Category Archives: F1 history

Barcelona clash now history, Mercedes insists

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg insist that they have put their controversial Barcelona clash behind them.

Both Mercedes drivers and their boss Toto Wolff say that the matter is closed, and their focus is now on Monaco.

Barcelona was the worst feeling but, like I always say, the true test is how you get back up when you’ve been knocked down,” said Hamilton. “It was a tough moment for all of us after the race, but it’s now chapter closed and looking ahead to Monaco.”

I was gutted after what happened in Spain,” said Rosberg. “For myself, but mostly for the team. We’re in this together and I know how hard everybody works to make these amazing cars, so for us to leave them both in the gravel is the worst possible scenario. But we’ve talked it through and now it’s time to leave it in the past.”

Clearly, Barcelona was tough to take,” said Wolff. “We came away upset at an opportunity missed, but this is racing. The drivers know how we operate. The team is responsible for giving them the best possible cars and they are responsible for getting the best out of them, and for bringing them home. When we let them down, we apologise to the, and the same goes the other way. It’s a pretty normal culture – we deal with setbacks together and we move on.”

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Maria-Teresa de Filippis 1926-2016

Maria-Teresa de Filippis, the first of only two women to start an F1 World Championship race, has died at the age of 89.

Born in 1926, de Filippis gained experience in domestic sportscar racing in Italy with OSCA and Maserati machinery before an F1 opportunity opened up in 1958, helped by the encouragement of mentor and Ferrari star Luigi Musso.

She drove a Maserati 250F in the non-championship Syracuse GP in April, and was classified fifth of the six finishers, albeit four laps down on winner Musso. She then made her first attempt to qualify for a World Championship race in Monaco, but was 22nd fastest at time when only 16 cars were allowed start.

However she did make the field at Spa, creating history by taking the start from 19th on the grid and finishing in 10th place. She also qualified at Oporto in Portugal, where she took over a Scuderia Centro-Sud 250F after crashing her own car in practice, only to suffer an early retirement. She made her third GP start in her home event in Italy, where she ran as high as fifth in a race of high attrition before suffering a late engine failure.

De Filippis suffered a major blow when Musso was killed at that year’s French GP. However heading into 1959 she found a new mentor in Jean Behra, then a works Ferrari driver.

She drove a 250F in the International Trophy at Silverstone in May, in what proved to be her final F1 start. She failed to qualify at Monaco in Behra’s Porsche, and after the French star was killed at AVUS in August she announced her retirement from the sport at the age of just 33. Later she served as Honorary President of the Grand Prix Drivers Club.

The organisation’s current president Howden Ganley said: “Motor racing has lost a very lovely lady. She was an icon, the first lady to race in Formula One, and of course we younger ones certainly admired that, as did her contemporaries. Maria Teresa, with her boundless enthusiasm, was a mainstay in our Club for so many years. She will be irreplaceable.”

Although she started only three Grands Prix it’s a measure of her achievement that the only woman to successfully follow in her footsteps was fellow Italian Lella Lombardi, who took part in 12 races in 1975-’76.

De Filippis is survived by her husband Theo K. Huschek and daughter Carola. Her funeral will take place on Monday in Scanzorosciate, the town where she lived.

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Pirelli suspects that teams are flouting pressure requirement

The saga of Pirelli’s increased minimum tyre pressure requirements took another twist this morning when the Italian company warned teams that they cannot allow the pressures to drop below the prescribed minimum limit after cars leave the pits.

The minimum tyre pressures are measured by the car’s telemetry as they leave the pitlane, and that information is recorded by the Pirelli engineers who work with each team. Any anomalies are then picked up by the FIA.

There is clearly a suspicion that teams have found ways to meet the legal requirement as the car leaves the pits, but then run on track with slightly lower and thus more favourable pressures, which in turn aid car performance.

Pirelli says that if that is found to be the case the team concerned will be given higher minimum starting pressure figures.

In the letter Pirelli’s Mario Isola told the teams: “Our prescriptions about minimum starting pressures are based on the assumption that running pressures are higher than starting ones. These are the historical values we’ve seen, and we therefore need you to respect this in order to operate the tyres safely.

