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.

2015: Austrian Grand Prix Preview

Following a brief interlude in North America for the Canadian Grand Prix, Formula One returns to Europe for the Austrian Grand Prix. The race returned to the calendar in 2014 for the first time in 11 years and was won by Nico Rosberg. The event marked the first and only time in 2014 that someone from a team other than Mercedes secured pole position. Felipe Massa led an all Williams front row while it was team-mate Valtteri Bottas who finished on the podium behind Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes once again come into the Austrian Grand Prix as the team to beat. Lewis Hamilton leads the drivers championship while Mercedes lead Ferrari in the constructors. Hamilton won last time out in Canada, leading yet another Mercedes 1-2, with Bottas in third.

Circuit: Red Bull Ring
Number of Laps: 71
Circuit Length: 4.326km
Number of Corners: 9
Lap Record: 1:08.337 Michael Schumacher (2003)
Previous Australian Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 1
Most Successful Team: McLaren (6 wins)
DRS Zones: 2    
Pirelli Tyres: Soft and Supersoft

The Red Bull Ring is made up of fast straights joined by a mix of slow and medium speed corners. Teams come into this weekend with data from last year, in contrast to last year’s race when they did not know what to expect. It is another power track, which requires good aerodynamics and traction. The track is considered medium-downforce due to the mix of corners, despite there being few of them. Last year drivers saw qualifying times deleted for exceeding track limits so they will have to be careful to keep all four wheels on the track.

Last year only one of the four Red Bull affiliated cars made the finish with Sebastian Vettel and the Toro Rosso duo of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat retiring. Only Daniel Ricciardo saw the chequered flag and he finished eighth. They will be hoping to have a better showing at their home track this year, despite the difficulties they have endured so far this season. Another team struggling are McLaren-Honda who, following the highs of their first points of the season in Monaco, suffered the disappointment of a double retirement in Canada. Kimi Raikkonen put in a strong showing in Canada to finish fourth while team-mate Vettel fought through from the back of the grid to finish in fifth. Massa was another driver who had to come from the back of the grid and he ended up in sixth. Williams are bringing a significant upgrade to their car this weekend which they hope will help them close the gap to Ferrari.

2015: Canadian Grand Prix Preview

The European F1 season gets a brief interlude this weekend as teams travel to North America for the Canadian Grand Prix. Considered by many as one of the best weekends on the Formula One calendar, racing at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve always provides excitement and intrigue with different strategies coming into play. While in Monaco it was the close proximity of the barriers all around the track that drivers had to keep themselves out of, in Canada it is the infamous wall of champions which has seen the likes of Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel hit.

The main talking point coming into the Canadian Grand Prix is that moment from Monaco when Lewis Hamilton pitted under the safety car and ultimately lost the win after dominating most of the race. Team-mate Nico Rosberg is the one with the momentum having won the last two races and cutting Hamilton’s championship lead to just ten points.

Circuit: Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve
Number of Laps: 70
Circuit Length: 4.361km
Number of Corners: 14
Lap Record: 1:13.622 Rubens Barrichello (2004)
Previous Canadian Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 6
Most Successful Team: Ferrari & McLaren (13 wins)
DRS Zones: 2   
Pirelli Tyres: Soft and Supersoft

In stark contrast to the high downforce requirements of the streets of Monte Carlo, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is medium to low downforce. A lot of focus is put on power and getting good traction out of the corners. It has long straights where the speeds build as well as slow corners, giving it a very stop/start feel. Ferrari and Honda have used engine development tokens ahead of this weekend and reliability will play a key role in the weekend.

Last year Mercedes looked to have another 1-2 finish sewn up until MGU-K issues hampered both cars races. Struggling from a loss of power, the chasing pack were able to close up on Hamilton and Rosberg. Hamilton eventually retired from the race with brake failure while Rosberg drove around the issue to salvage second place. Instead it was Daniel Ricciardo who took his maiden Formula One win with team-mate Sebastian Vettel in third.

In the past it has been a track where Hamilton has excelled or retired. Since his breakthrough win in his rookie season (2007) he has won the race once more and finished third once. He has retired on his three further visits to the track with the race not being held in 2009. Red Bull have won the race on the past two occasions but before that McLaren had won three in a row. McLaren-Honda picked up their first points of the season in Monaco when Jenson Button was classified eighth while team-mate Fernando Alonso’s race came to an early end after the car overheated. The team will be focused on improving their reliability as they look to become more consistent points scorers. Max Verstappen came under fire following the last race after his move on Romain Grosjean which sees him come into this weekend carrying a five place grid penalty. Having gone second fastest in his first F1 session in Monaco, the highs soon turned to lows when he tried to make a move on Grosjean on the pit straight and crashed out. The incident brought out the safety car which in turned proved to be Hamilton’s downfall.

Verstappen’s fellow rookie and team-mate impressed after racing from the pit-lane to pick up one championship point. Vettel picked up yet another podium for Ferrari while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen finished down in sixth. The Finn is a previous Canadian Grand Prix winner in 2005 and will be hoping to move back up the order. Racing in Canada can often be unpredictable and it will no doubt be another exciting race this weekend.

