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  In formula one, as in all competitive sports and much of life, momentum is everything. When you have it, you catch all the breaks and everything seems to going for you. But if you slip or stumble just once, even when it’s not your fault, that can be the tipping point, the fulcrum, which unleashes torrents of crap upon your head. From the rose garden to the dung heap in a split second. Sometimes it might even seem that initially you may have gotten away with your slip, even to others, but as time draws on, it becomes evident what was the precise moment the excrement began to pour and your momentum waned. Sometimes it’s blindingly obvious, say Niki Lauda, the Nurburgring 1976. Sometimes it’s more subtle. Brabham and Williams switching from Michelin to Goodyear rubber between the Spanish and French Grand Prixs in 1981 or Alonso passing Schumacher on the outside of 130R at Suzuka in 2005. Sometimes it should have been obvious, but it just took a while to become so.



  Lets have a quick study of these first three scenarios. In 1976 Niki Lauda, the reigning champion had all the early momentum. Nine races, five wins, two seconds and a third. Then came that fiery crash at the Nurburgring and despite his miraculous recovery, the momentum was gone. Gone to James Hunt who ended the season with four wins from the final seven races while the gruesomely injured Lauda could only manage a meagre seven points. Don’t get me wrong here, they were seven extraordinarily bravely earned points, especially the fourth on return at Monza, but just seven points never the less. Arguments will probably rage as long as the sport exists whether it was braver to race on in the appalling conditions in Japan that year or it was braver to risk being branded cowardly for pulling out of the race. Me, I think it took more guts to pull out, especially so in Lauda’s case as he was still the championship leader at the time he made the decision. Hunt continued on and finished third, enough to take the title by a single point. Momentum.

   In 1981, despite a brief period of dominance for the Brabhams at Argentina and Imola while everyone else was catching up on their wheeze of having a hydraulically adjustable ride-height system which gave them full ground effects while everyone else was racing at the required height (more on this, and other dubious Brabham methods, some other day), the early season momentum was all with Carlos Reutemann in the Williams. He easily won the season opening South African Grand Prix, although that was later ruled not to count for the championship (again, more on this and other FISA/FOCA brawling on another day), finished second at Long Beach, won in Brazil, came second and third behind the dubious Brabhams in Argentina and Imola and won again in Belgium. When Williams switched back onto the returning Goodyear tyres prior to the French Grand Prix Carlos had 37 points. Piquet in the Brabham in contrast had just 22 points and 18 of them came in those two wins in Argentina and San Marino. From the French Grand Prix onwards Nelson would score 28 points to Carlos’s 12. It wasn’t that the Williams was suddenly a lot slower, Carlos took a superb pole for the final race at Las Vegas after all, he just didn’t enjoy the feel of the Goodyears as much as he had the Michelins and the momentum was gone. So was his championship, again by just one point. Unless South Africa had counted that is.

   OK 2005 was the year that Michelin whipped the floor with Bridgestone and Ferrari one just one race, the farce at Indianapolis. But previously no-one would have even considered passing Herr Schumacher on the outside of a corner, even in a superior car. You just didn’t do it. It was a one way path to instant retirement. Even on a fairly safe corner you didn’t do it. But around the outside of the fearsome 130R at Suzuka? What sort of lunatic would have that much of a death wish? King Fernando, that’s who. After being delayed early in the race due to an unfortunate, and incorrect, stewards decision that forced King Fernando to give a place back to Christian Klien twice the reigning champion and his heir apparent got embroiled in a fierce battle for fifth place. For lap after lap the German used every trick in his armoury to keep the Spaniard behind but on lap twenty the Renault pulled out of the Ferrari’s slipstream on the entrance to 130R. To the right. The outside. And he stayed there, sweeping by to the astonishment of all those that watched. Had they touched the consequences would have been horrific, but they didn’t. In hindsight, that is the moment that Michael Schumacher’s career lost it’s momentum.

   Ironically enough, the momentum swing this year also involves King Fernando. At the time it just seemed like a blip as all his rivals were still struggling with consistency and taking vital points away from each other, but now, Stuka Grosjean’s aerial assault at Spa was where Fernando lost his mojo. Until then, even in the third best car, King Fernando could do no wrong. He maximised every weekend, and in a topsy-turvy season had been the first guy to score two wins, and then three. But since then he has scored just three third places and retired in Japan as well. Things are just not going his way as they were a couple of months ago. Meanwhile over at Red Rags, the momentum is all with the young master Vettel who in those same five races has won three times and finished second once. The first guy this year to score two wins in a row. And then three. And the championship lead…….

   While this was going on on the track, a similar pattern was playing out off it. Early in the season Michael Schumacher had all the momentum needed to continue with Mercedes. His great qualifying lap at Monaco and his podium finish at Valencia had him on the verge of resigning for at least another year. But by Belgium his dithering was beginning to wear on the Mercedes management and their discussions with The Hoon became ever more serious. It quickly became a situation from which Schumacher would not recover and shortly after the Singapore Grand Prix, where Hamilton’s McLaren had broken down while in the lead, and Schumacher contrived to have an amateurish crash with Jean-Eric Vergne, it was announced that the Hoon would become a Mercedes driver at Michael’s expense from 2013. Another fulcrum had arrived and in just a few days it was announced that Sergio Perez was joining McLaren, Felipe Massa was staying at Ferrari and Raikkonen and Grosjean would be staying at Lotus. After months of speculation all the top seats were sorted within a week. And Schumacher was left standing when the music stopped. So he will retire at the end of the season. Again. His comeback dreams unfulfilled as they were probably always destined to be. After all, his momentum departed at 130R in 2005.

   So with four races the momentum has swung away from King Fernando to Sebastian Vettel. Will it swing again? One more fulcrum? In this season, who knows, there just may be a sting in the tail.

