F1 2015 Preview: Manor

2014 Statistics

Constructors Championship: 9th
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Pole positions: 0
Points finishes: 1

The Manor Marussia F1 Team has faced a whirlwind in the last six months. Entering administration in October, it looked like the team had taken part in their last Formula One race at the Russian Grand Prix. However in the last few weeks the unlikely has happened and the team have arrived in Melbourne for the first race of the season.

Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi will race for the team. Manor have also introduced Jordan King as development driver. Stevens took part in the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for Caterham last year and finished in 17th position. So, while he has one bit of Formula One race experience both drivers are essentially rookies as Manor enter the new chapter of their existence. They entered the sport as Virgin Racing in 2010 – along with the now defunct HRT and Caterham teams – before becoming Marussia Virgin in 2011 and dropping Virgin altogether for 2012 onwards. Last season saw them achieve their best championship position as they ended the year ninth despite missing the last three races.

The ninth place finish was all thanks to Jules Bianchi’s jubilant ninth place finish in the Monaco Grand Prix which resulted in two points for the team. He actually finished eighth in the race but a five second penalty was applied post race due to a safety car infringement dropping him down a position. The team must enter the season without their star driver due to his devastating crash at the Japanese Grand Prix. Thoughts of all involved in Formula One remain with him with the hashtag #ForzaJules still being used.

Both Stevens and Merhi will make the step up to Formula One from Formula Renault 3.5 Stevens finished sixth in the 2014 season with two wins and two further podiums to his name. Merhi ended the year in third place with three wins and three further podiums. Both drivers face a big task in 2015 as they will be driving a car which has not been tested.  Manor revealed just last week that the car has passed its crash tests. They have also explained that while the car is to 2015 specifications, they intend to introduce a new car later in the season using designs initiated last year. Making the grid will give the team huge financial benefits as they will receive the prize money for finishing ninth in the championship, which they would not have got had they not been racing.

All at Manor have shown that they are fighters, making sure they could make the first race of the season at such short notice. There will be no doubt that the team will continue to fight throughout the season. With no testing there is no marker at all where they will lie pace wise in relation to everyone else, so it really is just a case of wait and see.

Advertisements

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.

2014: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview – the final showdown

After 19 races it has come down to Lewis Hamilton versus Nico Rosberg for the 2014 Formula One World Championship. Mercedes have been a dominant force all year winning all but three races and wrapping up the constructors championship in Russia. Hamilton has a 17 point lead but with double points in play, it’s not over yet. While Hamilton has won ten races in 2o14 to Rosberg’s five, Rosberg has been the superior of the two in qualifying.

This will be the sixth holding of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, having made its debut in 2009. It has been won three times by Sebastian Vettel, once by Hamilton and once by Kimi Raikkonen. The grid will be slightly bigger than it was last time out in Brazil with Caterham returning to the grid following a successful crowd-funding initiative. Marussia had hoped to be joining them but will miss the race. Kamui Kobayashi will be driving for Caterham but his team-mate is currently unknown, with reports it could be Roberto Mehri or Max Chilton. Andre Lotterer, who made a one race appearance for Caterham at the Belgium Grand Prix, reportedly turned down the opportunity to race at this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Abu Dhabi GP Stats

Circuit: Yas Marina Circuit
Number of Laps: 55
Circuit Length: 5.554km
Number of Corners: 21
Lap Record: 1:40.279 Sebastian Vettel 2009
Previous Abu Dhabi winners still on the grid: 3
Most Successful Team: Red Bull (3 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Soft and Supersoft

The race in Abu Dhabi is unique as it is the only race to run from day to night. It also features a mix 0f fast corners and long straights, with a twisty technical section. It can be a hard circuit to overtake at, as Fernando Alonso discovered in 2010 when he failed to pass Vitaly Petrov and lost out on the championship to Vettel who won the race. The race has only been won from pole position once, however, with three being won from second and once from fourth. Raikkonen won the race from fourth in 2012 at the end of his return season with Lotus.

