Stewards' Room 2018 Been busy with house, been a bit lazy, too. Still, I've eventually decided to do a 2018 edition of Stewards' Room! Took a while to think about it, this time I'm not gonna pressure myself to write after every event, because it's not that important.
Testing wrapped at Le Castellet, where F1 returns to for something other than testing after 28 years, and F2 and GP3 visit for the first time ever. Fastest time went to Anthoine Hubert, who as ART's only returner might well be considered the favourite. Then again, people said that about Jack Aitken last year, and George Russell flattened him. Hubert also occupies the dubious niche filled by Nirei Fukuzumi at the team in 2016, namely the only driver of the four who didn't win any races. Monza was his best chance, but Russell was around, so...
Plenty of people staying put in GP3 this year compared to previous years. Most of the newbies will come during the year, I expect.
There are a few starting from the get go, so keep an eye on them in Barcelona. A few F3 graduates this year, and the question over them is have they stepped up too early, given that the series will itself be called F3 next year, when several variants merge together? Niko Kari and Dorian Boccolacci are drivers with something to prove after being Dark Mini's punchbags last year. And as with the last two years, I'm particularly rooting for Tatiana Calderon, now my favourite female racer since Penelope Pitstop, with Calderon having the obvious added advantage of being a real person. With Monza being a case of 'What Could Have Been', a podium must be her aim with Jenzer, her third team in three years. Also I predict tensions on the Women in Motorsport board between her and Carmen Jorda. Quite what Carmen is doing there is a mystery, unlike Tatiana she's hardly set the world on fire. I know who I'd rather see in an F1 car. Also, Jorda's recent remarks about Formula E v Formula 1 are an insult to Formula E, implying it's 'easier' just because there's less grunt. It looks a lot harder to me, and is only gonna get harer with the 'Gen2' car, or as I call it the Penguin Car. Gen2... Gen Too... geddit? Don't call it the Batmobile, that's predictable and boring.
Trident will likely be ART's biggest threat, though my mum doesn't appreciate them making her feel bloody old by running Jean Alesi's son Giuliano. If Mick Schumacher steps up next year to race against him, just pass the Zimmer frame...
First Russian Time were out, then they were in; Fortec were in, then they were out; in, out, in, out, fill in the rest. I make Markelov the favourite, though Rowland will be a threat, both in the championship and on track- *cough*Hungary*cough*. Makino stepping up from F3, and that's all I got. Only saw him in Macau, can't say. Latifi may challenge, Russell and Aitken might as ART know them well enough now, provided they don't take each other out. Fukuzumi stepping up from GP3 will be interesting. Is he good enough to challenge here? Not sure. Trident are a Haas B-team now with Maini and Ferrucci. I go for Maini out of those two. Everyone raves about Lando Norris. Still not feeling it. A McLaren junior, they say, but that's in danger of becoming a joke soon.
The halo's looking good on some cars now that their livery comes into play. Interested to note some people using it for aero purposes already. Also, yeah, how's that Renault engine going McLaren? Tee hee hee. Rather suggests they've got a problem more than Honda, while Toro Rosso runs perfectly reliably with them in testing. Start to worry, if they start breaking down in races, though. As many people have suggested, this raises serious questions over McLaren. If their struggles continue in races with Renault engines, then it suggests that the car and the team are a bigger part of their failure than previously thought.
Well, this is tough for me, because I don't have access to Sky's coverage for a while beyond the app, so I've got to wait for Channel 4 to provide moving footage. I've also got limited access to here. Regardless, Mercedes' gap looks depressingly large. They really are repeating history, with Hamilton slipping into the villain role occupied by Schumacher when Ferrari were in this position a decade and a half ago. It's 2004 again in as much as 2017 was 2003. A challenge to the dominance by two other teams falls short due to bad luck and reliability leading to the villain winning by just turning up in the car that wasn't the best after three years of being the best. Everyone hopes for the other two to finish the job and topple his team the following year, only for the team to have returned to having a car a second faster than the rest instead, when we get to Australia. Hope the parallel continues into 2019 then. Then it'll be 2005, and Hamilton will only win one race while two drivers who've never fought for the title before slug it out.
Of course this could all be premature. We thought this in Oz last year after practice, and Vettel shocked us all by flattening Hamilton in the race. Rain is forecast for the rest of the weekend, I'll be bold and take a punt on Golden (Red) Bulls, Verstappen.
How frustrating Ricciardo's penalty for speeding is at home. And when the stoppage occurred for such a weird reason, too. Dark Mini's started early.
In other news, yet more proof that McLaren suck and more vindication for Honda that it really wasn't their fault after all, Raikkonen and Bottas still hate each other, where the hell have Haas got that pace from, Force still wave the Indian flag in the end, and Vettel has started using Hamilton's barber.
Oh yeah, and this is f ing awesome.
Listen up, BBC and Channel 4. THAT is what a Formula One theme song should sound like. You want a thing done right, just ask Marvel.
