F1: Daniel feels the love
AUSTRALIAN Daniel Ricciardo has all the ingredients to be a world champion, says McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso, who should know what he’s talking about.
The Spanish superstar and winner of a couple of world Formula One championships, and the driver rated as the racers’ racer, predicts: “Yeah, Daniel’s definitely a super-talented driver and has been one of the biggest surprises of the last three or four years in Formula One.
“He has a great future. Australia you have to be very proud because he will be winning the world championship sooner or later.”
Alonso, whose best mate in Formula One was another Australian, Mark Webber, also likes the warm, lively way Ricciardo conducts himself out of the car.
“Apart from his driving skills, he’s a funny guy and very open. A great character in the paddock.”
Going into the opening round of the 2016 world F1 championship, yet another former world champion – this time Alan Jones – went into bat for Ricciardo, declaring the West Australian should join Ferrari next year, taking over from Kimi Raikkonen, whose contract ends this season.
Jones reckons it’s simple. The Finn is flung, and Ricciardo slips into the seat. Perfect.
Except that Red Bull has Ricciardo locked into a deal that will be hard to break. How hard Our Dan fights for a release might depend on what engine Red Bull plans to use in 2017.
A further sticking point could be the likely reaction from Sebastian Vettel. The Aussie towelled Vettel when the pair spent the 2014 together at Red Bull, and the German – as good as he is – may be reluctant to share the same garage again.
MOTOGP: Lorenzo takes tight Qatar
JORGE Lorenzo’s title defence was off to a flying start in Qatar overnight, with the Yamaha star winning the opening round of the MotoGP world championship
Andrea Dovizioso showed that Ducati’s testing form was no false promise by taking second from Honda’s Marc Marquez.
With new Michelin tyres and new unified electronics, there were lots of variables to be dealt with over the weekend.
Qualifying, led by Lorenzo, was amazingly tight, with the top 12 riders within a second – pointing to a close race.
Lorenzo held his advantage into the first corner ahead of Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team). Marquez started poorly and dropped out of the top five.
With their top-end speed an advantage, the Ducatis of Iannone and Dovizioso loomed as threats immediately and took the front running until the former dropped his machine.
Lorenzo and Dovizioso reeled off a succession of fast laps mid race but the Yamaha rider held a two second advantage at the finish. Dovizioso, Marquez and Rossi were blanketed by barely three tenths…
Rossi, who a couple of days earlier extended his Yamaha contract by a further two years, was in the lead bunch for much of the race but settled for fourth.
A day earlier, the Yamaha pair’s rivalry from last year spilled into the new season during the Free Practice 4 session when Rossi encountered the Spaniard dawdling on a hot lap. Rossi was forced to abort his lap and made his feelings known with furious hand gestures.
“He exited from the pit without looking at the track and when he arrived at the first corner he tried to slow down but he was on the line,” said Rossi during his media scrum.
Lorenzo saw it differently saying: “In my opinion he had no reason to complain. Everyone knows when you exit the pits you can’t stop to let them past. The only thing you can do is stay on the white line. I cannot be in the gravel. What can I do?”
Australian Jack Miller was 14th on his Marc VDS Honda.
F1: Don’t laugh… this is serious
JENSON Button has told Wheels about being reminded of an F1 regulation aimed at litterbug drivers who discard their helmet visor tear-offs.
“We have to keep the old tear-off strips in the cockpit,” explained a slightly incredulous Button.
“Why? I don’t know. Is it killing whales? If so, I understand the regulation.
But I’ve been doing it [throwing the strips away] for 17 years. It’s something drivers do automatically.”
Article 1.2 of Chapter 3 of the International Sporting Code states:"Any tear-offs attached to visors may not be thrown onto the track or the pitlane.”
There is a risk of punishment.
F1 race director Charlie Whiting reminded drivers before the cars hit Albert Park of a regulation forbidding the discarding the tear-off strips.
Button said most drivers start a race with four or five plastic visor strips, which are removed when the vision is affected by fluids, rubber or insects.
The reminder is understood to relate to concerns that the plastic strips could be caught in sensitive areas like brake ducts.
A tear-off strip was believed to have caused the brake problems that put Button’s team-mate Fernando Alonso out of last year’s Spanish GP.
F1: Fernando weighs into safety debate
WITH ‘halo’ cockpit protection mooted for implementation in Formula One next season, McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso - who did some unscheduled crash-test dummy work during the AGP - has come out strongly in favour of any technology with the potential to make Formula One safer.
