Magnussen in, Maldonado out at Renault

Renault F1 Team have officially announced Kevin Magnussen as their second driver for the 2016 Formula 1 Season after sponsorship payment negotiations with Pastor Maldonado fell through.

Maldonado had a lucrative sponsorship agreement with PDVSA, a petrol company in his native Venezuela, thought to be worth somewhere in the region of $46Million per year, but it appears the change of ownership at Lotus/Renault, combined with PDVSA’s president Rafael Ramírez moving from his position in a government re-shuffle in 2014, has prompted an annulment of the contract.

The Venezuelan has been at the Enstone-based team (formerly known as Lotus) for the past two years. He joined F1 in 2011 with Williams, and made history with them in 2012 by winning the Spanish Grand Prix. It was not only his first win, but the first win in F1 history for a Venezuelan driver, and the first for Williams in seven-and-a-half years.

Pastor became the fifth different race winner in 2012 with his magnificent win. Photo: Cahier Archive
Pastor became the fifth different race winner in 2012 with his magnificent win. Photo: Cahier Archive

However, he also picked up a reputation for colliding with drivers, spawning websites such as Has Maldonado Crashed Today? and the Twitter account Did Maldonado Crash. His most notable collision(s) were arguably with Esteban Gutierrez, whom he flipped upside-down at the 2014 Bahrain GP, and Lewis Hamilton, with whom he collided on the penultimate lap of the 2012 European GP while both fought for a podium position.

His replacement, Magnussen, last participated in F1 when he deputised for Fernando Alonso at last year’s Australian Grand Prix, although his McLaren-Honda engine expired before he even made it to the grid. Before that, he had a stellar 2014 campaign with the British team alongside Jenson Button, the highlight of which was a second-place podium finish on his debut in Australia.

Magnussen_2014_Italy_06_PHC
Magnussen at the Italian GP in 2014. Photo: Cahier Archive

Magnussen has looked a shoo-in to replace Alonso or Button at McLaren as the pair come towards the end of their F1 careers, but he was unceremoniously dropped from McLaren’s roster on his birthday late last year.

It means that Renault will have one of the most inexperienced driver pairings in the sport in 2016, with Magnussen partnering 2014 GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer. Magnussen will resume the use of car number 20, while Palmer will take the vacant number 30 which he has used in test and practice sessions.

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Practice 1 & 2 Australian GP 2014 | The Grand Prixview

The first two practice sessions of the year got underway this morning in Melbourne, Australia. The Albert Park Circuit played host to where essentially extensions to winter testing. Though the teams and drivers spent 12 days in Bahrain and Jerez figuring out whether their cars were up to scratch, a few teams, namely Lotus and Red Bull left with very little in the way of actual data.

PRACTICE 1

In session 1, Red Bull managed a good amount of laps through Daniel Ricciardo, although Sebastian Vettel was rarely seen, surfacing for a solitary installation lap half way through the session, and then putting in 5-in-a-row at around the hour mark. Lotus didn’t seem to have much more success than in testing either, with Grosjean not even making it out on track, and Maldonado completing one ill-fated installation lap. The Venezuelan emerged with 30 minutes to go, but after a slow out lap, he slithered hopelessly wide at turn 13. Smoke was seen coming from his cockpit, and before pit entry, whether it was driver-enduced or not, his engine cut out, and he had to be pushed back to the garage for examination.

Several drivers had off moments, with Toro Rosso leading the way in terms of number of excursions, amassing a total of 4. New boy Daniil Kvyat had a pair of identical trips through the gravel at Turn 1, as the Toro Rosso STR9 struggled to get to grips with its new electronic braking system. The most significant gravel tour was that of Vergne though. Not content with doing exactly what Kvyat did at turn 1, he went right into the run-off area at Turn 3, barely getting the brakes on in time to avoid the wall. On a happier note for the Frenchman, he managed to notch the most laps in the session, with 30.

Other drivers to spin and/or go wide included Perez in his Force India, Raikkonen, Magnussen and Chilton, who hit a trolley in the pit lane.

