Tag Archives: Formula One

Would female stars reinvigorate F1?

Formula One has only seen five female drivers compete in races and qualifying in its almost 70-year history – and now might be a good time for that to change.

We are currently in one of those eras in which one team and driver – Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton – are dominating the sport. The Briton will be gunning for his seventh title since 2008 when the new season begins in Melbourne on March 15th.

So how can F1 be made more interesting? How can its appeal be widened in a way which wins over new fans and generates fresh excitement? Surely one easy way is to get female drivers taken seriously and on the grid.

In recent years, the likes of Susie Wolff have tried hard to break down barriers in the male-dominated competition and show that women can compete at the highest level.

The Scot served as a test and development driver for the Williams F1 team between 2012 and 2015, and drove in pre-race practice sessions during 2014 at Silverstone and Hockenheim.

However, she eventually grew frustrated at waiting for her chance to claim a Grand Prix drive, claiming that she was fighting a losing battle in a sport in which, until recently, the most visible women were the race-day grid girls.

Pioneering women in F1

Wolff grew frustrated by the lack of opportunities for female racers in F1

Wolff is one of five female racers who have featured in F1 since its creation in 1950. The first was Italy’s Maria Teresa de Filippis, who competed in five GP races but only finished in one – the Belgian Grand Prix in 1958.

The next women to follow her was compatriot Lella Lombardi who remains the only woman driver to have points on the board. She started started 12 races and managed to finish sixth in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.

Britain’s Divina Galica competed in four Winter Olympics as a skier but also took part in qualifying for three F1 races, the first being the 1976 British GP for the ShellSport Whiting team.

The follow season, she was handed the chance to replace Rupert Keegan at Hesketh Racing, but after failing to qualify for both the opening two races in Argentina and Brazil she called time on her F1 career.

Next came South Africa’s Desiré Wilson who lined up in qualifying for the 1980 British Grand Prix but failed to make the grid.

The last female racer before Wolff to try their luck in F1 was Giovanna Amati. Another Italian, she took part in qualifying in the first three races of the 1992 campaign but never raced in a Grand Prix.

Female success in other competitions

Women seeking to gatecrash the F1 party have usually found themselves given a chance by teams with little hope of taking on the manufacturer-backed outfits. But when female racers are given the right level of support, they can take on their male counterparts and challenge for honours.

America’s Danica Patrick (main photo) stunned the motorsport world in 2005 when she led for the Indianapolis 500 for 19 laps before finishing fourth. In 2008, she also became the first woman to win a major-league open-wheel race in a North American series when she won the IndyCar Series Indy Japan 300.

Patrick then moved from IndyCar to the NASCAR series, and became the first woman to take pole position for a NASCAR Cup Series event. Her eighth-place is still the highest finishing position ever by a woman.

France’s Michèle Mouton became an Audi works driver and won four World Rally Championship races. She had nine podium finishes and remains the only women to win a WRC race. In 1982, she was runner-up in the WRC drivers’ championship.

But who will be next to seek a breakthrough in F1? Jamie Chadwick, the inaugural champion of the women-only W Series, has moved closer to achieving her dream after joining Williams as a development driver but, as Wolff’s story shows, we have been here before.

So what will it take for women to finally take their place on the starting grid in motorsport’s most prestigious competition?

Points

Last season’s F1 bottom six

This season’s W Series winner will earn 15 points towards the 40 needed to gain the FIA Super Licence which any driver racing in Formula One needs. However, there is no guarantee that any number of points will open doors with F1’s teams.

Perhaps the winner of the W Series should at least get to try out for one of F1’s smaller teams. Who knows, if they succeed, they then might even get a chance with one of the bigger outfits?

I would also put forward the idea that any driver who finishes with less than the 25 points you get for winning a Grand Prix should be demoted, with their race seat given to an up-and-coming competitor.

Last season, for example, that would mean six racers ranging from Lance Stroll to George Russell would have been ‘relegated’.

Shaking up the grid

Another way of progression that could see more women in the driving seat is that every F1 team should have two female racers in their development line-up, with the main teams from F1 supporting them in the W Series to further expand their brands.

The first woman to make a breakthrough in this way doesn’t have to be the next Lewis Hamilton, but surely the likes of Jamie Chadwick are more deserving of a shot at racing in F1 than some of the drivers who are hired mainly on the strength of the sponsorship they bring in?

This ‘relegation’ concept would certainly shake up the industry and would make drivers even more keen to gather every point they possibly can towards the back of the grid. One point could possibly be the difference at the end of the season between staying in the sport and being demoted.

An all-female team?

Another idea which would certainly generate fresh interest in F1 would be to have an all-female race team and crew.

Critics might argue that having a such a team could be actually be seen as a negative for a woman driver – i.e. the only way she could get into F1 was through having an all-female outfit. However, once it became integrated into the sport and proven in competition, the other teams would start to see the potential of female drivers in real races, not just junior series.

Again, critics will say what if the all-women’s team came last every race? In F1, though, it’s a question of resources, not just driving talent, and if such a team had enough backing to properly develop and test its cars, it could ensure this wouldn’t happen.

