F1 2014 Primer: The Teams

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In the penultimate part of MotorSportsTalk’s F1 2014 season preview, we take a look at the teams that will be vying for this year’s world championship. Although there are no new additions, we do have a number of driver changes, plus some interesting changes in suppliers and staff that could make a big difference in 2014.

RED BULL RACING

Having dominated F1 since the middle of 2009, it might come as a shock that Red Bull is no longer the team to beat. If testing is anything to go by, the RB10 car is proving to be troublesome. The only major change at the team is the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo as Mark Webber’s replacement, and he may be better poised to challenge Sebastian Vettel with the new regulations. Don’t write Red Bull off though: the team has a knack for rapid improvement.

MERCEDES

Mercedes was undoubtedly the team to beat during pre-season testing, and has a strong driver pairing in Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Upon re-entering the sport in 2010, the German marque always earmarked 2014 as being its first year of wanting to fight for the title; such a long lead-up and preparation period can only aid the team’s efforts. Ross Brawn’s departure may be felt, but with Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe at the helm, Mercedes appears to be in good shape.

SCUDERIA FERRARI

The Italian prancing horse hopes to bounce back in 2014 after a period of regular disappointment. Although there have been race wins and fine efforts from Fernando Alonso, it is still seven years since the team last won the drivers’ championship with Kimi Raikkonen. For 2014 though, the Finn returns after leaving Lotus, creating a mouthwatering driver line-up. In terms of one-lap pace, the team may even challenge Mercedes, and could yet be a force to be reckoned with in F1 this season.

LOTUS

No team has undergone more change than Lotus over the winter. The departures of James Allison, Dirk de Beer, Ciaron Pilbeam, Eric Boullier and Kimi Raikkonen mean that the team enters 2014 far, far weaker than it was twelve months ago. Pastor Maldonado arrives and may provide some financial stability, but after missing one of the three tests, the team is certainly on the back foot, especially with the Renault engine being problematic. Romain Grosjean will hope to lead the team in the post-Raikkonen era.

MCLAREN

Coming off of the back of its worst season since 1980, McLaren is a team in transition. 2014 marks its final year with Mercedes engines before a switch to Honda, but many changes have already been made. Kevin Magnussen comes in to replace Sergio Perez, Ron Dennis returns as CEO and Eric Boullier arrives as Racing Director. The latter has replaced Martin Whitmarsh, of whom we are yet to hear news on. With Jenson Button hungry for a second title, the team could yet bounce back in fashion this year.

FORCE INDIA

Having dumped the rather underwhelming line-up of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg (ever the nearly-man) and Sergio Perez (having left McLaren) arrive at Force India. Powered by Mercedes, the team appears to be well-placed for a strong season, so much so that Bernie Ecclestone has tipped Vijay Mallya’s team to win its first race this year. Hulkenberg and Perez are two exciting prospects, so it could be a big year for all at Force India.

SAUBER

Moving in the opposite direction to Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil arrives at Sauber to partner Esteban Gutierrez as Sauber looks to bounce back from a tough 2013. The financial problems have been resolved, whilst the C33 has ran well during testing. The team may not win races, but it is certainly in better shape than it was at this time last year. With an array of drivers waiting in the wings for seats, the pressure is on Sutil and Gutierrez (2013’s rookie of the year) to perform.

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO

Change is afoot at Toro Rosso. Following Daniel Ricciardo’s promotion to Red Bull, 19-year-old Daniil Kvyat was a surprise choice as his replacement, fending off Antonio Felix da Costa and Carlos Sainz Jr. to win the seat. Jean-Eric Vergne will become the team’s most experienced driver ever in 2014, but he knows that time is ticking. The move to Renault engines may have backfired, but in Xevi Pujolar, the team has secured a greatly talented engineer.

WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING

After scoring just five points in 2013, a raft of changes have been made at Williams. Gone are many of the problems that blighted last season, including Pastor Maldonado who accused the team of sabotage in Austin. Felipe Massa’s arrival is a win-win situation for driver and team, whilst engineers Jakob Andreasen and Rob Smedley will be keen to work with Pat Symonds in his first full season. Throw in Valtteri Bottas’ huge potential, Mercedes engines and the newly-announced Martini backing, and the stage is set for a breakthrough year at Williams.

MARUSSIA

Having finally beaten Caterham in 2013, Marussia enters the new season hopeful of a repeat performance, and perhaps some points. Ferrari engines will certainly aid the efforts of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi, whilst the possibility for races of attrition could create a big opportunity for the Anglo-Russian outfit. Relying the race goes ahead as planned, the team will also enjoy its inaugural ‘home’ grand prix at Sochi in October.

