How Big an F1 Fan Are You?

By Hillary Chinyere

Durban, 31 October 2014.

There are 21 Formula One drivers in the above picture, who were showing their support for fellow driver, Marussia’s Jules Bianchi ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Sochi, October 13, 2014.

Let us see how many of those drivers you can recognise without looking up their mugshots on Google. For most, you just need to be familiar with their respective race suits and in some cases, the shape of the brim of their caps.

Your Score

You’ll know you’re an F1 fan if you get at least five of them correct, an F1 fanatic if you get more than ten of them correct. If you could identify up to fifteen of those drivers, you are probably an F1 mechanic. Anyone who correctly identified all 21 deserves a paddock pass!

Image courtesy of ESPNF1.


Hamilton Wins at a Sombre Suzuka

By Hillary Chinyere

Durban, 5 October 2014.


The champagne-free podium was a bit subdued due to the circumstances surrounding the end of the race.

In July, Lewis Hamilton passed his Mercedes team-mateNico Rosberg for the lead on lap 29 during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. He made another brave overtake on the German on lap 29 during the Italian Grand Prix at the Monza circuit. This morning he made a similar manoeuvre into lap 29 during the Japanese edition of the 2014 season on a wet Suzuka, using DRS, to eventually win the race under a red flag.

The media attention during this weekend was barely on the race itself. In the run up to the race, everyone was warming up to the surprise announcement made by the reigning four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel that he will be ending his 15-year marriage with Red Bull Racing at the end of this season.

The race was red-flagged on the 44th lap following a spin by Adrian Sutil at Turn 7 after he lost control of his Sauber due to a damaged rear-wing. Even though race marshals double-waved yellow flags at the corner to warn drivers after the incident, deteriorating conditions induced by a further downpour led to a similar but more serious crash by Marussia’s Jules Bianchi.Bianchi hit the crane which was sent to recover Sutil’s car, head first.After looking at the pictures, it seems more than understood that the Marussia made a very heavy contact with the crane, continued rolling underneath, and settled below the crane.

The unconscious Bianchi was ferried to the nearby hospital by a road ambulance as the weather was too dangerous to air-lift him.

Adrian Sutil said afterwards, “I was standing right next to it. Out of respect for Jules I don’t want to say any more.”

His father confirmed that his son was currently receiving surgery and was reported to have suffered severe head damage.

The race was started under a safety car as a result of the wet conditions and it stayed on until the race was red-flagged temporarily on lap 8, before resuming later.

sebastian Vettel wrapped up the podium fro the second time in as many races, ahead of Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo who came fourth. The Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa took sixth and seventh respectively, with Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez’s Force India’s both in the points – either side of ninth placed Jean-Eric Vergne, who had started from 19th after an engine change.

Our thoughts are with Jules Bianchi and his family.

Hamilton-Rosberg Feud: How it Started

By Hillary Chinyere

Durban, 26 August 2014, 20.00 CAT

Nico Rosberg makes contact with Lewis Hamilton's left rear tyre

Nico Rosberg makes contact with Lewis Hamilton’s left rear tyre during the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix.

Championship contender Lewis Hamilton and Championship leader Nico Rosberg made contact yesterday at  Spa-Francorchamps during the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix in the second lap of the race, costing Hamilton his third DNF of the season. The German was the one in fault in this incident but however, it is worth noting that Hamilton has trespassed on many weekends this season. The following is a list of the talking points in the Mercedes garage so far this year.

Bahrain Grand Prix, April

During the third race of the season in Bahrain, Hamilton cut across Rosberg, almost causing a crash. Rosberg appeals to the team over radio, saying ‘Tell him that was not on!’. Lewis Hamilton held on to win the race, with Rosberg second.

Spanish Grand Prix, May
Merceds chief Toto Wolff revealed that the tension dates back to the epic battle between the two in Bahrain where Rosberg was using engine modes that Hamilton was not and then Hamilton did the same when the pair were racing in Spain in two weeks ago. Wolff downplayed the significance of the two incidents, but said it had added to the tensionthat would later develop later in the year in Monaco.

