Russian Grand Prix

After a successful debut on the Formula One calendar in 2014, the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi returns to host the 16th round of the Championship. The Sochi Autodrom is one of the longest in Formula One and circumnavigates the 2014 Winter Olympic venues as well as sharing just over 1km with public roads.

Designed by Herman Tilke, the circuit boasts some of his signature designs such as long straights and sweeping hairpins.

Can a chemical search engine explain how life began on Earth?

Scientists have developed a new form of ‘chemical search engine’ which could provide clues to the origins of life on Earth.

In a new paper published today in the journal Nature Communications, a team from the University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry describes a new approach to solving a 50-year conundrum in which they used an automated robot system to explore many different random combinations of the building blocks of proteins.

The team found that peptide compounds of long length and complexity can form in a very simple way by heating and cooling the building blocks as they go through wet and dry cycles.

The research was led by the University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin. Professor Cronin’s group has previously researched methods of creating inorganic life and has also created the ‘chemputer’, a 3D printer-inspired robot which can synthesise complex chemicals. This new piece of research brings concepts from both projects together.

Professor Cronin: “Proteins are some of the basic building blocks of life, and we’ve long known that they make up the working machinery of living cells. However, we’re still struggling to determine whether proteins came first or if the genetic machinery of DNA or RNA did.

“The problem is that the origin of life was thought to be so complicated that we are not sure if there was enough time to make such complex molecules or understand the mechanisms by which they were produced.

“Our research aimed to help answer this question by creating a robot capable of creating many different random combinations of conditions, and then focusing in on the promising ones. Very quickly, we found that it was possible to assemble the building blocks just like the way we find them in modern proteins. Our chemical search engine is able to search large amounts of chemical space, similar to how systems like Google search the internet. Instead of reading HTML, however, the system performs chemical reactions.”

The team concludes that small protein fragments can be made much longer and much more easily than previously thought, which could lead to the formation of life-like molecules and machines in the laboratory.

The team’s robot system allows the researchers to record very precisely how many combinations of chemicals and the outcomes of the reaction which will help them to calculate the likelihood of producing the first complex molecules essential for life as we know it today.

Professor Cronin adds: “We believe this is a significant finding which could suggest that the beginning of life on Earth was a simpler process than we previously expected. It could also provide valuable support to the idea that the universe is teeming with life, as well as allowing us to ‘search’ for new types of life in the laboratory.”

The team’s paper is titled Formation of oligopeptides in high yield under simple programmable conditions. The research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) and the Royal Society-Wolfson Foundation.

Concorso Italiano



Forgotten about this. Italian automobile enthusiasts from around the world descended on the Black Horse Golf Course in Monterey, California recently for the 30th anniversary of Concorso Italiano, the annual must-attend event for classic gear-heads, centered around as many as 1,000 collectible Italian automobiles.

It’s also the convergence of sophistication, taste and affluence embracing all the cultural elements of Italian style, including music, cuisine, fashion, and travel. The Concorso emphasises display and appreciation over competition, and although the cars are truly magnificent, this event is as much about the people who attend as it is about the finely engineered cars.

The passionate and discerning enthusiasts attending this event represent a highly desirable demographic group from around the world. Eighty per cent are entrepreneurs or professionals and 70 per cent are in the highest income bracket. Concorso Italiano is also a major contributor to several local, national and international charities. Print, web, film and television media from around the world constitute the more than 400 media passes requested each year.

Must go sometime…

Haas-Grosjean interview (long)

An important piece of the puzzle to Haas F1’s debut in 2016 is now in place. How did it come about?
Haas: “Well, you know, this is part of our long‑term strategy. I think we’ve always maintained that we wanted an experienced driver to lead our team into the 2016 season. You know, Formula One is a tricky business. It’s like any other kind of business. You have to learn it, and the best way to learn it is to learn it from other people.