CATERHAM

All change at Caterham in 2014 as Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic make way for fan favorite Kamui Kobayashi and GP2’s Marcus Ericsson, with the latter becoming the first Swede to race in F1 since Stefan Johansson in 1991. With a new mint image and a thirst for revenge after being marginally beaten by Marussia last season, 2014 could be a big year for Caterham and everyone at Leafield.

 

More of MotorSportsTalk’s 2014 F1 season preview
F1 2014 Primer: The Drivers
F1 2014 Primer: The Tracks
5 storylines that could define the 2014 F1 season

Tony Stewart to race in Rico Abreu fundraiser at Calistoga

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SONOMA, Calif. (AP) NASCAR is back at Sonoma Raceway and the defending race winner won’t be part of the field on Sunday.

Tony Stewart, who scored the last of his 49 career victories here, is retired now and watches the Cup races as a team owner. He still plans to race this weekend.

Stewart will run at Calistoga Speedway in an event that is being largely promoted by Rico Abreu and his father, local businessman David Abreu.

The race used to be called the Wine Country Classic, but has been renamed the Boys and Girls Club Dirt Track Classic. David Abreu designed the event as a fundraiser for a facility to house after-school programs for local children in Calistoga.

“My dad and I have always wanted to promote a race to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club,” Rico Abreu said. “There is a need for it with our demographics and it accommodates hundreds of kids in our valley. It provides them a safe place to learn and grow.”

Rico Abreu, one of the nation’s top dirt track drivers, benefited from the program along with his two siblings in St. Helena.

Stewart, Abreu and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are among those entered in the Saturday night dirt track event to help draw attendance.

David Abreu, founder of St. Helena’s Abreu Vineyards, is hoping to raise $250,000 for an equipped clubhouse at the Calistoga Boys and Club location. He will give a famous “Macho Magnums” – 40 magnums from his Napa Valley 2010 collection – to the first $100,000 donor.

It will be Stewart’s first Winged Sprint Car start at the Calistoga half-mile. He did win a USAC Western Midget Series race in 1994. He also set the midget track record that same weekend and held it until USAC made its return to the venue in 2008.

“I’m really looking forward to running the Calistoga Speedway since I haven’t raced there since 1994,” Stewart said. “I’m also excited to see all the improvements that have taken place at the track since the last time I’ve been there.”

Abreu is driving as well as promoting and fundraising. He’s competing Saturday night in the Sprint Car Challenge Tour 360’s and the King of the West-NARC 410’s.

“Having Tony Stewart and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in competition will certainly be an exciting thing for all the fans in Nor-Cal,” said Rico Abreu.

More AP Auto Racing: http://racing.ap.org/

Newgarden, Penske top second practice at Road America

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Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden topped second practice in a 1-2-3-4 sweep for the Team Penske outfit, driving the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden’s best lap of a 1:42.8229 was about five hundredths of a second quicker than teammate and defending race winner Will Power, who was second with a 1:42.8229. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves completed the Penske top four sweep, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe the best of the Honda drivers in fifth.

The session was only briefly interrupted early on when Alexander Rossi went off the track in Turn 14 and gently slid into the tire barrier. The red flag was flown to remove the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda from the barrier, but Rossi was able to continue, ending the session in 11th after leading the morning practice.

Of note, Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones enjoyed a strong session to end up sixth, while teammate Esteban Gutierrez was 17th on his return to Coyne.

Also, Robert Wickens continued to fill in for Mikhail Aleshin, ending Practice 2 in 20th. While Aleshin is reportedly en route to Road America, it is unknown if Wickens will continue his fill in role through the weekend.

Times are below. Practice 3 rolls of at 12:00 p.m. ET (11:00 a.m. local) on Saturday.

Sauber says it’s ‘soon’ to naming Kaltenborn’s successor

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Sauber F1 Team enters this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix without a team principal and trying to work ahead on its 2018 preparations, making it a tough weekend for one of Formula 1’s smallest teams.

Sauber team manager Beat Zahnder attempted to explain the team’s managerial structure this weekend in Kaltenborn’s absence and teased when he hoped a decision would be made regarding Kaltenborn’s successor.

“Jorg Zander, the technical director and myself, we’ve been entrusted to run the operation of the team this weekend but this is only temporary,” Zahnder explained during the FIA team principal press conference on Friday.

“It doesn’t change a lot for us because our job is to have two cars running as quickly as possible around the circuit and for me it’s a little bit more media work.”

Asked when he hoped to have a successor named, Zahnder replied, “I hope soon. We were talking to some candidates and I hope we can announce it sooner rather than later.”

Former Renault F1 chief Frederic Vasseur’s name has been floated this week, as have other former F1 team chiefs Dave Ryan and Jost Capito, after Colin Kolles’ name was floated earlier in the week.

Zahnder said he could not explain the insider workings of the team.

