Category Archives: Formula One

F1 – Just How Good Is Daniel Ricciardo?

Much has been made of the meteoric rise of young Daniel Ricciardo this year, with Red Bull’s hottest of hot properties lighting up a Formula One World Championship dominated by Mercedes thus far.

Ricciardo is the only man to win a race, or two of them, this season with the exception of the two Mercedes drivers of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. The affable Australian has won the hearts of many in 2014 by outperforming his car in performances not unlike what we have become accustomed to seeing from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Red Bull this season have been a shadow of what they were in previous years, mostly down to the slow, unreliable Renault Power Unit giving away 50 bhp.

And yet, if Ricciardo had kept his second place in Australia and had things gone smoothly in Malaysia, where he had been fifth, he would be 44 points behind Rosberg. Or, in simpler terms, 2 race wins. He has comfortably beaten Sebastian Vettel when both have made it to the chequered flag in a large portion of races, and whilst Vettel has bore the brunt of Red Bull’s reliability issues he has simply been little match for the man from Perth. And when you consider just how easily Vettel dominated Mark Webber, you start to see just how well Ricciardo has been driving.

In what appears to have been a whirlwind of large smiles and youthful enthusiasm, Ricciardo has taken 2014 by storm after two solid years with Red Bull’s B team, Toro Rosso. There he was always a notoriously strong qualifier, whilst falling away in races often because of a poor start or the strategy constraints starting so high up put on a traditional midfield team such as the Faenza squad. Nevertheless, Red Bull knew that they had unearthed a star, and when Mark Webber passed on the mantle at the end of 2013, Ricciardo was always the likely choice over teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.

And boy weren’t Red Bull vindicated?

Ricciardo has made the transition as naturally as a caterpillar to a butterfly. A series of strong performances post-Malaysia showed the viewing public fragments of what we were going to get from him, before that elusive, if somewhat inherited win, came in Canada. He backed this up with a podium at Silverstone and an excellent recovery in Germany to finish fifth, before that breathtaking victory in Hungary in which he showed true guts and determination to pass the wily old fox of Fernando Alonso in the dying embers. Hamilton, in a much powerful Mercedes, could not do likewise. And that’s a credit to Daniel, rather than a criticism of Lewis.

Ricciardo has stated that whilst the maths says he can win the title he will do his utmost, and whilst it looks more than unlikely that he will actually take the World Championship he has certainly done his stock no harm at all. Of all the drivers this year it is he who has performed the best comparative to his car, and he who has therefore been the best pound for pound driver this year. His performances coupled with the sackfuls of honours Vettel has have made the Red Bull driver pairing the strongest, on talent alone, on this year’s Formula One grid.

The question remains, can he show the type of consistency that matches the performances of Alonso and Vettel over the last four years. If he can, then given the right car he will go on to conquer all before as Vettel and Schumacher have done before him, and we may just be witnessing the beginning of something very special indeed.

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F1 – Conspiracy Theorists Do More Harm Than Good

This year has probably been the most divisive season in Formula One since the Senna/Prost era at McLaren in the late 1980’s. That does not mean that the following driver rivalry comes anywhere close to that rivalry. The continued dominance of Mercedes means that one of Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton will win the World Driver’s Championship. That lends itself to one particular problem.

The sheer dominance of Mercedes has led to there being only two serious title contenders this year, as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg lock horns for this year’s honour. The two previously great mates have seen their relationship turn somewhat frosty as their championship battle threatens to turn ugly. Since Rosberg’s mistake (Yes, it was just a mistake) at Monaco we’ve been constantly subjected to headlines about a ‘psychological battle’, and whilst that will come into it, the psychological battle has barely gotten started yet. The sledging will come in Asia, and only then will we see the strength of each driver.

LHNR

But by far the most annoying thing about what should be a tantalising teammate battle between two magnificent is the reactions on social media of quite a number of conspiracy theorists. There are these such people on both sides, although Hamilton’s corner has no doubt been the most prominent in the social media battle of the bozo’s.

Due to Lewis’ appalling luck in recent qualifying sessions in Germany and Hungary coupled with two retirements this year, a small but albeit well-covered and ultimately now notorious bunch have decided that Mercedes, his own team, are out to get him. This defies all logic of any team top brass. Even that of Flavio Briatore, who infamously asked Nelson Piquet to back into the wall at Singapore to help out Fernando Alonso. The circumstances were completely different, although no less foul than what has been suggested.

Do these people honestly think for one moment that Mercedes would tamper with the brakes? Or cause an oil leak to set his engine on fire? Or make his electrics fail? Some of these people display the same F1 knowledge as a meerkat has about fly-fishing.

It is almost tragic that they follow our sport. Never before this year in all of the fourteen years have I seen anything like this, at anywhere near the frequency. It would be half-understandable if there was any fact behind Mercedes supporting Nico over Lewis. Last year, Nico Rosberg retired three times. Lewis Hamilton retired once. Nobody claimed foul play on the part of Mercedes last year.

This year, Lewis has had two retirements in addition to two mechanical failures in qualifying. Nico has had one gearbox failure in a race situation. The qualifying problems have in all likelihood cost him 16 points, if all of the races had ran smoothly. However, in Hungary it actually served to benefit him, simply because of when the Safety Car came out.

If he had been at the front, he would not have been able to make up ground on German in the pit stops to make the switch from Intermediates to Slick tyres. It will never be known how much Lewis cost Nico when he refused to move over for him, but again it would be foolish in the extreme to suggest it was to solely aid Nico Rosberg. Mercedes jumped the gun in giving the order as Nico was catching very quickly, but they will have been eyeing the race victory, which at that point Nico would have been in the best position to do had Lewis behaved himself. Mercedes were simply looking to get as many Constructors points as possible. Case closed.

It isn’t just one-sided, as a very small minority of Rosberg’s following were irate after his gearbox failure cost him a victory at Silverstone. However, they are nowhere near as frequent as those following the other side of the garage.

None of these people do the reputation of your average Formula One fan any good whatsoever, with outsiders now seeing the conspiracy theorists at work and guffawing with laughter. Those people will look at the conspiracy theorists (And I’m being very kind) and make the assumption that a fair amount of Formula One fans are of a similar vein. With social media, especially Twitter, now playing host to a lot of Formula One fan interactions, that could spell trouble for people wanting to get involved in future.

So, I ask those who claim foul play of Mercedes one thing. Only state so if you have concrete evidence of Mercedes deliberately hampering one of their drivers title chance. Otherwise, you do nothing to maintain the reputation of one of the most peaceful communities out there.