren driver by means of a Google+ Hangout, in which fans have had the opportunity to ask him questions. One such question was concerned with Perez’s pre-race rituals.

Perez’s response was: “I always jump into the car from the right, but it’s because it’s more comfortable… I have some cards with me that my family gave me from God to pray… I always pray before I go into the car. It’s my normal routine.” He went on to state that he had prayed before racing since his karting days.

Formula One 2009 Rd.15 Japanese GP: Ayrton Sen...

Sergio Perez would like to drive Ayrton Senna’s McLaren from 1990 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perez’s prayerful habits come as no surprise, as he was born in the Mexican city of Guadalajara, which has a strong Catholic heritage. He is also not unique in being a religious racing driver – in the latter part of his career, Ayrton Senna became very religious, and Lewis Hamilton has publicly expressed his belief that “God has a plan for me”.

The young Mexican also revealed that he trains for four to six hours per day and would love to drive Ayrton Senna’s 1990 championship-winning McLaren.

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