RS16: Renault Sport F1 Team’s 2016 Challenger

Earlier today, the RS16 was unveiled at a Renault Sport launch event held in Paris. We also saw confirmation of the rumours that Danish driver Kevin Magnussen (former McLaren driver, 2014 season) would partner Jolyon Palmer, after it was announced that due to a lack of funding from his main sponsor PDVSA, Pastor Maldonado would not be returning to F1 in 2016, despite already having signed a new contract with the Lotus F1 Team last year prior to their takeover from Renault.

The launch event was streamed live via the Groupe Renault website, and trended on Twitter via the hashtag #HearUsComing. It’s the first of the 2016 F1 cars to be revealed, ahead of the first Pre-Season Winter test session in Barcelona later this month.

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F1 2015 – Paddock Headlines

Giedo Van der Garde versus Sauber F1 team

Sauber - Felipe Nasr and Giedo Van der Garde

The Australian Grand Prix was a race plagued for Sauber by their ongoing legal battle with former Caterham F1 driver Giedo Van der Garde, which had started in 2014 and only became public prior to the 2015 season opener after Van der Garde and his legal team “tried to force the team to accept the rulings of a succession of legal authorities and courts”.

In an official statement, the Dutchman revealed that he had mutually agreed with Sauber to suspend discussions, after Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn showed no interest in working with him, and pursuing the matter any further “might have brought down the team, would certainly have wrecked the opening Grand Prix in Melbourne because the team’s cars would have been seized by the court, [and] it may have [also] ruined the careers of two young drivers – Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr”.

German Grand Prix

F1 German Grand Prix - Hockenheimring Nurburgring

Another news story that has been hanging in the balance was whether or not there would be a German Grand Prix in 2015. For several years, the home of the German GP had alternated between the Hockenheimring and the Nurburgring circuits (Hockenheim in 2012, Nurburgring in 2013, etc.) to ease the financial burden of hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

However, the German GP has now been pulled from this year’s calendar after discussions with Hockenheim to host this year’s race fell through – this means that despite the bold presence of German drivers in the sport (four-time champion Sebastien Vettel; Nico Rosberg; Nico Hulkenberg), and the Mercedes GP team, there will be no race in Germany for the first time since 1960…

Chris K.

F1 Australian GP 2015 – Race Review

“I’ll Be Back” – these may have been the words that race-winner Lewis Hamilton shared with Arnold ‘Terminator’ Schwarzenegger on the podium, but how else do you sum up an explosive season opener that only saw eleven drivers complete the race?

F1 2015 Australia Start

During winter testing, it was announced that the Manor Marussia team had exited from administration but would not be competing at the season opener. Despite turning up at the Grand Prix, the team worked on a modified version of last year’s car until Parc Ferme rules came into effect – not a wheel was turned for the team, who had already missed their contractual total of three races during last year’s penultimate rounds. It was also announced that Gene Haas had taken ownership of Manor’s headquarters in Banbury, UK, which will act as a European base for the Haas F1 Team, which is said to be entering the F1 grid in 2016.

Also during winter testing, a mysterious crash at the Circuit de Catalunya ensured that McLaren’s injured Fernando Alonso would not be racing in Australia, and would instead be replaced by Kevin Magnussen for the Grand Prix weekend.

F1 2015 - Alonso Crash at Circuit de Catalunya

Valteri Bottas would also be out of the race due to back problems during practice; the Williams team were unable to replace him for the Grand Prix, meaning Felipe Massa would be the sole Williams driver for the first race of the new season. Two further drivers were taken out on the pre-race formation lap; Red Bull’s Daniel Kyvat pulled over purportedly due to gearbox issues, followed shortly by McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen with smoke pouring out of his engine.

A field of 15 cars was reduced even further at the start of the race – as the drivers battled for position, a turn one incident sparked a chain reaction which resulted in the inevitable retirement for Pastor Maldonado as he spun into the barrier. Shortly after, and under yellow flag/Safety Car conditions, teammate Romain Grosjean started to lose power from his Renault-powered Lotus E23, and was told by his team to trundle on around into the pits.

With only thirteen drivers still competing, Massa was jumped in the pits by Vettel, and Carlos Sainz Jr suffered a pitiful disaster after the Toro-Rosso team struggled to remove a wheel from his STR10 during a rather long pit-stop.

The next retirees were Toro-Rosso teammate Max Verstappen who, after a pit-stop, reported on the radio that there was smoke in the car; and Kimi Raikkonen, who exited the pits with a wheel not being properly attached. Due to the new regulations for 2015, Raikkonen could receive a penalty in the next race for an unsafe release.

After the mid-field antics had taken its toll on the race, including a close-call between Button and Perez, Hamilton cruised home to take the win, starting off strong in a season of title-defending against his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg who finished closely behind in second.

Hamilton has apparently never been starstruck on the podium, but that all changed when the Terminator himself stepped up onto the podium to conduct the post-race driver interviews:

Although Vettel was unable to close the gap to Rosberg, he managed to maintain the gap to Felipe Massa who strolled home in fourth position, showing for the second-year running just how close Williams really are to the Mercedes team.

But Vettel’s exemplary performance in his new Ferrari SF15-T, after a torrid 2014 season in a Red Bull RB10, begged more questions than it answered. Many fans and journalists believe that Alonso left the Maranello squad too early, and that McLaren are going to be out of the points for a while given the inevitable teething problems that are sure to come their way with the new partnership with Honda.

Ferrari - Alonso vs Vettel

The reason Alonso left Ferrari for McLaren was the same reason Vettel left Red Bull for Ferrari – a poor showing in 2014 caused both drivers to reassess their careers for the 2015 season. But, based solely on Vettel and Button’s performances in Australia (Button struggling home in 11th and thus failing to finish in the points), should Alonso have stayed with Ferrari for 2015?

Ferrari F14-T and Red Bull RB10

Finally, the success stories of the weekend must lie with the F1 rookies – Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, who finished 5th in his first Grand Prix (with teammate Marcus Ericsson cruising home in 8th), while Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr, son of the great WRC driver, came home in 9th, losing only one place after an impressive qualifying run that saw him start in 8th place.

If the opening race is anything to go by, the action is far from over… see you soon for more F1!

 

Chris K.