dinsdag 30 april 2019

Azerbaijan GP: Highs and lows

Race 1001 was held in the streets of Baku, one of the better races for the last 2 years for all sorts of reasons. This years edition was anything but exciting to be honest and felt like the first edition, which was just as boring. The most exciting bit was the damage done to Russell's car in FP1, which led to the cancellation of the rest of that session. Still, there were some highs and lows to remember during this race.

What is there to say about Mercedes? They try to convince us that they are the underdog, but after 4 1-2 finished, I'm quite convinced they are the fastest car as of right now. Ferrari should have won Bahrain, true, but they did not due to mistakes from one driver and mechanical failure for the other, but apart from that it's been easy-going for Mercedes.

A very strong result for McLaren, a double points finish for the first time in almost a year, is a strong showing of what they are capable. I do sincerely hope they can keep up on this and work their way up back to the top. They should aim for being the best of the rest and build their way back to the top of the F1.

Starting from pitlane and still manage to finish in the points. That's a performance to mention, that is for sure. Alfa Romeo seems to have made a strong car and in the hands of Kimi, they are able to grab points consistently. Let's hope they can develop like they did last year, so they can be the fourth fastest team within a few races. Kimi deserves that for sure and it would hopefully give Antonio some tools to show more of himself.

Bad weekend for the Williams team, that is for sure. They were very unlucky with the manhole cover, which cost Russell both FP1 and FP2, but were also affected by Kubica's crash in Q1. For a team that are so tight on parts and aren't in the best financial position, this was the worst possible scenario to unfold.

It hasn't been the best of weekends for Haas. For the team that aims to be fourth fastest, they are disappointing a little bit during the first few races of the season and a P8 in the constructors championship is definitely not that they had aimed for.

Not his best weekend, to be fair. His crash in Q2 ruined his race and yet again Ferrari managed to ruin his strategy to help Vettel as much as possible. He did not deserve the Driver of the day title, which should have gone to Perez or Räikkönen.

-Renault / Daniel Ricciardo:
The biggest shock was Renault. They were really off the pace for the entire weekend and for Ricciardo, it ended with a bang, literally. That was a rookie mistake and it's a good thing they have punished him with a grid penalty for the next race. Hülkenberg

dinsdag 16 april 2019

Chinese GP: Highs and lows

The Chinese Grand Prix wasn't very exciting. Anything but, really, with the only fact that it was the 1000th Grand Prix for the World Championship to be exciting. Still, there are a few highs and lows to be noted from the third race of the season.

What a recovery from Mercedes. Ferrari seemed to be extremely quick on the Friday, but on the 2 days when it mattered, Mercedes led the way and Ferrari just seemed to have lost out again. Ferrari does not seem to have the pace in most cases and reliability-wise, there is something not going properly. Leclerc being hit by problems in Bahrain and Giovinazzi hit the same kind of problems in the qualifying for the Chinese GP.

Yes, he may still have been far off the pace in comparison with Verstappen, but he did at least grab a couple of points for the team in P6 and scored the extra point for fastest lap, meaning those 3 points are now equally divided by the top 3 teams. I sincerely hope he can gain confidence with this result, as I do believe his lack of pace partially comes from the lack of confidence. He had 2 incidents during testing, which doesn't help in that concern, so let's hope he can get closer to Max the next few races and show his true potential. He has some great potential and he should be able to showcase it in the Red Bull.

Another solid weekend from Kimi Räikkönen. He did not manage to qualify in the top 10, but on race pace, he did manage to score another few points and sits in P7 in the championship. There seems to be no wear on his skills, something I wasn't too sure about, but his performances during the first 3 races have been top class, especially noting that Giovinazzi has yet to score his first points.

A stupid mistake could have cost a lot for Albon, but a sensational drive on Sunday gave him P10 and 1 extra point. It was a strong race from Alexander, which is remarkable, as he should have been in Formula E by now, instead of driving for Toro Rosso. He is definitely one of the highlights of the season so far, with 2 point-scoring finishes so far. I do still expect him to have a little dorp in performance every now and then, but that is to be expected from a rookie.

Nothing to say here, really, apart from again being over a second slower than any other car. Let's hope they can gain some time on the track soon, otherwise this really is a wasted season for the team and in that case, it may be rewarding to put their focus onto the next year and make sure they won't repeat the same mistakes they did this season. A second per lap is just a lit to make up and I'm not so sure they can, especially if others do improve as well.

