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Filtering by Tag: Felipe Nasr

The Star Drivers of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, F1 News & What to Expect in 2019

Eric Graciano

#SJblog 99

JT – The Rolex 24 at Daytona kicked off the 2019 season for many this year. The field was stacked with competitive cars, teams and star drivers from the DPi ranks down to the GTD cars. Just a few of the famous drivers racing included two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, five-time IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon, CART champion and F1 star Alex Zanardi, DTM champion Rene Rast, Rubens Barichello, Kamui Kobayashi, Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastian Bourdais, Romain Dumas, Felipe Nasr, A.J. Allmendinger, Simona De Silvestro and Timo Bernhard with many more on hand.

Video via NBC Sports YouTube Page

In fact, with its early season date and the quality of competition (with very few gentleman drivers these days), it’s reasonable to argue that the 24 Hours of Daytona now boasts a higher level of driving talent than the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Do you agree?

SJ – Yes, you’re absolutely right. Because it takes place in January there is no conflict for any drivers apart from the one’s racing in Formula E, which means we get some really high quality drivers from every category of racing. Daytona is always a great way to start the season, because it’s a 24 hours race you get a lot of seat time and most of the time the conditions are far from ideal which means you have to improvise quite a lot both with the handling issues of the car and also with the constant traffic between faster and slower cars.

There’s a very good mixture of single-seater guys, NASCAR guys and sports car drivers. It’s a very strong field of drivers that’s for sure, and you often find yourself in a group of 3-4 great drivers duking it out over a double or triple stint. It’s a lot of fun and it really gets you in racing mode before the real season starts.

JT – The race itself was very interesting and very competitive throughout the field until rain began falling near 5 am. Ultimately, Fernando Alonso, Jordan Taylor, Renger Van Der Zande and Kamui Kobayashi won overall. That means that Alonso now adds the Rolex 24 to his two F1 championships and his Le Mans 24 win last year. Next up for him is the Indy 500 this year.

What did you think of Alonso’s drive and the competition overall?

Photos via @fernandoalo_oficial

Photos via @fernandoalo_oficial

Unfortunately, Scott, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook lost five laps in the No. 67 Ford GT due to early contact with the wall by Briscoe. But they rallied back to 4th place overall, just a lap behind the GTLM class-winning No. 25 BMW M8 GTE. It’s a shame the race had to end under red flag.

SJ – It was a pity the rain came, it really ruined what could have been an epic race, with great battles going on in all the different categories, but it was sort of an anti-climax at the end. Alonso had some fantastic stints and really put on a clinic at one point. Being the great racer that he is, he must have been loving it out there, actually racing hard against some of the other top guys in the prototypes. It was a tough one to swallow for Scott and the guys, fighting back from where they were laps down, had they stopped one lap later for what became the last stop in the race, they would have won. Scott had a couple similar monster stints as Alonso in the middle of the night where he was just flying.

JT – In pre-season F1 news, the Formula One Promoters Association (FOPA) recently complained that Liberty Media would significantly harm the series if it proceeds with a plan to move to more pay TV for coverage of the series globally. FOPA is concerned that such a shift will dramatically decrease the number of viewers of F1 on TV.

The group also protested an apparent deal between Liberty Media and the promoter of the upcoming F1 street race in Miami. The promoter was offered a profit share partnership rather than the more traditional model where races pay tens of millions of dollars for the right to hold the event. What are your thoughts?

SJ – I have to agree with the promoters. In terms of TV, this is a dilemma that started a while back. Now the promoters are starting to feel the crunch too but I think the teams have already felt that for some time.

It may be coincidental but since F1 started being televised on pay-TV (cable TV) rather than broadcast TV the eyeballs have dropped dramatically. So has sponsorship. What used to be a $100 million title sponsorship deal is now in the range of $15 million. It’s totally changed the dynamic because sponsorship is so much harder to come by. It has completely changed how revenue flows to the teams.

Every team, apart from the manufacturer teams, is now 100 percent dependent on Liberty Media or the series to fund the bulk of their programs. Sponsorship used to be what kept the teams going and whoever was willing to work a bit harder was able to find more money and hire the best people, etc. The money that came from Bernie [Ecclestone] at the time was the icing on the cake. That’s definitely not the case now.