“We were looking for an experienced driver, and Romain was one of several candidates. He’s been in Formula One for many years. He’s been an excellent driver for Team Lotus. I reviewed a lot of his video of his driving styles. One thing that was very impressive is the fact that he’s scored points almost every season, and that’s really what our primary goal here is – to be able to score points.

“I think as a piece of the puzzle, he’s going to have a lot of work to do. He’s going to be our lead driver and we’re going to depend heavily on him to help us with our strategies with the car, with the racetracks, and just the learning of the whole operations of an F1 team.”

Romain, you’ve had a very accomplished career in motorsports, winning championships in every series you’ve competed in as you’ve climbed the ladder to Formula One. What was it about Haas F1 that made you decide this was the place for you?
Grosjean: “Well, it’s a question I had to ask myself, first of all, and thinking about your future and your career is always important. I discovered the project a few years ago through the media, and then got to know a little bit more about what Gene and Guenther were doing and how it was nicely building up, and I like the fact that it’s a different approach to what a normal new F1 team would do. I think it’s an approach that can be pretty quickly successful and, if we’re racing in Formula One, it’s not to be last on the grid. It’s to always do our best as a team, as a driver, and what we’d like is to try to drink the champagne on the podium.

“I like the idea of the partnership with Ferrari. I like the way everything has been going. I like the fact that it’s going slowly but nicely and, as I said in the media recently, I’m very, very happy that I made that decision.”

Guenther Steiner, team principal, Gene discussed the overall reasoning for pursuing Romain, but can you talk about some of the details that make him the ideal fit for Haas F1 in its inaugural season?
Steiner: “As Gene said before, you know, we looked around a lot to find the right guy because we wanted somebody with experience but still hungry to do something, to go with us this long way. I mean, I started talks with the management of Romain in Barcelona to see if he’s interested and, you know, we spoke to quite a few drivers, and in the end I spoke also with technical people, what they think about Romain, how he develops a car, because we have got a steep mountain to climb here, new team, all new team members, so we needed somebody who knows what he’s doing.

“I think in the end we found the right guy because he has so much ‘want to drive’ now, and he’s still aggressive or still wants it, you know, but he’s not young (so) anymore that he’s inexperienced. We lose time by having accidents or doing rookie mistakes. I think we just picked the best one out there for what we are doing, and we focused on him and got him, and we are very happy and we are looking forward to working with him.”

Romain, what would you say is a reasonable expectation for Haas F1 going into the next season?
Grosjean: “That’s always a question you get at the beginning of the year. It’s a tough one to reply (to) when you know a team. It’s even more difficult when you know it’s going to be the first time the car is on track. But I think from what I’ve seen so far, we should be able to run straight away without I think the problems for new teams, which makes – which was part of my reflection for the decision, and I think it would be really good to score a few points early in the season for a newcomer American team, and I think a lot of support behind us.”

Gene, can you compare for us building a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team as you’ve done over the last 15, 20 years, and the last couple of years building an F1 team? What are the similarities and what are the differences between building the two types of operations?
Haas: “Well, I think if anything the main ingredient is just stubbornness, not giving up and just keeping your head pointed forward and just taking your licks as you go. NASCAR was certainly difficult. We spent five or six years in NASCAR and we were always in the back. It was a pretty gruelling, tough experience. I can sympathise with a lot of guys that run in the back and just how hard that is.

“We were one of the fortunate teams in that Joe Custer put together a deal with Tony Stewart, and that became Stewart‑Haas Racing, and I think in our first season we started winning races, so that was a real eye-opener. It takes the right people to make things happen. The same thing with Formula One. When we first started out, initially Guenther took me to I think Austin, and I met Bernie Ecclestone, and that was a real eye-opener there, too, because here’s the godfather of Formula One, and you get to meet him, and he’s a pretty coy person. It’s kind of like he almost dissuades you from wanting to start this business because he’s seen so many people attempt it and fail.

“But, like anything else, we kept banging away at it, and I think it was a couple years later he finally said, look, if you’re really serious about this, we’ll make a tender for you, and he had to open it up to various teams.

