This is as close as anyone got to Lewis  As I have said before, Albert Park is a great Grand Prix venue. Set in a park not far from Port Phillip Bay and around a pretty little natural lake with just a short stroll to plenty of bars and restaurants. The organizers go to extreme lengths to make sure there is plenty of entertainment on hand, both on and off the track to keep all amused with plenty of racing and a pretty good music gig on the Saturday afternoon so that those who show up feel they are getting good value for money. Many organizers around the world could do worse than to take note and lay on a bit more for the fans. I’ve been to Spa and Monza where apart from the GP, all you got was, at Spa a F3000 race and a Porsche Supercup race that was cancelled due to tyre problems, and at Monza there was a Lamborghini race. The rest of the time you sat in the sun, or in Spa’s case the rain, and waited.



  The problem with Albert Park is that as a RACE track it sucks, gags, and then blows chunks. It is as about as conducive to passing as a dehydrated kidney failure patient. When you left Spa or Monza you KNEW you had been to a Grand Prix and had usually seen a bloody good race. When you leave Albert Park you feel you’ve been to an amusement park that included a loud procession of colourful cars circulating for an hour and a half. And then there’s the price. For example, if like me you live in Sydney, it is cheaper to spend two weeks in Malaysia (including airfares) than it is to spend three nights in Melbourne. And Sepang always produces a vastly better race. But every year you keep hoping, vainly, for something better. I remember one year not long ago sitting there after about twenty laps thinking, “When’s this bloody thing going to end?”


  And so it was this year. OK we all knew after testing that the Silver Slings were unlikely to be troubled but the world of eagerly waiting fans were keen to see how the rest of the field would play out and hoped for a fierce battle for everything but the top two steps of the podium. If it was a better race track we may have even gotten that but as it was, once Lewis got the jump, Nico couldn’t get inside of two seconds because, well, that’s Albert Park. Third place was decided by a pit stop. With the exception of that change the top six was in exactly the same order on lap 58 as they were on lap 4. Snooooore. Even as I sit here now looking at the lap chart I’m finding it hard to spot any actual overtaking manoeuvres. There was a spirited 10 or so laps between Marcus Ericsson and Carlos Sainz for eighth place near the end and poor old Jenson displayed some fine elbows in his defence of second last place from the clearly quicker Perez but that was never going to last, what with the Honda engine barely turned on, let alone up, in the hope that Button would make the finish.


  And remarkably enough he did. In eleventh and last place. Two laps down. In a McLaren-Honda. But that was better than some. After a winter of discontent and swirling rumours of who would, or would not, have the readies to make it to Melbourne, ten teams with twenty cars showed up. Then Manor couldn’t get their IT set ups working on the cars as some burke in the administration company had wiped all the hard drives so we had eighteen cars for practice and qualifying. Then Valtteri hurt his back and we had seventeen for the race. Getting a bit thin this. But did we? No!! Magnussen’s Honda went pop in the most smokey and debris spewing fashion on the formation lap and we were at sixteen. No we weren’t. Kvyat’s debut for Red Rags also ended on his formation lap when his gearbox hydraulics gave up the ghost and just fifteen were about to take the start. Apart from the Indy tyre fiasco this was the lowest ebb for Formula 1 since the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola where, due to boycott by many teams just twelve cars started.


  Within fifty metres of the start it was clear that we would now only see fourteen as poor Romain Grosjeans Lotus refused to change gears and he would retire at the end of lap 1. Which was further than his team-mate Maldonado would get. Having not made the greatest start Vettel left his braking too late into turn one and virtually used Kimi as a turning aid. This pushed Kimi wide and onto the grass and he scrabbled back on just as Pastor was passing him. What neither Kimi or Pastor could know was that the very fast starting debutant Felipe Nasr was already between them. If two into one doesn’t work, then neither does three into one. They all bumped, not enough to cause real damage, but it did send Maldonado backwards into the wall. Scratch both Lotus’s and we now had just thirteen cars with 57 processional laps to sleep through. And apart from noting that all three debutants had very good weekends, not much else in that 57 laps is really worth wasting any writing or reading over so roll on Sepang next week. It’s where the season really starts anyway.




For full results go to;




Sam Snape






  Sauber’s appeal against the Victorian Supreme Court’s ruling that Giedo van der Garde must drive for the team in 2015 was dismissed late today. This leaves the team theoretically with three contracted race drivers. A bit of a conundrum that.

  So what will Sauber do? Try to buy him out with funds they can ill afford to lose? But dropping one of the other drivers will also breach their contracts and that would cost them, again funds they can ill afford to lose due to the money both Ericsson and Nasr are bringing to the team. Will they, as they hinted earlier in the week pull the whole team out of the event if he won. It’s not as if they can ignore the ruling and refuse to run him as the courts would almost certainly impound the teams equipment if they tried. The best hint as to an outcome is that the reports are that Van der Garde is now suing Sauber for breach of contract. It will be interesting to see what sort of deal is done in the next eighteen hours or so before first practice kicks off.


