F1 2016: Monaco Grand Prix Preview

Formula One heads to the streets of Monte Carlo for the next round of the Formula One world championship.

The talking point after the Spanish Grand Prix was of course Formula One’s brand new race winner – Max Verstappen. He drove a faultless drive and capitalised when the Mercedes duo broke the cardinal rule of F1 – don’t crash into your team-mate. The Silver Arrows’ race came to a very premature end when Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton made contact at the fourth corner, spearing them both into the gravel trap and into early retirement from the race.

The prestigious Monaco Grand Prix is like no other on the calendar and is considered the jewel in the Formula One crown. Taking place on the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo, with Armco barriers just inches away, it is a race drivers particularly want to win. Like the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying is crucial around here although, while difficult, overtaking is not completely impossible.

Circuit: Circuit de Monaco
Number of Laps: 78
Circuit Length: 3.337km
Number of Corners: 19
Lap Record: 1:14.439 Michael Schumacher 2004
Previous Monaco winners still on the grid: 6
Most Successful Team: McLaren (15 wins)
DRS Zones: 1
Pirelli Tyres: Soft, Supersoft and Ultrasoft

As Jenson Button explains Monaco requires a unique set-up like no other. The track requires “more traction, high downforce, more steering angle [and] softer suspension” for the cars. With the close nature of the barriers drivers require 100% focus because one little mistake could cost a retirement.

Pirelli are bringing their new Ultrasoft tyre compound to this race and it has been favoured by all teams and drivers in their selections.

Nico Rosberg is the form man in Monaco winning the past three events there. He also won the first four races of the year and could have made it five last time out in Spain. While Lewis Hamilton had sat in second place in the championship, that spot is currently filled by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who finished second in Spain. Rosberg leads on 100 points with Raikkonen on 61 and Hamilton on 57. Last year in Monaco Hamilton had built up a significant lead before a pit-stop gaffe cost him the victory as well as second place.

Monaco is a race which can see the order mixed up moreso than at any other circuit during the year. This means there is an opportunity for points for teams who may not necessarily always be fighting for them. Sauber and Renault are the only two teams yet to score any points so far this year.

 

 

F1 2016: Spanish Grand Prix Preview

The European F1 season kicks off this weekend with the Spanish Grand Prix. Teams are particularly familiar with the Circuit de Catalunya as it hosts pre-season testing. Nico Rosberg currently leads the pack on 100 points – four out of four wins so far this season.

Due to the familiarity of the circuit and the fact it is ‘closer to home’, teams traditionally bring their first real big upgrades to the Spanish Grand Prix. Mercedes’ upgrades include a new pointier nose, while Force India have a new front wing along with rear and floor updates. Haas and Sauber will receive upgrades to their Ferrari engines with Haas also set to debut a new front win. McLaren are bringing the second iteration of their new front wing as well as a significant aerodynamic configuration change. Renault are another team to upgrade their front and rear wings as well as a new chassis for Jolyon Palmer. Manor have a number of tweaks to their car planned, including bodywork.

Circuit: Circuit de Catalunya
Number of Laps: 66
Circuit Length: 4.655km
Number of Corners: 16
Lap Record: 1:21.670 Kimi Raikkonen (2008)
Previous Spain winners still on the grid: 7
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (12 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Soft, Medium and Hard

The big news ahead of this weekend’s race was the surprise move by Red Bull to switch Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen. Red Bull felt that Kvyat was struggling to find form and so, from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards he will drive for Toro Rosso. This means Verstappen has been promoted to Red Bull much earlier than expected. All eyes will be on the pair this weekend as they face new challenges – Verstappen to prove he deserves the promotion, and Kvyat to show that he can find form.

The Circuit de Catalunya is notoriously a difficult circuit to overtake on meaning qualifying as far up the grid as possible is more essential than at other tracks. It features a mix of low, medium and high speed corners – the focus placed on the latter two, with only three taken at less than 100kmh. There is a long pit straight as well which provides probably the best opportunity for overtaking. Grip levels are high and brake wear is medium with 63% of the lap spent at full throttle.

