Spanish GP Paddock Notebook – Thursday


MONTMELO – The Spanish Grand Prix is widely regarded as being one of the most important races of the Formula 1 season as a number of teams bring major updates to their cars for the first time.

The pecking order in the opening four races of the year has been pretty clear: Mercedes, then Ferrari, then Williams, and then the rest, with McLaren and Manor propping up the order.

However, that could be set to change this weekend as most of the teams bring major upgrade packages to their cars. Ferrari, Lotus and Red Bull are known to be bringing a raft of updates for their cars, whilst McLaren is also poised to make a big stride forwards.

Rounding up all of the news and insight from the paddock in Barcelona today, here is the Paddock Notebook.



Updates, updates everywhere

As per my grand prix preview earlier today, the word of the weekend is “updates” – who has them, and perhaps more importantly, who does not. Ferrari, Red Bull, Lotus and McLaren are all bringing sizeable upgrade packages to the race in Spain, whilst the rest of the field appears to be focus on quality rather than quantity. Interestingly, both Toro Rosso and Force India won’t have much of note that is new on the car until Austria and Great Britain respectively, so keep an eye out for their competitive pace this weekend.

Is Bottas on the move?

Some interesting words from Valtteri Bottas today regarding his future, categorically denying that he has signed a pre-contract with Ferrari for the 2017 season. However, he did also reveal that he is a free agent for 2016 as things stand, and is yet to open negotiations with Williams over a new contract. The Finn is hot property, and with Kimi Raikkonen approaching the end of his career, Ferrari could opt to pass up on the option it has on his contract and sign Bottas instead. Time will tell though. This could be the story that defines silly season in 2015, though…

Lewis the lawyer

…once Lewis Hamilton’s contract is resolved, that is. He has been oh so close to signing a new deal with Mercedes for about eight months now, but still no deal has been reached. He confirmed today that there are no updates to give, but has learned plenty by negotiating the deal himself without the support of a management company. “It’s been good in that sense because I think when I retire I could write some contracts,” he told the media on Thursday. “So if any of you guys need a manager, I think I could do a good job for you!” Depends on what sort of cut you’re after, Lewis…

Hulkenberg returns from the wild WEC

Nico Hulkenberg returns to F1 action this weekend following his debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship last weekend in the 6 Hours of Spa with Porsche, where he finished sixth. It was a respectable display, and he enjoyed the experience a great deal. Next up? The fearsome 24 Hours of Le Mans. To see an F1 driver be allowed to race in two series is very refreshing indeed. Force India may be hurt by the lack of updates on the car this weekend, so don’t expect Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez to be fighting in the top ten. Then again, if lady luck is smiling on Force India, points could yet be on the cards.

Alonso prepares for a big welcome home

“Alonsomania” is a thing in Spain, making this weekend rather important to the fans that will flock in their thousands to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Although there are two other Spanish drivers – Carlos Sainz Jr. and Roberto Merhi – Alonso is the man who will be under the biggest pressure to perform. McLaren’s updates for the MP4-30 could not be arriving at a better time, but the team may still only be fighting only on the fringes of the top ten, it would seem. It all adds up for a fascinating fight in the midfield, though, and with different strategies at play, the Spanish Grand Prix will throw up a number of storylines.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.