Sam Snape 



  Politics – certainly gets a mention. Hospital – too damned right. The shower – something not quite right there. A bath-tub full of spiders – Ooooeeee. Formula One? – Very much so. After five very long weeks, the two most evocative races of the year are within seven short days of each other. In those seven days we went from the majesty of Spa Francorchamps to the flat out blast through the Royal Park at Monza., King Fernando’s championship lead went from 40 points, to 24 and then to 37. The Hoon went from 4th in the title chase, to 5th and then to 2nd. Romain Grosjean went from being a Grand Prix driver to being a spectator. Jerome D’Ambrosio went from being a discard to a Grand Prix driver and will go back to being a spectator. And of course the silly season rumour mill ran riot with the Hoon quitting McLaren for Mercedes. Not quitting McLaren for Mercedes. Possibly quitting McLaren – err you get the picture. Nico Hulkenberg joining Ferrari. Sergio Perez joining Ferrari, but only after coming second at Monza. Sebastian Vettel joining Ferrari, just not next year. The Hoon joining Ferrari, Raikkonen joining Ferrari, Felipe Massa staying at Ferrari. Anyone who has a good race is joining Ferrari. Seems as if there will an awful lot of Ferraris next year.



  Mario Andretti coming out of retirement to drive for Ferrari? Has about the same amount of credibility as some of these stories. One thing we do know, Mark Webber will not be joining Ferrari next year. Let’s try to make some sense of all of this shall we? Vettel will not be joining Ferrari next year but may well be in 2014 when his current contract expires. Ferrari has made no secret that they would like to pair Alonso and Vettel and if the wunderkind was to make the move, 2014 would be logical. With the new engine rules coming in then most drivers are probably thinking that the best seat would be for one of the “factory” teams. I.e., teams that are not just constructors but engine manufacturers as well. That makes Ferrari and Mercedes the hottest seats in town as Renault and Cosworth are now only engine suppliers to their customer teams. So of all the other drivers linked to Ferrari, who would want to go there for just one year if Vettel is joining in 2014?

    Probably not many, and certainly not anyone who is already in the top echelon. So almost immediately The Hoon and Kimi can be ruled out. Not the least because The Hoon and King Fernando didn’t exactly hit it off last time they were paired and Kimi probably hasn’t forgotten being unceremoniously sacked by the boys in red in 2009. Perez is in the frame but, a) Ferrari have stated they would like him to have a little more experience before taking him on, b) if it’s only going to be for a year he may be better served by cementing his reputation at Sauber before examining his options at the end of next year and, c) a single season as very much Alonso’s number two could easily ruin his career momentum. Hulkenberg? Even if it was only for one season he would probably see it as a great opportunity to impress and be in line for a really top drive in 2014, but…See Ferrari’s thoughts about Perez’s experience. So probably, despite all the noise, Felipe Massa will stay one more year while the Vettel possibility gets sorted out and Ferrari will decide on their long term driver options at the end of next year. Oh well…

   The Mercedes situation is equally murky. How badly do they want the Hoon? Is Schumacher thinking of quitting again? For good? Or is Ross Brawn going to give him the tap on the shoulder? Would they give Nico the flicko and pair The Hoon and the aging Schumacher? Just how hard is the Hoon really thinking of making the move? If Lewis is going to leave the team he has grown up with, now would be the best time to do it and Mercedes would be the logical team to go to. Even if they don’t come up with a winning car next year he would have had a full season with his crew and be fully integrated into one of the “factory” teams when the new engines arrive. He may see that as a better long term option than staying with what will be a “customer” team at McLaren. Then again, he may decide to stay with McLaren, but what then if Schumacher decides to go? Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg are the obvious choices to move up and join Rosberg, but that would make for a rather unproven line up as Rosberg hasn’t convinced everyone just yet. Perhaps Mercedes would also go for a proven quantity and try to lure Button back? Or Raikkonen? Now I’m speculating - see where this leads you… 

  Meanwhile there were two excellent races for McLaren. Button dominated at Spa as did Lewis at Monza. It is a pity then that Button failed to finish at Monza as did Lewis at Spa. Jenson was imperious at Spa taking pole easily and leading every lap to score his long awaited second win of the year. After hints of team orders to support The Hoon, this moved him to back into championship contention and to within just 16 points of his team-mate but then, just seven days later his fuel pick-up system cried enough and he silently ghosted out of a comfortable second place and back out of championship contention. The Hoon meanwhile, was vigorously assaulted by the errant Grosjean even before the first corner at Spa but then dominated the entire weekend at Monza to leap into second place in the championship with his third win of the year.




    King Fernando is currently the living proof that you can’t just be good, you also have to be very lucky in this game. He is probably lucky to still be living after being spammed from above by a re-entering satellite…errr..Lotus at Spa but also fortunate that in this season of super reliability, although he didn’t get around the first corner, none of his competitors scored in both of these races either and despite finishing just third at Monza his 40 point championship lead has decreased by just three points. The Red Rags were underwhelming at these two bastions of top speeds, as were all the Renault powered cars, and were more than 10 kph down through the speed traps at both races. It was possibly fortunate that Webber received a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change at Spa, relegating him to 12th on the grid as had he started where he qualified, in seventh place it would probably have been him that Grosjean first ploughed into, not The Hoon. He needed to do better than sixth place and eight points on a weekend where King Fernando didn’t finish. Vettel had a stronger race and came home both second on the track and in the championship. Then both failed to bother the scorers at Monza. Vettel had another alternator failure while Mark had again made it up to sixth after a disappointing qualifying before looping it at Ascari and then retiring with totally rooted tyres.