It would certainly add a different dynamic to a competition where the outcome often suffers from being a foregone conclusion (see Hamilton, but also Michael Schumacher – seven titles in 11 years), and the rule-makers seemingly add a new layer of complexity every season.

Of course, F1 currently has lots of female fans, but how many more might it attract – to the delight of broadcasters, sponsors and advertisers – if women were competing and succeeding in the sport?

Feature image of Danica Patrick courtesy of  John Steadman via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0. Susie Wolff photo by Lewis James Houghton via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Circuit Paul Ricard

F1 circus returns to Paul Ricard

As 2018 won’t see any major regulation changes following on from Lewis Hamilton’s fourth driver’s title, the focus on the new this year falls on a circuit that is in fact anything but.

Last used 28 years ago, the Circuit Paul Ricard was home to the French leg of the Formula One calendar for 14 seasons between 1971 and 1990 before the organisers switched the Grand Prix away from Le Castellet to Magny-Cours.

Technically, this layout of the track hasn’t seen a F1 race since 1985, where the circuit switched from its original length of 5.809km to a shorter, ‘club’ version, removing the loop around Saint-Beaurne and the first half of the colossal Mistral Straight.

The track has not, however, been left exactly the same as it was 33 years ago. In keeping with the push on safety this season, epitomised by the ‘halo’, the 1.8km of tarmac before the terrifying right-hander of Signes has been split right down the middle, where a right-left-right chicane has been introduced.

According to the director-general of the circuit, Stephane Clair, this new feature will create a more of a “spectacle” for fans, as it introduces a huge braking zone to aid overtaking.

Whilst this has been so far unpopular with the supporters, he goes on to make the valid point that F1 cars reach their top speed in far less time than the straight anyway, making it pointless to have nearly 2km of a car at full speed with next to no overtaking.

Fine line

Despite the introduction of a chicane to slow the cars down, the organisers did nothing about the aforementioned Signes corner, a right-hander that, according to FIA simulations, will be taken by drivers at 343 km/h.

Whilst Mexico decided to replace the famous Peraltada corner for safety reasons, the decision to keep Signes in France helps to balance the fine line that the FIA have drawn between safety and excitement.

‘After finishing second all those years ago, it seems as though Newey and Red Bull may well have to settle for second-best again on 24th June’

Beyond the history of the layout itself, the track in fact made history back in 1990, when it helped to spark the career of one of F1’s great designers.

Already a famed IndyCar designer, Adrian Newey was looking to get a foothold in F1. Whilst working at March, he helped to design both F1 and IndyCars before the team was bought out by their title sponsor Leyton House, a Japanese real estate company.

At the last Grand Prix held in the south of France, Newey’s Leyton House 881 car, the first from which he designed from scratch, featured a host of aerodynamic traits that are now considered standard practice across the grid.

The driving position, front wing design and other aerodynamic features all culminated in Le Castellet, when Ivan Capello and Mauricio Gugelmin both drove their cars from seventh and tenth on the grid into first and second for much of the race, before Gugelmin was forced to retire and a misfire meant that Capello finished second.

Sought-after designer

Leyton House’s Judd engine was way down on power compared to the rest of the field, especially compared to the top teams of Williams, Ferrari and McLaren at the time.

As a result, the aerodynamic capability demonstrated by the 881 helped to catapult Newey from a successful IndyCar aerodynamicist into a sought-after F1 designer.

As a result, both through his talents at the drawing board and due to the arrest of Leyton House’s team owner and the constructer’s eventual demise, Newey moved in 1990 to Williams, where he would design arguably the most advanced Formula One car ever made, the FW14b.

Since moving to Williams, on to McLaren and now Red Bull, the 59-year old has amassed 10 constructor’s titles to his name, more than any other designer in the history of the sport.

After finishing second all those years ago, it seems as though Newey and Red Bull may well have to settle for second-best again on 24th June.

After the second test in Barcelona, Mercedes once again look ominously quick on harder tyres than the rest of the field, and Paul Ricard’s clear need for out-and-out speed will once again favour the defending champions and their all-dominant works engine. 

Image by Gilbert Sopakuwa via Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Book Review: How To Build A Car by Adrian Newey

Usually a quiet figure who glides up and down the grid pre-race with a notepad taking notes on other cars, Adrian Newey has been at the forefront of Formula One for 18 years.

Now, since he took a step back from the day-to-day research and development and took on a wider role at Red Bull, the Old Reptionian has written a book, How To Build A Car, excellently encapsulating his time so far in motorsport.

Split into ‘turns’ rather than chapters, each one asks how you would go about designing each of Newey’s most iconic cars, starting with his time at March building IndyCars and then at Williams, McLaren and Red Bull.

The book perfectly highlights the process of Newey’s mind when it comes to sitting at his drawing board.

When the rule changes come through for an upcoming season, the art of the designer is to read between the lines, and not simply abide by what is in front of you. Looking for the slightest aerodynamic gain is what has given the 59-year old both 10 constructor’s titles and an OBE.

