That day at Imola

The most recognised helmet in F1 history. Image Copyright © McLaren Media

The most recognised helmet in F1 history. Image Copyright © McLaren Media

Millions worldwide have vivid memories of that moment in history when Formula One lost Ayrton Senna. Arguably it’s greatest asset.

A few recollections from people all over and a certain 9-year-old from UK.

“I was at home in Mumbai. I did not believe it at all and I refused to. It was hard. He is a legend. He lives on…”
Colston Julian, Advertising Photographer in Mumbai

“I actually remember watching the race on Prime Sports, don’t remember if it was live or a recording. As they went back and showed replays of the crash it was obvious it was not a usual crash. When the chopper landed to medivac him, I remember thinking, that’s it, 2 dead drivers in one weekend, F1 is changed forever. The feed was onboard with Schumi at the time he went off and it is sad that Schumi is in the condition that he is at this time. I am going to Imola this year as a tribute. Will be there at the end of June. I think F1 changed for me that weekend. It all became real. It’s like the moment in time when you discover that riding a bike is not all fun and falling hurts. A little bit of a bubble bursts. Ratzenberger and Senna changed F1 for me forever.”
– Krishnan Menon, Networking & Marketing Professional in Singapore

“Yes i remember. I was watching the race live on TV, and already clouded by the death of Ratzenberger, and the apprehension which Senna seemed to have and then watch the crash, and then the blanket tent…I felt, it was going to be close and then heard the news on TV later and since he was my hero, i couldn’t control my tears, and no one at home could understand especially for a man whom i had never seen in my life except on TV!”
Madhusudan Rhenius, Marketing Professional in Chennai

“I’d heard of his death while doing an Ad for a Tyre brand. In fact I wasn’t into Formula 1 at that time. But I had to read up about this fearless driver. I’d heard of Niki Lauda before.
He was like a hero for me because he’d raced and crashed many times, had his car burnt, his face burnt, part of his ear was gone, doctors had written off his racing career but he came back and raced”
– Deepak Joshi, Advertising Professional in Jakarta

“Yes I think I was at a friend’s place and back in the day when satellite TV was just about there, but I know all of us girls were shocked that he was gone like that in an accident.
I remembered it again when I read of Schumacher some time back…just feel these racers love living and racing on the edge and then it literally takes the life out of them”
Namrata Nandan, Advertising Professional in Mumbai

“I was watching the Grand Prix on TV. I can remember every moment. Did not sleep that night. When I got the news I was shattered and in tears. Senna was my hero. I hated Prost!!! Just before the car hit the wall, I remember asking my brother what Senna was doing going wide. The next ten seconds was slow motion in my head. Will never forget it.
I went close to the TV. Saw his faint quiver and told my brother ‘geyche’ (means gone in Bengali). Then the airlift. Waited for some news. Finally got it on BBC World Service Radio” - Subhabrata Ghosh, Brand Consultant in Bangalore

“I remember being on the college bus when I heard about it the day after – we were doing internal exams or something and none of us had watched it Live. I remember thinking only 34, at least a couple of titles more for sure. For some inexplicable reason, I thought Schumi was the culprit…”
Canice Chandan Pinto, IT Enabled Services in USA

“I remember when I was at University we were all in shock about his death as we all watched Formula 1 together back then.”
Will Tsang, Law Professional in London

“Yup, I do. I was in Class lll then, and I remember watching videos of it on the news, and reading about it in SportStar magazine . I do remember feeling rather sad…for the brilliant racer whose life got extinguished prematurely…”
– Phalgun Reddy, Planning Professional in Gurgaon

“I remember it was early May and I was at Rye House. I had just finished a race and my dad, quietly, came over to me and said, ‘Lewis, Ayrton Senna’s just died…He’s had a terrible crash at Imola…’ I remember how I did not want to show emotion in front of my dad because I thought he would have a go at me and so I walked round the back, where no one was looking, and I just cried. I really struggled the rest of that day. i could not stop imagining what had gone on. I was only nine years old. The man who inspired me was dead. He was a superhero, you know, and that was him…just gone”
– Lewis Hamilton, British Formula One Driver

[excerpt taken from Lewis Hamilton : My Story © 2007 Harper Collins Publishing]

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Lock out & lock up

The eyes have it. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

The eyes have it. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

The two Mercedes AMG Petronas cars locked out the front row of the  grid for the first time in 2014. Nico Rosberg set a fighting time in his last run in Q3 and it wasn’t matched nor beaten by teammate Lewis Hamilton because of a mistake.

