F1 update: Lewis the Legend!

With four races left to go after today’s, it’s time to do a quick pit stop and look at what we’ve seen and can still expect to see in this year’s F1 season.

To start with the most deserving, a week ago Lewis Hamilton became truly legendary in beating Michael Schumacher’s record of F1 race wins. After today, Lewis now totals an incredible 93 wins, 9 of which so far this season. He also equals Schumacher’s record for the most wins with the same team (72), and today’s Hamilton-Bottas double means Mercedes clinched their 7th constructor world title. Lewis is Formula 1’s uncontested number 1, obviously helped by driving the car that is still relatively far ahead of the competition.

It’s good to be the king!

If Lewis is already the de facto world champion, it’s far more contested who will finish second and third – and who won’t. Valtteri Bottas is probably the ideal second driver with Mercedes eyes. He’s loyal to the team and occasionally manages to challenge Lewis, and so far this year has won two races. The question is however rather if what Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) manage to achieve in inferior cars isn’t more impressive. Even though Ferrari is improving and Charles’s results is the only thing that may save Mattia Binotto’s job as team head, they are still far from Mercedes and Charles’s driving is the only thing making Ferrari look slightly better than the mid-field teams. Max on the other hand does a very good job of scoring podium finishes, including one race win this year, and is still in competition with Valtteri for second place in the championship. Red Bull and Max is also the only constellation that occasionally has managed to challenge Mercedes this season.

A good summary of Ferrari’s season so far…

Charles and Max’s relative success also make it very clear that driving skills still count and that it’s not all about the car. The last two races in Portugal and Italy were a good illustration of how far behind Leclerc Sebastian Vettel currently is, in spite of Ferrari confirming both drive identical cars. Seb had officially doubted this but also admitted that Charles is currently in another league. There is probably little hope of things improving before Seb leaves Ferrari for Racing Point / Aston Martin at the end of the season, and you have to wonder whether Racing Point don’t ask themselves whether switching Perez for Vettel was a wise move. I guess time will tell.

There’s equally little hope of Alex Albon retaining his seat in Red Bull. His oddds improved slightly last week when Pierre Gasly confirmed he’s staying with Red Bull’s little brother Alpha Tauri next year. This beats me as Alpha Tauri is Red Bull’s farm team and Pierre’s stellar performance this season with notably one race win stands in stark contrast to Albon’s total lack of results. Today in Italy, Albon then put what is probably the last nail in his coffin himself, when after a mediocre race he completely messed up the restart after the safety car phase with 7 laps to go, managing to lose the car and end up last. Before Portugal, team boss Christian Horner last had given Albon two races to start performing. The fact that he couldn’t and hasn’t been able to all season most probably means we’ll see another second driver at Red Bull next year.

“How the hell can Max be so fast??”

Behind Mercedes and the best half of Red Bull and Ferrari, the mid field is as competitive as ever with Racing Point, McLaren, Renault and Alpha Tauri all very close, and even Alfa Romeo Racing (ex Sauber) managing to pick up points here and there. Although he’s leaving at the end of the season, Daniel Ricciardo certainly doesn’t lack motivation and looks to be finishing his short spell with the Renault team in style, something that may have been really important when Renault decided to stay committed to F1. The team won’t have much time to regret Ricciardo though, as they will instead need to focus on Fernando Alonso returning to the team he won his two world titles with . With an improving car, it will be very interesting to see what an experienced driver like Alonso will be able to achieve.

Will Alonso be able to recreate the magic?

At the back of the field the most interesting is certainly the discussions around Williams, its new owners (the US investment company Dorilton), and whether George Russell will stay on as driver (apparently Nicolas Latifi has enough financial backing to be certain of his seat). Russell has done a fantastic season given what could be expected, notably reaching qualifying P2 on eight occasions (I know, but we’re talking about Williams here!) and also refers to the fact that he has a contract covering 2021. Then again so did Sergio Perez at Racing Point and that didn’t stop the team from firing him and hire Vettel instead. Perez is still looking for a new seat, and it’s not impossible that he kicks Russell out of Williams. Or maybe Perez could be the one replacing Albon at Red Bull?