   It’s highly possible that Sergio Perez could have collected a couple of podiums had he also not been dive-bombed by Grosjean at Spa. His drive to second place at Monza was sublime and he was the only non-McLaren driver to lead a lap in these seven days. Perhaps if he had pitted a couple of laps earlier at Monza there may have been another different winner for the year as he was just over four seconds behind and was closing rapidly on The Hoon when the flag fell. While most of the spotlight may have been on Romain “Stuka” Grosjean at Spa it was the other Lotus quietly getting the job done. Kimi has always been mega at Spa and this year was no different. As with the Red Rags the Renault powered Lotus was not near the top of the speed trap times but Kimi silenced any doubters with his drive to third which included a Webber-like, giant testicles of the year award winning, pass around the outside of Schumacher’s Mercedes at Eau Rouge. He followed that up with a good as could have been expected fifth place at Monza and has slipped, almost un-noticed into third place in the title race, just one point behind The Hoon.

   Mention too should go to Felipe Massa who is slowly getting back to some sort of form with fifth place at Spa and a season best forth place at Monza after starting from third on the grid. If he keeps this up Ferrari may not need to make a decision after all. Also bagging a fourth place finish, the best of his career so far, was Nico Hulkenberg who benefited most from the carnage at Spa. That benefit aside this was a fine drive staying with the second group throughout and finishing just a couple of seconds behind Raikkonen was no mean feat. At the other end of the pack it was also nice to see Narain Karthikeyan finally get one up on Pedro de la Rosa in their qualifying battle at Monza. When you drive the second HRT and all you are ever fighting for is not to be last on the grid it’s these little things that matter. Enjoy the moment Narain.

 For full results go to;


 Sam Snape



  The 70’s, a decade dominated by loud clothes, long hair, racing cars disguised as mobile fag packets and some bloody great music was drawing to a close and the winds of change were blowing (both literally and figuratively) through the sport. Ground Effects, the black art of channelling air-flow under the car to increase down-force and grip was the new holy grail while Regie’s turbo charged engine was finally showing that it could actually last a race before imitating Mt Etna. Those new fangled gizmos called computers were starting to be used to log data, now that’s a fad that will pass---. The dubious benefits of professionalism were being seen sprouting at the fringes as the governing authority decided that it wanted to run the sport, not that jumped up little pommie bugger who was running the sport and making it actually more professional, not more chaotic. Over the next few years, not only would that squalid struggle threaten to tear the sport to shreds but drivers would be expected to toe the corporate line instead of saying what they actually thought and behaving like the loonies they were. The days where the likes of James Hunt wearing T-shirts stating “If you think my girlfriend can fight, you should see her box” or having stickers on their helmets announcing “SEX – The breakfast of champions” were sadly numbered. The era of the character was coming to a mind-numbing, politically correct end. Bugger!! 


  During the off-season, reigning champions, Lotus, had lost their long time sponsor, John Player Special, who quite understandably felt that loosing two Swedish drivers in two years was just not quite the publicity they were after. Super Swede, Ronnie Peterson having died after the chaotic start of the Italian Grand Prix and the up and coming Gunnar Nilsson, who was the Lotus number two in 1977 would succumb to testicular cancer just a month later. JPS were replaced with the Italian Martini & Rossi drinks concern as the title sponsor and they would be joined mid season by Essex Petroleum. World champion Mario Andretti stayed on expecting to be in contention for a second title and he was joined by the second most successful driver of 1978, Ferrari refugee, Carlos Reutemann. With such a strong driver line-up it was expected that Lotus would continue their dominance as their 1978 car, the Lotus 79, was so far ahead of its rivals.

   Unfortunately for Lotus, their rivals played catch-up faster than expected while Lotus’s new challenger the 80 was plagued with problems. They began the year with a slightly modified 79 which was at least competitive in the South American races, mostly because the major rivals were also using upgraded versions of their ’78 cars. Reutemann started third in both Argentina and Brazil and took podium finishes in both, second on debut for the team in Buenos Aires and third at Interlagos, while Andretti could only manage a fifth in Argentina. A sense of just how hard their year was going to become became clear in South Africa where Ferrari had a 1-2 with the debut of their 312T4 while only Andretti could manage to qualify in the top ten, although both drivers did score points. Colin Chapman’s next “great leap forward” was due to make its debut at the non-championship Race of Champions at Brands Hatch but there had been numerous unsolved problems in testing. The wingless wonder, which featured sliding skirts both under the nose cone and all the way to the rear wing endplates, was not stiff enough to cope with the down force generated and those curved sliding skirts kept sticking, rendering the cars handling utterly unpredictable. Fortunately, perhaps, the race was snowed out and both drivers showed up in Long Beach with the trusty 79. Reutemann was in scintillating form in qualifying and gave Lotus their only front row place in a championship race for the year but ignition problems at the start put paid to any chance of a good result while Mario came home in fourth again.

   By now the 80 had sprouted wings and had its skirts clipped and had its first public outing during practice for the reconvened Race of Champions. While Andretti still used the 79 to take pole and finish third in the race he was satisfied enough with the progress of the 80 to use it for the Spanish GP. On the other hand Carlos was so fed up with the 80’s unpredictability he decided he was never going to drive it again. In qualifying Andretti gave a hint that he may have made the right decision as he easily out-paced Reutemann but in the race Carlos again won out in the 79 finishing second ahead of Mario in what was to be their best result of the year. And the 80s only finish for Mario would not finish again until Monza by which time the 80 had been scrapped after racing again just twice. Reutemann continued with his fine form over the next couple of races, fourth in Belgium and second at Monaco but that’s where his point scoring would finish for the season. Andretti’s fifth at Monza was the sole other points result for the year as Lotus tumbled down the order although Reutemann did manage a second place to Lauda at the non championship race at Imola.

