Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

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Ryan Gault

Ryan is one of those people who follow every sport going, from football to speedway and golf to ice hockey. He has followed Formula 1 for as long as he can remember, which just so happens to be the 2001 US Grand Prix, Mika Häkkinen's last ever win. Since then he has followed the tribulations of the greatest Swiss team since he heard about Grasshoppers Zürich, Sauber. Currently studying Journalism at the University of Huddersfield, while also attempting to write about TV and Eurovision.

Hollow talk // A roundup of HRT, Caterham and Marussia non-news from the summer break

Published

August. There’s never anything going on in August. Most of Europe grinds to a halt with insufferable temperatures and Formula 1 is no different, allowing employees a whole two weeks off from working on improving the car by eight hundredths of a second. Now they are simply lying on their sun beds by a swimming pool or are enjoying the endless amount of football that has returned to our graceful screens.

And what we are left with is nothing but recycled quotes and endless streams of rubbish news stories that are trying to remind us that Formula 1 still exists in an Olympic and football month. The continued attempts at resurrecting the stagnant non-interest of strange claims that Lewis Hamilton won’t renew his McLaren contract by various top level media is certainly the highlight of the summer so far.

Natural progression

It is hard to beat the 2009 summer break in terms of excitement, with Michael Schumacher returning and departing the vacant Ferrari seat and Nelson Piquet Jr causing a stir within Renault. At least some things don’t change. But generally, August provides the opportunity to give us all a break from Formula 1 after long hard months of following it devoutly, and give us time to focus on more important things, like watching your team lose heavily in the first game of the season.

But while Tony Fernandes looked shell shocked as Swansea took apart QPR, the team he owns in the Premier League, things are going on behind the scenes at one of his other ventures, Caterham.

Fishy goings on down at Leafield
Fishy goings on down at LeafieldCredit: Caterham F1

The team have moved to their new base in Leafield, which, like HRT’s move to the purpose built La Caja Mágica a number of months back, suggests further desire to improve on their current standing and their own individuality. Unlike La Caja Mágica it has two things in its favour. Firstly, no doubt it would have cost less because of its use previously for other backmarkers in Arrows and Super Aguri. Secondly, it brings them closer to the rest of the field, or the Motorsport Valley in the UK which features a number of teams like Red Bull, and most importantly to Caterham, Williams.

Williams allow Caterham to use their wind tunnel and certainly the close proximity the team shares with their rivals in the heartland of the UK will only prove to be a good thing. CEO Riad Asmat says that, “its location alone allows us to access the pool of talent that is already in place throughout the UK's motorsport valley” and certainly this will be true for the team. It may not be the most glamorous change Caterham have made in recent months, but it is an important progression in an attempt to grow closer to the back end of the midfield.

More in reserve

Another driver trying to attach himself to the back of another car is Narain Karthikeyan, whose continued presence in the sport is no doubt because of the dollar signs in the eyes of HRT’s owners. His record is remarkable, he has been out qualified by Pedro de la Rosa 12-0, and has only beat the Spaniard in a race once. Amazingly, his 15th in Monaco has elevated him to 23rd in the Championship, on that single occasion that de la Rosa could not beat him.

It's tough at the back for Narain
Credit: HRT F1 Team

Looking through the grid it is hard to find such a major mismatch in terms of teammates, at least Felipe Massa is starting to look vaguely competent again for Ferrari. However, in the words of Karthikeyan himself, “I'm about three tenths behind Pedro [in qualifying]”.

It’s a shocking statistic to be consistently thrashed by his own team mate so often, and while de la Rosa is certainly a decent driver (even if he struggled at his stint at Sauber in 2010, he had done reasonably well in previous years, such as his McLaren deputy duties in 2006), it still is no excuse. Massa can beat Alonso, Pic can beat Glock, yet Karthikeyan is so far behind de la Rosa it is almost humiliating for him. His only saviour is the fact he is so far down the grid very few people notice just how bad he is performing.

HRT won’t be hesitant to replace him with just about anyone who fancies it, they still have a demoralised Vitantonio Liuzzi as a reserve driver, no doubt a position far too harsh on the Italian. HRT need a miracle to overtake either Marussia or Caterham for the lucrative 10th position in the standings, only a spectacular crash-fest will aid them no matter their improved pace in recent races. They won’t get it full stop should they stick with Karthikeyan, and if they were willing to drop him last year in favour of the up and coming Daniel Ricciardo, there is no reason another team won’t ask to do the same thing, and that would only be good for the whole HRT outfit. Except if you are Karthikeyan or Liuzzi.

But August continues to be quiet, these news stories are the only interesting things to happen to the back three teams in recent races. At least Marussia have been doing it all right and have enjoyed their two week enforced break, rather than changing your base or complaining you simply aren’t a good enough driver. Or losing 5-0 to Swansea.