Pit Stop – Small storie making waves in Motorsport – By Lewis Brearley

After the flurry of news regarding the first Formula One pre-season test in Jerez and the Sepang MotoGP test, the current absence of news seems rather dull. However, if you’ve been following closely you will have noticed a few intriguing stories.

The sponsor situation in Formula One has been pretty dire in recent years but recent news could be optimistically taken to mean that last year, when Williams, Sauber and Marussia all ran with almost bare liveries, thankfully may have been the nadir.

Williams recently announced a new sponsorship deal with Martini, meaning the legendary and iconic red, white and blue stripes of the 1970s should again be present in the new turbocharged era.

This, alongside further deals with Genworth Insurance and Petrobras, a Brazilian oil company surely attracted to the team by the team’s new Brazilian driver Felipe Massa, combined with the team’s new technical structure under Pat Symonds’ leadership and the promising pace shown at the Jerez test, all builds to a very positive vibe around the Grove team.

If the team delivers during the season then maybe the sleeping giant of Formula One can defy the doubters and once again compete to win races. If so, the sport will be all the healthier for it.

The arrival of any new sponsor into Formula One is a big story nowadays. Whereas in the early noughties even midfield teams had the logos of huge, blue chip companies painted onto their cars, things are much harder now.

The financial crash of 2008 led to the exits of many companies who had been supporting teams and five years later, for some reason, there hasn’t yet been a renaissance of corporate interest.

Even the mighty McLaren was trundling around Jerez without a title sponsor, after Vodafone decided to end their involvement at the end of 2013, reportedly due to the negative publicity furore surrounding the controversial Bahrain grand prix.

Former team principal Martin Whitmarsh had announced a sponsor unveiling for last December but worryingly, that was cancelled. This was one of the reasons why Ron Dennis took back control of the Formula One team, after becoming concerned about the team’s commercial business.

Rumours have grown that all will be well by the time of the Australian grand prix and that their car, now under the leadership of racing director Eric Boullier, will be adorned with a new, major sponsor. We shall see.

Another recent story is the successful first outing of the new Lotus E22. With the team having endured delays and their engine manufacturer, Renault, having serious problems at the Jerez test with their other teams, the fact that they ran a trouble-free 100km was a surprise to many.

In the past few years the Lotus team have shown to be one of the finest teams on the grid, and despite their huge financial troubles and loss of top-level engineers, could be on course for a stronger season than many suggested.

However, it seems highly unlikely that the team will replicate their recent race winning form of the past two years and a strong midfield campaign seems much more probable. But that’s just speculation, more evidence of where each team stands will be provided next week when the second Formula One test starts in Bahrain.

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Pit Stop – Moto Gp Test is Routine – By Lewis Brearley

Last week’s news was dominated by the first Formula One pre-season test and analysis of the varying fortunes of the teams’ new cars and revolutionary new engines.

Therefore, this week has seemed pretty quiet when compared to the flurry of news last week. This pretty much reflects the difference between Formula One and MotoGP’s approach to testing.

The teams of MotoGP had their first pre-season test at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia this week and the lack of rule changes in the sport resulted in a pretty quiet and undramatic three days.

However it would be greatly untrue to say there are no stories to report. Going in to the test it was unknown who would be fastest out of last year’s championship contenders – Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez.

But it was Marquez on his Honda who came out on top, the champion setting the fastest time on each of the three days. Yet it is too early to say the new season looks set to be dominated by Marquez.

Yamaha ended the test only two tenths behind, the fastest time set by Valentino Rossi who managed to outpace Lorenzo on each of the days.

Rossi has stated in the off-season that he will take a decision to continue beyond the 2014 season after the first six races providing his pace is improved from last year.

With this in mind, his pace at the test was very promising but with the obvious caveat that Lorenzo may have been pushing to a lesser degree than his team mate.

A second story to come out of the test was the promising pace of the “open-class” bikes, with the Forward Yamaha ridden by Aleix Espargaro managing to get within two tenths of Lorenzo’s works machine.

