F1 Testing in Barcelona - Day Three

F1 Primer: The teams and cars

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The F1 rules have been largely stable since 2009. The current generation of cars use 2.4-liter V8 engines which produce around 750bhp.

This is enhanced by the addition of a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS). This is basically a hybrid engine which gives drivers an extra 80bhp for up to 6.6 seconds per lap.

Another acronym which comes up often in F1 is DRS. The Drag Reduction System was introduced in 2011 to increase overtaking. It allows a driver to lower his rear wing and increase his top speed, but only on designated parts of the circuit and only when they’re within a second of the car in front.

F1’s engine specification has been ‘frozen’ for several years. That has led teams to focus on the aerodynamics of their cars as the best way of improving performance. And the undoubted masters of that at the moment are Red Bull.

Technical director Adrian Newey has been a key part of the team’s dominance of the past three seasons. His unending quest for performance has brought Red Bull in conflict with the sport’s rule makers on several occasions.

A team with the passion and heritage of Ferrari needs no introduction. They are the only outfit who’ve participated in every season of the world championship since its inauguration in 1950.

They wield immense political clout within the sport and their impatience at going four years without any championship silverware is clearly growing.

McLaren’s status as one of the sport’s top teams is belied by the fact that they haven’t won the constructors’ championship for 15 years. Their relationship with engine supplier Mercedes, which began in 1995, appears to be in its twilight phase.

Mercedes returned to F1 as a full factory team in 2010 but have only won one race since. The hiring of Lewis Hamilton from McLaren this year is a clear signal of their intentions.

The Lotus name appears in F1 but it is no longer connected to the sports car maker. The team which was known as Renault until last year have won championships before and are dark horse contenders for success this year.

Sauber mark the 20th anniversary of their arrival in F1 this year. The independent team owned by Peter Sauber is now run by F1’s first female team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn. Fellow independents Williams have multiple championships to their name and ended an eight-year winless streak last season.

Force India has two home races per year: the Indian Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix, the latter held at Silverstone circuit outside their factory gates.

The role of Toro Rosso in F1 is as a junior team for Red Bull who use it to evaluate potential drivers of the future.

There is room for 26 cars in Formula One at present, but only 22 of the spaces are filled. Three new teams entered F1 in 2010 but one of those, HRT, collapsed during the winter. Only Caterham and Marussia remain, and they are yet to score a point in three years.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Sage Karam

Sage Karam
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Ending in 20th was Sage Karam, who generated a lot of headlines despite missing a handful of races in his first full season in the big leagues.

Sage Karam, No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 9th place at Indianapolis 500; several starts in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship
  • 2015: 20th place (12 starts), Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 12 Laps Led, 14.5 Avg. Start, 15.8 Avg. Finish

Few drivers generated as much ink as Karam did during what as an ultimately race-by-race rookie season that saw him active in 12 of 16 races. It was an overall rocky campaign that featured any combination of brilliance, controversy and heartache depending on the weekend.

Karam was on the back foot to begin with anyway with limited preseason testing, following a wrist injury sustained in a crash at Barber Motorsports Park. The fact he was out of a car for Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis owed to financial reasons but also served as a wakeup call that he needed to improve off the back of several ragged races to open the season. The speed was there for the Indianapolis 500 but the result wasn’t, with a first-lap crash and the following debacle of a doubleheader weekend at Detroit a week later ultimately Karam’s nadir.

Luckily for the 20-year-old, he had Dario Franchitti as a tutor, mentor and coach, and a post-Detroit “come to Jesus” meeting might have been the biggest impetus for change. Karam then surged in the second half of the year – primarily on ovals – and worked his way into the headlines courtesy of his driving and take-no-prisoners aggressive approach, particularly with Ed Carpenter at Iowa. In a single sentence, he was worth the price of admission almost on his own while also putting himself in contention for series “black hat” status.

Karam was on track for what would have been a dream weekend at home in Pocono, leading with 20 laps to go, when he lost control and crashed out – the debris from the car ultimately striking Justin Wilson’s helmet. It was a tragic end to the race but it was no fault of Karam’s that what happened, happened.

For as much as the community is rallying around Wilson’s family, it needs to do the same for Karam. At 20, he’s a talented driver with a bright future ahead of him, who continued to mature over the course of the season. You just don’t want Pocono to be the race that affects him psychologically, and prevents him from fully realizing his undoubted potential.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Stefano Coletti

Stefano Coletti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver lineup. In 19th place and the second-ranked rookie this season, was KV Racing Technology’s Stefano Coletti.

Stefano Coletti, No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

  • 2014: GP2
  • 2015: 19th Place, Best Finish 8th, Best Start 8th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 18.9 Avg. Start, 18.6 Avg. Finish

Coletti struggled in his rookie season, which was a bit surprising after an impressive preseason testing period that helped him secure the second KV Racing Technology car alongside KVSH Racing lead driver Sebastien Bourdais.

The GP2 graduate produced early season excitement where he was a passing star, but that only seemed to deceive for the rest of the year. The only time he started ahead of Bourdais was at Iowa, when Bourdais crashed in qualifying.

Similar to other drivers KV has had in previous years Coletti was often hard on equipment, with a frequent number of either full-on accidents or less damaging spins, although not all were his fault. A trouble-free weekend for him rarely occurred, and eighth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis marked his only top-10 result of the year.

It was a year that paled in comparison to Sebastian Saavedra’s difficult 2014, which paled in comparison to Simona de Silvestro in 2013, which… well you get the point. The lack of consistency for the team’s second car probably doesn’t help, but Coletti offered few moments of brilliance in a deep field where he needed to stand out.

Given the resources at his disposal, ending 78 points behind rookie-of-the-year Gabby Chaves seemed a fairly substantial margin. If he returns for 2016, he has a big jump to make.