Rosberg is the form man and his team-mate Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to finally beat him this weekend. Elsewhere the Ferrari boss has said that he expects his team to start winning in Spain and they weren’t far off in 2014 but Kimi Raikkonen ran out of laps. Williams finished solidly with both cars in the points in Russia to capitalise on their main rivals Red Bull finishing outside the points. McLaren were another team to take a double points finish – their first of the season, although not their first point but it certainly boosted their position. Renault scored their first points of the season thanks to Kevin Magnussen meaning just Sauber and Manor are left to score any points.

 

F1 2016: Russian Grand Prix Preview

Nico Rosberg is currently in control of the 2016 a Formula One World Championship. With three wins from three he currently has a 36 point lead over team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Following the Chinese Grand Prix Formula One has travelled to Russia for the third running of the Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom. Both of the previous races here have been won by Hamilton but can he get his season back on track with a third victory this weekend?

Circuit: Sochi Autodrom
Number of Laps: 53
Circuit Length: 5.848km
Number of Corners: 18
Lap Record: 1:40.071 Sebastian Vettel (2015)
Previous Russian Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 1
Most Successful Team: Mercedes (2 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Super Soft

The Sochi Autodrom features a mixture of long straights and technical corners. The track is quite wide and features low kerbs, allowing drivers to attack into corners. With a lot of the lap spent at full throttle it is a race with high fuel consumption and is also tough on brakes. It features the longest run down to Turn 1, allowing plenty of opportunity for overtaking especially on the first few laps.

Rosberg comes to Russia on the back of a six race winning streak and his confidence will no doubt he soaring. On the other side of the garage Hamilton suffered disappointment in China when he had to start from the back following a gearbox change and engine problems. He fought back to finish seventh – taking some crucial points. Ferrari – who have looked closest to challenging Mercedes so far – had more woes in China when their drivers collided on the first lap. Both cars finished the race, with Sebastian Vettel in third, but the team will have to get on top of the issues that have hampered them so far. These issues include wrong strategy calls.

Elsewhere local boy Daniil Kvyat comes to his home race off the back of a podium finish. Red Bull have looked strong in the opening three races of the season, compounded by a third and fourth last time out. For both Force India drivers it is 100th race entry in Formula One. Sauber, Manor and Renault are still searching for their first points of the year with McLaren hoping to improve on their one point so far courtesy of Stoffel Vandoorne.

 

F1 2016: Chinese Grand Prix Preview

Nico Rosberg is currently Formula One’s form man. On a five race winning streak, carrying over from the end of 2015, he will be looking to add another win to his tally at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

The recurring theme at the first two races of the season has been Mercedes not getting away as well as their rivals when the lights go out. Both Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton lost out to the Ferrari duo in Australia while Hamilton picked up damage to his car after a poor start last time out.

Ferrari has demonstrated that it is a team with the capability of beating Mercedes this year, however reliability issues are hampering their chances. Kimi Raikkonen retired in Australia while Sebastian Vettel’s car expired on the warm up lap in Bahrain. There have been podiums for both drivers, however, in the opening two races – third for Vettel in Australia and second for Raikkonen last time out.

Now all eyes turn to China for the third race of the year. Big news ahead of the weekend is the fact that qualifying will return to the 2015 format.

Circuit: Shanghai International Circuit
Number of Laps: 56
Circuit Length: 5.451km
Number of Corners: 16
Lap Record: 1:32.239 Michael Schumacher (2004)
Previous China winners still on the grid: 6
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (4 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Supersoft

A feature on the Formula One calendar since 2004, the Shanghai International Circuit features a mix of two long straights punctuated by a mixture of slow, medium and high speed corners.

Tyres can play a big issue in the races with wear particularly high. With Pirelli’s new rule of bringing three compounds to each race it is inevitable that there will be a range of strategies throughout the race. This has already been showcased in the first two races and it is a rule praised by many.

The most successful driver at the circuit is Lewis Hamilton who has won the race four time, including in 2014 and 2015. The reigning world champion has been overshadowed by his team-mate in the races so far but has dominated in the qualifying. He will be looking for his first victory of the year and at a circuit he has obviously enjoyed considerable success but also disappointment.

