Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

         

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

johansson-eyes-helmet-cockpit-sign.jpg

#SJblog (source page)

Filtering by Tag: Stoffel Vandoorne

Getting ready for Indy 500 and the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

Eric Graciano

- #SJblog 85 -

JT – In recent IndyCar events, Simon Pagenaud dominated at Phoenix, taking his first win on an oval. Really, Penske as a whole was strong as were the Chevrolet cars in general. Seven of the top ten finishers were in Chevys. Scott Dixon must have been fairly pleased to be the best of the Hondas with his 5th place finish.

More recently Scott finished 2nd in the Indianapolis Grand Prix, the prelude to the Indy 500. He was the best of the Honda finishers, bested only by Chevy-powered winner Will Power.

But the big news as we count the days until the Indy 500 is that Scott put in four fantastic laps at the Speedway to win his third Indy pole at 232.565 mph!

SJ – Getting the pole at Indy again is great obviously, and it was a mighty run from Scott for sure. Indy qualifying is not easy under any circumstance. But to go out cold without even one lap in practice all day – he went straight from qualifying on Saturday to qualifying on Sunday – in a car that you have no idea about in terms of how it will perform, that’s impressive. Everybody is trying to trim their cars to the absolute limit and I think Scott and his engineer Chris Simmons went all out this time. Scott said he had a small breather in turn 2 every lap just keep the front tight and he was still doing 232 laps so the car must have been extremely light on downforce. Typically, if you have to lift anywhere on the four lap run the time won’t hold up.

JT – Last weekend’s action at the Speedway proved again that nowhere else is qualifying for a race more dramatic than at Indianapolis.

SJ – Indy is fantastic, the whole format, the build up and the process, everything is just magic. It’s so exciting both for the fans and the competitors. There’s nothing that comes close to it really. It’s a very special place. It’s a pity there’s not enough cars for bumping as there used to be, that was almost more exciting than the fight for pole many times. But the format is great, and the crowd was fantastic this year, you could even hear the roar on the TV when the guys were posting the big laps. Great stuff!

With Alonso being there this year as well, I think a lot more people that normally would not tune in are going to realize again how incredibly exciting it is and how great IndyCar racing and the Indy 500, in particular, are. It’s an outstanding event and qualifying is really an event in itself, apart from the race.

Alonso also mentioned that he wants to be a “complete driver” which I think is fantastic coming from him. I think his involvement this year could start a trend. I’m sure he’s loved every minute of this experience so far.

Attendance for the race this year could well be the biggest yet. It will for sure be the biggest crowd Alonso has ever raced in front of. It’s the biggest crowd anyone ever races in front of period. The whole experience is totally exceptional.

I remember the first time I raced there, walking out onto the grid for the first time after having been there all month and it’s amazing. Qualifying has a pretty good crowd but when you walk out onto the grid on Sunday morning before the start you suddenly see this mountain of people in front of you. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. It’s an incredible experience.

JT – Does the massive crowd distract you during the race, as opposed to practice when the seats are basically empty?

SJ – It’s different. You get in the car on race day and there are all these people and you find that the track has suddenly shrunk. Your view peripherally is completely different. The track feels like it’s half the size compared to what it was when the stands were empty. It’s kind of bizarre and it takes a few laps to get used to. You just have to readjust. You have visual reference points and you just have to adjust them a bit.

If you’re running in the middle of the pack during the race - or in the last 500 I raced in where I started from the back row because I qualified on Bump Day and I bumped the Penske’s out of the race – when you’re behind all these other cars, and because they’re running on ethanol you literally can’t see anything the first three laps. Your eyes are watering so much, just dripping from the exhaust fumes. They’re so strong and the smell is just insane.

Then there’s the turbulence. The whole car is just dancing around all over the track. You’re basically hanging on for dear life before the field gets strung out a bit. And back then, going into Turn 1, you couldn’t even hold your head straight. We didn’t have the head rests they have now and your helmet was bouncing around all over the place which also prevented you from seeing a damn thing.

JT – Four of the five Andretti cars made the top nine with the fifth in the 10th starting position. Scott’s on pole with Tony Kanaan 7th for Ganassi. Only one of Team Penske’s drivers made it into the top nine, Will Power. This is a bit puzzling given Penske’s typical performance at the Speedway.

SJ – Yes, this is highly unlike Penske. They go for it big time in qualifying normally. I don’t know if they’re struggling to find speed or what their issues were. We’ll find out on Sunday. Qualifying is a different deal though, just because you can’t find the ultimate speed in Qualifying, that doesn’t mean you won’t have a quick race car. The other thing is that at Indy more than any other track the cars are very sensitive to any changes in track conditions. If the wind direction or speed changes or the temperature goes up it can very quickly go from a perfect car to one that is nearly undriveable in a matter of a few laps. This is why you often see someone that starts upfront going backwards very quickly. Every team is spending as much time as they can running in every possible condition during practice to gather as much data as possible for race day.

