Who is the greatest?

All year, the BBC F1 website has been counting down the greatest drivers our sport has ever seen.

Today, they revealed the identity of who they think is the fourth greatest driver, Michael Schumacher. This has sparked quite a debate on twitter on how the most successful ever in F1 can only be ranked as the fourth greatest driver of all time.

Throughout the debate, one thing that everybody did agree on, and that who should be in the top five, even though everyone is at loggerheads on which order they should be placed.

I thought, I’d run a quick poll to see who you think is the greatest driver of all time

Silverstone Half Marathon 2013

During this season, I’ve been lucky enough to run a vast majority of circuits in the UK during my work in the paddocks. Next year, I’m stepping up my running by taking on the Silverstone half marathon on March 3rd.

I’m doing this to raise much-needed funds for the wonderful people at Mission Motorsport. Mission motorsport aim to aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of those affected by military operations by providing opportunities through Motorsport. I got to see the team in action, first hand during the Britcar 24hrs this year whilst working in the paddock

I’m looking for people to join me in running around the home of British motorsport to raise money to keep this fantastic charity doing its valuable work.

If you are interested, please leave a comment below with your contact details or contact me via twitter @MarshallGP

Swings and Roundabouts

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, this is a new post on Marshall GP. apologies for the lack of content recently, life has been very busy, juggling two jobs with studying has left very little time for much else.

Swings and roundabouts has become my phrase of choice when describing about the 2012 F1 season. Everytime either McLaren or Red Bull seem to be in the ascendency, they almost inexplicably loose performance in relation to the other.

After the Italian Grand Prix, I was taking part in the GP Focus podcast where I predicted that Lewis Hamilton was in the box seat to take the fight to Fernando Alonso. Three races later, that prediction couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is the raging, Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel that has picked up the baton and is, at present, sprinting headlong down the home straight. Now, I’m not going to say that Vettel is going to win the championship, I’ve learnt my lesson there. What I will say is that Red Bull need to continue with this level of consistency if they are going to give him a shot at the title.

While everyone else has ebbed and flowed on the grid, Ferrari have been something of a yardstick. They have never had the fastest car at any time this year, but in the hands of Alonso, we have seen the most consistent string of podiums out of anyone in the running for the title.

With four races left, the title is destined to go to either Alonso or Vettel. Whoever it goes to, they will become the first driver to become a triple world champion since Michael Schumacher in 2000. While Alonso was wrapping up his second title in successive years in 2006, a nineteen year old Vettel had only made his debut for BMW Sauber a handful of races before at Indianapolis.

Now twenty-five, Sebastian Vettel is on the brink of achieving what only the great Fangio and Schumacher have done before him in winning three successive titles.

They say three is the magic number, who will celebrating a triple success at the end of the season? Gentleman, it’s over to you.

What is a white line bewteen friends (and racers)

In recent races, we have seen penalties handed out to drivers for incidents that involved ‘exceed the track limits’. The drivers in question are Pastor Maldonado (Valencia) and Sebastian Vettel (Hockenhiem). Such penalties have become more commonplace in recent years as the traditional gravel traps have made way for ‘sponsor friendly’ tarmac run-off areas.

One notable incident took place at Spa in 2008 when Lewis Hamilton was forced off the track on the inside of the last chicane by Kimi Raikkonen. Lewis managed to get ahead of the Fin whilst off the track and immediately gave the position back, only to re-overtake in to La Sauce hairpin.

After the race, the stewards adjudged that Lewis has gained an advantage, even though he had given the place back and was stripped of the race victory after being handed a time penalty.

When I first started watching Formula one, if you made a mistake, there was a very good chance that it would be the end of your race. Fearsome gravel traps lay in wait for any driver that pushed the limit that little too far. The result of heading into the gravel was more that often a beached car going nowhere.

Today, this extension of tarmac is exploited by most during a race. The driver who seems to use it to his advantage the most is seven time world champion, Michael Schumacher. The 2010 Korean Grand Prix sticks in my mind most for this. It very wet at the start of the race and it was started under safety car conditions.

In the following 17 laps, Schumacher was seen going off the circuit as he explored the grip levels in the wet, slippery conditions. The German had started the race in 9th position but after the safety car went in, he quickly started to move through the top 10, finishing a credible 4th.