A pay-wall might help the bottom line for Liberty Media short term but at the same time the whole eco-system of the series is shrinking. The more viewers you lose – at some point a line is crossed and that model can’t work, so unless they are able to find another method, whether that is through digital media or other forms of generating real interest and growth it will be problematic.

I never understood why Liberty made it public knowledge that they’ve offered Miami a race essentially for free? No wonder the promoters are frustrated. It’s inevitable that they’re now all asking “What about us? We’ve been paying you tens of millions per year to host a race with fees on top of that.” There is most likely more to this story than we know and we have to assume they are on top of this situation.

Personally, I am not convinced all the effort of cracking the US market is really worth it in the end, they have been trying for the best part of 40 years now and things have not changed a whole lot. To me it seems like a lot of heavy lifting to try and penetrate the cultural differences between US Sports and European or Global sports in general. Soccer, or football as it’s called in Europe is still minor compared to the NFL, NBA and Baseball for example. The US have always had their “own” sports that are equally minor in most other parts of the world.

JT – Looking ahead to the 2019 F1 season with rules changes going into effect what kind of impact do you think they can make?

SJ – Well, I think the 2019 aerodynamic rules which are aimed at supposedly helping more overtaking happen will make absolutely no difference – zero percent. All it’s doing really is costing the teams another 15 million Euros each to develop their new aero packages.

There was a recent article in Autosport with Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s aerodynamicist, where  he is attempting to explain why the FIA made this rule. And what they were trying to achieve.  I read first three paragraphs of it over and over again, and just glazed over in the end, it’s so complicated to even try to understand his explanation. I even talked to a former F1 technical director and designer and he said, “yeah I read the same thing and I didn’t understand a word of it.”

I think this sums up the current situation quite well, I am a huge fan and am trying to stay in tune with what is happening in the business from both a technical and business point of view, we have a highly qualified F1 designer and we both agree that it’s now gotten so complicated that it’s impossible to make any sense of any of it. If these are the guys making the rules, we’re in serious trouble. No one, excepts the boffins that wrote it, can understand the rulebook anymore.

JT – Since the announcement that Charles Leclerc would join Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari this season was made there has been speculation about how much Leclerc will push Vettel and whether that could destabilize Vettel or the team itself. What do you think?

Photos via @Charles_Leclerc

Photos via @Charles_Leclerc

SJ – I think he will push Vettel, there’s no doubt. The only thing that separates the really good drivers from the rest today is race-craft. Speed has little to do with it anymore because the way the cars are engineered, drivers are going to get to the limit of the cars pretty quick. I think Leclerc will be up to speed quickly, how he will go in the races we will have to wait and see. Every indication until now would say he will do a great job, but we won’t know until the pressure is on.

One would hope that Ferrari would stay away from politics and look at the bigger picture and what the best strategy would be to win the championship. Ferrari’s been known in the past to let emotion get in the way of an objective, balanced approach. Their best hope to win the title is still with Vettel, so I believe that’s where the emphasis will be.

Leclerc has had a full season now with Sauber (Alfa Romeo) so he’s not exactly a rookie. But I think race-craft will come into play at some point. It’s a similar situation to what Max Verstappen had coming into Red Bull. He was obviously mega-quick from the start but you didn’t really see the flaws until he got into a car that could actually win races.

When you throw away a race you could have won, it’s a different story than if you’re fighting for 6th or 7th place. So that will be different for Leclerc but I think his pace will spice things up a little bit. He’ll do well. He’s got good management with Nicolas Todt who knows the business very well and that will probably help him too initially.

JT – Of course, Leclerc’s signing last year isn’t the only development at Ferrari. Shortly after this year began it was announced that Maurizio Arrivabene would be replaced as team principal by Ferrari’s technical chief, Mattia Binotto. What do you think of Ferrari’s move to put Binotto in charge?

SJ – I don’t think it’s necessarily a good move. To put all of the responsibility on Binotto I don’t think is a good idea. He’s been the technical director and he’s obviously very good at that. Why would you distract him from doing what he’s good at? He’s too valuable as technical director in my opinion.

They had a car last year that was, at least for a while, the best car on the grid. Now Binotto is going to have to clutter his brain with all of the other nonsense, sitting in the FOM meetings, dealing with all of the politics and the daily dramas of running a top level F1 team. It’s a tough responsibility and a lot for one guy to handle.