JT – Getting back to the Indianapolis Grand Prix and the race at Phoenix, what did you make of those two?

SJ – I think Scott did extremely well to finish in 2nd in the Indy Grand Prix. I think the differences in the Honda and Chevy aero kits definitely gave the Chevys an advantage drag-wise in both those races, but then Honda clearly have an advantage at the Speedway so one outweighs the other I guess.

Whatever the intent was when IndyCar set out to have manufacturer-specific aero kits, I think it’s really kind of backfired. For the Indianapolis Grand Prix, Chevy had the edge. For the 500, it’s obvious that Honda has an advantage. Then again, the Chevys have a big advantage at Phoenix and other short ovals.

So the performance is not really equal for one or the other manufacturer depending on where you go. Chevy and Honda had to submit a finalized aero kit at a certain date in the past and that’s it. They’re both stuck with what they have. That’s not really a proper way to determine a championship or even the outcome of an individual race. So whatever IndyCar’s intent was, it hasn’t worked out to be what they envisioned.

I think you have the manufacturers do the engines and you have a spec car or you free up the rules and let the designers and teams do what they want to do. It’s so hard to regulate these things fairly, which is what will happen from 2018 onwards, and how it was before this latest aero experiment with different body kits for each manufacturer.

It’s the same with all these BoP (Balance of Performance) formulas and with driver ratings we have to deal with in Sportscar Racing. Trying to regulate these things rarely works out well. I still firmly believe that it should be an open competition and may the best man win.

We kind of knew Phoenix would be a problem for the Hondas since before the season started. I think Scott’s happy with his finish – you know, best in class and good points for the season (Dixon is now 2nd in points behind Pagenaud) – there’s not much more he could have hoped for there.

JT – The Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona was the most recent F1 contest. Again, it wasn’t the most scintillating race. In summation, it seemed that Sebastian Vettel won the race at the start going into the first corner and then Ferrari’s pit strategy lost the race, allowing winner Lewis Hamilton to gain massively on Vettel. Further aid came when Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas held Vettel up behind him.

When Stoffel Vandoorne collided with Felipe Massa in Turn 1 on the 34th lap, a Virtual Safety Car period ensued. Mercedes pitted Hamilton for soft tires but Ferrari left Vettel out. That seemed to be a tactical mistake. Do you agree?

SJ – Yes, I would agree with you. It boggles my mind why Ferrari didn’t stop when there was a VSC. That’s race strategy-101. If you have a virtual safety period and you’re in a pit stop window, you have to stop.

I am not 100% clear if the pits were closed during the safety car period or not, in which case maybe Vettel passed the pits as the track went green and Hamilton being 8 seconds behind was able to duck in just as Vettel passed the green flag.

It’s fantastic that the championship is so close and we now have two teams fighting for the title. And it’s great that Ferrari is one of them. Kimi had bad luck at the beginning, getting taken out on the first lap when he was nudged by Bottas into Verstappen. I think Verstappen’s move trying to go three wide on the outside was a pretty low percentage move. The chances of pulling that off were pretty small but I can also understand him trying as that would be his only chance of passing the guys in front as it’s virtually impossible to pass anywhere on that track under normal racing conditions.

JT – The Russian Grand Prix had a somewhat surprising result. Mercedes GP’s Valtteri Bottas won with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finishing 2nd and 3rd. Lewis Hamilton finished off the podium, having struggled all weekend. Bottas had a terrific start from third position on the grid, passing both Vettel and Raikkonen to take the lead into the first corners.

He led the rest of the way and drove well. His only test came from Vettel who closed on him in the final laps. But Vettel was never close enough to challenge Bottas. Otherwise, there was almost no overtaking in this processional race. What did you make of it?

SJ – The race was more or less what we’re used to seeing but I thought Bottas did a terrific job. He had a great start and was under a fair bit of pressure at the end and stayed cool and calm to win his first GP.

There wasn’t any passing but it’s the same thing we’ve been talking about for a long time now. More downforce never makes racing better and unless there are some sort of freak circumstances this won’t change until they either change the philosophy on the car designs or re design the tracks to make them more challenging so that drivers will occasionally make a mistake or simply make it possible for a more skilled driver to take a corner faster and by doing so being able to pass.

JT – Ferrari locked out the front row after qualifying in Russia and now seems able to match or exceed Mercedes’ pace over a lap depending on conditions. It’s a marked improvement for them.

