The season came to an end and now is the time to look at who was the best in every role in the last Formula 1 season. And even if the team principal of the leading teams have more spotlight time, give more interviews and read more statements, there’s many more that do a good team principal. He is the not only the mediator between the team and the public but has also to lead the team in all the troublesome situation during the season. And for that reason, in my opinion, the best team principal is without any doubt Otmar Szafnauer.

The today’s Racing Point team was in the middle of spotlights for the entire 2018 season for many different reasons, from scoring the only podium outside the big three teams, for being in administration, change of ownership. A new team was also being immediately competitive after starting from zero, having collisions between the teammates, disqualification after technical irregularity and at the end official doubts on their status expressed by other teams. And with all those problems, they managed to race in a magnificent way and in my opinion that is mostly merit of Otmar Szafnauer.

Otmar Szafnauer had to answer to many uncomfortable questions in this season, but his answers were always incredibly polite, kind and always sincere. He never entered in conflict with other but always took the defense of all of his people and his team. In my personal opinion, one of the greatest achievement of Otmar Szafnauer in 2018 was that he managed to hold all the team together in the critical summer months when the team future was very unclear. What is more, right in those months they have to develop their cars so they were able to score immediately after the change of ownership. Otmar Szafnauer not only led the team in a remarkable way, but he also convicted Lawrence Stroll and his partners to invest in the team, and that was made with actions, not with empty words. Otmar Szafnauer showed us all what is the most important value of any racing team, the team human potential, and that potential is very present in the Racing Point team.

I wish him a lot of similar good decisions in the future, but not so many critical and stressful situations as we saw in 2018. All the Racing Point team showed us what takes to be a real Formula team, brave and always fighting, even if the situation seems to be hopeless. Without big declaration in media’s, but with a lot of work and efforts that showed up in great results. Perfectly in the style of Otmar Szafnauer, no big promises, and big words, the public was informed when all was already done in a simple, kind and clear way.

In today’s Formula one the media are often used to raise pressure. Otmar Szafnauer showed us a kind of behavior from the good old times. He put always in first plan the interest of the team, of the team members, not the interest of sponsors or corporations. In today’s world that’s something, we can’t see so often. With his style, he is certainly different of other more flamboyant team principals, but he is not a man who talks a lot, he is someone that works a lot. And if we are Racing Point supporter or not, we have to admit that in the 2018 season the team made a great job under the lead of Otmar Szafnauer.

Simon Jazbec

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They are all famous names and great drivers, but can you identify them from these close ups?

For a long time in Formula 1, when a racer was victorious, it was not such a genuine and sincere joy as with the great victory of Kimi Raikkonen in Austin. The fight for the title of world champion was pushed back into the background, as well as rivalry and personal offenses. The world of Formula 1 was united in sincere congratulations that were raging from all sides. Iceman was Formula 1.

Kimi Raikkonen, who again won the red car after 2009, is one of the last giants of the fastest sport. With victory in Austin Finn became the first racer to win both the V10 and V8 as well as the hybrid era of Formula 1. In his long and successful career, Iceman fought with Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton for the title of the world champion. At 39 became the oldest winner of the race since Britain’s Nigel Mansell triumphed at the age of 41 in Australia in 1994.

Although it took 15 years for the first and final victory of the Finn, Kimi always remained true to himself. Like in 2003 in Sepang, he also went cold-blooded out of the car in a car with the same expression on the face which makes Iceman unique – “More racing, less bullshit.” A phrase that many drivers have said in history, but rarely are those who actually lived. Kimi still does.

That’s why Kimi Raikkonen is one of the most popular racers in the history of the motorsport. His unique character represents what Formula 1 once was and what in the eyes of many enthusiasts should have been today. The legacy of James Hunt, which has grown into a series of pay drivers over the years, Kimi Raikkonen maintains in the 21st century, the style Formula 1 once had, and today with virtual racing already fades slightly into oblivion.