JT – One of the most significant changes to the F1 grid for 2019 is the transition of Force India to “Racing Point F1 Team”. Canadian billionaire businessman Lawrence Stroll and a group of investors acquired the team last summer and are taking it into a new era with Sergio Perez returning as a driver alongside Stroll’s son Lance who moves from Williams to Racing Point. How do you think the re-made team will perform in 2019?

Image via: @thisisf1

Image via: @thisisf1

SJ – I think they will go very well. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing in recent years and just add the better resources and stability that Lawrence will bring, I think they’ll be very competitive. Lawrence is successful for a reason as he’s proven in all his other business endeavors. He hires good people and lets them get on with it – a bit like Flavio Briatore was when he ran Benetton and Renault. I think they’ll be very strong.

JT – How do you think Haas F1 will perform this season? Though they continue to receive criticism from other F1 teams for their mode of entry into the series as a client of Ferrari, they’ve been solidly in the mid-pack.

SJ – Haas hasn’t done anything that wasn’t in the rules. I’ve been advocating that path for years. That’s what I tried to do when I had a stab at creating a new Formula 1 team some years ago - the “B team” principle if you like. 

Why wouldn’t you do that if the rules allow it? I think it’s going in that direction across the board now anyway. Teams like Williams and McLaren will find it harder and harder to stay competitive being independent. When you look at the resources Mercedes and Ferrari have, not only do they have money, the best people and equipment, they now have two extra teams of cars running. That’s more data, more of everything at a time when testing is basically banned. They can utilize every possible opportunity they have to gather data.

I think Haas has the potential to improve but they’re dependent on what Ferrari gives them. If Ferrari’s good, particularly on the engine side, I’d say they’ll be good too. The engine is the big leap for Haas and for Sauber as well obviously. Last year Sauber all of a sudden leapt from the back to the front of the mid-pack.

JT – Sauber has been the stand-out of the F1 paddock since Alfa Romeo/FIAT took an interest in them and installed Frederic Vasseur as team principle. They also have Kimi Raikkonen driving for them this season alongside Antonio Giovinazzi. How do you think they will perform?

SJ – With Alfa Romeo now taking a bigger stake in the team I think they will be the favorite underdog now. Kimi has such an incredible following and his fans will be pumped up. And Vasseur is very good. He has a winning mentality and he knows the business inside and out. You can see that he has definitely lifted the whole team since he joined last season with his approach and discipline and how driven he is.

JT – Renault has also experienced significant change with Daniel Ricciardo having joined the team and the manufacturer having ended its relationship as engine supplier to Red Bull Racing. Now the team has one of the top drivers on the grid and can focus more on its own philosophy for engine development. Where do you think they will figure in the 2019 season?

Image via: @danielricciardo

Image via: @danielricciardo

SJ – I think if Renault is still committed to delivering the resources they’ve promised – and I think they are – they have a pretty good engineering group to rely on. The leadership of the team isn’t really F1 or racing people and that can lead to the wrong decision being made here or there. But I think they’ll be pretty strong.

JT – Further back on the grid are McLaren and Williams F1. McLaren made what some consider positive news with the hiring of Andreas Seidl, the ex-boss of Porsche in the WEC, as its new managing director. His arrival along with new drivers Carlos Sainz and rookie Lando Norris has created a small amount of momentum.

At Williams F1, the return of Robert Kubica to F1 alongside rookie George Russell is the main news. How do you think both teams will perform this year?

SJ – I think hiring Seidl is a very good move for McLaren. That should definitely help the whole program. But it will still take more time to rebuild everything there, even with Seidl coming aboard. An F1 team is like a big ocean-liner these days in terms of how long it takes to respond or change course. Once you make a policy decision or a philosophical decision on the design of a car it’s very hard to change direction. You kind of have to stick with what you’ve got which is what happened last year to McLaren with their aerodynamics. They discovered at some point early on that they went down the wrong avenue with aero and they were stuck.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to see Williams improving much. They made some poor decisions in previous years and I don’t think they have the resources or the budget to crawl out of the hole they are now in.

JT – Back at the front, Mercedes goes into 2019 with the same basic cast of people and will likely be strong again. Red Bull now has Max Verstappen as its clear number one driver with the departure of Ricciardo. They also have Honda stepping up, supplying them as well as Toro Rosso. How do you think these two will fare?