“You know, through the whole process, it really comes down to selecting the right people, taking your time, trying to analyse things, then adapting to what you learn. What we initially started with, say, two years ago has really kind of changed quite a bit, and our whole direction now has gone a little bit different than as opposed to say what some of the other teams are, where the other teams are looking at being a primary constructor, and we’re trying to just basically use as much as we can from our partners. So I think that’s the main difference between us and other ones, and I think that’s really going to be a difference in the way we run our team.”

When selecting Romain as a driver, did you also look at his commercial appeal to bring sponsors to the team in the future?
Haas: “You know, I’d have to say that we had a lot of pressure to hire an American driver, but the reality of it was that a rookie driver with a rookie team just isn’t a good fit. Our primary purpose here is to show that, as an American manufacturer, that we can compete in the most difficult, competitive series in the world of car racing, and that was Formula One.

“In order to achieve that goal, our direction was to do whatever it takes. I mean, it’s like, say, when we first started out, we’re not here to sit there and say: ‘Hey, we as Americans can do it the American way.’ Our goal is to race competitive teams and, basically, whatever it takes to get that car on the grid with the right people is what we’re looking for.

“I think with Romain, the difference is that there’s only 20 drivers that are currently now driving in Formula One. He fits that bill perfectly and we were kind of surprised, I’m a little surprised, that we got a driver with the experience that he brings to our team because it’s going to be a real challenge. He’s going to be working a lot harder than he thinks he’s going to be.”

The last three teams that entered Formula One failed, although one did revive. Where will Haas succeed where they failed, or how will Haas succeed where they failed?
Haas: “You know, I think our strategy is different than what those teams faced. I think they were under a real time constraint. They had probably almost six months to put together a whole team, and I think when people think about entering Formula One, at least from my point of view at that time, and even a casual observer, is that somehow these cars, you can go down and parts in cars are all readily available, but you really have to build everything from scratch. I think that’s what really tripped up the previous teams was, is, that they just didn’t allow enough time to actually build their cars so, when they got on the grid, they were really, really behind. Not only are you trying to develop and design your car, but you’re also trying to race, and trying to do those things simultaneously is probably impossible. That’s probably the biggest difference with us.

“We took a little – we’re taking quite a bit more time, actually, to get our car prepared and, at the same time, we’re also able to put together some very important relationships with obviously Ferrari and then Dallara, plus our UK operation. We were very fortunate to be able to obtain a race shop that had a lot of facilities that we really needed. If we had to do that in a short of timeframe, I don’t think any of that would have happened.

“I think that’s really the biggest difference is, just the more time you have, the more time you have to develop the relationships that you need and secure the people, equipment and other parts of the puzzle that just takes time, and time is what we need, and when we get to the grid, we won’t be developing a car, we’ll be ready to go. The car is fully developed, and I think even later this year we start to get to work on the 2017 car. So I think we’re a little bit ahead of where those other teams were.”

Romain: Can you tell us what specifically about Haas convinced you that this was a good move, or is it more of a situation where you saw things weren’t going the way you wanted them to at Lotus and you’re just looking for a change?
Grosjean: “Well, I think, as I say, I took my decision before – there was not decision A and decision B. I’ve met Guenther, I’ve met Gene. We spoke. They explained to me what was the project like, and I believe that it’s a new approach going on in Formula One and an approach that’s going to work. I’ve spent 10 years, and I know the guys very well, and it would have been easy to take the comfortable road and stay there. But, on the other hand, I want to try to win races, win championships, and I thought that coming here to Haas was a good step in a good direction to achieve that.”

Gene, besides Formula One experience, what were the additional qualities you were looking for in a racecar driver for your team?
Haas: “Well, that’s actually a very good question because that was the primary focus, was looking for a racecar driver. But I think some of the other qualities would be just the maturity of experience. You know, there’s always theory and then there’s actual experience. I think when you start out as a racecar driver, you have a tendency to be a bit aggressive so, hopefully with Romain, his maturity will lend itself towards us being able to progress as a team.

