WMSC confirm 21 race calendar for 2015

The World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) has today confirmed that there will be a 21 race calendar for the 2015 Formula One World Championship.

The WMSC met in Doha to discuss a number of issues before the end of the year. This included a confirmation of the 2015 calendar which includes the shock involvement of the Korean Grand Prix. It also includes a new Grand Prix in Mexico. The season will run from March to November once again starting in Australia and finishing in Abu Dhabi.

  • 13th – 15th March – Australian Grand Prix
  • 27th – 29th March – Malaysian Grand Prix
  • 10th – 12th April – Chinese Grand Prix
  • 17th – 19th April – Bahrain Grand Prix
  • 1st – 3rd May – Korean Grand Prix (TBC)
  • 8th – 10th May – Spanish Grand Prix
  • 21st – 24th May – Monaco Grand Prix
  • 5th – 7th June – Canadian Grand Prix
  • 19th – 21st June – Austrian Grand Prix
  • 3rd – 5th July – British Grand Prix
  • 17th – 19th July – German Grand Prix
  • 24th – 26th July – Hungarian Grand Prix
  • 21st – 23rd August – Belgian Grand Prix
  • 4th – 6th September – Italian Grand Prix
  • 18th – 20th September – Singapore Grand Prix
  • 25th – 27th September – Japanese Grand Prix
  • 9th – 11th October – Russian Grand Prix
  • 23rd – 25th October – US Grand Prix
  • 30th October – 1st November – Mexican Grand Prix
  • 13th – 15th November – Brazilian Grand Prix
  • 27th – 29th November – Abu Dhabi Grand Pri

A number of decisions were also taken in relation to the 2015 sporting and technical regulations. The controversial double points rule which was introduced for the first time in 2014 will be dropped as well as the introduction of standing restarts following a safety car. If a race is suspended, drivers should make their way to the pit-lane – and not the grid as has been the case in the past – where they will line up behind the first car in the fast lane. A solution for backmarkers has also been introduced. In the case of a backmarker needing to unlap themselves before the race restarts after a safety car period, the safety car will enter the pits at the end of the following lap, regardless of if the cars have joined the back of the group.

During this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race weekend drivers tested a new Virtual Safety Car (VSC) system which has now been given the green light for 2015. It will be used when double waved yellow flags are needed on any section of the track but when circumstances do not warrant the use of the safety car itself. Other decisions made include the introduction of a rule which means a driver will have to start from the pit-lane if any team personnel or equipment remains on the grid following the 15 second signal. If a driver does not start from the pit-lane they will be given a ten second stop/go penalty.

On the subject of penalties, drivers will no longer be forced to carry the remainder of a grid penalty for the next race. Instead time penalties will be enforced as follows:

  • 1 to 5 grid places remain: a five second stop/go penalty
  • 6 to 10 grid places remain: a drive through penalty
  • 11 to 20 grid places remain: a ten second stop/go penalty
  • more than 20 grid places remain: a time penalty

So, for example, if a driver is given a ten place grid penalty but qualifies 16th out of 22 cars, they will have four grid places remaining so will be given a five second stop/go penalty.

Further news from the World Motorsport Council’s meeting in Doha can be found by following the link, including the conclusions from the Accident Panel’s investigation into Jules Bianchi’s accident.

End of an Era: Sebastian Vettel & Red Bull

Prior to the Mercedes domination of 2014, there was one partnership eclipsing the competition. That was, of course, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing.

Over his six seasons driving for the team Vettel has 44 pole positions, 65 podium finishes and 38 wins, not forgetting the small matter of four world championships. Ever since making his race debut with Sauber at the 2007 US GP, the young German has demonstrated his considerable talent. Winning his first race at a wet Monza in 2008 set Vettel on an incredible journey.

Vettel made his Formula One debut with Sauber – the team that has given us Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen amongst other drivers – and it wasn’t long before he was breaking records. In fact, six seconds is the amount of time it took him. As he drove down the pit-lane in Turkey in his first ever Formula One session he broke the speed limit. He continued 2006 as a test driver for Sauber before making his first race appearance for them at the 2007 US GP, standing in for an injured Robert Kubica. Vettel went on to pick up a point – his first of many – before swapping to Toro Rosso for the remainder of the 2007 season. 2008 brought with it a solid first full season in Formula One as Vettel finished eighth in the standings and he was rewarded with a seat at Red Bull Racing for 2009.

Vettel wasted no time in getting involved in a championship battle as he finished runner up to Jenson Button in 2009. The gap was 11 points by the season’s end and Vettel racked up four wins on his way to second place. In 2010 he went one better and won his first world championship. Winning the Abu Dhabi GP saw him win the title in emphatic style, especially as he had not led the championship at any stage during the season, instead just being on top when it mattered most. 2011 was a stark contrast as Vettel led the championship start to finish with a pole position and victory at the season opener in Australia giving a sign of what was to come. He won 11 races and only failed to finish on the podium twice – a fourth place at his home race in Germany and a DNF in Abu Dhabi. He finished 122 points clear of his closest rival – Jenson Button. 2012 was another 2011-esque year as Vettel went head-to-head with Fernando Alonso and not with a clear advantage. He overcame a 44 point deficit to his rival to eventually win by three points. A nine race in a row victory streak at the end of 2013 saw him once again beating Alonso, this time wrapping up the championship by round 16 and over 150 points clear of second place.

