The path of two former leading lights

For those that follow F1 and Moto GP, you will have spent years watching Sebastian Vettel and Jorge Lorenzo at the front of the field. QUalifiying on pole and racing to victory week in week out.

But you will also have spent the last couple of years wondering what has happened to these former leading drivers/riders of their respective racing category.

In the case of Vettel. We know he doesn’t like having a faster team mate and if you look at his highlights reel from the last 18 months, you will find more accidents, crashes and failures that you will find success stories.

The same goes for Lorenzo but with him, the apple has fallen far further from the success tree. Especially this year.

After his move to Ducati resulted in little success, he moved to Honda for this year to form a supposed dream team. Yet he has not finished inside the top 10 (correct me if I am wrong) so far this season. Has missed some races because of injury and is looking like a complete shadow of his former self.

With both these motorsport stars, the questions have to be asked. There are those that question whether Vettel will be back next year or whether he will call time on his racing career. There are those that think Lorenzo will quite this year as well. Both of them still have another year on their contracts. But such is the fall from grace that they have both experienced that these questions are not going away.

Do I have an answer for you? No. With Vettel, he has nowhere else to go in F1 bar maybe Williams. So if he doesn’t want questions asked of his abilities for the rest of his life, he needs to raise his head and get on with proving the doubters wrong.

With Lorenzo, he just needs a good race. We know it is not the bike – Marques is proving that. He needs to get a top 10 under his belt. Then a top 5, then a podium and then a win. He needs to go into next season and just nail it.

For both Vettel and Lorenzo, they need to accept that 2019 is not their year and move forward so that 202 truly is.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

Not looking as promising as I hoped

I have just seen the first wind tunnel versions of the next gen F1 car and I have to say – I am underwhelmed.

The wind tunnel design is being honed in the Alfa Romeo/Sauber wind tunnel in Switzerland and this is the first ‘real’ images that the FIA have shown us of the new Formula 1 car for the future. Obviously the teams themselves will find any small windows that can be exploited but it looks like a mix between the current Indycar chassis and a Super Formula Nippon car and is not what we need from F1 right now.

We need something more. What that something is, I do not know but when I look back at racing cars from the F1 top class through the decades, the have the take everything from pre 1991 and accept that that will just not work in the modern era (ie. aerodynamics had begun to really shape the cars from then onwards (more so than previousy)). So looking past that, you have the mid 90’s Benetton B195. Great looking car. The Williams FW17, even better. The Mclaren MP4/13 and then one of my personal favourites, the Mclaren MP4/20 from 2005. A car that looked like it was the fastest on the grid and was in fact, the fastest car on the grid. If you take all of those, mash them together with a wee bit of added safety Halo etc and that is probably where we should be. Take that artist sketch and make rules that make that work.
Boom.

We have had a run of good grand prix recently but when we were all turning off the TV sets after the French Grand Prix at the beginning of the summer, there were strong debates about what F1 needed to do to get back to the top of the podium. And this new render/model simply doesn’t convince me that the future will be any brighter than it currently is.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

Not long to go

While we are suffering from the F1 summer break, I am also getting fed up waiting for the new WEC season to kick off. I love LMP1 Sportscar Racing and not even my wife fully understands how deep my love for Le Mans and the 24 Hours really is.

So as you can imagine, I kicked myself today when I thought – ahhhh there is so long till the Belgium Grand Prix. How long till Le Mans’

For those good at maths, you will know it is a while.
For those bad at maths – you will still know it is a while.

And for idiots like me, google has told me that it is 302 days away.

Awwwwwww.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

I am getting bored!!!

There is no F1 on this weekend. There is no WEC but there is Indycar at Pocono.
However, living in the UK with two kids means finding the time to watch it means that it is probably a no go for me. So I am bored. But to help pass the time I have been watching some old classics from the youtube vault.

There are always some go to videos I watch every now and then when I need a motorsport fix. One of them is Montoya vs Andretti in Champcar in 1999. Montoyas first season and a prime example of a young, hungry driver and a wise old fox.

And this weekend, the help pass the time, when there is nothing on I may just rewatch the 1995 Formula 1 season review. THat is bound to be there somewhere. And maybe a top ten closest Indycar finishes of all time. And maybe the best Nascar battles of all time.

And then why not a bit of Opel vs Alfa Romeo DTM battles from the 90’s.

And the final thing, I need to watch some BMW 3 Series BTCC from 1997 I think with the Fina Oil livery. One of my absolute favourite liveries of all time.

So after writing this, I am not as bored as I was. Ia m actually a bit excited because I have quite a few things to watch this weekend.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

Has Verstappen signed for Mercedes?

While the main story right now is all about Gasly being demoted to Torro Rosso and Albon going the other way to take the top seat at Red Bull. A seat, I might add which most drivers on the planet would like to be sitting in. There is, in my opinion another, far juicier story coming along.