Image via: @lewishamilton

Image via: @lewishamilton

SJ – It will be the usual suspects up front, no question. Mercedes will be right there. Lewis is getting better and better every year and I don’t think he’s even close to his peak yet, which should be a huge concern to all the other teams and drivers. He’s the one driver who at the moment you can say with 100% certainty is really making the difference when it matters.  I think Red Bull, not necessarily this season but maybe by 2020, will be very strong. I’ve got a feeling as long as Honda is fully committed, and as I’ve been saying for three years now, they will eventually get it right. And when they get it right they will dominate.

With Red Bull it will only be a matter of time before they crack the code. I think we’ll see Red Bull, Honda and Verstappen totally dominating at some point in the next five years.

I think Verstappen really blossomed last year. He had a couple of bad races at the beginning of the season with some silly mistakes. But along the way it seems like something clicked and he’s now kind of figured it out. I think he’s at the point now where he can see the big picture. I think you’ll find that next to Lewis he’ll be the most complete driver among the guys out there. He’s going to be very hard to beat.

JT – In more refreshing racing news, IndyCar is looking stronger and stronger for 2019 and beyond. The series has signed a new title sponsor – Japanese tech firm NTT - continues its multi-year TV deal with NBC/NBC Sports which will now televise all IndyCar races including the Indy 500 and has gained a new presenting sponsor for the Indy 500 - insurance provider Gainbridge.

Logo via IndyCar

Logo via IndyCar

There’s talk of additional races with a return to Australia in 2020 and possibly Japan as well. Car count is up with grid numbers likely to be in the mid-20s. Ex-Formula One drivers and hot-shoes like Felix Rosenqvist are joining the series, and the level of competition should be higher than ever. What are your thoughts looking ahead to the 2019 season?

SJ – I’m excited about IndyCar. Jay Frye (IndyCar president) and his guys are doing a great job. They’re racers and they know the business inside and out. They’re pragmatic in their approach and I think the competition decisions that have been made have been great. It’s going from strength to strength.

And they’re doing it in increments. It’s not like knee-jerk wholesale changes. It’s just fine tuning it a little to make it better every year. I know they’ve also been trying hard to get a third manufacturer onboard. They’ve talked to everybody and I’m pretty confident that at some stage one of them will join, which would be great.

Amongst the top level racing series in the world, IndyCar is relatively affordable in the overall scheme of things and a very attractive proposition for any team or manufacturer to join. The support the manufacturers give definitely helps. If a third manufacturer joined in, then I think IndyCar would really take off. We are seeing more and more teams joining, and the grid is now limited by the engine supply more than anything. If there was a third engine manufacturer we would see even more teams joining.

We now also have two Swede’s in the series which is great for all the fans back home, I know both Felix and Markus are both fully committed to IndyCar and it will be exciting to see how they get on.

Image via @scottdixon9

Image via @scottdixon9

Scott in the meantime is quietly preparing to defend his title for the fifth time, and I fully expect him to come out just a little better than he was the previous year. He never stops to amaze me, the discipline and work ethic is incredible after so many years. He’s definitely one of the best in history in my opinion. The competition is getting stronger every year and he just keeps grinding away, racking up points and wins.

The 100th running of the Indy 500, the dramatic Monaco Grand Prix & #F1TOP3

Stefan Johansson

JT – The 100th running of the Indy 500 was equal parts, competitive, historic and surprising. Racing before a sold-out Indianapolis Motor Speedway crowd, Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi pulled off an improbable win by gambling, stretching his fuel mileage for the final 90 miles of the race as other competitors peeled off to pit. He became just the ninth rookie to win the race.

You were on hand for the Hundredth, what did you think of the race in general and Rossi’s performance?

SJ – You could really feel the energy this year. There was the same buzz you used to feel before the split (CART/IRL) in the mid 90’s. The whole city was just buzzing all month. It was great and I hope it will continue like this.

The race, as often happens at Indy, was a bit of an anti-climax at the end. The last five laps completely changed the whole picture of the race. But that’s Indy in a nutshell. Nearly every year the scenario changes completely depending on strategy and who’s really got it together when it matters in those last few laps.

This year’s race ended up being a typical, IndyCar race that was won on strategy rather than sheer speed. We saw [Graham] Rahal do it many times last season where he wasn’t in the picture until the races came to him strategically towards the end. That’s not to take anything away from Rossi. I think he did a phenomenal job all month, really. He was always there or thereabouts through practice and qualifying. For a rookie I think he did a tremendous job.