The wins are important, but far from the most important. Formula 1 is much more than that. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, love of speed which bringing together millions of people around the world. Just like Kimi Raikkonen did in Austin.

Matej Plešej

It is perfectly human that when someone important dies we start thinking about it. And sooner or later all kinds of theories come out about what happened especially if they are supported by ”proofs” that came from different sources than the ones officially recognized.

It is perfectly normal that we want our heroes to be a little superhuman and unmistakable so usually, the simplest and easiest explanation is simply not enough. We start searching for the ”truth” or ”our truth” that mostly has no connection with reality.

One of those moments happened on May 1st, 1994. Result of unpredictable circumstances and unlucky actions caused the death of one of the greatest drivers of that era Ayrton Senna. Moments after the tragic impact lots of people started talking about more or less confirmed sources about what ”really” happened and what was the ”real” cause of the accident. There were theories that are still alive today that Ayrton was under heavy psychological stress after the death of Ronald Ratzenberger and personal love issues. But let’s be serious for a moment. Do we really believe that such a great racing driver, a three-time Formula One world champion wasn’t mentally strong enough to overcome that? I am sure that when he put his racing helmet on the left his problems behind. Even if they didn’t share much time together, the death of a fellow colleague driver was more of a motivation for winning than a death premonition.

“There were theories that are still alive today that Ayrton was under heavy psychological stress after the death of Ronald Ratzenberger and personal love issues. But let’s be serious for a moment. Do we really believe that such a great racing driver, a three-time Formula One world champion wasn’t mentally strong enough to overcome that?”

A second, more plausible theory talks about his Williams driving over debris from a previous accident and got a tire puncture. That is possible however do we really believe that such an experienced driver as Ayrton Senna did not notice that? I think it’s almost impossible. More so we were in the era right after the ban of active suspension with all the information about the ride height of a car immediately available in the pits. There however was no sign of any puncture. Some might argue that the team covered something but all that information only confirmed that was a fatality and not a conspiracy.

“A second, more plausible theory talks about his Williams driving over debris from a previous accident and got a tyre puncture.”

And now for the biggest theory of them all, the one about the poorly welded steering column. That column was fixed especially on Ayrton Senna’s request before the race. However, it was fixed in a way that anyone who knows a little bit about racing cars would consider it unacceptable if not offensive. Such modifications are not acceptable even in local lawn mower races and here we are talking about Formula 1. The fact is that the steering column was broken yet it remains a mystery if that happened before or after the crash. The footage from the camera is showing what everybody would want to see, however, the tape stopped when the crucial moment came. The big process in Italy based on that fact found the team guilty yet nobody was sent to prison. And after years of trials what remains is just theories without any strong proof.

After all these theories I dare making my own one. One that is based on simple and possible things that probably happened. I hope that we all agree that Ayrton Senna was a stubborn character, one that drove always on the limit of his car and sometimes even exceeding that limit. His driving style was rather nervous, always searching for the grip of the car. That was a part of him, a part of his greatness. On the other hand, the Williams FW16 had a little flaw. It was an evolution of the FW15C but without the active suspension. Patrick Head and Adrian Newey confirmed that that car had a very narrow setting window and was very prone to change from an oversteer tendency to an understeer one. We also have to keep in mind that  FW 16 had servo-assisted steering which was a new thing in that era. Only with the revisited WF16B the Williams team partially solved that issues and won the constructor championship at the end of the year.

Claire Williams: It’s not pleasant to hear: “Your father is a murderer”

Here I think it is right to mention the words of the closest person to Ayrton in that race and who should know the situation best, his team mate Damon Hill who said that it was a driving mistake and not a strange conspiracy. I hope we all agree about Ayrton Senna being an extraordinary human being and driver however he was not a mythological god. Maybe he really did a mistake and in combination with an unpredictable and nervous racing car, Ayrton Senna found himself in a situation that even he was not able to solve.

