Sunday, 18 August 2013

UH Racing continue to establish their racing heritage at historic Hockenheim.

Following a successful event at Silverstone, the University of Hertfordshire's Formula Student team, UH racing, transported this years entrant, the UH16, to another classic motor racing circuit to compete in the final round of this year's competition. Their destination, and the host of Formula Student Germany: The historic Hockenheimring. A track steeped in so much history and motor racing heritage made it the perfect setting for UH Racing to continue to establish their own flourishing legacy. A legacy growing due to the consistent design and manufacture of competitive cars over sixteen years, proved again at this year's event at Hockenheim in which they successfully defended their title as the top Formula Student team in the UK for the fourth year running.

Starting the competition positively in the static events, UH Racing came fourteenth in the cost event, seventeenth in design and thirty fifth in business. The favourable start continued through the dynamic events resulting in thirteenth in skid pad, third in acceleration and eleventh in sprint. By far the most heavily weighted in terms of points is the endurance event. After not being able to go the distance in this event at Silverstone, that disappointment was overcome in Germany with a fabulous tenth place finish, despite the car overheating due to a collision with a cone on track.

In addition to the accolade of being the leading team in the UK, the performances of UH Racing at Hockenheim secured tenth place overall out of a hundred world wide competitors, and leaves them an impressive twenty third in the world from over five hundred teams. Howard Ash, Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire acknowledged the efforts of the whole team in achieving this success,

“It is a great achievement for the students to say they are the highest ranking UK team. I give merit to everyone involved, it really is a true testament to the excellent work we do here and showcases the best of UK student talent.”

The success of UH Racing continues to grow, as does their heritage. This year's competition has seen another crop of talented engineering students hone and develop their skills ready for life in the real world of motor sport engineering. With success like that achieved this year, the prospects in the motor sport industry look positive for this year's graduates. The world of Formula One could be waiting...

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Massa in jeopardy at Ferrari: Who will win the game to grab his seat?

Musical chairs:  A game in which most of the time is spent agonising over whether you will get a seat and continue in the game, followed by a brief interlude of elation when you manage to grab yourself one, before the anxiety creeps in again with the recommencement of the music.   All to avoid being 'out'.  Over recent seasons Ferrari driver Felipe Massa has experienced the same feelings as a competitive child engrossed in this traditional party game. 

Massa is in his eighth season with the Maranello marque having initially joined in 2006 to replace Rubens Barrichello as Michael Schumacher's wingman.  With Michael replaced by Kimi Raikkonen for 2007, Massa started to score more victories, despite having to yield the win in his home race in Brazil in order to allow Kimi the victory to secure the World Championship.  From all seasons spent in scarlet, his best chance of major success came in 2008 when he fought Lewis Hamilton closely for the Championship; a title battle so close that he was celebrating being champion in one breath only for that elation to be displaced by utter disappointment the next.  He hasn't won a race since.   An uncompetitive F60 and a head injury in 2009 dissolved the thrill of fighting for the 2008 title and bought him crashing down to earth.  This was further compounded by the arrival of Fernando Alonso and a return to second driver status in 2010.   After coming out on top in last season's game of musical chairs, Massa had a worthy start to the 2013 campaign, troubling Alonso at times by out qualifying him, however mistakes were lurking just around the corner culminating at Monaco, when he crashed in qualifying at Ste Devote followed by another retirement in Germany after a spin in the opening laps.

Massa under strain.  Photo: 

Poor early form was a plight suffered in 2012 sending the rumour mill into overdrive about who would take his seat, however the affable Brazilian stared that pressure in the eye and raised his game. The subsequent improvement in results was rewarded with a renewal of his contract for a further year.  Now Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo has warned Felipe that he needs to repeat the improvement delivered last year in order to secure his seat for a further year,

Talking to Corrier della Sera he said, “Felipe is a very quick driver and a great guy.  But in the past days, we were very clear with him: both he and us need results and points.  Then, at some points we will look one another in the eye and decide what to do.”

Current Marussia driver Jules Bianchi, who has been given the seal of approval by the Head of the Ferrari Driver Academy Luca Baldisserri on their website, is one of the favourites to win Massa's seat should he lose the game this season,

“Jules has completed the move to Formula One without any problems.  He has become the benchmark driver for the team, gaining its confidence at the track.  I consider it a fundamental move, especially in Formula One.”

