The 2018 Spanish GP Report

Lewis Hamilton led home a Mercedes 1-2 finish today at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona – Mercedes’ first 1-2 finish of the season. It was a storming drive from the Briton. He started on pole position and after the first lap had already built a lead of more than 2 seconds; he was faster than anyone by more than a second till the first round of pit stops!

Qualifying

Pirelli had introduced a thinner tread super soft tyre in order to control tyre wear and over-heating due to the newly laid surface. The tyre will be used for the French and the British Grands Prix as well. It was observed that the soft tyre had comparable, and sometimes even better pace and durability than the super soft, during race, and qualifying simulations in practice; the super soft tyre wasn’t able to last even one complete lap! Consequently, teams completed most of their running in Q1 and Q2 on soft tyres. In both the sessions, Ferrari were fastest, prompting suggestions that they had been sandbagging in practice. In Q3, the supersoft tyre was used which left Ferrari lacking in pace and down in 5th and 6th positions, almost 1.5 seconds adrift of Hamilton in provisional pole. Ferrari then decided to do their laps on soft tyres, and were immediately faster although still unable qualify on the front row (because the soft tyre is slower with a delta of about 0.5-0.8 seconds). They started the race with Vettel in 3rd and Raikkonen in 4th, while Red Bulls occupied the 3rd row.

The following image shows the percentage gap to pole position for all teams. It has been compared with the 2017 average, and the average gap in the 2017 Spanish GP.

 

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Conclusions:

  1. Ferrari were slightly slower than their last year’s qualifying time, but their gap to pole was smaller than 2017’s average.
  2. Mercedes were faster than last year, and that can attributed to the new surface that has been laid. It has led to some blistering lap times. This year’s pole position lap was almost 3 seconds faster than last year’s.
  3. Force India have fallen back. This has been confirmed with a poor qualifying performance. Catalunya isn’t a track that suits their car, but this time they were worse off.
  4. Haas are perhaps one of the biggest improvements. They were way faster and higher up the field than last year.
  5. McLaren’s new Renault partnership has helped them. They have also made considerable improvements and with a heavily upgraded car this weekend, Alonso was able to make it to Q3.
  6. Red Bull too have made big gains compared to last year. This is a track which traditionally suits their chassis.
  7. Renault’s gap to pole is similar to their last year’s average, but way better than what it was at last year’s race.
  8. Sauber were using 2016 Ferrari engines in 2017, hence were often the slowest car. This time, with the latest Ferrari engines, the gap to pole was considerably less although slightly more than last year’s race.
  9. Despite using Honda power, Toro Rosso actually had a smaller gap to pole this time out than last year. However, they still failed to finish in the points today, when Gasly, who was their best bet to score points, was taken out at the start.
  10. Williams are worse off this time. They had a torrid time in qualifying, which is highlighted by an immense gap to pole position this time. It’s hard to digest this, given that they were among the front runners in 2014 and 2015. There must be a fundamental issue with their car.

 

The Race

The race, as expected was a bit like a procession. After a dramatic first lap in which Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Gasly were eliminated, a safety car was triggered. Once the safety car period ended, Hamilton sped away and opened an early lead of 4 seconds over Vettel who had overtaken Bottas at the start. The rest of the field were evenly spread out, with drivers having difficulty overtaking the car in front, thus highlighting the aerodynamic nature of this circuit and how difficult it is to follow cars in front.

It was expected to be a one-stopper race. None of the drivers, with the exception of Alonso used the super soft tyre given how it had performed during practice and qualifying. Vettel, however did a two-stop race which didn’t help him at all. He had been running in 2nd place and when a Virtual Safety Car was triggered, Ferrari decided to pit him which put him behind Bottas and Verstappen. Vettel had his work cut out. He would have to pass at least Verstappen to finish on the podium but even with damage to the Red Bull’s front wing, he was unable to do so. He finished the race in 4th place. Magnussen scored another fine points finish for Haas in 6th place, Sainz was 7th while Alonso was 8th. Perez finished 9th after he overtook Leclerc in the final laps of the race. Leclerc finished 10th to score his second successive points finish. He drove a clean race, defended hard and was opportunistic.

