Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Sepang International Circuit, 2014

Another wet qualifying session forecast in China

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Sepang International Circuit, 2014Two of the qualifying sessions so far this year have been held in wet conditions and we could be in for another one this weekend.

Shanghai gets over 100mm of rain in April and on several occasions it has coincided with an important part of the Chinese Grand Prix.

The forecast for this weekend predicts persistent moderate rain throughout the day, and cooler temperatures too.

The action will begin on Friday in temperatures of up to 20C, but a soggy Saturday will see the mercury fall around four degrees.

It will pick up slightly on Sunday when drivers can expect dry but still cloudy conditions for the race.

For more updates on the track conditions during each session keep an eye on F1 Fanatic Live and the F1 Fanatic Twitter account.

Location of Shanghai International Circuit

See the location of every race on the 2014 F1 calendar here:

2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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Image © Lotus/LAT

Start, Shanghai, 2011

2014 Chinese Grand Prix TV Times

Start, Shanghai, 2011F1 Fanatic Live will be running during the entire Chinese Grand Prix weekend. Look out for the live page on the site during every session and follow all the action with your fellow F1 Fanatics.

Also on F1 Fanatic Live we’ll be following Mark Webber’s debut for Porsche in the World Endurance Championship’s Six Hours of Silverstone. And the second round of the British Touring Car Championship which will feature three races from Donington Park.

Here are the details of Sky and the BBC’s coverage of the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix in the UK, plus the WEC and BTCC action:

Friday 18 April 2014

Session Channel Coverage starts Session starts Session ends
Chinese Grand Prix first practice live Sky Sports F1 02:45 03:00 04:30
Chinese Grand Prix second practice live Sky Sports F1 06:45 07:00 08:30

Saturday 19 April 2014

Session Channel Coverage starts Session starts Session ends
Chinese Grand Prix third practice live Sky Sports F1 03:45 04:00 05:00
Chinese Grand Prix qualifying live Sky Sports F1 06:00 07:00
Chinese Grand Prix qualifying highlights BBC1 13:15

Sunday 20 April 2014

Session Channel Coverage starts Session starts
Chinese Grand Prix live Sky Sports F1 06:30 08:00
BTCC Donington race one ITV4 10:30 11:37
WEC Six Hours of Silverstone MotorsTV 11:30 12:00
BTCC Donington race two ITV4 10:30 14:27
BTCC Donington race three ITV4 10:30 17:15
Chinese Grand Prix highlights BBC1 14:30

For details of where to find coverage in your area, see here:

If you’re unable to watch the race at your location, join the F1 in Pubs forum to find a place to watch the race:

Find times for every F1 session this year and all the 2014 race dates with the F1 Fanatic Google Calendar.

2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei

Adrian Sutil, Sauber, Albert Park, 2014

Penalty points system an improvement – Sutil

Adrian Sutil, Sauber, Albert Park, 2014Adrian Sutil says the new penalty points system for drivers is a change for the better because handing out grid penalties alone was not always effective.

Sutil is one of five drivers who has already collected penalty points under the new system. During the Bahrain Grand Prix he was hit by Jules Bianchi, who received his second pair of penalty points and now has the most of any driver, with four.

“I think it’s OK,” said Sutil during today’s press conference when asked about the new system.

“I’m not sure if anyone will reach the full twleve but after three races having four then he should reach it very soon so let’s see how it’s going to be.

“What’s important is there was a change from last year because there were certain times some penalties for especially the backmarkers which were not doing anything. If you’re last and you get ten places [penalty] you’re still last, and that’s it. So there was a reason why to change it.

“Now this is a little bit different, so there was a reason to change it, and need a bit of time to see if it’s really working. But I hope so.”

2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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Image © Sauber

Marco Mattiacci, Ferrari

Alonso says Mattiacci needs to be given time

Marco Mattiacci, FerrariFernando Alonso says Ferrari’s new team principal Marco Mattiacci, who has not previously managed a racing outfit, needs to be given time to adjust to his role.

“I think we need to give him time and try to see how he settles down,” said Alonso during today’s press conference in Shanghai.

“It’s too early to say if he will be very good or will be very bad. I think we need to make sure that he has all the facilities ready, all the technical stuff ready, all the team behind him, try to help to settle down as fast as possible.

“Try to put him in a condition to feel comfortable from day one. As I said we are really hoping that he will be a successful managing of the team, everyone is looking forward.”

Alonso added he has not yet spoken with the team’s new boss, whose appointment was announced following Stefano Deomicali’s resignation on Monday. “No I didn’t have the chance, I don’t know if he’s coming here – I guess so – so that would be a good time to welcome him.”

“I have really not much to say. I drive the car and he will be good enough to recognise what are the weak areas of the team, what are the strong areas of the team and hopefully improve them.

“As a driver we will try to drive as fast as we can, Kimi [Raikkonen] and me, and try to help in whatever thing that our help is required.”

Alonso said the team “need to be honest with our situation”.

