Category Archives: Formula One

Ugo Ugochukwu: The Next Lando Or The Next Lewis?

The “McLaren Driver Support Programme” started in 1998 and the Formula One team signed two young kart drivers, 12 year old Wesley Graves (who was dropped after one season) and a 13 year old whom you may have heard of, Lewis Hamilton. After having no one in the program since 2019, in 2021 they signed a 13 year old American Ugo Ugochukwu Orlandi. In 2022 he graduated to Formula 4, running a full season in the British championship with Carlin, as well as making late season appearances in the ADAC (German) and Italian championships with Prema Racing. It’s fair to say he acquitted himself nicely.

His full season in British F4 started with a podium finish (on his 15th birthday) and over the course of 30 races Ugochukwu scored 2 wins, 11 podiums, 2 pole positions and 8 fastest laps on his way to 290 points and a third place finish in the championship. He was beaten only by two drivers each with a full season of F4 racing already under their belt, Williams Racing Driver Academy’s Oliver Grey and eventual champion, Alex Dunne.

Meanwhile with Prema he scored 4 podium finishes in 6 races in the Italian F4 series, plus 2 more podiums in 6 ADAC F4 races. Quite the accomplishment in his first season of open wheel car racing.

Ugo at Brands Hatch
Photo credit: British F4

Many think he could be the next F1 superstar, though he still has a long way to go to follow the incredible trajectory set by Lando Norris who took 4 seasons (and 3 championships) to go from karting to F1 and, of course, Lewis Hamilton (6 seasons and 3 championships).

Born in New York to Nigerian-born supermodel Oluchi Onweagba and her Italian fashion designer husband, Luca Orlandi, Ugochukwu began karting at age 6 and quickly stepped up to national competitions, winning the Micro Max class of the Florida Winter Tour in 2015 and the Junior ROK class of the Challenge of the Americas in 2018.

Then a huge change came when the young driver moved to Italy with Ugo taking his maiden European karting title in the X30 Mini Cup in 2017, before joining Ricky Flynn Motorsport for the 2019 season – the team that had run Lando Norris and Dan Ticktum in the past – managing eighth position in his first year of the FIA Karting European Junior Championship, including a podium at Le Mans..

For 2020 Ugo moved to the Sauber KR Team and claimed the OKJ European title. He remained with the team for 2021, but McLaren’s Zak Brown was already working on signing up the youngster and did so in March 2021.

Fast forward to 2023 and young Ugo is running a full program with the Italian Prema Racing team, beginning with finishing 3rd in the winter Formula UAE series with 5 wins, 8 podiums, 2 pole positions and 4 fastest laps. Then he returned to Europe where he currently leads the inaugural Euro 4 Championship after 6 of 9 races, and lies a close 3rd in the Italian F4 Championship with 3 races to go in the 22 race calendar.

Though his management may keep him in F4 for another full season, don’t be surprised to see him in a Formula 3 car in 2024 – most probably with Prema Racing – on at least a few occasions. We’re going to be hearing his name a lot more in years to come.

Just Say It: Ferrari Cheated

The Scuderia Ferrari are packing up after a horrendous Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps and heading dejectedly to Monza – with the prospect of as bad or worse performance next week. The official media coverage keeps talking about the mysterious downturn of performance by the team since last year. But it really is no mystery at all, they’re just not allowed to tell the truth, Ferrari were cheating.

“Bending the rules” is nothing new in Formula One and many teams have been found guilty of taking advantage of grey areas or loopholes in the rule book, like Mercedes’ DAS system. Some have flat out cheated, like BAR’s second fuel tank in 2005.

2018: Second Wind

But now let’s go back to early 2018 when things with the team from Maranello started looking a little shady. The scarlet car was very fast but errors by the team and the drivers, as well as some unreliability cost them the World Championship. For some of the teams, the SF71H was just a little too fast down the straights, getting almost a second wind on long straights when their rivals acceleration began to retard.

Mercedes and Renault, in particular, questioned whether Ferrari were staying within the permitted battery output on the hybrid power units or the fuel flow limits on the internal combustion engine. The FIA insisted that everything was legal with the dual-battery system employed by Ferrari, but bowed to pressure and installed a secondary energy flow monitoring sensor on the power unit mid-season. Strangely, the rival team’s GPS data didn’t detect that “second wind” acceleration anymore.

2019: More Speed

When preseason testing kicked off in Barcelona the teams using the Ferrari power unit showed great straight line speed – a pure engine power advantage. Though they were finishing the races behind Mercedes and at times Red Bull-Honda, Renault started to openly question the Italian engine’s performance by mid-year.

