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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pick 6: A look at the new F1 season

With a new season upon us, here are six things I'm anticipating in F1 2014:
1. Shaking it up

New engines, new aero, new rules. The most significant changes in recent memory. Gone are the old V-8s, in their place smaller, turbocharged sixes and enhanced energy recovery systems. Changes in nose heights have led to a bunch of, admittedly, ugly noses, but the new power units and the end of the blown diffuser era look to have created torquey driver's cars, and quite likely enhance the show on the track. Some say the engines are too quiet, but I'm less concerned if they sound like the old cars than I am about being entertained. Reliability also looks to play a major role. So far, it looks like Mercedes has got it right, while Renault, and especially Red Bull, are well behind the eight ball.Somehow, it's difficult to picture Red Bull not being a half second ahead at the end of qualifying, but we'll know for sure how far off the boys from Milton Keynes are in just a few days...

 
2. Seb's Australian teammate

Sebastian Vettel, when he jumps into the newly-christened "Suzie" this weekend, will once again be ion his teammate's home turf. But for the first time in years, it won't be the prickly Mark Webber, but instead the ever-chipper Daniel Ricciardo, promoted from within from stablemates Toro Rosso. The questions are many:

  • Is Red Bull's driver program a one hit wonder? 
  • Is Ricciardo ready to step into Webber's shoes? 
  • Will the rules shakeup give him a little more time to settle in? 
  • Is he ready to make way for his teammate? 
  • If the Red Bull/Renault combination is truly that bad, will the smile come off his face? 

I, for one, think Red Bulls problems will be solved in time for it to make a serious run at the championship. Too much money, too much talent. We know Ricciardo is a decent qualifier, I think he will make a solid number 2 before the year is out.

 
3. Fire and Ice

Speaking of teammates, you have to be intrigued about how Kimi and Fernando are going to get on at Ferrari. We all know the history. Kimi lost interest in 2010, Fernando has had poor relationships with teammates in the past. But Kimi stayed motivated with a chance to win at Lotus, until not being paid sapped that interest. Will not be a problem at Maranello. Fernando got along fine with Massa, even when the Brazilian was closer to him in the early years, his problem at McClaren had more to do with favoritism. Again, the only favorite at Ferrai is the Team. The upshot? Now Ferrari have two guys who seem to get more out of cars than they are supposed to be capable of. With the Prancing Horse engine proving to be in between Mercedes and Renault, it isn't hard to picture Ferrari on the podium, and fighting for a win. It's an unknown, but I'll put my money on this pairing to succeed, as long as Stefano Domenicali can manage them.

 
4. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss ... 

He's back... Unhappy with the way things were going at McLaren since stepping away and leaving things in the hands of Martin Whitmarsh, Ron Dennis engineered his removal, and at least temporarily, is back in control of the F1 team. In all honesty, it isn't surprising Whitmarsh was out after last season, a truly terrible on for a team of McLaren's standards. It will be interesting to see how the team reacts after the softer Whitmarsh touch, but Dennis made it clear in an Alec Baldwin/Glengary Glen Ross-like speech, win or your fired. It'll be a blast.

 
5. A Williams resurgance 

The greatest single beneficiary of an engine switch this year appearss to be Williams, who look to have dropped Renault for Mercedes at just the right time. Also jettisoning Pastor Maldonado for the hungry veteran Felipe Massa can't help but be good for the team. Lined up with the promising young Valtteri Bottas, who proved in Austin what he was capable of, and with some brand-spanking new Martini sponsorship, a top-of-the-charts time at the final test have a lot of people talking about Williams being back where it belongs.

 
6. Simona

Simona De Silvestro is the real deal, and with the announcement that she is being groomed by Sauber, she looks to be on course to be the first woman to get a race drive in an F1 car in recent memory. I've watched her race in the states, experts have seen her in a GP2 car. She's talented, and if she gets there, it should be on merit. She is a racer first, and a female second. It will be exciting to see how things develop for her over the course of the year.

So, there you have it. All that remains is to drop the flag on what should prove to be a fascinating 2014.


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Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Williams gets a new paint job





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