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Caterham confirm Kobayashi and Ericsson

Caterham F1 team have confirmed Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson as their driver pairing for the 2014 season. The announcement now confirms the whole of the F1 grid for the upcoming season.

The team also confirmed Alexander Rossi and Robin Frijns as their reserve drivers.

It is the return to F1 for Kobayashi who left the sport when he was dropped by Sauber in 2012.

“It’s a great feeling to be back as an F1 race driver and I’m really pleased it’s with Caterham,” said Kobayashi.

“Throughout all our discussions I’ve been very impressed with where they want to take the team, and how much investment has been made already to help them achieve their goals.

“I first visited the factory in Leafield just before Christmas and it’s clear how hungry the whole team is to make progress.

“From what I’ve seen, Caterham now has everything in place to progress this year and for many seasons to come.”

F1 rookie Marcus Ericsson is a Swedish driver, the first of which to race in Formula One since Stefan Johansson back in 1991, who raced in GP2 last year and finished sixth in the table.

Ericsson said: “This is a very proud day for me and everyone has helped make my F1 dream come true.

“I’ll be making the step up to F1 with Caterham in 2014 and I’m already excited about the season ahead, and the first race in Australia in particular.”

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Schumacher fighting for his life

Seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is still in a critical condition after his skiing accident on Sunday morning.

The surgeon at Grenoble University Hospital Center, where Schumacher is being treated said: “He is fighting for his life, we judge him to be in a very serious condition, we cannot tell you what the outcome will be yet.

“He was the victim of very serious trauma. He was very agitated when he arrived and we decided he was in a critical situation and he quickly went into a coma.”

The former F1 driver is currently in an artificial coma after having surgery on the right side of his head, “he is still in a coma and will be kept in a coma. Everything that has needed to be done is being done.

“He is undergoing some treatments which are limiting the damage to his brain and we are trying to release pressure in his head. He situation is critical.”

The surgeon also said that Schumacher’s life was potentially saved by the helmet he was wearing, “without the helmet he wouldn’t be here now.”

A spokesperson at the hospital confirmed that his family are by his bedside and that the hospital was unwilling to give any further medical prognosis.

Hamilton’s adverse 2013

2013 was woeful for Lewis Hamilton. The 28-year-old only had five podium appearances during 2013, a feat matched by the beleaguered 2009 season in the McLaren MP4-24. In fact it was the first time in his career that he failed to score more than one victory in a season (he managed two in ’09). Here, we aim to establish issues the world champion suffered with over the course of the 2013 F1 season.

PASTURES NEW

In January Hamilton arrived at his new base in Brackley. It is a new and wholly different environment to the one he had long become accustomed to at Woking. A factory less eminent to that of McLaren’s metallic, clean mega structure set upon a pristine, gleaming lake. New surroundings, faces and names to memorise. The only man Lewis truly knew was his team mate Nico Rosberg. Throughout their youth the two traveled and raced against each other in several junior series’. They grew up with each other. Hamilton now lives just a stones-throw away from the German after he bought an apartment last year in Monaco.

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Its not just communicating with new faces, its adapting to a completely different F1 car. No one car is the same. Lewis would have had to get used to all the different buttons on the steering wheels, the different maps the car runs, the different terminology and codes that team engineers use.

BRAKES

Mercedes used a ‘FRIC’ (Front and Rear Interconnection) suspension this year, a system which helps stabalise the cars pitch under braking and roll through corners. By the time the F1 circus headed to Europe, it was the much talked about must-have device. And whilst this helped Lewis gain lap time over his rivals, it wasn’t long before Mercedes’ rivals caught up and other problems developed.

In June, Lewis conceded that he was struggling with the brakes, in comparison to Rosberg. At McLaren, Lewis had always used Carbone Industrie. A brake material he could always rely on to give him the power to stop as late as possible in the braking zones. Late-braking was Lewis’ forte. It had a different feel to the Brembo brakes he now uses on his Mercedes car. The Brembo is more adept to braking and turning at the same time, its a driving brake.

Back in Montreal, Hamilton told the press that he wants to evolve for the long term rather than look for the short term solution: “I can change them if I want or I can just get used to them, and I prefer to grab a hold of it, get used to them and do a good job.”

He had tried going back to the factory over the summer to alter his driving style, by braking in a different manner and allowing the car to slide into a corner and progressing on the throttle: “I’ve been working in the simulator, using different techniques. There are a lot you can use: for example, lift and coast in a race situation, so instead of braking at 100m, you lift at 120m and brake at 80m; or later downshifts.”