Alonso had the fastest time, with a 1:31:840. Second in the rankings went to Jenson Button in his McLaren, posting a 1:32:357. The Williams drivers completed the top 4, with Bottas putting in a stellar lap of 1:32:403, squeezing past his team mate Felipé Massa’s fastest time of 1:32:431 right at the end of the session. World Champion Sebastian Vettel managed 7th place with a time of 1:32:783, but one of the strongest drivers in testing, Lewis Hamilton, was not able to put in a time due to a sensor malfunction that caused the engine to switch off. Other drivers not to complete a lap were Kobayashi, Ericsson, Maldonado, and Grosjean, who was the only car not to turn a wheel.

PRACTICE 2

The second session got underway just after 5pm local time in Melbourne, and while the light level faded, the interest did not. Both Caterhams were sidelined, due to parts of the power unit needing replacing in both Kobayashi and Ericsson’s cars. Maldonado did not participate either, due to a component fire in the the first session.

There were several more slides throughout the session, with jean-Eric Vergne re-acquainting with the gravel at turn 3, and Daniil Kvyat doing likewise with the gravel at turn 13. Both drivers simply shrugged off the incidents, but with just five minutes to go in the session, the gravel traps claimed bigger scalps; namely Grosjean and Hulkenberg. The latter of the two touched the grass on the entry to turn 9 and beached his car. Almost simultaneously Grosjean hurtled towards turn 3, but under braking, veered left and clipped the wall, damaging the rear-left suspension and some advertising boards in the process.

Lewis Hamilton topped the timing sheet with a time of 1:29:625, barely 2 seconds off last year’s pole position time, showing that the cars have not lost much in terms of performance compared to last season’s formula. Lewis’ team mate Nico Rosberg was next, posting a fastest lap of 1:29:782. Half a second down from Hamilton was Fernando Alonso, and with 1st and 3rd in the two sessions, he has plenty to smile about.

Red Bull looked to have made vast improvements over the first session and their problems in testing, with Vettel less than a second off Hamilton’s time, and Ricciardo a little further off in 6th place. They sandwiched McLaren’s 5th-placed Jenson Button, who is also looking strong. Williams did not place as highly in session 2 as they did in the first, due to heavier fuel loads.

Hamilton’s bounce back from the annoying sensor malfunction in FP1 seemed to indicate the German team’s superiority as it seemed in testing, and with a 1-2 on the time sheet in FP2, the team will be confident looking towards tomorrow’s qualifying. “Going into [Practice] session 2 I felt really uncomfortable…but fortunately I was able to get right back to speed” Hamilton commented on his FP1 setback. (Source: Sky)

F1 2014 – Meet the Drivers

The 2014 Formula One Season is just around the corner. The cars look very different, and so does the rule book, but who will be driving the machines of 2014? Instead of car numbers based on Constructor placings in the previous years, drivers are now given a number for the rest of their career, and these are shown in brackets.

These are the drivers for the 2014 Formula One Season.

RED BULL – RENAULT
Their fourth year as reining champions, Red Bull will be looking to show the rest of the field how it’s done – no easy feat when you consider the playing field is to be leveled with new regulations.

2013 Position: 1st          Title Sponsor: Infiniti          Team Principal: Christian Horner

Sebastian VETTEL (1)
He’s broken pretty much all the records and is quickly forging a path through F1 as one of the most successful in history. Can the Weltmeister conquer again in 2014 and equal Fangio’s record of titles?

2013 Position: 1st          2013 Wins: 13          2013 Points: 397

Daniel RICCIARDO (3)
The ‘New Webber’ certainly has the speed and nationality to match his predecessor. After two impressive years at Toro Rosso, seeing how the super-smiley Aussie compares to Vettel will be one of the most interesting stories of the year. Excellent qualifying in Silverstone and Canada likely landed him the new drive.

2013 Position: 14th          2013 Wins: 0          2013 Points: 20

MERCEDES AMG
Losing Ross Brawn is not going to help any team, but with Toto Wolff at the helm, the team look strong. They know that converting success on Saturday to that on Sunday will be their biggest test this year. Can the Silver Arrows close the performance gap to the Red Bulls as they threatened to last year?

2013 Position: 2nd          Title Sponsor: Petronas          Team Principal: Toto Wolff/ Paddy Lowe

Lewis HAMILTON (44)
After what can only be described as a stellar first year with Mercedes, including a dominating win in Hungary and a sublime Pole lap in Silverstone, Hamilton will be hoping to solidify Mercedes’ clear speed on Saturdays with more podiums the next day.