“I cannot, no. You’ve seen the official press statement from Mr Picci and it seems that Mr Picci and Mrs Kaltenborn had different views how to operate the company. We shouldn’t forget that it’s not only a race team, it’s a home team as well with 350 people or so, but I cannot give you more information because I’m not actively involved in that decision,” he said.

Sauber is still in the process of not only finishing this year but also preparing for its 2018 switch to Honda power. This is an important change and one that comes amidst the turmoil currently encapsulating McLaren and Honda’s turbulent relationship.

“We have started with the project and there is an exchange of information on the logistical side, on the set-up side and the garages,” Zahnder explained. “We have to organize computers and IT stuff and things like this so the work has started, yes.”

With the two McLaren Hondas set to start from the rear of the grid this weekend, Sauber can at least work to get into Q2 and get further up the order with its pair of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

Gutierrez set to ‘explore the feeling of enjoyment in IndyCar’

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Esteban Gutierrez has a better peace of mind for his second Verizon IndyCar Series weekend this year, this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), than his first at Detroit earlier this month.

That’s because he’s now been confirmed for the remainder of the races that Sebastien Bourdais won’t drive, until Bourdais’ return to the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, and he has track experience at Road America from both Formula BMW races a decade ago.

“It’s a track that I enjoy a lot. It’s one of my favorite tracks. I have great memories from 2007 when I was racing Formula BMW USA,” Gutierrez reflected. “I was actually fighting my way from the back of the field in one of the races. I got up to second. We finished with a very small margin at the start/finish line. It was a very enjoyable moment, a great race that I have very close in my memory.

“Coming back quite many years after, 10 years after, I’m very, you know, excited to get into an IndyCar. Very powerful, very grippy, really nice racing car. You know, it’s really a nice experience to do every lap in this track.”

Gutierrez had a test day on June 14, which he wasn’t publicly identified for at the test but was always planned following his debut at Detroit.

“Obviously to throw myself into Detroit was quite a challenge, one of the most difficult tracks in the calendar, with no testing, straight in the weekend. I think it was a very interesting experience,” he explained.

“Now that I come to Elkhart Lake with a test behind my belt before the weekend, it’s great. I’m really enjoying a lot. I’m very happy of where I am today, with the challenge I have ahead, with the future ahead.

“I would like to explore more that feeling of enjoyment here in IndyCar. I’m just going to go through it. I’m going to live every moment. I’m going to focus on the present and see what we can do in the future.”

And although his rookie teammate Ed Jones is only nine races into his own IndyCar career, Gutierrez says he’s already been able to learn a lot from him and from Bourdais.

“(There’s) quite a lot,” Gutierrez said he’s learned from Jones already. “And also from Sebastien. I’ve been in contact with him. Been in contact with few drivers to try to get some tips, to get a feeling of what are their thoughts, their experiences, to help me, you know, get quicker into the knowledge of the car, in general, and the series, and the competition here.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with him were related to the technical side of the car, in order for me to understand how the car is working, how the car is evolving through a weekend. It helped me a lot in Detroit. It’s helping me a lot here. Obviously we had the test which allowed us as a team to prepare better.

“Yeah, race by race, it will be clearer and clearer. But Sebastien is always there involved kind of following all the meetings, following the practice sessions, the qualifyings. Yeah, is great to be in touch. Sebastien is a great driver. I really been following him from the past. So, yeah, we’re here and trying to do my best to adapt quickly to the racing here.”

Both Gutierrez and Jones are IndyCar rookies and as such are feeding off each other to learn.

“It’s all about sharing information after each session. It’s about contributing,” he said. “Obviously he has more experience than me in IndyCar, and he has proven to be quite good here. So Ed, you know, we’ve been always together in the meetings. Obviously me trying to understand what is his way of working through the weekend with the setup of the car.

“In my case, I’m very open, because obviously I have no experience in IndyCar. So been always with a very open approach, trying to get as much information as I can, absorb everything, and learn as much as possible.”

Gutierrez briefly dovetailed into the Formula E contractual situation where he had driven with the Techeetah team. He said there was “really nothing to talk about” and that he enjoyed the experience, but said this was an opportunity he wanted to explore.

What he will be exploring for the first time next week is his first oval test at Iowa Speedway on Tuesday, and he’s excited about that.

“I’m aware that it’s completely different. Fortunately I will have a test on Tuesday to prepare, to get to know the reality of an oval, because you can review a lot of data, you can prepare on the theory, but always, you know, when you get to the reality of driving, it’s a complete different story.

“I’m really looking forward to Tuesday. I’m very sure that I will enjoy it, that I will enjoy that kind of racing. So, yeah, I’m excited to get to know — to expand my racing knowledge and to know how to race in ovals.”

For now he’ll get through this weekend and look to build continuity with the Coyne team and Jones as his teammate.