Bianchi started the season with a bang, his sparkling form placing him consistently head and shoulders above his team mate as well as allowing him to streak away from closest rivals Caterham.  As the season has progressed however, his talents have been slightly overshadowed by Caterham's progress in performance and team mate Max Chilton finding his feet a little more.  Marussia Team Principal John Booth's wish to have both drivers continue to represent the team next season due to the financial backing they bring,  coupled with the fact that Jules hasn't had the chance to show his promise fighting with those further up the field, suggests he may remain to consolidate his debut year.  He has shown his gratitude to the team who gave him his break in Formula One but of course is not ruling out a move to the team every driver wants to drive for,

“I do not forget that with Marussia I was given the chance to make my grand prix debut.  If I stay in this team next year, it will be in good faith.”  Continuing his discussion with the Nice- Matin newspaper he added,

“Maybe I will be asked to join the team this winter.  Of course I will not say no!”

Jules Bianchi to have a race seat next year? Photo:

 Long been linked with a move to Ferrari, Nico Hulkenberg is another favourite to snatch Massa's seat from under him.  He has continued to demonstrate his talent by showing what he can achieve in a seriously under performing Sauber.  Rumours about non payment of wages caused by financial woes, coupled with the announcement that Sergey Sirotkin will join the team as part of the deal agreed with Russian investors in order to abate those woes, mean it is odds on he will be leaving the Swiss team.  But for Ferrari? It is no secret Nico is in talks with other teams, in particular Lotus, so it wouldn't be wise to put all bets on that part of the wheel. 

Paul Di Resta made no secret of his displeasure at missing out on a top seat for 2013. However the performance of the Force India was surprisingly high at the beginning of this season and he took advantage of that delivering some great performances; a podium place narrowly evading him in Bahrain.  His advancements through the pack following disappointing qualifying sessions have also been noted, especially in Britain when he turned a twenty first grid position into a ninth placed finish.  Not a favourite for a possible seat at Ferrari though, and perhaps having spent too long on the outside looking in, Paul could again find himself just on the edge of the seat he desires.

An outside possibility could be Davide Rigon, a young Italian driver responsible for testing duties at Ferrari along with Pedro de la Rosa. Apart from the Pirelli tyre test conducted by Massa, he was entrusted with all testing time at the recent Young Drivers Test at Silverstone  in which his combined times put him ninth out of  thirty three and only seven tenths down on the times recorded by SebastianVettel. He would be willing to play number two to Alonso and is Italian thus giving Maranello its first Italian race driver since Giancarlo Fisichella in 2009, and before that, Michel Alboreto who drove for the Scuderia between 1985 and 1988.

Davide Rigon.  Photo:

All good things come to an end. Or do they?  Perhaps the most likely option could be that Massa will again stay with Ferrari on another one year contract. Possibly until he decides to retire, much like Mark Webber did with Red Bull.  Fernando rules the red roost and sometimes it is just the better the devil you know.  

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Contenders for the 2013 Driver's Title: Four heavyweights enter the ring as the championship fight enters the final nine rounds.

Go the distance and keep off the ropes: Imperative when fighting for a Formula One World Driver's Title. While the 2012 season saw a straight heavyweight bout between Sebastian Vettel in the blue corner and Fernando Alonso in the red, this season more contenders enter the ring. Mounting a challenge and eliminating the neutral corners are: Kimi Raikkonen in the black corner and Lewis Hamilton in the silver. With Kimi not pulling his punches in the black corner only trailing Vettel by thirty eight points and journeyman Lewis merely a further point behind, a four way heavy weight contest across the remaining nine rounds ensues.

Fernando Alonso had a good start to the season in the first round in Australia, thanks to a clever tyre strategy resulting in a second place, but his challenge was dealt an early crushing blow following his retirement from the Malaysian Grand Prix with front wing damage, while blue corner contender, Vettel went on to take a below the belt win at the expense of team mate Mark Webber. China saw the red corner deal a counter punch to the German taking the win, while Seb could only manage fourth. His eighth position at round four in Bahrain compared with a Vettel victory was a flash knockdown for Fernando as he got straight back up to win in Spain. Down for the count, the blue corner retired in Britain, allowing Alonso to take advantage and reduce the points deficit slightly with a third place; a deficit stretched again following only fourth and fifth place finishes in Germany and Hungary respectively.