Under pressure the 2008 World Champion locked up his tyres and aborted the crucial lap.

Only 6 days ago the Mercs were untouchable in Malaysia. Nothing much has changed from the team’s point of view. But Nico reminded everyone that he was indeed the Championship leader currently, even though the other side of the garage has hogged the limelight with consecutive poles and a commanding win.

The big surprises in Qualifying were Alonso in P10, Vettel in P11 and Hulkenberg in P12!
It bodes well for an exciting fight from the middle of the starting grid tomorrow.

A fight for P3 or ‘best of the rest’, behind the Silver Arrows. 

—

P1 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 33.180s
P2 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 33.464s
P3 Ricciardo – RBR Renault 1m 34.051s

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Win #23, Car #44

MALAYSIA REVIEW

Team celebrations at Malaysia. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

Team celebrations at Malaysia. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

When the chequered flag brought the 16th edition of the Malaysian Grand Prix to an end an interesting statistic developed. The last time Mercedes finished a race in P1 & P2 respectively was way back in 1955! As a works team that is.

Ferrari, a fully-fledged works team too, must be frustrated. Alonso finishing in P4 has become a common sight in recent years. His battle with the Mercedes powered Force India of Hulkenberg kept the fans at Turns 1,2 & 3 in Sepang enthralled. But the fact that he was nowhere close to the Bulls or Mercedes in true pace was telling. Raikkonen had his work cut out by a fighting Lotus in the hands of Grosjean. Both drivers finishing out of the points eventually. The Scuderia believe they’ll have an advantage at the circuits that consume more fuel as their engine is more efficient but somehow that doesn’t sound like a convincing way to go challenging for a championship.

Felipe Massa and Valterri Bottas raced intensely for Williams Martini Racing to P7 & P8. Whether or not Felipe should have let his teammate through to attack the McLaren of Jenson Button for P6 is to be seen. Malaysia once again, throws up the controversy of team orders and the disobeying of them!

In the other Red Bull RBR10 it’s all turning into a game of luck for Daniel Ricciardo in 2014. After all he has gotten into the seat of another Australian famed for bad luck. How the best crew for fastest, most-efficient pit stops last season could release him from his box without securing a wheel nut is anyones guess. Then his front wing played up on a kerb. And finally retirement. A DNF after a DSQ. Poor Dani.

Hamilton on fresh rubber. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

Hamilton takes on fresh rubber. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

The champion’s RBR10 however, held on together nicely. At one point even challenging the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg for P2. Has Sebastian Vettel finally got a car that’s there, but not really there? And will he have to dig deep to hold on to his crown? Whether he likes that or not, the fans all over are relishing a good fight. Nobody wants predictable dominance. Unless of course you’re Toto Wolff.

Watching his team take a dominant win with Lewis claiming pole, setting fastest lap and leading every lap from start to finish, followed home by Nico, one wonders how things are going to develop towards the end of the season. If Mercedes AMG Petronas can keep on winning like this with a 25 second advantage over the field and dominate all proceedings like they have done in rounds 1 & 2, which driver will they back for ultimate honours.

And most importantly how will they go about it?

It could get louder than the engines of 2014 for sure. Bring on Bahrain!

PODIUM
P1 Hamilton - Mercedes AMG 1hr 40m 25.974s
P2 Rosberg - Mercedes AMG
P3 Vettel – Red Bull Renault

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The show must go on

The news came in…

Relatives of those ill-fated passengers in the mysterious Malaysian Airlines tragedy were asked to move out of KLIA hotels. To make way for the incoming Grand Prix circus complete with its performing teams and fanatics. They’ve booked way ahead apparently and thus have brushed aside what maybe a slight catastrophe for a few.

Our sport has no space for sympathy it seems.

Yet every pixel-sized space, across all imaginable media around the world has been scrupulously utilised to commemorate the 20th death anniversary of a Brazilian Formula 1 legend.

The irony lies in the fact that Ayrton Senna was the kind of soul who would’ve instinctively traded his hotel room for a family that has tragically lost it’s loved ones.

#sennawouldvebraked

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Sound of silence

AUSTRALIA REVIEW

“What do you mean cancel the order?”
“There’s no need for them anymore!”