The UK seems to have a promising successor to Lewis!

As for Haas, last years’ rock’n’roll team notably thanks to the Netflix documentary “Formula 1 – drive to survive” (watch it if you haven’t!) and the charismatic team boss Günther Steiner with his unique version of German English, it’s been a sad season. The team is nowhere to be seen and not even Steiner’s swearing seem to help anymore. Magnussen and Grosjean are both leaving the team next season, Gene Haas is however said to be committed to another season, so Haas will line up two new drivers in 2021. The rumours have it that one of those may be Michael Schumacher’s son Nic… It also means that both Magnussen and Grosjean could be competing for that second seat at Red Bull, both bringing as much experience as Perez.

With four races to go after today there’s thus still some excitement left, however rather off the track given we already know that Lewis will with very high certainty clinch his well-deserved seventh driver’s title soon, with a new record in the number of race wins! Just a small point though – Lewis doesn’t have a contract for next year, which is slightly strange given how late in the season we are. Most probably he’ll re-sign with Mercedes in the coming weeks, because he wouldn’t be retiring now that he’s beaten most records, would he?

Racing back on the menu in the Bahrain GP!

Fears that the excitement in F1 was gone forever after the sleeper we witnessed in Malaysia a week ago were firmly put aside in today’s race in Bahrain, with a wide margin the most exciting one so far this season! The excitement didn’t come from other teams having gotten closer to breaking Mercedes’ dominance – actually the contrary. But the various teams seem to have realized that there was a clear risk of the interest in the sport dying off if something wasn’t done, something that led to a healthy absence of team orders. Racing was on the menu, whether it was between Hamilton and Rosberg (Mercedes), Ricciardo and Vettel (Red Bull) or Massa and Bottas (Williams). And boy, did they take it seriously!

images                                                                 So far this season, this is a sight the other teams have had to get used to…

If you missed the race, make sure you watch it afterwards, you won’t regret it. Rather than a summary, below just a few points to summarize some of the key takeaways.

  • The Mercedes team’s dominance this season is breathtaking. In the first 40 laps of the race, both Mercedes cars took a 40-second lead over the rest of the pack. Even more impressive, with ten laps remaining after the safety car phase, in 3 laps, they went into a 10-second lead. It seems doubtful whether any team will be able to challenge Mercedes this season, but obviously there is still a long way to go.
  • The safety car phase between lap 42 and 47, caused by Pastor Maldonado (yes, him again) driving straight into the side of Esteban Gutierrez who did a vertical 360 degrees spin in the air, thankfully without getting hurt, led to none of the teams having to think about fuel consumption. All teams therefore went to full power in the last ten laps, something that on one hand reconfirmed Mercedes dominance, on the other however showed Red Bull far closer to the top than they had been so far in the race. Red Bull’s main issue therefore seems to be one of power and fuel mix, something they should be able to get to grips with during the season, one may assume.  As for Pastor Maldonado, he gained a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, a 5-position grid penalty in the upcoming race in China and a 3 championship point penalty. A suspension for the rest of the season would be better, and safer, for all!
  • Force India and Williams reconfirmed their position as the principal challengers outside of the top teams for the season, led by Sergio Perez finishing third and thereby securing the second podium for Force India.
  • After his podium position in the first race of the season in Australia from which he was later disqualified, Daniel Ricciardo again showed that at least in his eyes, Sebastian Vettel is by no means the number one driver in the Red Bull team, pushing him very close to the limit in some great takeover scenes after the safety car phase. Ricciardo finished fourth, Vettel sixth, and it does seem that slowly but surely, Red Bull are getting there.
  • Last but not least, after some hairy scenes between Hamilton and Rosberg (Mercedes)  earlier in the race that didn’t lead to a single word from the team over the radio, Mercedes couldn’t help themselves making it clear to both drivers during the safety car phase that the first priority was to get both cars across the finish line. Rosberg said ok, Hamilton didn’t comment, and the moment Bernd Mayländer parked the SLS AMG safety car in the garage, the both caught sudden amnesia and showed us some of the best racing scenes in quite some time!