Expelled

Despite going into great detail about the development of his greatest machines, it doesn’t mean the reader also needs a first class hours degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics. The drawings done just for the book help to visualise exactly what Newey is talking about.

As a child, the labels on Tamiya model car kits helped him to understand what parts of the car were. His sketches are our childhood Japanese toys.

‘During the promotion of the book, Newey revealed that he was offered the top job at Ferrari multiple times’

However, for those not so interested in the finer details, each ‘turn’ goes into the stories of the seasons gone by, and his younger life as a troublemaking student at Repton, culminating in him being one of only two students being expelled from the school in the 1970s, the other being Jeremy Clarkson.

Whilst many of the stories that are told are ones of unrivalled success, whether it be at his early years at Williams or his ongoing time at Red Bull, the stories where things aren’t going to plan stand out as the most gripping, with the 1994 season being the hardest-hitting of them all.

As the lead designer of the FW16, and as one of the leading men in the garage in Imola, Newey is better placed than anyone to help to answer the many unanswered questions surrounding the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994.

Beyond the technicalities of the engineering surrounding the failure of the car on May 1st, the glorious writing from Andrew Holmes, who Newey credits in his acknowledgements, perfectly encapsulates the emotions of what the whole Williams team must have felt at the time.

Ferrari offers

The waste of life, the age-old questions about whether it’s all worth it, are all thoroughly dissected through both the memories of Newey and the writing of Holmes.

Obviously, the aerodynamicist’s time at the pinnacle of motorsport has run alongside the rise and fall of F1’s most successful team.

Throughout the book, he seems to channel the frustrations of many of the engineers across the paddock who have to contend with Ferrari and the FIA (Ferrari International Aid as they are known across the garages).

According to Newey, Ferrari’s financial might and huge support have given them both increased funding from motorsport’s governing body and also far more leverage when it comes to decision-making and rule-breaking, which he has had to contend with for much of his career.

During the promotion of the book, Newey revealed that he was offered the top job at Ferrari multiple times during his career and promised wages that no other team could ever match. Despite the offers, the man born in Stratford-upon-Avon could not be drawn to Maranello and has stayed in Milton Keynes for 11 years.

How To Build A Car allows us to enter the mind and the life of a man who has been at the forefront of motorsport technology for near two decades.

The book opens up both his genius with a pencil in his hand and lets us see the tearaway side to him that you’d never know he had based on his interviews in the paddock.

How To Build A Car is published by HarperCollins.

Top five F1 championship finales

This weekend sees the climax to another thrilling Formula One season, with Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton going head to head for the World Drivers’ Championship.

For the second time in three years, Rosberg and Hamilton head the pack going into the Abu Dhabi finale.

This time, it’s Rosberg who is the clear favourite, given his 12-point lead – but there are still several ways Hamilton could come from behind to snatch the title from his team-mate.

Rosberg will win the 2016 crown if he finishes on the podium. Hamilton must finish within the top four to stand any chance of snatching the championship – but even then he needs a helping hand from his German rival.

The title has been won in the final race of the year 28 times in the 66 seasons it has been awarded.

Elephant Sport selects its top five final-race championship deciders; many British motorsport fans will be hoping that this weekend’s finale will be added to the list.

1984: Niki Lauda wins by the finest of margins

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1984 team mates Alain Prost (left) & Niki Lauda (right)

The 1984 season came to a dramatic conclusion in the final round at Estoril, Portugal.

The campaign was dominated by McLaren drivers Niki Lauda and Alain Prost.

Frenchman Prost had won seven races to Lauda’s five, but Lauda eventually prevailed by half a point – the smallest margin in F1 history.

Prost qualified second, Lauda 11th. There were shirts and posters already printed that stated “Prost: 1984 World Champion”; but Austria’s Lauda proved them wrong by climbing up to third.

Prost moved up to first and led most of the race, with Nigel Mansell in second in his last race for Lotus before moving to Williams. Mansell retired due to persistent brake problems, Lauda duly moved up to second- ensuring his third drivers crown.

1986: Heartbreak for Nigel Mansell

Three drivers stood a chance of claiming the drivers’ championship in the 1986 season finale in Australia.

Mansell, with 70 points, needed at least third place to beat Prost, who had 64. Nelson Piquet had 63 points going into the final race.

Mclaren’s Keke Rosberg initially led Piquet, with Prost third ahead of Mansell.

The turning point in the race came on lap 32, a blessing in disguise for Prost. The Frenchman’s right front tyre punctured forcing him to make a pitstop, and he returned to the track in fourth.

It looked as though Prost’s race was ruined, but it eventually proved key to him winning. Goodyear technicians inspected his punctured tyre and saw that it was actually in good condition.

The technicians informed the other teams that they could reach the end of the race, without needing to stop to fit fresh tyres.

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Mansell’s 1986 championship dreams explode

But on lap 63, race leader Rosberg retired with a tyre de-lamination; the compound tyres were not lasting the race.

With the McLaren gone there was one less car standing between Mansell and the title, and it mattered not that Prost had passed him, leaving the Briton third once again.

Mansell was on lap 64 of 82, when, cruising down the main straight, his left-rear tyre exploded and a shower of sparks burst from the rear of his car.