For those unaware of the biggest rule change in MotoGP this year, the open class is the replacement of the CRT category. In exchange for an increased fuel capacity of 24 litres as opposed to 20 litres teams have to use a standard ECU which will be controlled by the FIM.

The plan was that the new category would get closer to the factory bikes than the CRT bikes did and the performance of the bikes in the test seemed to confirm this.

In fact, the rumours that Ducati have opted to make their new bike conform to the open class rules shows how promising the class is.

However, the biggest mystery out of the test is why Ducati didn’t confirm which class their new bike was designed for.

For the first two days the Ducatis were grouped around 1.5-2.0 seconds off the lead pace and then on the final day Andrea Dovizioso managed to set a lap just 0.8 seconds behind Marquez.

This difference of lap times increased speculation that Ducati had been running both factory and open class bikes in the test to see which one was best. Yet which one of the two variations Dovizioso was running when he set his fastest time is still unknown.

Whichever version Ducati choose to compete with it’s unlikely that they will be racing the lead Yamahas and Hondas, who once again showed supreme pace. The only question remaining is whether Rossi and Dani Pedrosa can turn the championship battle from a duel into a four man competition.

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Pit Stop – Turbo is back with a bang – By Lewis Brearley

Formula One testing gets underway only next week but until then there’s nothing really to except speculate. Who’s going to surprise? Who’s going to fail? How ugly exactly are the new cars?

However, all this is just an exercise in futility so until testing actually happens it’s worth looking back to Formula One’s previous turbo era: 1978 – 1988.

Renault was the very first team to race with a turbocharged engine, a 1.5 litre V6. While at first it was unanimously seen as a joke, slow and extremely unreliable, but by the end of the season the first signs of promise were visible.

The lack of reliability would plague the Renault throughout their span in the sport. Alain Prost had runs at the title in 1981, 1982 and 1983 but was always hampered by his car’s inability to finish.

All this disappointment and the loss of Prost to McLaren, caused Renault to withdraw from the sport at the end of 1985. However their turbo technology had revolutionised the sport.

By 1984 all the teams were using 1.5l turbocharged engines and the McLaren-TAG combination began to dominate despite impressive competition from Williams-Honda, taking three successive drivers’ championships from 1984-1986.

1987 saw the Williams-Honda finally take a driver’s championship with Nelson Piquet after his team mate, Nigel Mansell, severely injured his back which forced him to miss the final two races.

The year after was the final year for the turbos as they were banned for 1989 in a bid to slow the car’s down. But it was the final turbo year – 1988 – which came to define the era that preceded it.

McLaren procured the awesome Honda engine thanks to signing Ayrton Senna, who had built up a close relationship with the Japanese company in his time at Lotus. When combined with Alain Prost, then a double world champion, it delivered a championship double after winning an unprecedented and unbeaten 15 race wins out of 16 races.

The only thing that stopped McLaren taking a 100% sweep was the infamous incident at Monza, where Jean-Louis Schlesser turned in on Senna while being lapped, which cost McLaren the victory.

Despite the fact that the 2014 engines use turbos, the new and upcoming turbo era is going to be very different from the eighties. Whereas the old era was all about pure, awesome power with engines giving out more than 1000bhp when on maximum boost. This new era will be much more focused towards efficiency and refined power.

The turbo itself has a system where a large proportion of the waste heat from inside the turbo is stored and then utilised by the engine.

The style of racing will change for next year and whether it’s popular or not the technology inside the cars is an interesting and impressive step  up from the past few years.

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Pit Stop – Testing is close – By Lewis Brearley

It is now just one week until Formula One testing gets underway at Jerez and the hype is beginning to build.

Despite the confidence of the Lotus team that they wouldn’t be the only ones to miss the first test, they remain the only team to have announced that they won’t be there.

The effect this will have on Lotus’s preparations for the new season is as yet unknown and probably won’t be until the Australian grand prix on 16 March, but with the huge implications of the complex new regulations added to the negative stories around the finances of the team, it is generally expected to be a significant setback.