If we find, during any session, that your stabilised pressures are equal to or lower than the starting pressures, we will give higher starting pressures limit to your Team, as agreed with FIA.”

One way to promote a pressure drop on track is to have very high blanket temperatures, and Pirelli has underlined that the temperature numbers are being watched: “I also remind you to respect the maximum temperature for blankets as we will ask FIA to random check the values.”

Teams are also believed to be trying to get around the pressure requirements via both set-up and operational means. It’s been suggested for example that drivers have been leaving the pits with new tyres and passing the minimum pressure requirement. They have then returned to the pits and the mechanics have reduced the pressures before the car heads out again to do a proper run.

We need to be sure that the running pressure is in-line with the starting pressure,” Isola told this writer. “I fully understand that the teams need to find performance, that is clear. On the other side we have to be sure that the tyres are working in the right way. It’s always a balance between the two.

When we find something that is not what we want, the tyre is not operating in the range we want we need to be sure to come back to a situation is under control.

For me it is not correct to say that people are cheating. They are trying to find the room in the regulations to do something that is allowed because it is not forbidden. If we realised that this new idea has a negative impact on the tyre, we need to react, and to police it. They’ve found some grey areas where they can work at the limit, that’s all.”

Meanwhile one team insider told this writer that pressures could drop dramatically during the course of Sunday’s race: “The car set-up can promote a reduction in pressure, but the biggest factor is tyre wear. As the rubber thickness reduces the tread temperature decreases and this cools the air inside, and pulls the tyre pressure down. This is what happens during a long stint e.g. Ferrari in Spa. And it’s what’s going to happen tomorrow when everyone attempts a one-stop strategy.”


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Phil Kerr 1934-2015

Phil Kerr, a key player in the early days of both the Brabham and McLaren F1 teams, has passed away in his native New Zealand.

Kerr first met Bruce McLaren at a hillclimb when he was 17 and the future F1 star was 15, and they were both runnng Ausin Seven Specials. Later Kerr studied business and accountancy, and initially worked for the New Zealand Forest Service before moving into engineering.

He combined his own racing activities with working behind the scenes of the sport, joining the board of the New Zealand International Grand Prix Association at an early age. He was also secretary of the Auckland Car Club. As a driver he was good enough to be shortlisted for the ‘Driver to Europe’ award – which was eventually won by his friend McLaren.

It was in 1959 that McLaren recommended Kerr to his Cooper team mate Jack Brabham, who was starting his own organisation. Kerr duly travelled to the UK and helped to set up and run Jack’s Chessington facility. Later he was instrumental in getting a young Denny Hulme into Brabham, and he played a key role in the successful 1966 and 1967 World Championship campaigns.

Kerr felt that he’d achieved all he could at Brabham, and looking for a new challenge he joined Hulme in a move to McLaren in 1968. He became joint managing director, and along with Teddy Mayer he helped to keep the team going after Bruce’s death in 1970. He left the team after running Mike Hailwood’s Yardley-backed car as a satellite operation in 1974.

He subsequently returned to New Zealand to develop his business interests, using the McLaren Group name.

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Gerard Ducarouge 1941-2015

Legendary F1 chief designer Gerard Ducarouge has passed away at the age of 73. The colourful Frenchman is best remembered for his work with Ligier and Lotus, where he was responsible for a string of race winning cars.

Born in October 1941, Frenchman Ducarouge qualified in aeronautical engineering. He first came to prominence with Matra, where he designed the cars that won Le Mans in 1972, ’73 and ’74.

After Matra closed its works team he joined Guy Ligier, who was creating a Matra-powered F1 car for 1976. Ducarouge designed the JS5, famous for the ‘teapot’ airbox that it used in the first few races of the season. Jacques Laffite took pole for that year’s Italian GP, and then gave Ligier its first GP victory with the JS7 in 1977.

Ducarouge is perhaps best known for the JS11. The car dominated the early part of the 1979 World Championship in the hands of Laffite and Patrick Depailler, although later in the year the team was overhauled by both Ferrari and Williams. The updated JS11/15 was also a frontunner in 1980, when Didier Pironi joined the team. Laffite then won two more GPs in 1981 with the JS17.

