Junior Open Wheel Talent

News and Views on Drivers Chasing Open-Wheel Stardom

Archive for the ‘ Formula One ’ Category

Video of the Day

Posted December 9, 2011 at 10:06 am F3 Euro Series, Formula One, video Comments

For those who missed it on SPEED, here is the Dave Despain and Robin Miller interview with Michael Lewis on Windtunnel from the PRI show in Orlando.

Lewis, who recently completed a Ferrari Formula One test, talks about his racing experiences and future goals in the sport.

Lewis finished runner-up in the Formula 3 Italia Series in 2011 with three wins, two pole positions, and six podium finishes while driving for Prema Powerteam. He was named Rookie of the Year and received an invite to the FIA Young Driver Academy. Take a F3 ride with him here.

Interview below. Enjoy.

For up-to-date news and views on karting and junior formula racing follow @JOWT on Twitter or follow on Facebook.

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Wickens’ World

Posted October 14, 2011 at 12:50 am Formula One, World Series by Renault Comments

Robert Wickens is on the verge of F1

Less than two years ago, Robert Wickens thought his open-wheel racing career was over.

It nearly was.

The talented Canadian earned the attention of Red Bull in 2006 when he was just 16-years-old. He was fast and Red Bull knew it; signing him to its junior driver program.

With the energy drink giant providing financial backing, Wickens went on to win the 2006 Formula BMW Americas championship following a third-place effort in 2005. He wrapped up the ’06 title with three wins and seven podiums.

The next few years would be a whirlwind of junior formula racing with the Toronto-native piling on seat time. He ran 12 North American races in the Atlantic Championship to start the ’07 season before placing his focus on the World Series by Renault in Europe. At season’s end, Wickens was classified third in the Atlantic Championship with one win and four podium finishes. During the off-season, he proudly flew the Canadian flag competing for Team Canada in the A1GP Series. He won there too, compiling one win, two pole positions, and four race podiums while simultaneously becoming the youngest driver to win an A1 event.

[Continue Reading…]

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F1 Test Roles

Posted September 20, 2010 at 8:08 am Formula One, GP3 Comments

Inaugural GP3 Series’ Champion Esteban Gutierrez has been signed as Sauber’s F1 Test/Reserve driver for the 2011 season.  The 19-year-old Mexican driver claimed the GP3 Championship this year with five wins, nine podiums, and three pole positions.

In other F1 testing news, Virgin Racing has signed GP2 driver Jerome D’Ambrosio to run their car in four out of the next five Formula One first practice sessions. He will start in Singapore.

Both will take part in the Formula One Young Drivers Program scheduled for November.  More later.

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Monday Morning Reading

Posted June 14, 2010 at 10:24 am Formula One, GP3 Comments

Mark Boudreau of F1Prospects.com put together a nice interview with Josef Newgarden.  If you haven’t already read it, I suggest you head over there and do.

Newgarden, 19, spent last season in the MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain.  He finished the season ranked second in the drivers’ championship with nine wins and 16 podiums. This season, he has been competing in the GP3 Series where he has shown improvement every race.  His best GP3 finish, to date, occurred at Istanbul when he drove from 21st on the grid to finish 10th.

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Lance Stroll: Ferrari's Newest Recruit

Posted June 11, 2010 at 2:17 pm Formula One, Karting Comments

By now Lance Stroll, the 11-year-old from Montreal, doesn’t need an introduction.  Every media outlet in the world has mentioned his name this past week.  Stroll was recruited by Luca Baldisserri – former Ferrari engineer and current manager of the Drivers’ Academy – to join the Ferrari Young Drivers’ program.

“He is very young, but he has already shown in karting that he is exceptionally talented,” said Baldisserri in a release.

“We will follow him step by step in his forthcoming events in North America and he will soon also take part in our courses at Maranello.”

To date, Lance is the youngest recruit.  He will continue to focus on education while racing in North America, but will likely be whisked away to Italy in the coming years for driver development purposes.  The Ferrari announcement came just prior to this weekend’s Formula One race in Montreal.

Lance has a very impressive karting resume, which includes nominations from the Federation Sport Automobile du Quebec as Rookie of the Year in 2008 and Driver of the Year in 2009.  Last winter, Stroll claimed the Florida Winter Tour TaG Cadet Championship and the ultra-competitive Rotax Mini Max Championship. In addition he’s a two-time Canadian National Champion in Rotax Mini Max Competition.  He’s a proven talent.  That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s the son of Lawrence Stroll – a Ferrari collector – who was ranked 74th on the Canadian Business Online ‘Rich 100‘ list.  The elder Stroll’s net worth was estimated to be $472 million in 2004.