2013 Position: 4th          2013 Wins: 1          2013 Points: 189

Nico ROSBERG (6)
Two victories for Rosberg Junior confirmed his coming of age, with a masterclass in Monaco and inheriting Vettel’s win in Silverstone. He’ll need to be fast as well as fortunate in 2014 though, as Mercedes intend to set the absolute bar in the new Turbo era.

2013 Position: 6th          2013 Wins: 2          2013 Points: 171

FERRARI
Ferrari started last season very strongly with a duo of wins in China and a sublime win at home for Alonso in Spain, but from the mid-point, their performance took a marked drop-off. After finally releasing Felipe Massa after a few years promising to do so, the Scuderia’s first double World Champion line-up since 1955 will be hoping for a consistent race car all year to enforce their credentials.

2013 Position: 3rd          Title Sponsor: Santander          Team Principal: Stefano Domenicali

Fernando ALONSO (14)
After the two aforementioned wins the Spanish charge couldn’t keep up with Vettel or the Lotuses, but he is still regarded by many as the best driver on the grid. If he’s to add to his two Championships from 2005 and 2006, a shake up of the rules might be the break he needs.

2013 Position: 2nd          2013 Wins: 2          2013 Points: 242

Kimi RAIKKONEN (7)
The Iceman took the first win of 2013 in Australia and threatened the top of the podium throughout the season, but could not build on it. After frustration with Lotus’ money woes, The New Flying Finn hopes to find fortune with his WDC winning team, Ferrari.

2013 Position: 5th          2013 Wins: 1          2013 Points: 183

LOTUS-RENAULT
After a great start to the year with a win and seemingly the only package with an answer to the Red Bulls, Lotus pretty much had a civil war towards the end of 2013, swearing at drivers, not paying them, and personnel leaving. After finally getting financial security with PDVSA, Lotus will be aiming to regroup and get back to the pace they were running at from late 2012 to mid 2013.

2013 Position: 4th          Title Sponsor: Genii Capital          Team Principal: Gérard Lopez

Romain GROSJEAN (8)
Many doubted and disliked Grosjean after a terrifying, carbon-fiber flinging series of crashes in 2012, but he blossomed beautifully into a quick and consistent driver last season, notching 6 podiums, as well as challenging for victory in Japan and the USA. He needs to keep this up as he leads Lotus for the first time, stepping out of Raikkonen’s shadow.

2013 Position: 7th          2013 Wins:           2013 Points: 132

Pastor MALDONADO (13)
F1’s maiden Venezuelan had an awful final season with Williams, supplemented by one solitary point in Hungary. His three seasons at Williams bore an unthinkable pole and win in Spain 2012, but his reputation for crashing has become more prominent. With a number like unlucky 13, he hopes not to add to this reputation, and instead get back to the podium.

2013 Position: 18th          2013 Wins: 0          2013 Points: 1

MCLAREN-MERCEDES
2013 can only be described as a bad year for Woking’s finest, with inter-team squabbling, the loss of Paddy Lowe as chief mechanic, and a car that was not fond of speed. As they prepare to say goodbye to Mercedes engines (with whom they have been partnered since 1996) for the return of Honda power next year, and with Eric Boullier taking over as team principal, and throw into the mix a highly-rated rookie, it could be a great resurgence for them.

2013 Position: 5th          Title Sponsor: TBA          Team Principal: Eric Boullier

Jenson BUTTON (22)
There was little that Button could do in 2013, as the car did not agree with his smooth driving style. The best he could muster was a 4th place finish in Brazil. He’ll be hoping for faster machinery this time round.

2013 Position: 9th          2013 Wins: 0          2013 Points: 73

Kevin MAGNUSSEN (20)
Magnussen’s McLaren credentials are clear – his father drove a race for the team in 1995. Hopefully, the younger Magnussen’s spell at the team will last a while longer. His win in the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 season got him the drive, coupled with involvement in the McLaren Young Driver Programme.