“It’s not where we wanted to be and I think there is a lot of room to improve. We need to become better in all the areas on the car.

“It’s a long way to go, the championship is very long and we know that probably the first part of the championship we will not be as competitive as Mercedes or some other teams that now they are on top. But as I said we need to maximise what we have in-house now, try to score as many points as possible and hopefully become very competitive later on in the season.”

2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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Image © Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

Christian Danner, Nigel Mansell, Eric van de Poele, GP Masters, Losail International Circuit, 2006

Ecclestone considers reviving ‘GP Masters’ concept

F1F CSIn the round-up: Mercedes’ executive director of technical Paddy Lowe says Lewis Hamilton is back to his best this year.


Your daily digest of F1 news, views, features and more.

Formula One’s Old Masters Head Back to the Track (Wall Street Journal)

“The growling engines that Formula One drivers have so vocally missed this season could soon return to the track, but not in the hands of the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Rather, the roaring V10s would appear in a potential masters series, featuring Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, according to the sport’s chief, Bernie Ecclestone.”

Christian Danner, Nigel Mansell, Eric van de Poele, GP Masters, Losail International Circuit, 2006FIA consider returning to active suspension (The Telegraph)

“The entire grid would be given an ‘FIA standard active suspension’. Along with a host of other measures it is hoped that would reduce the number of staff needed trackside during race weekends.”

Force India wants F1 restructure (Autosport)

Deputy team principal Bob Fernley: “I think [the failure of the cost cap] shows the frailty in my view of the system as it is today. It [the Strategy Group] is totally unacceptable and we will never change our mind on that.

Hamilton back to brilliant best – Lowe (BBC)

“We have seen Lewis arrive this season on top of his game. He is fit physically. His mental state is brilliant.”

How about a new idea: fair play (Joe Saward)

If you do the numbers based on that year’s prize fund: Red Bull Racing earned $98.8 million for winning the championship. McLaren got $88.6 million for coming second and Ferrari made $95.8 million for coming third. How is that fair?

Chinese Grand Prix Betting: Mercedes’ dominance makes China easier to predict (Unibet)

My Chinese Grand Prix preview for Unibet.


Comment of the day

There’s a fair bit of scepticism about whether reintroducing active suspension would be good for Formula One:

I didn’t like the active ride when it was in F1 the first time, so don’t want to see it come back in the future.

Active ride is dangerous if/when it fails (ask Alessandro Zanardi) and most of the drivers who ran with it last time hated the way it took away a lot of the feel for what the car was doing.

I also believe it will make the racing worse as you’re going to have car ride, and therefore the downforce it’s producing, optimised for every corner. This makes the cars more predictable which leads to fewer driver errors as the car is no longer upset by bumps or camber as it is today.

The increase in cornering speeds which active ride will allow will also put greater emphasis on aero performance which will again have a negative effect on the racing.

You’re also going to, like last time, potentially have massive disparity between systems which could again, like last time, give one team a massive advantage over the rest. An advantage far greater than what we saw with double diffusers, exhaust blowing and, this year, the Mercedes engine.

The Williams of ’92/’93 for instance was up to two seconds per lap faster than anything else at times in qualifying purely mostly on how much better there active ride system was compared to anyone else.

The lower profile tyre idea I agree with, active ride however I am firmly against!

From the forum

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Walton174!

If you want a birthday shout-out tell us when yours is by emailling me, using Twitter or adding to the list here.

On this day in F1

Happy 60th birthday to six-times grand prix winner Riccardo Patrese.

Image © GP Masters/Getty

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2014

Rosberg’s chance to hit back at Hamilton

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2014After the thrill of that race-long battle between the two Mercedes in Bahrain had subsided, Nico Rosberg cannot help but have felt a bit deflated.

That was a race he should have won. He put the W05 on pole position but Lewis Hamilton beat him to the first corner and brilliantly rebuffed each and every one of his team mate’s overtaking attempts.

Hamilton’s retirement in Australia means Rosberg holds enough of an advantage that he could finish second to his team mate again this weekend and still lead the championship. But in a title fight which is likely to be contested chiefly between the two Mercedes drivers, Rosberg knowns he needs to put one over his team mate sooner rather than later.

Shanghai could be just the place for him to do it. Rosberg has excellent form at this track: He led convincingly in 2010 before his Mercedes was overhauled by the faster McLarens. He did so again the following year, only dropping out of contention late in the race.

Then came that breakthrough performance in 2012, when Rosberg claimed his first pole position and race victory at the Shanghai circuit.

Shanghai International Circuit

Lap length 5.451km (3.387 miles)
Distance 56 laps (305.1km/189.6 miles)
Lap record* 1’32.238 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
Fastest lap 1’32.238 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
Tyres Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Shanghai International Circuit
track data in full

That race ran to a pattern which has become familiar at this circuit in recent seasons. Pirelli’s high-degradation tyres often coax teams into varying and conflicting strategies at this circuit.