Ducarouge subsequently fell out with Ligier and joined the works Alfa Romeo F1 team, where he designed the 182, with which Andrea de Cesaris took pole at Long Beach.

In May 1983 he turned down the chance to join Renault and instead made a move to Lotus. The team had lost founder Colin Chapman at the end of the previous year, and new boss Peter warr was keen to find a ‘name’ to help placate sponsors JPS. In fact he had been offered a job by Chapman himself in the past, but had turned it down.

Employing a more methodical approach than that associated with ideas man Chapman, Ducarouge helped Lotus create the 94T almost overnight in the middle of the 1983 season, working with Martin Ogilvie. In 1985 Ayrton Senna joined the team, and the Brazilian formed a close bond with Ducarouge. Senna scored his first GP wins in Portugal and Belgium with the Renault-powered 97T. Ayrton added four more successes over the next two years with the 98T and the Honda-equipped 99T, before moving on to McLaren.

Ducarouge himself left Lotus after a disappointing 1988 season and joined the team run by his former Matra colleague Gerard Larrousse, before returning to Ligier for a second spell in the early nineties, where he was involved with the JS39 that ran in 1993-’94. Subsequently he drifted away from F1 and rejoined Matra to work on other projects.

A charming and stylish man, he was much admired and respected in the paddock.

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Ferrari boss wants F1 cars to sound like “heavy metal band”

Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene has backed Niki Lauda’s call for a more exciting F1 regulations to be introduced in 2017.

Arrivabene, whose background is in marketing, stressed that it is important for the sport to entertain the public.

“I’ve read what our friend Niki has to say. He’s top of the class, whereas I’m sitting about four desks further back,” he told the Ferrari website. “I share Niki’s view that Formula 1 needs to be more spectacular and I believe that the risk he evokes of the sport losing fans is something that has unfortunately already happened.

“By 2017, I too would like to see cars that win over the fans, with cars that they can get closer to and that are aesthetically more appealing, maybe even producing a noise that gets your hair standing on end, like that produced by a heavy metal band. That was what it was like back in the day when Niki was racing and I was an enthusiastic fan, clutching my general admission ticket.”

Arrivabene says that major changes are required: “I don’t think a simple evolution is enough in this case. Instead, a real revolution is called for, with significant and radical changes. By that I mean more power, higher speeds, not necessarily involving the use of more fuel, but definitely applying a cost reduction to those components that are of little interest to the general public.

“Being closer to the people actually involves taking F1 to the people, possibly holding the Thursday driver press conferences and team presentations of a Grand Prix weekend, outside the circuit in a public area. That way, the cities that host the races could provide the arena for a presentation of the drivers and cars, in a properly managed event.

“I have long felt that the real competition to F1 today, in the sense of it being a show, comes from a variety of forms of entertainment, not least from the internet, including racing video games. It is up to us to provide something better and to download a new format for Formula 1 as soon as possible. How likely are we to do it? I know it wouldn’t be the usual way of going about things, but a global survey on the internet and via the TV companies would give us a real idea of what people want. In fact, even in this area of sport as entertainment, we should follow the trend of demand driving what’s on offer.”


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German GP might not run in 2015, says Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone has admitted that there might not be a German GP this year as he has yet to conclude a deal with either Hockenheim or Nurburgring.

The latter was in theory due to host the race this year, while the former has a contract for 2016.

Asked by Sky Sports News if Hockenheim was now on the calendar he said, “Not really,” and having conceded that there might not be a race in Germany at all he joked: “But we’ve got one, it’s called Austria.”

“We would do everything to stop them fading away, but in the end the only reason the race won’t happen is because they can’t afford to run the race.”

Asked why the event struggles he said: “Honestly I don’t know, it surprises me. Maybe it’s a little bit that the German people were very used to and supported Michael and miss Michael when he wasn’t racing any longer.”

However, he did admit that he was talking to the Nurburgring owners today, and it remains to be seen how much of a negotiating ploy his comments to the media are.