SJ – I really think one of the key ingredients there is what I’ve said for months now. Vettel made the effort to be an integral part of Pirelli’s tire testing and development program for 2017. None of the other top guys made that commitment. The other teams can say what they want about the testing being done with an old and different car but it doesn’t matter. It’s the feel of the tire that matters as much as the grip for most drivers.

If you can influence that feel from the tire to get it to where you’re comfortable with it, that makes an enormous difference. The tires are the one area where you can gain or lose a massive amount of performance. Vettel has helped Ferrari get the car dialed in with the tires. And that’s where Mercedes and maybe even more Red Bull is struggling at the moment. They didn’t test the new tires with their regular guys as much and that’s in my opinion why they’re now struggling to make the car work.

JT – In other F1 news, Force India continues to impress, holding fourth in the championship behind the big three teams with double the points of Williams F1, their closest mid-pack rival. Meanwhile, Haas Ferrari has been struggling, suffering brake problems and a car which alternately suits one driver or the other but not both.

At the absolute bottom of the grid are McLaren Honda and Sauber Ferrari. Neither team has scored a point yet and McLaren has had only one finish over the opening four rounds of the championship. Ironically, the two are now linked with the recent announcement that Sauber will use Honda engines in 2018. What are your thoughts about these developments?

SJ – Force India has been quite impressive. They’re definitely punching above their weight so far, similar to how they performed last year. Haas keeps having brake problems. It’s a bit mysterious but on the other hand the braking systems today are so complicated it’s not too hard to imagine.
Sauber switching to Honda is interesting. I guess it’s a financial matter as much as anything. I personally think Honda will eventually get their engines right. It’s just a matter of when and how. If the engine formula remains essentially the same and they have enough time, there’s no doubt they’ll fix their problems and become a factor again.

And at this point it’s far better for McLaren to have another team running Honda engines to share the development load. Plus, Sauber isn’t exactly going to be a threat to McLaren. McLaren’s agreement with Honda did prevent Honda from supplying other teams and that hasn’t been helpful but I guess you could say that no one expected Honda to be as far off as they have been either.

JT –Up next for F1 is the Monaco GP. In contrast to Indy where both qualifying and the race are important, qualifying is perhaps more important than the actual race at Monaco.

SJ – Qualifying is definitely the thing that really matters at Monaco. Unless there are freak circumstances during the race with rain or something like that and there are strategy calls they can’t plan for comes into play, not too much changes after qualifying positions are established.
Otherwise, we’ll see the usual procession we are used to. The race is pretty much over after the first corner all things being equal. Even with the Formula E race there a couple weeks ago which uses only half the track, it was virtually impossible to pass. There’s really only one line around the entire track. Even if you get a run on someone coming out of a corner there’s really nowhere to go. You follow one line which applies to the entire track. There just isn’t one single spot which is really an overtaking place.

Scott Dixon dominates at Watkins Glen, Mercedes wins at the Italian GP & the future of Formula 1

Stefan Johansson

JT – IndyCar returned to Watkins Glen in early September, the first time the series has run there since 2010. Scott Dixon absolutely dominated the weekend, winning the race by over 16 seconds (his 40th career win, moving him to 4th in all-time wins in IndyCar) and smashing the qualifying record by 5.6 seconds for his 25th career pole.

Scott has performed well at Watkins Glen in the past, having won three times there but looked even better two weeks ago. What did you think of his performance?

SJ – It was a very impressive display in every respect. I can’t remember anyone dominating to quite that level for quite some time. It was like he was in a different league all weekend. He dropped back a few places for the restart (on Lap 42 after a caution for a collision between Will Power and Charlie Kimball, and pit stops, Dixon restarted 4th) and within less than two laps he was back in the lead.

Everyone else was struggling to pass anywhere on track but it was amazing how Scott just pulled off passes with his incredible, fluid driving style which is just perfect on a track like that.

It’s been a strange year in that I think he’s been driving more strongly this year than any that I can remember and yet he’s come away with less than almost any year before. Even reliability issues have stopped him at places like Detroit and Road America, where it was almost certain he would have won both races.

JT – The win moved Scott to 3rd in the championship standings but it wasn’t enough to keep him in championship contention. Leader Simon Pagenaud finished 7th at Watkins Glen, putting him 104 points clear of Dixon. Even with double points (100 total) on offer for this weekend’s season finale, the Grand Prix of Sonoma, Dixon cannot catch Pagenaud. Only his Penske teammate Will Power has a chance. Power would have likely been closer to Pagenaud points-wise if not for the accident with Kimball. With a 43-point lead over his teammate it looks pretty good for Pagenaud to capture his first IndyCar title. Do you agree?

