Q&A with #F1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke on Baku City Circuit

KHP Consulting has released the following question and answer with F1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke on the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan that will host the 2016 Grand Prix of Europe:

Q: What was your first thought when you heard of the opportunity to build a street circuit in Baku?
A: At the time I first heard about the opportunity to build a street circuit in Baku, I had no idea about the city. After my first visit to Baku I was left with just one thought: Amazing! From the very first moment, I was really proud to be a part of the project and the team here.

Q: How long ago were you approached by FIA to design the track for Baku?
A: We have been working on this project since June 2014 and at this stage we are beginning to get really excited. It`s only a few months to go and we can’t wait!

Q: When did you first visit Baku? My first time in Baku was in June 2014.
A: I was really surprised in a positive way. Baku is fascinating. I had a really warm welcome.

Q: What makes Baku City Circuit so unique?
A: Baku City Circuit stands out due to many factors: Baku will be the world’s fastest city circuit and the track loop around the city’s historical centre will create a unique and remarkable atmosphere for fans watching in the grandstands and at home. The City Circuit of Baku is located in a vibrant city. The streets are really narrow and this is exactly what makes it so appealing.

Q: What was the most challenging part of the Baku City Circuit construction process?
A: The most challenging task was to come up with an idea for the routing of a city track, which will be suitable for F1 in Baku. City circuits are always challenging to build, because the team has to construct the racetrack within the city. Various problems arise when designing a circuit in the city. But together with the Baku City Circuit team we successfully solved every problem!

Q: What is the most similar track to Baku City Circuit?
A: There is no track like Baku City Circuit – it will be one of the most exciting ones on the calendar. Baku, of course, is not comparable with any of the permanent circuits, because it is a city circuit. But even when compared to city circuits, Baku is unique.

Q: Baku City Circuit is expected be the fastest street circuit on the F1 calendar. What is the average lap time expected to be?
A: We calculated a lap time of 101 seconds, but that depends on the individual set-up of the racing cars and on the developments of this year’s new cars.

Q: What is the expected speed in the most challenging sequence of turns on the track, beginning at Turn 8?
A: The brake point in front of Turn 8 is V max= 204km/h. Between T8 and T9 we expect a V min of 86 km/h.

Q: What impact did the culture and history of the city have on your design?
A: The culture and history of Baku is the framework for Baku City Circuit’s design. The layout of the track is designed to show off the beauty of the historic and modern views and sights of Baku.

Q: How often do you collaborate with Baku City Circuit team? How are preparations going?
A: We constantly collaborate with the Baku City Circuit team. We are pleased to work with such amazing colleagues. The atmosphere between all participants is just great. The entire team will work until the last minute, but everything is currently on time.

Q: What can F1 fans expect when they visit Baku City Circuit this June?
A: Baku fans can expect a remarkable atmosphere at and around the Baku City Circuit. I can’t wait to see the race take place now!


Lance Stroll’s missteps rooted in poor decisions by his management. #WEC next for him? @WilliamRacing @fiaf3europe

With arguably little experience racing cars under his belt, Lance Stroll already looks to be Canada’s next Formula One driver after signing as a Williams development driver late last year.

Yes, Stroll found success in his short career so far, racking up many wins in karts and open wheel. Last season in the Formula 3 European Championship, Stroll took one win and six podiums but also sparked the ire of his competitors through some questionable driving and outright dangerous on track actions.

Although the 17-year-old seems to be attracting the attention of grand prix teams, it remains to be seen whether or not he’s a bona fide F1 talent.

One thing that is clear happens to be his father’s bottomless financial resources that have ensured Stroll always had access to the best equipment, engineers and teams ever since he first drove a kart. For example, the Prema Powerteam he drove for in 2015 saw one of its racers take the driver’s crown in the past six seasons took the past six driver’s titles and has won five of the last six F3 team titles.

Dad’s cash and connections to the Scuderia undoubtedly played a role in Stroll being named to the Ferrari Driver Academy before he ever stepped into an open wheel car. While it has not been released, the development seat at Williams may simply be part of an investment deal by Stroll’s father where he bought Toto Wolff’s remaining five per cent share in the team. Or perhaps it’s just coincidence that Wolff’s wife Susie was dropped from the role by Williams immediately before Stroll was announced.