Simon Jazbec

Peter Sauber, what do you think about the return of Kimi Räikkönen to Sauber?

I’ll say it now in the words of Adolf Ogi: Joy prevails. That this possibility exists, I already found out during my visit to Monza. That it worked, is a great signal. Kimi has an excellent reputation in Hinwil and is also very popular with the fans. His commitment will give the whole team a huge boost.

Does Räikkönen get his bread of charity in Hinwil?

Anything but that! Kimi is very ambitious and feels that Sauber is going uphill. A year ago he probably wouldn’t have taken this step. With his experience he will help the team in every respect. He has considered this step very well and will not want to lose his reputation.

You have discovered Kimi Räikkönen. How did that happen?

The English manager David Robertson came to Hinwil in winter 2001. By the way, his son Steve still looks after his Räikkönen today. Robertson told me about a prodigy in Formula Renault. A man without races in Formula 3 or Formula 3000, as Formula 2 was called then. My gut feeling told me: we test this man. Since that always costs money.

And then?

Then we went with 2 cars for three days to Mugello. Kimi was shy and taciturn. He barely spoke English. Well, he almost did not speak at all. But his body language was unique. When I first met him, I felt like he was walking through me. I never forget this impressive encounter. He just gave the impression of total determination.

And he was fast.

Yes. He has never used the clutch or changed gears on the steering wheel. But he drove out to the pit lane as if it was nothing. His lap times were very fast right from the start. And he was incredibly consistent. When we put him on track with 30 kilo less fuel then he was one second faster. And with new tires another second. Like a clockwork. I have never experienced something like that again. We were fascinated and signed him.

With a provisional super license.

Yes. In a plea I had to convince the other team bosses that we give this newcomer a super license. I asked them: Go and watch him driving. Then you will understand me.

Has there developed something like a father-son relationship?

Not as with young drivers like Karl Wendlinger. Räikkönen was too aloof for that. But up to this day he has a close relationship with team manager Beat Zehnder.

And in the first race of 2001 it worked right away.

That was in Australia. Kimi drove straight into the points and finished sixth. Nick Heidfeld finished fourth. At the end of the season, we finished fourth in the constructors’ championship. It was the most successful season for Sauber. It was better only with BMW, when we were once second and once third.

Will the return of the lost son Räikkönen give Formula 1 a new boom in Switzerland?

I hope so. A world champion returns to his second home. That’s a nice story and a great signal for the Sauber team.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that this season Ferrari does not want to win the title of the world champion. Scuderia will remember this year’s Monza as a race of wasted opportunities both on the track and outside.

After the red cars started on a front row, the Tifosi Armada expected a double victory, but Sebastian Vettel wasted it in the second chicane. As a consequence, Raikkonen himself had to confront the duo of the silver arrows, and after a fierce battle, Kimi wasted the tires with a crushing defeat in the lap 45. Hamilton has thus increased his lead in the World Championship to 30 points, and Vettel will need the help of his teammate in the battle for the title.

House of Maranello missed an ideal opportunity to announce an extension of the contract with Kimi Raikkonen for the 2019 season on home soil. Ferrari would complete a media madness with Charles Leclerc, support his racer and bring necessary harmony to the team.

Thus, the Scuderia leadership decided to shoot at their knees and, consequently, find themselves in an extremely disadvantageous situation, whatever their decision on the driver lineup for the next season will be. We can imagine the rage of the fans, in case Ferrari will sack his last world champion who drove the fastest lap in Formula One history in Monza’s Red Goddess. We must not forget that the Finn has been a favorite of the audience for many years and if Ferrari want to get rid of Raikkonen, this should have to be done in Monza in accordance with their tradition. This has not been done for unknown reasons, and Kimi’s change in the next season will be not only an irrational but also a cowardly act, disrespectful to Ferrari last world champion.