   Having also lost their long time sponsor, ELF, Tyrrell had produced the 009, a Lotus 79 look-alike which was good enough to be a regular top ten qualifier but was never going to seriously threaten for a win. The arrival of sponsorship dollars from washing machine manufacturer, Candy, by the Monaco Grand Prix saved the squad from financial ruin but the development that they were able to achieve only allowed the team to tread water, not advance as they would have liked. Didier Pironi was joined by Jean-Pierre Jarier, who had resurrected his career with his two superb end of season drives as Peterson’s replacement at Lotus in 1978 and the pair were evenly matched. Up to the British Grand Prix Jarier had just had the edge in both qualifying and the races and had scored podium finishes in both South Africa and Britain as well as scoring points in Long Beach, Spain and France while Pironi had finished third in Belgium and fourth in Brazil. A bout of hepatitis saw Jarier sit out the next two races, with his seat being filled by Geoff Lees in Germany and Derek Daly in Austria. Jarier returned at Zandvoort and as his health recovered took sixth at Monza and fifth at Imola while Pironi finished the year with fifth in Canada and a final podium at Watkins Glen. Derek Daly had shown enough promise in his Austrian outing to be given a drive as the team’s third driver in the final two races although he would finish neither.

    Meanwhile at Brabham, Gordon Murray had come to the same conclusion as Colin Chapman and had designed their 1979 challenger, the BT47 to be wingless. With Alfa Romeo replacing its aging, and very wide, flat 12 engine with a quite narrow V12 Murray had much to work with on the under-side of the car. This was however, an age before full scale wind tunnels and terabyte computing, and not everything that looked right, turned out to be so. Not only was the V12 horribly unreliable, it raised the Brabham’s centre of gravity and, when combined with similar problems to that of the Lotus 80, the BT47 would just not work. At least Brabham realised this earlier than their colleagues at Lotus and arrived in Argentina with one hastily revised car, the BT48 for Niki Lauda while new-comer Nelson Piquet had to start the year with the previous season’s BT46. Not that this change helped much. Lauda could only qualify the BT48 23rd on the grid, three places behind Piquet, who then wrote off the BT46 and didn’t start the race. Not a great start then. Although both had BT48s in Brazil, neither finished but by the time they arrived in South Africa the car had been seriously improved. From then on Lauda only missed out on the top ten in qualifying twice before pulling the plug on his career in Canada while Piquet had shown that he was a future champion with some blistering performances. It was just a pity that they rarely finished. Lauda’s highlights were sixth in South Africa, fifth in the Race of Champions, fourth at Monza and a win, in what was his last race, at Imola while Piquet took second, with Fastest Lap, in the Race of Champions and fourth in Holland as well as a few minor placings. By seasons end the team were so fed up with their detonating Alfa engines they debuted the Ford Cosworth powered BT49 in Canada, just as Lauda decided he didn’t “want to go round and round in circles” anymore. After the Friday morning practice session, Lauda abruptly quit the sport and was replaced by Ricardo Zunino. Possibly an unwise move as the BT49 would prove to be quick out of the box and one of the leading cars for the next three years, by which time, Lauda would have returned in the McLaren.

   McLaren were trying to recover from the disaster that 1978 had become. The M26, which had been so quick at the end of 1977 was hopelessly outclassed in 1978 and this had seen their World Champion driver, James Hunt depart for what he hoped were pastures greener. Hunt had going to be replaced with Ronnie Peterson, but his sad demise saw John Watson join from Brabham to join the promising Patrick Tambay who had shown good pace in 1978. Their initial attempt at a ground effects car, the M28, was even less stiff than the Lotus 80, to the extent that the chassis would flex under load. Watson’s third place in Argentina, was like Andretti’s in Spain, a false dawn, and when Tambay’s car was destroyed in the first start accident, he would be forced to use the M26 in Brazil. From that point both drivers would struggle to qualify in the top half of the field and despite major upgrades through B and C versions the M28 was soon to be discarded. Watson would manage a sixth in Belgium and a fourth at Monaco as the sole remaining points finishes before the M29 debuted at Silverstone. Although the M29 was a great step forward its results were not that much better as by then, vastly superior cars were hitting their strides and Watson could only manage fourth in Britain, fifth in Germany and a pair of sixths in Canada and the US Grand Prix. Tambay had suffered such a loss of confidence in the M28s that even the arrival of the M29 could not turn his year around and he would fail to score a point in the entire season.

   The little ATS team was another team that would produce two news cars through the season. The team had previously used a Penske, in 1977 and reworked Marchs in 1978 and their first in house, designed and constructed car, the D2 did little to improve their fortunes despite the brave efforts of Hans Stuck who had made the move from Shadow. Although Stuck put in some heroic performances the car was rarely far from the back of the grid but things did improve when the D3 debuted in Austria with just five races left in the season. Stuck managed a season best 12th on the grid in Canada and finished the year with a worthy fifth place, and two vital championship points at Watkins Glen.

   Ferrari were a little late getting their new car, the 312T4, onto the grid but when they did, the complexion of the season changed over night. The Scuderia had recruited Jody Scheckter to join Gilles Villeneuve and head their championship challenge. Their season got off to a quiet start with just fifth and sixth places in Brazil before they pensioned off the T3, although that car would have one final hurrah with Villeneuve taking out the Race of Champions in its last appearance. The diminutive French-Canadian was in stunning form at that point having just won the T4’s first two races in South Africa and Long Beach. Indeed Ferrari had been 1-2 in both of those races with Villeneuve taking Fastest Lap in both and Pole at Long Beach and heading to Europe he now was the championship leader. In Spain though, two spins and seventh place seemed to take the momentum out of his season just as Jody’s was increasing. Running out of fuel just 400 metres from the finish while Scheckter won didn’t help either. And then Jody won at Monaco as well while Villeneuve went out with a gearbox failure and went into the second half of the season ten points behind the South African. Villeneuve was generally the faster driver of the two and while he put on spectacular performances, Scheckter put kept banking the points. Indeed, after France, he would not finish out of the points until the final race at Watkins Glen.