How about Haas? It haas to be a disappointing weekend for Haas. They did qualify for Q3, but did not manage to put any lap time in due to all the cars being clustered in the final sector, also resulting in the Red Bulls not making their second run. It's easy to blame others, but in this case, I feel like both teams got it over themselves with extremely tight timing and perhaps a bit unlucky with cars ahead slowing down, but in the end, there is 12 minutes in the session to put in a time and even though the track is faster later on, I don't expect the track to be that much faster to stay in early on and hope you can put in 1 lap. But the biggest disappointment was the race, in which they really dropped down the order, out of the points, and so they left the Chinese GP without points in the bag.

China was also a big let down for McLaren. No McLaren in Q3 for the first time this season and both Lando and Carlos involved in an incident with Daniil Kvyat, resulting in big time loss and a race to forget for the team. That was a shame, although I did not expect them to score any points this weekend after their disappointing qualifying.

-Ferrari's management:
How must Charles Leclerc feel after all that happened during the race? He was ordered to let Sebastian Vettel by, who wasn't that much faster, and having to stay out to slow down Valtteri Bottas for Vettel. I do understand it in a way, Vettel is the more experienced of the 2 drivers, but Charles has impressed a lot more throughout the first 3 events, whereas Vettel just hasn't. Lost his podium finish in Australia to Max Verstappen, did a lot of pain to his race in Bahrain by spinning and with that eventually damaging his front wing. The team order felt so awkward, as Charles told the team he was about to pull away. If Sebastian has a few more incidents early on in the season, I'd say it's wise to support Leclerc in a possible bid for the World Championship. Sebastian has shown last year he isn't capable of handling the pressure of a title bid, having quite a few incidents whereas I can't recall that many of Hamilton, if any.

donderdag 4 april 2019

Bahrain GP 2019 Driver Ratings

Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport:
Lewis Hamilton: 8,5 Made the most out of the entire weekend. Did not have the pace in qualifying and was extremely lucky in the race, but you still need to be there to take advantage of the situation.

Valtteri Bottas: 7,5 A decent race from Valtteri, scoring his second podium finish of the year. He did not look as strong like he was in Melbourne, but consistency is what brings the results he wants and, most certainly, needs to retain his spot within the team.

Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow:
Sebastian Vettel: 4 The biggest loser of the weekend must be Sebastian. At first, being out qualified is a little bit painful, but to lose out in the race is just disappointing. He wasn't on the pace of teammate Leclerc and his spin doesn't make matters any better, to be fair. He lost the world championship last year mainly due to errors and he doesn't seem to have learned from those.

Charles Leclerc: 9 How heart-breaking was this race? Charles was by far the best driver today and he should've won the race. He started off slowly, but made up the lost terrain in just a matter of a few laps.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda:
Max Verstappen: 7,5 No podium finish for Max, which wasn't far away in the end, although that would not be a deserved podium finish at all. Both Ferrari's and Mercedes' cars were just too quick for him and to benefit from both Ferrari's would just be a little too much. Sebastian did it all to himself, but Charles deserved his podium finish more than Verstappen did. Still, he already has a better start of the season in comparison of last year, which shows he matured. And his incident with Sainz? I feel like they are both to blame in the end. Verstappen could have lifted a little more, although Sainz Jr. could have left more space for Max, as on the outside of that corner there is some extra room for Carlos to go for. Carlos his response on the radio said enough on their relationship.

Pierre Gasly: 6,5 Qualifying was a bit let down and his race was perhaps not great, but he managed to score his first points for the Red Bull team. He does need to improve in both qualifying and race, though he has expressed the fact the car doesn't suit his style right now, which could partially explain him struggling.

Renault F1 Team:
Nico Hulkenberg: 6,5 Not the best of races for the Renault team. Nico struggled in qualifying, but was on his way to secure some decent points for him and the team. We all know how that ended. And to be completely honest, I do feel like Red Bull did the right thing to change to Honda PU, whereas Renault-powered teams have already 3 retirements related to mechanical problems.

Daniel Ricciardo: 6,5 Daniel did well in qualifying, had a wrong strategy during the race, but the funniest part was him retiring within a few metres of teammate Hülkenberg. Nico and Daniel seem to perform on the same kind of level in racing, although that may be slightly early to tell.

Rich Energy Haas F1 Team:
Romain Grosjean: 4,5 Shame on Romain. First being penalized in the qualifying for blocking Norris and crashing with Stroll in the first lap of the race. These kind of performances is what makes me unsure about him, really, as it could cost the team lots of points (and perhaps even prize money) in the long run.