“I think other areas, too, is that he’s a bright young person, so I think he’s going to help a lot as far as promoting our machine tool brand in Europe. I mean, obviously he’s French‑Swiss nationality, so those are both very important countries to our business. So we’ll be looking forward to him representing our products over there. I’m sure that will open up marketing opportunities both here in the US and Europe.”

Haas F1 team selects Grosjean

Romain Grosjean

Romain Grosjean


Well, there you have it. Lotus F1’s immensely likeable and extremely capable Romain Grojean will be racing for the new US F1 team next season. The 29-year-old has competed in 78 Formula One races and scored 10 podium finishes, with the most recent being a third-place result in August at the Belgian Grand Prix. He is currently in his fifth Formula One season with Lotus F1.

Grosjean is highly regarded as a team leader and potential world champion. The Frenchman will get his first drive with the Haas F1 team during the pre season test 1-4 March at Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. A second test at Barcelona takes place on 15-18 March before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on 3 April in Melbourne.

“We wanted an experienced driver capable of developing our car and our race team into one that can score points and better itself each race and each season. We found him in Romain Grosjean,” said Gene Haas, founder and chairman, Haas F1. “I’ve been involved in motorsports for a long time and learned early on the most crucial component is the driver. Romain has strong credentials and he will be an important asset to us.”

“In addition to being an experienced Formula One driver, Romain is very technically minded,” said Haas F1’s team principal, Guenther Steiner. “He gives strong, specific feedback as to how the car performs. As we develop our car in testing and throughout the season, his insight will be crucial.”

Grosjean has won races and championships in every division he has competed as he advanced to Formula One. He transitioned quickly from karting to cars in 2003, winning all 10 races in the Swiss Formula Renault 1.6 championship, handily earning the series title. Another 10-win season in the French Formula Renault 2.0 championship in 2005 secured a second title.

Grosjean moved up to Formula Three in 2006 and competed in the full Euro Series schedule. He also drove in two British Formula Three races that year, taking the pole, the win and setting the fastest lap in both races. A second season in the Formula Three Euro Series in 2007 paid big dividends as Grosjean took four poles and six wins en route to the championship. He graduated to GP2 in 2008 and maintained his title-winning form by earning four wins in 10 races to take the inaugural GP2 Asia Series crown.

By 2008, Grosjean was in Formula One as a test driver for Renault. In August 2009, Renault named Grosjean to its race seat alongside two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

The experience garnered during that seven-race stretch of Formula One races was invaluable, and Grosjean augmented that experience in 2010 by tackling a variety of series. He won the Auto GP championship with four wins, seven podiums and three poles. He also earned two FIA GT1 World Championship wins and two GP2 podiums. Displaying his versatility, he competed in two 24-hour endurance races at Le Mans and Spa-Francorchamps, respectively.

In 2011, Grosjean returned to GP2, first winning the Asia Series championship in its final year of existence, and then the GP2 title with a season-best five victories. He also returned to Renault as its Formula One test driver.

With the Renault team under new management and rebranded as Lotus F1 for 2012, Grosjean was named to the race seat alongside 2007 Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen. Grosjean’s first podium came in the fourth race of the season at Bahrain. Three races later in Montreal, he finished second. A third podium was earned in the 11th race of the year in Hungary.

The 2013 season was an impressive one for Grosjean as he scored six podiums, highlighted by a second-place finish at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

The 2014 season saw the introduction of a new engine formula, with turbochargers returning to the sport for the first time since 1988. The development curve was steep for many teams. Grosjean recorded two eighth-place finishes in Spain and Monaco, but regularly outpaced his teammate throughout the year.

Fourteen races into 2015, Grosjean has shown the form he displayed in 2013, as evidenced by his podium at this year’s Belgian Grand Prix.