This is also because the configuration of the pit lane makes it one of the most punishing of the season in terms of the amount of time drivers lose going in. That gives them an incentive to stay out for longer than usual on tyres that have passed their peak.

Last year the soft tyre compound wore out so quickly teams tended to run very short stints at the beginning or end of the race. Pirelli is bringing the same tyre mix this weekend, but as we have already seen they are less extreme than those used in 2013.

There are no changes to the DRS configuration this year, which features two separate zones, even though Shanghai’s enormous back straight meant there was never really a need for one to begin with.

This race marks the tenth anniversary of the first Chinese Grand Prix. The enormous capacity of the Shanghai International Circuit may not yet have been filled, but steady increases in the number of local fans have noted year-on-year.

It’s an especially crucial market for Mercedes as they pursue car sales in China’s rapidly-growing economy. They have powered three of the last four winners here, and the chances of them doing so again are extremely high.

Chinese Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2014Red Bull started the week with a disappointment as their appeal against Daniel Ricciardo’s exclusion from the Australian Grand Prix was thrown out by the FIA.

However following his battling drive to fourth in Bahrain, Ricciardo’s keen anticipation for this weekend’s race remains undimmed.

He recalled how the long drag to the hairpin felt rather different in the junior categories he raced in at the track: “I always think back to when I came here as a kid in Formula BMW – massive hair and lots of enthusiasm – and trust me, then, it was the sort of straight where I’d have definitely been reaching for a book if I’d had one! It’s a bit different driving it in an F1 car.”


Rosberg may have good form in China but so does his team mate. “I’ve only finished outside of the podium places twice at this circuit,” said Hamilton, the winner of the race in 2008 and 2011.

But things haven’t always gone so smoothly for him at the Shanghai circuit. “In my first season in Formula One I threw away a championship lead here by going into the gravel coming into the pits,” he rued, recalling a pivotal moment in the 2007 campaign.


Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Shanghai, 2013The shock news on Monday that Stefano Domenicali had resigned as Ferrari’s team principal means F1′s most famous team has a new man at the helm for the first time in seven years.

Of course no one should expect immediate change now Marco Mattiacci has taken Domenicali’s place.

But Ferrari can hope for a better weekend merely for the simple fact of having moved on to a more standard track instead of Bahrain, whose many straights so brutally exposed the F14 T’s weaknesses. They should be back in the upper reaches of the points places. A repeat of Fernando Alonso’s win of 12 months ago is very unlikely.

And the thought of how their home race might unfold at another ‘power circuit’ in five months’ time must fill them with trepidation.


Pastor Maldonado left Bahrain with both Esteban Gutierrez and Jean-Eric Vergne unimpressed with his driving and a five-place grid penalty for carelessly blundering into the Sauber of the former driver.

However there was a glimpse of performance from the E22 in between his incidents which showed points might be possible sooner rather than later.

The post-Bahrain test was a stark reminder of how much work the team still have to do. Maldonado and Romain Grosjean covered just 16 laps each as problems persisted with the Renault Energy F1 power unit.


McLaren believe the cause of the clutch failures which halted both their drivers in Bahrain was a one-off problem.

Jenson Button said China is “not necessarily a track that perfectly suits our package” but anticipates a close battle behind the flying Mercedes pair.

“Bahrain showed that, the top two cars aside, the racing this year is fast, fraught and very evenly matched,” he said.

“The margins are so slim that it’ll require us to get everything right: a focused practice, problem-free qualifying sessions and a clean race to try and establish ourselves at the forefront of that chasing pack.”

Force India

Sergio Perez, Force India, Bahrain International Circuit, 2014Sergio Perez’s fine podium in Bahrain and Nico Hulkenberg’s consistent points-gathering has propelled Force India to a best-ever second in the constructors’ championship.

The pair fought hard on the Sakhir circuit, but Vijay Mallya is content to let his drivers fight as the Mercedes duo did:

“I was asked a lot in Bahrain whether there were any team orders, but we preferred to let our drivers race and compete with each other,” he said. “They both raced hard, but fair.”

“In the final part of the race we saw great teamwork as Nico held back the charging Red Bulls who had the advantage of soft tyres. Ricciardo did eventually get ahead, but Nico helped Checo escape up the road and build a gap. So I was very proud of my drivers – they were outstanding in the race.”


Giedo van der Garde will have another run in first practice – this time in place of Adrian Sutil – as Sauber introduce further updates to try to score their first points of the season.

Meanwhile Esteban Gutierrez will have a new chassis after being rolled over by Maldonado two weeks ago.

Toro Rosso

Shanghai marks another new venue for Daniil Kvyat who impressed with another mature performance in Bahrain.


Felipe Massa, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2014Shanghai often sees mixed weather conditions but Felipe Massa says it would be to the benefit of him and his car if it stays dry:

“We hope to have a few new parts which should help with grip and other areas that we need to improve. We still need to improve the car in the wet, so we are hoping the weekend will be dry, I also prefer the dry, but there is hard work going on to improve the car.”