The Brembo’s are not Lewis’ friend and it shows on track. So often this season, Lewis has been unable to attack into a braking zone, or more worryingly, he has been unable to defend himself from an overtake. He has looked far out of his comfort zone. On more than one occasion this year the Brit has been overtaken around the outside, something he had proudly boasted about never happening to him. Braking has been the biggest thorn in Lewis’ side all year long. It is yet to be seen whether Mercedes will cave into placing his much favoured Carbone Industrie brakes on his 2014 machinery.

TYRES

Tyres were the biggest talking point for the first part of the season. Many teams and drivers couldn’t make them work .Mercedes problem was the tyre not lasting long enough to do a sensible stint in the race. It was not uncommon to see a silver Mercedes on Pole for Sundays race.

The chassis was very good at generating tyre temperature straight out of the pits, so the tyres always had good heat for the first qualifying runs. However, it was tyre degradation and heat management that was the issue. There were more than a few times when we heard the team over the radio telling drivers to preserve rear wear rates or that the rears were heating up too much. Lewis’ problem was actually trying to generate temperature from the brakes, which almost ‘osmosises’ through the rims and into tyre itself.  During qualifying Hamilton could take half a lap to generate enough tyre temperature to have confidence in the car, by then he would have already lost a significant amount of time.

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Then there was the British Grand Prix. A race which Hamilton was leading comfortably until the tyre cried no more and exploded. The fault was with the kevlar belt in the rim. Hamilton wasn’t the only one to suffer that race.

Towards the second half of 2013, Pirelli brought along last years compounds for the remaining races. The Mercedes cars did not suffer with massive degradation anymore, but they did not have the raw pace of the Red Bull, which was allowed to scamper away into the distance. Fortunately Pirelli look like they will be bringing a stronger, slightly more durable compound for the 2014 season, which means cars with higher downforce will be rewarded as drivers should be able to push to the absolute maximum.

PERSONAL

Hamilton is a lot ‘stockier’ today to that of the young boy who walked into the sport back in 2007. Back then he weighed a slight 66kgs. He is clearly more muscular in the upper body and arms, and whilst this may look athletic, it comes at a massive cost. Additional weight is a Formula One designers nightmare. An extra 5kg generally will cost around two tenths of a second per lap, a huge amount in Formula One terms. Lewis now weighs 71kgs, thats 5kg more than he did seven years ago. But it is a far cry off the 58kg that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel weighs.

Lewis’ love life never seems to be out of the tabloids. It’s no secret it has affected him in the past, his emotionless celebration of Pole Position in Korea 2011 was due to his split with pop singer Nicole Scherzinger. Since then the relationship had been on and off. Lewis is an emotional driver, we hear it over the radio at races. He just needs to focus and channel his energy onto the race track.

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He has allowed personal issues to affect his racing before when he decided he no longer wanted his dad as a manager. Since then he has long craved for the family feel in his garage. Last year at McLaren he admitted that he was envious of Jenson Button’s entourage of family, friends and management. He may well require that to help him feel more relieved at the back of the silver garage.

Lewis attended a lot less sponsorship and partner events during 2013. This year was the first year where Lewis felt that the shackles were released. He was no longer required to be demure. Mercedes had no intention of holding him back or slowing him down. Less frequent sponsorship events were a driving factor in his transfer to the Silver Arrows. He had long become bored of having so many days of the year dedicated to sponsor events at McLaren.

Lewis will try and develop his driving style for next year, all the drivers will, the new engines will require it. He will have time to compare the data for braking styles between him and Rosberg over the course of 2013. He will have to go away and get leaner if he is to fight at the front. He will hope that this year is just a blip, after all  he could have had a nightmare year similar to that of former team mate Jenson Button.

Gutierrez stays at Sauber

Sauber have confirmed that Esteban Gutierrez will stay at the team for the 2014 season.

In a late announcement on Saturday, the Sauber team announced the 22-year-old Mexican will partner up with German driver Adrian Sutil for next season. The Swiss teams sponsorship deal with Mexican telecommunications company Telmex will also continue next year.

Esteban Gutierrez

Esteban Gutierrez

Despite Gutierrez’s only points of the season coming from his seventh place at the Japanese Grand Prix, Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn said the rookie deserves another chance: “Last season he experienced first-hand how hard it can be for a rookie to step into Formula 1.

“Nevertheless, throughout the season he improved significantly in qualifying as well as in the races and finished the season as the best rookie in the drivers’ championship.

“Often the results didn’t fully reflect his performances. I am confident Esteban will be able to use his experiences to gain results.”

Gutierrez said: “It was a steep learning curve last season, but by working closely with the team I was able to improve continuously. It will be my fourth year with the team, the second as a racing driver, and I feel comfortable in taking the next step.”