Uncharacteristically, there were quite a number of retirements: Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Gasly were eliminated at the start, Raikkonen had to retire due to an electrical issue with his car, Vandoorne retired due to gearbox issues, while  Ocon retired due to engine issues.

Hamilton now leads the championship by 15 points from Vettel, with Bottas in 3rd place.

Mercedes have taken the lead of the constructors’ championship with their 1-2 finish and Raikkonen’s retirement from the race. Renault have overtaken McLaren for 4th place in the constructors’ standings, while Haas are now 6th. Sauber are 9th, with Williams in 10th.

 

(Image source: Google)

 

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Three races into 2018, here’s how the season is panning out.

There was pessimism around the F1 community regarding how F1 racing in 2018 would pan out. The halo was introduced, which makes the cars look ugly. Pre-season testing arrived, and once it ended it was certain that Mercedes had consolidated their dominant position at the top of F1. They completed almost all of their running on the medium tyres. In contrast with Ferrari and Red Bull, who focused on pace and set eye catching lap times. However, they lagged behind in total number of laps completed.

And so it was confirmed, Lewis Hamilton took a dominant pole position in Australia with a pole lap that was more than 0.5 seconds quicker than Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton dominated the race until a lucky safety car break for Vettel allowed him to jump Hamilton, and run away with the race win. It was termed as a lucky win for Ferrari, and seconded by Vettel who claimed that Ferrari needed to put in more work to truly compete with Mercedes.

Two weeks later, the circus moved to Bahrain, and the weekend was dominated by the Ferraris. Vettel took pole, and fought hard to win his second race of 2018, fending off Mercedes all by himself. A strategy bluff by Mercedes put both their drivers on the medium tyres while Ferrari put both their drivers on the softs. It would become a race of who managed their tyres better. In an attempt to keep off the rampaging Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton who had started back in 8th place, Ferrari pitted Kimi to fit in the super soft tyres but the move backfired as the mechanics botched the pit stop, possibly because of a faulty wheel gun and Kimi had to retire. The race came alive in the later stages with Bottas closing in on Vettel rapidly,  because the German’s tyres were wearing off fast. However, he managed to see off the challenge and took the chequered flag. It was also a very strong weekend for Toro Rosso, as Pierre Gasly finished 4th –  the best ever finish for a Honda engine since its return in 2015.

At the Chinese GP, it was expected that Red Bull would be in the fight for race victory as well. They had missed out in the previous two races with double retirements in Bahrain, and both Ricciardo and Verstappen having a tough time in Australia. However, Hamilton dominated the first practice session but the next two sessions were dominated by Ferrari. Vettel took pole from Raikkonen by 0.087 seconds. Mercedes were 0.5 seconds adrift, and the reason for that was that the W09 took a long time to warm up its tyres. Vettel was comfortably leading the race, until Ferrari’s pit strategists were caught napping and were too late to react to Mercedes. Bottas jumped Vettel in the pit stops and led the race while Red Bull did an amazing job of stacking up both their drivers in the pits. Later, a safety car was triggered when the Toro Rosso drivers collided with each other. This prompted a masterstroke from Red Bull when they again double stacked their drivers and fitted soft tyres. The race was starting to come alive. Red Bull would be difficult to hold off with both Ferrari and Mercedes on the mediums. Both Ricciardo and Verstappen started closing the gap to the leaders and were soon on the back of Hamilton. Verstappen botched the move trying to go around the outside and ended up in the grass, while Ricciardo pulled off a super move going into the hairpin. It was a Daniel special, the kind in which he comes from a long way back, goes as late into the brakes as possible and still comes out ahead. With that, he started going after Vettel and passed him at the very same spot.

Verstappen, meanwhile, managed to dispatch Hamilton but then he was punished for his impatience when he collided with Vettel while trying to overtake him at the hairpin. Verstappen was given a time penalty while Vettel dropped down the order to 8th place. With Ricciardo going at such searing pace, it was a given fact that he would pass Bottas but no one expected the move to be that dangerous. He managed to squeeze through and raced away to take a 6th career win. Bottas was 2nd and Kimi 3rd. Hamilton was 4th, Verstappen was 5th, while Vettel was 8th. Toro Rosso had a slump in form with a double retirement, while Alonso scored points for the third successive time this year. Fitting the Renault engine hasn’t quite given McLaren the boost they were hoping for. However, the team’s technical chief, Eric Boullier has claimed that the ‘real’ 2018 car will debut in Spain. McLaren may be on par with Renault now, but with their claims of having the best chassis, they should have been competing with Red Bull.