2015: Monaco Grand Prix Preview

The Monaco Grand Prix is a race like no other on the Formula One calendar. Unforgiving Armco barriers line the street circuit and it also features a tunnel, which brings with it is own unique challenges. The race is known for its glitz and glamour, including the huge yachts docked in the harbour overlooking the track. It is an event which requires not only high downforce and good mechanical grip, but intense concentration from drivers – moreso than usual. “The best thing about coming to Monaco is that it’s a circuit where the driver has more influence on events,” Daniel Ricciardo has said ahead of the weekend. With the lowest average speed of the year – 98mph – Monaco is less about outright performance, meaning those not always finishing in the top ten could take the opportunity to score points. It is also very difficult – but definitely not impossible – to overtake on the streets of Monte Carlo.

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 and Supersoft

Nico Rosberg has taken pole position and the race win on Formula One’s last two visits to Monaco. Last year his pole was tinged with controversy as he ran wide at Mirabeau, resulting in yellow flags which compromised team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s running. Hamilton said Rosberg did it deliberately, and inter-team relations continued to crumble after that. Rosberg held off Hamilton in the race to win with Daniel Ricciardo picking up third for Red Bull. It is once again Mercedes going into the race dominating proceedings. Rosberg took his first win of the year in Spain, giving him the psychological edge going into what is his ‘home’ race. His strong results in the past will also help him as he looks to cut the gap further to Hamilton.

Hamilton, on the other hand, enters the weekend off the back of securing a new three year deal with the team. With contract negotiations finally completed he will be able to give his full attention to the job in hand. Their main rivals Ferrari are a team who have performed well at the circuit in the past – second just to McLaren in terms of victories there – however, the Scuderia’s last win at Monte Carlo was back in 2001 when Michael Schumacher crossed the line first.

Elsewhere it will be a bittersweet race for Manor. The team picked up their first – and so far only – points in Formula One when Jules Bianchi took ninth place in the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix. It has been a difficult 12 months for the team since then with Bianchi’s horrific accident in Japan and the team entering administration within just a couple of months of each other. The team made a valiant effort to make the Australian Grand Prix, and are still racing their ‘B’ spec car, and will no doubt be thinking of their team mate over the course of the upcoming weekend.

The Circuit de Monaco is made up of a number of iconic corners such as La Rascasse, the Swimming Pool, Mirabeau, Sainte Devote, and Tabac, amongst others. Its winners list features a number of iconic drivers including Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Gilles Villeneuve, Mika Hakkinen to name a few. As the saying goes, “to finish first, first you must finish”, a phrase which takes on more meaning at a place like Monaco. In last year’s race there were eight retirements and if a car stops on track there will undoubtedly be a safety car. Just who will come out on top? Action commences tomorrow with Thursday practice.

2015: Spanish Grand Prix Preview

Following a three week break the Formula One action returns this weekend. The Spanish Grand Prix will kick off the European season (with a brief visit to North America for the Canadian Grand Prix) with teams set to introduce rafts of upgrades as they return closer to home.

Mercedes have so far demonstrated that they are still the team to beat although they have Ferrari snapping at their heels. Sebastian Vettel won in Malaysia and was on the podium in Australia and China while Kimi Raikkonen led the Ferrari charge in Bahrain, finishing second. It was a nervy race for Mercedes as both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg limped across the line with brake issues.

Spanish GP Stats

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: Medium and Hard

There are seven former Spanish Grand Prix race winners still on the grid and these are Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Pastor Maldonado and most recently Lewis Hamilton. Raikkonen came close to a win last time out but ran out of laps while Vettel has picked up one victory so far this season. McLaren team-mates Alonso and Button are unlikely to repeat previous Spanish victories however the team will be hopeful they can achieve their first points of the season. Button had a weekend to forget in Bahrain, with technical issues compromising his weekend on Friday and Saturday. His weekend was compounded as he failed to make the grid for the start of the race. Alonso made it into Q2 for the first time this season and was just four seconds off McLaren’s first points of the season. Maldonado has endured a difficult start to his 2015 campaign but Lotus have overall improved since last year and team-mate Romain Grosjean has picked up points. Williams appear to have slipped behind Ferrari in the battle behind Mercedes but Rob Smedley revealed earlier this year that he believed Massa is driving at the best form of his career.

Teams tested at the Circuit de Catalunya during pre-season testing and the race will provide all teams the first opportunity for major upgrades. Due to its regular location as a testing circuit, teams and drivers are very familiar with it. It is a circuit where overtaking is very difficult so qualifying will be more important than it is at some other circuits. It is a mixture of fast, medium and low speed corners with a long pit straight. As well as technical upgrades McLaren will debut their new livery with the chrome being ditched for a “dynamic, predatory, graphite-grey” colour.

There are three Spanish drivers on the grid this year – Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Roberto Merhi. Sainz has performed well so far in his rookie year and is best placed of the three Spaniards to score some points.

