It’s Hit Home – The State of Play in F1

I’m not the pessimistic type, but this Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix was one the worst and most disjointed races in recent years.

After many shocking turns even before the field started the first racing lap of the season, spectators and viewers saw the competing field reduced to just 15 drivers. A mixture of injury, car failures and software issues saw the starting grid to its lowest level for an opening race since 1963. After looking at the times of qualifying on Saturday afternoon, it finally hit home to me the quite mammoth gap between the stunning time set by Lewis Hamilton, and the rear of the grid with Magnussen’s tuned down McLaren. Comparing against 2014’s Q1 times (as Q2 and Q3 was affected by rain), the times actually aren’t that bad. In 2014 Daniel Ricciardo’s quickest time was 6.2 seconds quicker than the slowest time set by Romain Grosjean, while this year 3.5 seconds seperated Lewis Hamilton from Kevin Magnussen. This should give Honda much hope – not only did Button’s McLaren finish the race (although he was two laps down, this was nothing but a minor miracle), but they have less ground to catch up on then the likes of Sauber and Lotus did in 2014.

There was a severe lack of action throughout the field in Australia, which was the only factor distracting everyone in 2014 from the sheer domination by Mercedes that had not been seen since the previous McLaren-Honda era. The combinations of lack of cars on the grid (mainly Bottas through injury and Kyvat because of engine trouble), Ferrari’s improvement with the power unit and McLaren’s immediate but temporary demise meant that the midfield is currently sparser and more spread out than in 2014. BBC commentator David Coulthard suggested that the new design of the nose cones were to partially to blame for the lack of overtaking, with the cars visibly greater effected by running in the wake created by the car in front. Suddendly DRS seems like a good solution again.

The build up to the race was dominated by the fascinating but yet scandalous battle between Sauber and Giedo van der Garde, at one point baylifts were at the gates of the paddock, ready to come in and seize Sauber’s race cars and equipment. Luckily for the good of the sport the case has been dropped by the van der Garde camp for now until they can reach a settlement, an announcement which should be released in the next couple of days. Personally I feel for van der Garde and think that he is right to try and claim back his seat or seek compensation – and he timed his legal action very carefully to ensure maximum media exposure while attempting to force Sauber into a quick reaction. The negative side to this was that it brought disrepute to both Sauber and the sport, and threatened the team’s very existence. The upgrade of the Ferrari power unit led to one of Sauber’s best performances in recent years, with Felipe Nasr finishing in fifth place – marking the highest place finish for a Brazilian on their debut. This put together with Ericcson’s eighth place meant that Sauber have already surpassed their 2014 total of zero points in the constructor’s championship, which in the long term will help to relieve some of their financial difficulties, which is what the van der Garde saga drew the spotlight onto. Granted the whole affair doesn’t seem to have been handled very well by Sauber’s management, but when a team has to ditch one ‘pay driver’ (regardless of talent) in favour of someone who brings more money in, we need to step back and view the bigger picture.

After the race Horner treated the world’s media by saying that the FIA should intervene and help balance the playing field, after again heavily criticising the Renault power unit. Dr. Helmet Marko has also suggested that Red Bull could exit the sport completely (a threat often exercised by Ferrari many times in recent years to no effect). If taken at face value then it seems that Red Bull are just bitter that their dominance has dwindled after their glorious 2009-13 spell, but there’s more to it than that. Red Bull do have a right to feel agreeived, their prior success was built around the genius of Adrian Newey and their aerodynamics, the development of which was not restricted and parts of it could easily be banned by the FIA at relatively short notice, such as the blown diffuser. Engine development however is restricted, so after Mercedes came flying out the blocks in 2014 it was going to be a tough ask to overcome them in a short period of time – with restricted development and limited testing the status quo is maintained and it is easier to hold that advantage, aero development can only go so far.

There’s additional subtext behind this. There have been whisperings that Dietrich Mateschitz wants to sell up and exit F1, with over $300m reportedly being spent by just Red Bull themselves annually, and around 1,200 staff employed by both Red Bull and Toro Rosso. This level of commitment is reviewed every year, and the point may come where they seek a buyer. With both Audi and Renualt viewing an entry to F1, this could provide the perfect opportunity for them both – Marko’s suggestion that Red Bull could exit the sport could be a ‘come and get me’ plea to Audi.