    It was classic tortoise and hare stuff. Scheckter would finish on the podium just twice in the second half of the year, second in Holland and his final win at Monza but had four other point scoring drives, while Gilles would finish second in France, Austria, Italy and Canada before winning at the Glen. And some of those drives were beyond belief. The final laps at Dijon where he and Rene Arnoux had the most astonishing, wheel to wheel dice in possibly the entire history of the sport and his time in practice in the wet at Watkins Glen, where he was over nine and a half seconds faster than the next quickest driver, who just happened to be Scheckter. Jaques Laffite summed it up when he commented “he’s just in a different league to the rest of us.” As it was Villeneuve could have been the World Champion for 1979 had he taken the decision to pass Scheckter at Monza. Villeneuve though, was of a different age and believed that not breaking one’s word of honour was more important than winning, and although he was much quicker than his team-mate, he dutifully followed Jody home by under a second for a 1-2 in front of Ferrari’s home crowd. Overall, Ferrari were the class of the season despite not having the fastest car and finished the year as World Constructors champions and with Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve being winner, and runner-up in the World Drivers championship.

   Another former World Champion going into the season with high hopes was Emerson Fittipaldi. Coming off the back of his most successful season driving for the family team there was great optimism that the new, and unique F6, would finally be the car that brought Copersucar Fittipaldi Automotive its first win. Emerson took a point first time out in the old F5A and was on course for second in front of the home crowd until a lengthy pit stop when the crew changed all four wheels instead of just one dropped him to eleventh at the flag. The F6 made its race debut in South Africa and unlike Ferrari, it was soon clear that this car was not what had been hoped for. The radically short side pods meant that the car was horribly unbalanced with too much down force at the rear and no grip at the front. The F6’s racing life was brutally short, just the one race, although it did still get some track time during practice at Long Beach and Jarama before being sent away for a major re-design. This meant that the old F5A had to come out of retirement and Emerson raced it without success until the German Grand Prix when the F6A made its first appearance. A much prettier, and vastly more conventional car, the F6A still suffered from a lack of front end grip and apart from a promising performance in Canada failed to improve on the competitiveness of the F5A.

       By the end of 1978 Renault were starting to get a handle on their innovative turbo charged engine and finally scored points for fourth at Watkins Glen. For 1979 they expanded the team to two cars with ex-Martini and Surtees pilot Rene Arnoux joining Jean Pierre Jabouille. Like most teams they began the year with an updated version of their 1978 mount, the RS01, which actually dated back to the team’s debut in 1977. Despite being in a car that was now nearing two years old the V6 turbo still had enough grunt to put Jabouille on pole at Kyalami although reliability was still an issue and the RS01 would score no points in 1979. The arrival of the twin turbo RS10 changed the French team’s fortunes dramatically. Debuting in the hands of Jabouille in Spain it took a couple of races to get the RS10 sorted but when the team arrived at Dijon for their home Grand Prix they hoped they had gotten it right. And they had. And how! Jabouille won the race from pole position while Arnoux just missed second place after that astonishing dice with Villeneuve and set Fastest Lap in the process. Jabouille would be on pole in both Germany and Italy while Arnoux matched that feat in Austria and Holland so Renault started five races out of six from pole and Jabouille was on the front row for the other, at Silverstone. While they now had the speed, reliability was still a problem and Jabouille’s win in France would be his only point scoring drive of the year while Rene would add second place finishes at both Silverstone and Watkins Glen and sixth in Austria.

      Shadow was a team in terminal decline after the schism that saw half their team depart to form Arrows at the beginning of 1978. Gone was their Villiger-Kiel Swiss cigar sponsorship and gone too were their drivers, Clay Regazzoni and Hans Stuck. Joining the team were Dutchman Jan Lammers with his Samson tobacco funding and the wealthy Lotus protégée Elio de Angelis to drive updated DN9Bs. These were really nothing more than the previous years DN9s with full side pods and skirts. They were never going to be on the pace and were always near to the back of the grid although on occasions these two talented drivers did manage to reach the dizzying heights of the mid teens on the grid. Considering their lack of experience both drivers performed well and finished more often than not, with de Angelis giving notice of what would be a fine career with a fine fourth place in the season finale at the Glen, the only point scoring finish for the team for the season.

   James Hunt had joined Walter Wolf’s successful little outfit in the hopes of leaving the memories of 1978 behind him. Sadly for James, Wolf produced the worst car of its short existence and soon James’s thoughts were more on survival and retirement than trying to sort out a dog of a car. Like fellow former champions, Lauda and Fittipaldi, Hunt found himself in a car with a fundamental handling problem that would never be solved and his motivation rapidly crash-dived. With just one eighth placed finish to his name James pulled the pin on his career after Monaco and young Finnish rising star, Keke Rosberg was drafted in to fill his place. Despite his obvious desire to impress, Keke could do no better and apart from ninth on debut in France he would not finish any other championship race he started with the team. He did manage sixth at the non-championship race at Imola, before failing to qualify in Canada. By years end Walter Wolf had decided to sell up and what was left of the team was taken over by Fittipaldi Automotive but Rosberg had put in enough good performances to join the merged teams for 1980.

   Two other teams on struggle street were Ensign & Merzario. Ensign began the year with the N177, which wasn’t a particularly quick car in 1977, let alone 1979. Derek Daly was the sole driver going into the year and after a couple of finishes in South America found that he was going to struggle to qualify again, even when he got his hands on the N179, a hideous contraption with radiators down the front of the nose cone. After failing to qualify for four of the next five races Derek quit after Monaco figuring his career would be better served being a spectator than driving the Ensign. He was replaced by Patrick Gaillard who faired little better, qualifying in just two out of five attempts before newly crowned Formula Two champion Marc Surer finished out the year from Monza onwards. He only managed tow qualify once, at Watkins Glen. In a bizarre sign of the times, Arturo Merzario’s eponymous team was sponsored by a funeral home and that was appropriate as his team was on its death bed. Starting the year with an updated A1, the A1B, which was itself based on a March 761 chassis things didn’t look too rosy. Oddly enough, the very last time this car was used was the only occasion in 1979 that it qualified, at Long Beach. The A2 that replaced it was possibly even worse. Being introduced at Jarama at the beginning of the European season it didn’t qualify once before being replaced by the A4, which was a modified version of the appalling Kauhsen WK1. Unsurprisingly this car never made the cut either except in the non-championship race at Imola where little Art finally finished 11th, and last.

