A fair, All-American assessment of what Manor just did

Manor didn’t sign Alexander Rossi. They did sign Rio Haryanto. This is fine EVERYTHING IS FINE CALM DOWN R.J.

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Today, Manor Racing completed their driver lineup for the 2016 Formula 1 season. With new Mercedes power units, a revamped technical staff and management, and two new drivers, it’s expected to be a big year for both Manor and their drivers, the reigning DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein, and the American driver who impressed in his five race slate at the end of 2015, Alexander Rossi. They’re expected to surge up the running order this coming se-

Wait. Wait. Wait wait wait wait WAIT. Hold up. They signed WHO!? 

DAMNIT MANOR

OH GOD DAMNIT! Continue reading “A fair, All-American assessment of what Manor just did”

Adios, Pastor

There is a more complex legacy that Pastor Maldonado leaves behind in Formula 1 than just being the sport’s most prolific crasher.

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Image Credit – © Lotus F1 Team

If you’re reading this today, you now know that Pastor Maldonado is not racing for Renault F1 Team this season. And you know that we may have now seen the last of Maldonado as a Formula 1 driver.

We knew that before Renault could officially confirm Kevin Magnussen as his replacement at their team launch, because Maldonado confirmed it himself in an open statement on Twitter this Monday. A statement which almost reads like a full-on retirement speech, not just an announcement of missing one F1 campaign. He even said he’d try to come back next year, but I’m not optimistic about that.

I’ll admit that I’m way more of a fan of Pastor Maldonado, the F1 driver, than a lot of people who’ve followed the sport for any length of time into today. So for me, quite frankly? It sucks. A lot.

You see, there’s a much more complex legacy that Maldonado leaves behind in Formula 1, if this is indeed his bowing out of the sport – which is highly likely – than that of being the modern-day crash king of F1. Continue reading “Adios, Pastor”

F1 Fancy Stats: Lap 1 Baseline Retention

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This article on advanced statistics applied to Formula 1 focuses on baseline position retention after the first lap of a grand prix race. Baseline position retention is simply a measure of how often a driver is able to retain or move up from their starting position after the first lap of the race.

This statistic complements the widely-used positions gained and lost off after lap one in determining a driver’s opening-lap efficiency and effectiveness, and one of the advantages that it holds over position net gain/loss is that it fairly rewards the polesitter for executing the start properly and retaining first place after the opening lap, in general it is more if not entirely driver-dependent, and there are only two possible outcomes. Continue reading “F1 Fancy Stats: Lap 1 Baseline Retention”

A Loss Too Great

I sit here typing away, with the never-ceasing dull pain in my heart and an emptiness in my soul the likes of which I have not felt in years, trying to express my feelings about the loss of a man who was only four months older than me, yet lived a life that was infinitely more fulfilling in the short time he was with us than I could ever hope to even if I lived a hundred years.

Jules Bianchi is gone. Well and truly gone after spending the last nine months in a comatose state for nine months, his family in an unimaginable scenario wherein his state of “living” – if you can even call it that – was described as “unbearable”, “a daily torture”, and “worse than if he had died” on the afternoon of October 5th, 2014, by his own father. And yet, as the weeks turned into months spent clinging to life, as the hope of a full recovery withered into nothing, then the hope of any sort of recovery died along with it, the confirmation of his death last night still caused me to break down as if it was a sudden instance.

I lost one of my favorite drivers in Formula 1. Continue reading “A Loss Too Great”

No Longer Convinced

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I’ve once made a point in previous entries on A Motorsports Blog that I feel that the generally negative reception towards Sauber F1 Team principal and CEO Monisha Kaltenborn’s tenure in both positions since 2012 is not motivated solely by the team’s recent sharp decline in performance, but enhanced by the fact that she is the only woman of colour who has ever held a major position of leadership in Formula 1’s sixty-six year history.

In the wake of the decision of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, which ruled that Sauber’s former test driver Giedo van der Garde must now race for the team which has already signed rookie Felipe Nasr and second-year driver Marcus Ericsson to full-season deals, I no longer feel that the enhanced backlash towards Kaltenborn, her gender, and ethnic background are not somehow connected.

As covered extensively by veteran F1 reporter Adam Cooper, the terms are that Van der Garde, per the original terms of a contract he had signed in 2014 when he joined Sauber as the third driver behind Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez, is obligated to run the full 2015 season, and not either Ericsson or Nasr, who each come with their own wealthy investors behind them who can issue an appeal just as Sauber did, and it would be expedited. In Ericsson’s case, their backers already paid for him to race in 2015 with an estimated budget of as much as €60 million.

I’ve made the point that Van der Garde, in the grand scheme of the overall pool of talent of drivers that are racing, or could be racing in Formula 1, has yet to prove that his merit at the highest level on a consistent basis. Brilliant mixed-weather drives in Monaco and Belgium two years ago aside, the Dutch driver still scored below 50% in every major intra-team statistical category in 2013, against a teammate in Charles Pic who is considered by all but a small handful of avid F1 followers to be a borderline F1-caliber talent. Comparatively speaking, Felipe Nasr has accomplished way more as an F1 prospect, and Marcus Ericsson drove against far more experienced and capable teammates last year.

