Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The final act...

So, the season is over, and what an ending! As the beginning of the Brazilian Grand Prix approached, it threatened to be a bit of a foregone conclusion. However, that threat was rather weak, as the misty rain refused to abate and more rain was forecast for the rest of the Grand Prix. Everybody knew what was required of them if they were to achieve their various goals, but all of that seemed to be dropped by the wayside, as the cars exited the fourth corner, leaving the reigning World Champion facing the wrong way.

Vettel went in to the race with very little to do, relatively speaking. He was leading the championship by fifteen points and his race should have been straight forward. Alonso, on the other hand, had a far more difficult prospect ahead of him. Sat on the grid, he was aware that he needed at least a third place finish, with Sebastian finishing out of the points, if he was to take the championship.

When the red lights went out, Vettel was sluggish getting away, whilst Alonso had his usual storming start and found himself up in third, exactly where he needed to be if he was to take the title. Then, the unthinkable happened for Red Bull, as Bruno Senna ploughed in to the side of Vettel, on the fourth corner, spinning him round and resulting in half a dozen cars appearing to hit each other and Sebastian. To everyone, including the Red Bull team and Vettel himself, it looked like the young German was out of the race. Seb's race engineer was heard saying, over the team radio, "stay out to see how the car behaves, we cannot fix it". Unbelievably, a few minutes later, Vettel was banging in fastest laps and the damage, although extensive, appeared to be cosmetic only.

As the race progressed, rain, safety cars and pit stops continuously mixed up the pack and it became difficult to judge how the final positions would shake out. Many drivers had excursions off the black stuff. Kimi Raikonnen bounced through the mud, in true Finnish rally style, whilst Alonso, overran the first corner more than once. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button looked like they might cap off the season with a truly inspired result, until Lewis and Niko Hulkenberg had an unfortunate coming together on the first corner. Hamilton's race, season, and time at McLaren were brought to an abrupt end.

It was Jenson who managed to take one final win for McLaren, which was sort of poetic, since he is the driver that is staying with the British based team. Alonso did everything that could have been expected of him, and similarly Massa was resilient and ever the team player. His reaction on the podium summed up his sheer gratitude at being gifted another shot after the accident that saw him suffer a traumatic head injury a couple of years ago. Fernando was exceptionally graceful in defeat. He looked, understandably, disappointed but full of thanks for the efforts of his Ferrari team. All of the drivers were fantastic ambassadors of the sport in Brazil, but the worthy world champion was Sebastian Vettel.

It was a tense final few laps, that saw Sebastian climb to the required position and Alonso struggle to come near to a flying Button. It was nail-bitingly obvious that a failure or a mistake, from almost any of the cars in the top ten, could have swung the championship outcome in one or other's favour. However, Vettel was the deserving winner. The Brazilian Grand Prix made it two races in which Sebastian had found himself plumb last, for whatever reason, and had then worked his way up to the front of the pack to take valuable points.

This season has been record-breaking, unpredictable and utterly, utterly thrilling. Nobody would have guessed that this season could be as good as last season and yet it was arguably better. Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel have done it again, despite having a relatively poor start to the championship fight. Congratulations to them and thank you to all the people who have followed my blog throughout the season. I wish the racing could continue right on through the winter, and for us, the spectators, we have to wait till next March. However, for the teams, the race does continue, seamlessly on, as they strive to design, develop and innovate faster than their rivals, all in preparation for the 2013 season...  

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Bucking Bronco!

Sebastian was attempting to tame a bull, whilst Fernando had a stallion to bring under control, on the slippery circuit in Austin, Texas. Thankfully, Formula One's return to stateside was a successful one. However, pre-race antics from the Ferrari camp threatened to put the sport in to disrepute again. Fortunately, their underhand tactics didn't affect the race too severely, but neutrals will have found the manipulation of the grid lineup a bitter pill to swallow.