Alonso celebrates his home win with the Spanish flag.  Photo:

Alonso is of the opinion Ferrari can still repeat the challenge they mounted for the Championship last year,

“There are still nine races to go and the points available are more than enough. The potential is there so I see no reason why we can't fight right to the end of the Championship like we have always done.”

Indeed, to assume Alonso is down and out in terms of winning the Championship would be nonsensical . In 2012, he was on the podium, although not the top step, in every race after Hungary except those he retired from, and since being at Ferrari, he has always gone the distance with the exception of 2011 when Vettel had the title wrapped up in Suzuka. He is the master at coercing the car to squeeze out ethereal performance unseen by others. A lot of his results have been achieved through his wizardry and in particular this season, his electric starts. His controversial recent comments suggest a desire for a car that matches these talents and after four years of wringing the life out of his prancing horse, isn't he entitled to want a little more from the team? Fernando Alonso has a good chin, he has to ability to absorb the punches and stay standing. He will never be out for the count.

After starting the 2013 bout with a great victory in Australia, Kimi Raikkonen has looked like a serious contender to Vettel for the championship. Eric Boullier had the highest praise for his star driver following his second place in Hungary,

“I would have to give Kimi ten out of ten. He's done a terrific job right from the beginning of the season and his remarkable run of twenty seven consecutive points finishes speaks for itself. No matter what happens he's always there as we saw in the final laps at Monaco.”

The black corner and Kimi have delivered consistent body punches, blows that eventually wear contenders down. They haven't suffered the knock out retirements experienced by Vettel and Alonso and have been one of the teams more suited to the 2013 tyres. Benefiting from the ability to nurture their rubber more successfully, they have secured valuable points through pit strategy, demonstrated in the last round when Kimi scored second place using a two stop strategy on a track with a temperature exceeding fifty degrees.

In 2012 Kimi had a strong round in Belgium and took the win in Abi Dhabi, but generally his form in the other rounds in the second half of the season didn't match his earlier prowess; something he will need to improve this year to keep that championship belt in reach. The black corner contender himself believes he will need to do more to secure the title,

“We're happy how we've done but we're here to try to win races and if we keep finishing second and third like we've done many times this year, it's probably not enough for the championship. The best thing today when we finished second we gained a few points on Sebastian, so it's better than nothing but with a win it would have been a much bigger difference.”

To truly take the fight to the Red Bull driver in the blue corner, Raikkonen will need to trade his consistent body punches for a few liver punches, especially in qualifying, delivering devastating blows to paralyse and defeat his rival.

Kimi will need more of these bigger blow punches. Photo:

Entering the ring in the silver corner is Lewis Hamilton who has achieved third places at three rounds, a knockout win in Hungary, plus a scattering of fourth and fifths to bolster his points tally; all of which sees him lying in third place in the championship usurping Alonso's position.

Knowing he has the potential and ability to fight for the championship but having no expectations due to the initial performance of the Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton has been the journeyman until the bout reached Hungary. The surprised tones in his voice heard over team radio following his stunning qualifying lap in Budapest were testament to this. What a difference a day makes. Following his glorious win, journeyman is a term no longer in his vocabulary,

“This year I feel I have a car that can win ten races. If we can continue with that qualifying pace, get ourselves upfront and have the tyres working as they did, we can fight with them. The Mercedes is different to other cars I've driven. It's one of the best. The 2008 McLaren was pretty good. I want to say the Mercedes is even better than that.”

Having scored his first win for Mercedes, there is no stopping Lewis.  Photo:

Hamilton's struggles to get used to the W04 following six years piloting a McLaren seem to have metamorphosed into a capacity to secure the championship belt for himself, a belief voiced by Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn,

“It's taken a little while but I see some great signs, particularly at the last few races. Another thing is to pick up momentum and start to move in the right direction. We honestly don't know where the limit is, we are on a journey with Lewis, and we don't know where the limits are.”

Dropping showboating punches with speed over one lap since the start of the season with seven out of ten pole positions secured, it now seems Mercedes are backing this up with a car that can maintain the form throughout a race. With tyre degradation problems appearing to have been sorted for Hungary, despite being exiled from the Young Driver's Test at Silverstone in July, there could be no stopping them. The silver corner partnership between Lewis and Mercedes could go the distance.