   Starting the year in scintillating form was Equipe Ligier Gitanes who had ditched the heavy and thirsty Matra V12 and joined the Cosworth brigade. Adding to their driving strength was former Tyrrell driver and Monaco Grand Prix winner Patrick Depailler who joined team veteran Jaques Laffite. The JS11 was an instant success locking out the front row at both Argentina and Brazil with Laffite winning both from pole position and taking both Fastest Laps. Depailler backed him up with fourth in Argentina and second in Brazil. What happened next is the stuff of legend. Or possibly just fable. According to the legend the suspension settings were just jotted down, get this, on the inside of a packet of Gitanes, which was misplaced on the way back to Europe after those first two races. Apart from finding the sweet spot again in Spain, where Depailler won, the cars were never super competitive again. Laffite would score some more podiums, second in Belgium and a run of thirds in Germany, Austria and Holland, but aside from a few minor points places that was it. Depailler didn’t help matters much when he shattered his legs in a hang gliding accident after the Monaco Grand Prix and his place was taken by veteran Jacky Ickx who was sadly never on the pace and scored just three points.

    Ending the year with what was undoubtedly the fastest car in the sports history to date, was the unfashionable Williams squad. Frank Williams had been an entrant in Formula One since 1969 and had never looked like being a winner. On many occasions he had never looked like being a qualifier. After being bought out in 1976 by Walter Wolf, Frank re-emerged in 1977 running a March for Patrick Neve before again building his own car in 1978, the functional FW06. In the hands of the aggressive Alan Jones the car had scored some good finishes and with increased money from their Saudia Airlines sponsors they began 1979 with Clay Regazzoni joining Jones in the FW06. Racing in 1979 with a non ground effects car was never going to be a winning proposition so when Jones took third in the cars final outing at Long Beach folk were somewhat surprised. Sitting, untested, unfinished and unraced in the pit lane at Long Beach was a sole FW07, the car which would be the class of the field for the next three years.

  The FW07 made its debut in Spain and it took a few races to really unlock its speed, although there were a few hints of what was to come. Jones started on the second row in Belgium. Regazzoni was second at Monaco, though that was more his bristling moustache than the car. Both drivers scored points in France. And then Patrick Head designed a new cover for the underside of the engine and saw the results in the wind tunnel. Jones was on pole by over a second at Silverstone and the team was staring down the face of an utterly dominant 1-2 before a fractured water pipe spelled the end of Jones’s race. After three years for Clay, and a decade for Frank, finally a win was theirs. And surely never was one  more popular.  The remainder of the season was dominated by the Williams team. Victories in Germany, Austria and Holland gave the squad four in a row but then came Monza and the best they could manage was Regazzoni in third behind the Ferraris and their newly crowned World Champion. Jones won again in Canada with pole position and fastest lap lifting him to third in the championship and Williams to second in the Constructors Championship. For a team that had struggled for so long, an era of glory was just beginning.

   Meanwhile over at Arrows, the other half of the Shadow schism of ’78, things were going backwards as they often do for teams in their second season. Rolf Stommelen had been replaced with Jochen Mass, another German to make Warsteiner happy and he joined rapid Italian Riccardo Patrese in the team. The team would start the year with the A1 that had been introduced in a hurry half way through 1978 and it would score more than half of the teams points in 1979. Mind you, that was only three out of five points. The prob


  Now before you all start thinking I’m some sort of religious nut let me assure you that I am a firm believer in the survival of the fittest and that the Darwin awards are proof positive of the non-existence of gods. Especially ones that bless America. But recently it has become just too easy to rely on these mythical references when it comes to Grand Prix racing. And on a weekend when Thor was out in all his splendour and it was more in keeping that Noah’s Ark should be about than Formula One cars the winners are now lining up two by two. “Hey Lord, we’ve got some green alligators, some long necked geese….” Two King Fernandos and two Mark Webbers – a unicorn anyone??? 




  After two days, or should I say two months, of torrential rain King Fernando broke out the floaties and water wings to capture Ferrari’s first pole position since Methuselah was a small child (see – another one, I just can’t help it at the moment, I must visit my exorcist) or at least since 2010 anyway, and for most of the weekend it appeared that he was going to break the mould and make a break at the front of the championship that would be very difficult for anyone to peg back. (Gasp – long sentence – breath in…) But once he was on the softer tyres and Mark was on the harder for the final stint the game changed dramatically.


  The softer compound tyres were only good for about 11 laps, 13-14 if you were really easy on them and King Fernando pitted for the final time to take these on with 15 laps to run. In a way he was forced to pit then to cover off the Red Rags who had just made their final stops and put on the harder tyres that got quicker as they aged.




    This meant of course that by lap 45 the Ferrari’s tyres were on their last legs while Webber was closing rapidly. After a few laps right up the red car’s smelly end Webber finally just drove around the outside of King Fernando at Brooklands. That the Red Rag is anything up to 10 kms slower in a straight line than the Ferrari shows just how much more grip Webber had at that moment than Alonso. The championship leader grimly tried to fight back but with just five laps left the race for the win was over. In the end King Fernando was closer to the ever closing Herr Vettel than Webber and would have been demoted to third place had the race run another lap or two.

