Tag Archives: Force India

2013: A Make or Break Season for Paul di Resta?

19 Jan

The 2012/13 transition period between seasons has brought some fairly significant driver movement to the mid-field. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg were the big winners with new signings, while others like Kamui Kobayashi have no seat for 2013. Those who are staying where they are can breathe a sigh of relief, but you can never sit comfortably for long. As we have seen with Kamui Kobayashi, F1 is a ruthless game where seats can be lost if you don’t light up the field (or have buckets of sponsorship money to compensate) after a season or two. Scotland’s Paul di Resta is staying at Force India for a third season, but not without having tried to get a seat further forward on the grid and his frustration is evident.

Paul di Resta

Paul di Resta

Di Resta has made a few F1 headlines in recent weeks due to a minor twitter dispute that he had with McLaren’s new signing, Sergio Perez. It has emerged that both drivers were in talks with McLaren to replace Lewis Hamilton, but di Resta missed out to the young Mexican. From di Resta’s perspective this was down to money, but at the time it was widely commented that McLaren didn’t want another British pairing or two horses both from the ‘Sports Partnership’ stable (which manages both Jenson Button and Paul di Resta).

To be in F1 you obviously have to be a top class driver, but has di Resta really got what it takes to get to the front? He arrived on the grid at the start of 2011 (after a season as Force India’s test driver), hailed as the DTM Champion and Formula 3 Euroseries Champion who famously beat his team-mate; some German driver called Sebastian Vettel. Di Resta hails from one of Scotland’s finest motor-racing families, the most famous among them being the multiple Indy Car Series/Indy 500 Champion Dario Franchitti. But is Paul living up to what was expected of him? In 2012 Paul ended the season 3 places and 17 points behind his team-mate, Nico Hulkenberg. The contrast between them could not have been more apparent at the final race in Brazil where Hulkenberg took on the McLarens and lead the race for a period (albeit later then taking Lewis Hamilton off). Unfortunately, Di Resta’s biggest contribution to the race was to skid off in to the wall and bring out the safety car for the final few laps. With his team-mate having spent the previous year not racing (Hulkenberg was FI’s reserve driver in 2011), it must have hurt di Resta all the more for him to have then come back on to the track and beaten him. It was also Hulkenberg who was being talked about as a potential replacement for Felipe Massa at Ferrari, or for vacancies at Mercedes or McLaren. It is safe to say that in 2012 Paul was upstaged by his team-mate both on and off the track.

2013 brings new challenges for Paul di Resta. He still doesn’t know who his team-mate will be (and at the time of writing this there are rumours swirling that Force India are in serious financial difficulties), but it is expected to be either his former team-mate Adrian Sutil or Ferrari Academy hotshot Jules Bianchi. Whichever it is, Paul needs to beat his team-mate in 2013 or his credibility is going to stall and he will be at serious risk of being eclipsed by those around and behind him.

Paul’s other big challenge (from my perspective), is that he needs the British public to get behind him more. To do this, he needs more publicity and he needs to give them a reason to really cheer for him. A higher public profile could also bring more sponsorship money. Publicity-wise, Paul reminds me of Andy Murray. Both nice Scottish guys, but both are quiet and a little grumpy, and Murray has struggled to break through in a way not dissimilar to di Resta. The press doesn’t bash Paul di Resta like it has bashed Andy Murray, but the British public only fully embraced Murray when he was making it to the finals of the big tournaments. A heroic podium place for Paul di Resta or period where he leads a race could bring him back in to the spotlight and get the fans behind him.

In 2013 Paul won’t be the new Brit on the block any more. Max Chilton is the new British rookie – young, talented, wealthy and likely to be a hit with young female F1 fans – who will be looking to turn heads as he competes at the back of the grid. Chilton won’t be a threat to di Resta on the track, but he could be a threat off it.

I like Paul di Resta. He seems like a genuine talented guy, but 2013 could be his make or break season. He is lucky to be signed with the Sports Partnership (even though it may have counted against him for the McLaren spot) who will do their best to seat him in a better car in 2014 (hopefully with increased sponsorship), but he needs to deliver on track for them to stand a chance of doing so.

British readers can watch Paul on A Question of Sport this Wednesday – BBC1 10.35pm.