When the F1 circus reformed after the summer hiatus, the Scuderia reeled off three wins and six pole positions in a row. The little Haas-Ferrari team even claimed the fastest lap in Singapore. Once again the rival teams questioned whether both the battery output limit and the internal combustion fuel flow limit where being exceeded by Ferrari. Red Bull-Honda queried the FIA in Belgium as to the Ferrari engine’s legality.

Before the United States Grand Prix in early November the FIA issued a technical directive regarding the fuel flow sensor on power units. Suddenly the Ferrari-engined cars were way down the list in the speed traps…

Before the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the FIA announced it had seized an example of the Ferrari power unit for further analysis, following the finding of a fuel discrepancy on Charles Leclerc’s car. The other teams beamed in anticipation.

2020: The Deal

At the conclusion of the last day of preseason testing in February the FIA announced a settlement with Ferrari regarding its 2019 power unit. It also invoked Article IV (ii) of its Judicial and Disciplinary Rules allowing it to make a confidential agreement.

“…after thorough technical investigations, it has concluded its analysis of the operation of the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 Power Unit and reached a settlement with the team. The specifics of the agreement will remain between the parties.”

Translation: We caught them cheating but we aren’t going to tell you what they did.

The seven teams not using Ferrari power units threatened legal action in an effort to have the details released. Then the F1 world was upended by COVID-19 and the issued faded away from public view, as mere survival of teams – and the sport itself – became paramount.

When the season finally got underway at the Red Bull Ring in July, Charles Leclerc qualified 7th – over a second off the pace of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas – and Sebastien Vettel didn’t make it out of Q2. Quite the difference from 2019 when Ferrari took 9 pole positions, 6 fastest race laps and 3 wins. Leclerc would take advantage of rivals misfortunes and the ensuing safety cars to finish third, which thanks to a Lewis Hamilton time penalty promoted him to second. It may prove to be the high point of his season thus far.

The Payoff

Since Liberty Media purchased Formula One it has wanted to even the playing field to improve The Show. Give the little teams more money and rein in the spending of the Big Three (Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull).

F1’s controlling document, The Concorde Agreement, gave huge “historical payments” and some veto power to Ferrari, simply for being the oldest team in the sport – courtesy of Bernie Ecclestone’s wheeling and dealing – but it expired December 2020.

It makes a lot of sense that Liberty took advantage of this “confidential agreement” to put pressure on Ferrari to accept the new rules in exchange for discretion, which the Italian team agreed to August 18th 2020.

The new agreement covers the 2021 to 2025 seasons and comes into force January 1st 2021. Don’t expect Ferrari to win a race before then.

Formula One Season Finally Takes Shape (Third Update)

July 10th: F1 announces races at Mugello on September 13th and Sochi on September 27th to extend the season to 10 rounds.

July 24th: F1 announces 3 more races at Nurburgring on October 11th, the debut of Portimao on October 25th and the return of Imola on November 1st. These dates mean the USA and Mexico races are (though not officially) cancelled.

August 24th: F1 announces the season ending series of races with a return to Turkey for the first time since 2011, a double-header in Bahrain and the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

These are the races and their current status:

AustralianAlbert Park15 MarchCancelled
BahrainSakhir22 MarchPostponed
VietnameseHanoi5 AprilCancelled
ChineseShanghai19 AprilCancelled
DutchZandvoort3 MayCancelled
MonacoMonte Carlo24 MayCancelled
AzerbaijanBaku7 JuneCancelled
CanadianMontreal14 JuneCancelled
FrenchPaul Ricard28 JuneCancelled
1AustrianRed Bull Ring5 July
2StyrianRed Bull Ring12 July
3HungaryHungaroring19 July
4BritishSilverstone2 August
570th AnniversarySilverstone9 August
6SpanishBarcelona16 August
7BelgianSpa-Francorchamps30 August
8ItalianMonza6 September
9EuropeanMugello13 September
SingaporeMarina Bay20 SeptemberCancelled
10RussianSochi27 September
JapaneseSuzuka11 OctoberCancelled
11EifelNurburgring11 October
12PortugalPortimao25 October
United StatesAustin25 OctoberCancelled
13Emilia-RomagnaImola1 November
MexicanMexico City1 NovemberCancelled
BrazilianSao Paulo15 NovemberCancelled
14TurkeyIstanbul15 November
15BahrainSakhir29 November
16SakhirSakhir Outer Ring6 December
17Abu DhabiYas Marina13 December