His catastrophic exit remains one of F1’s most enduring images, and it left Piquet leading from Prost.

The Brazilian on the verge of winning the championship, but there was no hesitation in bringing him in for fresh tyres.

That left Prost in the lead, thanks to his early pitstop. Luck was definitely on his side that day as he secured a second drivers championship.

1994 & 1997: Schumacher madness

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Schumacher controversially collides with Hill in the 1994 season finale

Two similar incidents occurred in the final races of both the 1994 and 1997 seasons to determine the world whampion, both involving Michael Schumacher.

1994 saw Schumacher pip Damon Hill to the title by one point in the last race of the season (Australia).

On lap 35, Hill was right behind the German, who led, when he saw his chance to pass. As Hill’s Williams drew alongside the Benetton, Schumacher appeared to turn in aggressively and there was contact between the two cars.

The Benetton was damaged badly enough to mean immediate retirement. Hill’s car initially appeared to be okay but soon he was also back in the pits and out of the race.

This left Schumacher champion on 92 points, with Hill on 91. The controversy and speculation was furthered when ‘Schumi’ attempted the same trick to win the 1997 title.

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And again in 1997; Schumacher collides with championship rival Jacques Villeneuve

Unfortunately for the German, it backfired.

On lap 48 of the season finale at Jerez, championship rival Jacques Villeneuve was catching Schumacher and attempted to overtake.

The Canadian had the inside line and was slightly ahead when Schumacher turned into him, his front right wheel connecting with the side of the Williams car.

Schumacher had ended his own race but Villeneuve was able to continue and went pn to take third place – enough to win the championship.

The German was later punished by for causing an avoidable accident and was disqualified from the 1997 championship.

2008: Hamilton’s last-corner victory

The 2008 finale in Brazil was one of the most dramatic yet, fought out in wet conditions between Hamilton (McLaren) and Felipe Massa (Ferrari).

Hamilton led by seven points going into the final round. A maximum of ten were available for thewinner, which meant that Massa could win the title if Hamilton finished sixth or lower.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 02: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and McLaren Mercedes drives on his way to winning the Formula One World Championship during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos Circuit on November 2, 2008 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Hamilton dramatically passes Glock on the last corner of the race

A late-race rain shower looked to have cost Hamilton the title when he dropped to sixth after a stop for wet tyres.

Massa had won the race and prematurely began his celebrations.

But Hamilton managed to pass Toyota’s Timo Glock quite literally on the last corner of the last lap, to finish in fifth and clinch his first world title.

2010: Four-way showdown in the dessert

In 2010 as many as five drivers from three teams were in contention for the title. At different points in the season Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull all seemed to have the car to beat.

Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso all went to the final race in Abu Dhabi still with a chance of taking the drivers crown.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 14: Race winner and F1 2010 World Champion Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium following the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit on November 14, 2010 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sebastian Vettel
An emotional Vettel clinches his first championship in 2010

Hamilton was an outsider in the McLaren with team-mate Jenson Button’s title hopes slipping away before the campaign’s climax in the desert.

Vettel drove a masterful race in the Red Bull to win and lift his maiden F1 title.

The German was third in the standings prior to the race but led from pole and saw other outcomes go his way to become F1’s youngest champion.

Ferrari’s championship leader Alonso came seventh after a poor pitstop strategy saw him stuck behind Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, and the same fate befell Webber (Red Bull) who finished eighth.

Hamilton, who had a slim title chance, finished second but it wasn’t enough. It was a dramatic end to an enthralling season and gave Red Bull their first drivers’ title.

The final standings had Vettel top on 256 points, four clear of Alonso, 14 above third-place Webber and 16 in front of Hamilton in fourth.

Overall, 32 different drivers have won the F1 drivers title, with Schumacher holding the record with seven.

Rosberg will be hoping to become No.33 by winning his first championship this weekend.

The current Drivers’ Champion is Hamilton, who won his first World Championship in 2008, regained it in 2014 and retained it in 2015.

But Hamilton, having been involved in several final-race showdowns, will know that the championship may not be so straightforward for Rosberg who is overdue some bad luck.

The lights go out on Sunday at 1pm (GMT) but the drama will begin on Saturday at 1pm with the all-important qualifying session to decide who begins on pole.

Why Hamilton can still win the F1 drivers’ crown

The Brazilian Grand Prix has served up incident-packed races ever since it first appeared on the F1 calendar in 1973.

And a good dose drama at Interlagos is exactly what Lewis Hamilton needs if he is to take the drivers’ championship into the final round in Abu Dhabi.

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Hamilton cannot afford to see Rosberg celebrating a win in Brazil

His Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg will take the crown if he wins either of the year’s two remaining races, or by finishing with at least one second and third place even if Hamilton wins in both Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

So can Hamilton snatch the title out of the German’s grasp despite trailing him by 19 points?

Most petrolheads will tell you that Interlagos is a circuit that produces tantalisingly good races – contests that, down the years, have seen many championships won and lost.

So Britain’s three-time F1 champion only needs to glance through the Brazilian GP’s history to be hopeful of derailing Rosberg’s title dream.