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Storm Clouds Are Gathering

22 Mar

The Formula 1 season has barely begun, but it already feels like it’s never been away. As race 2, Malaysia, rapidly approaches, tensions appear to be increasing, and I’m not just talking about the stormy weather forecast for the weekend. Here’s my look at what has been bubbling up over the last few days, as well as a look ahead to the weekend.

Inter-team bickering

A new season always brings new technical developments, and an inevitable knock-on effect of that is disputes between teams about who may be breaking FIA rules or breaching informal agreements between teams. Red Bull and Mercedes are currently engaged in a spat about the respective legality of their Renault engine behaviour and the  Mercedes ‘Super F-Duct’. The FIA has ruled that both are legal, and since Ferrari aren’t involved in the dispute those rulings are likely to stay in place (ooo handbag!). I hope this dispute doesn’t rumble on all season as it can get incredibly tedious.

A ruling in the long-running intellectual property theft case between Sahara Force India and Caterham F1 and Aerolab has also emerged today. If you’re not familiar with the case, Force India accused Aerolab, a wind tunnel supplier, of copying the F1 team’s design in the development of the Team Lotus T127. Legal proceedings were also launched against Mike Gascoyne (Caterham F1’s then-Chief Technical Officer) and the team. The ruling conceded some intellectual property ‘theft’ on the part of Aerolab and awarded Force India 25,000 Euros in damages. However, much more significantly, the High Court ruled in favour of Aerolab with regards to £4 million of unpaid legal costs; a bill which Force India really could do without right now with the near-collapse of Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines.

Drivers

After their performances in Melbourne, all eyes are on Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa and for once this is due to unrelated events.

Lewis Hamilton’s disappointment at coming third in Melbourne was plain to see last Sunday as he stood stony-faced on the podium and then spoke through gritted teeth during the post-race official press conference. After such a tumultuous season in 2011, the media are desperately looking for any sign that Lewis hasn’t got over all of his ‘issues’ from last year. Whether he has or not, Lewis really needs to learn some good sportsmanship and appear graceful in defeat. In his Telegraph column this week, David Coulthard pondered whether Jenson Button’s seemingly easy success in Melbourne has knocked Lewis’s confidence. I think there is little doubt that it has knocked him, and if Lewis can’t strike back with a strong victory in the first few races then his frustrations may re-emerge on the track.

Felipe Massa did not fare well in Melbourne, and an unusually worded press release from the Ferrari team about his new chassis has ignited speculation about whether he will still be driving for them all season: “Felipe knows he can count on the team to do everything, both from the technical and the operational point of view, to put him in a better state to show off his talents – even at the cost of extra work in these few days that separate the Australian race from the one in Malaysia. For example work has already begun in the Sepang pits to prepare chassis number 294, which replaces the number 293 and will be used by the Brazilian in the second race of the season. This choice was taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park” (from http://www.ferrari.com). A number of drivers have been linked with Massa’s seat, including Sauber driver Sergio Perez and currently unemployed Jarno Trulli. Ferrari and Massa have been quick to dismiss these rumours but they have a habit of not going away. If Massa doesn’t improve his performance on track then this will only continue to distract all parties.

F1 this weekend

Melbourne saw all cards get thrown up in the air, and it still isn’t clear exactly how things compare between some of the teams. Mercedes and Lotus both clearly have very strong cars, but they were hindered by problems over the weekend. Hopefully the race at Sepang will bring both teams more luck and we’ll see what they’re really capable of.

The mid-field appears to be a tightly bunched pack and we should see some fierce battles for points.  Williams, in particular, appear to have turned themselves around, and I really hope to see them do well and score the points they so narrowly missed out on in Melbourne.

At the back of the pack, Caterham will be seeking to show what they can really do after some bad luck in Australia. Heikki Kovalainen will be hindered by a 5 place grid penalty, but he should be able to push forward through the field. Whether he will need to negotiate the mobile chicanes of the HRT cars won’t be known until after qualifying – will they be able to pass the 107% rule?

The greatest unknown in all of this though is the weather. Stormy weather is forecast which would inevitably complicate things further. If the race is wet I’d expect Button and Schumacher to do well, given their particular skills in the rain.

Other action this weekend

The GP2 season kicks off in Malaysia, and after only occasionally dipping in to coverage in previous years, I’m looking forward to getting to know this formula a lot better in the coming year. Coverage on Sky will, of course, help this rather than somewhat erratic coverage on Eurosport last year.