It’s all water under the bridge now. Van der Garde will race in Australia, and either Nasr or Ericsson will not. In the first case of a driver winning back his contractually-guaranteed race seat since Alex Caffi used his power of attorney to reinstate his seat at Footwork Grand Prix – which also deposed another Swedish driver, Stefan Johansson, in the process – Van der Garde has now been deemed justified in taking his case to the supreme court of two different countries who have both ruled in his favor. And no amount of arguing based solely on esoteric advanced sporting metrics can override a double whammy of a trans-national judicial ruling.

This is no longer about Van der Garde for me. It’s about Kaltenborn. It’s about the fact that while her team’s legal defense of why the plaintiff should not be allowed to race on the grounds of safety is full of holes, and while she is ultimately responsible for the contractual calamity that resulted in this case going to court on the week of the race, the accompanying commentary running along the lines of “I have never liked Monisha Kaltenborn and this sequence of events reinforces this opinion,” or “Monisha Kaltenborn has destroyed a once proud organization,” or “This would never happen if Peter Sauber still ran the team,” is uncomfortably commonplace, and I am no longer sure that this is not further fueled by Kaltenborn’s gender or ethnicity. Continue reading “No Longer Convinced”

Why Minardi? A RaceDepartment F1 Editorial

I wrote a little something for RaceDepartment about Minardi.

It’s been really fun contributing to them for the last few months or so, it’s a shame though that I haven’t been able to stay on top of it as much as I’d like with my extremely busy work schedule. But I hope everyone is still enjoying my contributions.

READ IT HERE

McLaren Honda’s Formula for Winning Now

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It’s not the Four Horsemen and J.J. Dillon, it’s McLaren Honda!

At first, I didn’t like the idea of McLaren demoting, or even worse, cutting ties with Kevin Magnussen just to squeeze one more year out of Jenson Button’s Formula 1 career. I didn’t like it a bit. Not even twelve months had passed before McLaren signed Sergio Perez, who by the summer break of 2012 was absolutely red-hot with three podium finishes, two genuine brushes with victory at Malaysia and Italy – hell, he was strongly being considered as a mid-season replacement for the struggling Felipe Massa at Ferrari – before they let him go because he was underperforming compared to Button in a mediocre car.

They had promoted Magnussen in Perez’s place, with all the promise that the former Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion, just the second former champion to earn a promotion to Formula 1 the very next year after Robert Kubica, would be a star of the future. That promise seemed to be fulfilled when he scored a podium finish upon his F1 debut at the Australian Grand Prix, the first driver to put it on the podium in his F1 debut since another McLaren young driver of note named…Hamilton, was it? But after his form seemed to tail off afterwards (so did McLaren as a whole after Melbourne), and Jenson Button drove toward the end of the season like, well, like his career was on the line, McLaren were seemingly ready to burn through two different drivers, both under the age of 25, in a span of twelve months just so they could keep Button and bring in Fernando Alonso, who would absolutely never, EVER come back to McLaren the way their partnership ended so acrimoniously in 2007.

You know, just like how Kimi Raikkonen would never come back to Ferrari after being bought out of the largest Formula One contract to date to make room for Alonso in 2010, and like how Nigel Mansell would never come back to Williams after announcing that he was leaving for 1993 – during the middle of his championship season in ’92 – to go to IndyCar, and like how Paul Tracy said he would never “race for hot dogs and hamburgers” in the newly-unified IndyCar Series early in 2008, only to then make a one-off months later that year – and for the Vision Racing team run by Indy Racing League founder Tony George no less, the most hated man among the very same Champ Car supporters who had for years rallied around Tracy as a hero to them beginning shortly after the 2002 Indianapolis 500.

Back to Magnussen, the idea that McLaren would let him go just one year after bringing him in to replace Perez contradicts Ron Dennis‘ patient approach with other drivers several years ago. Dennis could have fired Mika Hakkinen for failing to deliver victories from his McLaren debut in late 1993 until he actually won his first race in 1997, in the season-ending European Grand Prix at Jerez. A timespan that included a near-fatal accident in Adelaide and dozens of races in cars that didn’t have enough to win races. He didn’t fire Hakkinen. Instead, Dennis was patient with his driver, and in the next two years, Hakkinen would be World Champion both times, staging some of the most memorable duels with Michael Schumacher and Ferrari. Dennis could have also fired Kimi Raikkonen just one year into his deal with McLaren after the 2002 season. Similar to Perez and Magnussen’s struggles in their first years at McLaren, Raikkonen scored just a paltry 24 points to teammate David Coulthard‘s 41 points that included a win in Monaco. Remember also that Raikkonen was not the former Sauber driver many were expecting to get the promotion to McLaren when Mika Hakkinen retired – that would have been Nick Heidfeld, who was actually a coveted prospect of McLaren’s in Formula 3 and Formula 3000. Instead, Dennis kept Raikkonen into 2003. Raikkonen won his first race, and went a full sixteen rounds against Schumacher for the title. Two years later, he’d battle Alonso for the championship in a fast, yet fragile McLaren MP4-20, and two years after that he’d be World Champion, albeit for McLaren’s biggest rivals. Now you have a McLaren team that’s burning through promising young drivers after just one season a piece it seems, all in the effort to win big, and win now. Continue reading “McLaren Honda’s Formula for Winning Now”