Mercedes clinch Constructors Championship in Russia

Mercedes have secured their second Constructors Championship in as many years with Lewis Hamilton winning last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Needing to outscore Ferrari by three points the team were initially denied the opportunity to celebrate following Nico Rosberg’s retirement and Hamilton’s 25 points not enough to beat Ferrari’s 28 for second and fifth place. The overall end result was decided by the stewards, however, when a banzai move by Kimi Raikkonen on Valtteri Bottas resulted in a 30 second post race penalty for the Ferrari driver. He came from a long way back in an attempt to steal the final podium position from his fellow Finn on the last lap, but there was not enough space for both cars. Bottas retired from the race but Raikkonen limped across the line with a damaged car to finish in fifth. He was later demoted to eighth by his penalty meaning Mercedes had outscored Ferrari by enough points.

“That was a day with every possible emotion: a bittersweet day on track, then a tense wait – and finally a confirmation that we have won a second world championship,” Toto Wolff said after the event. “Wow, there are never any simple days in this sport! But what a feeling it is to win a second title and a privilege to be part of this team.”

With just 100 points up for grabs from the last four races, Hamilton could win his third world championship as early as the next round. The next race is the US Grand Prix in Austin and Hamilton needs to outscore Sebastian Vettel by just nine points. Rosberg was unfortunate to retire in Russia due to a throttle issue meaning he is now seven points behind Vettel and in turn 73 behind his team-mate.

From the 15 races in 2015, Mercedes have started on pole for 14 of them – all but Singapore. They have won at 12 races, with Vettel securing victory in Malaysia, Hungary, and Singapore. Hamilton has 13 podiums while Rosberg has 11 while on only three occasions has one of the drivers failed to pick up points.

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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.

Manor F1 confirm driver line-up

The Manor F1 Team has confirmed its driver line-up for the Australian Grand Prix. The team – who recently exited administration to make a surprise return to the grid – has revealed that Roberto Merhi will line up alongside existing driver Will Stevens in the “opening rounds”.

The Spaniard finished third in the 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 championship taking three wins, six podiums, and three pole positions on the way. Fellow F1 rookie Carlos Sainz Jr was the eventual victor while Stevens finished in sixth place. Merhi also acted as a Caterham test driver last year. “I am incredibly excited to be making my Formula 1 debut with [the] Manor Marussia F1 Team in Melbourne,” he said. “It is a big responsibility but I feel ready to make this step in my career and to show that I can make an important contribution to developing a team.”

As well as the racing driver line-up, Manor has revealed that 2015 GP2 driver Jordan King will join as development driver. “I am obviously over the moon to be joining Manor Marussia F1 Team,” the Brit revealed. “This is such an exciting project, full of great people and with a real chance of success. This is another great step closer to my ultimate goal of racing in Formula 1.”

Team Principal John Booth explained why adding Merhi and King to the new driver line-up was so ‘rewarding’. “They have been ‘graduates’ of Manor Motorsport in the junior formulae, which is obviously very rewarding for us given that the development of young talent is an important part of our philosophy,” he said. “It is fantastic to welcome Roberto [Merhi] and Jordan [King] to the team. They are very talented young drivers with exciting futures ahead of them.”

The team has had a whirlwind few months after looking certain to have disappeared from Formula One at the end of 2014. Initial plans to run the 2014 car had been blocked so the team worked 24/7 to produce a car that met the 2015 regulations and they passed the crash tests just last week. They plan to introduce a new car later in the season using the designs initiated last year. With no testing completed and 2014 Ferrari engines the team face an uphill struggle but even just making the grid is an achievement.

Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon was quick to thank everyone for their support. “I want to thank all of the teams, the FIA, Formula One Management, our suppliers and staff and of course all of the fans for the support we’ve received over the past six months,” he said. “It has been a challenging period for all of us but we’ve come through it and now we just want to go racing again. With formidable new business leadership in Stephen Fitzpatrick and the board presence of Justin King we are now in a great place ahead of the new season. This is a fantastic and very rewarding moment for all those involved with the team.”

Manor F1 Team working ‘flat out’ to be ready for Australia

The Manor F1 Team – previously Marussia – has released a statement revealing that they hope to be on the grid in Australia.

The team, who folded at the end of last year and missed the final three races, recently exited administration and revealed they hoped to race in 2015. A plan to race with their 2014 car was vetoed by some teams but they have today released a statement revealing their intentions to be on the grid in just over two weeks time.

A post on their Facebook page read:

The Manor Marussia F1 Team is making huge strides towards the 2015 FIA Formula One World Championship season opener in Melbourne, Australia, in just over two weeks’ time.

The approval by the Company’s creditors on 19 February 2015 to a Company Voluntary Arrangement paves the way for the team to exit from administration and since that time everyone involved with Manor has been working flat out on the key components of its 2015 challenge.

The car with which Manor will begin the season is now in an advanced stage of build at the team’s current race preparation facility in Dinnington where personnel are working 24/7 towards the air freight despatch date of 6 March.

As the sport counts down to the curtain-raising 2015 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix in 18 days time, Manor is now in a position to be able to provide regular updates on its preparations for Melbourne and wider plans for the season, including the completion of its driver line-up.

Along with the statement the team also confirmed their first driver – Will Stevens. Stevens acted as a reserve driver for the team in the later stages of the 2014 season before racing for Caterham in Abu Dhabi. In the past Manor has played a part in the early careers of such drivers as Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton. “It’s very exciting to see everything coming together at Manor after the tremendous effort that has gone into saving the team,” Stevens explained. “It would not have been possible without the incredible support we have received from all the suppliers and from within the sport, but most of all the fantastic team of people at Manor who are working around the clock to ensure we are ready for Melbourne. My thanks to the team for their confidence in me and I can’t wait to see all the hard work rewarded when we line up on the grid in two weeks’ time.”

Reaching the grid in Melbourne would also mean a financial boost for the team as they would receive the prize money for finishing ninth in the constructors championship, thanks to the two points won by Jules Bianchi in Monaco. Despite the fact that their factory was bought by Haas F1 (due to enter the sport next year) and the opposition to their plans to race with the 2014 car, it looks like the team could overcome their problems to unexpectedly make the grid in Australia which is good news for the sport.

Update: An updated entry list released by the FIA includes the team but their entry is subject to the full compliance with the 2015 regulations. Will Stevens entry is subject to the holding of a superlicence.

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!

2014 Belgian Grand Prix Preview

After the summer break Formula One is ready to resume and where better than Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix.

A firm favourite amongst fans and teams alike, the 7.004km track has provided some spectacular racing over the years. Counting the iconic Eau Rouge, La Source and Les Combes amongst its features, the track provides a challenge like no others for the drivers. With average speeds of 230km/h Spa is a fast track and 70% of each lap is spent at full throttle. Another challenge which could give teams a dilemma is the weather. Due to the length of the track, quite often if it rains, it is raining at one side of the circuit before it reaches the other, making tyre choice imperative.

Circuit: Spa-Francorchamps
Number of Laps: 44
Circuit Length: 7.004km
Number of Corners: 19
Lap Record: 1:47.263 Sebastian Vettel (2009)
Previous Belgian Grand Prix winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (16 wins)
DRS Zones: 2    
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Soft

At the head of the championship, Nico Rosberg leads team-mate Lewis Hamilton by eleven points. Hamilton has won at the Belgian Grand Prix before – 2010 – while Rosberg has not, but it is a race where the phrase ‘anything can happen’ normally does come true. Kimi Raikkonen is the most successful current driver at the track with four wins to his name – two with McLaren (2004 & 2005) and two with Ferrari (2007 & 2009). It will be interesting to see if the Finn can turn his disappointing season around at the track where he normally excels.

In terms of the track itself there have been new fences installed at turn one and there is improved drainage at turns one, two, four, eight, eleven, sixteen and seventeen.

Elsewhere there have been a couple of interesting announcements in the run up to this weekend’s race. 12 races into the 2014 Formula One season and there will be two rookies making their debut.

32-year old Andre Lotterer and 22-year old Alexander Rossi will drive for Caterham and Marussia respectively this weekend. Three times Le Mans winner Lotterer was confirmed by Caterham yesterday and will be driving in place of Kamui Kobayashi. Marussia made a late change to their line-up earlier this afternoon, announcing that due to “contractual issues” Max Chilton would be stepping aside with test driver Rossi being promoted to a race seat. Both are currently just one race deals at the minute.

The Winners & Losers of 2014: Part Two

Following on from the first part of the winners and losers of 2014, which focused on drivers, here is part two looking at teams.

1. Winners: Mercedes (+158)

Mercedes are the biggest winners between this stage last year and 2014, gaining a massive 158 points. It’s not like they had a poor 2013 – they were lying second to Red Bull and just 77 points behind them after 11 races last season – but this year has seen them take a bigger step forward than anyone else and run away. Between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton Mercedes have won nine from 11 races so far in 2014 and are 174 points clear of Red Bull. They have scored maximum points – 43 (25 for a win, 18 for second) – on six occasions averaging 35.72 points per round. This is an increase of 15.82 from this stage last year.

1. Losers: Lotus (-179)

On the other end of the spectrum Lotus have had a disastrous 2014 compared to their 2013 campaign. Struggling with reliability and the general speed of the car, Lotus have scored just eight points so far – a huge drop of 179 from this stage last year. While Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finished on the podium a number of times between them in 2013, Lotus have struggled to even finish in the points at most races this year with Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado. At this stage in 2013 they were 125 points off the leaders while this season the gap is 385. They’re averaging 0.73 points per round – a drop of 16.27 from last year.

2. Winners: Williams (+134)

Williams, who celebrated their 600th Grand Prix in 2013, have seen an upturn in form between 2013 and 2014. Valtteri Bottas has been joined by Felipe Massa and the pair have accrued 135 points so far – a vast improvement on the one point from this time last year. Such is the domination by Mercedes, however, that their 258 deficit to the championship leaders is just 53 points better than the deficit in 2013. Williams’ biggest haul of points at one race this year was 27 when they came third and fourth at the Austrian Grand Prix.

2. Losers: Red Bull (-93)

As was the case with four time world champion Sebastian Vettel, the only way is down for the reigning world champions. While they have dominated for the past few seasons, they now have to play second fiddle to Mercedes as ‘best of the rest’. At this stage last season Red Bull had a 77 point lead over Mercedes, but now the roles have been reversed and they find themselves 174 points behind the Silver Arrows. Red Bull’s best haul of points in 2014 came in Canada when Daniel Ricciardo took his first ever F1 victory and Vettel finished third. Red Bull’s average points per round tally has dropped by 8.45 as they were averaging 28.36 points at this stage last year. They have struggled with reliability, especially due to problems with the Renault power unit.

3. Winners: Force India (+37)

Force India have seen their fortunes improve since 2013 to the tune of 61 points – 37 more than they managed after 11 races last season. This has been helped by Nico Hulkenberg’s consistent run of points finishes, which ended last time out, and Sergio Perez’s podium finish at the Chinese Grand Prix. While Force India averaged around five points at this time last year, that number has increased to 8.9. At this stage in 2013 Force India lay in sixth place and 251 points off the leader while in 2014 they are ahead of McLaren and in fifth but 295 points off the leaders such is the domination Mercedes have shown.

3. Losers: Ferrari (-76)

Ferrari are another team down on where they were at this stage last season. Kimi Raikkonen has struggled to get to grips with the F14 T and as a consequence it has been Fernando Alonso who has scored the vast majority of Ferrari’s points – 115 to Raikkonen’s 27. After 11 races in 2013, Ferrari were third in the constructors championship – 94 points down on Red Bull – and averaging 19.82 points per round. This included two wins for Alonso and numerous podiums. In 2014 Ferrari are still third in the championship but are now 251 points off the lead and averaging 12.9 points per round. Alonso has been on the podium twice while Raikkonen’s best position has been sixth.

4. Winners: McLaren (+32)

It will be small consolation for McLaren that they are up on where they were at this stage last year, as they still languish sixth in the constructors championship. On a positive note, McLaren kicked off the year with two podiums – a second place for rookie Kevin Magnussen while Jenson Button was awarded third following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification. In 2013 McLaren were averaging 5.9 points per round after 11 races and their highest tally at one race was 12 points. Their total after 11 races was 65 points. In 2014 they are averaging 8.12 points and their highest tally at one round was 33 points – about a third of their overall tally of 97 points.

4. Losers: Toro Rosso (-8)

Another team who have lost out between 2013 and 2014 are Toro Rosso, although only marginally. Their championship position remains unchanged – seventh – but their points have slipped by eight. At this point in the 2013 championship Toro Rosso had 25 points and were averaging 2.27 per round. In 2014 they have 17 points and have average 1.5 points per round. Having swapped to Renault engines for 2014, Toro Rosso have felt the pain of the problems the engine supplier has faced.

5. Winners: Marussia (+2)

There was cause for celebration after the Monaco Grand Prix when Marussia finally picked up their first points in Formula One, after three years of trying. This has seen them stay ahead of Caterham in the Constructors Championship and move ahead of Sauber who have really been struggling in 2014. Marussia have not scored again since Monaco but two points is enough to see them improve on 2013.

5. Losers: Sauber (-6)

Sauber did not have the best season in 2013 but it has been even worse for 2014. Reliability problems have hampered the Swiss team and they are yet to score this season. At this stage in 2013 they had only scored six points, but six points is better than no points. Adrian Sutil has finished 11th on two occasions but it has been a case of close but no cigar for the German driver who moved from Force India at the end of 2013. Esteban Gutierrez’s best 2014 finish has been 12th.

1. Stay-the-samers: Caterham (+/- 0)

Caterham have neither improved nor got worse since this stage in 2013. They still have no points and the team was recently sold as it looks to improve its position in Formula One. Kamui Kobayashi has finished 13th on two occasions while Marcus Ericsson’s best position has been 14th once.

There seems to be a pattern for the winners and losers for 2014. All but one of the teams who have seen improvements since 2013 are running with Mercedes engines while the two ‘biggest losers’ are Lotus and Red Bull, both running Renault power units which have caused many problems in 2014. With the summer break almost over, teams will be hoping to kick-start the second half of their seasons with decent points scoring as points mean prizes in Formula One. Not only are they important for championship positions, but also the difference in prize money can have utmost importance for the likes of Marussia, Sauber, and Caterham who do not have the resources teams like Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren have.