While Vettel has been linked with Ferrari in the past it still came as somewhat of a shock when he confirmed that he would be leaving Red Bull. A lacklustre 2014 season which saw Vettel beat by new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo resulted in Vettel ending the year in fifth. His contract with Red Bull denied him the chance of driving for Ferrari at the post-season test in Abu Dhabi, but he was spotted in the back of the garage. He then made his on track debut with his new team at Ferrari test track Fiorano in the F2012. Ferrari had a disappointing year in 2014 but Vettel’s new team-mate Kimi Raikkonen suggested that next year’s car is moving in the right direction. It is the dawn of new era for the German driver who, at the age of 27, still has a lot to give in Formula One.

The winner takes it all – Abu Dhabi quali

No points to be won on Saturday, of course, but lots of head to heads to be decided as far as qualifying performance over the season. None more so than at Mclaren, who enter the final weekend of a distinctly lacklustre season with no drivers confirmed for 2015. This could be the final chance to shine for those who haven’t secured a drive for next season.

It’s fitting that the season comes to an end in the desert twilight and there’s a definite end-of-term feel with the Constructors’ Championship already done and dusted. With all eyes on the Drivers’ Championship (and heads spinning from the variety of mathematical permutations), Abu Dhabi’s wide, trouble-free Yas Marina circuit is the perfect arena for some racing action.

There was the small matter of qualifying to sort out first. With Caterham present and correct, albeit with newbie Will Stevens partnering Kobyashi, there was a 20-car line-up at the start of Q1. Grosjean for Lotus was carrying a penalty so huge, he would probably be starting from the Bahrain grid for his complete powertrain change. No major incidents in Q1, the casualties were the Caterhams, the Lotuses and the Sauber of Gutierrez, underlining another season to forget for the Swiss team.

Almost inevitably it was the Mercedes pair topping the Q2 times for most of the session, with Williams in close attendance. In fact, Massa and Bottas managed to split the Mercedes pair. McLaren had a mixed session, with Button 6th but Magnussen dumped out at the death by a charging Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. Out in Q2: Sutil (Sauber), the Force Indias of Hulkenberg and Perez, Toro Rosso’s Vergne and Magnussen.

It was Hamilton who blinked first, locking up at the end of his first Q3 flying lap and handing the advantage to his team mate but still recording the second-fastest lap in the process. With everybody out on track for their final runs, it would be Hamilton who was at the back of the queue and therefore the last to record a qualifying time. As the times tumbled, Rosberg planted his Mercedes in pole from Hamilton, followed by Williams’ Bottas and Massa, the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Vettel, Toro Rosso’s Kyvat, and the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Alonso.

The penultimate countdown – Brazilian GP quali

Toto Wolff’s comments last year about one team dominating a season being boring have come back to bite him with a vengeance, with Mercedes already polishing the 2014 Constructor’s Championship trophy and Hamilton or Rosberg at the top of pretty much every timesheet all season. It’s not likely he cares much though, as the season looks likely to be remembered as the one in which Mercedes won everything.

Coming into the Brazil weekend, the news that Marussia had finally succumbed to the ruinous financial pressures and ceased trading reignited the sustainability question, the whole debate underscored by Caterham’s frankly desperate crowdfunding attempts to drag themselves to the grid for the final race of the season.

On track, it was an overcast but dry Interlagos onto which Sauber led the way for this penultimate Q1 of the 2014 season. With the habitual backmarkers absent, it was Lotus who failed to progress joined by the Toro Rosso of Vergne and the Force India of Perez (carrying a seven place penalty over from the US GP). A very unhappy Alonso expressed his anger at his track position, feeling thwarted by Grosjean’s Lotus. Almost inevitably it was the Mercedes pair topping the session with local favourite Massa the best of the rest in his Williams.

It was McLaren who gambled first in Q2, deciding to leave Button and Magnussen in the garage having banked times provisionally putting them in p5 and 6 and hoping the Saubers of Sutil and Gutierrez didn’t spring an unwelcome surprise. It was Alonso who had to suffer the pain of watching the session unfold behind him, but he clung onto P10 to progress to Q3. With both Williams splitting the Mercedes, it was Massa in P2 who took the cheers of a partisan grandstand. Saubers out this ession, joined by Toro Rosso’s Kvyat (didn’t set a time and carrying a penalty) and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg,

Hamilton was first out his provisional pole lasting only until his team mate shaved three hundredths of a second off his time to top the time sheet. It was Rosberg who took the honours from Hamilton, Williams locking out row 2 and McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing sharing the remaining six slots.