NEW: Stroll told Motorsport.com that he left the Ferrari program because it was more than just a physical and mental training programme.

“Williams does that as well, but at the same time I get a lot more time to be closer to the Formula 1 team: more simulator time, more involved at the Grands Prix themselves with the engineers,” Stroll said.

“I feel like we can be closer right now with Williams, and I’m working with them rather than just being part of a training camp like at Ferrari. For the future, it’s the right move.”

While it has helped Stroll open doors, it can be argued that his family money has undermined his ability to develop racecraft, something that became evident as he battled with top European drivers in F3.

There are stories about Lawrence Stroll buying up 30 Rotax kart powerplants at a time and sending them to England to have the engine builder put together him five mega motors using all the best parts.

The fact is that in karting an average driver you can buy championships and the result is that the richest kids will have karts that almost always put them at the head of the field and they never learn how to race. And then there’s the simple fact that dad’s like Lawrence Stroll and his ilk price many talented kids out of the market, and their wallets and not skill behind the wheel decide who moves up the ladder.

A few years ago, I spoke to Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters driver Robert Wickens about karting today. One of the most talented racers this country has even produced — Wickens is not in F1 today because of his lack of money — said that if he would never have made it anywhere if he were starting out as a young karter today because his family simply did not have the kind of resources needed to keep up with the budgets now seen in junior ranks. But that’s a topic for another day.

The by-product of using money to ensure your kid has superior resources, engineers, endless supplies of fresh tires, and a kart that’s so much better than the rest is that the youngsters never learn how to battle wheel-to-wheel or to pass another drivers. In the end, the money works counter to preparing your driver properly to compete.

Many observers feel this was Lance’s problem when he arrived in Europe to race in F3. The young Stroll got into a series filled will well-heeled kids who spent their formative years in karts battling other well-heeled kids. Think of it as a level playing field for ultra-rich kids where they actually learn racecraft because everybody throws huge wads of cash into their programs.

All of a sudden, Lance didn’t have the best equipment and didn’t have the advantages his bankroll brought and he faltered. Not only did he cause several accidents with questionable moves and blocking, he was banned for one race at Spa-Francorchamps after causing an accident involving three cars. Much to his credit, Lance learned from his mistakes and kept his nose clean for the rest of the season while putting up some good results.

On the other hand, there’s nothing Lance can do when there’s plain old bad decision making by the kid’s handlers.

This was never more apparent than during the run-up to the 2016 Rolex 24 where Stroll’s dad essentially bought a Ford EcoBoost prototype at Ganassi and chose his teammates, Brendon Hartley, Alex Wurz and Andy Priaulx.

The scuttlebutt on the Rolex 24 is that the elder Stroll wanted Lance to get experience racing with drivers who have lots of endurance events under their belts because he will put his son in a World Endurance Championship car at some point this year.

You heard it here first: Do not be shocked if Lance Stroll is named as a driver for a top 24 Hours of Le Mans outfit.

Anyway, back to the Rolex 24, specifically the Roar Before the 24.

Lance crashed on his outlap the first time he got behind the wheel of the Ganassi Ford EcoBoost prototype in the Roar.

All I could think was: Had Lance’s handlers used their heads, this never would have happened. With money to burn, why in the world didn’t dad rent a racetrack somewhere and give his kid a test in the Ford Prototype before the Roar?

The kid is going from a high downforce car with a 2.0-litre engine that puts out 200 horsepower to a lower downforce closed cockpit car with 600 horsepower. Not giving Lance some seat time in that car in advance of the Roar in a car that’s easily the most powerful and difficult thing he’s ever driven is simply dumb management.

On top of it all, the public relations firm hired by the Strolls to promote Lance didn’t even mention the accident. This make him look arrogant (which I don’t know because he rarely speaks to the media) because even Formula One drivers explain their accidents.

Unfortunately, when you’re the rich kid, anger gets directed toward the wrong person. Lance is only doing what he’s been taught and what he is told.

Bottom line is that he’s certainly not the one making the decisions, so don’t take it out on the kid.

Yes I know

I have often found it difficult to keep up a blog while also writing about motorsport for a major daily newspaper, but this time might be different.

The Globe and Mail has dropped my motorsport column and I will be focussing mostly on car reviews and auto-related stories that may be linked to racing.

That means there’s no outlet for my motorsport writing which will appear here (unless someone wants to pay me to do it for them of course!).

