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Previously on TJ13:
Verstappen to become youngest ever F1 driver
The news broke late last night of a seismic shift in the Formula One world. Max Verstappen, son of Former F1 driver Jos, was announced as the successor to Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso for the 2015 season.
The 16 year old will line-up next to Daniil Kvyat next year, smashing the record for youngest driver in Formula One – a record which was previously held by another (former) Red Bull rookie, Jaime Alguersuari. In a shock announcement on the World Champion’s Servus TV, Verstappen was walked into the studio where his identity was revealed to a round of applause.
With so much speculation in the recent weeks and months, it can hardly be a surprise that Red Bull have snapped up the youngster into their ‘family’, but it would have taken a wild daydreamer to say he would be given the seat at such a tender age. While father Jos has commented of how mature his son is, 16 is surely too young to be considering entering the cut throat world of Formula One, isn’t it?
The Dutch driver has been racing in European Formula 3 this year, taking 8 wins from 27 races, drawing plaudits from ex-racers and experts alike. Having been heavily linked with Mercedes of late, Red Bull supervisor, Helmut Marko, has overseen his induction in the junior team with the deal breaker likely to have been the accelerated promotion into the premier series.
Traditionally, proteges have been guided via Formula Renault or GP2/3 before entering the main frame in F1, but Max has been entrusted to deliver with the metamorphic rise from karting to Formula One in just a year. The only similar story to this can be that of Kimi Raikkonen, when he took the Sauber seat in 2001. Within a year Kimi found himself driving at the front of the grid for McLaren; but lightening doesn’t strike twice…
On his appointment, Verstappen said, “ever since I was 7 years old, Formula One has been my career goal.” Understandable, yet tinted with a touch of irony in the way that Max still has to wait another month before his 17th birthday. He has been forced to wait 9 years, which is miniscule when compared to some of the drivers of yesteryear who debuted well into their 30s. Even fellow countryman Giedo van der Garde was forced into waiting until 27 years young to drive a back of the field Caterham.
With 2 teenage drivers set for Toro Rosso in 2015 the future does not look bright for Carlos Sainz Jr. and Antonio Felix da Costa. The former, who had been widely tipped to take Vergne’s seat, said this on his twitter last night, “Many people asking which way im going to take, and i say the same i took at the start of the year:hard work, perserverance and… WSR title!”
Formula One will tough on young Max as he looks to continue the family name in the sport. For his sake, we can only hope that he doesn’t end up going the same way as his father and making the same mistakes…
The end is nigh for Vijay Mallya?
For months TJ13 has reported that the end could be near for Force India Team Principal (used in the loosest sense of the title) Vijay Mallya. The funds that were promised in 2013 never came to fruition which, coupled with the mid-season tyre change, saw the team slip back down the grid. A similar story is developing in 2014 as the team’s early season promise seems a far cry away as they battle for points alone, not podiums.
The Times of India reports that the UB group leader may soon be slapped with ‘Wilful defaulter’ tag, which see him forced to resign from his position at the helm of USL (United Spirits Ltd) and UBL (United Beverages Ltd). USL, which was sold to Diageo for $3 billion, are reported to be digging deep in the financial history of the company and not liking what they are finding.
The three lenders — State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and United Bank of India — who want to land Mallya with the ‘wilful defaulter’ tag are circling the powerless craft that is Vijay Mallya’s empire currently. United Bank of India’s claim is already being fought in court by Mallya, as he is expected to do with the other two claims.
The irregular financial history of UB Holdings Ltd, Mallya’s Bangalore based parent holding company is struggling to continue to carry the bankrupt Kingfisher Airlines. Indian law states that, ‘Any company with a wilful defaulter on board cannot access banks and even capital markets for funding needs.’ This would spell the end of Mallya’s involvement as a board member should a conviction be placed on him.
Where this will leave Force India is debatable, but with a returning Mexican GP just around the corner in 2015 it would be the ideal time for Carlos Slim Jr. to act on his infrequent interest in the team. Should Gutierrez’s place at Sauber come under fire, or challenged by another largely backed driver, there could be two drivers at Force India (or whatever they will be called) leading a Mexican superteam.
The future for Force India looks uncertain, with the world’s largest liquor company already involved in prolonged talks with KPMG about USL’s financial history. The coming weeks could have a profound effect on many a driver up and down the grid as they jockey for a 2015 drive. For the fans, the fun is just beginning.
Where next for JEV?
With the news that Max Verstappen will be taking his seat for 2015, the Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne is to be left without a drive for next year currently. His options are seemingly limited…with only backmarker teams left for him to potentially move onto. Caterham look likely to field a very different line-up to this year, with rumours of Andre Lotterer replacing Kamui Kobayashi for the coming race in Spa. Giedo van der Garde looks likely to step into one of the 2015 seats for Sauber, leaving a handful of drivers fighting it out for the second seat there.
At least the Frenchman has been afforded the dignity of knowing when his final race will be in Toro Rosso colours, unlike Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastian Buemi in 2011.
Rumours tip Lotterer for Caterham race debut
The F1 rumour mill is alight with speculation Caterham is taking a new race driver to this weekend’s Belgian grand prix. After Kamui Kobayashi admitted recently his race seat may not be safe in the wake of the Leafield based team’s sale and subsequent shakeup, the big rumour now is that the Japanese is set to be replaced by 2014 Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer.