While it may have been a disappointing day for a Ferrari fan like me, I was happy to see Ricciardo on the top step, and happy to see such racing which we have longed to see for a long time. While there may still be a need to overhaul the current regulations, the past two races in Bahrain and China signaled an arrival of the F1 of old.

The next race is in Baku, which Ricciardo won last year. It will be intriguing to see how Mercedes and Ferrari battle in the land of fire. The circuit is a combination of long straights, some really tight corners and some fast and flowing turns. It is a treat to watch.

(Image source: Google)

F1 2018 : The Talking Points

Formula One returns next weekend with the first race of 2018 at Albert Park in Melbourne! The period of off-season that was quite dreaded by us F1 fans has finally passed.

After what happened in the pre-season test, we have quite a lot of talking points about this season.

Finally a three-way battle in 2018

While Mercedes once again looked ominous with their reliability in pre-season testing, they didn’t show their hand on the softer compounds, as they did a majority of their running on medium tyres. They were the only team to breach the 1000-lap mark in testing, despite interrupted running in the first test. The W09 is an evolution of the W08, and has looked pretty steady and easy to drive on track. An analysis image showed Bottas taking a wider line into a corner and going full throttle. Something which Ferrari and Red Bull cars were unable to do so.

This year’s Ferrari SF71-H is a departure from last year’s car. It has a longer wheelbase, was spotted testing a Red Bull style diffuser and is devoid of Santander branding; it’s blood-red in color which makes it quite a sight to see on track.

However, as mentioned above, it hasn’t looked as confident as the Mercedes in the corners. It was also observed to be giving off plumes of smoke after it was fired up in the garage – something which is the characteristic of the engine. However, Ferrari set the ultimate pace of the pre-season test on hypersoft tyres. Their lap was almost a second faster than Daniel Ricciardo’s lap in Red Bull on the same compound. Still, there’s belief in the paddock that Ferrari may have slipped behind Red Bull in the pecking order. However. they have a habit to prove the media wrong. In 2016, after they set the pace in pre-season test, they were expected to provide a stern challenge to Mercedes, but it resulted in a win-less season. In 2017, not much was expected from their SF70-H, but that season was the closest season of the hybrid era, and the SF70-H won 5 races; Vettel finished runner-up.

Red Bull launched their RB14 ahead of schedule, thus reversing the trend of previous years. It seems to have paid off. They were on par with Mercedes’ and Ferrari’s pace on the medium tyres, but slower on the hypersofts. However, they look quite confident. The Renault engine is running reliably, while the Adrian Newey designed car certainly brings high expectations with it. A three way battle surely is game on!

A packed mid-field

The works Renault team was the surprise package of pre-season testing when it ran without any major issues, and set lap times comparable with the top three. It could be the team to have made the biggest progress over the winter. Last year was all about restructuring the management after its buyout of Lotus, and this year might well be when they push towards the ultimate goal of the world championship.

McLaren switched to Renault engines this year. While a switch won’t guarantee a race win, it will offer a litmus test for the Woking-based team after it endured three torrid years with Honda. Pre-season testing provided a glimpse. The engine at the back of the car is different, but the car beached in the gravel and being recovered by a crane was a familiar sight. It suffered from basic issues, like the bodywork not being able to withstand the heat, a suspension failure occurring, among others. Such issues were ultimately resolved by changing the engine, which cost them a lot of time. The least that they could have done to prepare for the season would be to get some solid running under their belts. However, on the last day, they surprised everyone when Alonso set the third fastest time of the test on hypersoft tyres. It was only 0.4 seconds slower than Ferrari! Genuine pace, or just an attempt to ward off the negative attention from the media surrounding their reliability concerns? Surely, Alonso and Eric Boullier, the team’s technical chief sound pretty confident.