Marussia moved back in front of Caterham in the last race but they would be having an easier time of things if Jules Bianchi, by far the quicker of their two drivers, stopped getting involved in so many incidents. Collisions in the last two races have left him leading the penalty points table.

“I am hoping all my bad luck is behind me now and that China will mark a turning point for a better rest of the season,” said Bianchi, who tangled with Sutil in Bahrain.


Caterham are also bringing a small upgrade to China but as with most teams a bigger step is planned for the return to Europe in Spain.

2014 driver form

Driver G avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 8.00 4.50 3 6 2/3 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 6.67 4.00 4 4 1/3 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 1.33 1.00 1 1 2/3 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 2.33 1.67 1 2 3/3 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 6.00 5.67 4 9 3/3 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 7.33 9.67 7 12 3/3 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 17.00 11.50 11 12 2/3 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 18.00 14.00 14 14 1/3 Form guide
Jenson Button 8.67 8.67 3 17 3/3 Form guide
Kevin Magnussen 6.67 5.50 2 9 2/3 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 8.33 5.33 5 6 3/3 Form guide
Sergio Perez 11.33 6.50 3 10 2/2 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 17.33 11.00 11 11 1/3 Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez 16.33 12.00 12 12 1/3 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 9.67 8.00 8 8 1/3 Form guide
Daniil Kvyat 10.33 10.00 9 11 3/3 Form guide
Felipe Massa 9.67 7.00 7 7 2/3 Form guide
Valtteri Bottas 12.00 7.00 5 8 3/3 Form guide
Jules Bianchi 18.67 16.00 16 16 1/3 Form guide
Max Chilton 19.67 13.67 13 15 3/3 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 17.33 14.00 13 15 2/3 Form guide
Marcus Ericsson 20.33 14.00 14 14 1/3 Form guide

Are you going to the Chinese Grand Prix?

Vitaly Petrov, Renault, Shanghai, 2011If you’re heading to China for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you.

We’ve got a dedicated group and forum for people going to the race.

You can embed your pictures from the race via Flickr and videos via YouTube and other major video-sharing accounts. Join in here:

Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Chinese Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Force India, Williams/LAT, Renault/LAT

Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 1993

Active suspension, 18-inch wheels mooted for 2017

F1F CSIn the round-up: Teams are considering bringing back active suspension systems which were banned over 20 years ago.


Your daily digest of F1 news, views, features and more.

F1 considers active suspension return (Autosport)

“The move is being considered for 2017, and could come in at the same time as a switch to 18-inch tyre rims.”

Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 1993Russian Auto Racers Hit by U.S. Sanctions Over Ukraine Crisis – Backer (Ria Novosti)

“Sauber Formula One test driver Sergei Sirotkin and Indy Car rookie Mikhail Aleshin are among dozens of mostly Russian auto racers whose careers could be threatened by U.S. and European sanctions related to the Ukraine crisis, an organisation that backs them financially said Monday.”

Sounds like F1 is on right track – Mosley (Reuters)

“I’d do pretty much what Jean [Todt] is doing, which is take no notice. Or pay lip service to the discussion – ‘Oh, that’s interesting, Bernie [Ecclestone]‘ – but in the end take no notice because there’s nothing anybody can do, the regulations are fixed, nobody can change anything.”

Brazil president pledges thorough Petrobras probe (ABS-CBN)

“Brazil’s president on Monday promised authorities would carry out a thorough and complete probe of alleged money laundering at state oil giant Petrobras.”

Thanks to @Journeyer for the tip.

How CVC Has Made $8.2 Billion From Formula One Auto Racing (Forbes)

“Since CVC acquired F1 the teams have been paid a total of $3.7 billion in prize money which is nearly as much as the $4 billion that CVC has received from dividends and the sale of stakes in F1.”

Closing the gap to the top teams (Ferrari)

Engineering director Pat Fry: “We are naturally working as hard as we can on closing the gap to the top teams, with Mercedes having a reasonable lead over the rest of the field.”

Fernando Alonso: The family ties that bind Ferrari’s F1 star (CNN)

A lengthy interview with Fernando Alonso from two weeks ago which I didn’t see at the time but was picked up by some others websites yesterday. He says: “If you ask me right now… I am hungry for victories, hungry for success – I will tell you that two championships are not enough.”

Bahrain 2014 – race edit (F1)

Video highlights from the last race, including a little more footage of the aftermath of the Pastor Maldonado/Jean-Eric Vergne collision.

Singapore Airlines spreads wings into F1 (Reuters)

“Singapore Airlines Ltd (SIA) has been unveiled as the new title sponsor of the city-state’s Formula One race in September as the carrier bids to promote its brand to motor racing’s global television audience.”

Ferrari’s vanity unit on overdrive (ESPN)

“Di Montezemolo really ought to take a look in the mirror (I mean that, of course, in the metaphorical sense rather than the practical, with which he is well acquainted). Was it the Ferrari boss who pushed for the 2014 regulations to be changed from the proposed four-cylinder engine to the current V6? I do believe it was. And is it Montezemolo who, having signed up for the new package, is currently rubbishing F1 because his team can’t hack it? I do believe it is.”