Monaco Grand Prix, May
On pole position by just 0.059secs from Hamilton after the opening laps in the final qualifying period, Rosberg locked up on the entry to Mirabeau on his second and final attempt, and was forced to take the escape road. Behind the German, Hamilton was on a quicker lap, but with yellow flags being shown by the marshals due to Rosberg’s incident, the championship leader had to abort a lap he has since claimed would have secured him pole regardless. The incident brought back memories of Monaco 2006 as Michael Schumacher deliberately crashed his 248 F1 car at La Rascasse, in an attempt to prevent Fernando Alonso from completing his flying lap. However, the more illustrius German was stripped off his provisional pole position by the race stewards.
When asked about what Mercedes could do to rectify the situation Wolff had this to say,

“I’m not going to comment on this right now. Today we’ve seen the limits of the slap on the wrist. Maybe the slap on the wrist is not enough. If Lewis has said that it’s going to be a slap on the wrist, and that there’s going to be no consequence, then he’s not aware of what consequences we can implement.” – Toto Wolff

Belgian Grand Prix, August
Rosberg had qualified on pole, with Hamilton and Vettel behind him. As the lights went off, the Briton had a head-start and nipped Nico to take the lead. The Mercedes made contact on the second lap of the race, leaving Hamilton with a puncture on his left rear tyre and with it another retirement, and Rosberg with a damaged front wing which made him make an extra pit-stop. Hamilton claimed that he gave Nico space as he took his racing line but the German hit his team-mate’s car “to prove a point“.

“Nico’s hit me!” – Lewis Hamilton

“I lost the front end.” – Nico Rosberg

Hamilton does seem by nature to be a very competitive and aggressive driver. It did appear to me that it his usual style he cut across Rosberg’s nose and collided with him as a result. One can only be sure by examining the vector diagrams prepared from the telemetry. It was his decision to take that racing line across Rosberg, and he suffered the consequences. Rosberg seems to get away with anything in Formula 1, considering that Hamilton was previously handed a drive-through penalty for the same move on Fellipe Massa during the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix. This is the time when Hamilton pulls his famous line, “Is it because I’m black?”

Wet Conditions Deny Hamilton Pole at Spa

By Hillary Chinyere

eThekwini. Sunday 24 August 2014, 11.00 SAT

Pole Trio

A front brake disc malfunction in the final sector denied Lewis Hamilton his pole and had to play second best to Nico Rosberg for the seventh weekend in a row.


After topping the times in the first and second free practice sessions, Lewis Hamilton was edged by his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by two tenths in a thrilling Q3 session. The championship leader took his tally to four consecutive poles, the first quartet in his career.

Wet conditions which prevailed at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps punished even the most trivial of drivers’ errors. Perhaps the biggest victim on the day was British Hamilton as he ran wide after going purple in the first sector of the track in his flying lap. Had he gone purple again in the final sector, he could have took the pole position but Rosberg increased the gap instead.

“I had a glazed front left brake disc so the car was pulling to the left or to the right, and there was nothing I could do to get rid of it. I had to bring the brake balance further back, losing massive amounts out of Turn One.” – Lewis Hamilton

Nico Rosberg appeared to be going wide intentionally in order to brake late and gain more time on the exit of the second turn of the Bus Stop chicane. But almost every driver had a lock-up or other handicap in negotiating the chicane and other turns. For this reason, it gave the impression that rules had been relaxed to allow the drivers to breach the track limits.

Ever the consistent driver, Fernando Alonso qualified fourth, sharing the second-row with Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel.


Hungarian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo will start the race behind Alonso, after his final flyer was ruined by running wide on the exit of Blanchimont. The Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa only managed sixth and ninth.

See the full results below.

1. Nico Rosberg    Germany               Mercedes-Mercedes 2m 05.591s
2. Lewis Hamilton  Britain                   Mercedes-Mercedes 2m 05.819s
3. Sebastian Vettel Germany             Red Bull-Renault 2m 07.717s
4. Fernando Alonso Spain                 Ferrari-Ferrari 2m 07.786s
5. Daniel Ricciardo Australia              Red Bull-Renault 2m 07.911s
6. Valtteri Bottas Finland                    Williams-Mercedes 2m 08.049s
7. Kevin Magnussen Denmark         McLaren-Mercedes 2m 08.679s
8. Kimi Raikkonen Finland                  Ferrari-Ferrari 2m 08.780s
9. Felipe Massa Brazil                        Williams-Mercedes 2m 09.178s
10. Jenson Button Britain                  McLaren-Mercedes 2m 09.776s
11. Daniil Kvyat Russia                      Toro Rosso-Renault 2m 09.377s
12. Jean-Eric Vergne France            Toro Rosso-Renault 2m 09.805s
13. Sergio Perez Mexico                    Force India-Mercedes 2m 10.084s
14. Adrian Sutil Germany                   Sauber-Ferrari 2m 10.238s
15. Romain Grosjean France            Lotus-Renault 2m 11.087s
16. Jules Bianchi France                   Marussia-Ferrari 2m 12.470s

