F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

Hamilton and Rosberg lay down their weapons, but will it last?

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The last week or so in Formula 1 has been a funny one. On the grandest of stages – the Monaco Grand Prix – Mercedes looked to be on the brink of civil war as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg locked horns both on and off track.

However, the two spoke yesterday and cleared the air, with Hamilton tweeting: “We’ve been friends for a long time, and as friends we have our ups and downs. Today we spoke and we’re cool, still friends.” It was a sweet way to defuse the situation and remove the tension.

Of course, the cynical question is “will it last?” Is this ceasefire just for show?

Well, that remains to be seen. The crucial part of this is that a ceasefire has taken place, and that there is no longer this public tension and ‘threat of war’. For all we know, it could still linger internally at Mercedes, but from the outside looking in, the waters have calmed.

And that was the important part of this for the team. Over the years, there have been many explosive intra-team rivalries. Those that have taken place in the public domain – Senna/Prost, Webber/Vettel – have been particularly difficult for the teams dealing with them.

However, we must go back to another case involving Lewis Hamilton to compare it to the ‘Battle of Mercedes’ in 2014: his 2007 tiff with Fernando Alonso.

Alonso arrived at McLaren after winning two straight titles with Renault, whilst Hamilton was promoted from GP2 to make his F1 debut. Alonso clearly thought he was the ‘number one’ driver, and very few expected Lewis to perform as well as he did, least of all Alonso.

The first murmurings of unrest came at the Monaco Grand Prix. Alonso had claimed pole position and led away at the start, but Hamilton was on a one stop strategy. Despite having a heavier fuel load (this was back in the days of refueling, of course), he was somehow keeping the Spaniard in sight. Could he really claim his first win at F1’s glamor event?

No, he couldn’t. McLaren switched him to a two stop strategy to his surprise, but little more was said of it. In Canada and at Indianapolis, Hamilton claimed back-to-back wins despite Alonso calling for him to move aside and let him through. Tensions were at breaking point, but it was still implicit. There were none of the direct comments as we saw in Monaco this year, merely some hand gestures from Alonso along the pit straight at the Brickyard.

It first really became public when Alonso deliberately blocked Hamilton during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. After coming in for a fresh set of tires, Alonso sat in his pit box despite being given the call to go out. By waiting, he held up Hamilton, who was stacked behind him, and meant that the Briton could not post another time in the fight for pole.

The stewards demoted Alonso five places on the grid, and Hamilton had the last laugh by claiming his third win of the year. However, the damage was done. The Spaniard left McLaren at the end of the season by mutual consent.

The year was a tough one for McLaren, with the unrelated spygate scandal resulting in a $100m fine and exclusion from the constructors’ championship. Both Hamilton and Alonso missed out on the title by one point, finishing on 109 to Kimi Raikkonen’s 110. Arguably, the tension that was boiling under the surface cost both of them the title.

And that’s what is different at Mercedes. It is quite clear that the German marque will win both titles this season – it’s simply a question of who will come out on top in the drivers’ championship.

We’ve had the release of pressure in Monaco. Ultimately, these two are friends. Lewis and Fernando weren’t.

Perhaps it’s even a ‘brotherly’ relationship at Mercedes. They have spats, they have moments where they shout “I hate you!” and storm up to their room. A few hours later though, they’ll skulk downstairs and mumble that they’re sorry. Before you know it, Lewis and Nico will be out in the yard playing soccer – or, as we saw in the tweet, riding unicycles!

This current peace at Mercedes will not last. We might see many more spats between the two before the end of the year and when the title is decided. However, they’ll go away, think about it, and then come back. This tension will be temporary.

Mercedes is in a good place right now. Things could change in 2015 if a team does pose a serious challenge to the Silver Arrows, and any kind of intra-team tussle could jeopardize the title bid, as we saw at McLaren in 2007.

For now though, it’s game on between Lewis and Nico. May the best man win.

Jean-Eric Vergne set to miss Buenos Aires ePrix

FIA Formula E Championship 2015/16.
Beijing ePrix, Beijing, China.
Race.
Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA), DS Virgin Racing DSV-01  
Beijing, China, Asia.
Saturday 24 October 2015
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BUENOS AIRES – Jean-Eric Vergne is set to take no part in Saturday’s Buenos Aires ePrix after coming down with food poisoning overnight.

Vergne had been due to enter his first race of 2016 at the Puerto Madero street circuit on Saturday with DS Virgin Racing, and completed shakedown on Friday as usual.

However, the Frenchman came down with food poisoning overnight, and will now take no part in the race as confirmed to MotorSportsTalk by the team.

Vergne has not travelled to the track and is on a drip as a result of the food poisoning, but remained keen to race.

However, team principal Alex Tai took the decision to stop Vergne from racing, believing that the extreme heat in Buenos Aires would only worsen his condition.

It had been reported that WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez could be drafted in as a possible replacement for Vergne, but the team declined to comment on whether it was pursuing this.