For some drivers, the race will be significant for more than just being the last race of the season. For Vettel it will be the last race with Red Bull – the team with whom he won his four world championships. It is almost certain that Alonso will make way for Vettel at Ferrari although this has not been confirmed yet. Alonso is in turn expected to be announced as a McLaren driver for 2015, but the team revealed yesterday that there would be no announcement before the first of December. As a consequence of this, this could be Button’s final race in Formula One, with seats at other teams being filled up. Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil both do not have a seat for next year while Jean-Eric Vergne is still waiting to hear whether or not he will be retained by Toro Rosso next year. Sergio Perez is also expected to be confirmed as a Force India driver for a second year in due course.

Hamilton is going for his second world championship while Rosberg is hoping to secure his first. If Rosberg wins the race then he needs Hamilton to finish no higher than third. If Rosberg finishes second then Hamilton must finish fifth to win the title. If Rosberg finishes anywhere outside the top six then the title belongs to Hamilton.

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 Grand Prix Preview

Formula One is back after a three week break and it’s time for a trip to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for the third time.

Held for the first time in 2012, the race has been won by both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Vettel took pole position in 2012 but was beaten by Hamilton – his last win for McLaren – but won the race from pole in 2013. The four time world champion has arrived in America with the knowledge that he will have to take a penalty for an engine change. It is unlikely that he will take part in qualifying, bringing the total number of participants down to 17, and will start from the pit-lane as a result.

In the three week gap between Russia and Austin Caterham and Marussia have both gone into administration with neither team appearing at this weekend’s Grand Prix. This  means just 18 drivers will line up for the start of the American Grand Prix – the lowest number since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix which BAR sat out due to being banned for two races because of fuel irregularities. Of course after that there was the infamous 2005 US Grand Prix – which 14 of the 20 qualifiers failed to start – which ran with just six racers, but more qualifiers.

US GP stats

Circuit: Circuit of the Americas
Number of Laps: 56
Circuit Length: 5.513km
Number of Corners: 20
Lap Record: 1:39.347 Sebastian Vettel 2012
Previous US GP (in Austin) winners still on the grid: 2
Most Successful Team: McLaren & Red Bull (1 win)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Soft

Featuring lots of elevation changes – including the long run up (literally) to Turn 1 with the blind apex – the COTA has already become a favourite amongst the drivers. It features a mix of high-speed corners with a number of technical sections. Pirelli have changed the tyres from the previous two years, moving to the soft compound to partner the medium instead of the hard compound used for the first two years.

Mercedes have already wrapped up the constructors championship but the drivers championship is still being fought for. Hamilton has staged quite the turnaround in the last few races – winning four of the last five – and leads Rosberg by 17 points. With three races left, including double points in Abu Dhabi, it is all very much still to play for!

Mercedes clinch championship with Russian 1-2

In a season of domination, Mercedes championship winning race was an inevitability. Going into the Russian Grand Prix the Silver Arrows team just needed 25 points to clinch the constructors championship with three races remaining. And with yet another 1-2 – their ninth of the season – Mercedes won their first constructors championship in some style.

Lewis Hamilton lined up on pole position with team-mate Nico Rosberg alongside him for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix. When the lights went out Hamilton got the better initial start but with the help of a slipstream Rosberg passed him on the run to Turn 2. He locked up and straight lined the corner, soon being asked by the team to give the position back to Hamilton. The lock-up also badly flat spotted his tyres and forced his hand, meaning he had to pit for new tyres after just one lap and faced the unfavourable task of making them last to the end of the race. Felipe Massa – who had a disappointing qualifying session and started 18th – also pitted at the end of the first lap but could not eke his tyres out the full 53 laps. Rosberg put in an impressive drive to fight from the back of the pack to finish second – just 13 seconds off his team-mate. The Mercedes duo were joined on the podium by Valtteri Bottas with the Finn taking his fifth podium of the year and first fastest lap.