Kevin Magnussen: 5 Kevin's weekend wasn't much better. He qualified strongly, but dropped out of the top 10 throughout the race. Not sure if there was a problem whatsoever, but it was a disappointing weekend for the entire team.

Mclaren F1 Team:
Carlos Sainz Jr.: 6,5 A strong qualifying from Carlos, only to be compromised by damage sustained by his collision with Max during the early parts of the race. It's a shame, as the car seems to be stronger now. This year will be of great importance, as he will be the team leader with the responsibility to develop the car.

Lando Norris: 8 What to say about Lando? He just exceeds everything I expected him to do and seems to be the best-performing rookie as of right now: 2 times in Q3, combined with the points in Bahrain, make him easily the best rookie so far.

Racing Point F1:
Sergio Perez: 6,5 An ok race for Sergio, scoring his first point of the year. The team needs to pick up in terms of development, if they really want to be the fourth team again. Right now, both Renault and Haas seem to be quicker, as well as Räikkönen for Alfa Romeo.

Lance Stroll: 5,5 A disappointing race for Lance. Didn't qualify all to well and his race was ruined after a few corners. Well, good luck next time.

Alfa Romeo Racing:
Kimi Räikkönen: 7,5 Very good drive from Kimi. He seems more relaxed and performing right on the edge of what is possible, although it may be hard to judge as Antonio isn't anywhere is on his level.

Antonio Giovinazzi: 6 A decent weekend for Antonio. He did not score a point or anything like that, but he was relatively close to scoring his first point. Also, it may be harder to shine when your teammate is named Kimi Räikkönen, who is still one of the fastest drivers.

Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda:
Daniil Kvyat: 5,5 Not the best of races for Daniil, although that may also be just some bad luck. He had a moment with Antonio Giovinazzi, which has comprehended his race. He could have left some more space there, although I get why he would try it there.

Alexander Albon: 7 A good result for Alexander, scoring his first points in F1. He seemes to get the grip of the F1 car and he is impressing me with his performance in Bahrain. Yes, it's not the most difficult race, but he is the least experienced of all rookies, but shows strong pace and great consistency. I wasn't sure he deserved his seat, but right now, I must admit I'm wrong.

Williams Racing:
Robert Kubica: 6 No big errors from Robert, which is a improvement from Melbourne. But still, I am not sure he is worth his seat right now. I've seen some onboard footage from the Melbourne qualifying and the movement in the right arm is so limited, that with a bigger steering movement, especially for left-hand turns, he pushes his steering wheel up instead of keeping it in his hands. I was afraid for this problem and it seems to come true.

George Russell: 6 He beat Robert, that is all there can be said about George. It's just a shame he has nothing else to compete for, which is a shame for the F2 champion from last year.

donderdag 21 maart 2019

Australian GP 2019: Driver ratings

Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport:
Lewis Hamilton: 7,5 It was a great start for the Mercedes team, with a pole position for Lewis and a victory + fastest lap for Valtteri. Lewis got off to a slow start which possible cost him a shot on the race win. Even though, he did well and managed to fend off a charging Max Verstappen with ease.

Valtteri Bottas: 8,5 What a way to start the season. In no way, his performance can be compared to any of his performances last season. His start was just great and managed to pull a gap lap-by-lap and never was in any threat by any driver.

Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow:
Sebastian Vettel: 6,5 His qualifying was the most he could wish for, as the Mercedes guys were just way too quick. In the race, they gambled with an early stop, which eventually lost him P3 to Max Verstappen. His team might have cost him a couple of points and it could have been even more, if Charles was allowed to attack him.

Charles Leclerc: 6,5 He did what is expected of him. Grab lots of points and help the team. The team might have made a big mistake by not pitting him in the closing laps of the race, chasing a possible fastest lap for another point, but that lies on his team and not Charles. He went a little wide through turn 1 and spun in practice, but that is something to be expected for someone with just over 1 season of F1 experience.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda:
Max Verstappen: 8 He kept going on the high note he finished last season on. Qualified his car on P4, beating Leclerc in the proces, and managed to grab the last podium spot from Vettel. The team seemed to struggle in qualifying, but Verstappen took the best out of it. He might have been able to attack Lewis, but he seems to have matured and knows you will championships by consistency, instead of having highs and lows.

Pierre Gasly: 5 Pierre hasn't had the start we all hoped for. After 2 incidents in winter testing, he dropped in Q1 (by not being send out to improve his time) and only managed to finish P11, being stuck behind Kvyat for most of the race. I did not expect him to be on the same level of Max yet, but it was a little disappointing seeing him outside of the points. Melbourne might be difficult to overtake on, but whereas he couldn't, Max managed to overtake Sebastian by the 2 DRS zones on start/finish and after turn 2.