Formula One’s Leadership Conundrum (Mark Gallagher)

“There is an inherent weakness in a Formula One team whose boss runs the risk of being removed whenever the results don’t come, even over the course of several seasons. It can take 3-5 years to drive significant change in a Formula One team, such is the time delay in bringing new organisational structures, systems, processes and technology into play. It is not the work of a moment, and is something Ferrari’s new boss Marco Mattiacci may wrestle with.”

Formula One alive and well in 2014 (Mercedes)

Toto Wolff: “Formula One is the pinnacle of automotive innovation. As such, it has a duty to push the boundaries of technology. The new regulations not only encourage this innovation but also make the sport more relevant to the direction in which the motoring industry is heading.”


18-inch Michelin tyres on a Ferrari F138

As F1 considers a switch to larger 18-inch wheel rims, here’s an image produced by Jeremy Hancox for F1 Fanatic last year showing how they might look.


Comment of the day

@Bullmello reckons the FIA handled the Red Bull appeal well:

When Red Bull started using the argument that directives are not regulations and they need not comply, it was akin to admitting they didn’t have much else to go on. Either the FIA is in charge of regulation compliance and enforcement, or not. As we can see, they are in charge.

I also think the FIA was very fair in this case, especially giving Red Bull the chance to comply during the race.

Also glad the call from Mercedes to penalise Red Bull further was ignored. The penalties incurred already were already severe enough and Red Bull has been in compliance since Australia as far as we know.

From the forum

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Andrewtanner, Solid, Braddersf1 and Rumfresh!

If you want a birthday shout-out tell us when yours is by emailling me, using Twitter or adding to the list here.

On this day in F1

Ferrari substitute driver Nicola Larini landed himself in hot water on this day 20 years ago when he revealed to Italian journalists that his car was running a traction control system – such devices having been banned before the beginning of the 1994 season. Larini was standing in for the injured Jean Alesi at the Pacific Grand Prix.

Images © Williams/LAT, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo and Jeremy Hancox

Ayrton Senna, Nicola Larini, TI Aida, 1994

Schumacher wins again as traction control row brews

1994 Pacific Grand Prix start, TI AidaThe Tanaka International Circuit Aida, located in a remote patch of Japanese countryside north-east of Okayama, had not held many major motor racing events prior to 1994.

Even the country’s thriving domestic Formula 3000 championship had not appeared at the short, tight and narrow circuit which opened in 1990. So it was to the surprise of some that it appeared on the F1 calendar for 1994, assuming the title of Pacific Grand Prix as Japan hosted two rounds of the world championship for the first time.

Unsurprisingly the motivating factor was the money Hajime Tanaka put up to host a race at his eponymous circuit. Before the race he and Bernie Ecclestone smiled and embraced for the cameras, and talked about the three-year deal with an option for two further races.

The logistics of getting to the circuit proved daunting for teams, media and fans alike. A fleet of buses was laid on to bring spectators to the remote track.

But there was an added incentive for the locals to show up. Eddie Irvine’s one-race ban for causing a collision in Brazil had been sensationally increased to three events, and Aguri Suzuki showed up at Jordan with a reported quarter of a million dollars in backing to take his seat for this race.

As this was F1′s first race at TI Aida, an extra day of practice was arranged for the drivers to acclimatise to the 3.7km (2.3-mile) track. During the build-up to the race, the FIA’s Charlie Whiting took time to listen to the noises made by the cars as they pulled out of the endless slow corners and hairpins which comprised grand prix racing’s newest track.

Whiting’s ear was tuned to the distinctive popping sound of engine cylinders being cut, which might indicate the presence of the recently-banned traction control. And one car in particular captured his attention as he looked and listened.

Suzuki wasn’t the only substitute driver who had been pressed into action as early as round two. Ferrari’s Jean Alesi had injured his neck in a testing crash at Mugello and Nicola Larini performed his role as stand-in once more, returning to the fray for Ferrari for the first time in two years.

But Larini did not endear himself to his team when, speaking to Italian media ahead of the race, he spectacularly spilled the beans on the very technical trickery Whiting was looking out for. After Larini let it slip Ferrari were running a form of the banned traction control his team quickly issued a denial.

After the ban on driver aids had been announced at the end of 1993 several team bosses had claimed the FIA was incapable of policing it, and here was proof of their claims. Ferrari team principal Jean Todt insisted they had obtained permission from Whiting to run a ‘variable rev limiter’, but once the FIA interjected Ferrari were required to remove the device.

“It came to the notice of the FIA technical delegate that during the free practice sessions on Saturday car numbers 27 and 28 were fitted with a device which in certain circumstances limited the power of the engine,” said the FIA in a statement ahead of the race.