Such hesitation would be understandable in case Raikkonen’s alternative would be Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen, and on the other hand, there is a newcomer who has three good races in which he defeated Marcus Ericsson. Charles Leclerc has proven to be a good driver, but at least for the moment, it would be hard to say that it is a “wunderkind” that will sit in a red car and win races. Ferrari could find themselves in the situation when Sebastian Vettel on the track fights against three racers because it is difficult to imagine that fired Finn would co-operate in the Vettel hike to the title.

No one doubts that Charles Leclerc is the future of Scuderia, but his promotion to the hot Ferrari seat would, at this moment bring more damage than benefit. Ferrari would probably make the last nail in the coffin on the way to this year’s title, but it would be a big question how Leclerc would be in a confrontation with aggressive Italian media in the second season and a big pressure brought by red pride.

In recent months, we have witnessed many, more or less bizarre news about events in Ferrari, in the media. By keeping the status quo in Maranello they are doing no favor to themselves and risking the end of co-existence between drivers and the whole team. The reason for this kind of action is known only by themselves, but the season goes towards the end and the results are not brilliant. Perhaps the time has come for Ferrari instead of firing its last world champion to get finally rid of Maurizio Arrivabene and Jock Clear, who lost significantly more points this year than Kimi Raikkonen.

Matej Plešej

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that this season Ferrari does not want to win the title of the world champion. Scuderia will remember this year’s Monza as a race of wasted opportunities both on the track and outside.

After the red cars started on a front row, the Tifosi Armada expected a double victory, but Sebastian Vettel wasted it in the second chicane. As a consequence, Raikkonen himself had to confront the duo of the silver arrows, and after a fierce battle, Kimi wasted the tires with a crushing defeat in the lap 45. Hamilton has thus increased his lead in the World Championship to 30 points, and Vettel will need the help of his teammate in the battle for the title.

House of Maranello missed an ideal opportunity to announce an extension of the contract with Kimi Raikkonen for the 2019 season on home soil. Ferrari would complete a media madness with Charles Leclerc, support his racer and bring necessary harmony to the team.

Thus, the Scuderia leadership decided to shoot at their knees and, consequently, find themselves in an extremely disadvantageous situation, whatever their decision on the driver lineup for the next season will be. We can imagine the rage of the fans, in case Ferrari will sack his last world champion who drove the fastest lap in Formula One history in Monza’s Red Goddess. We must not forget that the Finn has been a favorite of the audience for many years and if Ferrari want to get rid of Raikkonen, this should have to be done in Monza in accordance with their tradition. This has not been done for unknown reasons, and Kimi’s change in the next season will be not only an irrational but also a cowardly act, disrespectful to Ferrari last world champion.

Such hesitation would be understandable in case Raikkonen’s alternative would be Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen, and on the other hand, there is a newcomer who has three good races in which he defeated Marcus Ericsson. Charles Leclerc has proven to be a good driver, but at least for the moment, it would be hard to say that it is a “wunderkind” that will sit in a red car and win races. Ferrari could find themselves in the situation when Sebastian Vettel on the track fights against three racers because it is difficult to imagine that fired Finn would co-operate in the Vettel hike to the title.

No one doubts that Charles Leclerc is the future of Scuderia, but his promotion to the hot Ferrari seat would, at this moment bring more damage than benefit. Ferrari would probably make the last nail in the coffin on the way to this year’s title, but it would be a big question how Leclerc would be in a confrontation with aggressive Italian media in the second season and a big pressure brought by red pride.

In recent months, we have witnessed many, more or less bizarre news about events in Ferrari, in the media. By keeping the status quo in Maranello they are doing no favor to themselves and risking the end of co-existence between drivers and the whole team. The reason for this kind of action is known only by themselves, but the season goes towards the end and the results are not brilliant. Perhaps the time has come for Ferrari instead of firing its last world champion to get finally rid of Maurizio Arrivabene and Jock Clear, who lost significantly more points this year than Kimi Raikkonen.

Matej Plešej