I’m hoping that in Malaysia we see some better action on track. With Bottas and Kyvat propping up the midfield, Magnussen and the Manors running we could see some more battles, plus the layout of Sepang with it’s huge straights will provide overtakes assisted by DRS at least. 

An Old Name with a New Approach – An Interview with Sam Brabham

Some names are synonymous with motorsport. Ferrari, Tyrrell, Lotus. Senna, Andretti, Villeneuve. In September another one was reborn. Project Brabham was launched in a bid to make the legendary Brabham name become a top racing team once again. The initial interest was phenomenal, with half of the funds needed to reach their first target via crowd funding raised in just two weeks. Momentum is vital for a campaign like this to continue and realise its ambitions, and David Brabham’s appearance on The F1 Show in December helped to continue that.

Autosport International was Project Brabham’s first public showcase to the motorsport community. During an interview with myself after the show, Sam Brabham – grandson of the late Sir Jack Brabham and son of project leader David, expressed how delighted he was with the response.

“Oh it was fantastic. We didn’t really know what to expect when we first decided to go. Saturday and Sunday we had so many people coming in asking about it, signing up, buying t-shirts and hats. It was quite incredible really. We had a lot people come in and say ‘we want to know more’, and then we’ve had a few people sign up since, which is good to see as well. We just wanna help people understand what we’re doing, as it’s a hard concept to wrap your head around because it’s a completely new model for racing.”

Sam Brabham talking to Formula Kart Stars at Autosport International 2015

Sam Brabham talking to Formula Kart Stars at Autosport International 2015

Sam played an active part at the stand in raising awareness and recruiting backers for Project Brabham, but that didn’t stop him from attending interviews with Formula Kart Stars and looking around the Autosport International show itself.

“We had a little bit of a look, we had like an hour and a half, me and Dad after lunch, so had a bit of a walk around. It was cool though. Some of the simulators and some of the stands, like all the old classic cars was pretty awesome as well.”

Although Silverstone will most probably come a little too early for the project, the amount raised since September has been phenomenal, and they hope to have a presence at Le Mans, and enter the WEC Championship during the second half of the season. There was also the possibility that Brabham could have entered into Formula E, but that came too soon for them.

“It was a thought I guess. But we didn’t have any basis. Didn’t have a team, don’t have premises, don’t have any of that. It’s just one of those things. We’ve got to try and figure out how are we gonna go about it. And Formula E looks great, it’s worked better than anyone thought. But the idea of the electric cars, and how all that was going to run was very different, and we weren’t ready. It’s probably a good thing we didn’t because few teams are in a bit of trouble financially, there’s a lot of driver swaps going on. Maybe in the future, when Formula E develops a bit more, for sure it’s something that I guess we’d look at. But for now, we’re just focusing on the World Endurance Championship and LMP2.”

Project Brabham has taken great pride in having close interaction with its fans, which will continue as the team takes shape. Backers will be able to contribute their ideas and suggestions that could influence the team’s future – from small things such as the livery design to what drivers and series the team should be looking at in the future. With the intense competition and rivalry in Formula One, could this practice and level of transparency carry over? Sam thinks so.

“I think it could transfer to Formula One. I think Formula One has to change first before we do that. It’s a very, very difficult series to be in, with the financial backing that Marrusia and Caterham have, it isn’t even enough to stay afloat. Even with four paying drivers they can’t carry on. Maybe in the future, but I think Formula One will have to change a bit for that to happen.”

Sam Brabham participated in four rounds of the Formula Ford championship in 2014, racing in a retro Brabham livery, claiming two wins while looking towards a potential title challenge. This was eventually thwarted by budget constraints but Sam was upbeat about his performance.