SJ – The IndyCar championship is all about racking up points at every race - being consistent. Last year Montoya kept racking up points and he was on top going into Sonoma. You never know - look at what Scott did last year, particularly with double points available - but it’s most likely that Pagenaud will score well enough to win the championship. Still, if Power wins and Pagenaud gets involved in any incident... well, that could be enough. What is amazing though is that we are again going into the final race with the championship still open, I don’t remember if the Indycar series ever had the championship decided before the final round.

JT – With the offseason rapidly approaching, speculation about the IndyCar driver-market has been plentiful. Josef Newgarden seems to be the main focus of conjecture. He could go to Penske Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing or elect to stay with Ed Carpenter Racing. Depending on what he chooses to do, other drivers might have to adjust. Do you think we’ll see much movement?

SJ – I don’t really know what will happen but I’d be surprised if we see a huge amount of movement among the drivers.

JT – Unsurprisingly, Mercedes won Formula One’s most recent round the Italian GP at Monza. In this case Nico Rosberg, starting from second position alongside teammate and pole winner Lewis Hamilton, made a perfect getaway and won while Hamilton stumbled, dropping to 6th place on the opening lap. He eventually recovered to finish 2nd behind Rosberg. As we’ve said in recent blogs, the result of nearly every grand prix this year has hinged on who got the better start – Rosberg or Hamilton.

If Rosberg starts cleanly, as he did early in the season, he wins. If Hamilton starts cleanly, as he did mid-season, he wins. It’s basically as simple as that, and again the Italian GP didn’t offer much exciting racing. However, just two points separate Hamilton and Rosberg heading into this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.

SJ – Yes, that’s basically what it comes down to. Whichever guy – Hamilton or Rosberg, as they are the only two with a realistic chance of winning all things being equal - gets off the line best and manages to scramble through the first few corners, it’s pretty much job done.

This last race made the championship closer and everyone keeps talking about how Mercedes might struggle again (Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel won the 2015 race, followed by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari-teammate Kimi Rakkionen) but I can’t imagine that they won’t have dug deep enough and found out what their tire problems were last year. They’ll be better.

On that note, that’s one of the ironic twists of F1. All the teams are spending copious amounts of money on car and aero development in particular yet every race it basically comes down to the tires and who can manage them best for optimum grip, especially with the crazy pressures they’re required to run now.

I keep joking about it but at the sharp end of the grid they spend well over $300 million a year, of which most of it is development. Then they bolt on a set of tires for a couple of thousand dollars and that makes more difference than just about anything else they do with the car. If you can get a second from the tire by being able to get the most out of it, and manage it correctly over the stint, it’s probably equivalent to $50-100m worth of development on the car to gain that same second!

JT – Ferrari managed to get one of its cars on the podium at Monza with a 3rd place finish from Sebastian Vettel. Kimi Raikkonen finished in 4th place. The team seemed to be pleased with the result and team manager Maurizio Arrivabene stated that while Ferrari has “failed to achieve its target” this year, the team is making progress and the atmosphere inside Scuderia Ferrari is “very positive”. With the departure of some of its key personnel and Ferrari’s inconsistent performance something about Arrivabene’s comments rings hollow. Do you agree?

SJ – It’s a difficult situation for them at the moment, and I don’t envy Maurizio Arrivabene for one second as he was basically thrown in the deep end with all the wholesale changes that took place when Montezemolo left. As we have seen with almost every team at some stage, once you loose the momentum it takes years to gain it back to a point where you can consistently be challenging for wins. Mclaren is a perfect example, Red Bull has had their slump and they were both dominant teams not that long ago. Ferrari still have a lot of challenges ahead, there is no doubt about that, let’s hope that the people at the very top of the company will stay the course and make the right decisions going forward.

JT – The biggest news for Formula One was made off-track last week when it was finally confirmed that Liberty Media, an America conglomerate which owns the second largest U.S. cable television company and has holdings in Sirius/XM radio and Live Nation, a large event promotion company, will acquire F1 from current majority owner CVC Capital Partners.

Bernie Ecclestone will continue in his role as F1 CEO but will now work under Liberty Media’s umbrella. There seems to be some optimism that Liberty can bring more energy and direction to the series and attract more viewers globally. What’s your take?

SJ – I don’t know anything more than what has been covered by the press but one would hope that they’ll look at the business more pragmatically. I think that’s already starting to happen and maybe they’ll bring more of a clean sheet approach to it.

Let’s not forget that F1 is still a hugely popular sport globally, but I think they know they can make it significantly more popular. With the speed at which the world moves today in terms of social media and other digital platforms there are definitely ways to monetize those outlets. Bernie says he’s never made any money on the Internet but I don’t think he’s been dealing with the right people. Certainly not if you look at the F1 website which is full of broken links and quite clunky in general, you can tell that very little effort has been spent in this area.