I promise that I will try to keep up…


Canadian @robertwickens quickest @MercedesAMGDTM driver in Day 1 of #DTM test

Canadian Robert Wickens posted the quickest time of four Mercedes drivers in the first day of a three-day DTM test at the Oschersleben Circuit.

The Guelph, Ont., native’s time of 1 minute 20.133 seconds was second overall behind BMW driver and reigning DTM champion Marco Wittmann. Wickens was 0.220 seconds faster than the next quickest driver in a Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM, Gary Paffett.

Overall, that wasn’t a bad day of testing today,” Wickens said.

“We had a lot to do and were able to work through our program. Lap times aren’t all that significant in testing. I’m already looking forward to Hockenheim.”

All three of the DTM manufacturers will participate in the three-day test ahead of the May 1 season opener at Hockenheim. The best Audi driver was Nico Müller in eighth, 0.638 seconds off Wittmann’s pace.

The other Canadian in the series, 2012 champion Bruno Spengler, did not drive on Day 1.

My thoughts on #F1 and fan engagement, especially in the U.S.

I find it interesting that some F1 journalists have jumped on the “engage fans” bandwagon with full force.

It was not always this way.

Several years ago, I recall having an intense discussion with several prominent F1 journalists about grand prix racing in the U.S. and why it just doesn’t seem to appeal to American fans.

My take was simple but I think pretty accurate: F1 does not give U.S. fans what they expect. And “what is that?” I was asked. The answer, too, is simple: “Access.”

Unfortunately, F1’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone believes — and let’s be clear, many of the players in the paddock agree — that exclusivity brings huge value to F1’s brand. And, to be honest, it seems to work in Europe where many sports have similar walls built between fans and their stars.

That is not true in North America.

Anyone who went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Brickyard 400 or Indy 500 and then attended the U.S. Grand Prix saw the difference. During the NASCAR and IndyCar weekends, the paddock is packed. People are everywhere watching the cars get wheeled into pitlane and running into drivers and getting autographs. When the USGP was in town, electronic gates kept fans out of the paddock, and the usually bare chain-link fences were covered by tarpaulins to ensure nobody could even catch a glimpse of those inside.

There was a story going around last week about Montreal Canadian goalie Carey Price moving close to the glass to make sure he was looking straight into a kid’s smartphone as the young fan was trying to take a selfie with the players behind him. That’s the kind of stuff fans in the U.S. want to see.

If the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final goes into overtime, there will inevitably be a player who does an interview as he’s stepping on the ice for what will likely be the most intense period of hockey he will ever experience. And, fans would be aghast if a player didn’t make himself available.

But can you imagine, an F1 driver acting as an “in-race reporter” and chatting with the broadcasters about the race and strategy on the warm-up lap or during a safety car period? They do that in NASCAR.

The bottom line: If you want U.S. fans to care about F1, you need to give them access to connect with the drivers on a personal level.

It doesn’t have to happen every time, but they need to feel it can. And right now they don’t.

Christian Horner on changing engine regulations from the @FIA Friday press conference at 2011 British Grand Prix

I think that as [FIA Race director] Charlie [Whiting] will probably admit, it would have been best to deal with this at the end of the year, because it is tantamount to a rule change and when you enter the championship at the beginning of the year and you design your car around it – and let’s not forget that there’s other teams that have significantly designed their cars around this set of regulations – for them to suddenly change halfway through the year is cost, it’s time, it’s effort, it’s money and it’s confusing. It’s confusing to you, it’s confusing to the fans and it’s confusing to Formula One. So that’s where we are. I think hopefully we can now draw a line under it and move on. It’s probably not the last you’re going to hear about blown exhausts or whatever else is blown these days but hopefully we can now move on.

Here’s @spmIndycar’s release concering @arrowglobal’s sponsorship of @hinchtown. #Indycar

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Announces Arrow Electronics as 2015 Primary Sponsor

Indianapolis, IN – March 5, 2015 – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) proudly announced today that Denver-based technology company Arrow Electronics will be the primary sponsor of the No. 5 car driven by James Hinchcliffe in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series.

The Arrow livery will be officially unveiled on the No. 5 car later today at Arrow’s Internet of Things (IoT) Immersions event in San Jose, CA. Schmidt, Hinchcliffe and key Arrow team members will be in attendance to present the car.