Should Schumacher have been allowed to leave the circuit in this manner, especially under safety car conditions? It is fair to say that if he was at Monza or Suzuka and he’d tried the same trick, his race would have been over before it had begun.

I would like to see the re-introduction of gravel traps, not because I want to seethe drivers stuck in them and out of the race. I want to see them back because these are the best drivers in the world and they can drive a F1 car through the streets of Monaco. At Monaco, if you exceed the track limits, you’ll break your suspension at the very least.

A Brief History of The British Grand Prix

In today’s world, Formula one boss, Bernie Ecclestone, has the pick of some of the most exciting venues in the world to stage a grand prix. In recent years, we have seen races held in Singapore, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. For every new venue that makes it on to the calendar, there are several more waiting in the wings, ready to take their chance on the world stage.

With multi million pounds, government backed schemes getting the go-ahead from Russia to Argentina and everywhere in-between, the historic European heartland of F1 is increasingly under threat. 1950 saw the inaugural F1 world championship. It was contested over seven races held at Silverstone, Monaco, Indianapolis (USA), Bremgarten (Switzerland), Reims-Gueux (France), and Spa (Belgium) and Monza (Italy).

Out of the seven original circuits, only four remain on the calendar for the 2012 world championship, Monaco, Monza, Spa and Silverstone.

Silverstone, as many of the UK’s circuits, began life as WW2 airfields that were abandoned after the end of hostilities in 1945. The first race was held at Silverstone in 1947 and was dubbed the Mutton Grand Prix after the race organiser, Maurice Geoghegan, hit a sheep resulting in a written off car. This first layout made use of the two runways on the site with the course marked out with straw bales.

Silverstone was given the honor of being the first race of the inaugural championship in 1950. Even though little had been done to the site, the track had moved to the perimeter road, giving the Northamptonshire circuit its fast, flowing layout that would remain right up to 1990. Although the British Grand Prix and Silverstone remain on the calendar, its journey has been one filled with more drama than your average soap opera.

Long before Silverstone became under threat from overseas, other British circuits were vying to host the Grand Prix. In 1955, Aintree became co-host of the Grand Prix, alternating with Silverstone. Built in 1954, the circuit ran inside of the perimeter of the world famous Grand National horse racing course. This partnership ran until 1962 when competitive racing all but stopped at Aintree.

During this time, very little had happened to Silverstone, the pit lane had been moved from Farm to the short straight between Woodcote and Copse corners but essentially that was all. Aintree was superseded by Brands Hatch as the new co-hosts of the race. The Kent circuit has undergone a substantial redevelopment in the late fifties and held its first non-championship F1 race in 1960. Silverstone became the ‘home of the British Grand Prix’ in 1987 when it became the sole host of the race.

The British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) had purchased the lease of the circuit from the RAC in 1952. The club comprised of British drivers who had been judged to to have been successful at an international level for a number of seasons. The BRDC formed a subsidiary, company Silverstone Circuits Limited, responsible for the development of the British Grand Prix. The BRDC bought the circuit and ground outright in 1971.

The BRDC have long been at loggerheads with Formula 1s commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone. Ecclestone, 81, the ex team owner of the Brabham F1 team later became chief executive of the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA). In 1978 he negotiated a series of legal issues with the FIA and Jean-Marie Balestre, culminating in Ecclestone’s famous coup, in which saw him secure the right for FOCA to negotiate television contracts for the Grands Prix.

Ecclestone has always been outspoken in his criticism of Silverstone and the way it is run by the BRDC. On several occasions he has tried to take the race elsewhere. In 1999, Ecclestone struck a deal with Nicola Foulston, the then owner of Brands Hatch to see the race return to Kent from 2002. The subsequent sale of Brands Hatch coupled with the failure to gain the necessary planning permission by Octagon, the new owners, saw the race continue at Silverstone.

On 4 July 2008 (qualifying day at Silverstone for the Grand Prix), Ecclestone announced that Donington Park had been awarded the contract to host the British Grand Prix for 10 years from 2010. However, Donington failed to secure the necessary funding to host the race, and its contract was terminated in November 2009. On 7 December 2009, Silverstone signed a 17 year contract to host the British Grand Prix from 2010 onwards. The 2010 race saw a new circuit configuration being used, using the brand new “Arena” layout.