Honda. who are supplying Toro Rosso this season, proved to be the biggest surprise of them all, with their engine running reliably throughout the test. Toro Rosso also surpassed the 100-lap mark on most days, and Toro Rosso even made cheeky remarks at McLaren after seeing the issues that the team was facing. Honda might have got it right this time around.

Haas impressed with their pace and set the fourth fastest time in the latter stages of testing, which surprised everybody. They will be in the hunt as well.

Rounding off the grid

Williams endured a quiet test, and frequently remained in the latter half of the grid in terms of lap times. They have an inexperienced driver lineup. Paddy Lowe may have made a difference in designing philosophy of the car, but the inexperience of the drivers may hurt the team. Robert Kubica, the team’s development driver was often the fastest of the two.

Sauber got Alfa-Romeo branding last year, and will be running the latest spec Ferrari engines this year. With Charles Leclerc, the current F2 champion and Marcus Ericsson as the drivers, they will look to move up the field and score points regularly. However, the car has proved to be a handful and spun numerous times at the exact same places in the hands of both Leclerc, and Ericsson.

Uncharacteristically, Force India had a quiet test with no flashes of speed whatsoever. They were flying under the radar. However, testing only gives so much of a picture and the real order will be revealed in Australia in 5 days’ time.

All things said, it will prove to be a cracker of a season.

What to expect at the launch of the 2018 F1 cars?

The 2018 F1 season is upon us. It’s only 40 days to go till lights-out in Australia. Teams will be launching their 2018 challengers next week, according to the following schedule:

                          Williams FW41               15th February                          

Red Bull RB14                 19th February

Alfa Romeo Sauber C37  20th February 

Renault R.S.18                  20th February

Ferrari                              22nd February

Mercedes W09                22nd February

McLaren MCL33             23rd February

Toro Rosso STR13            26th February

What to expect?

Halo

The most talked about technical and aesthetic change that is coming in 2018 is the Halo. It’s a head protection device which has been trialed on numerous occasions in the past two years, to give us a glimpse of how ugly it will look. Apart from its aesthetic deficiencies, it’s also believed to hamper a driver’s line of vision, and might increase the time in which a driver is able to eject from a car in case of an accident.

On the other hand, numerous simulations have shown how the halo will protect the driver, in case of debris coming from every possible angle, except from directly above the head. It is made of titanium, cost €15,000 and weighs around 14-15 kg. With the FIA adding 6 kg to the existing minimum weight limit of the car (728 kg), it’s quite a headache for the designers to accommodate the halo into the design of the chassis, and there will be problems for heavier drivers.

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Vision of the track from driver’s point of view, with halo on the car.

Recent videos of IndyCar using an aero-screen, similar to what Red Bull trialed a few times, emerged.

Here’s a comparison of how they will look:

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Lewis Hamilton trialing the halo.
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The aeroscreen that will be run in IndyCar.

Conventional Engine Cover returns

The other change, which will be quite visible is the removal of shark fins, and the T-wing. Shark fins made a comeback last year. A lower rear wing opened the door for teams to integrate it with the engine cover.

There were no rules regarding any bodywork between the rear wing and the cockpit of the car, and hence teams exploited it with the use of the T-wing. Its use wasn’t very popular earlier in the season, but eventually it became apparent that a sizable down force advantage was on the offer, and therefore all the teams adopted it.

There was trouble, however with the T-wing on Haas’s car flexing uncontrollably in the corners, and Bottas’ wing failure whose debris caused damage to Max Verstappen’s car. Hence, intense scrutiny has led to them being banned this year, and so cars will be sporting more conventional engine covers.

Suspension

The third change is with regards to suspension. As the steering wheel turns, a change in the ride height of the car occurs. That change in ride height has now been limited to just 5 mm, when the steering wheel is moved from lock-to-lock.

That said, there are no changes expected in the design of the power units, or the shape of the cars. The limit on the penalty-free use of power units has been reduced though, to 3 power units per season in a bid to reduce costs. It has been an unpopular decision with the teams. With driver penalties handed out like candy last year, it might get worse, especially for Renault and Honda, who bore majority of the brunt of those penalties last year. However, it’s a new year and a new season and nobody knows how much they would have worked over the winter, to make up the deficit.

