Formula One returns to Europe!

By Tom McBeth

Teams roll in to Barcelona for Round 4 as drivers build up to more European races in the future.

The provisional F1 calendar for 2018 has been released showing a return to both Germany, at Hockenheim, and France’s Paul Ricard circuit for the first race in the country since 2008.

The Malaysian Grand Prix will no longer take place having been on the calendar every year since 1999.

Ayrton Simmons, driving in a lower-tier, Formula 4, said of the return to Europe,

I think that Both France & Germany have had a great F1 history both on and off the circuits.

Mercedes, Renault, Prost and Schumacher to name a few.

These circuits have history and character and are vitally important to f1’s future.

Circuits are better when they have history, just look at Brands Hatch (in the UK), my favourite circuit where winners include Mansell, Herbert, Senna, Hill, Surtees, Villeneuve, Lauda, Hunt and Clarke. Enough said!”

French Formula 1 driver, Romain Grojean, took to Twitter to say,

“Really super-happy for French fans, who will have their Grand Prix and can come to support us.”

Bryony King, who races in Formula Jedi in the UK, said of the sport’s return to France,

Formula One returning to France after 10 years with no Grand Prix in the country is great for the sport.

Firstly it gives French fans the chance to watch F1 on their homeland, and will most likely increase the popularity of the sport within France.

It also adds as a new challenge for the drivers to race at a new circuit, and hopefully provide more thrilling racing.”

9 of the 21 races on the 2018 calendar are due to take place in Europe, still a lower proportion than the 11 of the 16 races back in 1998.

Meanwhile, opinions on the changes to the regulations that have made for a more competitive 2017 season remain tentative but positive.

Ayrton added,

For the part time or occasional follows F1 has improved a little but needs to be more entertaining and the cars must be more equal.

As my dad says ‘if there isn’t equality, there is no race’.”

Bryony said,

2017 has already proved that Mercedes aren’t as dominant as they have been the last few years.

It’s great to see Vettel back on the top step and leading the championship, and it looks like the fans will be given a great battle between him and Hamilton throughout the year.

The 2017 season is certainly set to be a cracker based on the opening rounds, an almighty fight for the title continues!”

However, not everyone agreed following the Russian Grand Prix where viewers took to Twitter to express their feelings,

That was the most boring race I have ever seen despite the last 4 laps #RussianGP” – @Danhunt1986

Struggling with these modern circuits. No soul unlike Spa, Silverstone, Monza, Nurburgring etc” – @D4vid_w

Boring. Interesting first and last laps, the rest was dross. Negative track and hard tyres. Fourth Russian GP and worst of a bad bunch” – @Doctorbadvibes

Sebastian Vettel leads Lewis Hamilton by 13 points going into the first European race of the season at Circuit-de-Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain on the 14 May.

May 2017

Profile of a driver: Ayrton Simmons

For most 15 year olds, summer 2016 will have included the pressure of exams and results. Ayrton Simmons, however, has decided to add a racetrack full of fellow racers to his already busy schedule having signed up to race in the British F4 championship, a feeder series to the British Touring Car Championship.

Ayrton's number 12 British F4 car for the 2016 season
Ayrton’s number 12 British F4 car for the 2016 season

“I’ve been racing for nearly nine years. Wow! I had to think about that! It seems like such a long time!

“I started racing when I was six and then it didn’t affect my life much as it was only at weekends. When I was 10 I started competing internationally and that’s when I had to start missing some days from school. Both my schools have been very supportive and I’m really grateful for it, especially to Epping St. John’s, they have granted all my leave in the last couple of years and it has been really busy!

“Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to fit it all in but somehow I manage for the moment and have a “normal” life.”

So how has someone at such a young age managed to make his racing debut at tracks like Thruxton and Knockhill before he’s allowed to take a road car out on the public highways. His name would suggest a racing family, but Ayrton tells us…

“Actually, [the name] is a coincidence! My dad likes motor racing and did a bit of karting as a hobby on his 20’s, but my uncle is the one to credit for the name. My parents visited the family in Spain while pregnant, not knowing the sex of the baby, my uncle asked who little Ayrton was doing in there, and that’s when they thought it was a nice name for a boy.

“I guess I just happen to have right name for it.”

Having just turned 15 years old, Ayrton missed the first two rounds of the British F4 season due to being too young to compete. But he finally got to don the number 12 car for his debut at Thruxton where he took the Rookie Class victory in his first outing. But what does he remember of his very first competitive race?

“I don’t remember much of the raced itself, but I do remember being a bit nervous, and my target was not to finish last (which I didn’t!)”

… and of his career so far …

“ I won the Iberica Rotax Cup (Spain & Portugal) at Motorland. It was great! Also, at the 2012 Rotax World Finals in Portimao, qualified 29 (with 2 punctures) for the Micromax festival and went on to win.

“One low point, during one of the rounds of the Spanish Rotax Championship also at Motorland, did the pole and won the pre-final, but the engine stopped running on the warm up of the final and there was nothing I could do but watch the race from the track and wait for the recovery vehicle. So frustrating!”

Ayrton drives his damaged F4 around the challenging Knockhill circuit, Perthshire.
Ayrton drives his damaged F4 around the challenging Knockhill circuit, Perthshire.

His idols perhaps come as no surprise…

“I admire Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, the reason is again the speed and their courage driving. I think they are a great inspiration for me and if they have made it so could I.

“Off the tracks I admire Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. Great professionals. They are the best footballers. I love their game and they play for the best club in the world.

“The greatest is Ayrton Senna. Although he went before I was born, I’ve seen most of his races, documentaries, the film, and there is something different about him. I cannot put it in words.

“My dream is to win a Formula 1 World Championship. That is the most ultimate goal and what drives me to better myself, although I also know that there is a very small chance of it. I realise that nowadays there are many options for a driver to earn a good living, and that is great, but I personally I would feel I have succeeded in the sport if I get to drive in F1.”

And why rule that out as a possibility with determination that has got him so far, so young. But what does he expect of 2016?

“It’s a learning year, working hard but without much pressure. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the thick of racing single seaters.

“I’m working hard on my physical training, I do some simulator work and some testing at some of the tracks where we’ll race during the championship.”

Ayrton passes a big screen at Snetterton, Norfolk
Ayrton passes a big screen at Snetterton, Norfolk

What does he do to take his mind off the pressures of being a young racer?

“I love playing football and I play with my mates whenever I have the chance. It’s a shame that due to my racing schedules I cannot commit to playing or even regular training with a team, but I really like it.

“Another dream of mine would be playing football at Santiago Bernabeu [Real Madrid’s home stadium] but I don’t see many chances of that in the near future.”

The podium at the British Grand Prix might just have to do one day then! Fingers crossed.


Article and images by Tom McBeth

Follow Ayrton on Twitter @ASimmonsFdez and follow the British F4 series @BritishF4 and on ITV4 each race weekend.