Yet, as the team and their fans will argue, setbacks during pre-season testing can be overcome. Lotus themselves lost two days of running last season when they found their new chassis was cracked and McLaren are infamous for their tendency to have poor starts to the season and often manage to overcome their problems by the time the season gets going.

Another big unknown is the driver situation at Caterham, who haven’t yet announced their partnering. Rumours gathered pace this week that one will be Kamui Kobayashi, the popular and exciting talent who has been out of the sport for a year.

When taken amid the current furore over the prevalence of pay drivers, if Caterham does decide to sign Kobayashi, it will be a real positive for the sport and certainly should give Paul di Resta confidence that it is possible to return to Formula One after being dropped.

His team mate is likely to be the young Marcus Ericsson, who has shown inconsistent flashes of speed in four seasons in GP2. He was often seen around the Caterham garage last season which backs up the rumours that he will be driving for them next year.

Regardless of who gets signed, the fact that Caterham haven’t yet announced their drivers raises eyebrows. With the competition to get seats being so high, perhaps they are just using the luxury of holding all the cards, and using all the time to make sure they get the best deal they possibly can.

Interesting things are also happening at McLaren. While they may have their driver line up of Jenson Button and the promising Kevin Magnussen sealed, they executive structure is set for a re shuffle.

Ron Dennis wrested back the controls of the team from his former trusted protégé, Martin Whitmarsh after becoming increasingly disillusioned with the team’s recent lack of success.

In his statement Dennis said to prepare for “changes to be made” and with Honda teaming up with McLaren next year, former Honda team principal and recently retired Ross Brawn is a possible new team principal.

McLaren really need a strong year, and next week at Jerez, Button will find out whether he has the car to be able to bid for his second world championship.

The teams are now almost ready but as of now it’s all unknowns.

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Pit Stop – World Rally Championship – By Lewis Brearley

The 2014 World Rally Championship begins next week with one of the most highly anticipated Monte Carlo rallies of all time.

The grid has had an almost complete overhaul with only the Volkswagen line up of reigning champion Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andrea Mikkelsen remaining unchanged.

Last year’s surprise package, Thierry Neuville, has joined the brand new Hyundai team. The Korean operation has plenty of doubters but journalists who were invited to the team’s factory were highly impressed by the facilities and determination of the new team to challenge Volkswagen for the championship.

The success of the debuting i20 WRC is in safe hands with Neuville, who surprised many by outperforming Mads Ostberg on his way to second place in the 2013 championship. If the Hyundai is good enough Neuville will surely be in the running for his first WRC win.

However, to do so will require Neuville to beat heavy competition. Outside of the formidable Ogier-Volkswagen partnership and his highly talented team mate Latvala, both the old hands Ford and Citroen have all new driver partnerships.

In the winter Ford announced its big marquee signing, Robert Kubica. The ex-Formula One driver has shown extraordinary pace in WRC2 and the ERC, including a brilliant, last stage win in the first round of the 2014 ERC.

His success at stepping up to the highest level of rallying will be measured quite easily thanks to his team mate being the fast and reliable Mikko Hirvonen, who moves back to Ford after two years with Citroen. If Kubica outpaces Hirvonen in Monte Carlo it will be a huge story and if Kubica does the unthinkable and actually wins the rally he would be the first man in history to win in both Formula One and the WRC.

Ford have also replaced the unpredictable Evgeny Novikov with the Welsh youngster, Elfyn Evans. Winner of the WRC Academy championship in 2012, Evans has the opportunity to learn from two amazing talents but conversely also faces the risk of being put in the shade by them. And in a sport where confidence rules, that could be damaging.

Evans does have the talent to shine if he approached the championship in the right way and may even sneak a rally win if things go his way, however it’s highly unlikely to be next week’s Monte Carlo rally.

The final challenges are from Citroen, a team looking to bounce back to success after a poor 2013 season and are another team with a brand new line up. Mads Ostberg is in pretty much the same boat after he was unexpectedly beaten at Ford by Neuville but has stated he is much more confident in the Citroen. If he can return to being at the front of rallies, the sport will be all the better for it as he looked to have the full package back in 2012.