“As the FIA technical delegate was not satisfied that the decide complied in all respects with the regulations, Ferrari were advised not to use it. This advice was complied with.” But Mosley’s pre-season promise of “Draconian penalties” for anyone caught breaking the driver aids ban now rang hollow.


1994 Pacific Grand Prix qualifying

Michael Schumacher, Benetton, TI AIda, 1994Brazil had left Williams in no doubt they had work to do with their FW16. The car was clearly quick, but with a sweet spot so razor-thin it was almost non-existent. Ayrton Senna had put the car on pole position but couldn’t live with its wayward handling during the race and spun off while chasing Michael Schumacher.

The team tested at Jerez ahead of the Pacific race but once in Japan the drivers found the car had improved little. Both Senna and Damon Hill spun during qualifying, but Senna was able to conjure up a quick lap once again to claim his 64th pole position.

Hill, who had recovered from his Brazilian Grand Prix illness, was pleased to trim the gap to Senna to half a second, the pair separated by Schumacher on the grid. However Hill was concerned about the lack of run-off in places around the track, especially turn two.

It wasn’t the only cause for concern from a safety point of view. A tight chicane was installed at the pit lane entrance to slow the cars as they arrived for their still-novel refuelling stops. Schumacher had made the case for imposing a speed limit in the pits on safety grounds but other drivers had disagreed.

The Williams drivers weren’t the only ones to be caught out by the low-grip surface of the TI Aida track. Olivier Beretta spun his Larrousse during qualifying – their cars now painted in the red-and-white colours of Kronenbourg instead of the green they appeared in at round one.

If Larini thought his troubles were over when he accelerated out of the pits and left the media men behind, he was mistaken. Ukyo Katayama’s Tyrrell spun into him on a fast lap, damaging the rear of his Ferrari. But he qualified within sight of team mate Gerhard Berger.

The only driver on the grid with prior experience of the obscure circuit was another Austrian, Roland Ratzenberger, who had competed in a Japanese Touring Car Championship race there two years previously.

The Simtek driver had failed to qualify in Brazil but took on testing duties for the team at Silverstone while David Brabham recovered from a virus. This time both drivers made it onto the grid, despite Brabham spinning at the last corner. As he got up to speed part of front wing separated from the Simtek, but he returned to the pits without incident.

With both of Nick Wirth’s cars on the grid, that meant the Pacific Grand Prix grid did not feature either of the cars from the Pacific Grand Prix team.

1994 Pacific Grand Prix grid

1. Ayrton Senna 1’10.218
2. Michael Schumacher 1’10.440
3. Damon Hill 1’10.771
4. Mika Hakkinen 1’11.683
5. Gerhard Berger 1’11.744
6. Martin Brundle 1’12.351
7. Nicola Larini 1’12.372
8. Rubens Barrichello 1’12.409
9. Christian Fittipaldi 1’12.444
10. Jos Verstappen 1’12.554
11. Heinz-Harald Frentzen 1’12.686
12. Mark Blundell 1’12.751
13. Gianni Morbidelli 1’12.866
14. Ukyo Katayama 1’13.013
15. Michele Alboreto 1’13.016
16. Erik Comas 1’13.111
17. Pierluigi Martini 1’13.529
18. Eric Bernard 1’13.613
19. Karl Wendlinger 1’13.855
20. Aguri Suzuki 1’13.932
21. Olivier Beretta 1’14.101
22. Olivier Panis 1’14.106
23. Johnny Herbert 1’14.424
24. Pedro Lamy 1’14.657
25. David Brabham 1’14.748
26. Roland Ratzenberger 1’16.536

Did not qualify:

Bertrand Gachot, Pacific-Ilmor – 1’16.927
Paul Belmondo, Pacific-Ilmor – 1’17.450

1994 Pacific Grand Prix

Ayrton Senna, Nicola Larini, TI Aida, 1994In an innovation, the formation lap took place behind the Safety Car, a Porsche 911 with lurid F1 branding. Once it peeled off into the pits Senna gunned his engine, trying to inject some extra heat into his tyres after a slower than usual tour of the circuit.

Four years earlier Senna had been on pole position for a race in Japan and tried to get his starting position moved onto the racing line, which he expected to be favourable. He wasn’t successful, and the eventual first-corner collision with Alain Prost at Suzuka was one of the most notorious episodes in his career.

Now Senna was on pole again and was due to start on the racing line – but this time he wanted pole to be moved to the opposite side. A dragster had had been in action on that side of the grid ahead of the start of the race and Senna believed the rubber it had left behind would improve traction.

It seemed he was right. When the green light came on Schmacher got alongside him from second place and beat him to turn one. Senna tucked in behind him – and in an instant his race was over.

Mika Hakkinen, who had made a similarly good start from fourth on the grid, tapped the back of his car as they reached the first corner. The Williams went off backwards into a gravel trap and was hit by Larini, who had run wide in the first turn. Mark Blundell’s Tyrrell was also eliminated in the melee.

An angry Senna laid the blame at Hakkinen’s feet. Meanwhile the McLaren driver was making trouble for the other Williams of Hill, who was trying to make up ground after getting too much wheelspin at the start.