Today, Silverstone is barely recognisable from the barren ex airstrip that host the first ever F1 championship race in 1950. As part of the current seventeen year deal, Silverstone has undergone another major facelift. The pit and paddock complex have relocated to very near their original place after Stowe corner.

Further redevelopments are planned which include a theme park, hotel and leisure facilities. All are subject to further investment. The president of the BRDC, Derek Warwick, talked in detail about the future of the circuit at the recent fans’ forum on June 3rd held at the Williams Grand Prix conference centre, Grove, Oxfordshire. “Talks are still ongoing, we entered into an exclusive dialog with one party, the exclusivity of these talks has now ended. We are now talking to three interested parties who we hope we can go forward with and achieve the long term future for Silverstone as the home of the British Grand Prix.”

Paddock Life – F2 Brands Hatch

Last weekend saw the second UK round of the FIA F2 championship at Brands Hatch, Kent. I was a little apprehensive in the run up to this event because this was the first time that I was left in control with my boss heading up another event at Snetterton.

I arrived at a rain soddened Brands late on Tuesday evening. The F2 trucks had already arrived in the outer paddock and had already started to build their units. After a rain interrupted nights sleep, I was thankful to see bright blue skies in the morning, my delight however, was short-lived.

Although the F2 units were being built-in a nice straight line, they were being built to no lines that we use in the paddock. For the larger events we do, we have specific markers we use. This meant I was in for a very busy morning.

To put you in the picture a little more in this process, there are some key numbers you have to work to when designing a paddock. Firstly, the maximum length of an articulated lorry, including the cab is seventeen and a half metres. The second is 8 metres which is the width of the roads around the paddock.

Since the F2 trucks were already there, I started to mark out the middle of the paddock where the truck sit ‘nose to nose’. For the trucks to have enough room and to leave a small gap to walk between them, the middle block has to be 36 metres wide. Once this is in place, you can mark put the roads, which also denotes the area around the edge of the paddock. This whole process took around 4 hours, luckily for me, the only people to turn up in that time was the Dunlop tyre trucks.

Even though the positioning of the F1 trucks put a good couple of hours on to my day, their presence in the paddock did have its upsides. During the week, all circuits run general test days in which you can get a whole host of machinery turn up. The majority of the teams book a pit garage for the day, others prefer to set up in the paddock.

This in itself is fine, they’ve paid to be there and have every right use the facilities as they see fit. The issues arise when teams turn up for a test day, that are also competing that weekend and need to park in the correct place on the test day. Normally we have to ask they guys who are just there for the test to set up right down the far end of the paddock.

When these testers turn up and see the very impressive F2 hospitality  unit being built, 99% of them don’t even bother to used the paddock at all, opting instead to use the sloping car park for the day.

Friday was my last night for this meet and it was finished off with an evening with some great friends on the circuit camp site to see in Paul Havell’s birthday, happy birthday mate 🙂

2012s quiet silly season

While the racing on the track has been prehaps the most unpredictable in F1s sixty-two year history. The usual melee in the drivers market doesn’t seem to be appearing this year.

The British Grand Prix has traditionally been the start of the driver silly season rumours. However, with Mark Webber signing a one year extension with Red Bull today, the likelihood of a frantic drivers market seems very slim indeed.

With Alonso,Vettel and Rosberg, all tied down to multi-year contracts, all eyes were on the likeable Australian to see if he would stay at Red Bull or join Alonso at Ferrari. Now we know he’s staying put, the two seats of interest are those currently been filled by Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher. Massa, for one, will be pleased to see Webber stay on at RBR. The winner of the British Grand Prix was a hot contender to replace him after it was revealed that the two parties had held talks in recent weeks.

Massa’s appears to be fighting a losing battle to hold on to his Ferrari seat despite finishing 4th at Silverstone this year. While his team-mate had won two races and leads the drivers championship, Massa is yet to taste the champagne on the podium this year. With Ferrari’s young driver programme protegé, Sergio Perez, continuing to impress at Sauber, a straight swap could well be on the cards.

The Merceds question is a little more straight forward. Michael is having his best season to date since he made his comeback at the start of the 2010 season and scored his first podium for Mercedes at the European Grand Prix just over two weeks ago. If Michael, or Mercedes decide to go their separate ways, ex Mercedes DTM driver, Paul di Resta is in pole position to take over from the 7 times world champion.