Not to take anything away from Lance, connections have always been a part of racing and they always will be.

Perhaps the best part of this whole ordeal is the added exposure for karting throughout the world.  My email inbox has been overrun with “google alerts” featuring the keyword “karting.”

It will be fun to watch Lance over the next few years.  He certainly has the attention of motorsport luminaries everywhere.

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Jules Bianchi Joins Ferrari

Posted December 2, 2009 at 3:52 pm Formula One, open wheel racing news, Signing Comments

Jules Bianchi signed a 3-year F1 deal with Ferrari today after taking part in the young drivers test with the team at Jerez this week.

The 20-year-old Frenchman, who won the 2009 Formula 3 Euro Series championship, will drive a GP2 car in 2010 for ART.  The ride will likely be paid for by Ferrari as part of the development deal.  His upcoming role with Ferrari is yet to be determined.

If Bianchi continues to impress the Ferrari panel, he will likely be able to extend his contract.  Bianchi’s manager, Nicolas Todt, is calling the agreement a long-term deal.  Obviously, this is a great opportunity for Jules as he will likely end up with a Ferrari-powered ride at some point in the near future.

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American Drivers on the Verge of Formula 1

Posted December 2, 2009 at 9:18 am Formula One, Test Comments

When people think about Formula One they don’t usually think of American drivers. This tangible concept is about to change.

Two young up-and-coming motorsport stars are on the verge of making a name for themselves in the ultra-competitive and often seemingly impenetrable world of Formula One. J.R. Hildebrand of Sausalito, California and Alexander Rossi of Nevada City, California are in Spain this week, taking part in the young drivers F1 test at the Jerez Circuit.

While it’s true that America hasn’t had much of an F1 presence for a few years now, it would seem, at least for the time being, that this is about to change. A new upstart F1 team—based out of Charlotte, NC—is currently in the works. The team is planning to run under the USF1 banner. Unfortunately, at this time, it’s looking increasingly likely that they will field non-American drivers in an effort to simply make the grid in 2010. In other words, they will field funded drivers. That said, there are certainly quite a few American drivers being considered for a future role with the team.

[Continue Reading…]

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Formula 1: Testing the new guys

Posted November 30, 2009 at 10:54 am Formula One, Test Comments

Formula One will be testing a crop of young drivers, or perhaps rookie drivers is a better term, starting tomorrow in a three-day test at the Spanish circuit Jerez.  The test is designed to give “rookies”, or drivers who have participated in less than three Grand Prix events,  a taste of F1.

Originally, I was planning to write-up a story featuring all of the drivers taking part in the test.  I was holding off for a line-up announcement from McLaren (who has since announced that they plan to test long-time test driver Gary Paffett) and to see if Toyota would attend (they won’t be–which is no real surprise).  By the time I received this information, my feature story idea had become a pretty common theme across all the F1 blogs and there is no need to duplicate great content.  I’ll link to a few of the stories featuring the testing line-ups below. Think of this as a ‘Monday Morning Reading’ post.

Keith Collantine of the F1Fanatic blog wrote a nice preview on each of the drivers in a post entitled F1 Rookies test:  Guide to the drivers.

Christine Blachford of Sidepodcast.com is working on a separate preview for all the teams planning to attend.  You can read her content here:  Who Are They, Anyway.

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J.R. Hildebrand to Test Force India F1 Car

Posted November 24, 2009 at 9:47 am Formula One, Test Comments

J.R. Hildebrand, who won the 2009 Indy Lights championship, will test a Formula 1 car at Jerez on December 1-2, 2009 with Force India.  Fellow American, Alexander Rossi will also be on-hand testing with BMW-Sauber.

Paul di Resta, of DTM fame, will join Hildebrand in the Force India garage.

Per J.R. Hildebrand’s Twitter page: @JRHildebrand

Check out my ride for next week! It’s going to be tough but I can’t wait!

In a press release, Hildebrand states:

“I’m ecstatic about being given the chance to drive a Formula One car for the Force India F1 Team,” says Hildebrand. “I know it will be a challenge but I’m ready to take it on, and look forward to getting as much as I can out of the whole experience. It’s an incredible way to cap off an already very special year and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”

This is great news for J.R. Hildebrand.  I’m not sure Formula One is a viable option at this point but anything can happen.  Regardless of what the future holds, it’s great to see him rewarded with a test and I’m sure he will impress all in attendance.  His 2010 plans have yet to be announced.