On lap four Hill tried to go around the outside of the McLaren at the likeliest overtaking spot on the track, but was forced onto the kerbs and spun. That left him down in eighth.

Hill made his way forward again, passing Jos Verstappen, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Christian Fittipaldi, Martin Brundle and Rubens Barrichello. He pitted on lap 18, intending to make his first of three stops, and that helped him jump Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari to briefly hold second.

Another second place was starting to look like a reasonable result from a frustrating day. But on the 50th lap the Williams lost all drive and Hill coasted to a stop.

Up front Schumacher had little to do besides pick off the backmarkers at his leisure and take care of his two refuelling stops. Berger took second place back and Barrichello went one better than Brazil by claiming the first podium finish for himself and Jordan in their 50th grand prix.

Team mate Suzuki’s return lasted until just after half distance when he skidded into a barrier while struggling with his steering. Moments earlier Ukyo Katayama’s Tyrrell came to a stop, his Yamaha engine having failed as it also had during the warm-up.

Hydraulic failure ended Hakkinen’s race after 19 laps. His car’s nose still bore a black mark from the first-lap contact with Senna. Brundle in the other McLaren was running in a podium position when he suffered an increasingly familiar Peugeot engine failure 15 laps from home.

That promoted from Christian Fittipaldi, who also benefitted from Verstappen spinning off at the first corner immediately after leaving the pits following his second pit stop on lap 54. Heinz-Harald Frenzten took fifth for Sauber and was fortunate to avoid a sanction from the stewards after accidentally completing another lap during the warm up.

The final point went to Erik Comas, whose Larrousse was lapped three times. The two Lotuses and Ligiers also made it to the flag, and Ratzenberger achieved his first finish, albeit five laps down.

1994 Pacific Grand Prix result

Pos No. Driver Team Laps Gap/reason
1 5 Michael Schumacher Benetton-Ford 83 1hr 46’01.693
2 28 Gerhard Berger Ferrari 83 1’15.300
3 14 Rubens Barrichello Jordan-Hart 82 1 Lap
4 9 Christian Fittipaldi Footwork-Ford 82 1 Lap
5 30 Heinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber-Mercedes 82 1 Lap
6 20 Erik Comas Larrousse-Ford 80 3 Laps
7 12 Johnny Herbert Lotus-Mugen-Honda 80 3 Laps
8 11 Pedro Lamy Lotus-Mugen-Honda 79 4 Laps
9 26 Olivier Panis Ligier-Renault 78 5 Laps
10 25 Eric Bernard Ligier-Renault 78 5 Laps
11 32 Roland Ratzenberger Simtek-Ford 78 5 Laps
10 Gianni Morbidelli Footwork-Ford 69 Engine
29 Karl Wendlinger Sauber-Mercedes 69 Accident
24 Michele Alboreto Minardi-Ford 69 Accident
8 Martin Brundle McLaren-Peugeot 67 Cooling
23 Pierluigi Martini Minardi-Ford 63 Accident
6 Jos Verstappen Benetton-Ford 54 Accident
0 Damon Hill Williams-Renault 49 Gearbox
15 Aguri Suzuki Jordan-Hart 44 Steering
3 Ukyo Katayama Tyrrell-Yamaha 42 Engine
7 Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Peugeot 19 Gearbox
19 Olivier Beretta Larrousse-Ford 14 Electrical
31 David Brabham Simtek-Ford 2 Electrical
2 Ayrton Senna Williams-Renault 0 Accident
27 Nicola Larini Ferrari 0 Accident
4 Mark Blundell Tyrrell-Yamaha 0 Accident

1994 F1 seasonSenna, the pre-season title favourite, was now 20 points behind Schumacher after two races. Benetton were making hay while Williams struggled, and a fascinating championship battle promised to develop once Williams got their car sorted.

But while the furore over Ferrari’s traction control raged on, they were not the only team to come under suspicion of breaking the rules.

After his enforced early retirement Senna had spent some time watching the race and like Whiting believed he spotted someone running traction control. But he had a different suspect in mind: Michael Schumacher’s Benetton.

1994 F1 season

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Images © Ford, Williams/LAT

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2014

Red Bull lose appeal against Ricciardo’s Australian Grand Prix disqualification

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2014Red Bull have lost their appeal against Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix following a hearing of the FIA Court of Appeal in Paris.

The FIA issued a statement saying: “The court, after having heard the parties and examined their submissions, decided to uphold the decision number 56 of the stewards by which they decided to exclude Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s car number three from the results of the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.

“The International Court of Appeal was presided over by Mr Harry Duijm (Netherlands), and included Mr Rui Botica Santos (Portugal), Mr Philippe Narmino (Monaco), Mr Antonio Rigozzi (Switzerland) and Mr Jan Stovicek (Czech Republic).”

An FIA Court of Appeal was convened yesterday in Paris to hear Red Bull’s appeal.

