Tag Archives: Schumacher

Passing the Baton – Germany’s F1 drivers

27 Nov

The fall of the chequered flag in Interlagos yesterday saw the passing from one era of German F1 history to another. The legendary seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher retired from the sport for the second and final time, while his young friend Sebastian Vettel claimed his third WDC title in as many years, making him the youngest triple world champion in the sport’s history. There are few who doubt that Vettel will win more titles, and many now wonder if he can beat his childhood hero’s WDC record. Vettel’s achievements in 2012 certainly make him a worthy recipient of the ‘German motor sport hero’ baton.

A successor is anointed – Michael Schumacher congratulates Sebastian Vettel on his 3rd WDC title, as the 7-times champion retires for good.

With Vettel now moving up to ‘top dog’, I have been pondering who should or can succeed him as Germany’s next big hope. Germany currently (although the UK will equal their number if Max Chilton does race for Marussia in 2013) has more F1 drivers than any other country, so in theory should be well positioned to have another up and coming star, but who deserves the mantle?

Timo Glock is the eldest of the four German drivers on the grid, but while he is a great guy (and another of my favourite drivers), he is stuck at the back end of the grid in a Marussia. The team are improving, but it is highly unlikely we’ll be seeing him on the podium any time soon. Timo’s new role will essentially be the elder statesman of the German camp in F1. He is good friends with Sebastian Vettel and is another useful wing man for the new leading light.

Within F1 this leaves the two Nico’s: Messrs Rosberg and Hulkenberg. Both have potential, but which, if either of them, will be great?

Nico Rosberg

Nico R is the most experienced of the German drivers on the grid. He has now completed seven full seasons in Formula 1; four with Williams, and three with Mercedes. During that time Nico has been on the podium seven times, taken one pole position and one race victory. His pole and race victory finally came this year in Shanghai, and many commentators at the time talked of him finally being able to “shake the monkey from his back”. Since then, the performance of his car has been less than impressive so he has been unable to repeat these successes.

Victory at last – Rosberg wins in China, 2012

Nico’s biggest achievement to date has to be his ability, at times, to race on a par with, or better than, Michael Schumacher in his second F1 career. His biggest test is yet to come though. His new team mate will be keen to stamp his authority all over the Mercedes team, and despite having been promised equal treatment, Nico will need to prove he can race as hard as Lewis Hamilton. Few are expecting much of the 2013 Mercedes car, but 2014 is cited as being their big opportunity.

Nico Hulkenberg

Nico R has the least experience of the German drivers. He has been racing in F1 for only two seasons; one with Williams and one with Force India with a season as Force India’s reserve driver in between. He is the same age as Sebastian Vettel.

Although he is yet to step on to the F1 podium, Nico has already bagged a pole position at Brazil in 2010, and led part of the 2012 Brazil race (Interlagos must be his lucky track). During 2012 he has out-performed Paul Di Resta and made a good enough impression on Sauber’s management to secure a drive with them for 2013.

The Hulk makes his mark in Interlagos, Brazil 2012

Nico Hulkenberg has made a few mistakes along the way like any young driver, but he seems to have an edginess and energy about him which Nico Rosberg perhaps lacks. His move to Sauber is a great opportunity, and with a rookie team mate he will be in a strong position to drive the team forward as the more experienced driver. I’d be very surprised if he isn’t on the podium in 2013.

Both Nico’s have an opportunity to step further in to the German limelight, but which will it be, if either? Does Germany need to wait longer for its next star?

The only German in GP2/GP3 at the moment is Daniel Abt, who finished second in the GP3 series in 2012. He is just 19 years of age, but has Red Bull sponsorship and is recognised within Germany as a future star. The next few years will be key for Abt.

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Shuffling the pack – 28 Sept 2012

28 Sep

What a day.

After an absurdly protracted silly season, the F1 driver pack shuffling finally began today. In case you have been hiding in a cave all day, Lewis Hamilton is leaving McLaren who are replacing him with Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez, while Michael Schumacher who was ousted by H.A.M. appears to be seeking gainful employment elsewhere. The entire F1 twittersphere has been expressing its displeasure/outrage/bafflement/pleasure (delete as appropriate) since the early hours.

This was the news I was dreading, and now we are 12 hours in I’ve gathered my thoughts. I am pissed off. Not as pissed off as I may have been, as this news is definitely not the worst I have received this week by one heck of a long way. The only thing which is pissing me off is the now-serious risk that my beloved über-weltmeister Schumi may have to retire permanently from the sport. Beyond that I have mixed feelings. Here is my take on the key players:

Schumi
I don’t believe he wants to retire. If he did, he’d probably have said as much today through a joint statement with Mercedes. His manager Sabine Kehm has been quoted today saying that Michael wasn’t sure in the summer if he wanted to re-sign when offered a deal. Given the nightmarish first half of the season he had, this really doesn’t surprise me. Why would he want to keep driving in the team, or at all, given all those DNF’s which were beyond his control? Was he thinking of looking around elsewhere back then? We will probably never know.

I really, really want Schumi to keep racing, but only in a team where he has a good, reliable car. Sauber would be a great fit. I don’t believe he should, would or could go back to Ferrari.