Lotterer, 32, currently drives for the works Audi team, but he made his debut at the fabled 24 hour race a few years ago for Colin Kolles, Caterham’s new advisor who appointed another former driver Christijan Albers as team boss.
Twitter is alight with the speculation about Lotterer’s supposed race debut at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend after being spotted at the team’s Leafield factory, reportedly for a seat fitting.
But the news is not yet official, even for Kobayashi who told his 150,000 Twitter followers mere hours ago that he is “Absolutely ready for Belgium GP this weekend“.
German Lotterer, who was a Jaguar test driver in 2002, is a former F3 and Formula Nippon champion and currently running second in the premier Japanese open wheeler series Super Formula.
At 33 Lotterer is not a young buck anymore. Considering how Webber was struggling to master the EBD of the Red Bull and how Raikkonen is struggling to get used to the Ferrari it is difficult to see how this will end in a positive way for either Lotterer or Caterham.
Of course the German has successful experience in Hybrid/Turbo cars having driven the Le Mans Audi R18 TDI and e-tron quattro to victory 3 times in the last 4 years. But Le Mans is not F1 so the logic is not very clear here unless…. no, that’s not possible!
The Red Bull racing driver evolution
So Max Verstappen has been signed (and will race) for Red Bull in F1 next year. But what is the perquisite for a Red Bull Racing driver?
Vettel the young
Vettel the older
Max the young
Max the older? We don’t know yet but will we see the finger again?
Smedley – don’t get caught in the middle
The Belgian Grand Prix is now just 5 days away, long-awaited after the summer break, many an expert will try and predict how the cars have developed over the break when the supposed shut down occurs. Williams Head of Vehicle Performance Rob Smedley has warned the team not to get caught out by the middle sector of the Spa-Francrchamps track.
The high stright line speed of the Williams should lend itself to track set in the Ardennes forest. However, the popular figure, thanks to infamous radio call of ‘Felipe baby’, said the team will have to make sure they are not losing out too much in the middle sector where there a number of high-speed corners.
He said, “Spa is a circuit that should suit us, there is very high drag and engine sensitivity and those features will benefit us. The middle sector is something we will have to work on throughout the weekend, and in qualifying we will need to have the tyres switched on for that sector. There is always a chance for rain in Spa, so we have to be conscious of this throughout the weekend.”
Should the feared rain arrive there will be glum faces at Grove as their advantage will be significantly reduced. The high downforce of the RB cars will prove effective on slippery asphalt, also allowing for a greater speed through Eau Rouge which could prove pivotal in defending position against faster Mercedes powered cars.
A quick look back to races of recent times will show in the rain Eau Rouge required a downshift, compared to being flat out in the dry – a testament to modern Formula One cars downforce. Smedley continues, “We have had a really good start to the 2014 campaign, everyone is living and learning how to race back at the top again. The objectives within the team are clear, we want to finish as high up in the constructors table as possible.”
It’s interesting to see that all at Williams are keeping their cards close to their chest in terms of expectation this year. As Red Bull and Ferrari have both spoken of targeting second in the Constructors’ title this year, the Grove outfit seems content just to fighting at the ‘sharp’ end of the grid. Perhaps, merely an adage to how far they come since this time last year where they qualified 17th and 20th, finishing 15th and 17th.
Caterham build for the future
The overhaul at Caterham of recent times has seen the team that languishes at the back of the field as it builds for the future. Sean Walkinshaw Racing has been appointed its driver development team in the BRDC Formula 4 Championship as the reshuffle continues.
Team Principal and former Formula One driver, Christian Albers, has commented on how he feels this reaffirms the teams long-term commitment to the sport. He said, “A junior formula like BRDC F4 is the perfect scenario to start a racing career and we are very happy with this collaboration with Sean Walkinshaw Racing.”
If indeed the Formula 4 Championship is the perfect feeder series to link up with what does this say about paddock opinion of GP2/3? There is a growing trend of late where teams have looked away from the traditional route to Formula One, in favour of other lesser known series (Daniil Kvyat excluded).
Albers continued, “If the talent is there, it should be supported and with the SWR – CaterhamF1 Driver Development Programme we are assuring this happens, as well as confirming Caterham F1 Team’s interest for young drivers and offering them a development programme from the very start of their careers. We will be watching the drivers of tomorrow closely.” In a similar train of thought to a certain Helmut Marko, Albers pays homage to young drivers being given their chance in the sport – not forcing them to wait for their chance.
The part that Albers has missed out in his statement is how much cheaper it is to run a Formula 4 team, when compared to GP2 and GP3. Speaking to the press last year, Helmut Marko said, “GP2 is far too expensive. It costs €5 million per driver, while in GP3 is €600,000.” Caterham’s preferred route will cost a much more conservative £50-60,000 a year.
The BRDC Formula 4 Championship is held around the United Kingdom and has eight, three in-a-row events. The winner of the series earns a prize test with the Arden Motorsport GP3 team, held in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit. The prize for the winner is to feed the driver on a plate to Mark Webber’s Red Bull backed GP3 team, ready for the RB programme to poach if desired.
When the gloss wears off the team’s new takeover it will soon become apparent how much they are depending on Red Bull for their continued existence. One question that remains is as Red Bull line the team up as number two, what is the future for Toro Rosso?
Having tried to sell the team before, Dietrich Mateschitz could finally get rid of the sister team which does not pay for itself independently. As shown in 2011, Red Bull can buy a drive for a young hopeful, when they seated Daniel Ricciardo in an HRT to gain experience.