Australian F1 Grand Prix - Previews

Mercedes looking to increase the gap at the front


Mercedes may have won the opening four races of the 2014 Formula 1 season with relative ease, but team boss Toto Wolff has set his sights on increasing the gap to the chasing pack at the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend.

The opening European round of the season marks the first opportunity for the teams to introduce major upgrade packages to their cars that should provide added performance. Whilst the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari see this as a chance to cut the gap to Mercedes, the German team will instead be looking to widen this margin with new parts and upgrades.

“We are now four races into the 2014 season and hold a strong position in both championships,” Wolff said. “However, the first European round of the year always provides a prime opportunity for teams to arrive with improvements to their cars.

“Of course, we are no different to any other team in that respect and our aim must be to increase the advantage we enjoyed at the last race in China.”

Said advantage was over 25 seconds in China as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg romped to yet another one-two finish. It was the third maximum haul of 43 points in a row, and the Silver Arrows have scored 154 of 182 possible points so far this year.

Nevertheless, Wolff is wary of the chasing pack, especially given how Red Bull has improved since the beginning of testing in January.

“We have seen already that our rivals are relentless in their efforts to close the gap,” he said. “As a team, it is up to us to rise to that challenge: to take that relentless mentality to an even greater extent than those around us. If we are to build a sustained level of success in this sport, any small advantage must be seen as a platform upon which to build a bigger advantage.

“We head to Barcelona on good form and in high spirits,” he added. “But, most importantly, we approach the next race weekend as we approached the first: in the knowledge that there is still a long season ahead and anything can happen.”

For the sake of the championship, it might be good to see a challenger rise to Mercedes’ dominance, but given the form of both Hamilton and Rosberg at the beginning of the season, it will come as little surprise if the gap grows again.

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.