But he was never in the hunt to win at any point during the race on pace alone. The team made the right call and that’s what matters at Indy. They gambled and in the situation they were in it wasn’t a difficult choice to make. If you’re not running you can sometimes afford to roll the dice and hope the race will come to you, and it certainly did in this case.

Scott [Dixon] was kind of in the same boat frankly. All the guys at the front went full rich for the first ten laps after the last stop, and found themselves having to pit eight to six laps before the end. But his car was never really there all day. Scott was never really able to attack. He was just kind of hanging in there the whole time. He had slight contact as well which put the car just a little out of alignment. That’s a big loss at Indy because if the car is not dialed in there’s nothing you can do as a driver to make it go any faster.

It was just one of those days and he wasn’t the only one. Montoya had a bad day, Pagenaud had a pretty bad one as well, and so did others. It was a surprise in one way but not so surprising in another that an Andretti car won.

They were very strong all month. You knew that out of their five cars at least one was going to have a good chance of winning. They were right at the front from the first day of practice forward. The lap times were coming very easy to them. They were always in the hunt.

JT – Andretti Autosport was undeniably strong. However, it was a tale of two races for them. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Townsend Bell dominated the first half of the race but it was Rossi and Carlos Munoz who claimed the first two spots on the podium for the team. The contact between Bell and Helio Castroneves as they exited their pits led to a collision between Bell and Hunter-Reay which effectively ended the race for the teammates.

SJ – Yes, had that not happened I don’t think there’s any doubt that Hunter-Reay or Bell would have been right there at the end to shoot it out for the win. They were really strong most of the day.

JT – No one predicted Rossi’s win. Even from simply observing the TV broadcast you could sense the frustration of the drivers who had run at the front all day long and had nothing to show for it while Rossi’s gamble paid off.

Similarly, no one was more surprised by Rossi’s win than Alexander himself. In victory lane you could see that he hadn’t mentally processed what had just happened. Formula One had been the focus of his career up until this season and it’s hard to say if he really understands what winning the Indy 500 means. Undoubtedly, that will change.

SJ – That’s not the first time that has happened and that’s the irony of Indy. It always comes down to a combination of circumstances at the end.

I don’t think Rossi has any idea of the magnitude of his win just yet. His life will never be the same again. An American winning Indy is huge. Look at Danny [Sullivan]. He won 31 years ago and it’s still an accolade that travels with him everywhere he goes.

JT – You said that Honda looked very strong for Indy in our last blog, adding that you didn’t think they had been that far behind Chevrolet this season. That observation proved to be exactly right. Honda engines looked very strong throughout practice and qualifying and of course a Honda-powered car won. It looks like their development program as well as their lobbying of IndyCar paid off.

SJ – There’s no question. As I said, I think it’s more that Chevy has had better teams and drivers overall this season and the past and that’s why they’ve had better results. But in terms of performance, I think there’s very little between Honda and Chevy now. Clearly Honda had an advantage at Indy.

JT – Penske, the winning-est team at Indy, didn’t fare too well this year. Castroneves was competitive but his teammates were nowhere to be seen for most of the race. Montoya crashed out, Pagenaud fell further and further back from the green flag and Power was mired in the middle of the pack all day.

SJ – I think both Penske and Ganassi missed the mark this year. It was hard work for both teams to get up to speed. They did manage to get the lap times but it wasn’t coming easy. TK (Tony Kanaan) was running strong obviously but being on the pace wasn’t as easy as it has been in the past. It was a strange Indy 500 in that respect.

JT – The 100th running of the race did attract a lot of attention. Most notably from other racers and I think that’s positive. Do you agree?

SJ – Yes, definitely. There were a ton of NASCAR drivers there. There was big interest from all areas of racing. I think even the Formula One guys are sort of curious about Indy Cars again. That’s what’s exciting. It’s starting to get the kind of buzz it used to have when at least a few F1 guys wanted to transition and have a look at it.

Nigel Mansell - Indycar 1994

Nigel Mansell - Indycar 1994

Fernando Alonso has made some noises about it. I think it would be just awesome if we could get one or two of the stars to come over and race – like when Nigel [Mansell] came over, that just blew it up.

When he came over, it elevated IndyCar to almost to a position where it became a threat to Formula One. I think the same thing could happen again if one or two guys would transition and take it really seriously. I still maintain that currently Indycar has the best racing in the world, if only more people knew about it they would have a huge following.