If Bahrain is a sign of things to come, in spite of Mercedes dominance, we are in for an exciting season!

The verdict: BMW M135i vs Mercedes A45AMG (and CLA45AMG)

As you might have understood I really like the BMW M135i and the prospect of the Mercedes-Benz A45AMG.

Here are my earlier posts about these cars

Now, evo and TopGear have reviewed the Mercs and here are the scores:

evo (out of 5) TopGear (out of 10)
BMW M135i 4.5 9
MB A45AMG 4 8
MB CLA45AMG 3.5 6-7

Do you see a pattern?! It seems like the BMW is the car to have after all, although the Mercs are prettier…

Rosberg/Mercedes vinner i Monaco!

Inför en kuliss med strålande sol, svala temperaturer och som alltid en försvarlig andel kändisar gick Monacos GP av stapeln idag. Monaco är ju på många sätt ett speciellt lopp: sträckan är säsongens kortaste (både per varv och totalt) och trängsta, och det kräver sin man att närma sig Sainte Dévote-kurvan efter startrakan i 285 km/h, eller för den delen att hålla 260 km/h genom den svängande Loews-tunneln, där sikten vid infart och utfart är noll. Att köra om är nära nog omöjligt, och försök att ändå göra det brukar leda till ett antal krascher – så även i år. Slutligen hade Nico Rosberg som startade från pole naturigtvis hopp om att vinna sitt hemmalopp 30 år efter sin far, Keke Rosberg. Så blev det också, och Nico Rosberg firade därmed sin andra seger i Monaco.

Formula One World Championship
Keke vinner i Monaco 1983 – en annan tid och andra bilar!

En av de stora frågorna inför loppet var hur däcken skulle hålla då det spekulerats i om några stall skulle prova en enstoppsstrategi, då däckslitaget i Monaco är betydligt mindre än under övriga lopp och temperaturen med runt 15 grader var låg. Takterandet fick dock ett slut i 30:e varvet, då Massa blockerade däcken strax innan, just det, Sainte Dévote-kurvan, och den rätt rejäla kraschen föranledde säsongens första safety car-fas. Denna kom som en skänk från ovan för Mercedes, som i då var det enda toppstallet som inte bytt däck än (troligen alltså satsade på en enstoppsstrategi) och nu fick ett byte “gratis”.

Efter ett antal safety car-varv förflöt sen loppet odramatiskt tills varv 46, då Maldonado/Williams i ett försök att köra om Chilton/Marussia i Bureau Tabac-kurvan, som aldrig varit något bra omkörningsställe, istället körde rakt fram i 200 km/h och skadade säkerhetszonerna så svårt att det blev röd flagg. Röd flagg innebär omstart av loppet bakom safety car i den ordning bilarna befinner sig i, vilket för topp 4 vid tidpunkten var Rosberg-Vettel-Webber-Hamilton. Det innebär också att däck får bytas och annat får åtgärdas innan omstarten, och därigenom stod det klart att det inte skulle bli några mer däckbyten under de sista 30 varven.

I varv 63 var det dags för nästa safety car-fas, då Grosjean/Lotus glömde att bromsa vid utfarten från Loews-tunneln och körde rakt in i häcken på Ricciardo/Red Bull. Därefter förflöt resterande tio varv odramatiskt, och Rosberg kunde alltså bärga segern före Vettel och Webber.

Positiva överraskningar i loppet var, förutom att samtliga förare i krascherna klarade sig utan skador, helt klart Sutil/Force India och Perez/McLaren, som båda racade för allt var tyglarna höll. Tyvärr tog Perez lopp slut fem varv innan mål. På den negativa sidan har vi Ferrari, där Alonso förde en oinspierad tillvaro i skymundan och var den mest omkörda föraren i loppet, liksom Chilton/Marussia och Grosjean/Lotus, som inte skaffade sig några nya vänner i det här loppet heller.

Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg vinner Monacos GP 2013

Mercedes A45 AMG – vill ha!

Med en 2-liters motor på 360 hästar är detta den starkaste serietillverkade fyrcylindraga motorn i världen. Fyrhjulsdrift och dubbelkopplingslåda är standard och den avverkar 0-100 km/h på smått bisarra 4,6 sekunder!

Jag gillade nya A-klass redan när jag såg den i Paris och i detta utförande är den ännu snyggare.

Då återstår bara frågan: BMW M135i eller Mercedes A45 AMG?

PARIS: Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake – snygg, snabb och praktisk! Är det ett ålderstecken?

Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake är riktigt rymlig och snygg (inte minst AMG-varianten). Till skillnad från “vanliga” CLS, som endast är 4-sitsig, så är Shooting Brake 5-sitsig. Allt familjen behöver. Börjar jag tycka om Mercedes? Och i så fall är det ett ålderstecken? Frågetecknen är många…

Vid närmare eftertanke vill jag hellre ha en Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, på samma tema, så jag är väl fortfarande OK.

PARIS: Största överraskningen: Mercedes A-Klass – nej, jag skojar inte!

Största positiva överraskningen på salongen var nya Mercedes A-Klass. Väldigt snygg ut- och invändigt, framför allt i AMG-utstyrsel som ser riktigt sportig ut. Ser fram emot den riktiga AMG-bilen, A 45 AMG, som kommer att ge Audi S3 och BMW M135i en match.

A-Klass är rymlig invändigt, inte minst med rymdkänslan som glastaket ger. Interiören har en fin finish, bra detaljkvalitet och känns riktigt sportig.

Jag trodde aldrig att jag skulle vilja ta med mig en Mercedes hem!


Rosberg snabbast dag 3 i Jerez

Även idag är Mercedes snabbast under F1-testerna på Jerez-banan, med en modifierad fjolårsbil. Mercedes ska visa upp 2012-års bil den 20:e februari.

Intressant är att Grosjean är tvåa i en Lotus; snabbast bland 2012-års bilar. Kimi var snabbast i förrgår, även han i en Lotus.

Så här blev resultatlistan:
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes*, 1:17.613, 118 varv
2. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:18.419, 117 varv
3. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:19.297, 96 varv
4. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:19.464, 80 varv
5. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:19.734, 79 varv
6. Sergio Perez, Sauber, 1:19.770, 48 varv
7. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:20.412, 67 varv
8. Bruno Senna, Williams, 1:21.293, 125 varv
9. Giedo van der Garde, Caterham, 1:23.324, 74 varv
10. Jules Bianchi, Force India, no time, 2 varv
* 2011-års bil

Schumacher snabbast dag 2 i Jerez

Under dagens F1-test på Jerez-banan var Michael Schumacher snabbast, i fjolårets Mercedes-bil. En världsmästare var snabbast idag och en annan världsmästare var snabbast igår. Det kommer att bli en spännande säsong med sex(!) världsmästare på banan!

Så här blev resultatet idag:
1. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes*, 1:18.561, 132 varv
2. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:19.184, 97 varv
3. Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, 1:19.587, 100 varv
4. Jules Bianchi, Force India, 1:20.221, 46 varv
5. Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 1:20.239, 117 varv
6. Paul di Resta, Force India, 1:20.272, 69 varv
7. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:20.454, 95 varv
8. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:20.688, 85 varv
9. Sergio Perez, Sauber, 1:20.711, 106 varv
10. Pastor Maldonado, Williams, 1:21.197, 97 varv
11. Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham, 1:21.518, 139 varv
12. Pedro de la Rosa, HRT*, 1:22.128, 64 varv

*) 2011-års bil