   Felipe Massa in the other Ferrari had his best race in many a day after qualifying fifth. He jumped Seb on lap one and held him at bay until just before the first round of tyre stops. He hung on to the battle for the final podium spot until the final stint but still finished in fourth place, under ten seconds behind the winner. Red Bull-Ferrari, Red Bull-Ferrari – see more two by two stuff. And guess what? The next two cars were the Lotus’s. Kimi ended up just eight tenths behind Felipe at the flag but probably had the pace to be on the podium again had his race been a bit smoother. As it was the Iceman at least captured the fastest lap for his pains. On outright pace Grosjean should perhaps have won as after a horrible first lap and a very early pit stop he was 22nd and dead last by lap three. His second stint lasted 24 laps and his final one was 26 laps and he was still closing on Kimi at the end. 

    The rest of the field performed at about their normal level with a few exceptions. Team Brittania were just bloody awful. The McLarens would just not cooperate at all and after qualifying 8th and 16th The Hoon and Jenson could finish no better than 8th and 10th for a meagre hall of points. Performing in the other direction was young Daniel Ricciardo who, in what is easily the worst of the “established” cars, the Toro Rosso, was in excellent form in the wetter parts of the event. In Friday’s first practice he was a stunning second fastest and backed that up with a top ten quallie one time. He was easily in the top ten in Q2 when the red flag was thrown but of course, when the session restarted in much drier conditions he had no hope of maintaining that place and dropped to 14th, but still over half a second up on his team-mate. The race was dry so naturally both Toro Rossos fell back to their normal place ahead of the “newer” teams at the tail of the field.

  So which of the remaining five will join the dual winners in Hockenhiem? With the long quick back section I don’t think the Red Rags will be in with a shot so that probably counts out Seb. Maldonado maybe? But Team Willies form had been patchy since Spain. Button and the Hoon will be trying their damnedest to get back to the front but that back bit could suit the Silver Arrows so Nico could be worth putting some cash on. Or a Lotus. Or Schumacher. Or Massa. Or a Sauber. Or………..and that’s what I love about this season. Your uneducated guess is as good as my uneducated guess.

 For full results go to;


Sam Snape



  Yes I know, a slightly dodgy religious reference there but what the hell. Or more to the point, when the hell will this run of different winners end? Seven races, seven different winners, will Valencia give us eight from eight or will one of the magnificent seven finally double up? Of the magnificent seven, only Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa have won at Valencia before (Rubens is no longer about) so unless one of these two wins we will be seeing another first. But that’s all in the future, last time out it was the Hoon who was in a determined mood and sliced through the field to become the seventh one…



  And once again it was all about the black stuff at each corner of the cars, how you managed them and how many times, and when, you changed them. For the Hoon, and for victory, it was two stops. The first, relatively early was on lap 17 and that stop was mostly to cover off the Red Rags who were running first and fourth at that point. Vettel came in from the lead on lap 16 and Webber pitted just behind the Hoon. That left the unlikely King Fernando in the lead until he pitted on lap 19 and then Grosjean held top spot for a lap before he pitted as well. Paul di Resta had been running a promising fifth early but a disastrous early pit stop on lap 13 saw his re-emerge down in fifteenth place, a position he was never to recover from. Also pitting on that lap was Schumacher’s Mercedes and he came out behind the Force India and was promptly passed by the Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen. A DRS wing failure was to put him out of the race but he was never going to bother the scorers on a day when his team mate was always in the top ten. 


  While all this was going on Sergio Perez was skulking around in the Sauber, making his way up into the points on the harder tyres with an eye on the long game. So everything now revolved around who was going to stop again and who was going to gamble on getting to the end. Webber and the Hoon were always going to two stop and both did slightly after two thirds of the race was run. The difference here was that the Hoon stopped from the lead while Webber had been stuck behind the one-stopping Raikkonen and Perez for almost twenty laps so when he came out he was down in eighth place with no hope of redemption. Red Bull had buggered their strategy once again. With their lack of straight line speed it was painfully obvious that they needed to bring Mark in earlier than planned and put him in some clear air but they left him trundling about behind the Sauber while those behind, Rosberg, Grosjean and Massa, closed in. Rosberg pitted as soon as he joined the back of the queue on lap 38 and was therefore easily ahead of Webber once Mark had pitted. As were Grosjean and Massa and amazingly enough, Grosjean was not going to pit again. The only guy who could make a long second stint work was the ever improving Lotus driver.





  Romain had stopped just one lap later than King Fernando and five laps later than Vettel but as the Ferrari and Red Rag tyre’s grip “fell off the cliff” the Lotus was still setting front running times and easily breezed past both in the final ten laps to finish a superb second. Again Red Bull blew their chances by leaving Vettel out too long. They must have been hoping for enough tyre life to one stop, but as the first stopper, back on lap 16, that was always unrealistic and when he finally came in, after having lost three places in two laps, his podium chances were as buggered as Mark’s. King Fernando and Ferrari played out the gamble and that worked even less well. Between lap 63 and the end on lap 70 he dropped from the lead to fifth place and almost lost that to the fast closing Rosberg as well. So who ended up in third? The skulker did. The very late one-stopping Sergio Perez who was by now on the softer tyres, which, now that the track had rubbered up, were not just faster, but just as durable, stormed through for his second podium finish this year.




   All this meant that the Hoon, who had stopped for the second time on lap 50, had no real opposition on his way to becoming the years seventh winner. On fresh tyres he made up the twenty second deficit at over two seconds a lap and then passed, first Vettel, and then King Fernando, within another three laps to regain the lead. This was the Hoon at his feisty, aggressive best and a thoroughly deserved win.

    So will we have a dual winner at Valencia or The Potent Eight? Well you would think that we are running out of realistic possible new winners but are we?. It is a track that Felipe Massa has won at before so despite his poor form since his injury he may rise to the occasion. Either Lotus driver, Kimi Raikkonen or Romain Grosjean, are possibilities, as are the team-mates to winners Rosberg and Maldonado, ie Schumacher and Senna. Or the skulker himself. After all, Perez damned near won in Malaysia so there is no reason he, or even possibly Kamikaze Kobayashi won’t win before this amazing season is out.