JT – Following the Indy 500 we had the Detroit double header this past weekend. As usual, both races threw out a lot of curveballs and the results were somewhat unexpected, certainly in race 1 at least.

Yes, again it ended up two races we have grown used to at Detroit with both the weather and fuel strategy playing their part in the final outcome. It was a mixed weekend for a lot of the front runners and in race 1 the race came to the guys who rolled the dice on strategy, exactly same scenario as last year. Scott had a rough two races, it looked like he was lined up to win the first one despite being held up for a very long time in one of the pitstops by some problems with the fuel rig. In the second one it was almost over before it started with Helio (Castro Neves) giving him a heavy hit right as it went green. I’m not sure exactly what he was thinking and both he and Scott were lucky they didn’t crash properly. As it were, Scott’s car sustained some suspension damage, which meant he was never in a position to attack the rest of the race. As usual though, the track produced some great racing.

JT – The Monaco Grand Prix had its moments - due in part to the changing weather conditions that overtook the race. A Mercedes won again but this time the result wasn’t a forgone conclusion.

SJ – It certainly was an interesting race in the first half at least. I think every single compound of tire was on track at some stage of the race. Everybody was trying something different. Once it all settled down it was kind of a typical Monaco where no one could pass and everyone was running in the same place.

JT – The difficulty of passing on-track at Monaco made Red Bull Racing’s disastrous pit stop for Daniel Ricciardo all the more frustrating for the driver and the team. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes capitalized on their mistake.

SJ – That’s Monaco. I always used to say when we were racing there that you need a 30-second lead to be absolutely sure of winning if you’re leading. Crazy things happen at Monaco that don’t happen at any other track - whether it’s a candy wrapper getting into a radiator inlet because the public sits right at the track edge or a screw up in the pits like this because you’re not operating from a normal garage where things are organized the way they normally are.

That’s difficult to achieve in today’s racing but 30 seconds is still just about what you need for a comfortable margin. What happened with Red Bull is unforgivable but that’s typical Formula One today. They have all these boffins that sit there behind their computer screens and look at the best theoretical strategies but no one seems to be thinking on their feet. When you have adverse conditions like this time, sometimes you just have to make a decision in a split-second and roll the dice.

Hamilton experienced a similar scenario last year. Mercedes just screwed up because the guys that sit behind the computers have never been in a race. They don’t know what it’s like to be on track. All they look at are theoretical scenarios. Monaco is actually quite simple compared to most other tracks as there’s really only thing you need to be concerned with, and that’s track position as it’s virtually impossible to pass even if you’re 5 seconds a lap faster.

That’s why Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher were always so strong. They were both genuine hard-core racers. They both came up through the sports car scene where you have to make decisions on pit strategy in almost every stint. Often you have to wing it, not looking at what ultimately may be the best solution but making a decision about what to do in the next three seconds.

JT – Daniel Ricciardo is clearly not pleased with Red Bull Racing after their pit strategy calls at both Monaco and the Spanish GP. He handled himself pretty well on track at Monaco in the aftermath however, doing his best to push Lewis Hamilton into a mistake. Hamilton made that mistake at the chicane, missing the corner and subsequently squeezing Ricciardo as he tried to pass. Race stewards chose not to penalize Hamilton.  How do you see the incident?
 

SJ – Again, it has to do with the runoff areas. Thirty years ago there was an Armco barrier there. Hamilton would have been buried in that if the same thing had happened. If all four wheels are across the track line to the outside of it then there should be a penalty for that in my opinion as it effectively means he’s blown the corner.

It’s even money whether Lewis gained any time by overshooting the chicane but the fact is he made a mistake and went too deep into the corner so theoretically I think that should be grounds for at least giving up the position, or a punishment of some sort – maybe not a stop-and-go penalty - but at least concede the position. Under previous circumstances he would have been in the fence.

I thought Ricciardo was absolutely superb all weekend. He was fantastic in both qualifying and the race. He was really hustling the car behind Lewis. It was quite impressive. I think it’s going to be very interesting to follow him and Red Bull from now on. They’ve made a lot of progress and they clearly have a good car. Ricciardo’s got the bit between his teeth and really should have won in Spain too under normal circumstances.

JT – Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen came into Monaco riding the high of winning the Spanish GP but had a pretty bad weekend.