His team mate is the former IRC champion, Kris Meeke. Being a rather unknown quantity and likely Citroen’s second choice as they attempted to sign Kubica, his potential in the WRC is a mystery. However, he is an experienced rally hand and it’s probable he’ll slip into a reliable point scoring role rather than a rally winner.

For a sport so used to domination by the now retired Sebastien Loeb, the 2014 Monte seems like a bright, fresh start with an expanded grid full of both experienced and untried but promising talent.

Whatever happens next week, all that’s known is that the winner of the Monte will be validated as one of the world’s great drivers.

Bowled Over – Australia Complete Ashes Whitewash – By Luqman Liaqat

Australia eased to a 281-run victory inside three day at Sydney to complete a 5-0 Ashes whitewash against England.

The third day was a subject of surrender from the tourists, as they were bowled out for 166 in 31.4 overs after being set a target of 448 with Michael Carberry’s top score of 43.

Ryan Harris (5-25) applied the polishing touches, taking the final two wickets of Stuart Broad and Boyd Rankin while Mitchell Johnson claimed three victims to finish with a total of 37 wickets for the series.

The opening day of the fifth and final test begun with a different look for England as Alaistair Cook won the toss for the first time in the series and put the hosts into bat first.

David Warner fell early for 16 when he was bowled by a Broad inswinger and then Ben Stokes saw Chris Rodgers play onto his own stumps when attempting a pull on 11.

Stokes was the beneficiary for the Australian skipper Michael Clarke’s downfall when he edged straight to Ian Bell at second slip. The fourth wicket of Shane Watson was England’s first lbw of the series as the hosts were left teetering on 94-4 at lunch.

After the break, George Bailey became the fifth Aussie batsman to fall cheaply, however as in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne that was a green light for another fightback from Brad Haddin.

Rankin went off with an injury and debutant Scott Borthwick was under an assault having his first three overs go for 21. Haddin raced to his fourth half-century of the Ashes series off 70 balls, with strong support from Steve Smith.

Seeing the end of Haddin’s innings was a huge surprise when he edged to Cook for 75 and the partnership with Smith was worth 128 moving the score onto 225-6.

Smith profited from England’s many short balls and full tosses, the Australian right hander crashed a six and four from consecutive balls to move to his third test ton.

After Johnson’s dismissal, Harris smashed James Anderson for two boundaries before driving Stokes to short extra-cover for 22. Stokes then had Peter Siddle and Smith (115) in next three balls for admirable figures of 6-99 as the Austrian innings closed on 326.

Before the close, more misery was to hit England, this time with the bat as Carberry fended Johnson to a diving Nathan Lyon before Cook and night watchman Anderson survived at stumps on 8-1.

The horror show began from the off on day two for England as soon as the skipper himself left an inswinger from Harris for a plumb leg before. After Bell was dropped by Watson, nightwatchman Anderson followed shortly edging Johnson to a diving Clarke at second slip.

From 14-3 it became 17-4 when Kevin Pietersen pushed Harris (3-36) with hard hands leaving Watson with a simple catch. Bell was still struggling and only got off the mark after 40 minutes at the crease before Siddle produced a beautiful delivery to take his outside edge.

With a target of 127 to avoid the follow-on, there was a chance for the match being finished in two days. After debutant batsman Gary Ballance fell, Stokes provided a dogged effort to add 49 on the eighth wicket with Jonny Bairstow (18).

Stokes was out for 47 when he shouldered arms to have his off stumps hammered back by Siddle (3-23). Borthwick edged to third slip as England collapsed to an abysmal 155-all out.

The hosts started their second innings with a lead of 171, Anderson struck straight away for a leg before of Warner and had Watson caught behind for nine as the English seamers toiled in the warm evening.

Broad had Clarke for six and Stokes saw Smith edge to Cook at slip but Rodgers scored another careful fifty with Bailey who was on a handy 20 not out as Australia were on 140-4 at stumps (311 runs ahead).

Rodgers transformed his overnight 73 into another ton as he cut Pietersen away for his 14th boundary from 143 deliveries and extended the stand with Bailey to 109.

