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.

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.

2014: Japanese Grand Prix Preview

In Singapore two weeks ago the championship was turned on its head. Lewis Hamilton was trailing team-mate Nico Rosberg by 27 points after Belgium and now he leads by three points after Rosberg’s car was compromised by a “substance contamination” forcing him to retire.

Now teams have travelled to Japan for the 15th round of the 2014 Formula One World Championship. The race weekend is under threat from Typhoon Phanfone, with Saturday and Sunday in particular set to be interrupted by heavy rain. Apart from the weather threat the main focus is the inter-team battle between Hamilton and Rosberg. Neither driver has won around Suzuka before with Hamilton’s 2007 Japanese Grand Prix victory coming in Fuji. The circuit is iconic and in the past has played host to the end of the championship. It is one that most drivers will have on their ‘bucket-list’ to win. Of the current field four drivers have won in Suzuka: Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 with his famous last lap move on Giancarlo Fisichella; Fernando Alonso in 2006 when Michael Schumacher’s engine gave up and tilted the title firmly in Alonso’s favour; Sebastian Vettel in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013; and Jenson Button in 2011.

Circuit: Suzuka
Number of Laps: 53
Circuit Length: 5.807km
Number of Corners: 18
Lap Record: 1:31.540 – Kimi Raikkonen (2005)
Previous Japanese Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: McLaren (9 wins)
DRS Zones: 1   
Pirelli Tyres: Hard and Medium

The Suzuka circuit is a unique figure of 8 and features some of the toughest corners on the calendar – including the Esses, Spoon and 130R – but also requires good straight line speed leading to a compromise from teams on downforce. It is a circuit which can also be tough on tyres but that may be negated this weekend if the promised rain arrives, leaving drivers to use their limited number of intermediate and wet tyres.

As mentioned above the championship is finely poised with only three points separating the top two. Both drivers – who have had their fair share of reliaibilty issues during the season – will be hoping nothing else goes wrong. Mercedes may be dominating both championships but in terms of reliability they’re only the fourth best team of 2014. Ferrari have 26 race finishes from 28 starts, McLaren have 25, Red Bull have 24 and Mercedes have 23. Mercedes’ saving grace is that all 23 finishes have been in the points and at the upper end. There hasn’t been a race in 2014 without one of the Mercedes drivers on the podium.

Elsewhere the battle is heating up between Williams and Ferrari. Williams are currently third in the constructors championship but just nine points clear of the Scuderia. McLaren and Force India are locked in battle for fifth place – Force India moved ahead again following Singapore and currently lead McLaren by 6 points.

Because the night – Singapore quali

With off-track attention on the Mercedes-Benz inter-team rivalry, radio message bans and blown engines, it must have been a relief for the drivers to apply their concentration to piloting their machinery around the floodlit challenge that is the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Overnight rain had washed the track clean, so qualifying promised to be a game of nerves, with teams waiting for the track to ‘rubber in’ and offer increased level of grip. With outright speed secondary to precision and concentration, Singapore promised the possibility of a challenge to Mercedes’ qualifying dominance so far. The performance differential between the soft and supersoft compounds raised the possibility of teams sacrificing a set of the faster tyre to guarantee their quali progress.

With Ericsson’s Caterham still in the garage having its ERS unit replaced, it was Rosberg who came unstuck first on track, outbraking himself into Turn 8 and taking to the escape road to avoid flat-spotting his tyres. Grosjean reported brake power failure and team mate Maldonado found himself off the track at Turn 7. It was the Ferrari pair who put in the surprise performance, with Raikkonen edging his team mate at the top of the Q1 time sheet.

It was the Ferrari pair again who immediately brought the fight to Mercedes, with both drivers setting the early Q2 pace. Hamilton’s response was to shave a couple of thousandths off Alonso’s time to retake the top spot. It was a cagey session, with the need to save tyres for Q3 balanced against an evolving track informing teams’ decisions whether or not to sit on the times they had banked or use tyre resources to ensure their progress to the last session. Mclaren’s Jenson Button missed progressing to Q3 by two thousandths of a second.

All gloves were off for Q3, the early runs favouring everyone but Mercedes. After two relatively lacklustre sessions, it was Williams who stepped up, with Massa registering the fastest lap in the early part of the session. With everyone out for final flying laps, Raikkonen reported a loss of power and was told to stop the car by the team. It was a scramble for times, with Ricciardo the first the break Massa’s time. It was the last chance saloon as the cars streamed over the line with times tumbling. Business as usual in the end, with Hamilton taking pole from his team mate by seven thousandths of a second. Red Bull locked out the second row.