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There has been a lot of debate as to whether or not Jaime Alguersuari [pronounced: Heimi Al-gay-shuari] is ready for Formula One. Most of the comments I have received or heard revolve around, “He’s Not Ready”, “He’s Only In Formula One Because of Repsol”.

On the other hand, there are a few who think the timing is right and faithfully support the 19-year-old Spaniard.

I think it is safe to say that there are far more negative comments about Alguersuari’s move to F1 than positive comments. Which is unfortunate. Offer any driver the opportunity to race a Formula One car and 100% of them (assuming they have a goal of racing professionally) will jump at the chance to compete in Formula One— whether they are ready or not. It’s the ultimate stop in the motorsports ladder. So, it’s hard to blame Alguersuari for his decision to accept the invitation to drive in Formula One. That said, there are most likely enough career minded people around the youngster to step in and say, “Hey, this just isn’t the right time, be patient… your time will come”.

So you might ask, did Jaime jump the gun? Well, I wish I had the answer for you. The truth remains to be seen. I think we can all agree that it would have been nice to see him complete at least one full year in the World Series by Renault, if not two, before committing to F1,… but that doesn’t mean he can’t develop into a Formula One great by making the move now.

Sebastian Vettel entered Formula One with a similar amount of experience (and at a young age) and today he is currently 2nd in the Formula One World Championship with 2 wins, 3 pole positions, and 5 podiums in 9 races….. that puts him on the podium in 55.6% of his races (to date) in 2009. What about Kimi Raikkonen? Let me start out by saying that I realize the cars are different and that Alguersuari is entering Formula One at a different time than when Kimi entered F1 (2001), but, in case you forgot, Raikkonen went directly from a Formula Renault 2.0 car to a Formula One car. He managed to find his way to the podium four times in 2002 and won the World Championship in 2007. As stated above, the comparison isn’t exactly apples-to-apples, but it’s a worthy mention. What about Christian Klien? Christian might be a good example of a driver who jumped the gun. He came into Formula One directly from the F3 Euro Series (having finished 2nd in the 2003 championship). He entered Formula One with rather high expectations due to a very promising resume. Unfortunately, he never really had the results most had hoped for. Did it ruin his career? No. Could he have had a better Formula One career if he had waited? Probably. The thing to remember is that every driver is different and every team is different. Success rates are always going to vary in Formula One.

Let’s not forget to have realistic expectations for F1’s newest debutant this weekend at Hungary. The 19-year-old is heading into a race weekend having only performed straight line tests and he isn’t driving for ‘the best team in the paddock’, if you know what I mean. For example, Jaime is replacing Sebastien Bourdais, who had an incredible resume but failed to really standout in Formula One (his best finish was 7th in September, 2008). I think we can all agree that Bourdais is a very talented driver, regardless of his success rate in Formula One. So it goes.

I will say that it’s unfortunate to see Bourdais dropped right as the team is making some performance upgrades to the car, which will undoubtedly increase the aerodynamic and mechanical performance of the car. But that’s another story.

In this morning’s practice, Alguersuari performed very well. In the first session he was only 0.23 seconds behind teammate Sebastian Buemi. In the second session, he failed to improve as much as the balance of the field, but he did improve his laptime from the first session.

As for the money situation, it’s important to remember that nobody gets into F1 without proper funding, so, I don’t really understand the argument stating, “He’s only in F1 because of Red Bull and Repsol”. It’s unfortunate that money plays such a huge role in motorsports but that’s something we’re all going to have to accept. Yes, it’s true that he has tremendous backing and it’s also true that he wouldn’t be where he is today without that financial support. That said, he has certainly turned some head’s with his results. He was exceptional last season in British F3, where he won the championship with 5 wins and 12 podiums. This season, in the World Series by Renault, his results haven’t been exceptional, but they haven’t been bad either. He has finished inside the top-ten in 81.2% of his race starts (to date). His best finish was 3rd at Le Mans. His average finish in the first five races was 8.6. His average finish in his last six races is 7.2. So he is showing improvement and if he continues to run in the World Series by Renault and Formula One, I think it’s safe to say, we will continue to see him develop as a driver.

I think Alguersuari hit the nail-on-the-head in the recent Formula One press conference:

“I’m relaxed, I know what I can do, I know what people expect from me and the most important thing is that I know what I have to do. As I said before, it’s another car, another race in my racing career, and in the end it’s just one steering wheel and two pedals like everything. That’s the target: to learn and to drive.”

As for what the future holds, time will tell. Feel free to discuss below in the comment section. I know there are various opinions on this matter.

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