17. Pastor Maldonado Venezuela      Lotus-Renault 2m 11.261s
18. Nico Hulkenberg Germany          Force India-Mercedes 2m 11.267s
19. Max Chilton Briton                        Marussia-Ferrari 2m 12.566s
20. Esteban Gutierrez Mexico           Sauber-Ferrari 2m 13.414s
21. Andre Lotterer Germany             Caterham-Renault 2m 13.469s
22. Marcus Ericsson Sweden            Caterham-Renault 2m 14.438s


An Explanation of F1 Race Day Jargon

By Hillary Chinyere
Durban, 3 August 2014.


Daniel Ricciardo with Fernando Alonso at the podium after a thrilling 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix.

This is one of a series of articles I will use to explain Formula 1 terms which are vital in understanding race reports, commentaries and team radio conversations. In this article, I used excerpts from a number of Formula 1 websites as they reported on the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo captured the chequered flag for the second time this season at end of astonishing Hungarian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton claims magnificent third. The inclement weather made picking a winner an almost impossible task. The favourite to take the chequered flag changed on countless occasions.

Capturing the chequered flag is winning the F1 race. Depending on the occassion during the race, a digital flag will be displayed on a screen mounted to the car’s steering wheel. The first person to finish the race will have the chequered flag appearing on his car first, and thus “captures” it.

Rosberg, from pole, streaked off over the horizon. But he was badly hurt by rookie Marcus Ericsson’s crush and the introduction of the first safety car, which not only cancelled out his 10-second advantage but penalised the leading four drivers, because they did not have time to pit like the other cars behind.

The driver who makes the fastest qualifying lap on the Saturday of a racing weekend will start the race ahead of the rest of the drivers, or on pole position. After a potentially harzadous obstruction to a race, the F1 cars enter a safety period when they are driven in a formation at a speed that will not allow their tyres to cool down too much. A safety car, currently a Mercedes Benz SLS AMG, leads such a formation.

A downpour less than an hour before the start of the race made it a nightmare for the teams when it came to choosing their rubbers, with the choice between intermediates and full rain tyres.

Rubbers are tyres as they are made primarily from rubber. Tyres are still a race car’s biggest single performance variable. Full rain tyres have more extensive tread patterns, necessary to expel standing water when racing in the wet.

Both Force Indias retired for the first time since the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Nico Hulkenburg’s race was ended when he was taken out by team-mate Sergio Perez. Mexican Perez then saw his race end in the wall when he spun coming out of the final corner.

A retirement is when a driver withdraws from the race before going through all the laps, usually due to mechanical failures with the car.

Nico Rosberg spent eight laps behind Lewis Hamilton and will have lost a bunch of time. Had he gone past Hamilton, he may well have won the race, having finished just six seconds behind winner Daniel Ricciardo.

In this race, Nico was faster than Hamilton but due to the latter’s defensive driving, he had to be content with being stuck behind him. As a result, Rosberg theoretically lost a huge amount of time as he had been gaining a couple of seconds each lap.

Heart in mouth moment as Daniel Ricciardo tries a gung-ho pass around the outside of Lewis Hamilton at Turn Two! But he out-brakes himself and runs wide. Hamilton lives to fight another day. Alonso gets some breathing space.

Smoothly transitioning from acceleration to braking to turning is key in going around a corner the fastest way possible. This is achieved by late breaking, a skill every Formula 1 driver needs for survival. However, if a driver brakes too late he’ll be in trouble and likely go off the track, also known as out-braking yourself.

Engineer to Daniel Ricciardo: “You are catching Hamilton very quickly but think about how you use your tyres so they are fresh when you catch him.”

Fresh tyres are usually those on a car that has recently pitted but in this scenario, Ricciardo was being instructed to preserve the grip on his tyres so that they could be helpful during an attack on the Briton.

Engineer to Nico Rosberg: “You are racing until the end now, there are 13 laps so quali laps every lap until the end.”