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Jean-Pierre Beltoise 1937-2015

Jean-Pierre Beltoise, who earned his place in the history books with his sole F1 win in Monaco in 1972, has died at the age of 77.

Born in Paris, Beltoise first demonstrated his speed while driving his butcher father’s delivery truck around the city. He began racing motorcycles and after a stint of military service interrupted his progress he won multiple French championships before moving to cars. An accident in the 1964 Rheims 12 Hours left him with serious leg and arm injuries, but he fought back to establish himself as France’s top racer over the rest of the decade.

He was best known for his long association with Matra, which began in F3 in 1965, and continued in F2 the following year. At the end of 1967 Matra began its move into Grand Prix racing and Beltoise ran an F2 car in the US and Mexican events. He contested a full season with the new works V12 in 1968, finishing second in Holland. He also found time to win that year’s European F2 title.

In 1969 Matra switched to Cosworth power and Beltoise drove alongside Jackie Stewart under the auspices of Ken Tyrrell. He finished second in his home race and earned a couple of thirds as his team mate took the title.

The V12 returned in 1970 and back in the works Matra team Beltoise earned more thirds in Belgium and Italy. His 1971 season was overshadowed by a controversial crash in the Buenos Aires 1000kms sportscar race which cost the life of Ferrari driver Ignazio Giunti and led him to losing his licence for a while. Beltoise had been pushing his Matra back to the pits when it was struck by the Italian.

He moved to BRM in 1972 and enjoyed his day of days when he outdrove the field to win a wet Monaco GP, although he had little luck elsewhere. In 1973 he was outshone by new team mate Niki Lauda, while in 1974 a second place in South Africa showed that he could still get the job done. It was his eighth and final F1 podium finish. His season ended with a heavy practice crash in the final race at Watkins Glen, which left him with foot injuries.

He was supposed to return to F1 with Ligier in 1976, but ultimately Jacques Laffite got the job, and his single-seater career fizzled out. He was involved with the birth of the Rondeau Le Mans effort before moving to touring cars, winning the French title in both 1976 and 77.

Beltoise’s first wife was killed in a road accident and he later married Jacqueline Cevert, sister of his close friend Francois.

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Fernando Alonso on McLaren: “There is a very solid future…”

Fernando Alonso says he received some “tempting” offers over the past 12 months before committing to rejoin McLaren in 2015.

“I am joining this project with enormous enthusiasm and determination, knowing that it may require some time to achieve the results we are aiming for, which is no problem for me,” he said. “Over the past year I have received several offers, some of them really tempting, given the current performance of some of the teams that showed interest. But, more than a year ago, McLaren-Honda contacted me and asked me to take part, in a very active way, in the return of their partnership – a partnership that dominated the Formula 1 scene for so long.

“McLaren-Honda’s repeated and open desire, perseverance and determination in making it possible for me to join their exciting renewed partnership, have been some of the main factors that made me take this decision, not forgetting the most important factor of all: we share a common objective and expectations, and there is a very solid future, with confidence, ahead.”

Alonso is happy with what he’s seen of the new partnership, and confirmed that he has been to visit Honda in Japan.

“I have had in-depth discussions with all the senior people at both McLaren and Honda, I have viewed their fantastic facilities in both the UK and Japan, and it is clear to me that, together, McLaren and Honda are in the process of beginning what is sure to be a long and successful partnership. And I intend to give 100% effort to help make it exactly that.

“I want to thank the persistence of those who have fought so hard for this to come true. I will do everything in my power to deliver for everyone and for our team, based on a formula that has always worked for me: effort, sacrifice, perseverance and faith.

“We have time, we have hopes and we have the necessary resources. Let the legend return: that is our challenge.”
He also made it clear that the return of the McLaren-Honda name brings with it a little magic: “I have never hidden my deep admiration for Ayrton Senna, my favourite driver, my idol on track, my reference.

“I still remember, as a kid, the posters in my wardrobe, my toy cars in which I dreamed I would one day emulate Ayrton, and the kart that my father built for my older sister, and that I ended up falling in love with. That kart had the livery of one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Formula 1, McLaren-Honda, the car that Ayrton drove, the same partnership to which I am now honoured to join, to take part in the next Formula 1 world championship.”