Also starting this weekend is the Indy Car season. The first race from St Pete’s is being broadcast on Sky Sports F1, and I’m looking forward to getting in to it again. I’m sure interest will be higher amongst F1 fans this year, with Rubens Barrichello competing, and it’ll be great to see him getting his teeth in to the races. I also can’t wait to see Dario Franchitti back in action.

Some Reflective Moments

There’ll also be a real sense of poignancy races on both sides of the globe this weekend.

It is the first Indy Car race since the tragic loss of Dan Wheldon, and this street circuit takes place in his adopted home town. Dan’s sister Holly will be waving the green flag, as well as presenting the winner’s trophy. A street on the track has also recently been dedicated as ‘Dan Wheldon Way’.

Back in Malaysia, the scene of the equally tragic loss of Moto GP rider Marco Simoncelli, drivers and teams have been visiting T11 where Marco lost his life, and pausing to remember their friend. Fernando Alonso’s comments about being in Sepang this weekend and remembering Marco have been particularly touching.

 

This will be a weekend packed full of racing action; bring it on.

Who Nose?

4 Feb

It has been a long old winter break for us F1 fans, and although there’s snow falling outside for many of us today, it feels like the F1 Spring has finally sprung. Car launch season is here! So far we’ve seen 4 of the 12 cars for the coming season, with unveilings from Caterham F1, McLaren Mercedes, Ferrari and Sahara Force India. In this post I’m going to be looking at some of what we’ve learned so far.

The Noses

The main talking point for everyone has been the nose of the 2012 car. The stepped ‘platypus’ nose which we’ve seen on the Caterham, Force India and Ferrari isn’t exactly stunning to look at, but if it is good from an aerodynamics perspective then that is all that counts.

The three

When asked about the appearance of the Caterham CT01, Tony Fernandes said “Personally I love this car, and it’s very flattering that people want to talk about our car and our team, but the main consideration is that it is quick. As long as it is quicker than last year’s car I don’t think the looks matter, and I am sure that when all the other cars are unveiled we will see a pretty common thread running through all of them. I actually think it’s beautiful. It’s different, and different does not equal ugly – in fact I think its difference is what makes it beautiful, but then I am probably a bit biased.” (Caterham F1 Website).

McLaren have opted for a ‘traditional’ nose which is sweeps down gradually. Their nose has inevitably gone down better with the team’s fans, who have been quick to gloat about how ‘nice’ it is in comparison to the other teams. We shall have to see who in fact, has the last laugh when it comes to noses. It will be interesting to see which route the other teams have opted for as the other cars are unveiled, and whether teams will opt for some “in-season rhinoplasty” if they feel the other style is more effective. Which is the most effective? Who nose?

With two different styles out there, attention is inevitably turning to the Red Bull Racing RB8 launch on Monday. Which style will the master of aerodynamics have chosen? The picture that Red Bull have posted on their website to promote the launch shows a style of nose that is almost a hybrid of the two – a gentle lip at the top which then appears to curve down slightly. This may, of course, not be the actual nose, but if it is then Adrian Newey appears to have opted to go for the best of both worlds.

The RB8 promotional image

The Teams and Drivers

Car launches also give us the opportunity to see the new team congregated together, (race) suited and booted….well, most of them do.

Caterham F1 opted to just release images of the car in the F1 Racing magazine and on their website, and have so far only released interviews with Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne. This is undoubtedly down to ongoing uncertainty about whether Vitaly Petrov will secure the second race seat alongside Heikki Kovalainen.

After last year’s drama, all eyes were on Lewis Hamilton at the McLaren launch. Hamilton didn’t appear as relaxed as his team-mate, but then he has more to prove. The McLaren launch was definitely the glitziest, but it struck me as being a tad too glitzy in order to compensate for a current lack of certainty. They have a major upgrade coming for the third pre-season test, and a cunningly disguised exhaust. Some are readying to question the legality of that exhaust after some leaked comments from a McLaren staff member.

Sadly Ferrari’s first run of the F2012 was disrupted by an exceptional amount of snow in Maranello, which resulted in an online launch. Despite the disruption of the weather, the message coming out of Maranello was loud and clear with regards to Felipe Massa – “buck up or you’re out”.

The Force India unveiling was quite traditional, and it was good to see all three drivers smiling and ready to go. Force India have a great driver line up and the battle between Paul and Nico will be great to watch this season.

Looking forward to the next few launches in the coming days, as well as the start of testing on Tuesday.