Qualifying laps refers to making the car go as fast as it can, without worrying about tyres or fuel as is done during flying laps on a qualifying session.

The problem for Rosberg is that when you are in that one-second range, you’re in dirty air from the car in front and you can’t get on the throttle, so you can’t stay close enough to overtake, so you do need a little help from your team-mate.

Dirty air is air which has been “disturbed” by a car closely in front of a car in question. The dirty, or more accurately turbulent air, due to the various aerodynamic appendages in the lead car tends to unbalance the trailing car, causing drastic changes in the downforce. This leads to less aerodynamic and mechanical  grip, speed and thus difficulty in overtaking.

Nico Rosberg gets a reasonable start, with Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas going with him. Bottas goes around the outside of Vettel at Turn One to take second, with Fernando Alonso taking advantage and nabbing third.

Going on the outside of a driver means attempting to overtake them using the furthest route, further from the apex of the turn.

This is by no way a complete of all terms used in Formula 1 but were the most-used during the race at Hungaroring.

FRIC: Demystifying Formula 1’s Latest Controversy

By Hillary Chinyere
Harare, 17 July 2014, 15.00 CAT.

Mukakati Fric

A close-up on the suspension of one of the Formula 1 cars that use FRIC.

Formula1 teams were served with a technical directive from the FIA’s race director Charlie Whiting after the British Grand Prix, with regards to the legality of the Front-and-Rear Interconnected Suspension (FRIC) systems employed in the majority of the cars. This is a result of the belief that FRIC systems being currently used may be illegal and giving some cars an unfair advantage.

What is FRIC?
This technology was introduced to Formula 1 by Mercedes in 2011 and have been perfecting it ever since. Due to high speeds of F1 cars, something has to keep the cars ‘down’ and maintain their stability as the cars usually reach top speeds which exceed the maximum take-off speed of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. Therefore, the ability to create downforce is a crucial quality of an F1 car. However, as a result of a number of regulations introduced recently, the cars have lost a considerable amount of downforce and teams always innovate to get around new regulations.

As the car brakes, enters or leaves a corner it undergoes quite a few changes regarding its stability and ride height and a substantial amount of downforce is lost as a result. If an engineer could make the car more stable in the midst of those changing dynamics and fix the ride height through those manoeuvres, he would enable the car to get a competitive edge. Such an innovation produces a stable ride height through a manoeuvre (not that an F1 car is all about comfort), optimise aerodynamics and above all, maintain downforce. FRIC is a system that links the front and rear suspension of a car via hydraulics to achieve the effect described above, in addition to giving better drivability to the car.

Why Teams Use FRIC
Earlier versions gained polarity in 1993 and amoung the cars equipped with the technology was Luigi Martini’s M193 which had a passive hydraulic system. The modern complex interlinked suspension helped the Lotus’ E21 and Mercedes’ W04 to be competitive cars in 2013, two years after its introduction. First of all, only the teams’ developmental and garage personnel are privy to the specific details of their respective technologies the account of benefits given here is not exhaustive. FRIC is sometimes used to minimise the variations in height between the front and rear of the car during braking and acceleration and thus promote a more uniform tyre wear. One advantage of FRIC is the way it allows independent control of the car’s suspension components enables the car’s handling to be adapted to individual tracks with great precision.

Aftermath of the ‘Ban’
McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull are said to have removed the system from their cars in preparation for the German Grand Prix. According to Germany’s Auto Motor and Sport, Force India is “leaving key developments in the cupboard” until the legality of FRIC is clarified.

“McLaren does not currently intend to run a FRIC suspension [sic] system at the German Grand Prix,” said a McLaren spokesperson.

Caterham is believe to be planning on lodging a complaint against teams who will be using FRIC systems during the German Grand Prix. As we stand, no one really knows if the technology will be allowed for use at

Hokenheimring tomorrow. It also remains to be seen if Mercedes will retain their form after removing FRIC from Lewis Hamilton and NicoRosberg’sF1W05s as it has been rumoured to be its Holy Grail. When shall we have such technologies on our Donnybrook track?

A Technical Account on How 18’ Tyres Will Affect Formula 1

By Hillary Chinyere

Harare, 14 July 2014, 10.00 CAT.


One of Lotus’ Renault-powered E22 sporting the 18-inch Pirelli rubbers.