Bailey scored 46, before pulling Broad into Borthwick’s palms in the deep and it was the first of six wickets going down at either side of lunch. Haddin (28) was aggressive before dragging Borthwick onto his stumps and Johnson was bowled by Stokes (2-62), giving him eight victims for the match.

Rodgers 119 run stay at the crease came to an end when Borthwick claimed a diving catch from his own bowling and then had Harris caught in the deep for 13.

Rankin picked the final wicket of Siddle for his maiden test scalp, caught behind, as the hosts second innings closed on 276 and set the tourists a target of 448.

Cook (7) fenced a short ball from Johnson and then edged behind before Bell after a making a promising start guided a cut off Harris straight to gully.

When Pietersen was on his way for six to Harris, a familiar England batting disarray was under way.

Carberry showed some resistance, but was sent packing to the second ball of the evening session by Johnson. Three deliveries later, Balance (7) was hit on the pads from one that kept low from the tourists’ nemesis Johnson.

Lyon then had his say taking two wickets in an over, Bairstow fell for duck to an excellent catch by Bailey at short-leg and Clarke pulled off an absolutely magnificent low catch to see off Borthwick.

Stokes (32) reacted by going on an all-out attack, dominating a stand of 44 with Broad before being bowled out when attempting a slog of Harris.

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Pit Stop – Part One of 2014 Season – By Lewis Brearley

It’s scary to think that by the end of this month, pre-season testing in Formula One will already be underway. It gives you a sense of the work rate needed by the teams to get their new cars made and transported to Spain just two months after they packed up their 2013 cars in Sao Paulo.

But this year the turnaround is even more complex than usual. The 2014 cars are designed to brand new technical regulations: new engines, new KERS, new exhausts and new aerodynamics.
When the teams turn up and unveil their new cars on 28 January down at Jerez, Spain a new era of Formula One will begin.

The biggest change will be the introduction of 1.6 litre, turbocharged engines – or “power units” as they are being termed – with much more powerful energy recovery systems than the 2013 cars.

The power unit will contain both a kinetic energy recovery system similar to the ones used in 2013, only more powerful, and a second system which will utilise waste power from the turbo. However, unlike 2013 this energy will be used automatically and not at the press of a button.

Furthermore this system will be restricted to using only 100kg for the entire race with a maximum flow rate of 100kg per hour meaning fuel efficiency may be almost as important as outright power.

Next, the requirement of a single exhaust exiting the centre of the car at an upright angle, eradicating practically all of the downforce derived from blowing the exhaust gases towards the diffuser – Red Bull’s specialty.

The other changes are aerodynamic such as a front wing 75mm narrower and, for safety reasons, a much lower nose. These will affect the flow of air around the entire car and therefore are perhaps much more important than they may first appear.

The decrease in engine power combined with the loss of aerodynamic downforce means the 2014 cars are almost certainly going to be slower than the 2013 cars, as was intended by the regulations. How much slower they will be is unknown however, but the pessimistic predictions of silent cars circling six seconds slower is probably rubbish.

Even if the pace of the cars is much slower, such is the pace of development at the top teams that they will soon close in on the speed of the V8 machines.

The truth is that no one, not even Adrian Newey at Red Bull or Pat Fry at Ferrari, knows what next season will bring and that’s why 2014 is so highly anticipated. By the end of this month the first piece of the puzzle will be in place.

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Pit Stop – Tough time at the bottom – By Lewis Brearley

It’s a tough time for Formula One’s smaller teams at the moment. Financial worries are causing ructions within all but the largest teams and disappointingly no action seems to be in the pipeline.

Force India replaced Paul di Resta with Sergio Perez this week and with it gained an estimated $10 million from his Mexican backers and sponsors.

Many fans decried the fact that a very talented driver had lost out to a guy with a fat wallet. Yet this is harsh on Perez, a man who gave a world champion, Jenson Button, a decent challenge in a tricky car.