 Reuters report stated “Justice Simon Whelan upheld the Supreme Court's decision that Sauber's contract with van der Garde was valid, despite Sauber saying it had sacked the driver in November. The decision is the end of a drawn-out international battle between van der Garde and Sauber. In December, a Swiss court's arbitration tribunal deemed van der Garde's contract with the company to be valid. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court came to the same decision, which Sauber appealed.


  Sauber's barrister Rodney Garratt, QC, argued if van der Garde was reinstated, the team would be in breach of its contract with its drivers Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson. He also pointed out that van der Garde had not practised since November and that as Sauber's Ferraris are custom-fitted for each driver, there would not be enough time to reconfigure one for the Dutch driver.


 But lawyers for van der Garde hit back, reminding the court that the contract had been deemed valid. His client would be "personally devastated" if he was not allowed to drive, Jim Peters, QC, said.”


 Interesting times…


 Sam Snape






An Australian court has found in favour of Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde in his bid to force the Sauber Formula One team to let him drive for them this season.


 "The application is successful and...will be enforced," Justice Clyde Croft told the Supreme Court of Victoria in handing down his judgement on Wednesday, four days before the first race of the season in Melbourne.


 The court upheld a Swiss arbitration tribunal's decision ordering Sauber to refrain from taking action to deprive van der Garde from racing for them.


 Van der Garde had charged Sauber with reneging on a deal to give him a race seat after they signed Sweden's Marcus Ericsson and Brazilian Felipe Nasr.




Nico bolted on some softs and then..........  Plus ca change, plus cést la meme chose. For them wot didn’t excel in their Franglaise lessons at school it is roughly translated to, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Fortunately my School Certificate report stated that I passed advanced French fairly easily which turned out to be a complete waste of time and effort. Even when I went to France. Especially in France. If you tried to speak their language and weren’t note perfect they refused to understand you. This is why most tourists think the French are an arrogant bunch. The reality is that I really only needed to know three words in French to get along with them famously. So here’s a tip. You only need to be able to pronounce “Parlez vous Australien?” If you make the error of asking Parlez vous Anglais they will think you are either English or American. And they hate both. English because they have been at war with them for 95% of the last 2000 years and the last 100 years have been just an alliance of convenience. The Americans because they came and saved their bacon twice in that same 100 years but wouldn’t let the French forget it. Australians on the other hand also helped save their bacon but did it quietly and with a certain amount of respect. And quietly got slaughtered at places like Amiens and Fromelles. Turns out they love us. I discovered this about two weeks into my travels their in 2000. I arrived at the nice little town of Faverge down near Mt Blanc and wandered into the local tourist info joint, and sick of being ignored simply asked Parlez vous Australien? When one of the girls behind the counter questioned me I responded – “Well like English but not.” This received a tentative oui in reply. To which I said “That’s good because my French sucks.” Great peels of laughter followed from all those “arrogant” Frenchies and we then got on very nicely. Have done ever since. Lovely bunch when they don’t think you are English or American. They like Australians almost as much as the Belgians. If you are ever in the regions (and you are Australian – or Canadian even) make sure you pop in to Ypres at about 8PM. The nightly memorial service at the Menin Gate can bring you to tears even if your ancestors name isn’t inscribed in the sandstone. Fortunately my Grandfather survived Passchendaele so his name wasn’t. But I digress….rather dramatically.

   Plus ca change, plus cést la meme chose. After Jerez had some folk thinking that things might not be quite as one-sided this coming season, the two tests at Catalunya gave them a reality smack between the eyes like a rotting Halibut. Mercedes, who had been, just like last year, concentrating on their long runs on harder tyres, finally bolted on some softs and showed the rest just how far they still are ahead. On the second day of the final test Nico bunged on said softs and was a whacking 1.2 seconds faster that Bottas in the Williams which had been looking good up to that point. Ferrari, who looked so good at Jerez (remember what I said about Jerez) have improved but are third quickest at best. The final result of the test pretty much gave a good idea of the pecking order at the pointy end for when the first practice session of the years begins at Albert Park on Friday. Mercedes 1-2. Williams 3-4. Then things could get a bit muddled. Ferrari finished 5-6 but Red Bull were still running detuned Renault engines and just like last year, they could still end up being best of the rest.

   Meanwhile King Fernando gave his noggin a fair whack when he stuffed the McLaren into the turn three wall, in quite a similar fashion to a certain Lotus driver last year, and was carted off to hospital with concussion. The quacks have ruled in their wisdom that another such whack may not be great for Fernando’s health and have insisted that he sit out the Australian race so Kevin Magnussen will get at least one race start this year. That King Fernando thought he was a thirteen year old karting prodigy when he woke up may have had something to do with this decision. And for all those conspiracy theorists out there he wasn’t zapped by the CIA or aliens. He just fucked up. Happens to us all occasionally.