Ferrari have also won the race four times including in 2007 when Kimi Raikkonen won the race in his championship year. They will be hoping to get both cars across the line this year after disappointment in the first two races of the season. Red Bull currently lie third in the championship and they enjoyed a solid finish in Bahrain, led by Daniel Ricciardo in fourth.

Another talking point of the first two races has been the success of Haas. Romain Grosjean has finished in sixth and fifth so far and his consistency so far sees the new team lie fifth in the championship.

Fernando Alonso is still a question mark for the race after being forced to sit out Bahrain. Stoffel Vandoorne picked up points on his debut and Jenson Button felt he was on for solid points before retiring early in the race. Renault, Sauber and Manor are looking for their first points of the year while Williams will be hoping to stay out of trouble. Valtteri Bottas picked up a penalty in Bahrain for his role in Hamilton’s turn one contact. Force India have had a quiet start to the year while Toro Rosso have seen mixed fortunes.

F1 2016: Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

 

Following business as usual for Mercedes with a 1-2 finish in Australia, it’s time for the second race of the season – the Bahrain Grand Prix.

While the results for Australia may look very similar – two Mercedes and a Ferrari driver on the podium – the story behind it is very different. Ferrari got the jump on Mercedes after an aborted start and Sebastian Vettel looked strong for the win before a red flag and a wrong strategy call put paid to that. Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari suffered an airbox fire, leading to his retirement from the race.

Circuit: Bahrain International Circuit
Number of Laps: 57
Circuit Length: 5.412km
Number of Corners: 15
Lap Record: 1:31.447 Pedro de la Rosa (2005)
Previous Bahrain winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (4 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Supersoft

The big news going into the weekend is that the most successful driver at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso, will not be on the grid. The McLaren driver suffered a heavy crash at the Australian Grand Prix and is still feeling the effects. After an FIA medical check-up he has been forced to sit out the weekend due to broken ribs. This means that GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne will get his Formula One debut earlier than expected, fulfilling his reserve driver role with McLaren.

While the Australian Grand Prix takes place on a street circuit, the Sakhir circuit is purpose built and in the middle of a desert. Due to the start/stop nature of the track, there is a heavy impact on the brakes. The Power Units will also face higher stress than they experienced at the previous race.

Nico Rosberg comes into the event off the back of another victory and will be going for his eighth in a row. Ferrari are the most successful constructor at the race and will no doubt be hoping to repeat their success of the last race, before the red flag came out. Daniel Ricciardo came home fourth behind the leading trio, ahead of Felipe Massa and points for Haas on their debut. While Romain Grosjean was overjoyed, his team-mate didn’t enjoy such success. Esteban Gutierrez was involved in the racing incident which saw Alonso retire in spectacular fashion.

Rounding out the top ten in Australia were Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen. Verstappen showed his frustration at getting caught up behind his team-mate so Toro Rosso could have an interesting weekend ahead in terms of driver management. Outside the top ten were the Renault duo with Jolyon Palmer ahead of Kevin Magnussen, although the latter did have to recover from a first lap puncture. McLaren duo Jenson Button and Alonso did feel positive about their pace following practice and qualifying, but strategy left Button down in 14th.

 

F1 2016: Australian Grand Prix Preview

It is time for the talking to start and for the drivers to take to the track. With pre-season testing reduced to just two four day sessions this year, teams have had less track time to prepare for the upcoming season.

The main talking point going into the 2016 season is whether or not Ferrari will be able to close the gap to Mercedes. The Scuderia showed positive signs in testing however it is well known that you cannot take testing times at face value. Mercedes completed the most mileage of anyone but suffered a breakdown on the final day showing that reliability issues can strike and will strike at any time. The Mercedes team has been the dominant force for the past two seasons but can Ferrari take a sustained season long fight to them? Secondly, Nico Rosberg was the on form driver in Mercedes at the close of 2015 – can he maintain his form?

As well as a record breaking 21 race calendar, there is an extended grid with Haas joining. There will be three rookies on the grid this season – Jolyon Palmer steps up to a race seat with Renault while Manor has chosen to run DTM champion and Mercedes backed driver Pascal Wehrlein alongside Rio Haryanto. Making their return to the Formula One grid will be Kevin Magnussen – getting a race seat at Renault – with Esteban Gutierrez driving for Haas. Romain Grosjean has made the move from Lotus to Haas with the rest of the grid remaining as it was for 2015.