2013 Position: N/A          2013 Wins: N/A          2013 Points: N/A

FORCE INDIA-MERCEDES
Their dreams of beating McLaren to 5th place may have fallen a little short, but 2013, for the first half of the season at least, can only be regarded as an excellent step. The change in tyre rules held them back in later races, and too many crashes for outgoing Paul di Resta might have cost them 5th. With an all-new line up for this season, their aim is to rub shoulders with those on the podium.

2013 Position: 6th          Title Sponsor: Sahara          Team Principal: Vijay Mallaya

Nico HULKENBERG (27)
His choice of number has quite a legacy (Gilles Villeneuve) but the German’s excellent year with Sauber indicates that there may be one for him too. A sublime defensive drive to 4th in Korea was arguably one of the best drives for anyone of the year, punching well above the car’s weight. 2014 looks full of promise for the German, as he re-joins the team with whom he led a race in 2012.

2013 Position: 10th          2013 Wins: 0          2013 Points: 51

Sergio PEREZ (11)
Dropped by McLaren after a single year, ‘Checo’ hopes for more loyalty from Force India. Some say he got a little too big for his boots, particularly when it came to clashing with his team mate in Bahrain, and a clumsy race in Monaco, but the Mexican has plenty of positives to take from 2013, and definitely still has speed.

2013 Position: 11th          2013 Wins: 0           2013 Points: 49

SAUBER-FERRARI
The Swiss team took a step backwards last year, relative to their strong 2012 campaign. However, the Hinwil-based team ended last season strongly, so momentum is in their favour. They’ll be hoping to ride this into the new season, as the very experienced Adrian Sutil lends his name to the roster.

2013 Position: 7th          Title Sponsor: Telmex          Team Principal: Monisha Kaltenborn

Adrian SUTIL (99)
The German’s comeback in 2013 was extremely positive, leading the first race of the year. He then went on to have a brilliant attacking drive in Monaco where he nabbed both Alonso and Raikkonen in cheeky overtaking manouvres. He now moves to Sauber, the first team change of his career, so his biggest challenge will be adapting to that.

2013 Position: 13th          2013 Wins: 0           2013 Points: 29

Esteban GUTIERREZ (21)
Gutierrez’ rookie year came with an expectation. After the success of fellow Mexican Perez in 2012’s Sauber, it was thought that he could emulate the results of his compatriot. But the C32 was largely uncompetitive, and so Esteban ended the year with just 6 points. It was enough, though, to secure the seat for this season, in which he will be hoping for more.

2013 Position: 16th          2013 Wins: 0          2013 Points: 6

TORO ROSSO-RENAULT
New engines and power-trains and a new face spell a new challenge for Red Bull’s sister team. The team are a constant convellor belt, swiftly delivering young talents and dispersing them into bigger teams. As everything in the rule book changes, the team will be hoping their familiarity with adapting gives them an advantage this year.

2013 Position: 8th          Title Sponsor: Red Bull          Team Principal: Franz Tost

Jean-Eric VERGNE (25)
JEV actually had a better result than Ricciardo in 2013, scoring 6th in Canada, compared to 7th in Italy for Ricciardo. However the Australian’s consistency was cited as the decider, and so the Frenchman will hope to improve this aspect of his racing if he is to get a seat further up the grid.

2013 Position: 15th          2013 Wins: 0          2013 Points: 13

Daniil KVYAT (26)
Many were surprised when they announced the young Russian ahead of Antonio Felix Da Costa, but with a dominating victory in his rookie year of GP3, as well as a win in European Formula Three, it’s clear their confidence was not misplaced. By the way, his surname is pronounced “Kwee-at”.

2013 Position: N/A          2013 Wins: N/A          2013 Points: N/A

WILLIAMS-MERCEDES
Despite the win in 2012, Williams remain in the doldrums, and haven’t been anywhere near competitive since 2008. A switch to Mercedes power, and the signing of an ex-Ferrari man are two steps – hopefully – towards glory again. The team only scored 5 points last year; their worst ever. But with a strong driver line-up, things could be about to turn around.

2013 Position: 9th          Title Sponsor: Martini          Team Principal: Patrick Head

Felipe MASSA (19)
Last season was by no means a slouch for Felipe. Though finally dropped by the Ferrari family, he is still hungry for success, and bringing his race engineer Rob Smedley, with whom he is very close, will make him feel right at home. A podium and three 4th places last year show he is not past his best yet.