Indeed it’s arguable that Perez and di Resta are on the same level, unlikely to be world champions but capable of winning races when given the machinery. It’s not Force India’s fault that they need all the money they can get and it’s certainly not Force India’s fault that no other team has picked him up.

However, this deal is yet another sign that Formula One’s financial model needs to change. Another driver who is supported by a large amount of corporate money and another good driver destined to spend the rest of his career in sportscar racing, IndyCar or the DTM.

The answer is simple but it will be a complicated political process to implement it. The owners of Formula One, a private equity named CVC Capital Partners. With over $46 billion in investments and no passion for motor sport, their number one priority is squeezing profit out of Formula One and they do this very successfully.

For example in 2012 Formula One revenues were estimated at around $1.5 billion and CVC took a colossal $865 million from that. From the remaining revenues, the FIA takes a small percentage and then the teams take their share, decided by the all-important Constructors’ Championship standings.

Hidden within this share is a hugely unfair element however. Recently the teams signed up to a new payment structure which gives bonuses to teams who have won championships in recent years – Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull – and also Mercedes thanks to an agreement between Bernie Ecclestone and the team that kept them in the sport.

So unfair is this structure that Ferrari could score zero points in next year’s championship and still receive more money than if Lotus managed to win the championship.

Why sign up to the thing then, you may ask? Well, it was forced upon them after Red Bull and Ferrari first signed it. Rumours swirled that the remaining teams had no other option than to sign up or else face watching a Ferrari Formula One World Championship sponsored by Red Bull with two constructors providing customer cars to the smaller teams.

Thanks to this unequal agreement and a bizarre lack of interest from sponsors, most teams are now struggling to stay afloat with soaring costs and declining revenues combining to crush their accounts.

If only there was a spare $800 million that could be shared between the grid. However, CVC will not give up this money easily. Aware of the financial difficulties they have an alternative answer: have five ‘constructors’ and five ‘customers’ which would sharply reduce costs for the smaller teams and allow CVC to keep even more of the revenues for themselves.

This isn’t an acceptable answer. It would reduce Formula One to a shadow of the fair, engineering battle that it is supposed to be and if one big team quit, the customer would be taken down with it.

The true answer as CVC are unlikely to be moved aside, is a budget cap. For this to happen Red Bull and Ferrari would have to accept that the good of the sport should be prioritised over the good of their teams.

Whether this will happen will be the background story throughout the 2014 season.

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Pit Stop – F1 changes – By Lewis Brearley

Almost all Formula One fans have ideas about how the sport should be improved. From less prescriptive technical regulations to more prescriptive technical regulations, more durable tyres, less durable tyres, bringing back refuelling, fewer teams, more teams, a budget cap, stopping racing on the newer and less romantic Tilke-designed circuits, there’s myriad ideas, some more worthy than others.

This week, the newly established “Strategy Working Group,” which comprises six team principals and six representatives from both the FOM and the FIA, had their first meeting and agreed on some changes which they believe will improve Formula One.

Firstly they decided to bring in, with immediate effect, permanent numbers for all the drivers. Sebastian Vettel will get the first choice, including the option to use the #1 earned by winning the drivers’ championship, with the others getting their choice in championship order.

This is a pure marketing tool and has been very well received among the fans and drivers alike. Formula One bosses will be hoping that sometime in the future they will be able to match the image and income of Valentino Rossi’s iconic #46 in MotoGP.

However, it’s unclear how the system will be implemented. If a driver retires only to return a couple of years later such as Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher, will their number be kept “on ice” for a couple of years or will they have to pick a new one?

Also, how will the numbers be visible? At the moment the numbers on the cars are too small to even be seen in slow motion close ups, and the teams are unwilling to increase this size for fear of reducing space for paying sponsors.

A number which is therefore only really visible on the driver’s caps and t-shirts before and after races is hardly going to have the same impact as the clear numbers used in MotoGP.

Secondly, a tentative plan to have a workable budget cap for 2015 was announced. Due to Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes’ current blasé and selfish attitudes to the ridiculous current financial situation in Formula One, it’s very unclear how this system will be properly enforced.