Mercedes
The team do need to think of the future, and while I personally don’t get the hype around Hamilton, he is a big name. He also has an ego to match. The arrival of Lewis, Simon Fuller, Pussycat Nicole & guest rappers will probably be quite a culture shock for the team compared to the quieter team of Michael, his manager Sabine and occasionally his wife Corinna. I suspect it will take a while for the two parties to gel, particularly with Simon Fuller.

Lewis
Was it the challenge or the $$$? Who knows. More so than Mercedes, I think Lewis is also in for a culture shock. He is no longer the protegé, no longer in the environment he grew up in where he appears to have been treated with kid gloves. If he puts a toe out of line or gives it too much attitude, the Mercedes management will come down on him hard. Niki Lauda, Norbert Haug and Ross Brawn are all fierce when it comes to discipline. This could be exactly what Lewis needs, but it could easily turn in to a disaster zone.

McLaren
Did they drop the ball? Yes, maybe. But did Ron Dennis want to keep hold of it? With relations soured it is probably best for the team that they have a new start. Jenson is an excellent team player and will give them the continuity, while their new young rising star will be a breath of fresh air. If Checo keeps Jenson on his toes from the start and only grows stronger, how long will it be before they stop looking wistfully down the pitlane to Lewis’s garage?

Checo
Mexico’s rising star is undoubtedly the one with the most to gain here. After being held back by Ferrari, he now has a seat at a top team which will give him a shot at becoming another of F1’s youngest world champions. I can’t wait to see what he can deliver next year.

The F1 Week That Was (27 May 2012)

27 May

This is the first of a new ‘column’ on my blog which will look back at what has happened in the previous week in the world of F1. In Monaco Grand Prix week there is always plenty to talk about and this week certainly hasn’t disappointed.

The Return of the King

(Well I have to start with my favourite driver, don’t I?)

Michael Schumacher probably got more criticism over the last fortnight (after his incident with Bruno Senna in Barcelona) than he has at any other point in his 2nd career, but he answered his critics in the way he knows best; a thumping performance out on the track. The race itself may not have gone his way, but he proved himself to still be more than worthy of his seat at the track which requires the ultimate skill from a racing driver. What matters most is that everyone has more confidence in Schuey going in to Canada where the Mercedes should perform well again.

Other Monaco thoughts

There were some great performances today, both on the track and on the pit wall. Red Bull’s strategy for Sebastian Vettel paid off and finishing fourth was a great achievement for the team alongside Mark Webber’s win. It’s unbelievable that we’ve had six different winners so far. Felipe Massa put in a great performance and taking home those 8 points will hopefully curry favour with Ferrari. Both Force India drivers finishing in the points was a brilliant achievement for the team and it was great to see Bruno Senna score a point while his team-mate went from hero to zero in just 24 hours. Seeing a Caterham race so well today was just wonderful, especially with it being Heikki. Jenson Button inevitably complained about being held up by the Finn, but Heikki had every right to defend his position and did so brilliantly. Caterham boss Tony Fernandes described it as his best F1 moment.

Tyres

The tyres have been such a major talking point this season and have divided fans on the effect they’ve had on the racing. Michael Schumacher’s recent complaints have made headlines in the last week, but was he right? I can understand that everyone (except Vettel fans) was bored in 2011 and wanted something to change to prevent an era of Vettel/RBR dominance. The blown diffuser ban has clearly had quite an effect on the team and I suspect this on its own would’ve levelled the field out quite well. When it comes to the tyres I’m definitely old school: I want to see drivers racing and pushing themselves and their cars to the limit of skill and engineering, not driving to the limit of their tyre strategies. Pirelli’s Paul Hembery doggedly maintains their position on twitter: they were asked to mix things up and they have done so. Martin Brundle made an interesting referral earlier today to a briefing at McLaren where Martin Whitmarsh admitted they simply don’t know what is going on with the tyres. I can’t help but wonder if teams will ask for a regression back towards last year’s tyres for 2013. If they do, it may well diminish the victory of whoever wins the title in 2012 if it isn’t Sebastian Vettel.

The start of silly season

The rumours about race seats for the following season always start fairly early, but I think this week saw the start of silly season where rumours really start to fly. Some may be silly, some may not. The endless speculation certainly is and right now I don’t think anything is certain. It is anticipated that Ferrari will decide soon about Massa but it is possible they won’t name any replacement straight away. Here’s what we’ve seen so far:

– Massa to leave Ferrari (probably the only rumour with any serious credibility)

– Hamilton to Ferrari (now him and Alonso are being all chummy). I just don’t see this working.

– Hamilton to stay at McLaren with one of two outcomes 1) his salary halved, or 2) a 5 year £20 million a year contract.

– Webber to Ferrari for one year

– Vettel to Ferrari in 2014 if the car is up to it

– Schumacher to retire again (possible but hopefully unlikely)

– Di Resta to Mercedes if Schumi retires (possible when Schumi does go as he is a Mercedes boy and it would be a great move – I’d love to see him trump Rosberg).