The next two rounds at Spa and Monza will be crucial to Vettel's challengers. He excels at the final flyaway races. Each of the other fighters have the ability to take the 2013 driver's title, setting the second half of this season's bout up to be a real barn burner; a nail biter, one so close it is hard to predict who will deliver that final uppercut blow and come out on top. Just the way we like it.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

2013 Hungarian Grand Prix in photos: Part 2

                                                                The Grid (Or some of it)

                         Valtteri Bottas' Williams is bought back to the pits by the marshals.

                                                   Triumphant Lewis celebrates on his car.

                                      The rest of the field park their cars following the race.

                    Rosberg's Mercedes is bought back to the pits after suffering engine failure.

2013 Hungarian Grand Prix in photos: Part 1

                                                                 Drivers track parade.

                                                  Niki Lauda: Omnipresent this weekend.

                                                     Sebastian Vettel arrives on the grid.

                                                            Followed by the polesitter.

   Keeping out of the intense heat for as long as possible, Alonso was a late arrival on the grid.

  Rosberg leaves the grid for a final comfort break while DC heads off the the commentary box.

Qualifying for the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix in photos.

                                      Jenson Button off to the weighbridge after going out in Q2.

       Lewis emerges from his car having scored a surprise pole position.  Alonso qualified fifth.

                                                                      The top three.

                                                               A relaxed Felipe Massa

                                                      Christian Horner off to have dinner.

                                                                 Jean Eric Vergne

Third practice session for the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix in photos.

The McLaren of Sergio Perez is rescued after a meeting with the wall in the final practice session.

                       The Williams team race to get the car back to the garage from the weighbridge.

                      As do the Red Bull team, ensuring they are keeping to the 80km/h speed limit!

                                                                   Esteban Gutierrez 

Alonso fans

Friday, 2 August 2013

2013 Hungarian Grand Prix: Friday Practice in photos.

Going to F1 practice.  The best school trip ever?

A quick refresh in the pits for Alonso before another run.

Mark Webber visits the scrutineers.

Sebastian Vettel is wheeled back into his pit garage.

              Stilt walkers use water sprayers to keep fans cool.

                                                                      Kimi on track.

                     Niki Lauda out on the town in Budapest.  In deep conversation with Ross Brawn.

                                                        Jean Todt in the same restaurant.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Why a commitment to racing in Hungary until 2021 is an excellent move by Bernie.

Monaco without the walls: A phrase often used to describe the Hungaroring due to its twisty nature and lack of overtaking opportunities. The circuit provides drivers with a complex technical challenge due to the high number of corners in comparison with the length of the circuit. Fourteen corners on a track with the third slowest lap of the year and the shortest bar Monaco makes it difficult, because drivers aren't given the safety of multiple long straights to rest. Renowned for being a track where passing opportunities are like gold dust, and therefore a good qualifying session is priceless, the number of wins scored from pole position is surprisingly low. Thirteen wins from pole in twenty eight races. In the last nine years, the ability to turn pole into victory has belonged solely to Lewis Hamilton. Turning a magnificent pole into a magnificent win last weekend was a carbon copy of the result obtained last year, and of his win in 2007 following his inherited pole position from team mate Fernando Alonso, after the Spaniard was accused of impeding him during qualifying. In the years scattered amongst Hamilton's triumphant pole to chequered flag victories, the Hungaroring has thrown up some unexpected results.

Lewis Hamilton turned two consecutive pole positions into perfect victories in 2012 and 2013.

The dominance of Sebastian Vettel in 2011 bypassed Hungary as he was unable to convert his pole position into a win. Rain fell just before the race causing a slippery start; one made on intermediate tyres. On lap five, Vettel went wide gifting the lead to Lewis Hamilton, then as the track started to dry, Button made one of his astute tyre decisions, choosing an early move to slicks to move him above Vettel, tucked up behind his team mate. A second brave tyre decision by Button, this time to stay out after a brief shower, put him in prime position to take the victory.

Jenson Button took the victory from Sebastian Vettel after making good tyre choices in mixed conditions.

Sebastian Vettel was also unable to take the win his qualifying lap had set him up so well for in 2010. A change to Mark Webber's strategy following an incident on track requiring a safety car, in addition to a penalty for Vettel for breaching the rules regarding distance kept from it, resulted in the German watching his team mate take the win in a season in which the two of them were vying for the title.