Comebacks and drama

In 2006, Michael Schumacher proved the circuit is one for overtaking. Starting from 10th position on the grid, the German did an astonishing job after falling to 19th position due to a flat tyre.

The seven-time world champion returned to the race, having almost been lapped, and carved his way through the field to finish in fourth place.

“Hamilton will take confidence from replaying his 2008 outing at Interlagos, showing that miracles in Brazil can happen.”

‘Schumi’s’ performance was agonisingly not enough to win his eighth drivers’ crown, as Fernando Alonso successfully defended his title.

Hamilton will also surely take confidence from replaying his own 2008 outing at Interlagos, showing that miracles in Brazil can happen.

After adopting a conservative strategy to secure at least 5th place, and the title, a late-race rain shower caused unexpected problems.

Hamilton wins the championship at the last corner in Brazil 2008

Hamilton was pushed down to 5th place by Timo Glock who didn’t enter the pits for intermediates like most others.

With just three laps to go, Sebastian Vettel overtook the Briton which meant Hamilton would end up with equal points to Massa, but with one fewer victory.

Against all expectations Vettel and Hamilton were able to overtake Glock, who had lost all grip with his dry-weather tyres, in the very last corner of the race.

This meant that Hamilton ultimately grabbed the fifth place he needed to become champion.

The 2009 season saw more drama as Jenson Button sealed the drivers’ championship with a sublime recovery drive, starting in 14th but finishing fourth.

In 2012, the outcome of the championship remained in doubt until the final lap, as Vettel – who fell to the back of the field on the first lap – drove a gritty race back through the pack to seal the title.

Although Hamilton is yet to win in Brazil, he can take confidence in denting Rosberg’s maiden title hopes from the tracks record of drama.

Weather

Rain is nothing out of the ordinary at Interlagos in November, and so the weather might also give Hamilton a helping hand.

He won’t have forgetten the Monaco GP earlier this year, which he won in in wet conditions while Rosberg struggled home in seventh place.

Inclement weather often courses havoc in F1, with drivers’ race strategies hit by puddles and spray, while chopping and changing tyres from full wets, to intermediates and back to slicks can often catch them out.

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Rain is a regular occurrence at the Brazilian GP

The forecast for Sao Paulo suggests there is a chance of low temperatures and showers on Saturday and Sunday.

Another seventh placed finish for Rosberg and a win in the wet for Hamilton would leave the pair level on 355 points going into the final weekend in Abu-Dhabi.

Three of the last six race weekends in Brazil have featured wet weather.

Combine that with Interlagos being a tight, twisty circuit which dries out quite quickly, and unpredictability is almost guaranteed.

For example, Nico Hulkenberg won a surprise pole position for Williams on a drying track in 2010.

A full-on wet race could also swing the balance towards Red Bull who have looked strong in the rain this season.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished second in a wet British GP earlier this year with Hamilton winning, Rosberg third and Verstappen’s team mate Daniel Ricciardo fourth.

Rosberg overdue bad luck

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Hamilton breaks down in Malaysia

Over the course of the year Rosberg has surprisingly only won one more race than Hamilton, despite the large points difference between the two.

Hamilton has had the lump sum of bad luck between the pair. You only need to glance at the table below to see that Rosberg is due a blip.

Race’s in which Mercedes drivers have had problems

Race order Driver Problem
Bahrain Hamilton Hamilton suffered a first-corner collision dropping to 7th; he fought back to 3rd
China Hamilton Hamilton started at the back of the grid due to a power unit failure; he finished 7th
Russia Hamilton The Brit started 10th after an engine failure in qualifying; he finished 5th.
Spain Hamilton & Rosberg Rosberg and Hamilton collided on the first lap resulting in both not finishing the race
Canada Rosberg The German finished 5th after suffering a slow puncture during the race
Austria Rosberg The German turned into a corner late as Hamilton tried to pass around the outside and damaged his front wing, finishing fourth. Rosberg was given a 10-second penalty.
Belgium Hamilton Hamilton started in 21st place on the grid, after a raft of engine penalties resulting from failures early in the season. He fought back to third.
Malaysia Hamilton Hamilton’s title hopes were dealt a heavy blow when his engine failed as he led the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Just one error for Rosberg will blow the championship wide open, be it in the wet conditions he’s struggled in this season, the drama the Brazilian GP often throws up or an overdue car performance issue for the German.

If Hamilton can emulate his hero Senna and notch his first win at the late Brazilian’s home circuit; the current world champ could bolster his chances of defending his crown and taking it right down to the wire in Abu-Dhabi.

Team-mates, not mates

In everyday life, there will be people we come across and have to work alongside that we will not get along with. Sport is the same, it happens, and when it does it’s often broadcast on TV for the world to see.

From fights on the football pitch in front of thousands of fans, to bitter feuds on and off the racing track and widely-publicised affairs, sportspeople often provide added drama for fans to lap up.

We look at five of the best (worst?) feuds between sporting team-mates.

5. Eyal Berkovic v John Hartson

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Training ground bust-ups are usually kept in-house and dealt with swiftly and discretely by the club in question.