“We knew from the start of the year that it was gonna be tough. And with Dad working on the project so much, it was always gonna be a tough season. Fortunately I drove well. At each round I came close to winning, at Thruxton I did win. I bounced back at Donington which was pretty tough – in the last race throwing it off in the lead to double pole and two wins at Thruxton, which for me showed good character and showed I was capable of bouncing back after a bad situation. Then at Oulton Park it was just a shame that the suspension broke, and ended up having a massive shunt and that dented it a bit. I might have made Croft, but it was so marginal, that the crash kind of did it in, and that was it. If I was slow, and I would have come mid-pack, people probably would’ve been like oh well, there’s always next year, but considering the pace we showed and the wins we had. I guess the two other thirds of the year would have been would have been really good, and I’m confident we could have been in with a shout for the championship.”

The FIA’s new superlicence points system was released three weeks ago albeit with good intentions, but as with all things this has also raised many questions. IndyLights, DTM and the FIA’s new Formula E series have all been excluded from the points system. As a young driver with an ultimate dream of reaching Formula One, Sam is in a unique position to tell us how the introduction of the new system and the exclusion of certain series could impact a driver’s future career.

“I think in some ways it’s good. It means drivers need to do more racing, and have to do more experience and do well. Better drivers will end up getting Formula One which is good. But what it does is, it suits certain people, because people who do World Series Renault have had Sainz, Magnussen, and Gasly there last year and Bianchi. All these guys have come from World Series Renault. And who’s to say that World Series Renault isn’t any better or worse than GP2. I think they’re pretty similar. Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari wouldn’t put their young drivers in that series if they didn’t think it was good for them.”

“Yeah, you see people start going to certain championships. You got a few drivers from World Series Renault, who have moved to GP3 & GP2 purposely so they can reach that Formula One dream. If I had the funds, my ultimate goal is to become a Formula One world champion, but I’m realistic enough to know that is very, very difficult, and it’s just got a little bit harder. What’s gonna happen is, people are gonna go to the right championship, but they’re gonna have to pay more money because it’s more of a sought after series. So the prices will go up. More people paying more money will increase [costs] in that championship. So, the likelihood of you getting a good deal is gonna be harder.”

Sam’s legendary family name has not meant that his been fast tracked in any way. As a team principal his father David Brabham must remain objective at all times and can’t factor sentiment into any of the decisions that he makes that could impact the project’s future. Sam suffers from a lot of the problems that many young drivers face such as under funding and doesn’t expect a seat at Brabham to just be handed to him.

“I’d like to drive. I won’t drive this year, or even next year I don’t think. Dad’s not gonna give it to me, and I wouldn’t want it that way either. I’ll be a part of it and I’ll want to be a part of the team and be involved, go to the tests, just learn and try and gather in as much information for my own career as possible. Whether Dad goes, one – I think you’re good enough, and two – it actually works as really good PR for us, for you to be driving as well, I do wanna drive for the team. It’s a bit of a dream to drive for Brabham. I’ve driven a few Brabham cars but never competitively. I’d love to do that and win, win in your own car.”

Many thanks to both Sam and David Brabham for making this interview happen and their work at Autosport International. They, along with their colleagues and team boss Piers Phillips, were all infectious with their enthusiasm and hospitality, and as a new backer myself I, along with many others cannot wait to see how far their ambition can take them.

The Project Brabham stand at Autosport International 2015

The Project Brabham stand at Autosport International 2015

Points Mean Prizes!

Or in this case, a superlicence.

The reveal of the FIA’s new point system to award superlicences has thrown up some interesting details.

It’s hardly surprising the the points system favours the FIA championships. Naturally the governing body would want to promote their group of series over others. When Gerhard Berger became President of the FIA Single Seater Commission back in late 2011, he expressed his desire to have a clear ladder for young drivers to follow on their path to Formula One. Berger stepped down from that role at the end of 2014, but it would be hard to imagine him not having a huge role in the setup of the new super licence system. It looks like he has finally got his wish. Formula Renault 3.5 has been knocked down several pegs. What was regarded by many in the F1 paddock (including former McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh) to be the feeder series of choice for Formula One teams, has been placed below GP3, European Formula Three, and is now on a par with GP3. Formula Three’s fortunes seems to have taken a huge lift through association with the FIA, now on a par with IndyCar just below GP2. The addition of the “Future F2 Championship” caught people’s eyes, which was disbanded at the end of 2012 following a lack of entrants, the same issue that signalled the end of British F3 last year.