Simply put, Ferrari were faced with the disadvantage of having both their drivers, Massa and Alonso, starting from the dirty side of the grid, in sixth and eighth respectively. To remedy this unfavourable circumstance, the Ferrari engineers intentionally damaged Filipe's gearbox, resulting in the need to replace it and thus incurring a five place penalty. This put Fernando up one place, in to seventh, and on to the clean side of the grid. It didn't break any rules, aided in Alonso getting in to fourth place after the first corner, but will be considered unsportsmanlike by many and may be seen as a stain on Alonso's championship if he can go on to win it in Brazil.

The race wasn't the most exciting of the season, but on the first couple of laps there were a few surprises thrown up. First of all the lack of experience on the circuit led to the drivers taking numerous different lines, and continuously weaving and passing each other. It was more like Karting than Formula One and at times the position changes became difficult to follow. The majority of the action was in the middle of the field, with the Lotuses, Williams', Toro Rossos and Jenson Button, battling it out as though they had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Hamilton was the star of the day. He passed Mark Webber very early on and proceeded to chase down the usually unbeatable Sebastian Vettel. Lewis continued to push, until he got within a second of Vettel and then he breezed past on the DRS back straight. There was a moment when Sebastian attempted, tenuously, to accuse Hamilton of getting too close in his overtaking manoeuvre, however it was clear that it was Vettel who had moved back across the circuit towards Lewis, and Seb's remonstrances came to nothing.

Hamilton took the victory with a skilled and tenacious performance, with Vettel still managing to take the fastest lap record. Alonso claimed the third and final podium position after Webber suffered with his first technical failure since the Canadian Grand Prix in 2009. The result means that the Driver's Championship will be decided in the final race of the season in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Red Bull Racing have made it a hat trick of Constructor's titles and will be looking to add the Driver's Championship to the trophy cabinet as well. Overall, the American Grand Prix was a great success and the stetsons on the podium were a nice touch too.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Kimi has a #@!*ing good race!

Well, what a contrast to India. In fact, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix literally blew the Indian Grand Prix out of the desert. The race at the Yas Marina circuit was arguably the most exciting race of the season and so full of incident its difficult to know where to start. It's probably best to kick off with the fact that, in the week running up to the Grand Prix weekend itself, Yas Marina played host to the eighth F1 in Schools World Final, which saw 33 teams, from schools around the world competing for the increasingly sought after title of F1 in Schools World Champion. It was a fantastic support act for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the race itself continued to deliver excitement.

Kimi Raikonnen profitted from Lewis Hamilton's poor luck, but it can't be denied that Kimi was utterly brilliant and showed us all why he is a former World Champion. He didn't falter, even as Alonso started to breathe down his neck, and went on to make it the first time Lotus have had a driver on the top step of the podium in over one hundred and eighty races. As a result of Raikonnen's win, he finds himself still in the hunt for, at least, second place in the Championship. During and after the race, in true Raikonnen style, he found a few choice words and phrases to emphasise his feelings. Over the team radio, Kimi's race engineer calmly informed Kimi that Alonso was "five seconds behind", adding "I will keep you updated on his distance and his pace", to which Kimi replied "Leave me alone. I know what I'm doing!"

Mark Webber had a torrid day, which all kicked off with yet another poor start. All of Red Bull Racing's hopes were sensibly pinned on Webber, as the beginning of the race approached, and it was clear that Mark was the only Red Bull driver who could plausibly achieve a decent result in Abu Dhabi. The poor start saw Webber tumbling down the order and provided an indication of things to come. As the race progressed Mark's attitude became uncharacteristically wild. He first attempted an overtake around the outside of Pastor Maldonado, unfairly slamming the door on the Venezuelan and leaving Maldonado with nowhere to go but into the side of the Red Bull. Miraculously, both cars were completely unharmed and, after Webber had righted himself, they continued the race.

Only a few laps later, after it had been declared that, unbelievably, Webber would incur no penalty for the move on Maldonado, he had another coming together, this time with Massa. The contact between the two of them in the first part of the chicane was quite inocuous, but after crossing the corner Mark Webber rashly threw his car back on to the circuit, directly in to the path of Filipe, causing him to spin in an effort to avoid contact. Even more unbelievably, Mark got away with this incident as well.