Arrow’s IoT Immersions tour brings together technology leaders to discuss comprehensive IoT building blocks and how businesses can leverage Interconnected Intelligence to improve lives. With forums in four key U.S. markets, Arrow connects technology developers with leading-edge suppliers to provide insights about IoT technologies and services, discuss topical issues and applications, and see demos of IoT solutions created with Arrow’s support, and more.

“The true goal of technology is to benefit people and improve their lives,” said Michael Long, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Arrow. “Collaborative learning on how society can improve, by being better connected and better informed, is what Arrow hopes to accomplish with our Immersions tour.”

Every Immersions event features a keynote presentation by SPM team owner Sam Schmidt. Schmidt shares his story of how working with Arrow on machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies enabled him to drive official qualifying laps at the 2014 Indianapolis 500 in a uniquely modified 2014 Corvette. He was severely injured in a practice lap crash in 2000 that left him a quadriplegic. Schmidt said the race car sponsorship is the next logical step in the evolving Arrow relationship that revolves around innovation.

“Having Arrow Electronics as a primary team sponsor is just another step in this dream come true,” adds Schmidt. “The company’s vision is perfectly aligned with SPM and INDYCAR’s key focal points: speed, innovation and technology. We look forward to an exciting race season and a great partnership for years to come.”

Aiden Mitchell, vice president of semiconductor marketing for Arrow Electronics said, “Our partnership with Sam Schmidt has helped bring to life how technology can help people become the drivers in their own lives. Working with Sam and sharing the technology behind our modified Corvette C7 in our Immersions series has been a pivotal element in demonstrating the power of M2M technologies and the Internet of Things. We look forward to taking this next turn with SPM, and helping to spread the word with a wider Arrow audience.”

Driver James Hinchcliffe added, “I’m very excited to drive the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car this season and set our sights on victory lane. Although the number 77 has been part of SPM since 2011, we have an incredible opportunity to spread the word about Arrow’s Five Years Out initiative, and coincidentally, we were lucky that the No. 5 was available to further Arrow’s brand story.

“The Five Years Out philosophy shows that Arrow sets the bar high, and that’s exactly what we want to do in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Competing in the most versatile racing series in the world means we’re focused on technology, which makes this partnership a natural fit.”

In less than two weeks, Hinchcliffe’s Honda-powered car will hit the track for the first time at the Verizon IndyCar Series Open Test on March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, AL. SPM and the other teams will fine-tune setups for the final time before the INDYCAR season opener on Sunday, March 29. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the first of 16 races on the INDYCAR circuit.

Here’s the 2015 @ToyoTiresF1600 schedule. #F1600

  1. May 15-17: Victoria Day Speedfest at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
  2. June 19-21: Canadian Historic Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
  3. June 27-28: BARC Grand Prix of Ontario at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
  4. July 18-19: DAC Trillium Trophy at Shannonville Motorsport Park
  5. August 22-23: MCO Ted Powell Memorial at Calabogie Motorsports Park
  6. September 12-13: BEMC Indian Summer Trophy at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

Here’s the @CTCCracing 2015 schedule.

  1. May 15-17: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Bowmanville, ON) (GT-ST-T)
  2. May 30-31: Shannonville Motorsport Park (Shannonville, ON) (ST-T)
  3. Jun 12-14: Toronto Honda Indy (Toronto, ON) (GT-ST-T)
  4. July 4-5: Circuit ICAR (Mirabel, QC) (GT-ST-T)
  5. July 31-August 2: Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières (Trois-Rivières, QC) (GT-ST-T)
  6. August 28-30: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Bowmanville, ON) (GT-ST-T)
  7. September 19-20: Circuit ICAR (Mirabel, QC) (ST-T)

#NASCAR responds after my @Canadiantire story today.

NASCAR Statement from George Silbermann, NASCAR Vice President, Regional and Touring Series, Regarding Canadian Tire

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2014) – “Canadian Tire has been a valued partner since 2007 and we appreciate their efforts to grow NASCAR racing in Canada. The series continues to be Canada’s premier motorsports league, and we expect there to be very strong interest in this premium entitlement sponsorship opportunity. We look forward to working with all of our partners in Canada to continue delivering exciting NASCAR racing to our fans.”

My original story here: http://t.co/SnI58HrTk0