   There are still plenty of questions to be answered in Melbourne. Will Red Bull get back on the pace? Is Sauber as quick as they have been appearing or have they been running a tad light? Have Lotus made the progress that their times suggest and will McLaren get enough track time and possibly make it to the end of the race? Will Toro Rosso and Force India inject themselves into the mid-field battle or will they be propping up the grid? Will Manor-Marussia make it and if so will they qualify. I for one hope so. Who will get that second drive at Manor? With their connections to Ferrari and McLaren as major suppliers, it could be one of their reserve drivers. Perhaps the reason that they have delayed the decision so long is that the before mentioned Magnussen will be driving a McLaren this weekend. Or not. Possibly one of Ferrari’s brood? After all Jules Bianchi had been placed there. So perhaps Esteban Gutierrez or Raffaele Marciello? Or was there some link to the fact that Jean-Eric Vergne was displaying a Ferrari through the Adelaide 500 touring car race? Or will Ferrari help out engine purchaser Sauber and arrange for Van der Garde to get the drive so he ditches his court case demanding a Sauber drive this year. That case is due to be heard in the Victorian Supreme Court tomorrow and depending on the outcome may decide who will line up in the Saubers on the weekend. Or at Manor-Marussia. Or not. May just be someone else with a brief-case full of cash. It may be a race or two before we know their definitive line-up. We have to have something to ponder over after all….

 For full testing results go to;

 Sam Snape






Raikkonen was fastest at Jerez - or was he?  All sound and fury, signifying nothing. That is about all that can be said about the four days at Jerez. For the record Ferrari was fastest, McLaren was slowest, and Force India didn’t even bother showing up. Despite some websites and publications using plenty of ink (or bytes) telling you what we’ve learnt or making grand predictions based on the relative performances last week let me give you the one tip you really can rely on. They’re talking bollocks.

  Much like last year, and many years prior to that, the times generated at the first test mean bugger all when it comes to how the grid forms up in Melbourne. Much like last year, Ferrari was fast. Much like last year Renault was unreliable. Much like last year Mercedes was not (particularly fast nor unreliable). Last year, come Melbourne, Ferrari was slow, Renault was reliable (at least in Ricciardo’s Red Bull) and Mercedes vanished rapidly into the distance. Such was the performance differential some suggested that Mercedes completed half the Malaysian Grand Prix before the rest of the field finished at Albert Park.


  Does anyone really think that Ferrari have found so much speed that they are now the team to beat? Or that Sauber have the second best car for the coming year? Or that Mercedes have produced a slower car than last year? Or that McLaren Honda are really that far off the pace? In reality all that the Jerez test is about is making sure that your car has all its bits connected to all the other bits they need to be connected to ensure you don’t have the embarrassing sight of injectors firing fuel out of the air-box or the big wheels at the front. 

  And let’s be honest about it,  embarrassing blunders do occur. How many laps did Renault powered teams do last year? Remember McLaren producing a car that Nigel Mansell couldn’t squeeze his fat arse into? History is littered with great ideas that come a cropper as soon as the wheels turn. Or don’t as the case may be. The wingless wonders of the ground effect era (the Lotus 80 and Brabham BT47) that rapidly sprouted wings (and in Brabham’s case became the bog standard BT48), March’s 721 with its polar moment of inertia. The BRM P15. The McLaren MP4/18. The Arrows (Footwork) FA12 Porsche... Eek. But this is what testing is for. Some dung heaps stay dung heaps but some come out the other side as roses. OK it’s not F1 but how about the Porsche 917 as an example? Terrifyingly unstable upon release in 1969. Dominated sports car racing in 1970 and 71 to the extent that the sport’s governing body changed the rules to outlaw them. Or the Lotus 77 that struggled to qualify at the beginning of 1976 but won the final round at Fuji.

  There were though, some things we did learn. Not many and few will have any relevance once the season starts. Renault need to redesign a shaft in the ERS water pump. Badly. Again the Mercedes engines are putting in an ominous amount of laps without any serious problems. And discounting the fastest overall lap times, which can be run with sod all fuel and ballast mysteriously disappearing, it was perhaps significant to note that the fastest three cars through the speed trap on the back straight (Williams, Mercedes and Lotus) were all Mercedes powered. The best Renault and Ferrari powered cars (Toro Rosso and Sauber) were over 4 kph down on the Williams. That could, however, be accounted for by the amount of rear wing/downforce/drag that the slower cars were running which may have also contributed to their better overall lap times as Jerez is about as fast and flowing as the Hungaroring.

   Which is why Force India didn’t even bother showing up. With a desire to give themselves more time to develop and build the car they never intended to have their 2015 challenger ready for Jerez and simply trolling around a circuit that has few similarities with the bulk of the tracks in race usage in last year’s car was seen to be of little, if any, value. When the first of two tests at Barcelona begins late next week we should be able to begin to have the first glimmers of an inkling about understanding the possible potential performance of this year’s contenders. Do I have any real knowledge  yet? To quote Douglas Adams “the thought hadn’t even begun to speculate about the merest possibility of crossing my mind.”

 For full times & results ;

 Sam Snape 10/02/2015