You see others doing well in that area. NASCAR, for instance, is doing very well in that space. They’ve figured out how to monetize the digital side of their business and they’re making money.

Liberty has already made noise about offering the opportunity for teams to buy into Formula One. I don’t know exactly how that would work but it could potentially be a good move. If you look at other sports, certainly football and soccer, every franchise is worth a fortune. They also spend big money but F1 is still in the stratosphere in terms of the resources associated with it.

If the series, together with the FIA can work out a way to control costs by focusing on areas of development which are prohibitively expensive like aerodynamics and maybe standardize some components, it will immediately be on a better business footing.

For example, the other day I was visiting a new racing simulator here in Los Angeles. There was a two-year old Williams chassis there that a group bought to transform for the purpose of making it into a simulator. They were showing me simple things like the car’s power steering rack. It’s an absolute work of art. That piece alone probably required 50 people to engineer and build. It’s absolutely exquisite, but for what?

I don’t see why you couldn’t just use a standard steering rack that all teams would have to buy from one single supplier that is the same for all the teams. It would cost a tiny fraction of that custom piece Williams built. That piece alone probably cost them more than a million dollars all told. And that’s just one component of the car – a piece the fans will never ever see or understand.

Look at the insanely complicated brake ducts the teams create now… for nothing. Why can’t the teams all agree on standardizing some components and save themselves millions of dollars?

IndyCar has great racing with a basic, standardized package. The best teams still work their butts off and find an edge over their competitors by refining the components they have to work with. Why make every single piece of every car a custom-made item? I’m not saying that F1 should copy Indycar, because I personally think Indycar has gone to far in the other direction where you basically can’t do anything to the car anymore, except the dampers. But, there are several things on any racecar that is just a pointless and extremely costly exercise to make in house, assuming the parts were available to buy off the shelf. To make this work there needs to be firm rules in place otherwise every team will still go their own way even if the parts were available to buy off the shelf, because the engineers are very competitive by nature, just as the drivers, and everyone thinks they are more clever than the other, and that their solution is much better than anything else out there.

The teams all seem to be addicted to their toys, even the smaller ones. It makes no sense. Each team will apparently be receiving something like $100 million from F1 in the next year or two. If you can’t run a team for less than $100 million, something’s fundamentally wrong. If you bring spending down to more sane levels, every F1 franchise should be worth serious money, just as they were for a brief period when Eddie Jordan sold his team for example. Nowadays most teams that are potentially for sale are lucky if they can walk away with new owners clearing their debts.

There are extremely clever people in F1 and the cleverest will still produce the best results even if the series goes to a much more basic formula. Just start fresh. As Flavio Briatore says, F1 is so complicated now that no one understands it, not even the people in the business.

The fact that Bernie [Ecclestone] will stay on is positive. Some people gripe and moan about him from time to time, but deep down, everybody loves Bernie. He’s like the grand-daddy for all of us in the business in one way or the other. Everyone knows that without him F1 wouldn’t be anything near what it is today. I believe that 100 percent. He’s laid every single brick in that business and has a personal relationship with every promoter, TV Network, sponsor, team owner, driver, you name it. There is not one deal going down that Bernie does not have his hand in. I think he should be applauded for what he’s done, not just for F1 but for motorsport in general, because everything filters down from Formula One.

JT – In other off track news, McLaren announced that Jenson Button would be taking a “break” from F1 in 2017 but that his two-year deal with the team means that he could drive again in 2018. He will be replaced next year by GP2 sensation Stoffel Vandoorne. Team principle Ron Dennis insists that Button’s “deal” is not a “retirement”. But everyone understands that Button is basically leaving the sport. Why does McLaren not want to state the truth? Their version of this sounds nuts. Do you agree?

SJ – Well, If Jenson now suddenly feels “like a kid again” because he’s effectively been pushed aside or whatever you’d like to call it then you obviously have to question why he didn’t make this decision on his own rather than wait until he was basically told he’s not driving next year. Can someone please fire me! I want to get fired too, if that’s how it makes you feel. Joking aside, it’s just seem like a very odd statement to claim that this is a new and innovative solution to effectively fire one of your drivers, or at least demote him to reserve driver. It’s good news though to see that Vandoorne has a permanent drive based purely on merit, he deserves it, and the timing could be perfect for him as it’s almost certain that McLaren will be back fighting for wins in the next few years. I am sure he will be one of the superstars of the next generation drivers that are now filtering through.

JT – Much has been made lately of the new, wider tires the 2017 rules will allow for F1 cars. Together with other changes this should give the cars more interesting appearance and may make them significantly faster but as you’ve already noted, it probably won’t improve the racing.