– Di Resta to Ferrari

– Alguersuari to Force India

– Perez to Ferrari (either mid-season 2012 or 2o13)

Who knows what else will emerge in the coming weeks and months, but a shake up at the front next season would definitely be interesting and I would love it if Jaime Alguersuari came back.

Rush wraps filming

The much-anticipated film Rush, about the epic battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, wrapped filming this week and its director, Ron Howard, celebrated by attending the Monaco Grand Prix. Having been following Ron on twitter for some time it has been wonderful to see the photos he’s posted throughout filming and I can’t wait to see the film when it is released in Spring 2013. I know there’s some reluctance amongst some F1 fans about having actors playing F1 drivers but I think this is silly. The film is incredibly safe hands with Ron at the helm and he has clearly been aware that F1 fans area very tough crowd to please. It is really great to see a film being made about such an epic story in our beloved sport.

Williams Take Gold at Chelsea

You may have seen on twitter and amongst the F1 coverage that Williams F1 had an

The Williams Display at The Chelsea Flower Show

entry at the Chelsea Flower Show which won a gold medal. Their creation was some topiary shaped in to an F1 car with a pit crew around it. As you can see from the picture here it really was a great piece, and King & Co who created the piece for Williams should be congratulated on their work. It is really nice to see F1 being promoted in different ways and this is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

Record Deal for Griffin

Alistair Griffin, he behind the F1 anthem and Sky Sports F1 theme ‘Just Drive’, has got a new record contract. He has been signed by the Dramatico label and his new album, ‘Albion Sky’ will be released on 2 July.

Oh what a circus, oh what a show…

17 Mar

After months of deprivation of our beloved sport, F1 fans have been given a cracker of a season opener so far, with the F1 circus rolling in to town in Melbourne. I am incredibly tired after watching the FP sessions and Quali live, but it is worth every yawn and bid to keep my eyes open.

Here’s my take on qualifying today.

Given the drivers and teams I’m supporting this year, it was a mixed blessing for me. I’d have liked to have seen Mercedes further forward, though obviously 4th on the grid is still very good for Michael Schumacher, particularly given his ability to make stonkingly good starts. I was really pleased that he managed to out-qualify Nico Rosberg too. Caterham were disappointed not to have done better, but I think that their race pace will be good, and both drivers will be pushing hard tomorrow. So what about Red Bull?

After rooting solely for Seb in 2011, it felt a little odd to not be disappointed by today’s outcome for Red Bull. I think both he and Mark could have done better (given SV’s mistake and MW’s KERS failure), but I really want Seb to be tested after such a dominant year so he can prove himself at fighting through the pack rather than leading at the front. I expect he’ll make a strong start tomorrow, and should be able to move up one or two positions, and then rest will come down to DRS and strategy. I don’t think anyone should write off the 2011 champions based on today, and I have been disappointed to see so many snarky/gloating comments from some McLaren fans on twitter. McLaren undoubtedly have a very strong car and impressed everyone today, but it is early days.

There were some real surprises today. The obvious one was Ferrari being in fairly dire straits, not helped of course by Alonso beaching himself in the gravel. I have no doubt he will be fighting hard tomorrow, but his car may not give him the ability to push forward as easily as he is used to. Besides Ferrari, the evenness of the mid-field was fairly surprising. and I was particularly pleased to see Williams making a strong start. It was a real shame Senna wasn’t able to get further forward, but for Maldonado to qualify 8th must’ve brought immense relief to the team after their annus horribilis.

The 2012 rookies also fared well in their first season. Grosjean took the media (though not the drivers) by surprise with his impressive 3rd place, while both Vergne and Pic impressed me too. I hope they all fare well tomorrow and finish their first race.

Off the track, the other ‘rookie’ is, of course, Sky Sports F1. Today saw the first real comparison of Sky v BBC, with Sky showing full live coverage, and the BBC showing edited highlights. I think Sky are doing a really great job for their first race weekend, and it is inevitable that the team will take some time to settle in to their new roles. The two most at ease seemed to be the commentating duo of Martin Brundle and David Croft – this pairing really is superb. I’d like to see more driver interviews than Sky Pad time, but it is difficult to capture all of those and show them live, so the BBC did have an advantage in being able to include more in their highlights package which was created after the event. I’m still not sure if Georgie Thompson has any purpose there other than being eye candy. I’d prefer to see more of Natalie Pinkham who knows the in’s and out’s of the sport a lot better.

The BBC edited highlights show was a mixed affair for me. I really hated seeing such an action-packed qualifying session being edited down so much, as it really didn’t do it justice, and the editing was quite poor. I appreciate that editing quality aside there is little they can do when they have a time-cap on how much footage then can show. On the other hand, the presentation was good, and I liked all the new graphics. I’m not sure about the new title sequence – it moves around too quickly, and by showing some historic footage in the clips it is not dissimilar to the Sky opening sequence (especially since they are using some of the same footage). I will be watching both Sky and BBC coverage, and will just look to enjoy the best of both. Again, the twitter banter between fans of each camp was disappointing – fans should be focussing on rivalry between drivers and teams, not on which broadcaster they watch.

Tomorrow’s race should be fascinating, and if today’s action is anything to go by, we are in for one heck of a Formula 1 season.