Surely this must’ve been the telephone conversation at an ear-plug manufacturing factory somewhere in the world before the red lights went out at Melbourne. The Turbo cars of the new era sent out a new message to fans all over.

And it was loud and clear.

No more brightly coloured pieces of foam stuffed into your ears then. You can actually have a relaxed conversation with a fellow race goer on the main straight at any circuit now.

That’s not a bad thing. But if it’s about dissing the new oddly-shaped noses of the cars then the old wailing V8s would’ve helped censor that.

The Turbo Hybrid ERS cars are so quiet on TV that if it weren’t for a botched up late-braking attempt from Kamui Kobayashi at Turn 1 providing visual relief, the start of the Grand Prix would’ve been almost dead silent!

Sadly, Felipe Massa’s Australian outing was as dead as the muted sound of his FW36 thanks to the crashing Caterham. Both these guys need strong results this season.

There were more DNFs waiting to happen as pole sitter Lewis Hamilton was called in to retire on Lap 3 with a misfiring cylinder. And soon defending champion Sebastian Vettel too joined him at the paddock.

Nico Rosberg demonstrated that his superb long runs in pre-season testing were no fluke. After his teammate’s woes ensured he had no real threat, his became a victorious walk in Albert Park. Although he was followed home by local boy Dani Ricciardo in the RBR10, the podium places fell to a team that were denied a podium the whole of last season! McLaren.

Kevin Magnussen equalled the best performance by a rookie in his debut Grand Prix leading home his World Champion teammate Jenson Button. Finishing 2nd and 3rd for McLaren after Ricciardo was DSQ on a technicality.

Valtterri Bottas entertained the fans with some close racing with the wall too! After replacing a damaged wheel rim he fought back to finish a fine P6 behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard and Kimi had a lack lustre afternoon in Melbourne.

19 year old Russian debutant Daniil Kvyat put in a spirited performance to claim P10 in his maiden Grand Prix for STR while Nico Hulkenberg showed off his superior race craft yet again. His amazing drives have gone largely unnoticed by the big teams so far. It won’t be long before he is the reason for the German anthem in the FIA’s playlist.

But for now he’ll have to allow Rosberg and Mercedes that honour. They went into this season as the team to beat. And they’ve started off on a flyer. It seems the Silver Arrows have mastered the futuristic, high-tech, energy-efficient and quiet battle of 2014.

It’s about time the others make some noise.

Nico Rosberg

Turbo spray at Melbourne. Image Copyright © 2014 Mercedes AMG

PODIUM
P1 Rosberg - Mercedes AMG 1hr 32m 58.710s
P2 Ricciardo [DSQ] – Red Bull Renault
P3 Magnussen – McLaren Mercedes

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Still I rise

LH's lid

Hamilton’s 2014 F1 helmet. Image Copyright © 2014 Mercedes AMG

Timing is everything.

Switch on your flatscreen LED and theres a Bond-like commercial that features a rejuvenated star in a spot called Liquid & Metal. For the Malaysian oil company, Petronas.

Flip open a glossy and you’re assaulted by stunning portraits of F1’s first ever black driver, staring right back at you.

Touch social media on a smart device anywhere and you’ll notice after a few retweets and post-shares from the man himself that he could indeed be a rapper from LA!

Tattooed. Young. Bold. Bling.

These are words you don’t normally associate with Grand Prix racing. But maybe it’s time. Because at Melbourne, Albert Park. Pole belongs to Lewis Carl Hamilton. And the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 brand cannot be happier.

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 44.231s
P2 Ricciardo – RBR Renault 1m 44.548s
P3 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 44.595s

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F1 2014: Time for change

W05

Lewis locks up at Bahrain. Image Copyright © 2014 Mercedes AMG

SEASON PREVIEW

Okay. So the defending world champion has admitted his RB10 isn’t really in great shape for Melbourne. Not worth bowing down to…yet. It hasn’t put in the number of laps it should have by now. Reliability of the Renault engine plant then? Not so. The advanced aero required to cool the all-new Energy Recovery systems isn’t working as it should either. No Red Bull domination so far? The season sounds exciting already and it hasn’t even begun!

Elsewhere, across social media and newsrooms the pace of the current-spec Turbo Hybrid ERS F1 cars has drawn hasty comparisons with GP2 and the lesser formulae. Interestingly, everyone agrees that it’s only pre-season testing and the time sheets don’t tell an accurate story.