SJ – I would say it’s almost a certainty that it will make passing even more difficult than it is now because the cars will be so fast in the corners and even slower on the straights because they’ll have more drag from both the increased downforce and the wider tires. This will result in even less difference between mid-corner speed and top speed on the straights. Braking distances will be even shorter and grip levels will be much higher. So in other words, the exact opposite of what you want to make the racing more exciting. I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think I am.

The cars will look much better though, lap-times will be much faster but once you get used to watching the cars cornering a lot faster then everything will be back to normal again.

It’s been interesting to follow the tire testing for the 2017 cars that has been going on, or at least the little information that’s been made available. The teams doing the testing will without a doubt have an advantage next season. Tire testing is the key to performance. In every team I ever raced for where we were able to do a tire test before a race, or where the designated test team, we were always much better off for having done it.

Just the sheer fact that you’re running a car helps already as you’re always picking up little bits of information every time the car is on the track. Even if a team isn’t told which tire it’s testing – the fact that you’re running on a tire of the same general specification to what you’ll be using next year will already be a big advantage. Watch this space, there will be a lot of moaning about this by a lot of the teams as the new season unfolds.

Bottomline though, overtaking will only get harder next season.


The Singapore Grand Prix is here and the opportunity to win with it! Participate in our fun #F1TOP3 competition, where anyone could win one of our Stefan Johansson Växjö timepieces. It's relatively easy: click on the black button above and submit the #F1TOP3 competition form - we give away prizes every Grand Prix!

A quicker alternative is to post on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the following:

  1. Post a photo and list your top 3 drivers in the correct order along with the hashtag #F1TOP3
  2. TAG:

Max Verstappen's win at the Spanish GP, Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis & the #F1TOP3!

Stefan Johansson

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg offer their views on the first-lap collision that ended their races in Barcelona...

JT – The Spanish Grand Prix proved to be a surprising race. Red Bull Racing’s 18-year-old driver Max Verstappen took the win ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. He drove well and made no mistakes. Impressive as that was however, the most notable thing about the race at Circuit de Barcelona was the shunt between teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton which took both Mercedes out of contention on the first lap. What did you make of the incident?

SJ – I really think it was just a racing incident. A combination of things came together in a fraction of a second, literally. I don’t think there was any intent from either driver to do anything particularly sinister. It was a chain reaction triggered by Rosberg’s lack of power.

When you’re in a situation like that you commit one way or the other. It’s instinct. Unfortunately Lewis committed one way and Rosberg committed the same way at the same time. Maybe you could argue that Lewis should have backed off but all of this happens so fast – in a couple tenths of a second at the most.

Without the facts that we now have as to Rosberg being in the wrong engine setting I would have said it was Lewis’ fault. But with the information we have, that changes things.

Rosberg’s move was somewhat aggressive but that’s what you do these days unfortunately since they introduced the rule that you can make one move to block the car behind. But it doesn’t specify how bold that move can be. So you just simply shut the door if you can.

My argument has always been that you race fairly and you should leave at least a car width if someone gets a good run on you. But that’s not the ethic these days. So the nature of racing now means that this can happen. You act on instinct with these rules in place and in this case, I don’t think you can blame one or the other. It was a racing incident.

PICK YOUR #F1TOP3 & WIN!!!

PICK YOUR #F1TOP3 & WIN!!!

JT – Max Verstappen has been praised for his performance and he’s certainly a talent. But one gets the feeling the hype about him may be a bit out of proportion. What’s your view?

SJ – I think he did a phenomenal job and no doubt, he’s the future of Formula One. But Barcelona is also a track which maybe more than any other track on the calendar lends itself to a scenario like this. Don’t forget, Pastor Maldonado won a race there too under very similar circumstances, when Alonso was chasing him the entire race but could not find a way past.

It’s a track which is virtually impossible to pass on. Your only real opportunity is at the end of the front straight. But because of the way the aerodynamics are with these cars it’s almost impossible to follow a competitor through the last section and be close enough to get on the power and have a good run on the car ahead at the end of the straight - even with DRS. If you are in equally fast cars the turbulence from the car in front will be enough to kill the aero on the car behind and he won’t be able to get close enough to get a run into the braking zone at the end of the main straight. The speed difference between the Ferraris and the Red Bulls wasn’t large enough to make passing realistic. As long as Verstappen didn’t make a mistake – and full credit to him for being mistake-free – all he had to do was drive his own race. He didn’t have to fight for the win the way he might have had to at another track. Still, he did a sensational job.

On the other hand, Carlos Sainz has gotten almost zero credit and he also did a sensational job. He finished 6th in a car that’s clearly not anywhere near as competitive as the Red Bull. But that’s F1. The media build guys like Verstappen way up. Then if they fail, they bury them just as fast.

JT – Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo fought hard with Sebastian Vettel, at one point trying to pull off a pass from well behind at the end of the straight. Vettel wasn’t too impressed with the move.