The Australian Grand Prix will once again play host to the start of the season and it is a race where there can be a lot of attrition as teams run their cars in full race mode for the first time.

Circuit: Albert Park
Number of Laps: 58
Circuit Length: 5.303km
Number of Corners: 16
Lap Record: 1:24.125 Michael Schumacher (2004)
Previous Australian GP winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: McLaren (12 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium, Soft and Supersoft

For 2016 the technical regulations have remained fairly stable ahead of bigger changes in 2017. There is still scope for teams to improve though and eyes will be on certain teams in particular. One such team will be McLaren following their tumultuous 2015 reunion with engine partner Honda. They had a much more reliable winter, completing more laps in one day at the opening test than they managed over four days at the first test last year. The team are confident they have made gains performance wise but it remains to be seen where they will feature in the pecking order. Renault return to the fray as a constructor for the first time since 2009. They have Kevin Magnussen joining them after a year on the sidelines and it was in Melbourne he took his one and only podium to date in F1 back in 2014 with McLaren.

The last time new teams joined Formula One, they clearly struggled. Only Manor remains of those three teams and Haas will be hoping they won’t meet the same fate as HRT and Caterham. The Haas F1 project has been a long time coming and suggestions are they could be fighting for points straight away. With experienced driver and podium finisher Romain Grosjean on board and former Ferrari test driver Esteban Gutierrez, they have a line-up who are certainly capable of performing.

Elsewhere Red Bull will be racing with their Tag Heuer branded engines and hoping for better fortunes than last year. Sister team Toro Rosso has made the switch back to Ferrari engines for this year and both their drivers – Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen – will be hoping for as good a season, if not better, that they both enjoyed in their rookie year.

It’s all change at Manor with two rookies taking over from last year’s drives. Pascal Wehrlein is the reigning DTM driver while Rio Haryanto enjoyed his best ever GP2 performance in 2015. Force India will be hoping to at least maintain their performance from last year where they finished a best ever fifth in the constructors championship. Williams and Sauber will run with the same drivers as they raced in 2015 and both teams will hope to make steps forward from their respective positions.

For the season ahead there are new Pirelli tyre rules and a new qualifying format which could shake up proceedings. An elimination style qualifying will take place, with cars being eliminated throughout Q1, Q2, and Q3 rather than just at the end of each session. Drivers also get to choose what tyre compounds they want from the three nominated by Pirelli. It is hoped this will lead to a bigger variation in strategies, thus shaking up the racing.

2015: British GP Preview

It’s the British Grand Prix this weekend and, with seven of the ten teams on the grid based in the UK, it is one of the biggest events on the Formula One calendar. The Force India team are based in Silverstone while it is also the home race for Jenson Button, Will Stevens and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Last time out Nico Rosberg won, cutting the gap to Hamilton in the drivers championship to just 10 points. Felipe Massa finished in third for Williams in a repeat of their podium finish there last year in Austria.

The British Grand Prix held at Silverstone is full throttle for over 60% of the lap and it is one of the fastest circuits on the calendar. The track requires medium to high downforce and features a mixture of high and low speed corners. Pirelli are bringing the medium and hard tyres for the weekend.

Circuit: Silverstone
Number of Laps: 52
Circuit Length: 5.891km
Number of Corners: 18
Lap Record: 1:33.401 Mark Webber (2013)
Previous British Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (15 wins)
DRS Zones: 2    
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Hard

Last year’s race was won by Hamilton with Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo also on the podium. There was a big accident on the first lap as Kimi Raikkonen spun across the track and collected Felipe Massa which resulted in a red flag as the barriers needed repairing. Raikkonen had a first lap accident in Austria, this time collecting Fernando Alonso, bringing an end to both of their races. At a time when his future in the sport is under intense scrutiny, Raikkonen will be hoping to have a better weekend this time out. Rosberg retired from last year’s race with a gearbox issue.

Button was another retirement from the Austrian Grand Prix, as McLaren brought his car in as a precaution. He will be hoping for a better showing for McLaren at his home race. Stevens will be making his first home appearance for Manor in an F1 race.