So, it’s only a few days to go before the excitement of the launch begins. Will there ve changes to the liveries of the cars? Teaser videos for the MCL33 have hints of papaya orange. Red Bull’s video showed a hint of pink, while it’s fairly predictable what Ferrari, and Mercedes will look like. Sauber unveiled an Alfa Romeo sponsored livery when they announced the partnership, so it’s expected to be something similar. Force India have undergone a name change, but will a livery change follow?

How will Toro Rosso fare, with Honda as their new supplier? Honda’s return has been quite embarrassing and they will be keen to change that perception about them. Who will we see on the front row, come Melbourne? If Red Bull carry on where they left off last season, and McLaren also get it right with the engines, we might see a 4-way battle for the championship!

We will get an answer to all these questions, come testing, which commences on 26th February in Barcelona!

-Samin Batra

 

(Image Sources: Google)

Top 5 rivalries to watch out for in 2018

February is almost here and that means a slew of launches are lined up later in the month. Teams will be launching their new 2018 challengers – the second generation of cars for the new era of aerodynamic regulations which began last year.

Cars are expected to have one major change. For the first time ever, cars will have a safety protection device – the halo. Apart from that, there will be other subtle changes – the shark fins which made an appearance last year will be ditched in favor of a more conventional engine cover. Otherwise, they are expected look pretty much the same as can be seen in a teaser poster by the Renault team:

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Teaser for the 2018 RS18.

We saw how much of an advantage cars gained over the 2016 challengers as the new era was ushered in. Although overtakes went down, it was mesmerizing to watch drivers wrestle with the cars and try to overtake each other; it made for some fabulous racing. A lot of rivalries were ignited and renewed as a result and so in this post, I will be going over the 5 rivalries that will define the 2018 season.

  1. Hamilton v Vettel v Verstappen v Ricciardo (for the world championship)
From top-to-bottom, and left-to-right: Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, and Daniel Ricciardo.

This will be the major rivalry to watch out for, and it involves the world championship. 2017 was defined by the much awaited battle between Hamilton and Vettel for the world championship. Vettel provided a strong challenge which ultimately faded away in the latter half of the season. Around that same time, Red Bull returned to winning ways with Max Verstappen taking outright victories in Malaysia and Mexico. The Renault power unit finally looked to have made up some of the deficit to Ferrari and Mercedes. That combined with a strong chassis made Red Bull a strong challenger in the closing stages of the season, and their development curve was impressive – bringing down the deficit in qualifying time from 1.5 seconds in the first few races to around 0.5-0.7 seconds by the end of the season. They can’t be ruled out this year, and therefore their young and highly talented drivers – Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are expected to play a part this year.

Also, don’t rule out Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen. Bottas was strong last year in his first season at Mercedes, taking victory in Austria, Russia and Abu Dhabi. Kimi Raikkonen came close to winning in Monaco, and Hungary, while he would have surely won in Malaysia had his car not broken down.

2. Esteban Ocon v Sergio Perez

 

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Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez.

Esteban Ocon was promoted to Force India ahead of his Manor teammate Pascal Wehrlein in 2017. Him being a rookie, with not even a full time season under his belt was expected to play second fiddle to the more experienced Sergio Perez. However, that was not to be and Ocon gave Perez more than a run for his money.  The two collided in Canada, Baku, and Belgium – which proved to be the last straw and they were banned from racing each other.

Their qualifying score read 13-7 in favor of Perez.

That ban was lifted only after the season ended, and while the two drivers appeared to have resolved their differences, their rivalry will be another one to watch out for this year.

3. Nico Hulkenberg v Carlos Sainz

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Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.

After Jolyon Palmer failed to keep his seat at Renault and Carlos Sainz replaced him at the US GP, the Spaniard was on the pace straight away and provided a trailer for things to come with some scintillating overtakes on the Force Indias at the US GP. The youngster had been loaned to Renault, after impressing at Toro Rosso. He is as highly rated as Max Verstappen. Nico Hulkenberg almost single-handedly took Renault to 6th place last year, but with Carlos Sainz, who out-qualified Daniil Kvyat 10-7 at Toro Rosso and scored the majority of their points, as his teammate Renault can hope to fight higher up the grid. They steadily improved throughout the year, and looked more settled since their return in 2016. This will be a battle which could either make or break them – make because it would be a great opportunity for them to score more points, and  break if it turns out like the rivalry between Ocon and Perez because that rivalry cost Force India a potential victory at Baku in 2017.