SJ – It was an opportunistic but pretty low-percentage move. But at least he had a go. It could have worked and you have to hand it to him because he’s just about the only guy out there willing to have a go. Generally, he does it in a good way.

There were two top drivers involved here and therefore there was no accident. Vettel gave him enough room to go wide instead of trying to close the door.

PICK YOUR #F1TOP3 & WIN!!!

PICK YOUR #F1TOP3 & WIN!!!

JT – Ferrari was able to get two cars on the podium but given that Mercedes fell out of the race completely it might rightly have been expected that they would win in Barcelona. They failed to capitalize on the opportunity. The team and its director Maurizio Arrivabene are known to be under a great deal of pressure. The outcome for them in Spain has to be troubling.

SJ – Yes, not winning wasn’t part of their game plan. The problem is that the top teams around them have made pretty significant progress. Renault has had a history of building race-winning engines. It has taken a while this time around but I think they now understand the current formula and they’ll come on in leaps and bounds going forward.

You can tell Renault has made a big step forward and it’s likely the next upgrade they get will be another big gain.

PICK YOUR #F1TOP3 & WIN!!!

PICK YOUR #F1TOP3 & WIN!!!

JT – What if Ferrari doesn’t win over the course of the next few races?

SJ – That’s a good question. Who knows what will happen? More heads will roll likely but is that going to help?

When Ferrari was winning everything (1999-2004) they had a dream team that will probably never exist again in Formula One. Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Michael Schumacher – these are some of the best guys ever in F1 and they all made a pact to stick together and drive Ferrari forward through thick and thin. That’s what made them successful. They never wavered and always stuck together. But it still took three years before they were winning, and I’m sure during that period there were more than one occasion when their positions were threatened from the people at the top.

JT – With the F1 season now underway in Europe it seems likely that the lower tier teams will fall even further behind. Haas F1 for example, seemed to get a dose of reality at Barcelona. Things didn’t really go their way.

SJ – As I’ve said many times, the first few races of the season are the least difficult to score points in all year. I think Haas will experience that this year just as Sauber did last year. It gets tougher and tougher to get points as the season goes on.

But all credit to them because they’re the only new team on the grid. The fact that they showed up in Australia with a car that was that competitive immediately is a huge compliment to them and the approach they’ve take to F1. Again, it boggles my mind that no one else has taken that same approach. Why not utilize the rules to the maximum and buy the technology and parts the rules allow you to?

JT – Off track, the news prior to the Spanish GP was the promotion of Max Verstappen from Toro Rosso to Red Bull Racing and Daniel Kvyat’s demotion from Red Bull to Toro Rosso. There was a lot of comment about the decision both from the press and the F1 paddock. What are your thoughts on this?

SJ – Well, Christian Horner (Red Bull team chief) made some comments about Kvyat being a young driver who is still learning, etc. But I find it mind boggling that a top team like Red Bull would hire a driver that needs to learn. Why?

There are so many good drivers around that’s already been through the learning process. Verstappen is an exception and of course that will spur the same trend even more now. The whole grid will be 18-year-olds before you know it. Take a guy like Andre Lotterer for example, and others similar to him who have so much race experience from doing sports car and other forms of single seater racing. He’s blindingly quick and every bit as good as Kvyat will ever be and probably better. But no one even looks at him.

I don’t understand it. Why on earth would you take a young driver and have him learning to race in Formula One? F1 is the last step, assuming you’re good enough to go all the way, that’s the ultimate goal for any driver, or at least it should be. Where do you go after F1? You should cut your teeth and learn from your mistakes in the junior formulas of open wheel, sports car racing or other categories. When you get into Formula One and get paid to drive you better be ready to deliver every weekend as far as I’m concerned.

I don’t think there’s any excuse for being young and not experienced enough in F1 whether it’s mentally or with race craft. If you’re not capable at that level, you’re not good enough to be there in the first place. At any given time, there are hundreds of quick drivers in different categories of racing, but less than a handful of them know how to race. Why aren’t those guys racing in F1?

JT – A good example of that is Stoffel Vandoorne. It occurred to me that in the hoopla over Verstappen’s win, Vandoorne has been forgotten. He scored for McLaren before either of their regular, world champion drivers this year – with a car not nearly as capable as the Red Bull Renault Verstappen won with. And he absolutely dominated GP2 but he’s not on the F1 grid.

SJ – Exactly, that’s a perfect example. We don’t know yet how he would handle the pressure of racing week in, week out. It’s one thing to jump in a car on a one-off. But when you have to deliver consistently in a top team – that’s when your real quality shows.

But it’s clear that everybody rates Vandoorne very highly. He’s been stunningly fast and won in everything he’s ever raced - from go-karts through GP2.