Renault F1 Team:
Nico Hulkenberg: 7,5 A strong result for the Hulk. Just missed out of Q3, but made up for it by scoring a solid P7. He scored some solid points for his team, although I'm not too sure Renault is the fourth team in line, to be fair. So his P7

Daniel Ricciardo: 5,5 What a horrible weekend for Daniel. Having his home race ruined after just 5 seconds, is just heart-breaking. He did not manage to qualify for Q3 and eventually retired in the race. Not the start he must have hoped for with his new team.

Rich Energy Haas F1 Team:
Romain Grosjean: 7 A very strong weekend for Romain, which was ruined by (another) mistake during a pitstop. You'd say you would do anything to prevent it from happening, but in the end, let's hope the Haas team improves from it again and be competitive all-year long.

Kevin Magnussen: 7,8 A stroung result for K-Mag, finishing best of the rest in P6. He was the only non-top 3 driver to finish within the same lap of the leaders, which shows how quick those cars were (mainly Bottas, of course). It's good to see Haas at least managed to score a good chunk of points in Melbourne this year, after last years disaster.

Mclaren F1 Team:
Carlos Sainz Jr.: 6 A disappointing result in qualifying, combined with a retirement in the race. This was not the race weekend Carlos might have hoped for. It's hard to judge him just on those few laps, as his qualifying could also have been due to bad timing, being unlucky (with Kubica, for instance).

Lando Norris: 7 Very good job in qualifying, being in Q3 as the only rookie. He dropped down a little in the race, but I did not even expect points in his debut race. He needs to get some more experience on that part, but it was a good start of his F1 career.

Racing Point F1:
Sergio Perez: 6,5 A good Saturday, followed by a disappointing Sunday. He lost it strategy-wise, like some other drivers did, and it cost him a point-scoring start of the season.

Lance Stroll: 7 His race was a complete opposite from his teammate. He disappointed massively during qualifying, but managed to score a couple of points in his first race for Racing Point. Still not sure if he is any better than Ocon was, but I'll give him a chance to show what he's capable of.

Alfa Romeo Racing:
Kimi Räikkönen: 7,5 A strong start for Räikkönen and Alfa Romeo. Qualified with ease in the top 10 and might possibly have done better, if his brake duct wasn't covered, which forced him to pit. Still, on his age, he does a great job performing this well. And I really hope Alfa Romeo can make the same kind of improvements like Sauber did last year.

Antonio Giovinazzi: 6,5 A decent start of his first full-time season. I did not expect him to match Kimi and he did not. His race was affected by some damage on the car, although staying out that long on tires worn out that badly, didn't help either.

Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda:
Daniil Kvyat: 7 He was outqualified by his teammate, but drove a fine race, collecting one point in the proces. He seems to be more relaxed now, compared to 1,5 seasons ago. We still have to see how he will perform the next couple of races, but apart from one little moment with Stroll, I feel like he did a fine race.

Alexander Albon: 6,5 A strong performance from the biggest rookie of the rookies. He crashed his car in practice, but apart from that, a weekend without many problems. He outqualified Kvyat and performed decent in the race, just as I expected him to do.

Williams Racing:
Robert Kubica: 3 By far, the biggest disappointment last weekend. He was way off the pace throughout the entire weekend, hit the wall entering pit lane, hit the wall out of turn 10, broke his front wing on Gasly at the start and after that, drove a lost race. He seemed to struggle for pace in the race, although I'm not entirely sure if that's due to his handicap or perhaps of all the times he had to slow down for blue flags. But overall, it was just a disappointing weekend for him.

George Russell: 6 It is really hard to rate him. The team is just way too slow for him to show any of his talent, as his only reference now is teammate Kubica. And he won that by a mile. He did fine for his first race weekend, no massive errors from his side. It's just a shame that the F2 champion can't show his true potential in the car Williams provides him with.

zondag 17 maart 2019

Australian GP 2019: My highs and lows

The 2019 F1 season has kicked off in Melbourne. It was a fascinating race, here are my personal highs and lows of the first race of the 2019 world championship.


1. Fastest lap point

Perhaps one of the best changes in years, might be the addition of rewarding a fastest lap with a point (For top 10 runners only). It gave a great motivation for drivers to keep posting fastest laps throughout the race, which in itself was a positive thing to see. Last couple of years, the last part of the race could be boring, as there was nothing for the fastest lap, whereas today we saw a great fight for that single point. Although we need to see how much value is given to this single point throughout the season, I do love the fact that the F1 is willing to test these kind of rewards.