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Jonathan Williams 1942-2014

Jonathan Williams chatting with Jim Clark

Jonathan Williams chatting with Jim Clark

Jonathan Williams, perhaps best known for driving a works Ferrari on his one and only GP start in Mexico in 1967, passed away in Spain on Sunday at the age of 71. A true gentleman, and a gentle man, he will be much missed by his friends.

Born in Cairo in 1942 – his parents ran a school there – Jonathan’s passion for racing was fired by a trip to Silverstone in 1951. He began racing in 1961 with a Mini, and on one famous afternoon crashed at Mallory Park. He was sitting on the bank watching when another driver, who happened to share his surname, crashed nearby. Thus Jonathan and Frank Williams met for the first time, and later through Jonathan Frank met two men who would play a big role in his life, Piers Courage and Sheridan Thynne.

In 1963 Jonathan travelled Europe with a Formula Junior Merlyn, with Frank serving as his mechanic. Alas a big crash in Monaco, where he injured his leg and received a bang on the head, proved to be a major setback.

In 1964 he teamed up with Courage to run in the new F3 category, and the pair both bought Lotus 22s. Using the Anglo-Swiss Racing name in an attempt to impress continental race organisers, they raced all over Europe before funding ran out. Help was at hand however, and for 1965 friend Charles Lucas – who had recently come into some money – set up his own team, employing Jonathan, Piers and Peter Gethin.

Jonathan always loved Italy, and for 1966 he accepted an offer to join the works de Sanctis team. He was the star of the cut-and-thrust world of Italian F3 that year, which caught the attention of Ferrari.

He was duly signed up for 1967 and spent the year racing for the Scuderia in sportscars, CanAm and F2. It was a turbulent season for the team that saw Lorenzo Bandini die at Monaco, and Jonathan’s close friend Mike Parkes injured at Spa. During a gap between CanAm races he was told to travel to Mexico City. After minimal practice he was given his first and only F1 start in the chassis rejected by number one driver Chris Amon, in which he finished eighth. A subsequent testing crash at Modena brought his Ferrari career to an end.

In 1968 Jonathan raced for various F2 teams, winning the Monza Lottery for Frank Williams, who by now had become an entrant in his own right.

Mexico aside, Jonathan’s other claim to fame came in 1970 when he became involved in the making of Steve McQueen’s Le Mans, driving the Porsche 908 camera car in the race itself, as well as taking part in the months of filming that followed.

The death of his closest friend Courage at that year’s Dutch GP was a heart wrenching blow for Jonathan, and the following year his racing career fizzled out.

Having learned to fly he spent some time as a private pilot for wealthy businessmen before dropping out and spending many years travelling around the coast of France, Spain and Portugal in a small motorhome. In recent years he had settled at a base in Spain, keeping himself occupied by writing magazine articles about racing history, but his plan was always to buy another motorhome and set off again on his travels. Sadly it was not to be.

I first met Jonathan in 1998 when I started writing a book about Piers Courage, and we stayed in touch thereafter. I visited him regularly when I travelled to Jerez for winter F1 testing, and we spent a family holiday with him last summer. This time last year he stayed with me en route to the Zandvoort historic event, where a memorial to Piers was unveiled.

That was a rare trip as he was never fond of crowds, or the hassles associated with airports. However he had agreed to attend the upcoming Italian GP in company with a historic racer whose Ferrari sportscar he had demonstrated at a revival event. A couple of weeks ago Jonathan emailed me to say he wouldn’t be able to make Monza on health grounds – and with typical thoughtfulness asked if I could catch up with his friend and show him around.

Quietly spoken, and forever modest about his own achievements as a driver, he was a very special man, and much loved by his loyal friends.

At Jonathan’s own request donations can be made to the hospice where he spent his final days,

The writer with Charles Lucas (centre) and Jonathan at Zandvoort last year

The writer with Charles Lucas (centre) and Jonathan at Zandvoort last year


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