13-inch tyres have been part of Formula1 for many years and are effectively the sport’s living fossils, as the rest of the car has been literally evolving around them. Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli, Formula One’s exclusive rubber supplier debuted it’s 18-inch tyre prototype on the second day of the second in-season testing done at Silverstone a couple of days after the British Grand Prix. This comes at a time when there has been talk on the imminent return of Michelin to the F1 pits. Lotus were given the task of testing the new tyres which have largely received negative reaction from the elitist fans. I’m one of those.

Formula 1 Thrives on Standing Out

Having more low profile tyres does not appeal cos it makes the F1 car look like a normal road vehicle. Can you imagine an F1 car with tyres bigger than those of a Land Cruiser Prado or aftermarket rims on an ex-Japanese Toyota Altezza? It’s the same reason why I oppose the notion of making F1 engines more road relevant. We love F1 for its uniqueness in speed, downforce, grip, noise, aesthetics and handling. For more road relevance, we’d rather watch Rally or better still, NASCAR. It’s the same reason why you might play ridiculous computer games, you play them for their ridiculousness and not their similarity to real life. Formula 1 is already changing so quickly and most of the change is in the wrong direction, with the 2014 and recently-announced 2015 regulations, along with the slow replacement of classic circuits with modern Herman Tilke tracks which have proven to be boring to many a car racing fan. Formula 1 must not follow but lead what is happening on our ordinary roads, both in safety and performance.

Death of the Pit Stop?

Some fans in support of novel tyre technology cited enhanced durability as a positive but it has a deleterious effect on the beauty of F1. We want to see races being decided based on team strategies with respect to rubber compounds used at different stages of the race. First it was the ban on re-fuelling based on safety reasons, now there is talk on a tyre made of more metal and meant to be high on longevity. This, I’m afraid, might reduce the pit lane to merely a site for drive-through penalties or as a grid for multiple offenders such as Pastor Maldonado. Maybe this could be both a pro and a con as drivers such as Lewis Hamilton have blamed their not so quick pit-stops for some of their finishing positions?

Performance Vs Aesthetics

I would be open to bigger rims if only they could improve the performance of the car unlike technologies such as KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) with very low power-to-weight ratios. In that respect, I would welcome a review carried out to investigate the rim size which give the best overall speed to the cars and at the same time financially viable for all teams.

It’s next to impossible to buy a regular car with weight as little as that of an F1 car, aftermarket aerodynamics parts as effective as F1 front and rear wings or steering wheels as integral to the car and with the complexity found in F1. I’m not really worried about the aesthetics but by the functionality of changes we make to the car as it is not a status symbol but a mobile piece of engineering. Can we borrow from Le Mans and adopt the 18” for looks alone?


On the up side, larger rims can accommodate larger brakes as brake development in Formula 1 is relatively fluid. Low-profile tyres, as the Pirelli 18-inch prototype would be easier to warm-up as they remove the need for tyre blankets. If you are already familiar with Formula 1, you might have heard that warming up tyres improves grip of the tyres and performance of brakes.

Keeping a Low Profile

Low profile means better structural integrity and less bouncy tyres. As a result, when a car loses a wheel as happened to Mark Webber’s car during the Germany Grand at Nurburgring, it will be less dangerous for bystanders. At the same site, a lower profile tyre would mean a larger hub, which would be heavier, making it even more dangerous were it to be accidentally launched. Worth to be noted however is that a larger rim is heavier and thus tends to reduce performance of car as more power will thus be in demand to move the extra weight. Other F1 will argue that the bouncy tyres are an integral component of the cars’ suspension and changing them would require a total redesign of the entire suspension, at a huge cost.

I Can Get Even More Technical

When using Laws of Physics you always wanted the smallest wheel possible that would fit the brakes required to stop the vehicle from Vmax at the maximum rate that the grip allows. Increasing the wheel size will increase the rotational inertia, meaning it will require more power to accelerate and more braking to decelerate (slow down) compared to the smaller wheels; in this case, the 13-inch family. The major practical reason for having large brakes is for cooling and there are few times you ever hear of f1 cars having an issue with over-heating brakes, 2014 Canadian Grand Prix being one of them. Again, bigger wheels and rims result in longer gear ratios, a drawback on performance-oriented cars such as F1 cars.

Nevertheless, the recent changes in Formula 1 regulations have shown us that the voice of Bernie Ecclestone is louder than that of fans and logic.