There’s a debate on just how many safety changes should be made to a sport that’s certainly been made less perilous in recent years, due to advances in car design, and to modern circuits with huge run-off areas.
Alonso accepts that speed and danger are often mutually inclusive, but the sport should always remain open to, and embrace, life saving ideas.
The halo loop around the driver’s head and prototype jet fighter canopies have been shown this year, along with other cockpit protection ideas.
The halo system’s advantage over the jet-style canopy is easier driver extrication.
Some drivers have enthusiastically supported the introduction of some sort of head protection, including Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardo.
One vocal dissenter was Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, who believes the sport is safe enough and should retain a sniff of ever-present danger.
But heading into the Australian Grand Prix, Alonso aggressively chimed in to the discussion.
“The sport can never be too safe; there’s always room to improve and I totally agree and support the ideas of improving safety,” said the Spanish dual world champ, not buying into the argument that a safer environment breeds drivers who tend to act too wildly and aggressively.
“Yes, we have to drive the fastest cars in the world and we have to live with that danger but if there is any technology, or any idea, to protect drivers, it’s always welcome.
“It is not worth any risk of losing one life for not implementing one system because of aesthetics or anything.”
His monster shunt during the grand prix could only reinforce his thoughts on driver safety.
And, finally, “You don’t lose any of the mystique of Formula One by improving safety.
F1: Silly season to be sillier than most
WITH a large bunch of drivers out of contract at the end of 2016, including a handful of very desirable seats, the jostling and bumping for a plum ride will be on in earnest in a few months’ time.
The key to the possible musical chairs is Kimi Raikkonen, handed a one-year extension this season.
About three-quarters of the grid will be out hunting new, better deals at the end of the 2016 world championship.
There will inevitably be changes, although the likes of Nico Rosberg, whose current Mercedes contract is up this year, will be certainly angling to re-sign.
As ever, interest in Ferrari’s plans are sky high, with speculation that Raikkonen's seat will probably become available unless he turns in a blinding first half.
Speculation is that, regardless of any contractual ties, Ferrari could be interested Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen.
Drivers need to have their engineering understanding and political smarts finely tuned during the serious decision-making process. Today’s top team can be tomorrow’s also ran, as we’ve seen with the likes of Williams, McLaren, Red Bull and even Ferrari. Timing is everything.
Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Massa will be out of contract too at the end of the year, with the Brit being typically flippant about his plans for the future.
F1: Robots still in jobs queue, according to Alonso
DRIVERS can be demanding and expensive, and because we’re seeing a blinding technological pace in F1 along with the emergence of autonomous cars in the real world, couldn’t Fernando Alonso and his fellow pilotes be replaced by robots?
“I don’t think so,” says Alonso. “For some kind of things, technology is always better than humans. But for other situations, I don’t think they can reach the level of a human driver.
“Robots can replicate the same lap, time and time, but we are not doing the same lap for ever and ever. Driving an F1 car you never do two laps the same.
“Some things are unpredictable and out of control. On any lap, if you touch a white line there is less grip requiring a different throttle application. The wind direction changes, there is less fuel as the race goes on, and tyres get older. So you adapt at every single corner on every lap.”
For the moment then, McLaren Honda’s Ron Dennis still has to pay Alonso a considerable wedge to ply his trade.
MOTOGP: Book takes two-wheeled analysis to new level
NOT sure about the name, but the Scout's Guide to MotoGP 2016 – a new e-book now on sale through Amazon – gives MotoGP fans the chance to learn more than they ever wanted to know about the premier two-wheeled form of motor sport.
Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, and the rest of the superstars of the MotoGP World Championship are put under the microscope.
The styles, strengths, weaknesses and temperaments of these stunningly talented grand prix racers are examined in excruciating detail. The technique, talent, and tendencies of the sport's racers are ranked and dissected, with areas of advantage celebrated and vulnerabilities exposed.
Every ranking and scouting report is based upon information gleaned via exhaustive interviews with an all-star panel of leading MotoGP insiders, including highly-decorated racers, team managers, and journalists.
Written by motorcycle racing journalist Chris Martin with long-time grand prix journalist Colin Young in support, the Scout's Guide to MotoGP 2016 (168 pages, $2.99, available on Amazon) has been designed with smartphones and tablets in mind and is also available to be read on a Mac or PC with Amazon's free Kindle app.