2010 podium.  Despite being polesitter, Vettel watches his team mate stand on the top step after the race.

Fernando Alonso put his Renault on pole for the 2009 race, but it wasn't a healthy race for the team as his car was carrying a fuel pump problem on top of issues with badly graining tyres. A lengthy pit stop obviously wasn't long enough as his exit from the pits revealed the front right wheel wasn't correctly attached. His efforts in hauling his stricken Renault round the track on three wheels to return to the pits were not rewarded as the following lap proved fatal with the earlier fuel pump problem ending his race which was won by Lewis Hamilton.

2008 saw Lewis Hamilton capture his second Budapest pole position and was the year of the duel for the championship between himself and Felipe Massa. The lead of the race was mostly contested between the two of them, until misfortune struck both, firstly Lewis with a punctured tyre followed by Massa with a failed engine, leaving second McLaren driver, Heikki Kovalainen to take the lead and the victory.

Kimi Raikkonen was polesitter for the 2006 Grand Prix but crashed after a battle with his second set of tyres, giving Alonso the lead, until a loose tyre meant Jenson Button inherited it to take his maiden Formula One victory. 2005 was the scene of a battle between pole sitter Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen who eventually overcame the German to triumph.

Although won from pole this year, the race was littered with interesting moments right from the start as Fernando Alonso used the same wizardry positioning we have seen at many races this season to move up the field on the first lap; this time taking fourth from Rosberg at Turn 2. After losing his place to one Ferrari, Nico made contact with the other, causing small parts of both cars to be sprayed across the track; action watched by following driver Kimi Raikkonen, who was just recovering from his own swift excursion onto the grass.

With Mark Webber leading the race following the first round of pit stops for the leaders, himself being on a different strategy, and those leaders rejoining the track behind Jenson Button, also in a different race, meant that we were treated to a great battle for fourth position. Nursing an overheating KERS system, Sebastian Vettel wasn't able to make an easy move on the McLaren, meaning we were treated to some feisty attacking from him, while being hunted by Romain Grosjean who was increasingly able to glimpse the scarlet of Alonso in his mirrors. The contest peaked on lap 24 with a great Vettel overtake on Button at turn 5, then like a domino effect as they streaked away from the corner, Grosjean and Alonso also took advantage.

Other good overtaking moves included one from Grosjean on Felipe Massa, although the Frenchman was later penalised for gaining advantage by leaving the track, and a subsequent Button move also on the Brazilian. Lewis Hamilton, running on newer tyres, was able to pull off a beautiful overtake round the outside of Mark Webber and on lap 51, passed the Australian again, this time on the inside of the hairpin. The end of the race wasn't void of entertainment as Vettel attempted to snatch second position from Kimi Raikkonen two laps from the chequered flag.

At a track known for its lack of overtaking opportunities, there are bound to be processional moments, but Hungary always balances these with ones full of excitement. One of the most celebrated overtaking moves in history is Nelson Piquet on Ayrton Senna at the inaugural Hungarian GP in 1986. Stalking him down the straight heading towards turn 1, the elder Brazilian drifted deftly around the outside of his younger countryman as if he was piloting a Star Wars land speeder.

Having secured its future on the calendar until 2021, Bernie Ecclestone has recognised the value the Hungaroring gives to racing in Europe. Hungary don't have a Formula One talent of their own to follow, but that doesn't dent their passion. They turn up to the race in vociferous droves. It is also a place visited by fans from all over Europe; very heavily populated by those from Finland, Kimi fans in particular, but also from Estonia, Spain, Britain, not to mention the host of Robert Kubica fans from Poland. The mix of different nationalities from all over the continent ensures that a wide range of drivers are supported, making the race, and atmosphere particularly special and unique. Changes in attendance that may be caused by the inclusion of a Russian Grand Prix are yet to be seen, but the large contingent of visiting Germans, despite having their own Grand Prix, would suggest it won't make a difference. The same elaborate costumes that appear every year are tangible evidence of the appetite and desire fans at the Hungaroring have, and of the consistent and committed support they give.

Often a hot race, the Hungarian GP is a place where passion for the sport matches the soaring temperatures, where fans from all over the continent join together at an impeccable venue to share their love for this sport. Well done Bernie, this was a decision well made.