2. Valtteri Bottas

The best race he's ever driven so far. That is how Valtteri described his victory in Melbourne. I won't judge on that quote, but it was a great showing from him. He was consistent in his times, no errors and he seemed unlike the Valtteri from 2018, which is a positive thing. The only thing I do hope, is that he is capable of keeping this going, as I did believe his 2018 was not too bad (Should have won Baku, for instance). But those problems seemed  to have it's influence on his performance last year, so I'm curious to see how he will handle trouble this year.

3. The rookies

Yes, none of the rookies scored a point. True. But I do believe they did fine: Norris, Russell and Albon out-qualified their teammates, whereas Giovinazzi (if he would be seen as rookie) struggled a little bit more comparing to Räikkönen. That isn't something to shame for, as Räikkönen is still one of the fastest drivers in the field.

Norris managed to reach Q3, but the race pace of the McLaren just wasn't that great. Albon did have a crash in practice, but did well in qualifying. And Russell is just not in the car to show how competitive he can be, he can only try to beat Kubica to at least show he can beat someone as talented as Robert.


1. Ferrari

Perhaps the biggest letdown so far, is Ferrari. They seemed very fast in testing, but were not even close to Mercedes during qualifying and even lost ground to Max Verstappen in both qualifying and the race. And not to underestimate the performance of the Dutchman, but I did not expect him to be able to beat both Ferrari's on race pace. Ferrari gambled and lost and seem to still miss out on strategic level. They were half a minute ahead of Magnussen in P6 and they might have had pitted Leclerc to chase the point for fastest lap. Now, it went to rival Mercedes, which might be an expensive mistake at the end of the season.

2. Williams & Kubica

Was it a surprise? Definitely not. But they are not even remotely close to the rest of the field. Qualifying was very close in Q1, resulting in the elimination of Gasly. But Russell was +1.3 seconds down on P18, who was Carlos Sainz Jr. It's a shame to see such a historical team struggle for pace and see them slip down more and more by the year.

And to say Williams is slow, is a understatement, but Robert Kubica's performance throughout the weekend was terrible. His little love tap against the wall outside of turn 10 wasn't a wise thing, he hit Gasly going into turn 1 and damaged his front wing, but above all he seemed to struggle for pace in the race. It is too early to say it comes from his handicap, but I never believed he recovered 100% from it and I always thought it would hamper his pace in a race. I will give him the chance to proof my wrong, but I find it hard to believe he can. He once was a very talented driver, who had a great future up ahead, but I don't see it happen anymore.
I've heard and seen people compare it to Alex Zanardi, though the impact on the driving aspect is just different: Alex lost his legs and does all the driving with his hands (Having modified cars in WTCC and in DTM last year, click here for a youtube video about his one-off DTM car.), which is in my opinion easier than being handicapped in your arm while racing an F1 car.

3. Grosjean's retirement

You'd say, as a team, you would learn from errors you make. Their double retirement in Melbourne last year was their worst weekend in their existence, and I would say you would do anything to avoid another one of those errors. And yet again, something went wrong during the pitstop for Romain, Not only did the pitstop take much longer to finish, after a couple of laps the wheel came loose and eventually led to the retirement.

vrijdag 8 februari 2019

F1 2019: 5 things I expect to happen this season

It's February, the month in which the new F1 season will start. Teams will uncover their new cars, testing will get underway in Barcelona and a couple of rookie drivers will make their debut. Looking forward to the upcoming season, these are 5 things I'm expecting to happen in 2019.

The fight between Mercedes and Ferrari to continue

One of the best things that happened in 2018, was the competition between Mercedes and Ferrari. Ferrari eventually lost that battle, but I have high hopes they will show they've learned from 2018 to improve their 2019 campaign. Promoting Binotto to lead the team could prove to be a good thing, although I'm cautious to say he's the missing link for success.

Also, I believe that replacing Räikkönen with Leclerc might help Vettel in the long run. Apart from a few moments last season (like Kimi's victory in Austin), he could not match Sebastian. I do think Charles can be a better match for Sebastian and hopefully it will trigger Sebastian to perform better (and more important: more consistent). Especially on consistency Sebastian has to improve massively to mount a title challenge in 2019: His mistakes in 2018 has cost him many points, which made it easier for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton to take both titles.