But when West Ham’s Eyal Berkovic reacted badly to a tackle by big John Hartson by punching the Scotsman in the leg. John Hartson took matters into his own feet, so to speak, and delivered a kick an MMA fighter would be proud of to the head of Berkovic, sending him back down to the ground.

As the incident was caught on camera and shared for the world to see, the FA were able to take action against the Welsh striker and charge him – the first player to be punished for misconduct in a training ground indecent.

4. Lee Bowyer v Keiron Dyer

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Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer decided the best place to scrap about the latter not passing the ball was in front of 50,000 fans at St. James’ Park while they were losing 3-0 to Aston Villa.

It took Villa captain Gareth Barry, aided by Newcastle’s Stephen Carr, to break the pair up as they traded punches in the middle of the pitch.

Both of the England internationals were subsequently red carded by the referee and trooped off with ripped shirts. With Stephen Taylor sent off earlier in the game, it left the hosts with just nine men.

The TV cameras caught a brilliant shot of the two fighters sitting either side of the fuming Magpies boss Graeme Souness like naughty school kids.

On top of the automatic three-game ban for seeing red, Bowyer was additionally fined £30,00 and given an additional three-game ban and he was further punished by Newcastle for throwing the first punch as they fined him six weeks wages.

No.3 Wayne Bridge v John Terry

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Footballers are infamous for their womanising ways, but not many make the mistake of cheating with the partner of a team-mate.

However, that’s exactly what Chelsea skipper John Terry did with Vanessa Perroncel after she and Wayne Bridge split up.

Although the couple weren’t technically an item anymore, Terry’s conduct damaged his career with both the Blues and England.

The defender used a super-injunction to try and stop the news from coming out, but it was lifted by the courts and the newspapers jumped at the opportunity to carry lurid details of his affair.

Bridge left the club and joined Manchester City, in 2010, and City beat Chelsea in the first home defeat of the season.

But the headlines were made before the game had kicked off as because Bridge refused to acknowledge England team-mate Terry in the routine pre-match handshakes.

Bridge subsequently moved to West Ham but again refused to shake Terry’s hand when they played Chelsea.

No.2 Bill Romanowski v Marcus Williams

The NFL is known for its tough players and hard-hitting tackles, but in 2003 Oakland Raiders line-backer Bill Romanowski ended team-mate Marcus Williams’ career by removing his helmet and punching him in the face for “holding him in a drill”.

Williams sued Romanowski for battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The assault left him with a broken eye socket, concussion, double vision, and – he claimed in his lawsuit – depression and memory issues.

Two years after the incident, the case was settled, with Romanowski ordered to pay $40,000 in medical expenses and $300,000 in damages to Williams.

As this incident took place in training there isn’t any official footage of the career ending punch, but here is a clip of the tough tackler breaking an opponent’s jaw:

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No.1 Lewis Hamilton v Nico Rosberg

Formula One, described as an ‘individual’ team sport, has brought fans some of the most entertaining feuds between team-mates.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have been together at Mercedes since the 2013 season and have provided their fair share of dramatic incidents.

Their rivalry began at the Bahrain GP in 2012, when Rosberg was referred to the stewards for driving Hamilton – then with McLaren – off the track as he defended his racing line.

The following year at the Malaysian GP, Hamilton earned his first victory for his new team Mercedes. This was aided by team orders to Rosberg who was told to “Hold station behind in fourth” to allow his team-mate to win.

After the race, Hamilton said “If I’m honest, I feel Nico should be standing here.”

In 2014, another three incidents between the two drivers fuelled the feud. First, Rosberg’s dubious qualifying crash in Monaco stopped Hamilton from setting a faster lap time.

In Hungary, Hamilton ignoring team orders to let Rosberg overtake him, and in Belgium, Hamilton accused Rosberg of deliberately colliding with him, resulting in a puncture.

More chapters have been added to the feud between the former karting buddies this season.

At the Spanish Grand Prix, the pair were so intent on outdoing each other at the start that they collided and both crashed out.

The Canadian GP saw Hamilton start aggressively, trying to bully Rosberg out of the way. As Hamilton barged through he made contact with Rosberg’s car and forced him on to the grass which resulted in the German only finishing fifth while the British driver went on to win.

The most recent spat in the on-going rivalry came in Austria, with the Mercedes duo on the final lap and on course for a first and second place.

But when Hamilton decided to make a late bid for victory, Rosberg was not in the mood to let him and tried to nudge Hamilton out the way. In doing so, the German was handed a penalty, surrendering the lead and a podium finish as he subsequently finished in fourth place.

He may get the last laugh this season, though, with time running out for Hamilton to overhaul him in the race for the drivers’ championship.

Move over, Yianni – my supercar experience

As a young motorsport fan, I always knew I had the need for speed and began taking driving lessons as soon as I turned 17. 

Four months later, I passed my test and bought my own car, only to realise my 1.2 Volkswagen Polo went from 0-60 in 14 v-e-r-y long seconds.

So I was going to have to get my speed fix elsewhere, and a birthday gift provided the perfect opportunity.