2013 Position: 8th          2013 Wins: 0          2013 Points: 112

Valtteri BOTTAS (77)
Bottas, or as he stylised himself with his new number, ‘BO77AS’, didn’t have much to work with last year, but a well-timed 3rd place qualifying in Canada and a handful of points in the USA show his potential if given a chance. He’ll be hoping that his second year as a Williams driver bears more fruit.

2013 Position: 17th          2013 Wins: 0          2013 Points: 4

MARUSSIA-FERRARI
Nothing changes at Marussia for the new season – in fact they’re only one of two teams to have the same two race drivers as last season; the other is Mercedes. 10th place in the Constructors for 2013 was a good achievement, and they will be looking to finally close down the gap to the likes of Toro Rosso and Williams.

2013 Position: 10th          Title Sponsor: CNET          Team Principal: John Booth

Jules BIANCHI (17)
The Frenchman was responsible for Marussia’s best result last season; 13th place in Malaysia. His good relationship with his team mate Chilton will be key in beating rivals Caterham – the Marussia boys have known each other for a year already, whilst Caterham have to get to know each other.

2013 Position: 19th          2013 Wins: 0          2013 Points: 0

Max CHILTON (4)
Racing is definitely in the Chilton bloodstream, with his brother Tom a successful driver in Touring Cars. If Marussia have made the necessary steps, he could establish himself in his field too, and make the Chilton parents doubly proud. A tough rookie season lies behind, but his second year should be more stable.

2013 Position: 23rd          2013 Wins: 0          2013 Points: 0

CATERHAM-RENAULT
Although team CEO Tony Ferndandes is getting tired of throwing money at the team and getting no results, he should remain optimistic. They joined the sport when a status quo had already been established, and so a rule book overhaul could provide the chance to step up to the midfield.

2013 Position: 11th          Title Sponsor: General Electric          Team Principal: Cyril Abiteboul

Marcus ERICSSON (9)
Swedish Rookie Ericsson has made the step up from GP2, the series in which he won a race and clinched four other podiums on his way to 6th place. He will be hoping to help Caterham’s lengthy development and bring them some points for the first time.

2013 Position: N/A          2013 Wins: N/A          2013 Points: N/A

Kamui KOBAYASHI (10)
This fan favourite last raced for Sauber, and despite an incredible podium in Suzuka 2012, he was dropped for Hulkenberg. The Japanese sensation has been at Ferari for the last twelve months testing cars and demonstrating them in Russia, but maybe it’s best not to mention that…

2013 Position: N/A          2013 Wins: N/A          2013 Points: N/A

The season kicks off in Melbourne, Australia on March 16.

McLaren launch 2014 Car

LAUNCH

McLaren today launched their challenger for the 2014 season – The MP4-29. The car was unveiled at the team’s Technology Centre in Woking, along with their new team lineup of Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne. Button, who sadly lost his father two weeks ago, was seen looking happy and determined.

In an interview, Button said ”
“I’d rather not talk about my private life right now.
It’s been very up and down but actually I am looking forward to the season now. I’m excited about the challenge.
I’m looking forward to a year in which I’m going to put everything into the sport and leave nothing on the table.”
[Source: The Mirror]

The car, still yet to receive its title sponsor, is a mostly silver machine, resembling very much the Mercedes cars of late. This is owing to the withdrawal of the sponsor Vodafone, which has removed the red accents from the car. The rear and front wings are a complimentary black, and despite the rather blank body, it looks good, and a bit like the old West-sponsored McLarens of the late 90s and early 00s.

McLaren-Mercedes-MP4-29-2One aspect of the car’s appearance is extremely noticeable, though. That would be the car’s proboscis-style protruding nose.

Cast your mind back to 2004, when Williams adopted the ‘Walrus Nose’ front wing assembly. It’s a bit like that, but with an added phallus on the front.

In the picture below, I’ve compared the 2004 Williams FW25 and the McLaren, adding the McLaren’s protrusion to show how similar they are.

BMW-McNose

The nose style has also been seen on the Williams FW36 and Lotus E22 in promotional renders, but their cars have not been officially released. The Lotus car actually employs two of these protrusions. [Story to come]

SPEAKING OF LOTUS…

Eric Boullier has left the Enstone team, to be replaced by Gerard Lopez, the founder of Genii Capital, one of the team’s sponsors. Boullier has led the team since 2010 and saw two wins for the team.