2014: United States GP Grid

Here is the grid for the 2014 US Grand Prix, following grid penalties:

1. Nico Rosberg 1:36.067
2. Lewis Hamilton 1:36.443
3. Valtteri Bottas 1:36.906
4. Felipe Massa 1:37.205
5. Daniel Ricciardo 1:37.244
6. Fernando Alonso 1:37.610
7. Kevin Magnussen 1:37.706
8. Kimi Raikkonen 1:37.804
9. Adrian Sutil 1:38.810
10. Pastor Maldonado 1:38.467 (Q2 time)
11. Sergio Perez 1:38.554
12. Jenson Button* 1:37.655 (Q3 time)
13. Nico Hulkenberg 1:38.598
14. Jean-Eric Vergne 1:39.250 (Q1 time)
15. Esteban Gutierrez 1:39.555
16. Romain Grosjean 1:39.679
17. Daniil Kvyat** 1:38.699 (Q2 time)
Pit-lane: Sebastian Vettel 1:39.621

* 5 place grid drop for gearbox change
** grid drop for engine change

Macau Motorcycle GP entry list confirmed

The entry list for the 2014 Suncity Group Macau Grand Prix has been confirmed.

The list features a number of road racing’s biggest names including John McGuinness, Michael Rutter and Michael Dunlop. They will be joined by Ian Hutchinson, Gary Johnson, Jamie Hamilton and Horst Saiger amongst others. Three times winner Stuart Easton will also be in attendance along with Jimmy Storrar, Jeremy Toye, Martin Jessopp, Didier Grams, Lee Johnston and Stephen Thompson who all finished in the top ten last year.

The 2013 Macau Grand Prix saw Hutchinson make a triumphant return to road racing. After pipping the most experienced man at Macau – Rutter – to pole position by just 0.05s Hutchinson went on to beat him by nearly two and a half seconds. The gap back to Johnson in third was 8.7 seconds while McGuinness brought it home in fourth place albeit 23 seconds off the winner. This year will see Rutter swap to the Milwaukee Yamaha which brought Hutchinson success last year as he looks for his ninth victory, while Hutchinson himself will join Easton on Paul Bird Motorsport Kawasakis. Joining the stellar line-up at Macau this year will be impressive road racing newcomer Peter Hickman along with Michael Sweeney who will ride for John Burrows’ team. Hickman – who was the fastest newcomer at this year’s North West 200 and Isle of Man TT – will ride once again for Paul Shoesmith who will also be riding. Sweeney joins a recovering Dan Kneen on the entry list although the Manxman – who has impressed on the roads this year and took his first international victory at the Ulster Grand Prix – is still recovering from foot injuries sustained at the UGP.

Dunlop is returning to the race following his debut in 2011 where he finished in 12th position, this time riding a BMW. He is another rider who has enjoyed a stellar year on the roads with victories at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT. Dean Harrison – who was involved in the same accident as Kneen – is also returning following his debut in 2013 where he failed to finish the race. Also on the entry list are Roman Stamm, Tiago Magalhaes, Mark Miller, Steve Mercer, Nuno Caetano, Marc Fissette, Dan Cooper, Steve Henegan,  AJ Venter, Davy Morgan, Graham English and Brandon Cretu.

With an impressive line-up it has potential to be a thrilling event. The Macau GP takes place 13th – 16th November.

Ferrari’s points streak comes to an end

Ferrari’s record breaking string of consecutive points finishes has come to an end.

Their run of 81 races beat the previous record – set by McLaren in 2013 – of 64 races with at least one car scoring points at every race on the calendar. McLaren’s run of points started at the start of the 2010 season and ended at the Canadian GP in 2013 when Jenson Button and Sergio Perez failed to score. The British Grand Prix in 2010 was the last occasion in which Ferrari left a race weekend picking up no points.

The team failed to score at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix and it was the first time they have not had one car finish in the points since the 2010 British Grand Prix. Ferrari’s record run started at the 2010 German Grand Prix when Fernando Alonso won the race ahead of then team-mate Felipe Massa.

A disappointing race in Japan saw Ferrari come away with no points following a power failure on Alonso’s car and set-up problems and issues with the tyres for Kimi Raikkonen. “It was a real shame losing the opportunity to take part in this race because, with nothing to lose in terms of the championship, I could have taken a few more risks and maybe aimed for the podium,” Alonso said after the race. “I still don’t know what caused the unfortunate technical problem, only that suddenly, the car lost all its electrics, maybe down to a short circuit caused by the rain.” Raikkonen was similarly disappointed, even though he made it to the chequered flag. “Overall, this was a very disappointing weekend. I had set-up problems right from the first day and again today in the race I didn’t manage to drive the way I would have liked,” he revealed. “After the start behind the Safety Car, the track conditions were pretty atrocious and visibility was very poor, but my car was handling okay. Then, when the rain eased, I fitted the Intermediate tyres, but after a few laps, they were no longer up to temperature and they began to give me problems at the front end, which meant I had to slow down.”