Bird quickest in first Buenos Aires Formula E practice

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BUENOS AIRES – Sam Bird enjoyed an early edge in practice for the Buenos Aires ePrix after topping the timesheets in the first session at the Puerto Madero street circuit.

Bird posted a latest time of 1:09.913 to finish three-tenths of a second clear of Daniel Abt as just four drivers managed to put in a full power lap at 200kW.

Bird and Abt were joined by the NEXTEV TCR duo of Nelson Piquet Jr. and Oliver Turvey in completing a qualifying simulation lap, who finished in third and fourth place respectively.

Andretti driver Simona de Silvestro suffered an early setback when she hit the wall at pit exit with the back-end of her car, taking off the left-rear corner and losing the rear wing. De Silvestro admitted to her engineer upon returning to the pits that it was her own mistake, but the team was now left to begin the quite significant repair job.

DS Virgin Racing driver Jean-Eric Vergne missed opening practice after coming down with food poisoning, and will take not part in the race weekend as a result.

Lucas di Grassi also had a brief scare in his ABT Schaeffler car, but was able to reset and get back going again after grinding to a halt towards the end of the session. Robin Frijns was not so fortunate in the second Andretti car as his session came to an early end when he stopped on track.

Sebastien Buemi had set the pace early on for Renault e.dams, and managed to finish within one second of Bird at the top despite only completing a lap at 170kW. His lap was good enough to finish P5 ahead of perennial rival di Grassi in sixth.

McCormack confirms Davey Hamilton Jr. for Indy Lights

Photo: McCormack Racing
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New team, new driver in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series. It’s not full-time – yet – but this is good.

The full release from McCormack Racing is below:

18 year-old King of the Wing Sprint Car Series champion Davey Hamilton, Jr. has come to terms to compete for Jack McCormack & McCormack Racing in the 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires.  The third generation driver originally from Boise, ID will be making his debut campaign in a single seater.

Hamilton hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps as the latest American racer to translate asphalt Open Wheel & Sprint Car success into an INDYCAR career.  Hamilton, Jr.’s 2015 concluded with his fifth Sprint Car win of the year at Madera in November en route to the King of the Wing Western Sprint Car Series championship and third in the national championship.

His father Davey, Sr. has competed in 11 Indianapolis 500s with a best finish of fourth.  He also finished second in series points in back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998.  He remarkably finished ninth in the 2007 edition of the 500 after a six year comeback from a devastating crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

“This opportunity with Jack McCormack is something I have been looking forward to for a long time,” Hamilton, Jr. said.  “We are working hard to be on the grid in March to challenge for wins and ultimately an Indy Lights championship.  We still have some work to do financially but we’re pushing hard.”

McCormack’s racing history goes back to 1966 in drag racing before a successful career in engineering and car ownership across IMSA, IndyCar, Indy Lights, and USAC.  McCormack has worked with a diverse range of top drivers such as Sam Posey, Skip Barber, Pancho Carer, Roger McCluskey, Jerry Sneva, Roger Mears, Tom Sneva, Geoff Brabham, and Dick Simon.

McCormack Racing and Hamilton have spent much of the off season testing primarily at Buttonwillow Raceway in California.  After several weeks practicing a third-generation Indy Lights car, Hamilton took controls of the current fourth-generation IL-15 for numerous testing days.  Hamilton and McCormack will make a private oval test later this month before joining the series officially on February 24th for the test on the one-mile oval Phoenix International Raceway.

The team has tentative agreements in place to compete in the entire Indy Lights starting with the Streets of St. Pete March 11-13.  Two separate Indy Lights races will be contested across opening weekend for the series.  Indy Lights’ 2016 agenda also includes oval races at Phoenix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Freedom 100 on Carb Day, and Iowa Speedway.

Both Hamilton and McCormack are still searching for additional funding to solidify an effort to be the seventh American on the grid this spring.

Alain Prost confirms having no role with Renault Sport F1 Team

Four-time Formula One champion Alain Prost visits the paddock area prior to the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix race at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, southern Austria, Sunday, June 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
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BUENOS AIRES – Alain Prost has confirmed that he will not have a role within the revived Renault Sport Formula 1 Team’s management.

Renault will return to F1 with a works team in 2016 after five years away, having taken over the Lotus operation at Enstone in December.

On Wednesday, the team unveiled its driver line-up and management team for the season, with Prost not being announced as having a role.

Many expected the four-time F1 world champion to take up a position similar to that of Niki Lauda at Mercedes, where the Austrian works as a non-executive director.

Speaking to MotorSportsTalk in Buenos Aires, Prost confirmed that he will not be involved with the F1 operation and will instead focus on his broadcasting commitments and his role in Formula E with Renault e.dams.

“I decided for sure, not so long ago. I prefer to be away from the operational work because it’s too complicated anyway with Formula E and the ambassador role and Canal+ [in France] and maybe Channel 4 [in Britain], different things that I have to do,” Prost said.

“I cannot do things everywhere, it does not work anyway. I think also the image could create more problems than advantages, especially for the management. They have a structure.

“It’s going to be tough at the beginning. I’ll let them work and I’ll still keep my role of ambassador and different things.”