It’s certainly very unlikely to be set as low as the $40 million cap pushed by Max Mosley in 2009. The lack of information in the press release itself shows just how early into negotiations this decision is.

A more immediate change to the rules, and the one which has gained the most headlines, is the decision to award double points in next season’s final race.

This means the winner of next year’s Abu Dhabi grand prix, a race seen as one of the least challenging on the calendar, will receive 50 points.

As of now, Vettel is the only man to share his opinion on the issue, calling the whole idea “absurd and unfair,” and he is completely right. Never in the history of Formula One has one race been worth more than others.

This is a purely business-driven move, just like the permanent numbers, as it almost guarantees a final race championship decider, yet this is different as it affects the racing itself.

In football, the goalposts aren’t widened in stoppage time and in a 19-race championship, one race should not outweigh any of the others.

It’s also a sign of Formula One taking a worrying direction towards gimmickry and entertainment and away from sport. What’s to stop a circuit organiser deciding to pay double the hosting fees to get their race billed as a “50 points super-race?” Or giving points for overtaking in the final few laps?

This sort of gimmickry is not what Formula One needs to be entertaining and it’s concerning that the very owners of the sport think it is. They need to have more confidence in their product and remember that when Mika Hakkinen overtook Schumacher at Spa in 2000, or when Raikkonen overtook Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap of the 2005 Japanese grand prix, there were no gimmicks, no double points and no overtaking aids.

Pure racing, rivalries and personalities is what makes Formula One the second most watched sport in the world. There’s no need to dilute that.

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Pit Stop – Webber bows out- By Lewis Brearley

Mark Webber’s gesture of taking off his helmet after the Brazilian grand prix was a perfect summary of his reputation in his sport.

He stated the intention of the gesture was to show to human side to his sport. And of all the Formula One drivers of recent times, Webber has always seemed one of the most human; honest, direct and charming. Always putting the individual over the corporate, while also remaining popular and likeable.

Ever since his debut at his home grand prix in 2002, Webber has stuck to these values and the respect for his talent from his peers has only increased as his career has progressed.

His career began with a three race contract for perennial strugglers Minardi. With minimal backing and without a sparkling junior career, Webber’s prospects for a future in Formula One weren’t strong. So it’s arguable that his extraordinary fifth place finish in his debut race, helped by a heap of good fortune with at least eight faster cars retiring early, was the sole reason Webber lasted more than a season in the sport.

Yet, however fortuitous Webber got in that debut race, for the rest of his career he had to work for every single thing he achieved. From qualifying third at the 2003 Hungarian grand prix for the poor Jaguar team, getting his first win after a drive through penalty at the Nurburgring in 2009; to finishing third in the drivers’ championship three times – 2010, 2011 and 2013.

For his first seven seasons, Webber toiled in the midfield for Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull. Occasionally, his unique blend of hard graft and raw talent allowed him to shine. Times such as the 2006 Monaco grand prix where a probable podium finish was snatched away by a mechanical failure. Or the 2007 Japanese grand prix at the sodden Fuji racetrack, when another likely podium slipped away when a young rookie in another midfield car smashed into him.

It was unknown to everyone at the time, but this rookie would end up becoming an integral part of the Webber story, for it was Sebastian Vettel.

From 2009-2013 Webber had five seasons in a car capable of regularly winning races. And for those five seasons he was partnered in the Red Bull team by Vettel.

In 2009 and 2010 Webber and Vettel were quite even over the course of the seasons with Vettel taking eight wins to Webber’s six. Vettel seemed faster but was prone to crashes and rookie mistakes.

The record from 2011 onwards is less kind to Webber, as Vettel began to dominate the whole sport by utilising the unique aerodynamics of the Red Bull much more effectively, with the win ratio for 2011-2013 ending up as 28 for Vettel and only three for Webber.

This makes the first conclusion of Webber’s career as a good but not great driver. Yet, if Vettel really is as good as some claim, then Webber must go down as one of the best “B-level” drivers along with Rubens Barrichello, Gerhard Berger and Riccardo Patrese. And that’s something that a poor kid from the middle of New South Wales should be very, very proud of.

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