4. Kimi Raikkonen v Valtteri Bottas

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Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen.

This is a rivalry which will not be ignited, but renewed. The two Finns have no love lost between them. While both of them played second fiddle to their teammates for majority of the last season, they showcased some of the battles of their own, which mostly resulted in collisions. Remember Russia 2015, or Baku 2017? While these two could figure in the fight for the world title, they certainly won’t back down from a fight of their own.

5. Charles Leclerc v Marcus Ericsson

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Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson.

Charles Leclerc made headlines when he was signed by the newly christened Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team. The Monegasque driver, just 20 years of age, was picked ahead of the more experience driver Antonio Giovinazzi. His performance in the 2017 GP2 season was on another level. He won the championship in his rookie year ( only the fourth driver after Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg, to do so). He took 8 pole positions that season. While Sauber received much needed funding from Alfa Romeo, and brand new 2018 spec Ferrari engines, they will move up the midfield, and there will be a battle to watch out for between these two. Ericsson matched his teammate Pascal Wehrlein for many of the qualifying sessions last year, losing 11-8. Ericsson is no pushover, and so this will be another battle to watch out for, because it might open up a seat at Ferrari or another top team.

 

–Samin Batra

 

(Image sources: Google search)

Top 5 Most Dominant Formula One cars of all time

Once a new era of regulations kicks in, seldom have we had a level-playing field. There’s always that one team which produces the best car of the grid, and then dominates the season. Such periods of domination have happened at various points of time in the rich history of Formula One.  The cars that helped dominate eventually became a symbol of heritage and proof of what the team had achieved.

In this post, I shall be looking over the years to some of the most dominant cars in F1 history. I will be starting with 9 most dominant cars (cars that won 75% or more races in that season) in history, and narrow down the list to 5 based on their win-ratios.

 

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Different teams have dominated the sport at different points of time. The teams have been sorted according to win ratio, i.e. the number of races that the car won out of all races in a given season.

Narrowing down to five most dominant cars.

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Proportion of wins of 5 most dominant cars in F1.

1.  McLaren MP4/4 (1988) 

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McLaren MP4/4 driven by Ayrton Senna.

 

In 1988, then McLaren chief Ron Dennis made two masterstroke decisions – he dropped Porsche-TAG as the engine supplier and signed Honda, and he signed Ayrton Senna to partner Alain Prost; two of the best drivers in the world, driving a car powered by the best engine on the grid. The car sometimes out qualified other cars by more than a second.

Non-finishes: 2

Wins: 15 out of 16 races

Drivers’ champion/ Constructors’ champion : Ayrton Senna/ McLaren

 2.  Mercedes W07 (2016)

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Mercedes W07 hybrid driven by Lewis Hamilton.

What happens when you get a head start over the rest of the field as a new era of regulations kicks in, and you have dominated the first two years? Under pressure from expectations of another season of domination and staying ahead of their rivals, you do what Mercedes did: they produced possibly the best car of the current hybrid era of engines (2014 on wards).

Non-finishes: 1

Wins: 19 out of 21 races

Drivers’ champion/ Constructors’ champion: Nico Rosberg/ Mercedes

 

3.  Ferrari F2002 (2002)

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Ferrari F2002 driven by Michael Schumacher.

With Ross Brawn as the technical chief, Jean Todt as team principal and Michael Schumacher as the number one driver, Scuderia Ferrari of the 2000s was a dream team. Having ended Mika Hakkinen and McLaren’s domination of the sport in 2000, Ferrari and Schumacher went on to win 5 drivers’ and constructors’ titles in a row. But, it was in 2002 when they produced the most impressive performance of their dominating run; Michael Schumacher won the title by the French GP, with six races to go.

