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Monday, 26 June 2017

Penalties in motorsport: are they always right/fair?

There is rarely a race that goes by where there isn’t a penalty given to someone for some reason. Sometimes the penalty is the right one but other times it raises more questions than answers. It can appear to be inconsistent if you compare different racing series’

For example, the most common penalties will be for speeding whether that be in the pitlane or under yellow flags. 10 second time penalty is fair enough, gets rid of any time they made up speeding as well as taking more time away and potentially podiums or wins as Charles Leclerc and Oli Rowland found out in F2 this weekend. However, both drivers lifted and didn’t see the issues, but race control clearly didn’t think they slowed sufficiently so maybe there needs to be a general rule on how much you need to slow as different parts of the track are quicker or slower.

I am not going to get into the Vettel/Hamilton situation too much but I’ve seen a lot of people comparing what Vettel did to what Dan Ticktum did years ago in which Ticktum got a two year racing ban. It is a different situation, different race with different outcomes. I personally believe it is unfair to compare the two because they are so different. However, it made me realise that maybe penalties are a lot stricter in younger series’. You could argue that it is necessary as cars like F4, F3 are not as safe as say F1 cars are and drivers are younger and want to go for it more so maybe there is more chance of having a crash. However, shouldn’t it be one rule for everyone? They might move up from one category to another and not take similar risks to what they did because they got a penalty last time and then they see someone else do it, is that right? 

Just want to take a minute here to reflect on when Dany Kvyat got given two big penalties for one incident. If he is given a penalty why isn't the case then dropped? If the stewards make the wrong decision why don't they retract the original penalty or if it has already been served just leave it? To me, what happened to Kvyat was unfair and was not needed. It effectively ruined his race and you could tell he did not agree with the decision either.

Track limits is something that gets a driver penalties. In F1 they are told ahead of the race weekend if there is any corners that they could gain an advantage and they need to be careful not to gain the advantage. In qualifying it works because the driver’s time gets deleted and in qualifying time is important, it is about that one lap pace and they know not to use certain parts of the track to gain the advantage. If they do it a certain amount of times during the race they get a timed penalty, again fair enough, they gain time which is then taken away and more added.

One thing that confuses me is I understand that first lap collisions are chaos and it is good that a lot of the time it is deemed a racing incident. However, every now and again during the race there will be an incident which is identical to one on a first lap and then the penalty will come out. Why does it matter what stage of the race it happens? Yes, each incident is different but if they are identical then shouldn’t they be treated the same?

Unsafe releases is an incident that does annoy me. Just because it is down to the team although the driver see if a car is coming and double checking. Leclerc’s team let him go during the first race in Baku and Leclerc used his eyes and saw there was a car coming and slowed to let it past. Could still argue it was still an unsafe release however the driver took control and managed the situation so there wasn’t any penalty. Responsibility is not just solely on the team, although saying that an unsafe release can add seconds to a pit stop and every second is vital in motorsport. So, is it fair to give a driver a time penalty as well as a team fine? And actually in younger categories where drivers are more likely to make mistakes should we be fining teams when they may be struggling financially?
Accidents are bound to happen but it seems there are inconsistencies within the racing world of how they are dealt with and the penalties given out. It is something that does need to be addressed but I fear it is unlikely to change and it be equal and the same to every racing series.

Let me know what you think about penalties and what you would change! What do you think is the most unfair penalty you have seen? 

Friday, 2 June 2017

Artem Markelov: A man on the move

Artem Markelov is a 22 year old Russian racing driver. He can sometimes seem under the radar but on track, he is making moves left, right and centre. He shows tremendous bravery in not only moves but strategy. Sometimes they have paid off, although sadly not always, but Markelov always comes back fighting and this year he is better than ever.

Artem started off karting in 2006 when he was 12, 10 years on he is making his way to F1. Wonder if he would have believed people if they told him this is where he would be a decade on. The one achievement he may still be pinching himself is winning on the streets of Monaco.

In 2011, Markelov competed in ADAC Formel Masters with Motopark. Out of 23 races, he achieved 11 podiums. That's nearly 50% of the time Markelov stepped onto the podium. After only karting for 5 years and jumping into ADAC and achieveing that, it's something people start looking at. Motopark clearly saw something in the Russian and offered him a seat in F3. He spent two years in F3, finishing 7th in the standings one season and during two years achieved 3 podiums. A decrease in podiums does not mean a decrease in skill as to be 7th with no wins and few podiums means Markelov was consistent and constantly bringing home the points in his car.

2014 brought a new challenge in the form of GP2. This time with a new team, Russian time. Russian time was founded by former russian driver and manager Igor Mazepa and Motopark Academy team principal Timo Rumpfkeil. Timo and Igor clearly saw something in Markelov and in Russian times second season in GP2, wanted Markelov in one of their seats. Knowing Timo probably helped Markelov settle in and get comfortable. Making it easier to learn the car in what was a quiet season for the young russian. Markelov carried on in GP2 for 2015 with another quiet season with no wins or podiums. However, he also teamed his GP2 campaign with Toyota racing series. 

2016 is when people started to take notice and Markelov made sure everyone saw what he did. He had his first win in the Monaco feature race. Every racing driver wants to win at Monaco in any car and Markelov did it in extraordinary circumstances. He started 15th and used a risky strategy by staying out as long as possible maintaining is tyres enough to keep up with other cars. During the race there were 5 safety car periods and it was only in the last safety car time that Russian Time pitted Markelov. He came out in the lead with two laps to go. He had Norman Nato who was running at the front the whole race behind him and with his fresh tyres kept Nato behind. To say he took the victory in a spectacular fashion might be an understatement. If people did not know who Markelov was before Monaco, they did after.

Now 2017 is upon us and GP2 is now officially F2. Markelov got off to a flying start but going on the top step of the podium after the first race in Bahrain. He started the season with a bang, start as you mean to go on. 

He comes across as a decent guy on social media who is passionate about racing and loves every second of it. I love seeing that especially when drivers let their personality shine through. On track Markelov goes for it, has made mistakes and is showing more maturity this season already. He has clearly reflected on previous seasons and adapted his approach and driving accordingly. Markelov is stronger than ever. 

I feel Artem Markelov is a very underrated driver. The stats may not be on his side, but he is an incredible driver who has the potential to be a champion one day. I believe, he will be a champion at some point in his racing career and when it happens, it will be worth the wait and well deserved. 

Keep your eyes and ears out for this young Russian.