Honda to surpass Renault as third-best power unit (if not already)

2019 will be of great importance for Honda. For the first time since their comeback in 2015, they will be providing power units to 2 teams: Red Bull and Toro Rosso. This will mean they will be able to collect twice the data for development and upgrading, which is a massive advantage over the last couple of seasons.

I don't expect them to be up the field early on, but I do expect them to improve quite a lot throughout the year and will pass Renault as the third-best power unit, if not already. Renault has been down on both upgrading their power unit and the reliability of it, which will cost them this year (with also losing 1 customer team with Red Bull). Reliability-wise Honda seemed on the right way last year, although there were some moments it's still lacked of reliability. Also, they stayed with the same concept for their power unit, whereas they changed it completely after their first 2 seasons.

Kubica to underperform in 2019

One of the biggest surprises in the driver market, is the comeback of Robert Kubica with Williams. And even though I do sincerely hope he will perform better than teammate Russell, I don't expect it to happen. I'm quite sure his right arm will be a too-big-of-a-deal in F1, especially in race conditions with 1,5 hour races. I'm curious to see how he will handle tracks like Monaco and Singapore, both challenging for any drivers.

The movement in his right hand is extremely limited, which will be difficult to work around for him and the team. I do believe Kubica could be of value for the team and rookie Russell, but not in the role presented to him for 2019. I'd rather see him as driver coach for Russell and see him do simulator duties for the team. I hope he proves my wrong.

The rookies will show their potential

2019 will be the year of the talented rookies. 3 graduates from the F2 is just massive, with George Russell (Williams, loaned out), Lando Norris (McLaren) and Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso). And a possible 4th rookie, if you would count Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) as rookie.

I have the most expectations from George Russell, even though it's hard to prove yourself in a boat like the Williams car last year. Let's hope for him they will be able to do much better this year and give him the tools to show his potential. I also believe Lando Norris can be a F1 driver for many years to come, although he did get beaten by Russell in F2 last year. I'm not 100% sure about both Giovinazzi and Albon though. Giovinazzi showed great skill in Australia 2017, substituting for Wehrlein in a car he was unfamiliar with. But whereas he impressed me there, he far from did in China, where he had 2 almost identical incidents on the start/finish straight.

A great battle in midfield again

Something I'm looking forward to even more, is the potential battle in the midfield. It was one of the most exciting things in 2018 and I expect even more competition between these teams. Racing Point is financially stable, Sauber has Räikkönen to help develop the car even more, Haas with a title sponsor, McLaren got a new team boss and Williams has attracted a experienced and a talented driver.

Also, I do expect Renault to be able to break away from that midfield and getting closer to the top 3. Although i'm not sure Renault can actually reach those 3, getting closer should make it easier for them to close the gap entirely in 2020. I believe recruiting Ricciardo for Sainz Jr. is a good thing, as Ricciardo is way more experienced and overall just a better driver to have.

All these things could suggest a great year is coming. What are your expectations of the upcoming season?

donderdag 22 maart 2018

F1 2018: Wat zijn mijn verwachtingen?

De wintertests zitten erop, hét moment om te kijken welke teams ik verwacht het goed te doen en welke teams ik weinig vind imponeren.

10. Sauber

2018 wordt zeker niet het seizoen van Sauber als verrassing. Gek is het niet, na jaren van bezuinigen en zo min mogelijk doen aan ontwikkeling. Momenteel lijkt het ook het zwakste team op de grid, wat ook geen verrassing is. De belangrijkste zaak is om een solide basis neer te leggen, het team weer te laten groeien en daar hoort tijd bij. Dit seizoen is puur opbouwen: De auto ontwikkelen met de faciliteiten die er zijn en (vooral) personeel aantrekken die het mogelijk moet maken om terug te keren naar het middenveld.

Qua rijders duo is het een tweedeling: Met Ericsson is er gekozen voor financiële stabiliteit, met Charles Leclerc een toptalent dat er gestald is om te rijpen. Mijn hoop is vooral gevestigd op de debutant, daar waar Ericsson al 2 seizoenen achtereen mager presteert en puur vanwege zijn sponsoren in de F1 rijdt.

9. Williams

Een magere winter, zo mag je het wel beschrijven. Geen denderende resultaten tijdens de test en het meest werd gesproken over het niet aantrekken van Kubica voor het tweede stoeltje (maar vervolgens als reserve coureur werd aangesteld)

Williams schuift al jaren op in de rangorde. Achterwaarts, weliswaar. Waar het in het 2014 seizoen nog regelmatig wist te verrassen met podium plaatsen en een pole position, werd in het 2017 seizoen 1 podiumfinish behaald. Naast de mindere resultaten, gaat ook het gerucht dat Martini niet doorgaat als (hoofd)sponsor van het team, wat zonde zou zijn.