2015: Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

In the first back-to-back races of the year, the Formula One circus has moved on to Bahrain after the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend.

Following Ferrari’s time at the top of the podium in Malaysia it was business as usual for Mercedes in China as they recorded a 1-2 finish. There were post-race rumblings of another falling out between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as the latter accused the race winner of holding up his progress by driving too slowly. Both made their feelings perfectly clear in post race interviews and things are set to heat up again in Bahrain, where Hamilton won last year. It was yet another Mercedes 1-2 with Force India’s Sergio Perez finishing 20 seconds behind them on the podium.

Whilst Mercedes once again dominated proceedings in China – both on and off the track – Ferrari were the team closest to them, finishing third and fourth. They were followed by the two Williams, Romain Grosjean scoring his and Lotus’ first points of the year, Felipe Nasr, Daniel Ricciardo and Marcus Ericsson. At the back of the field there were reasons to celebrate for both Manor and McLaren as both teams got two drivers to the finish. Jenson Button was handed a five second post-race penalty following a collision with Pastor Maldonado, meaning McLaren were classified 12th and 14th. Manor were classified 15th and 16th of 17th classified finishers, although Max Verstappen pulled off four laps before the end of the race.

Bahrain Stats

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 and Soft

Bahrain has been on the Formula One calendar since 2004. It has been held on ten occasions having been cancelled in 2011 due to political unrest. It hasn’t always been in the current format either. In 2010 the race flirted with a longer endurance circuit but it reverted to the Grand Prix circuit for 2012 onwards. The Bahrain Grand Prix became a twilight race in 2014 – starting in daylight and ending in darkness.

Due to the differences in conditions teams and drivers have a lot to take into consideration when setting up the cars. There will be a discrepancy between temperatures during the ‘day’ and ‘night’ parts of the race, resulting in changes in balance and grip levels. It is also a track which gives brakes a good workout as there are a number of slow-speed corners at the end of straights. Qualifying has proven to be of particular importance in Bahrain in the past with the race having never been won from further back than fourth on the grid. Ferrari challenged Mercedes in China during qualifying but ultimately the Silver Arrows came out on top. Rosberg narrowly missed out on pole position, taking the fight to his team-mate.

It is a race where Kimi Raikkonen has performed well in the past but never won. Most recently he finished on the podium for Lotus in 2012 and 2013. He is yet to get a podium in 2015 but has finished in fourth. He has encountered problems, including a loose wheel which forced him to retire from the Australian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel has been demonstrating what the Ferrari is capable – being the only driver to so far beat a Mercedes this year – so Raikkonen could be one to watch out for this weekend. For Grosjean – who has also finished on the Bahrain podium – it will be an opportunity to maintain the momentum from last weekend when he got his first points of the season. McLaren will be hoping to build on the progress they made by getting both cars to the finish and they are set to turn their engines up a bit more for this weekend ahead of further updates in Spain. Red Bull and Toro Rosso both had engine problems in China while Maldonado retired following rear brake failure and an accident with Button who collided with the Lotus driver.

2015: Chinese Grand Prix Preview

Following Mercedes’ routine 1-2 in Australia, the tables turned in Malaysia when Sebastian Vettel made the most of a different strategy to take a convincing victory. The Ferrari driver finished eight seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton with Vettel favouring a two stop strategy over Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s three.

Now all eyes turn to China to see if Ferrari’s win means there is a genuine threat to Mercedes’ domination or if circumstances on the day helped the Scuderia on their way to victory. While Vettel was winning, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen recovered from qualifying 11th to finish in fourth place. The rest of the top ten read like Noah’s Ark, with the two Williams drivers finishing next to each other ahead of two Toro Rossos and two Red Bulls. At the other end of the spectrum, Ferrari’s sparring partner of days gone past McLaren suffered a double DNF although Ron Dennis revealed last week that both engines would be used again in China. McLaren were buoyed during the race, however, to be fighting with other cars in the midfield. Roberto Merhi got the Manor car to the end of its first race but was the sole representative following a fuel pump problem on team-mate Will Stevens’ car.  Following the much depleted grid in Australia, Malaysia was a much better showing with 19 out of 20 cars making the start of the race – 15 of them made it to the chequered flag.

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 and Soft

From the heat and humidity of Malaysia, Formula One moves on to the cooler climes of Shanghai. The Chinese Grand Prix has been on the F1 calendar since 2004 and provides teams the challenge of setting their cars up for long straights punctuated by a mixture of slow, medium and high speed corners. The track can also be particularly tough on the tyres and Pirelli have brought the soft and medium compound this weekend. In its 11 year history the race has been won by eight different drivers with just Hamilton and Fernando Alonso winning it more than once. Last year saw Hamilton lead from lights to flag, finishing ahead of his team-mate and Alonso in the Ferrari. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest we could see Mercedes return to their winning ways this weekend but Ferrari have certainly put a cat amongst the pigeons by winning last time out. The championship is finely poised after two races – Hamilton leads by just three points from Vettel – but can Ferrari prevent another Silver Arrows 1-2 on Sunday?