Raikkonen and Boullier’s departures have left large chinks in the Lotus armor, and the team are clearly not happy about this, as signaled by some rather irked Tweets from their Twitter account:

lotus-catty

Bad sportsmanship aside, it appears that Lotus are throwing down the gauntlet to McLaren for the rest of the year.

Charlie Eustice

The Maldonadominoes begin to fall | Mid-week Round up #2

THE MALDONADOMINOES BEGIN TO FALL

Finally, after more deliberation than necessary, the first domino in the F1 Driver Market chain reaction has toppled. Pastor Maldonado has been confirmed as Lotus F1 Team’s second driver for 2014. The move ends any chance of Nico Hulkenberg progressing up the grid and is a move that many in the paddock will be critical of, given the two drivers’ relative performances this year, with Maldonado scoring a single point to Hulkenberg’s mighty 51 . Nevertheless, the Venezuelan will join Romain Grosjean at the Enstone-based team, who was confirmed at the same time, and will be their lead driver for the first time in his 3-year tenure at Lotus.

As you might be aware, the team have been waiting on a cash injection from a group called Quantum, and it was thought that if this deal was successful, the German would get the drive. Lotus are still adamant that this deal will be finalised soon, but with Pastor’s PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela) Dollars rolling in, it may not be necessary. Kimi Raikkonen threatened not to drive for the final two races of the season after he was not paid any money all year due to unstable economics within the team, so they will be grateful for the sponsorship money that their new driver will bring; expect Maldonado to try and prove he is more than a pay driver.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH HIM

Following the aforementioned Maldonado signing at Lotus, Nico Hulkenberg signed for Force India once again to nestle back into the team he left not 12 months ago. Widely regarded as the best driver not in a front-running car, it is little surprise that the Indian outfit were keen to re-sign the rapid German. The move won’t tell if it’s good or bad until the cars get on the track in Melbourne next March, as the regulations will completely level the playing field, but like he has done in the past, whatever the car’s abilities, Nico should extract 100% of them; he is no stranger to outperforming his equipment. After a pretty good debut year at Williams where he nabbed Pole Position in Brazil he sat on the substitute bench at Force India in 2011, and then made the step up to Second Driver for 2012, scoring an excellent 4th place finish in Belgium and leading nearly half of the Brazilian Grand Prix, a track of which he has become known as a master.

Being a fast driver in an average car is a curse and a blessing, as the mid-field teams all want you, but there’s no telling who’s the best. Sauber looked like the best option last year with their 4 podiums and almost-win in Malaysia, so off Nico went. This year’s car, the C32, proved to be mediocre to begin with, and he terminated his contract before the season was even half-way through, though a decent development cycle saw it improve massively towards the end of the season, and he was able to repeat his best result of 4th in Korea, surely the drive of the Season. Perhaps learning a lesson in staying power after the cut-and-run approach applied in the last two years, his deal is ‘Mult-year’ meaning we could see him there for a long time.

MYSTERY SECOND DRIVER

Force India Team owner Vijay Mallaya has historically waited until after the team’s Christmas party to announce their drivers. It wasn’t until March 2013 that the world found out about Adrian Sutil’s re-appointment, so we could be waiting a while to find out if he or anyone else is to be confirmed. The other candidates for the seat are Paul di Resta and recently-sacked McLaren driver Sergio Perez. Though he left on ‘good terms’ with the Woking-based squad, he feels his time was cut short. McLaren and Force India were very evenly matched for the most part of last season, so it would be the best team to sign for in terms of vengeance, though his motives are likely to be more professional than that.

Sutil had kept hinting recently that something was about to materialise, particularly in interviews in Austin, so maybe he is the favourite at the current moment, though keep in mind that nothing is confirmed yet. As for di Resta? The Scot has been well and truly pessimistic about his chances of staying at the team, and believes that his future may be headed to the United States in the IndyCar series. It remains to be seen if one of them will be willing to duck out and be the team’s Reserve Driver for a year, and it’s a great shame that these three fast drivers are all competing for the same seat, as only one can get it – that’s just the nature of Formula One.