Now let me make this clear – this is just my theory. I do not have any sources down the local Mercedes F1 pub though that would be a good reason for moving to Brackley.

No this is just one of those – ‘maybe that’s what’ moments.

So Christian Horner has been getting some stick because it was only a week or so ago that he said that Gasly had the seat till the end of the season. And now….now he doesn’t. But why? What changed since he said that?

Well the engineers could have gone over the data in more detail and highlighted more areas in which Gasly has been behind his teammate. Or maybe they have realised that they are now the second top team in F1 and they need another strong driver in the second seat to try and get that second place in the constructors championship. Or maybe, and this is where my theory comes in, maybe Verstappen has told Red Bull that he will be leaving for Mercedes next season and Red Bull, in a kind of panic are basically throwing Albon in to the seat quickly to better prepare him for the 2020 season.

It kind of makes sense. The next Grand Prix on the calendar is the Belgium Grand Prix. A kind of home race for Verstappen until Zolder comes along anyway. So what better time for Mercedes to announce it. The race afterwards is Monza so they might not want to do it at Ferrari’s home track out of politeness.

So Gasly was all set to have the seat for the rest of the season then Red Bull discover that shock horror – they are loosing their top driver. What do they do? Promote Albon next year and hope he doesn’t do a Gasly. Or accept that Gasly is taking too long this year, promote Albon to see what he can do and then make a decision later in the year.

Because, as I have written before, if Verstappen did go to Mercedes then Red Bull have a bit of a problem. They don’t have a new super star to directly replace him with. They lost Daniel Ricciardo to Renault because they were putting their eggs in the Verstappen basket and Daniil Kvyat hasn’t worked out for them so far. So who else is there? And don’t say Alonso. He has moved on from F1. All the other top drivers are tied up to contracts. Mercedes wouldn’t let Ocon go to Red Bull. Bottas is not good enough to beat Hamilton so why would Red Bull want him. Daniel is tied in with Renault, Hulkenburg is along shot. Mclaren drivers are locked in (though I bet Red Bull wish Carlos Sainz was still available to them). And so on…

You see my point. And this is why I think Red Bull have reacted by switching Gasly with Albon.

Something has happened that we don’t know about that has made them have to react to solve a problem which just two years ago, you would never have dreamed Red Bull would be having.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

WRC Should take a page out of the DTM book

I am currently watching some highlights of the WRC Rally of Finland and I keep seeing the Toyota Yaris WRC and thinking ahhh my eyes.

I get that the cars of the WRC are taken from the road cars and pumped up but my question is this – why?

Why do they have to do that? Why do rally cars have to be taken from production based cars which therefore means that they are all hatchbacks?

In the DTM, what you currently have is a BMW, an Audi and an Aston Martin. All running on a base Dallara chassis. The bodywork on these cars closely resembles the pumped up M4, RS4 and Vantage. But really they is because a) those are good looking cars and b) are not hatch backs.

So why does the WRC not get a hard core ‘safety cell’ chassis that any manufacturer can then bolt on their bodywork to?

It doesn’t even have to be a real car. Remember the marketing promotion benefits that Citroen got when they created the virtual Gran Turismo Concept car >>>

They never intended for it to be a real road car but the promotion they got from it was excellent.

These days, Ferrari makes a nice wee extra bit of cash from making specialised concept cars based on existing car running gear. So Eric Clapton is running around in a cool Boxer inspired Ferrari that I think is based on a 430 chassis.

Why can’t Toyota create a cool Celica inspired rally car that looks amazing, makes the brand seem cooler and if the demand was high enough – make a couple of hundred at a couple of hundred thousand a pop?

The Group B cars looked amazing and they looked mad. Modern day rally cars look average and they look ridiculously pumped up in way that I would not be putting on my bedroom wall if I was still a kid.

So, rule makers of the WRC, get rid of the rules that demand that cars are production based. Get a super safe safety cell chassis tender going and then Ford can produce something amazing (shame they have decided to reuse the Puma name for a mini sity SUV already), Toyota can produce a Celica and Lancia can come back with a cool 037 tribute which they can then make in small numbers as part of a new effort to return the brand to the top.

As I write this I realise that I may have just saved Lancia.

You are welcome.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

Mercedes and their F1 driver problem

So Mercedes have a problem. It is a strange problem but one that a lot of people seem to be overlooking in the F1 paddock.

So many people are thinking about whether Mercedes should replace Bottas with Ocon. But it shouldn’t be a case of who will be in the drivers seat of the second Mercedes F1 car. The question really should be – who is going to take Lewis Hamilton’s place at the team when he decides to step down from F1.

Yes I know he has said that he wants to race for many more years but he is getting older and could easily do what Rosberg did and simply step back with minimal notice.