Mercedes power however, appears stronger than Renault or Ferrari right now. To see Williams top the time sheets frequently at Bahrain is a strong indication that their new German engine supplier may just have the advantage. McLaren have been clocking up the miles and so have Force India. All on Mercedes engines. Lewis Hamilton assures us though that it’s all a journey into the unknown come the ides of March at Albert Park.

Christian Horner famously said last year that he wouldn’t be surprised if half the grid didn’t finish at Melbourne! So is reliability the new ‘X factor’?

To fall back on the old racing adage, to finish first you have to first finish, Formula One seems to have moved from purpose-built unreliable tyres to complicated energy recovery systems with unreliable engines.

Through all these new rules and regulations a few fresh talking points have emerged. The Mercedes AMG Petronas W05, will it finally pay back? Kevin Magnussen in the other McLaren alongside Jenson Button, is he special? The new throaty Turbo sound, is it right for F1?

The old ones from winter remain too. Will Kimi get the upper hand over Fernando at Ferrari? Should Dani assume the #2 driver’s role at RBR? Can Massa revive Williams and vice versa? Are these the ugliest cars we’ve ever seen? Where now for Team Lotus? And many more…

But deep down, the seasoned Grand Prix critic in all of us is smiling nervously. There’s uncertainty in the air. It’s all a gamble. Like a wet weather race. The green formula, the new look, the new rules. It’s all looming large like a big cloud of doubt. And yet, there appears a ‘silver’ lining. With a champion waiting to be crowned hidden behind it.

The 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship is here.

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Legalize what?

Seb Vet RB9 worship

4-time WDC Seb bows to the beast! Image Copyright © 2013 Ajit Devadason 

What are they legalizing?

Victory celebration? That’s nonsense isn’t it. The FIA are now permitting doughnuts by the winner. Permitting? You mean they weren’t allowed to all these years?

Like him or loathe him you’ve got to admit Seb’s celebrations at the BIC last year have made for some iconic footage of Formula One. It’s probably the only way the Indian GP is going to be remembered.

What a moment that was! Nobody expected it.

It’s right up there with the track invasion on Mansell’s Williams in 1992 at the British GP or Schumi thumping his steering crazily whilst zig zagging ‘dangerously’ at Suzuka in 2000. Why even Eddie Jordan jumping in the wet pit lane at Spa in 1999 after his team’s maiden 1-2 was a sight to cherish.

A sport’s classic moments cannot be regulated, clamped down, dictated or predicted.
Not even F1. No matter who’s in control.

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Skin deep glory

Ayrton Senna

A colour pencil illustration by artist Nick Curry © 2002. Image Copyright © 2014 Ajit Devadason

The legendary Lotus 98T, Renault V6 Twin Turbo 1.5 was piloted to victories at Spain and Detroit in 1986 by Ayrton Senna. It also grabbed 8 poles! Can Romain Grosjean outdo that in the current spec Lotus?

The Toleman-Benetton-Renault-Lotus team that exists now has ‘bought’ the rights to the classic livery and name of the 98T…but can it buy itself some Colin Chapman glory too or is it content playing the look-alike. Wannabe.

 

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Brawn GP, it is then

So it’s BrawnGP then that are the only team to have beaten Christian Horner’s men convincingly. Way back in 2009. And speculating, by whats going on at Jerez currently, it looks like that very team are going to put an end to the Energy drink’s fizz once again.

But it’s not just the time sheets that I’m referring to, nor the super consistent long runs that are impressive. The other similarly Mercedes-powered teams are displaying some speed and consistency too.

It’s the stance of that car. The W05.

In its dull matte silver finish with dark trailing edges it looks absolutely sinister. The seamless hints of dark carbon-fibre appear mysterious and threatening. The fine air-brushed Malaysian oil-giant’s colours are pure serpent material! Even ‘Blackberry’ sounds like the forbidden fruit. Evil.

As much as it is menacing, it’s easily one of the best looking specimens to hit a Grand Prix track in recent times. Newey must be envious.

W05. Is that Deutsch-code for ‘you won’t have 5 Sebastian?’ Hmm.

Sepang 2012

MSC’s MGPW01 lies on the flatbed while Nico flies past. Image Copyright © 2010 Ajit Devadason

 

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