The Red Letter Days voucher for me and a friend to have a go at driving supercars was a dream come true.

The venue was at an old airfield turned racing circuit in Oxfordshire, and all the way there I imagined myself at the wheel of a Lamborghini Aventador, rather than my trusty but unglamorous VW.

Personal favourite

Supercars tend to be owned by the super-rich, but legions of less wealthy drivers aspire to one day put their foot down in vehicles worth more than Wayne Rooney’s weekly wage.

I was one of those people who only saw supercars on the internet or TV. Shows such as ‘Top Gear’ give you an entertaining view of what it’s like to drive and test them in ways most manufacturers wouldn’t dream of.

“I was greeted by the sound of beautifully-tuned cars which were lined up in a row waiting for me”

I also follow the social media accounts of many supercar owners and I especially like their YouTube channels as it feels more personal, as if you are riding with them in the passenger seat.

One of the best-known is Yianni Charalambous, better known by the name of his celebrity car-customising company Yiannimize.

Yianni customises vehicles for the rich and famous and also runs a couple of supercars himself: a light blue Ferrari 488 Spider and a stunning super-charged six-litre rose gold Range Rover SVR with a custom body kit.

My personal favourite of his has to be one of his previous cars, a rose gold Aventador.

Adrenaline

After arriving at the airfield after a sluggish drive up the M40, I was greeted by the sound of beautifully-tuned cars which were lined up in a row waiting for me to choose the two I wanted to drive.

“Going at 100mph without having to worry about police cameras was thrilling and not at all frightening on the track”

Before booking my driving experience, I had conducted some research about which of the cars on offer could go the fastest, and I found that the Lamborghini Gallardo and the Audi R8 were the ones for me.

Unfortunately, between them and me was a safety briefing which, at the time, went on for what felt like hours as I sat there full of adrenaline and ready to drive.

At all times in both cars, I had a member of the track team with me to ensure I kept things safe, but to me I was in a scene from The Fast & Furious and the person sitting alongside was Dwayne Johnson.

Race ready

Driving the supercars was much harder than I initially imagined. It wasn’t all about sheer speed, but precision and timing. When it came to cornering, I had to be in total control of the vehicle in order to get the best out of it when exiting the curve.

Although taking part in lap time races wasn’t recommended for newcomers, my competitive nature and need for speed wouldn’t allow me not to.

In my head I kept repeating to myself, ‘slow and close’ (to the apex) when going into corners as I knew that would help my chances of getting a good time.

On the long straights, I was able to put my foot down and experience speeds in excess of 95mph, which for a supercar is not even a struggle whereas my own car would be likely to blow up before going that fast.

Going at 100mph without having to worry about police cameras was thrilling and not at all frightening on the track.

Anticipation

Short but sweet is the perfect phrase to describe the experience – it’s almost addictive as ever since my first visit I have been itching to go back.

“Not only had I won, but my victory meant he had to take the wheel and drive all the way back to London”

After taking off the overalls and helmet provided, I was ushered into a room where a small TV screen revealed my lap time.

At this point, I was sweating and leaning forward in anticipation of the result like a celebrity guest on Top Gear.

When my name appeared on the screen four places above my friend’s, a smile of sheer relief appeared on my face.

Not only had I won, but my victory meant he had to take the wheel and drive all the way back to London while I relaxed and thought back on my experience in the passenger’s seat.

Organising the Race Of Champions

Since 1988’s inaugural event in Paris, the Race Of Champions (ROC) has been travelling the globe, bringing some of the biggest names in motorsport together to compete for personal and national glory in equal equipment at various world-famous venues.

This year the ROC was held in London for the first time since the event took place at Wembley Stadium back in 2008. Tt this time, it was run at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium situated in the Olympic Park in Stratford after ROC president Fredrik Johnsson, who had been openly keen about running there for a while, struck a deal.

Then came the process of organising it, and as usual, it was quite a task. It’s safe to say that in every facet the RCs has come along way since the first event, but that’s not made it any easier to put together. In fact, it requires more time and effort than ever.

Months before a horde of workers set foot in the stadium to build the circuit, there were all sorts of hurdles to jump for the event organisers. Every aspect has to be meticulously planned to ensure it’s an enjoyable time for both the drivers and fans.

All together now

One of the toughest parts of making the ROC happen is getting the drivers together, in one place, on one weekend; and with a seemingly ever-expanding/never-ending global motorsport calendar, finding the right weekend at the end of the season – when the ROC is traditionally held – has become quite a challenge.

Drivers, media, organisers, team members and fans alike complain each year about the sheer number of event clashes. Take a look at the weekend the World Endurance Championhsip is held at Silverstone as an example, as it has run parallel with the opening rounds of the British GT and Blancpain Endurance Series in recent years.

“If available, most drivers lap up the opportunity to compete”

For those at the top of the ROC, it’s even more of a headache, as for one weekend, they try to get drivers from every corner of the motorsport world to attend.

“Because we are very limited on what weekends we can run at each stadium, ROC usually takes place after the racing season has ended, during December. But this time round it was even more dictated by the stadium’s availability so we had to organise it before the end of the Formula One season,” explained operations director Dominic Olliff.