So, do Mercedes keep Bottas as a solid number 2 driver and then worry about what to do when Lewis does step down? Or do they replace Bottas with Ocon and ‘groom’ him to be the next Lewis?

Or, do they try and catch a new big fish by the name of Max Verstappen?

If they keep the system as it is then it will work to the advantage of the team. All the eggs go in the Lewis basket and Bottas becomes a solid number two in the same way that David Coulthard did for Mika Hakkinen, Rubens Barrichello did for Felipe Massa did for Fernando Alonso. It then becomes a battle in 202 between Lewis and Max in the Red Bull.

If Mercedes however managed to poach Max away from Red Bull then they get a double hit. They get arguably the next best driver on the grid who is still incredibly young and marketable. AND they take a silver bullet away from what is looking like a revitalised Red Bull Racing with Honda finally getting their act together.

Red Bull are in a bit of a tricky spot because their driver academy is looking a bit of a mess. Gasly has been incredibly poor this season. Too often I have looked at practice and qualifying times and seen him close to a second behind his team mate. And TWICE this season already, Max has lapped him. Completely unacceptable. Albon is not ready to move up to Red Bull, running the risk of doing a Gasly himself. But what happens if Max did go to Mercedes. Where does that leave Red Bull? Who can they realistically bring in who can mount a championship challenge. Alonso? Forget it! Vettel? Maybe.

But when you consider how this could mess things up with Red Bull, it is in Mercedes interests to try and grab Max while they can. Let Bottas go. He can replace Grosjean at Haas. Ocon can be lent out to Renault for a ‘three year’ contract so that by the time Lewis does call it quits, Ocon can step into his seat and become Max’s teammate.

And that is my thought’s on the matter.

My thoughts on DAMS boss Jean-Paul Driot

It’s not like I met him myself but growing up with motorsport in the 90’s when my obsession really became a bit too much, DAMS was always one of those teams whose name kept on popping up.

So it was very sad to hear of the passing of Jean-Paul Driot, the boss and founder of DAMS.

From their single seater exploits, F1 ambitions and sportscar racing exploits, DAMS grew to become one of those teams that you could never overlook on the entry list.

I was ready a list of some of the drivers who have simply made it to F1 having raced at some point with DAMS. The list is impressive.

Graham Goodwin wrote a nice obituary on the Dailysportscar.com website which you should read.

We have lost another significant figure from so many of the top categories of motorsport. Jean, you will be missed but not forgotten. From you epic looking DAMS Panoz in black Motorola livery to the professional E-DAMS Formula E team that you ran so successfully, you have been involved in so many of my motorsport memories as I grew up.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

Why Hondas GP2 comment should not be looked at as being funny

So Verstappen won the German Grand Prix. Well done of course. What a great race!!!

And afterwards, Honda tweeted a joke that this was GP2 races they have won (a word play instead of 2GP) and directed it towards Fernando Alonso who famously shouted out those comments during the Japanese Grand Prix in the 2015 Season.

So Honda can poke fun at him now. But that way I see it…my daughter was just learning to crawl at the time of the Japanese Grand Prix in 2015. And next month she starts school. So while Honda may mock. It’s not like they turned it around in a matter of months. The Mclaren Honda relationship had to go incredibly badly. Honda had to go through a season with only Torro Rosso as a team and only now with Red Bull, do they have the opportunity to win. And it’s not like it is the same engine. I would question whether there is any component shared between the 2015 Honda Engine and the 2019 version – minus the actual Honda badge that is.

It is good for F1 that Honda have shifted their backsides and now produce a good engine. If they hadn’t then this season would have been even more of a Mercedes domination that last.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

My prediction for the Spa 24 Hours

I should have been there this year but then, considering there is a bit of a heatwave going through Europe, I am not as gutted about missing out. Especially because there are strong rumours that after all this heat, it is going to properly chuck it down with rain sometime in the night.

So what is my prediction?

Simple. A Mercedes will be on pole. A Porsche will lead the most laps and an Audi will win. BMW will struggle to get in the top ten at all so there will be a lot of moaning about BOP. Lexus, Nissan and Honda will appear on the TV every so often just to remind you that they are competing.

It will chuck it down with rain so much that they will have to red flag the race for a while (which will at least give me a chance to catch up on some sleep). There will be a couple of big safety car periods because of some big crashes at Eau Rouge.

And there you go. I love the Spa 24 Hours. It is one of the big events of the year. And while there are those that complain that there are too many cars, I am not complaining. I find that in races where I do not have a strong allegiance to a specific driver, team or car then having these variables can make a race a lot more interesting. Throwing up variables that we used to have with reliability but don’t really have anymore.

I am particularly looking forward to that magic hour in the sunday morning when there is space on the track for some of the faster drivers to really stretch their legs. And if there is a lot of rain then we will see a couple of drivers really shine in the same way that JJ Lehto did at Le Mans in 1995.

Anyway, here is to a good race.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.