Well, six down, six to go, and who would have thought? Not another showdown between Buemi/Renault and Di Grassi/Audi, but instead the title battle is Vergne/Techeetah v. Rosenqvist/Mahindra? I thought Rosenqvist might have a chance, but two wins and a lead for a couple of races was way beyond expectation. Also, never could anyone have guessed that Techeetah, in their last year as effectively Renault's B-team, would be the one to claim the first ever 1-2 in FE? And that was despite Lotterer's best efforts to wipe out his team mate Vergne in Chile? You could get a dangerous drinking game going now if you listen live on the app and drink every time Vergne F-bombs... 20,000 Swears Under the Radar. 'cause he's called Vergne, and... okay never mind.
Audi's fall from grace was shocking. As Autosport pointed out, just imagine if that was Mercedes in F1... then F1 would be awesome right now. In classic Schumacher/Barrichello/Ferrari style, it takes Di Grassi not being in the race for Abt to win at last, and even then he had to do it twice after yet another DQ for a technical infringement. I don't think they've gone a year without a technical DQ yet. That's at least four wins they've lost by not checking their paperwork. Must try harder, guys.
Frustrating for me, is that Renault haven't won any races yet despite Buemi still being a contender. This year's car does not suit Prost at all. Even the broadcast has now noted that this is the longest Buemi and Di Grassi have both gone without a win. The times, they are-a-changin'...
Also annoying is the change made to the Fan Boost voting system, which has been plagued by bugs, as a system designed to avoid being rigged by bots has ended up being more exposed to them instead. Even the drivers are hacked off. Change it back, please. Not being on social media means I can't vote. So to hell with that.
Sam Bird doing The Finger as he won in Hong Kong... tut tut. Hey Sam, Sebastian Vettel called, he wants his win pose back.
Edoardo Mortara throwing away a win in Hong Kong was heartbreaking, particularly as he admitted it was his own fault by trying to get the fastest lap on top instead just getting it home to claim the win. You're not in tin tops, now, Ed. He seems to have learned his lesson, though, so fair enough.
And weird moment of the year goes to the starting gantry failing, and seeing the safety car slalom around all the drivers to lead them away so the race can get going. That could have been so much worse... what if the safety car had crashed into a stationary car?
Next stop, the first race in Italy. All together now: "Fratelli d'Italia..." Only a matter of time now, before Fiat enters Ferrari into the series, no?
I think that's everything.
1. Jean Eric Vergne (Techeetah) 109
2. Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra Racing) 79
3. Sam Bird (DS Virgin Racing) 76
4. Sebastien Buemi ([sign in to see URL] Renault) 52
(Hey, Alain Prost calls it that by force of habit, I'm not gonna argue.)
1. Techeetah 127
2. Mahindra Racing 100
3. DS Virgin Racing 93
4. Jaguar 86
Well, well. As Channel 4 pointed out, 2018 started the same as 2017; Hamilton and Mercedes dominate practice and take pole, only to be outfoxed in the race by canny strategy by Vettel and Ferrari. In this race, to say that 'Hamilton was robbed' wasn't a fanboy whinge, it was an objective statement of fact. Which as a Vettel fan, makes it all the sweeter for me! Gutting for Haas, though. All that pace, and nothing to show for it. Bottas was distinctly underwhelming, Sainz worried me driving unwell, but at least he got a point, and spare a thought for Sirotkin suffering from fan-generated 'debris'.
Onward to Bahrain, then.
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 25
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 18
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 15
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer) 12
1. Ferrari 40
2. Mercedes 22
3. Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer 20
4. McLaren Renault 12
Well, well, well. I thought people including Mercedes were just kidding us saying that Ferrari had better straight line speed in Australia. After all, we don't only run in straight lines. Hamilton's extreme backing off in the closing laps was explained by him as protecting the internals, and he's been proven right by a gearbox change. Raikkonen still has a slight edge over Vettel right now, so I go for him.
I forgot to say this is my 20th year watching F1. It's incredible how I've done a complete 180 in that time. Ferrari were the enemy then, now I'm fully behind them, with my two favourites in the red cars. Then I followed McLaren. It's a distant memory from my schooldays now, seeing the shiny fancy black and white Newey-designed McLaren with Mika Hakkinen behind the wheel, as he slugged it out with Michael Schumacher's Ferrari for the title. Now, with an anonymous Vandoorne and the grid's aging rocker relying on past glories Alonso, I don't feel much for McLaren anymore.
Make it a good one for me this year, guys, please!
Re: Stewards' Room 2018 Can't remember exactly, but I think I started - meaning Finnish TV started showing F1 - 1992 or 1993.
Here it's for obvious reasons more about drivers than teams, but I was with McLaren already before Häkkinen. (Largely due their late 80's success and as I always was fan of Senna.)
I've also for various reasons always rooted for Williams.
When Räikkönen went to Ferrari, I was kind of left without a team. Renault/Benetton had always been for me about as bad as Ferrari and the couple years of Kovalainen at McLaren were rather bitter with him as Hamilton's number two. (Speaking of Kovalainen, Japan Super GT series begins this weekend. Button will be there too.)
I would have some underdogs to cheer - especially with the Finns - and when RB ruled I would side with Mercedes (for Rosberg), but I haven't had a real fav team for a decade now.