Non-finishes: 3

Wins: 15 out of 17 races

Drivers’ champion/Constructors’ champion: Michael Schumacher/ Ferrari

4. Ferrari 500 (1952)

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Ferrari 500

Now, to the early ’50s, when the concept of aerodynamics was in its infancy and cars relied mainly on engines for performance. Some of the most dominant cars ever were produced during that time.

The Ferrari 500 was one of those cars. It was built under Formula 2 regulations. Alberto Ascari won the drivers’ championship that year, driving a Ferrari.

Non-finishes: 4

Wins: 7 out of 8 races

Drivers’ champion: Alberto Ascari

5. Alfa Romeo 158 (1950)

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Alfa Romeo 158 at Nurburgring

Another classic. This car was one of the most dominant and successful cars ever made. Giuseppe Farina won the world championship that year, driving an Alfa Romeo.

Non-finishes: 7

Wins: 6 out of 7 races

Drivers’ champion: Giuseppe Farina

(Source of images: Wikipedia)

 

Samin Batra

The driver dilemma at Williams and why it’s good for the drivers involved.

A year ago, Williams Martini Racing F1 team found themselves looking for a driver to replace then-retired Felipe Massa. However, Nico Rosberg retired, which opened the gates for Valtteri Bottas to replace him at Mercedes, and Massa had to come out of retirement to drive again.

A year on, this time Massa is retired for good, and the coveted seat at Williams is vacant again. Robert Kubica had been in the running for the seat, but was ruled out later. Now, it’s rumored that Sergey Sirotkin or Pascal Wehrlein could take that seat. Doesn’t matter who takes it, it would sure be a step up the ladder for whoever gets the seat – provided they’re coming from a back marker team.

Williams has a rich history. Built from ground up single-handedly by Frank Williams and Patrick Head, it’s now the second most successful British team in Formula One, and was once the most successful, until Ferrari took the record with Schumacher.

The beginning was tough, and Frank Williams struggled for results, and his cars were even considered unlucky because many drivers had been killed driving them, including his close friend Piers Courage. He sold the team to Wolf who then rebranded the team as Wolf racing, ultimately banning Frank Williams from working at the factory.

Frank Williams came back, and founded another team, called Williams Grand Prix Engineering, and hired Patrick Head as the engineer. Together, they set out to conquer the world of Formula One. With class leading engines, and chassis which suited every track, their cars soon became title contenders. Their first victory came with Clay Regazzoni at Silverstone in 1979.

Championship victories soon followed in 1980, and soon Williams was regarded was one of the top 5 teams of F1 – along with Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and Benetton.

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Season wise race wins for Williams

The team had some of its most successful years from 1980 to 1996, dominating many seasons, such as 1992, 1993 and 1996. The 1992 Williams car had computer aided traction control which made it the dream car for drivers, like Ayrton Senna. Some of the famous and most successful drivers have raced for the team in the past – Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna – all titans of the 80s.

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Race winners for Williams.

Nigel Mansell won the most races for Williams, followed by Damon Hill, whose majority of victories came in 1996 when he won the world championship.

However, post 1997, Williams struggled to find reliable engines. A deal was made at the turn of the millennium to run BMW engines. Victories came, but they were few and scattered over the first half of the decade. They dried up in the latter half, and only one win has come so far in this decade –  Pastor Maldonado’s victory at Barcelona in 2012.

Williams secured a deal for the class leading Mercedes engines in 2014, which led them to second place in the constructors’ standings in 2014. However, they slipped back in the following years due to the resurgence of Ferrari and Red Bull, and finished 5th in 2017.

Something went wrong, they failed to build a good car which struggled mightily at some tracks in 2017, and the Mercedes power was perhaps its only savior. One thing though, Williams have mastered the art of pit stops consistently delivering the fastest pit stops over the past few years. They hired Paddy Lowe last year, and he has been working on the 2018 challenger, and given his credentials there should be some improvements in performance.

There’s no doubt however that the team is capable to win, given its past record at various tracks around the world.

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Wins for Williams at different tracks. Size is proportional to number of wins.

All kinds of tracks are visible in the above image, which means Williams has won at the power hungry circuits, the tight and twisty circuits and some which are a mixture of both.

So, whichever driver gets the seat, he will be privileged to drive the car, and it will be a huge boost for his career – consider where Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas ended up.

 

–Samin Batra