De coureurs bezetting is een moeilijke om te beoordelen: Lance Stroll liet vorig jaar een aantal mooie dingen zien, maar is te onervaren om het team op sleeptouw te nemen, daar waar Sirotkin mag debuteren als Formule 1 coureur na een aantal seizoenen in de GP2/F2.

8. Force India

Force India zal een minder 2018 gaan hebben ten opzichte van de afgelopen 2 seizoenen. Ze lijken zelf minder competitief te zijn, maar hebben daarnaast de pech dat andere teams zich sneller ontwikkelen dan zijzelf. De auto lijkt in veel opzichten op een doorontwikkeling om kosten te besparen en dat kan een verkeerde keuze blijken te zijn. Ze hebben bij de tests niet geweldig gepresteerd en lijken hard aan de bak te moeten om hun prestaties van afgelopen jaren te evenaren.

Met Perez en Ocon hebben ze weer gekozen voor een goed duo: Met Perez een ervaren en snelle Mexicaan, met Ocon een van de grootste talenten die vorig jaar al een aantal mooie dingen heeft laten zien. Vooral van Ocon verwacht ik dit jaar veel: Vorig jaar werd hij steeds beter, als hij die lijn aan kan houden zie ik een mooie toekomst in de toekomst met (wellicht) een stoeltje bij Mercedes na dit seizoen. 

7. Toro Rosso

Het team wat ik het moeilijkst vond om te beoordelen. Ze hebben een behoorlijke winter achter de rug zonder enorme problemen, iets wat ik vooraf niet had kunnen bedenken. Vooral het feit dat Honda geen extreme problemen kende deze winter (En Toro Rosso na Ferrari en Mercedes de meeste kilometers wist te maken), was heel positief om te zien. Zul je net zien: 3 jaar bij McLaren alleen maar problemen en het dan nu allemaal op de rit krijgen bij Toro Rosso.

Het rijders duo Hartley en Gasly is er een waar ik wel wat van verwacht: Gasly werd GP2 kampioen in 2016 en vice-kampioen in de Japanse Super Formula vorig jaar, Hartley wist naam te maken in het endurance racen. Hartley krijgt het misschien nog wel het moeilijkste, maar hij heeft zeker het talent (En veel ervaring in consistent racen), iets waar hij in de Formule 1 de vruchten van zou kunnen plukken.

6. Haas

Haas zal weinig verrassend presteren: Ze moeten iets constanter worden gedurende het seizoen, maar met de ervaring van de afgelopen 2 seizoenen zal dat vermoedelijk wel gaan gebeuren. Tijdens het testen waren er geen grote problemen te zien bij Haas en waren constant in het middenveld te vinden, met hier en daar een uitschieter. 

Doel zal zijn om regelmatiger in de punten te eindigen, wat in lijn ligt met constant presteren. Met het rijders duo Grosjean en Magnussen houden ze ook vast aan een degelijk duo met ervaring, die beide een goed potje kunnen sturen. Enige nadeel van het rijders duo is dat ze beide nogal eens controversiële dingen doen, waarbij Magnussen de kroon spant. 

5. McLaren

Het team dat na 3 magere jaren moet gaan presteren dit seizoen. Ze hebben afscheid genomen van Honda en de samenwerking met Renault moet tot succes gaan leiden. De winter geeft weinig hoop tot dusver, met het minste aantal kilometers gedurende de 8 testdagen. Toch moet het ook positief worden bekeken: Er zit veel meer snelheid in de bolide en de problemen kunnen te maken hebben met wat kinderziektes die men heeft met de verandering van power unit.

De grootste schok binnen het team, was de aankondiging van Fernando Alonso om naast Formule 1 te blijven doen, ook het WEC te gaan rijden als onderdeel van het Toyota LMP1 team. Een uitdaging, maar wel iets wat ik 100% ondersteun. Naast Alonso is ook Stoffel Vandoorne onderdeel gebleven van het team uit Woking: Net als Gasly is Stoffel GP2 kampioen geweest en heeft Super Formula gereden in Japan. 