Then there’s selecting the drivers themselves. With a limited amount able to compete, and so many series to consider, creating an all-star-cast is no easy task. Thankfully, if available, most drivers lap up the opportunity to compete in what has become a United Nations-type selection.

Diverse line-up

Olliff said: “We try to avoid clashes, especially with the big series, but the stadium’s very limited availability meant we had little choice but to run it the weekend we did. That was great for F1 drivers but disappointing for the likes of WEC, GP2 [which added their Bahrain round after ROC’s event was announced] and F3.

“But I think we did a great job to still secure such a diverse line-up, and one of the best in recent memory actually. F1 is the most well known form of motorsport so it’s important to have those established, household names like Vettel and Button for casual fans.

“They all come along for the pleasure of doing it, because they get back to the essence of why they love racing”

“But ROC is also about bringing the best of the best together, and the likes of Tom Kristensen, Alex Buncombe and Andy Priaulx provide credibility from the wider spectrum of motorsport. That Priaulx and Jason Plato beat Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg in the Nations Cup final proves how important diversity is.

“When it comes down to securing drivers, it’s a combination of things, as they want to drive at the event and they want to know who else will be there too.

“The drivers this year were so relaxed,” he said. “As it’s not like a race weekend, there’s not much pressure or media – it doesn’t exist at ROC. They all come along for the pleasure of doing it, because they get back to the essence of why they love racing, and thet get to socialise and test themselves against key names in their field in equal machinery.

“They have a good time, it’s refreshing. There’s a real camaraderie at the event, guys like Vettel are a real advocate for that, as he claims he ‘get’s to know the driver under the helmet’. It’s old school.”

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Vettel proved why he’s one of the World’s best, winning this year’s event

While the drivers love it, trying to keep a consistent roster right up until the day can be difficult, however. Olympic track cycling gold medalist Sir Chris Hoy this year, for example, was drafted in to compete in place of MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo, who was busy celebrating his title success.

More than just racing

Outside of the drivers, there’s other forms of entertainment to think about. Over the years those looking at the target demographic of the ROC have realised that not only is it best to cater for every type of motorsport fan, but also for more of a casual audience who enjoy just seeing a different kind of sporting event in such a rare setting like the Olympic Stadium.

Therefore, other forms of entertainment have become part of the programme at the ROC, and rightly so.

“Of course it’s a motorsport event,” Olliff stated. “But you have to attract casual fans too, which is why there’s celebrities, Terry Grant, FMX, all those things going on too. You have to come up with something that works for everybody, and everybody can be impressed by Terry Grant, it doesn’t matter how many times he does a donut around someone’s leg, it’s amazing!

“Not only is it best to cater for every type of motorsport fan, but also for more of a casual audience.”

“Then with the celebrities there’s always going to be people there at ROC who will get something out of it, it’s all entertainment in the end. A lot of people come in groups, half will love these things, half may not be interested, but overall, everyone leaves feeling like they’ve had their money’s worth.

“It’s important, especially in a place like London. It’s more than just an event for hardcore motor racing fans.”

Transformation

Before they know it, the set-up process then dawns on the team, which while quick, is by no means simple. An army of contractors comes in, sets it up and dismantles everything to suit both the stadium and ROC organisers’ needs.

The first time everyone from ROC got to take a look round the stadium was the end of June in the same year, which stresses how much of a challenge it is to get everything together so quickly at a place which they don’t have access to freely.

Later on in the year, two more recce’s happen as things come together, and before the big week arrives. This year in particular, a change had to be made to the Olympic Park circuit due to its size. Instead of a dual-lane layout, a single track, pursuit-style system had to be created.

It didn’t detract from the experience however.

“They were keen to try something different anyway,” Olliff revealed. “We didn’t have a great deal of time on our hands because of the Rugby World Cup finishing and England playing New Zealand in the Rugby League series. You can’t just build a track and hope it works, it has to be tested.

“The track itself was built in four days in the pursuit style, an awful lot goes into it. Michele Mouton, Audi’s Group B rally driver is still involved primarily and is responsible for the design and concept. When she’s happy with how it is after it’s in place it gets handed over to other departments.”

“An hour after the racing finished on Saturday night people were digging up the track.”

“The transition between the Olympic Stadium and what will become West Ham United’s stadium was still going on around us during planning, so we had to factor that in. It wasn’t until the Rugby World Cup that we could get a real feel for where everything was going to be. A lot of the areas like the media centre, mixed zone, press conference room, places like that were in action for us to see.

“We work with the stadium, but we take it over when the time comes, it’s our responsibility.

“We broke the record of de-rigging afterwards, the previous one was 40 hours and we did it in 27 this year! An hour after the racing finished on Saturday night people were digging up the track and everyone worked on their own areas. It’s difficult to get the stuff out, especially all the concrete metal work and tarmac from the track so we could hand the stadium back on time which was Monday morning this year.

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“It’s like a building site,” Olliff concluded. “But on fast forward.”

And once the final piece of track leaves the stadium, the focus immediately shifts to the next year, when behind the scenes, the same process starts all over again.