Two omissions from this list are curious. The first being IndyLights, the feeder series to IndyCar, which arguably should be classed the same as national F3 or F4 Championships. The second is Formula E. For such a young, experimental series, the field is very strong, with plenty of formula F1 or GP2 drivers. The quality of the field, especially at the top end, could be considered only below that of F1, WEC and IndyCar. So why hasn’t it been included? This can only work as a deterrent to the series. Drivers racing in Formula E for multiple seasons would have to accept that the possibility of gaining an F1 seat to be virtually nil. I was going to save this point for another future post, but with many viewing Formula E as the ‘F1 graveyard’, in future years the series should be trying to secure more drivers that are up and coming – ideally those on a driver development programme. The new points system works completely against that. For example, why would a young driver such as Matthew Brabham continue to race in Formula E if it has practically no impact on any future F1 career he may hope to have?

One thing this should do is somewhat reduce the amount of pay drivers coming into F1. Without winning one of the top five championships or consistently performing over a period of three years, heavily-backed drivers will not be able to simply walk into F1. Drivers such as Marcus Ericsson, Max Chilton and Estaban Gutierrez would not have made it to F1 under the new rules, but nor would many others. The likes of Button, Alonso, Massa and Raikkonen and Ricciardo would not have been granted a superlicence at the time they entered the sport, which again raises the question of ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’. Max Verstappen will forever go down as the youngest driver ever to have raced in F1 by the opening lap of the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, now the FIA have changed the rules so no driver under 18 can enter the sport, but success stories such as his and Kimi Raikkonen’s – jumping several series straight into an F1 driver are also gone.

For all it’s good intentions of trying to make sure that drivers progressing to Formula One are of the right standard and experience, you can’t help but think that they are still missing the point slightly. The reason why teams are taking on pay drivers is because of the disparity in prize funds and income distribution. To be fair to lost if those drivers tagged with the pay driver label, they have still been able to compete in the F1 field, many of us forget for all his errors that Pastor Maldonado has actually won a race, and we are a far cry from times during the 1990s when it seemed a new driver joined the back of the grid very race weekend. If this new system is to decrease the number of pay drivers entering the top tier, then teams are either going to need additional means of income, or costs will have to come down. I just hope the FIA and the Strategy Commission get on with it.

Comments are always welcome.

Why Gary?

Having a DTM driver as possibly my favourite driver in all of motorsport is a strange choice, I’ll give you that. So I thought I would give you all an insight as to why I support Mercedes DTM driver and McLaren test driver, Gary Paffett.

I am finishing this post just a hours after the final race of the DTM season, and just two days after it was announced that Gary Paffett is to stay on with the Mercedes DTM team for 2015, after Euronics have extended their partnership with the manufacturer that has just won the Formula One Constructor’s Championship. This makes Paffett the first Mercedes driver to be confirmed for the 2015 season, which I originally had fears for as McLaren will no longer be using Mercedes engines from that year onwards, nostalgically switching to Honda. I couldn’t be more happy for Gary and the Mercedes team, and I hope that 2015 will be a better season for the both of them after an extremely difficult 2014 season that has seen Mercedes rooted at the bottom of the manufacturers championship in DTM, behind BMW and Audi.

My love for F1 came back to me in the second half of 2011, not because of the season itself – Sebastian Vettel pretty much dominated proceedings and left everyone in his wake. I no longer was working on Sunday’s, so in the spare time my eyes were drawn back to the world of F1, and back to supporting Lewis Hamilton and McLaren. After signing up to receive their email newsletters and becoming a Team Member (which I still am to this day), I started reading more about what happens behind the scenes at McLaren, and the people that contribute to the ongoing development of the team. McLaren’s two test drivers at that time were Oliver Turvey and Gary Paffett, both of whom fascinated me as these were professional drivers that drove McLaren F1 cars for a living, but are for the most part hidden away from public view, with arguably little recognition.