JT – On the other hand, you are impressed with Red Bull’s ladder system.

SJ – Yes their system, though it’s brutal at times, definitely works now. They’ve produced some pretty spectacular drivers. Vettel, Riciardo and now Verstappen and Sainz – all of them came through that system. It’s the way to develop talent really, and similar to the Marlboro system that was in place when I came through the junior formulas.

You get a little bit of support, enough to keep you going and if you’re good enough you make it all the way. It took a while to get it going in the right direction but Red Bull has done a fantastic job with that system.

JT – A larger and larger group of people are now echoing your view that the current F1 regulations should be left in place. But it appears that the rules will be changed again for 2017.

SJ – It’s clear that they should just leave the regulations alone. Whatever “fixes” they will come up with will only be damaging. They won’t make much difference competitively and they’ll just send costs through the roof again. Everyone will go through the same expensive development process yet again.

We’re now three years into the current format and we’re finally starting to see the grid leveling out. The development curve is tapering off. Why go back to the same arms race again where the big teams will again have a huge gap to the smaller ones at an astronomical cost?

Whether we like the current formula or not, I would leave it alone because if nothing else the rules stability will bring costs down and level out the grid. It’s the manufacturers who are pushing the changes. In fact, Bernie [Ecclestone] recently commented that certain people are plotting his demise but they don’t know what they’re plotting for.

I think that’s absolutely true. They may want to think twice before they take him on. History shows that that may not be the wisest move.

JT – That’s a good point. Nevertheless, Ecclestone will not be around forever. The bigger question is what comes after Bernie?

SJ – I think that’s a big concern for everyone. But I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that question. There will be problems for sure.

Having said that, the way F1 is run now is by committee. As we can see, that yields grid lock and any reforms are really only to do with nuances – changes for the sake of changing more than anything else. No one can agree on anything of significance. F1 needs to be run by a very small group of people if not one person like it has been in the past. That group or person has to have a very clear understanding of how racing and Formula One work, commercially and technically. I am not so sure that the people who are most active in trying to dislodge Bernie understand that point well enough.

JT – IndyCar’s fifth race of the 2016 season, the Angie’s List Grand Prix, took place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ahead of the Indy 500 last weekend.  Penske’s Simon Pagenaud took his third consecutive win ahead of teammate Helio Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe. Scott Dixon came home in 7th. As usual there was a first corner pile-up and passing was difficult.

SJ – It just wasn’t a great race for Scott overall, starting with qualifying which was a mess not only for him but for a number of the top contenders. He made good progress at a track which is very difficult to pass on and then he got shuffled back again in the pack during the race with the different strategies playing out. Then he got some front wing damage and it was just one of those races.

Pagenaud is driving impressively, especially with as close as the competition is in IndyCar and as difficult as it is to put it all together and win. It’s a great start to the season for him. Both him and his crew are really on top of things at the moment.

JT – Honda’s engine appeared to be improved in the Indy Grand Prix and looks to be better in last week’s lapping sessions on the speedway. Do you think the Honda-powered cars will be competitive with the Chevy-engined machines for the 500?

SJ – I think Honda has actually been pretty close to Chevrolet all year. Chevy has had the best teams, and overall, they probably have the best drivers too. That stacks the odds in their favor. But it does appear that Honda will be closer. We really won’t know until the race gets underway. It seems to me that the Honda cars so far are able to get their speed much easier than the Chevy cars.

JT – The question has been asked in recent years, what is the importance of qualifying for the Indy 500 these days? How important do you think it will be to qualify well this year?

SJ – I don’t think you have to be on the pole but you certainly want a spot towards the front because with the current aero kits passing has been made more difficult. I haven’t heard what the drivers are saying about passing at the Speedway yet but if the other tracks are anything to go by – Phoenix for example – it’s considerably more difficult and you definitely want to be up front.

The more tinkering IndyCar does with these aero kits - the more downforce they pile onto to them - the worse the racing gets. It will be a shame if the passing we’ve seen during the last few years is diminished because all of this aero. That’s really what Indy is about.


PICK YOUR #F1TOP3 & WIN!!!

PICK YOUR #F1TOP3 & WIN!!!

To make F1 a bit more fun and engaging, we've implemented a fun game named #F1TOP3, where Formula One fans around the world have the opportunity to win prizes, including brand new limited edition Stefan Johansson Växjö Watch (valued at $7,500)! It's relatively easy: click on the black button above and submit the #F1TOP3 competition form - we give away prizes every Grand Prix!

A quicker alternative is to post on Twitter & Instagram with the following:

  1. Twit/Post a photo and list your top 3 drivers in the correct order along with the hashtag #F1TOP3
  2. TAG: