Ecclestone wants V8 return for 2016

Bernie Ecclestone believes that Formula 1 should revert to the use of V8 engines and says that a decision could be made in time for the start of the 2016 season.

Speaking to British publication the Independent, the F1 supremo lamented the current state of engine suppliers and went as far as to say that they are damaging the sport.

All F1 teams use 1.6L V6 turbo engines, however several manufacturers – notably Renault and Honda – have struggled to master the power units since their inception in 2014. It has been this struggle that has ultimately forced Renault’s hand amid growing, and very public tensions with main partner Red Bull.

The new turbo era’s powerhouses Mercedes and Ferrari’s intention to supply on one customer team each has left Ecclestone scratching his head in search of a solution that will keep all teams on the grid in the future.

But regarding the idea of V8s, the 84 year-old is adamant that public consultation is not necessary, adding to his statement he made to Russia Today earlier this month that ‘democracy is not needed in F1’.

“I don’t think we should get consent from the teams,” he told The Independent.

“I think we should just do it and say to them, ‘If you don’t like it you can go to arbitration’. We could get the V8s back next year. People can build them in no time so we ought to do it.

“If Ferrari only agreed to supply one customer engine, Mercedes only agreed to supply one, nobody would have any engines. That’s exactly what the situation is.

“We need an independent engine supplier. I’ve been on about this now for a year and a half.”

 

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S01E01 Front Row – Scotland v Italy Podcast

Scotland cruised to a commanding 48-7 victory over Italy at BT Murrayfield, scoring seven tries in front of a nearly 44,000 strong crowd. Vern Cotter rung 14 changes to the starting squad that beat Italy 16-12 in Turin last week for the clash in Edinburgh.

These changes seemed to work early on but it was the sole survivor from Italy, Sean Lamont, who scored the opening try.

A pin-point accurate kick from out-half Finn Russell put the winger in at the corner.

Italy replied with a try of their own through Exeter centre Michel Campagnaro. A chip into space from Tommaso Allan was poorly fielded in the in-goal area by Scotland, leaving Camapgnaro free to touch down.

With Italian flanker Francesco Minto sinbinned after repeated infringements, the home side exploited their numerical advantage and scored their second try through John Barclay.

Scotland extended their advantage early in the second half with a Tim Visser try. The Dutch-born winger scored the first of his brace after a sumptuous floating pass from Russell.

Italy continued to struggle at scrum-time and when they did secure much sought after ball, they were largely unable to do anything with it. Testament to that was Quintin Geldenhuys loose pass finding the hands of Lamont who intercepted to race in for his second.

Scotland finished off the match in style with two more tries in the closing seven minutes. Visser bagged his second after an interception while Mark Bennett completed his return from injury with a final minute score.

Justin Wilson – a rare talent and humble being lost

For the second time in as many months, the motorsport world is in mourning. British Indycar driver Justin Wilson tragically lost his life as a result of head injuries sustained in Sunday’s 500-mile race at Pocono.

The ex-Formula 1 driver was hit on the helmet by the detached nose-cone section of the Ganassi car of Sage Karam, who had crashed out the lead of Sunday’s race. Wilson was immediately airlifted to Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital with ‘severe head injuries’. He never woke and succumbed to his injuries a day later.

Standing at 6ft4″, Wilson was a prominent figure in motorsport and a much loved personality wherever he drove. Growing up with dyslexia, there would be plenty more hurdles along the way to a hard-earned, solitary year in Formula 1. Once claimed to be ‘too tall’ to be successful in single seaters, Wilson won the inaugural Formula Palmer Audi championship in 1998 before claiming the FIA Formula 3000 title in 2001.

This feat was a far distance from his upbringing in Sheffield and after a year of racing in the World Series by Nissan in 2002, Wilson finally made it to the top level, securing a Minardi F1 spot for the 2003 season.

In a poor car, Wilson had few chances to impress at the back, but his performances were good enough to catch the attention of Jaguar who had parted company with Brazilian Anotnio Pizzonia, who Wilson raced against in F3000 two years before.

He was paired with Mark Webber, and after getting to grips with the new machinery, he scored his first and only point at the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. A circuit he would return to many more times in his career.

That was because Jaguar had chosen to replace Wilson for the 2004 season, instead taking on Austrian Christian Klien, who brought substantial financial backing from Red Bull. Wilson was now an F1 reject, with just a single point to show for an immense talent and potential.

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He ended up in ChampCar (formerly CART) with Conquest Racing. He raced the full season and showed enough speed to land him a competitive ride in the up-and-coming RuSport team for the following year. Despite failing to get the plum seat at the right time, Wilson finally showed the racing world his worth by taking his first win in the series in Toronto. He added a second by season’s end in Mexico City and finished third in the series behind Oriol Servia and title winner Sebastien Bourdais.

Bourdais was dominant in 2006, but Wilson finished best-of-the-rest in second. He took another win – this time in Edmonton, Alberta – and finished second five times, his most consistent season in the series to date.

More wins came in the following two years as Wilson made his Indycar debut as Champcar finally merged with its open-wheel cousins in 2008. Now driving for Newman-Haas-Lanigan, he took a popular win in Belle Isle, Detroit. His most popular win though came in 2009 when he took the unfancied Dale Coyne Racing team to victory at Watkins Glen, against the odds. Another, final victory came in Texas three years ago with the same team.

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Justin Wilson was a fierce, honest and fair racing driver. Kind and humble, he was appreciated by almost every motorsport personality who had the pleasure of meeting him. Despite approaching his 40s, Wilson never lost his speed and this was proven by finishing second to Graham Rahal in Mid Ohio, the last race before his death.

He was also very versatile and competed in a handful of different categories, notably winning the 2012 Daytona 24 Hours alongside former ChampCar team-mate AJ Allmendinger. Additionally, he raced in FIA GT, Formula E, Le Mans 24 Hours and V8 Supercars in Australia.

Wilson will leave an irreplacable void in the sport, and along with compatriot Dan Wheldon, his death will be hard to accept and his life, even harder to forget.

All thoughts are with Justin’s family – his wife Julia, his two children and his brother Stefan.

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Jules Bianchi 1989-2015

Had it not been for a large patch of standing water at the Dunlop Curve, or the positioning of a large recovery vehicle attending to Adrian Sutil’s stranded Sauber, Formula 1 may not be talking about the first fatality for 21 years.

But such was fate on that Sunday afternoon, 5 October 2014 at the Suzuka Circuit, that we must unbearably face this gut-wrenching fact.

Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 Team

Jules Bianchi’s tragic and untimely death, caused as a result of severe head injuries sustained after hitting said recovery vehicle is a stark reminder that disaster lurks round the corner everywhere we go. For this fate to happen to anyone is heartbreaking enough, let alone a 25 year-old with an unquestionable desire and humility, a warm omnipresent smile and an undeniable amount of talent and potential.

Born in Nice on August 3 1989 to parents Philippe and Christine, Jules was destined to be a racing driver. It was in his blood. Great-uncle Lucien famously scored a podium finish at the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix. He too would lose his life doing what he loved, after a crash preparing for the Le Mans 24 Hour race the following year.

His Grandfather Mauro also raced, in GTs and then in three non-F1 championship events.

After starting in Go-Karts at the age of six, Bianchi quickly found success and by 17, he partnered with Nicolas Todt who would manage him until his accident.

He left karts at 17 to join French Formula Renault with SG Formula. He won the title comfortably from nearest rival Mathieu Arzeno with five wins. From then, the route to the top was beckoning with increasing pace.

Bianchi then joined ART in Formula 3 Euroseries. It was then beginning of a successful relationship for the team run by manager Todt. Winning the Zolder F3 Masters in his debut year, he went on to take the title in 2009 with a round to spare.

Podium: race winner and champion Jules Bianchi, ART Grand Prix Dallara F308 Mercedes

The same year as his breakthrough F3 triumph, Bianchi was signed up to the Ferrari driver academy programme. Here he got his first taste of F1 machinery and in the coming years would test for the Scuderia on numerous occasions.

Jules Bianchi, test driver, Scuderia Ferrari

Two seasons in GP2 then followed and although he never won that series, he left his mark for F1 bosses in impressive fashion in 2011. His now famous battle with Racing Engineering’s Christian Vietoris for the lead of the Silverstone feature race is testament to the skill and respect Bianchi showed throughout his career. Running side-by-side in an at-the-time slower car and always fighting back proved the tenacity of the Frenchman.

It was this tenacity that was so evident three years later in his battle for life.

A year in Formula Renault 3.5 and Bianchi was once again fighting for the championship. Losing out controversially to Dutchman Robin Frijns, Bianchi was nevertheless rewarded with race seat in Formula One with Marussia alongside Britain’s Max Chilton.

Starting your career at an noncompetitive team is always difficult, particularly when you have talent in abundance like Bianchi. Still, the smile would never disappear for he knew a good job done would reap rewards down the line. He had Ferrari’s backing and then chairman Luca di Montezemolo has since revealed that Bianchi had indeed been selected to drive for the team when the opportunity was there. He was their hope and their project. Ferrari would teach him and the Niçois would deliver.

A year on and Marussia finally scored their first championship points, courtesy of Bianchi’s 9th placed finish in the Monaco Grand Prix. The exaltation of their first points in their history and an estimated bonus of $30 million for the 2015 season made sure Bianchi’s name went down in history.

Jules Bianchi, and the Marussia F1 Team celebrate his and the team's first ever F1 points with his ninth place finish

But alas, the exaltation was replaced with sheer agony and fear come October, The details of his horrific crash have been reported and repeated and need not be divulged once more. Bianchi suffered a difuse axonal injury – the most severe brain trauma the human being can suffer. The chances of survival are slim in most cases, and those of any meaningful recovery even lower still.

The fact that Bianchi was able to battle so hard for these arduous nine months was another sign of the true fighter that lay within the Frenchman. Fighting right until the end like he always did, Jules Bianchi will always be remembered for his outgoing personality, his fantastic smile, his fierce competitiveness, his respect on and off the track among his peers and his immense speed and talent.

A true racer has been lost. F1, as Bernie Ecclestone says, must never let this happen again.

Adieu Jules

F1 driver movement set to explode amid Bottas/Ferrari deal

Valtteri Bottas’ long speculated potential move to Ferrari is bound to set pulses racing – if you pardon the pun. Not just in Maranello, but for at least four other teams as the F1 silly season begins to get serious.

That is, because as soon as Ferrari announce their second driver for the 2016 season – around 31 July when their option on Kimi Raikkonen runs out – there will be little time to keep up with driver movements.

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So where is the biggest shifting and shaping going to take place? Current Williams and Ferrari spots are a good place to begin, but the lineups of teams further down the grid appear tricky at best to predict.

Nasr to make Williams return?

If the 25 year-old Finn is to jump ship as predicted by Italian publication Corriere dello Sport, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr is heavily tipped to move back to Williams – where he carried out test and reserve duties last season.

Bottas is thought to have agreed a €12 million per year deal with the Maranello squad as a replacement for countryman Kimi Raikkonen. The deal is unconfirmed but is expected to be announced around the time of Raikkonen’s option on his contract running out (31 July).

It is believed that the Brazilian has been in talks of a possible return to the Grove team ever since rumours began to circulate over Bottas’ future. A race seat would both make sense and be meritted for the former British F3 champion and GP2 Series race winner after an impressive start to his F1 career.

Raikkonen heading for the exit?

Despite a more encouraging start to 2015 for Raikkonen, it seems the Finn is once again on a slippery slope. His impressive performance in the Bahrain Grand Prix in April – where he finished a close second to Lewis Hamilton – certainly pleased new Ferrari chief Maurizio Arrivabene. But since then his form has wavered and has not had the same level of consistency as illustrious team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

Arrivabene has repeatedly told the media that Raikkonen’s future is determined by performances. The Finn holds the cards to his Ferrari future, but the 31 July deadline – for the 1 year contract extension option the team holds over Raikkonen – is approaching at an uncontrollable pace.

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If Raikkonen does leave Ferrari for the second time in his career, staying in F1 is looking increasingly less likely. Raikkonen may find other ventures outside the sport – perhaps a crack at Le Mans. Switching to a new team is improbable. The 35 year-old needs a competitive team to remain interested. Mercedes is out of the question while a move to Williams may be possible if they pass up on Nasr. Gene Haas’ new team – with Ferrari engineering and engine – is an outside bet, although McLaren Honda have more chance of winning a race this year than Kimi joining aboard.

The curious case of Nico Hülkenberg

Since entering Formula One, the German has struggled to secure a deserved top seat in the sport. Often linked with Ferrari, Hülkenberg has been anchored to the midfield with Williams, Force India and Sauber respectively. Winning the Le Mans 24 Hours on his first attempt with Porsche has helped increase his resume. However, the Gods of the sport seem to have deserted him once more.

So what does he do?

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The smart man says he should stay at Force India, where both he and team-mate Sergio Pérez are beginning to flourish in the middle of the year. The new updates are bringing more performance and Hülkenberg remains confident of further improvements.

The upcoming Haas project has also linked the German with a change of scenery. Recent history shows that a fresh start will not be easy – ask Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli. It remains to be seen whether this is something Hülkenberg wishes to pursue.

The alternative is a future away from F1. Hülkenberg admitted that his experience with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) 6 Hours of Spa and Le Mans had whetted his appitite for endurance racing. He failed to rule out a move to the series and by ‘keeping his 2016 options open’, the move towards a move remains highly possible.

McLaren’s dillema – part two

Not for the first time, McLaren find themselves in a tricky situation. Under contract they already have two F1 world champions in race seats, a Formula Renault 3.5 series winner and 2014 F1 driver Kevin Magnussen and GP2 Series leader Stoffel Vandoorne.

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Magnussen and Vandoorne are the stars of the future with the latter creating a storm in GP2 this season, winning four out of five feature races. However, unless McLaren can land one – if not both – of these drivers at another team, a further year as test and reserve driver seems probable.

That is, if the Woking team retain both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

Button narrowly secured his 2015 seat ahead of Magnussen last December after frantic negotiations within the team. His seat is not guaranteed for next season which may pave the way for either Magnussen or Vandoorne to step up to the team.

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Either way, both the Dane and the Belgian will remain part of the McLaren setup. If Button leaves, sportscars may prove too attractive to turn down for the 2009 world champion.

Formula 3: series risks damaging credibility amidst driving standards crisis

There is no escaping the fact that Formula Three plays a crucial role in forming our F1 drivers of the future. The training ground of champions has witnessed some of the best drivers breaking through.

7 Charles Leclerc, Van Amersfoort Racing Dallara Volkswagen

2015 is witnessing some of the worst.

In terms of speed and talent in navigating a circuit, there is everything to suggest that this year’s crop has potential Grand Prix talent. But racecraft, logic and maturity lacks in such alarming quantities that the Formula 3 Europe series is a dangerous place to be in 2015.

The last 12 years have seen over 55 drivers participate in Formula One in one sense or another. Whether it be a race drive or test sessions, the building blocks were established in F3. In the same period, 14 Grand Prix winners have been created due to Formula Three as well as four World Champions.

There are few drivers in the 2015 Formula Three European series that can make it into the top flight, let alone win races and championships. The top four in the standings, Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovanazzi, Felix Rosenqvist and Jake Dennis look the real deal. They have racecraft, precision, unquestionable speed and common sense.

Start: Felix Rosenqvist, Prema Powerteam Dallara Mercedes-Benz leads

Rosenqvist is perhaps the best all round driver in the series. Having spent six years in F3, he is bound to be. Luck has never quite been on the Swede’s side but the consistency, technical and race nous as well as respect has always been present.