So, it started there, admittedly as a by-product of my support of Hamilton. I attended the European Formula 3 event at Brands Hatch in May 2013 to watch Josh Hill, son of the 1996 Formula One World Champion, Damon Hill. The day proved to be a frustrating affair for Josh as the Indy layout of the Brands Hatch circuit is not the easiest to overtake on, Hill was stuck in the lower positions of the top ten, while Raffielle Marciello stormed to victory before being disqualified for a technical infringement, giving the win to team mate Lucas Auer. Formula 3 was support race to another series that day, the DTM. The pit walk was earlier that day, which I attended, and for the most part I didn’t know any of the drivers on the grid. The only two I knew of was Timo Glock, a driver who is legendary in the eyes of Lewis Hamilton fans after Brazil 2008, he left Marussia after 2012, and was now racing for BMW. The other was Paffett. I stood trackside of the starting grid as the DTM field roared into action, I remember wincing at the sheer noise of the cars, very different type of noise from what I was used to at the 2012 F1 British GP! Rockenfeller took a well deserved win that day, a win that would help him win the championship that year. My camera found it’s way towards Paffett’s car, who was receiving great support from the Brands Hatch crowd, but he race didn’t go too well, having being penalised with a drive-through, if I remember correctly many drivers including those from F3 and BRDC F4 received similar fates that day, many being pulled up for not slowing down for yellow flags on the Indy circuit.

Gary Paffett going through the Paddock Hill Bend at Brands Hatch

Gary Paffett going through the Paddock Hill Bend at Brands Hatch

The first time I met Gary was through sheer luck and coincidence. I returned to the Formula One British Grand Prix for the second year in succession in 2013, for the Friday I was mainly by myself, apart from bumping into @beth_f1 a couple of times who was keeping a close eye on the McLaren garage. Again for the second year in a row, I was lucky enough to win a paddock tour with McLaren with a group of around 15 others, I remember having to run around from the International Straight to Chapel just to make it in time. A delay in obtaining the passes meant that we entered the paddock area around 15 minutes later than planned, we were lead through the back of the paddock to the McLaren garages where I took some pictures of the cars being maintained and with the accommodating McLaren personnel. On the way back to the paddock gates is where the action happened. The drivers must have just finished all of their interviews in the media den, and before we knew it, Alonso and Massa we rushing past us. There was no point trying to stop them, they were practically past us by the time we had noticed, then we saw Paul di Resta walking along with Gary Paffett at a slower pace, at that time I thought “sod it, I’ll never get another opportunity like this again in the paddock!” I asked them both if they wouldn’t mind me having a picture with them, I’m pretty sure I made they sound like they didn’t have a choice anyway, and that was that. Poor Jenson Button must have been confused when I asked “Can I have a picture?”, he seemed to have thought that I meant just one of himself, but anyway a very enjoyable paddock tour was topped off with a stampede of drivers at the end.

Not long after the GP was the Young Driver’s Test at Silverstone, an event that meant a lot to me in many ways, that day I met some like minded enthusiasts that I am delighted to say are good friends of mine now, you can find them on Twitter as @KarlaGeorge and @liamthenry, the three of us along with @heidi_masters all ended up camping at the British Grand Prix this year in its entirety. The Young Driver’s Test also meant that I would get to see some drivers that I would not normally have the opportunity to see, such as Nicolas Prost, Susie Wolff, Davide Rigon and Gary Paffett as well. Nicolas Prost provided a little excitement for the photographers by kicking up some dust on the entry to Copse, while Geido van der Garde had a trip into the gravel in the early part of the day. Paffett’s McLaren was stuck in the garage for most of the morning with an electrical fault, leading to exclamations of “Where’s Gary?!” from me on more than one occasion. By the afternoon the fault was fixed and started it’s runs out on track, with me spending most of the time trying to get the perfect shot of the McLaren with the pit board in the same shot, a bit harder when at the time I only had a small digital camera!