   One way or another, we have no way of knowing what the next race will throw up and that makes each race even more exciting. Thanks be praised to Pirelli for making it so…

 For full results go to;


Sam Snape 




  And now it’s six from six as Mark Webber has joined the seasons growing list of winners after taking out the Monaco Grand Prix for the second time in three years. For the first time though, one team, Red Bull, has taken a second victory and we don’t have a new championship leader as King Fernando dragged the unwieldy Ferrari into places it should never have been and now sits on top of the pile. The ghosts and memories of seasons past continue to grow ever sharper this year. Just a few weeks ago we were celebrating (if that’s the right word) the tragically shortened life of the majestic Gilles Villeneuve who died some thirty years ago at Zolder while just one year earlier, at Jarama in 1981, we witnessed what was probably his greatest triumph, leading home a queue of five cars which were separated by just over a second.





   Based on Red Bulls practice times Webber should never been in a position to win in the principality but a stonking effort in Q3 gave him the second best time of the session which, of course, became pole after Schumacher’s richly deserved five place penalty came into effect. Webber got his best start in years and led the charge through St Devote while Grosjean got it all very wrong and ruining his part of his team’s 500th Grand Prix. Not the 500th Grand Prix for Lotus, you understand, but the 500th Grand Prix for the team formally known as Renault, which was the team formally known as Benetton, which was the team formally known as Toleman, which, although failing to qualify at that race at Jarama, had it’s first Grand Prix start in 1981, at Monza. Racing against Lotus. Confused? Go to the back of the queue.

   Webber was not in the fastest car on the day, that particular pleasure fell to Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes, but as often happens at Monaco, the faster car could not over-take the leader. Mark led all but 17 laps which were shared between the two Ferraris that stopped for tyres on the two laps following Webber, and Vettel who was on a different tyre strategy to make up for his poor qualifying position. In the 15 laps that Seb led he almost brought himself back into contention for victory as his harder tyres were still giving good grip while the others, on new harder tyres were struggling to get them up to the necessary temperatures. He emerged from his stop in the middle of the scrap between King Fernando and The Hoon and held on to fourth place, which was a fine recovery from his ninth place on the grid, which would have been tenth had it not been for Maldonado’s penalties. After all the maturity shown by Pastor at Catalunya he suffered multiple brain explosions at Monaco and so after clouting Perez in practice and then needing a gearbox change after smacking the barriers a lap later the Williams did not start in ninth place but right at the back of the field. He completed a wonderful weekend by then ploughing up the back of  Pedro de la Rosa’s HRT and not completing a single racing lap.

   When Webber regained the lead after Seb pitted he grimly defended his lead, not in any harsh or unfair manner, but going just fast enough to stay ahead, and just slow enough to not bugger his tyres. It was a superbly judged drive and produced a gaggle of cars all squabbling over the leading positions. At the flag the top four were covered by just 1.343 seconds and The Hoon was just another 2.8 seconds adrift as his tyres gave up towards the end. Felipe Massa had his first moderately competent weekend of the season and finished sixth, just six seconds down ahead of the two Force Indias, (di Resta and Hulkenberg), Raikkonen and Senna who rounded out the point scorers. 

  The parallels with Jarama in 1981 are numerous. The guy who won was not in the fastest car but drove beautifully to hold off a baying pack. The guy in the fastest car on the day came second. The Ferrari was, in the words of Gilles Villeneuve, a big red Cadillac and should have been nowhere near the podium but for a genius driver defying the odds. And in Gilles case, defying his supposed reputation. Many saw Gilles as a driver with just one speed, flat out. And yes that was how he often drove, but on many an occasion, he did so with a mechanical sympathy that belied that reputation. Through most of 1980 for example, in an utterly crap Ferrari 312T5, he was able to make his tyres last much longer than his reigning World Champion team mate while being well in front of him in the race. At Monaco, just two weeks earlier, he had let Alan Jones’s Williams past early in the race so as to preserve his tyres life, which meant that when Jones hit fuel feed problems late in the race, Gilles was there to take a most unlikely win.




    At Jarama Gilles qualified only seventh but a storming start saw him up to third by the end of lap one, and second on lap two. When Jones ran off on lap 14 Villeneuve was into a lead that he would defend for the next 67 laps. Gilles had just one card up his sleave and he made the most of it. The Ferrari 126CK may have handled like a bucket of shit but the V6 turbo engine had plenty of grunt. So Villeneuve drove as slowly as possible through the twisty parts of the track, holding the following pack up, and then would plant it on the straight. This continued for lap after lap with, at first the Williams of Carlos Reutemann crawling all over the back of the Ferrari and then the Ligier-Matra of Jaques Laffite taking up the challenge. On numerous occasions both Reutemann and Laffite got alongside Gilles but always on the outside of a turn. Villeneuve always gave his opponents enough room to make the turn but never enough to make it past and would again pull out a gap down the main straight. 

  At the end he won by just 0.22 seconds from Laffite with John Watson’s McLaren another three tenths back. Reutemann was fourth, 1.01 seconds down with Elio de Angelis in the Lotus right up his duff just 1.24 seconds adrift of the winner in fifth place. The closest fifth place in history, barring races finishing under yellow flags. Webber’s drive was similar. To maintain his tyres life he drove slowly around the bulk of the lap but always managed to pull a small gap coming out of the final corner so that he was safe going through St Devote and up the hill to Massenet. By the time Rosberg could get back onto Mark’s tail it was too late to make a realistic attempt at the only other possible passing point on the shore-front chicane and Webber would be safe for another lap.




    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Webber is as gifted as Villeneuve was or the Red Bull is as bad as that Ferrari was, but this drive was very similar, and right out of the top drawer.

 For full results go to;


Sam Snape