Monegasque Leclerc is only 19, but his speed and talent is years beyond the youngster. He has poise and panache, just like Italian title challenger Antonio Giovanazzi – despite the latter’s Latin flamboyance getting the better of him on occasions.

And Dennis is the product of steady progress. Unspectacular in 2014 while he built confidence in the car and series, the young Briton has become a multiple race winner and has the pace to challenge the front runners.

Lance Stroll, Prema Powerteam Dallara Mercedes-Benz crashed in the gravel

The same cannot, unfortunately be said about the rest. As television commentator David Addison said in the wake of a spate of high speed crashes at Spa last month, “this isn’t the PlayStation, this is real life.”

A series of frightening crashes at the Monza event, which saw Michele Berreta tipped into a sickening barrel roll at the first chicane and Canadian Ferrari protege Lance Stroll launched into the air at Curve Grande saw the FIA summon all drivers to an emergency briefing in an attempt to curb poor driving.

This was not adhered to and the following round at Spa saw yet more idiocy. Stroll the culprit again for an aggressive move under braking for Les Combes shoved Gustavo Menezes flying into the air. The American was lucky to not hit the inside barrier head first as his Carlin car smashed back down to Earth with shuddering ferocity, breaking the roll hoop upon landing. Stroll was banned for a one race as a result.

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And all the way down the field, drivers were trying to win the race on the opening laps and Rosenqvist, a series veteran finally lost the will to live, and more significantly, his faith in his opponents.

“I can officially state that I’ve lost all my trust of other drivers. This is not racing, its dangerous,” the Swede tweeted after a tumultuous weekend in Belgium.

“To be perfectly honest, I think these are the worst driving standards I have ever experienced,” said the 23-year-old, who is in his sixth season of F3.

“It is just impossible to race among some of the guys out there, and it doesn’t matter how cautious you are; I was extremely careful in the final race and still got spun around by a driver who had just been handed a drive-through penalty.

“It’s such a shame this is happening, because the championship is fantastic and the organisers are trying their best to address the issues.”

Yet try as they might, the organisers have no say in how the race is run once the lights go out. Telling drivers what to do in briefings before the race is one thing, but something is intrinsically warped in the mindset of these young drivers.

Is the pressure to perform so prominent that they have to take huge risks to win? Is it a greed to win at all costs? Selfishness or lack of respect?

The answer is not clear-cut, nor is it something we will find out any time soon. But the FIA and the drivers need to knock their heads together and calm down before we talk about fatalities.

There seems to be an apparent lack of mutual respect between some drivers. Changing line in the braking zone is one of the regulations that all drivers learn, regardless of series. Weaving back and forth to defend a position is indoctrinated to even the humblest of go-karters. So why do we see this disregard in the breeding ground of F1?

One step in the right direction would be as the FIA suggests, an education programme. They need to be aware of the dangers of what they are doing. Waiting until a driver is hurt or even killed is not an option, despite that seeming like the only way they will see sense.

Drivers need to be nurtured and encouraged to race with spacial awareness, to take their time in making overtaking attempts and acceptance when being overtaken. Circuits like Spa and Monza have been and will continue to be havens for slipstreaming: so why defend like it is the last corner of the race?

Rosenqvist summed the situation up perfectly, but until all drivers are singing from the same hymn sheet, it may take more than a few months to sort out.

“Some of the new kids seem to think we’re in a video game,” he said. “It’s a wall-lined circuit with lots of slipstreaming and heavy braking zones, and I have to admit I’m feeling concerned going there.

F1 must learn from WEC, not ignore it

Bernie Ecclestone faces a conundrum. And he doesn’t have much time to solve it.

Despite being a 24 hour ‘endurance’ race, last weekend’s Le Mans classic provided more excitement, more sprint racing and more reliability than the entire Formula One season to date.

Bernie Ecclestone

While F1 struggles to reach any sensible conclusion as to improve the show, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) continues to thrive. Testament to this was the announcement of Ford returning to the sport in 2016, completely bypassing the F1 route.