In 2016, Grosjean brings his experience and ambition to Haas F1 – the first American-led Formula One team in 30 years.

Japanese GP post race: Lotus


Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 E23. Japanese Grand Prix, Sunday 27th September 2015. Suzuka, Japan.


Lotus F1 completed a strong Japanese Grand Prix with both cars finishing in the top eight for the first time since the Indian Grand Prix in 2013. Grosjean took seventh, with Maldonado finishing just 1.3 seconds behind him in eighth. Grosjean started from P8 on the grid on his qualifying medium compound tyres. He changed to scrubbed mediums on lap 11 and new hards on lap 33. Maldonado started from P11 on new medium tyres, changing to new mediums on lap 12, and new hards on lap 36.

Romain Grosjean, P7, E23-04:
“We finished with both cars in the points so I’m definitely happy with that! When it came to my own race we were a little bit slow against the Force India. We tried to fight Nico Hulkenberg but couldn’t. I really struggled with the tyres at the end – it seems the new Pirelli limits hurt us more than our rivals so we’ll work around that for the next race. Overall though, we’ve had a good result as a team.”

Pastor Maldonado, P8, E23-03:
“It was a good race for us and we really deserved a happy result today after pushing hard all weekend. It’s a shame we weren’t able to keep Hulkenberg behind us so we’ll review the strategy and performance to see if there was more we could have done. The team has been united all weekend, we scored some nice points and we’re looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Federico Gastaldi, Deputy Team Principal:
“It’s a great result for all of the team after a reasonably challenging weekend. It just goes to show that you can never discount an Enstone team no matter what the circumstances. We have to say thank you to all the crew at the track for working through a slightly unusual situation as well as thank you to Bernie for his help behind the scenes. We’re looking forward to continuing to fight back in Sochi.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director:
“It’s great to get both cars solidly in the points and score more than our immediate championship rivals Force India and Toro Rosso. Force India looked stronger than us in the race and we didn’t have the pace to match Hulkenberg today. It was nevertheless a good performance from both drivers and the entire team.”


Romain Grosjean

Romain Grosjean

Japanese GP post race: Williams

Valtteri Bottas finished the Japanese Grand Prix in fifth place, whilst teammate Felipe Massa finished in 17th. Bottas was jumped by Vettel at the start but held on to third in the early stages after passing Rosberg on the first lap. Contact with Ricciardo at the start resulted in a front-right puncture for Massa, with him needing to pit for new tyres and front wing on the first lap. Being a lap down after the stop made it difficult for Massa to challenge for points. Bottas ultimately finished in a comfortable fifth after being passed by Raikkonen at the final round of pitstops collecting an important ten points for the team to extend the gap to Red Bull Racing in the Constructors’ Championship to 69 points.

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering: “It was a tough race for the team today. Unfortunately I don’t think we showed the pace we were hoping for. Felipe had a bad start which was further compounded when he received a puncture following a collision with Ricciardo. He then had to complete a whole lap on three tyres which put him down by a lap and effectively ended his chances of a competitive race. Valtteri had a good position at the start and was driving very well. Our call on the first stop was the right one and kept us in front of Rosberg, but our second stop was too late and so we lost the position to Raikkonen. We have further solidified our third place in the Championship but leave Suzuka with the knowledge that we could have achieved more.”

Valtteri Bottas: “Not a perfect day for us, but we will take the ten points. I was hoping for a podium, but the pace wasn’t as good as we had expected. Defending from the quicker cars was hard and I think we should have pitted earlier for the final stop, but it’s always easier to say that after the race.”

Felipe Massa: “A very tough day for me today right from the first lap. I had a bad start and then had contact with Ricciardo and it took me a long time to get back to the pits. From there it was the end of the race barring any miracle. We have scored some decent points for the Constructors’ Championship with Valtteri’s fifth but I had the car to contribute a good haul of points as well. We have to regroup and get those points back at the next race.”


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