SJ – He’s not a rookie anymore. He’s had a year in F1 and he raced last year at Monaco. But the track is extremely difficult and one small mistake can cost you big time. Still, that’s how all of the tracks used to be. Monaco is almost the only place like that left now. Montreal is similar, there isn’t a lot of runoff or margin for error but most of the other tracks offer no penalty for screwing up.

Ricciardo was clearly on it at Monaco and I think Verstappen felt that. I think it’ll be interesting going forward because the dynamic inside the team will change dramatically. I think there will be a lot more pressure on Verstappen from Ricciardo to deliver in every area.

JT – Once again, Ferrari wasn’t really a factor at Monaco. Sebastian Vettel finished a distant fourth and Raikkonen crashed out. The pressure on the team must be even higher.

SJ – In the earlier races this year, it just seemed that they couldn’t quite put together a top finish. The potential to win was there but circumstances prevented it one way or the other. But they’ve clearly fallen a little bit behind now.

Monaco is unique though so we’ll see what happens when we get to Canada. Certainly everyone is working hard trying to get the performance they need.

JT – McLaren scored their best finish of the season with Fernando Alonso taking the checkers in fifth. The team took advantage of the misfortunes of others but they seemed to perform better at Monaco. Meanwhile Williams F1 didn’t perform well yet again.

SJ – McLaren is definitely making strides toward the front of the grid. Little by little they’re getting closer and they are now to the point where their engine is running reliably. That gives them the opportunity to work on many other things. I think it will only be a matter of time before they’re fighting for wins again.

Williams was sort of in between the front runners in the last few years but now I think the other engine makers have caught up. The advantage they had in the past two years running the Mercedes engine has mostly gone away. Both Ferrari and Renault are definitely closer on the engine front now.

That puts more emphasis on the chassis and the way F1 is today, you need cubic dollars to get more performance from the chassis. You have to spend more and more money and hone and hone to get the last half percent from every area of performance. That’s what it comes down to. It’s not about being innovative or clever anymore.

So when you’re in the middle of the pack either you get it right or someone else does from year to year. If you don’t have the resources the top teams do you have to sort of gamble on which direction to go in your development and you’re not always sure whether you’ve gone out on the right limb or not. They’ve obviously missed the boat somewhere this year.

JT – Yes, and another Mercedes team in the mid-pack, Force India, got things right for Monaco with Sergio Perez finishing on the podium.

SJ – I must say, I’ve been critical of him in the past but I think he’s doing a phenomenal job now. He’s comfortable and not taking stupid risks like he used to. He’s well dialed in and he’s actually outperforming Hulkenberg at the moment which is quite impressive.

JT – Sauber teammates Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr are not on the best of terms. They collided at Rascasse when Ericsson tried to overtake Nasr. He claimed that Nasr had been told to move over and let him through by the team. After several laps behind, he went for the pass. Nasr claims the team hadn’t ordered him to move and blames Ericsson for the crash.

SJ – That’s been brewing for quite a while, all the way back to GP2 where they already had a rivalry. It obviously doesn’t help anyone, particularly the team. You’ve just got to put your ego aside. If you’re fighting over 15th place well, you have to keep it in perspective.

I understand that they both had the red mist and got carried away in their battle but whether Nasr had orders to let Ericsson by or not, passing at Rascasse is nearly impossible – even if you’re five seconds a lap quicker. You come up on the apex of the corner and it’s always wide open when you go in because you have to give yourself enough room to get the lock to get around the corner.

But that doesn’t mean the corner is open. By the time you get to the apex you know there’s going to be a car in the middle. It was more than a low percentage chance to make a passing move stick there.

In the end, all this does is lowering their chances of impressing another team to consider them for the future.

JT – That offers a good contrast between Mercedes and Sauber. Rosberg was told to move over for Hamilton after not getting his tires to work and he complied.

SJ – At the end of the day F1 is a team sport and you work for the team. Rosberg’s mature enough to look at the bigger picture and that’s the difference. Less impressive however was the fact he lost a position to Hulkenberg on the last lap; I really don’t understand what he was thinking on that one. If he ends up loosing the championship by a point he will rue that moment for the rest of his life.


Stefan Johansson (1) & Alain Prost (2) / McLaren F1 - Detroit 1987

Stefan Johansson (1) & Alain Prost (2) / McLaren F1 - Detroit 1987

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