Myself with Paul di Resta and Gary Paffett at the British Grand Prix in 2013

Myself with Paul di Resta and Gary Paffett at the British Grand Prix in 2013

I returned to Autosport International in January 2014, although unfortunately I was not able to attend the show for the whole weekend due to work commitments. Autosport is a show that I have always enjoyed, there’s so much to see and so many stars to meet in such a short space of time if you only attend for the one day, and on the Saturday that I attended the end of the day was already booked for the Live Action Area, I deliberately booked the latest time possible as I remember that in 2013 I booked it in the middle of the afternoon, which clashed with an autograph signing with Sir Jackie Stewart. This left the rest of the day free. Now I don’t know about most other people, but as soon as I arrived I checked three things straightaway. The itinerary for both the Autosport and the F1 Racing stands, to see who would be taking and with which stars, and the autograph session times. First thing in the morning was Marussia’s Graeme Lowdon at the F1 Racing stand, who used the media opportunity to announce that Max Chilton (who was also present with him) would be staying in with the team for a second season. After a Q&A with David Croft, Graeme and Max then posed for pictures for the waiting media, at which point a few of us (@KarlaGeorge, @SilverArrowsHAM, @Silent_F1_Fan and @beth_f1 included) made our way around to the stage exit. After exiting the stage Graeme, Max and Max’s girlfriend, Chloe Roberts, were more than happy to spend a few minutes with the fans for some autographs and pictures, it’s times like those where teams like Marussia spend time with fans that make them one of the most popular teams on the grid.

The autograph sessions in the morning included stars such as John Surtees, Allan McNish and Martin Brundle, the queue for Surtees in particular was huge, as this was a very rare opportunity for motorsport fans to get an autograph or a picture with the only man to win World Championships on both two and four wheels. Gary had two autograph sessions in the afternoon, one by himself, then with Tom Chilton later on. Naturally we attended both, Gary was in good spirits and was more than happy to sign anything we had with us, eventually both he and Tom Chilton started doodling for Beth. It was a pleasure to meet a driver that was so relaxed, down to earth, and to have a joke with. I hope the same opportunity comes up against for Autosport International 2015.

Gary Paffett takes time out to take a picture with us at Autosport International 2014

Gary Paffett takes time out to take a picture with us at Autosport International 2014

Gary Paffett has won the DTM Championship on one occasion, in 2005, and has been a runner up on four other occasions in 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2012. He remains the most successful driver in the current DTM field with 20 wins, third on the all time list, and the most successful British driver ever in the series.

Give The Kid A Break!

As I start writing this (yes, sometimes it takes me a while!), it’s been thirteen hours since my last post, which was on the subject of Max Verstappen joining the Red Bull Junior Team. In that time, or shall I say one hour later, it was announced that Toro Rosso would add the Dutchman to their race driver line up for 2015, alongside Daniel Kvyat.

In the space of just half a week since signing onto the programme, Verstappen has leapfrogged Carlos Sainz Jr, Alex Lynn and Pierre Gasly to become Red Bull’s latest Formula One driver, throwing Jean-Eric Vergne’s future in the sport into serious doubt. This immediately lead to an outpouring of sympathy for Sainz Jnr in particular, who many reckoned would replace Vergne in the Toro Rosso seat for 2015. Let’s not kid ourselves about this. All of these drivers knew what they were letting themselves in for. Firstly, unless Toro Rosso and Red Bull Racing have a higher turnover of drivers, there is no way that all of the drivers in the Junior Team can progress to F1, and that’s even assuming that Red Bull don’t sign a driver that doesn’t come from their own programme. Kimi Raikkonen for example was rumoured to be close to signing for Red Bull after Mark Webber announced his retirement, what would that have done for Daniel Ricciardo and Kvyat’s career? This is a programme that is notorious for dropping or replacing drivers at a moments notice, Beumi and Alguersuari were both sidelined after 2011, and Antonio Felix da Costa was himself leapfrogged by Kvyat into Toro Rosso’s second seat for 2014, a lot of critics said at the time that the Russian was too young for F1, and have been silent ever since.