Red Bull issued a statement saying it accepts the verdict of the court:

“Infiniti Red Bull Racing accepts the ruling of the International Court of Appeal today.

“We are of course disappointed by the outcome and would not have appealed if we didn’t think we had a very strong case. We always believed we adhered to the technical regulations throughout the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.

“We are sorry for Daniel (Ricciardo) that he will not be awarded the 18 points from the event, which we think he deserved. We will continue to work very hard to amass as many points as possible for the team, Daniel and Sebastian (Vettel) throughout the season.

“We will now move on from this and concentrate on this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.”

Ricciardo said: “It’s disappointing not to get the 18 points from Australia, but if anything it gives me more motivation to get back on the podium as soon as possible.

“I’ve had a few setbacks in the first couple of races this year, but in Bahrain I demonstrated that, if anything, I’m stronger for it and hungrier than ever to get back on the podium. Not that I need any more motivation, I’m pumped!

“I’m still really happy with my performance in Australia and for having had the experience of being on the podium in front of the home crowd. I said that week, I’d rather have a great race, finish on the podium and then be excluded than to have had a rubbish race and then retire with a car problem halfway through.”

The FIA will publish a full reasoning for the verdict later this week.

2014 Australian Grand Prix

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Image © Red Bull/Getty

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2014

Mercedes demand tough stance from FIA on Red Bull

F1F CSIn the round-up: Mercedes urge the FIA at Red Bull’s appeal against their Australian Grand Prix disqualification to take a tough stance over the world champions’ actions.


Your daily digest of F1 news, views, features and more.

Decision on Ricciardo’s DQ appeal on Tuesday (Reuters)

“Mercedes came down hard on Red Bull, with their barrister Paul Harris asking the judges to ‘impose a further sanction that is to be suspended until the end of the season’ to prevent them from breaching the rules again.”

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2014Red Bull: sensor would’ve cost second (Autosport)

“Red Bull’s chief engineer for car engineering Paul Monaghan: “Without an explanation and without any characteristic changes to the engine, be they measured or inferred by performance or measured by lap time, the [fuel flow meter] [sensor] changed its reading for P1 run four.”

Michael Schumacher latest: Schumacher ‘showing small signs of progress’ as Sabine Kehm gives positive report (The Independent)

“There are moments when he is awake and moments when he is conscious. Of course I am not a doctor, but medically, there is a distinction between being awake and being conscious, the latter meaning there is an ability to interact with his surroundings.”

Bernie Ecclestone feared losing grip on F1, bribery trial to hear (FT, registration required)

“Bernie Ecclestone bribed a German banker because he feared losing his grip on Formula One motor racing, prosecutors will argue when the F1 boss’s trial opens next week in Munich.”

President of Italian Olympic Committee: “I don’t like this new F1″ (Ferrari)

“I speak on behalf of Italian sports people and fans, I don’t like this Formula 1 and in my opinion it’s delivered a product that has absolutely no sense.”

F1′s new era still has weighty issues (UBS)

“In my opinion there ought to be a set weight for ‘seat plus driver’ to which everyone adheres. Just take an accepted average and let’s get on with it. Let’s get back to racing being decided by skill rather than weight (within moderation of course).”

An evening with Mario (The Way It Is)

Mario Andretti: “I was given the notice by none other than Chris Economaki at Long Beach on the grid. ‘Mario,’ he said. ‘What do you think now that this is going to be your last race in Formula 1?” I think Parnelli forgot to tell me that they were going to pull the plug on the program.”


Comment of the day

WilliamB on what Mercedes got right and what Citroen got wrong:

I think yesterday we got a bit of a flavour of what the Bahrain Grand Prix would have been like had Mercedes not allowed Hamilton and Rosberg to race.

I refer of course to yesterday’s WTCC season opener in Morocco, where despite the fact that we had great drivers like Yvan Muller and Sebastien Loeb coupled with the new DTM-esque generation of cars, Citroen managed to manufacture a processional, over-controlled and frankly boring race by not letting the three dominant C-Elysees of Lopez, Muller and Loeb race.

My point is, the WTCC is clearly a commercial PR exercise for Citroen to boost road car sales (the huge investment Mercedes have put into their 2014 F1 programme make them guilty of this too), which is completely fine and rational, but to any intelligent team owner it is blatantly obvious that the racing culture is every as important, if not more, than the result.

The response to the Bahrain Grand Prix makes this plain to see, with Mercedes, in my book at least, getting as much kudos as Hamilton and Rosberg for letting them race, so why Citroen, why must you ruin potentially excellent races between three world class racers?
WilliamB (@William-Brierty)

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On this day in F1

Gilles Villeneuve won the non-championship Race of Champions 35 years ago today at Brands Hatch. The Ferrari driver finished 14 seconds ahead of Nelson Piquet’s Brabham.

Mario Andretti took third for Lotus. Also in the field that day was Desire Wilson, who finished ninth ahead of her Tyrrell team mate Gordon Simley.

Here’s a video of the race:

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