4. Renault

Het team waar ik veel verwachtingen van heb, is het team van Renault. Na een paar jaar van heropbouw, wordt het eindelijk tijd om de terugkeer naar de top te gaan maken. Vorig jaar werden er al mooie resultaten behaald, maar de daadwerkelijk stap naar de top ontbrak nog. Waar ze vorig jaar zich in de top van het middenveld wisten te plaatsen, moeten ze zich nu toch zeker wel tot de topteam van het middenveld moeten kunnen bombarderen en wellicht kunnen verrassen tijdens enkele wedstrijden. Een podium finish sluit ik op voorhand zeker niet uit, maar zal afhankelijk zijn van pech voor andere teams of veranderende weersituaties gedurende een wedstrijd.

Met een rijders duo Hülkenberg en Sainz heb je 2 jongens met veel potentie en ervaring: Nico die zo'n beetje alles won in aanloop naar de Formule 1 (en gedurende zijn F1 carrière nog de 24 uur van Le Mans) en Carlos die ook menig titel op z'n naam wist te schrijven. 

3. Red Bull Racing

Een betrouwbare winter: Iets war men de afgelopen jaren niet kon zeggen, maar wat afgelopen wintertests wel het geval was. Een paar problemen daargelaten, maar dat werd afgewisseld met dagen met 2 tot 3 Grand Prix afstanden. Naast betrouwbaarheid lijkt ook de bolide een stuk beter te zijn t.o.v. vorig jaar, waar men toen een ruime seconde te kort kwamen t.o.v. Ferrari en Mercedes. Of het al voldoende is om echt constant aan te kunnen haken, is de vraag, maar Red Bull staat er wel bekend om gedurende het seizoen goed ontwikkelingswerk te verrichten.

Het duo Ricciardo-Verstappen wordt gezien als het duo met de meeste plezier onderling, maar daar kan verandering in gaan plaatsvinden: Ze hebben samen nog niet gevochten om wereldtitels gevochten en ik denk dat daarin dit seizoen een ommekeer kan gaan brengen: Hoe gaan de mannen met elkaar om als er een WK-titel te vergeven valt? En hoe gaat het team intern om met een strijd tussen de 2 mannen? Het spreekt in Ricciardo's nadeel dat Red Bull graag Verstappen wereldkampioen ziet worden en daarnaast loopt het contract van Daniel na dit seizoen af, 

2. Ferrari

Een degelijke winter, meer valt er niet van te zeggen. De auto is betrouwbaar, maar lijkt tekort te komen ten opzichte van Mercedes. Ze zullen echt aan de bak moeten om de eerste titel sinds 2007 te gaan behalen: Vorig jaar begon het team sterk, maar kon men niet meegaan in het ontwikkelingstempo van Mercedes en Red Bull.

Met het behouden van het duo Vettel-Räikkönen, is gekozen voor consistentie in het rijders duo. Daar waar Vettel vorig jaar goed wist te presteren met een aantal overwinningen, stelde Räikkönen enigszins teleur met een aantal podiumplaatsen. Ik hoop stiekem dat Räikkönen na dit seizoen afscheid zal nemen en dat Charles Leclerc zijn plaats in mag nemen; Kimi lijkt wat scherpte te missen sinds zijn terugkeer bij Ferrari en mocht Ferrari de constructeurstitel willen winnen, moet er een snellere coureur naast Vettel aangetrokken worden.  

1. Mercedes

Het team dat toch wel favoriet is om (weer) aan de haal te gaan met beide titels. Extreem betrouwbaar en op het oog heel snel, de combinatie waarmee ze al jaren de dominante kracht zijn. De auto leek niet kapot te krijgen in de tests en dat wordt nóg belangrijker dit seizoen, met het aantal toegestane onderdelen dat nog lager ligt dan vorig seizoen.

Lewis Hamilton is daarom ook de favoriet om de rijderstitel te behouden: Hij maakt weinig fouten en is mentaal moeilijk kapot te krijgen. Daarnaast is hij gewoon een stuk constanter dan zijn concurrenten: Zo was Bottas vorig jaar op een aantal circuits wel erg sterk, maar kon dat niveau niet iedere wedstrijd tentoonspreiden. En daarmee is het over Bottas ook wel gezegd: Het is een goede coureur, maar mist dat beetje extra wat jongens als Hamilton en Vettel wel kunnen brengen. Mocht hij zich dit jaar weer heel makkelijk laten verslaan, vrees ik dat het zijn laatste seizoen bij Mercedes gaat zijn: Ze hebben talenten met jongens als Ocon en Wehrlein die ook de kans moeten krijgen en anderzijds kan het ook een rijder van het caliber Ricciardo zijn die aangetrokken gaat worden.