As for Verstappen’s age, many comments posted on social media have been ironically childish. Max will be 17 years old by the time he starts the Austrslian Grand Prix in 2015, two years younger than the current holder of the record for the youngest driver, Jaime Alguersuari. In terms of capability, if Verstappen has the talent and ability to drive an F1 car, why should he wait? Vertstappen’s F1 career could have been delayed by one or two years through needlessly progressing through Formula Renault 3.5 if he wasn’t fast tracked, it would be a waste of both time and money on Red Bull’s part by it moving ahead with plans. As for his physical ability, there is a worry right now that the amount of effort and energy needed to drive an F1 car will be too much for Max to handle especially over longer race distances. But with six months to go until the start of the 2014 season and just two race weekends of Formula Three in September, it’s certain that Verstappen will be in the race simulator for hundreds of hours probably starting immediately and going over the winter break, there’s also the possibilities of standing in for Jean-Eric Vergne in FP1 in upcoming Grand Prix weekends, and will probably be participating in the Yas Marina testing days after the final race of the season. It should be from these tests that he will be able to claim his super licence.

This will be the biggest step up to Formula One for any driver since Kimi Raikkonen was moved up from Formula Renault 2000 for the 2001 season. Max Mosley at the time criticised the move to give a super licence to a driver that was so inexperienced, with Kimi only starting 23 races before his move to Sauber. By the time Verstappen drives in the Australian Grand Prix, he will have started 33 races in a more competitive series. The decision could always be taken to grant him a temporary super licence as was the case with Raikkonen.

Instead of mocking Verstappen’s age, fans should support and celebrate the latest talent in our sport. If he is to establish himself on the grid and progress to potentially become one of the best in Formula One then he will need that instead of derision.

Silverstone Destiny

Not many people get to see their favourite driver win a Grand Prix. Some fans can spend years and thousands of pounds travelling around the world supporting their favourite drivers and teams. In July I attended my third Grand Prix at Silverstone, for the third year in a row. Neither in 2012 or 2013 did Lewis Hamilton fare particularly well, in 2012 the McLaren was quite uncompetitive at that stage in the season, while the British Grand Prix of 2013 was infamous for multiple tyre failures, with Hamilton’s being the first during Sunday’s race. I felt robbed that day.

After seeing Mercedes’ dominant start to the season, I already knew that Lewis would win the British GP for a second time. Not through any mysterious precognitive knowledge that Nico Rosberg’s gearbox would fail, but just somehow feeling that it would be his time again. After the Silverstone Fan’s Forum in June a couple of good friends who I met through the sport and myself wandered around the empty International Paddock, leading into the pit lane and eventually, somehow, on to the famous podium itself. We said at the time that we had ‘reserved’ the top spot for Lewis, and how right we were!

Formula One fans mostly have a love or hate view of Lewis Hamilton – he is not the type of driver people can have a neutral view of for many reasons and that applies to British fans of the sport as well, but as Lewis was completing his final lap, the local crowd rose as one to applaud and cheer their homegrown driver. At that moment Hamilton’s move to Mercedes was completely vindicated, even followers of the sport that had the biggest of doubts about his move could doubt it anymore.

Lewis Hamilton during the final laps of the British Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton during the final laps of the British Grand Prix

Keeping It Fresh

After a childhood of following and supporting Formula One, and inevitably seeing my original favourite drivers such as Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert retire from the sport, what is it that keeps F1 fresh for me? I’ve never had much of a scientific brain, so when it comes to innovation and new technology in the sport, I’d often pass comment on it and leave that to the experts.

What I get excited about is new talent. I love to hear who the next up and coming racer is, then tracking their progress through the junior and feeder categories in the hope that they will get their change in a Formula One car. One of the first features I search for in any latest issue of F1 Racing Magazine is ‘This Boy Can Drive’, to see who the editors and columnists rate so highly for the future. An even bigger spotlight is put on these young hopefuls with the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, although to see these drivers for yourselves there is never any substitute for going to your local circuit to watch some British F3 or BRDC Formula 4. Going to watch these events live help keep championships like these going, so we can ensure that young prospects are able to get the opportunities they deserve to showcase their talents to a wider audience and progress to the next step in the ladder.

Because after our current favourites either leave or retire from Formula One, what else is there? New drivers are the lifeblood of the sport, and it saddens me when I hear of the financial troubles that some of the smaller F1 teams continue to face, forcing them to accept ‘pay drivers’ that essentially have a leg up on the rest of the competition, or teams going out of business altogether like HRT in 2012.

Part of the European F3 field at Brands Hatch in 2013

Part of the European F3 field at Brands Hatch in 2013