Their decision makes perfect sense however. It is a series of pure motorsport, where equality among the three (and a half) classes reigns supreme.

It is a manufacturer haven, and one from which F1 can take a lot of lessons. Here are three transferable regulations to help bring F1 back from an impending and irreversible doom:

Classes

WEC permits the participation of two different Le Mans Prototype (LMP1 and LMP2) and GT (GTE Pro and GTE Am) cars in the same race, with each competing for ‘class victory’. It is a race within a race and ensures there is an equal amount of incentive among every single car.

F1 needs to adopt an equivalent of LMP1 for high budget teams and a second tier, which like LMP2, requires teams to operate from a restricted budget – which they cannot exceed. Teams should be able to graduate as well as relegate themselves to either class at their choosing, thus reducing the prospect of losing manufacturers due to financial situations solely.

#17 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley

This would therefore give midfield and back-markers something tangible to compete for, rather than simply praying for a point here or there on any given weekend. Teams can, if they are quick enough, race for overall victory like the WEC.

Drivers and constructor championship points and trophies would be awarded after each race in separate podium ceremonies, while all teams and drivers practice and qualify together as one.

With the added incentive of points and trophies along with added press and advertising coverage, the introduction of classes can stem the inequality of cash distribution among the F1 teams, and more importantly, help attracted new ones.

Engine groups – Hybrids v Non Hybrids

Engine regulations in the WEC are strict but demand excellent efficiency through relevant technology. The majority of LMP1 cars are required to run Hybrid engines and are limited to just five for the whole season. The cost of the powerplants are such that making them as durable as possible is but the only option.

New manufacturers entering the sport have more room for adaption and have seven for their first season.

Those not using the Hybrid engines have two engines per race weekend.

#18 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid

The fact that Porsche managed to complete 24 hours of sprint racing – along with a combined six hours of qualifying and four of practice – without blowing a single engine baffles many F1 fans, who are now resigned to the customary Renault or Honda V6 Turbos dismantling with the equivalent of just a handful of laps under their belt.

Hybrids also have more relevance than the current F1 engine regulations. The emphasis is on the mix between fuel power and reusable energy. F1 has exploited Energy Recovery System (ERS) in its various guises since 2009. At the top of LMP1, ERS generation is open. This has seen rapid innovation in how energy is gathered, stored and redistributed. Toyota uses supercapacitors whereas Nissan and Porsche use batteries.

Innovation pushes boundaries, and boundaries are broken with money. The ‘half class’ in LMP1 which makes up the ‘three and a half’ mentioned earlier, does not use Hybrid engines and run on a much tighter budget.

If Bernie Ecclestone wants to make F1 more relevant with its road car technology, then Hybrids are the way to go. Whether the F1 supremo wants to take note of the success of WEC let alone learn from it, is his prerogative.

Atmosphere and fan interaction

Le Mans dishes up the absolute best of sportscar racing. The atmosphere is second to none. The event unbelievably lasts a whole week and the cars, instead of going deep into parc fermé late at night, are scrutineered in the middle of the town centre. And it is not the only place where you can get within inches of touching the cars.

Tuesday before the race, fans are given unfettered access to the track, paddock and pitlane and can meet their idols – 56 of them – for autographs and photos. Fan forums, like in F1 are very well attended as well.

Fans at the autograph session

Back in the town centre on Friday, it is the drivers parade and another chance to grab a selfie with the likely winners. Last weekend, it was completely natural to see Audi drivers André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler up on perches throwing t-shirts to enthusiastic fans, grinning with a child-like immaturity that all fans lap up.

During the race weekend, fans can experience a similar atmosphere to that of F1, with the occasional ferris wheel and rock concerts, but there is more than that. Le Mans is a driver’s circuit and the race is attended and eaten up by pure car lovers.

Manufacturers do that. Their passion is exuded and the fans are their equal. The combination of these two make the WEC understandably irresistible. Of course, Nico Hülkenberg and Mark Webber finishing first and second on Sunday only makes F1’s crisis even more precarious.