Formula 1

F1 – Buttoned up, or down and out, for Jenson?

After a fairly dull and dismal Italian Grand Prix on track, the only major talking point from the weekend was McLaren’s 2017 driver lineup. Does it mean things are all over for JB?2016 Jenson ButtonIt’s a classic McLaren piece of stage management. Stoffel Vandoorne joins Fernando Alonso as the two race drivers for 2017, whilst Buttons retains an “ambassadorial” role within the McLaren universe. It means the team have an option should a) Vandoorne somehow prove to be useless, or b) Fernando Alonso decide he can’t be bothered with the same crap anymore. It also means the firm retains the ability to milk Jenson’s marketing appeal. No doubt there’ll be numerous videos of him drifting McLaren road cars and other race cars over the next twelve months.

2016 Jenson Button

Expect more of this in the next year.

McLaren are no stranger to having drivers take a sabbatical. Mika Häkkinen famously took one for the 2002 season which, curiously, was also announced just before the 2001 Italian Grand Prix. After being World Drivers’ Champion in 1998 and 1999, along with finishing as runner-up in 2000, Häkkinen has suffered a challenging 2001. With the desire to win having faded, and fear from big crashes lingering, it wasn’t a huge surprise that Häkkinen officially announced his retirement from Formula 1 in 2002, at the relatively young age of only 33. (more…)

Opinion – Why contemporary F1 is boring, statistically

The Hungarian Grand Prix is often regarded as being a processional affair, with limited overtaking opportunities. This weekend’s event is therefore unlikely to liven up a Formula 1 era that is the most one-sided in a generation. ESM’s editor has donned his anorak and crunched the numbers from 1998 to present.2016 Mercedes AMG F1 HamiltonCast your mind back to the year 2000 and you might recall the Millennium Dome, fears of the ‘Millennium Bug’ or even just the Willenium. Yeah, the latter really did happen. If you’re a Formula 1 fan you might remember it as the year Ferrari and Michael Schumacher started out on a five-year long display of hegemony over the World Championship.

But, after watching Lewis Hamilton take another victory at the British Grand Prix, it got us wondering as to whether the current Mercedes AMG streak out ranks even the 2000-2004 Ferrari era for dominance. Surprisingly it does, and by a fairly significant margin!

Let’s break it down to the most basic numbers in terms of wins during those title-claiming periods. For Ferrari this is from the 2000 Australian Grand Prix, to the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix. That covers some 85 races in total, of which Ferrari won 57 of them. In percentage terms that’s 67%, so just over two-thirds were won by the Scuderia in that seemingly endless period of Ferrari success.Ferrari F1 Dominance StatsSince the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, which saw the introduction of the new engine regulations, there has been 48 races. That’s counting the 2016 British Grand Prix – won by Lewis Hamilton, of course. In that period Mercedes AMG have taken 41 victories! Yes, seriously, in two and a half years, only seven races have been won by non-Mercedes drivers. That gives Mercedes AMG a win percentage of a staggering 85%!

Even more considerable is that they’ve claimed 94% of pole positions (45/48) in that time frame. For comparison, Ferrari only managed 59% of poles during their era of dominance. Taking over two-thirds of all fastest laps since the beginning of 2014, must also make Mercedes feel pretty smug about just how far ahead of the game they are.Mercedes AMG F1 DominanceEven in comparison to Red Bull, who many claimed to have made F1 dull during the period of Vettel domination, Mercedes-AMG still stands far ahead. With four back-to-back titles, Red Bull took wins in just over half (53%) of the 77 races entered. Pole positions percentages are also lower (66%) compared to Mercedes, with fastest laps at less than half  (45%) in total. Those who bemoaned the seemingly constant chain of Red Bull wins might be a little surprised, although Vettel’s nine-race winning streak at the end of 2013 is perhaps what people remember.
Red Bull Racing F1 Dominance Stats

(more…)

EngageSportMode Awards 2015 – Part Two

The EngageSportMode.com Awards for 2015 continues. No, we still don’t care that it’s now 2016, so just sit back and read which people and things caught our attention over the preceding twelve months. If you need it, you can find part one here.

2015 Awards p2

Person of the year – Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen 2015

You don’t need EngageSportMode to tell you that Formula 1 in 2015 was a pretty dire affair. Whether it was the comically tragic debacle of McLaren-Honda, the constant money worries for Lotus, or Lewis Hamilton wrapping up the title virtually unchallenged, there was little to be positive about. Apart from one young Dutchman in his debut season. Yes, Max Verstappen was by far and away our highlight of F1 in 2015.

Having a father like Jos Verstappen clearly helps, and it meant the rookie Toro Rosso driver wasn’t flung blind into the F1 arena. He topped the list of most overtakes in a season, making some quite astounding manoeuvres to pass 49 cars in total. For comparison, the driver average was just 26.8 passes. His only major mistake came at Monaco when he tangled with Romain Grosjean, but rare is the young driver who manages perfection throughout an entire season.

At ESM we hope Max manages to maintain the same momentum in 2016, as he clearly has a huge amount of raw talent. Whilst saying he is a potential championship winner might be a little too hasty, with his youth and the correct management, there’s no reason why he couldn’t do it one day. Providing the Red Bull driver programme doesn’t spit him out the other end with no seat, as has happened to others before.

(C) Ferrari Media

We also had to tip our hat to a previous winner of this award: Sebastian Vettel. Having suffered a torrid 2014 at Red Bull, the four-time World Champion joined Ferrari and instantly seemed revitalised. Taking three wins and a host of other podium finishes, he outshone teammate Kimi Räikkönen substantially, whilst also looking to be actually enjoying himself again.

Honourable mention – Sebastian Vettel

BTCC Driver of the year – Matt Neal (chosen by ESM’s BTCC Correspondent)
BTCC 2015 Snetterton

ESM’s BTCC driver of the year is, once again, not an easy decision or clear-cut. There were many stand-out drives over the season that caught the eye, but consistency was naturally the key. Drivers deserving a place on the shortlist include Josh Cook, with a staggering 22 JST wins out of 30, and Tom Ingram. Both had outright podiums of their own including a brace of seconds for Ingram. Despite their final championship standing only being 2 places apart, Ingram scored significantly more points so you would favour him as ‘young gun’ of the year, although he doesn’t claim driver of the year. (more…)

Friday Video – Kimi just couldn’t care less

It hasn’t been the easiest week in the world of Formula 1. However, you can always count on Kimi Räikkönen to provide some kind of distraction. Although hardly known for engaging with the media, the official Ferrari video ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix is a new level of Kimi:

What amazes us more at ESM, is the fact Ferrari still went ahead and published it on their YouTube channel. Perhaps they realise the amusement and entertainment value Kimi brings or, perhaps, with him seemingly about to be sold down the river for Valtteri Bottas, they don’t even care anymore.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that the ‘Ice Man’ has been in F1 since 2001, driven for Sauber, McLaren, Lotus and Ferrari (twice), and won almost 10% of the races he has entered. Along with his F1 World Drivers’ Championship in 2007, Kimi also placed second in 2003 and 2005, in addition to a third place in 2008. In short, he’s been a fairly impressive driver in his lengthy career.

However, his lack of interest in pleasing the media has been existent since his early days, and in a world of stage management and corporate nonsense, Kimi has always proven to be happily anti-establishment. It’s why he’s responsible for ESM‘s favourite F1 TV soundbite, ever.

Whatever happens to Kimi and his Ferrari seat, we hope he remains in Formula 1. The sport would be a much more boring, and slightly less weirder, place without him.

Editorial – Goodbye, Jules

Death in Formula 1 used to be an occurrence that was all to common. Yet, for the first time in twenty-one years, F1 has lost a driver to a racing accident. ESM’s editor offers his on reflections on the sad news. 

A lot has already been written about the tragic death of Jules Bianchi. Compared to that fateful weekend in Imola, some two decades ago, the impact and end result were some nine months apart. That makes it no easier to come to terms with, and must surely have made life even harder for Jules’ doting family, who have spent the last few months hoping for some sign of improvement. It is also another cruel blow to the Manor team, formally known as Marussia, who have lost two drivers in less than two years.

Deep down, following the crash last October, I knew we would never see Jules in a racing car again. As much as the media, and Formula 1, attempted to put a brave face on things, it was clear the young Frenchman had suffered a devastating injury. Just before going to bed on Friday night, I found myself reading an article on the BBC Sport website in which Philippe Bianchi issued a statement about their concern for the lack of progress being made by Jules. The next thing I read was a text message from a friend, informing me that the future-Ferrari driver had gone.

Whilst it is impossible to predict whether Jules would have gone on to be World Champion, stories already show that he would most likely have found himself behind the wheel of a Ferrari-engined Sauber this year, with a full Ferrari role someone in the near future afterwards. Perhaps Bianchi would have been the replacement for Raikkonen; a question which is purely academic now. There can be no denying that a prodigious talent was taken away far too soon.

For me it is hard to believe that, despite all the rhetoric, the FIA and F1 administration really has the ability to change sufficiently to avoid incidents like the one which killed Bianchi happening again. The official 396-page report into the incident concluded that Jules did “not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control” on the corner, and that it is “considered fundamentally wrong to try and make an impact between a racing car and a large and heavy vehicle survivable” in such circumstances. The placement of said “large and heavy vehicle” onto an active race circuit – at a corner where a similar incident had happened before – was something overlooked. I stick by my comments made shortly after the crash itself(more…)

Friday Photo – Senna’s Toleman-Hart TG184-2 for sale

If you’ve got £1million spare, you could be the owner of this rather special piece of Ayrton Senna history. But is there more than meets the eye with this car?

1984 Senna Toleman-Hart TG184-2

Currently on sale with specialist luxury car dealer Prindiville in London, this Toleman-Hart TG184-2 was driven by Senna during his rookie F1 year in 1984. It’s also the car in which he showed his true potential at that year’s Monaco Grand Prix.

1984 Senna Toleman-Hart TG184-2

Starting from 13th on the grid, in truly horrendous wet conditions, Senna worked his way up to take the lead by the end of lap 32. That would be no mean feat at a normal circuit, let alone within the twisty confines of Monaco. Yet, displaying his immense talent, Senna overtook big names like Lauda, Mansell, Piquet, Arnoux, Tambay, and (Keke) Rosberg. Oh, and Alain Prost.

It was Prost who Senna passed to take the lead. However, as he did so, the race was red-flagged with the results taken from the positions on the previous lap. Senna was therefore denied his first F1 win, but the world had seen what potential the young Brazilian had to offer. It’s also a reminder that Senna’s F1 career lasted only ten years before that tragedy at Imola in 1994, yet he won the World Championship three times in that period. (more…)

Friday Photo – New Mercedes-AMG F1 Safety Car and Medical Car

By the time you’ll be reading this, the 2015 Formula 1 season will have already started with the first practice sessions in Melbourne. New for this F1 year are a brand new Safety Car and Medical Car – here’s the lowdown on them both. Mercedes-AMG C 63 S and Mercedes-AMG GT S Mercedes-Benz has been supplying the Official Safety and Medical cars to Formula 1 since 1996. It’s an almost sure-fire way of guaranteeing that a Mercedes leads at least some of the Grand Prix, whatever happens. Plus, with the introduction of the new 1.6 litre turbocharged F1 engines, it gives fans a car worth listening to also.

(more…)

EngageSportMode Awards 2014 – Part Two

If you’ve read part one of our 2014 Awards, you’ll be ready for part two. This instalment concentrates on motorsport and media, compared to the purely mechanical slant of the first instalment. So, providing you’ve appropriately recovered from New Year’s Eve, here we go.

2014 Awards Two

There’s another five awards to be dished out, so without any further delay, here’s the first one:

Man of the yearDr Gary Hartstein

040650100_1205414607In the past we’ve honoured motorsport world champions with this award. However, Dr Hartstein is more than a racing driver. For those of you unsure of his biography, Dr Hartstein served as the FIA Medical Delegate for the Formula 1 World Championship. He was also the man who rode alongside the late, great, Professor Sid Watkins in the F1 medical car for a number of years.

What makes Gary Hartstein our man of the year is quite simple. Over the past 12 months his experiences from both the F1 world, and as a Clinical Professor of Anaesthesia and Emergency Medicine, have led to him producing one of the most outstandingly knowledgeable blogs, period. In the wake of Michael Schumacher’s horrific skiing accident a year ago, Dr Hartstein was the one person able to give an objective and realistic analysis of the situation, on someone he knew personally. There was no sensationalist scaremongering; here were the clear facts, no matter how unpalatable they may have been.

Once again, following Jules Bianchi’s crash during the Japanese Grand Prix, Dr Hartstein was again the one voice better qualified than any to explain what was happening and, ultimately, what might happen. Quite frankly, there has been no one else in the past 12 months who deserves recognition more than him. The fact the FIA seemingly have an issue with what he has to say only further strengthens his message, and, ultimately the power of blogging. It’s just a shame we only seek his counsel in times of tragedy rather than joy. (more…)

Editoral – 2014 US Grand Prix Reflections

Forget Hamilton and Rosberg; the real action in Austin was further back in the pack. But did anyone miss the two tail end teams this weekend? Our editor tries to answer that question.

Spa 2014 Friday 013

Marussia in happier times at Spa Francorchamps

Despite all the rhetoric of potential boycotts, and the apparent spectre of financial implosion hanging over a number of teams, Sunday’s US Grand Prix actually turned out to be rather enjoyable to watch. In fact, the midfield action was probably some of the best racing that has been seen all season. Which leads to the pertinent question; did the absence of Caterham and Marussia actually make any real difference?

From Alonso who finished 6th, to Button who came across the line in 12th, there was genuine racing throughout the majority of the race. Yes, there were many factors at play, such as Vettel starting from the pit lane, Alonso running a longer middle stint, and Button’s tyres dropping off dramatically at the end. But this all made for a very enjoyable race for the neutral spectator, with Grosjean and Vergne getting up close and personal, whilst Alonso and Vettel slugged it out.

Put simply, would the addition of Marussia and Caterham to the grid have made any difference to the action on track? In all honestly, I very much doubt it. Such has been the performance difference between even the rear of the midfield teams and Marussia/Caterham, it would seem conceivable that Ericsson, Kobayashi and Chilton would have soon dropped away from the rest of the runners early on.

As sad as the loss of Marussia and Caterham from the grid has been, there seems little point in having ten teams in Formula 1 if such a performance gulf exists between the front and back of the grid. At numerous times this season the qualifying pace of the slowest F1 car has actually been closer to the quickest GP2 runner, rather than the F1 pole position. Take the below examples from Monza and Sochi for instance:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 22.22.01

(more…)

Friday Photo Archive – Spa 2014

Editing a website like EngageSportMode often means there are articles you cannot wait to write, and there are those you never want to have to write. This Friday Photo Archive falls somewhere between them; but too close to the ‘never want to’ end of the spectrum than is comfortable.

Spa 2014 Sunday 010

Jules Bianchi during the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix driver parade.

As ever with serious motorsport accidents, it has been almost impossible to avoid the mainstream media frenzy surrounding Jules Bianchi’s awful accident at Suzuka last Sunday. I put off writing this article, chiefly because the situation left me with a feeling of immense sadness. Back in our Belgian Grand Prix coverage, we described Jules as “Mr Future Ferrari” due to the obvious aura of him being a star in the making. Moving forward two months, there is now the sickeningly real chance we might not see him in a Formula 1 car again.

Without trying to make dramatic comparisons, I cannot recall feeling so disheartened about a Grand Prix weekend since Monaco 1994. I’ve seen the standings for FP1 and FP2, but it feels impossible to motivate myself to truly be interested. This is not how it is meant to be in 2014; the past two decades of safety development and change were meant to stop motorsport being put through an emotional wringer.

Much talk earlier in the week centred around whether a canopy fitted to Bianchi’s car would have prevented his injuries. However, from the information released, and photos/video that have already circulated on social media, it’s clear that a fighter-jet style canopy wouldn’t have made any difference.

Bianchi has been described in an official statement as having suffered a diffuse axonal injury. Such an injury typically occurs due to the rapid deceleration from an accident; not from actual direct, blunt, trauma to the head. Realistically, a canopy would have made very little difference, based on the information that’s been made available. If anything, given the deformation of the roll hoop and structure behind the cockpit, a canopy may not have even remained detached to the car thus being more hinderance than help in this situation. In short, the canopy suggestion is very much just a crutch, for those who want an easy solution to make this go away. (more…)