The news comes after a couple of week of speculation with regards to Gutierrez’s future. The young Mexican rookie had been looking around the Caterham and Marussia team factory in early December.

Sauber also announced that 18-year-old Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin will become a test driver for the team, as they look to develop his skills to become a future F1 driver. Given his lack of experience in top machinery, the Sauber deemed it too much of a risk to throw the Russian straight in at the deep end.

Less marbles in 2014?

Pirelli have announced that are trying to construct a compound of tyres which reduces the amount of marbles on track in 2014.

The move comes after current F1 drivers voiced their concerns about the amount of debris on circuits. The marbles, which are discarded pieces of rubber from the tyres, make it nigh-on impossible for drivers to commit to an overtaking manoeuvre off-line.

“The drivers certainly have commented on it and we can understand it,” said Pirelli’s motorsport boss Paul Hembery. “So it’s something that we are trying to do.”

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The Pirelli boss has acknowledged that the marbles are created through wear so the softer compound of tyre are the main culprits for creating marbles.

“We know that it’s clearly wear-related, it’s basically tearing of the tyres in some cases, certainly the super-soft and to an extent the softer tyre have not had the strength that we needed.

“You can see some races where we had almost no marbles when you are using the hard and medium, certain surfaces where it’s low abrasion. So we are working to try and improve that. The general comment from the drivers is ‘reduce marbles’.”

Paul Hembery has admitted that there is a great challenge to try and stop the Pirelli tyres discarding excess rubber.

“At the moment we’re doing a lot of work on scaling and understanding where we are with the different compounds, we wanted to try and improve things like the tear resistance of the compounds, which has a direct impact on marbles which is something we are trying to reduce for next year,” he said.

“With the increased wheelspin, that has a chance of creating more marbles compared to where we are today, so we have to increase the mechanical strength of the compounds.”

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Whether the changes to the tyre will create a different feel for the drivers, who will have a whole raft of new change and developments on their 2014 cars, is not yet known.

There has also been some concern related to the safety of marbles. On more than one occasion over the past few seasons have drivers had large chunks of rubber, either coming off the drivers car in front or from the discarded rubber on the side of the track, hitting the drivers helmet. A few drivers have said that if their visor were to be open for cooling purposes and a piece of rubber were to strike them, the result could be similar to the damage caused to Felipe Massa at Hungary in 2009, if not worse. The Brazilian’s helmet was hit by a rogue spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn GP car. Massa subsequently lost consciousness and crashed badly.

 

F1’s Pole Trophy

Formula One will introduce a ‘pole position trophy’ for the 2014 season. The FIA have added the new award to the world championship’s sporting regulations.

The driver with the most pole’s at seasons end will be rewarded at the FIA Gala with a trophy for their achievements. German Sebastian Vettel would have won the new trophy in four of the past five seasons should it have existed.

Will Vettel win it in 2014?

Will Vettel win it in 2014?

If there should be a tie in poles, the decision would be made on countback starting with the highest number of second places. Should the initial countback fail, the new regulations state that “the FIA will nominate the winner according to such criteria as it thinks fit”.

Force India Confirm Perez

Sahara Force India have announced Sergio Perez as their second driver for the 2014 season and beyond.

The 23-year-old Mexican completes Sahara Force India’s 2014 line-up alongside Nico Hulkenberg and helps create one of the most exciting pairings on the grid.

The move means a whole new line up for the Silverstone team. Scottish driver Paul di Resta is now certain to join the Indy Car series in America, possibly taking his cousin Dario Franchitti’s seat at Gannasi. Whilst Adrian Sutil is looking to stay in the sport with another team, probably Sauber.

Perez and Mallya

Perez and Mallya

Dr Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director said: “It’s a pleasure to welcome Sergio to the team. He brings a healthy mix of youth and experience, and I’ve been very impressed with his recent performances. He already has several podium finishes to his name and being chosen by McLaren last year was a clear indication that he is a driver to watch for the future. We also recognise Sergio’s incredible talent and we are proud to have him in our team. He clearly has great speed and plenty of fire in his belly. Our job is to make sure he settles in quickly by creating the right atmosphere so that he can realise his potential. By pairing Sergio alongside Nico, we enter the new season with an extremely competitive line-up, which will go toward helping us achieve our goals for the new season.”
Sergio Perez said: “It’s great to announce my new team as Sahara Force India. Coming here was always my first choice and I’m really happy everything has now been confirmed. I want to say thank you to Vijay and the whole team for giving me the opportunity. This is a young team with a lot of determination and they’ve produced competitive cars for the last few years. It’s all change for next season with the new regulations, but I already have a good feeling about 2014. My plan now is to visit the factory and get to know everyone in the team.”