McLaren impressed on Friday in Free Practice and, having started fourth and eleventh, put in a strong race performance as well. Kevin Magnussen – who originally qualified in sixth but dropped to eleventh due to a gearbox penalty – enjoyed some early battles with the Toro Rosso drivers as he progressed into the top ten, and leap-frogged Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the pit-stop phase. Jenson Button ran in the podium positions early on but the McLaren duos eventual finishing positions were fourth and fifth. It was the team’s best collective performance since the Australian Grand Prix where they were classified second and third. The result and the fact that Sergio Perez was Force India’s sole representative in the points meant that McLaren jumped ahead of their rivals in the constructors championship, now leading them by 20 points. Button revealed post race that McLaren have genuinely made a step forward and it wasn’t all circuit specific and he believes that, although it is unlikely, there is a chance they could close the 45 point gap to Ferrari in the championship.

Ferrari’s race was not one to write home about with Alonso finishing sixth. He had a slow pit-stop which cost him about five seconds but his eventual finishing time behind Magnussen was seven seconds. Kimi Raikkonen had a quiet race and finished in ninth place. Mercedes’ distant rivals and reigning world champions Red Bull also had a quiet afternoon, finishing seventh and eighth with Daniel Ricciardo ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Perez finished tenth for Force India after nursing a “critical fuel situation” for the latter stages of the race.

Romain Grosjean and Adrian Sutil had a coming together and Grosjean was given a 5 second stop/go penalty for causing a collision after Sutil was sent into a spin. The Sauber driver was able to continue but both he and Esteban Gutierrez were both once again outside the points. Local hero Daniil Kvyat – who qualified an impressive fifth – was hampered (along with team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne) by the need for extreme fuel saving. Marcus Ericsson was the final classified finisher in 19th place, two laps down and behind Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado. The sole Marussia of Max Chilton failed to finish the race, having to retire after nine laps while Kamui Kobayashi was also forced to retire. He revealed that he did not know why he had been asked to retire but had just been told to box.

There is now three weeks before the next round of the 2014 Formula One world championship. Hamilton now has a 17 point lead over Rosberg and there are just three races left, but the last carries double points.

The sun’ll come out tomorrow – Belgian GP quali

With the rain stopping just before the session commenced, the good drainage of the spa circuit posed an immediate problem for the runners in Q1. A 70% chance of rain during the session provoked a scramble for times to be banked. Heavy spray was an issue, with virtually everybody out on the intermediate tyre scrambling to put times on the board. The inters proved to be the right choice, with those running the full wet tyres quickly swapping to the faster tyre. Gutierrez was an early casualty, retiring his Sauber midway through the session.

It was, inevitably perhaps, the Mercedes leading the charge, with Hamilton edging his team mate despite an early excursion onto the run-off. The threat of rain offset by a drying track, the advice from most teams was simply to keep circulating and registering times in case conditions changed. Caterham’s temporary driver Lotterer initially struggled to adapt to the conditions, failing to register a time within the 107% limit with a minute to go but eventually outpacing his teammate. Hulkenberg was a key casualty of the first session.

It was inters again for Q2, with light rain falling and track on the cusp of warranting a switch to the full wet tyre. There was plenty of off-track action, with Alonso and Hamilton taking to the run-offs. With the balance of drying track versus falling rain favouring the inters, times improved throughout the session. It was the Mercedes pairing leading the charge by some margin, with Hamilton topping the timesheet foremost of the session. Toro Rosso was the biggest casualty of the session, with both drivers failing to prceed to Q3.

It was the big five teams jostling for the final grid positions in Q3. Vettel was first out. With spray still flying, paradoxically the sun began to break through, prompting some consideration of the very slight possibility of the track being dry enough to support running on slick tyres at the end of the session.  With the clock running down, it was clear that it would be a final dash on a fresh set of the inters that would determine final positions.  No surprises at the end of the session, with Rosberg edging Hamilton for pole, from Vettel and Alonso.