Webber eventually came to grief when he joined the scuffle between Paul Di Resta, Sergio Perez and (surprise, surprise) Romane Grosjean. The shuffling of positions was complicated but it ended in Grosjean sat in a broken Lotus, Webber rolling off the circuit in a three-wheeled Red Bull and Perez facing a stop-and-go penalty for causing the incident. The race officials must have drawn straws to decide who had to pick the bones out of that mess and attribute blame.

There was a big heart-in-the-mouth moment, when Narain Karthikeyan had an engine failure, causing him to experience a sudden loss of power, which drammatically resulted in Rosberg launching his Mercedes over the top of the HRT and in to a distant barrier. Both drivers were out of their cars quickly and Nico seemed to fully understand that there was nothing Karthikeyan could have done about the incident.

The real story of the race was Sebastien Vettel's phenomenal recovery, not only from having to start in the pitlane, but having to pitstop under a safety car to replace his front wing, which put him plumb last again, 14 laps in to the race. It was from there, and even with a second pitstop, that Vettel managed to climb all the way up, past his teammate and in to fourth place, just before the second safety car. The icing on the cake came when he made a fabulous passing move on Jenson Button, to steal the third and final podium place. I firmly believe that this race could well go down in history as Sebastien Vettel's greatest ever.

Let's all take a breather and prepare ourselves for Austin, Texas, in two weeks time.

A two bull race??

Firstly, I need to apologise for the late blog, sometimes full time work on top of other commitments gets in the way of me writing my blog, but hopefully this won't happen too often.

The Indian Grand Prix, unfortunately, was probably the most boring race of the season. I say unfortunately, because the season has been packed with excitement and, more specifically, unpredictability. The Indian Grand Prix was a relative procession, with the Red Bulls packing out the front row of the grid in qualifying and Sebastien Vettel doing a proper job to take the win. The only glitch for Red Bull was Mark Webber dropping a position to Vettel's nearest rival, Alonso.

Alonso just keeps on emphasising his great ability, by achieving performances well beyond the competency of his Ferrari. He did it last year in a Ferrari that, on paper, was no match for the Red Bull cars or the McLarens. This year he is doing the same, in a car that is perhaps the fourth or fifth fastest in the field.

The DRS zone wasn't especially effective and passing was very limited. And that is pretty much all I can say about a decidedly dull event. It was an unusually predictable race and left fans wanting more. It's also fair to say that Red Bull Racing are on the verge of wrapping up the Constructors Championship, so a season with so much potential, could end up being a massive anti-climax. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Red Bull do it gangnam style!!

The opening lap of the Korean Grand Prix was more reminiscent of a Karting or GP2 race, with the front runners dicing for position and some of them even finding themselves four abreast as they stormed down to the second corner. The Red Bulls appeared to have the race sewn up from the very start, irrespective of the fact that Webber, was denied the lead, from pole, by his young German teammate. Possibly, for the first time all year, a team is standing out above the rest and, with Adrian Newey as chief designer, it's not surprising that Red Bull Racing are that team. And, as a matter of fact, there was quite a distinctive change in appearance of the Red Bull's nose cone and one must assume that Newey has been contantly updating other more obscure elements of his racecar.

The DRS zone, once again, provided a source of great excitement. The passing down the second straight was sometimes easy, sometimes difficult, but always unpredictable. At times, even teammates such as the two Williams drivers, plunged in to turn two and almost collided or pushed one another off the circuit. When Lewis Hamilton and Grosjean got intimate down the DRS straight, Hulkenberg made a fantastically opportunistic move around the outside of both drivers at the third corner. The race was packed with these kind of opportunistic and rash moves, but without many casualties. One high profile DNF was jenson Button, taken out by Kamui Kobayashi, in an incident that was totally unavoidable for Button and so a great disappointment to the neutral fan.

Red Bull could be considered the likely World Champions this season and are almost certainly the team to beat, but lets hope Ferrari can bring the fight back to them and make it a closely fought end to a thrilling season.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Kamui does it for Japan!!

Well the story of the day had to be Kamui Kobayashi, who became only the third Japanese driver to ever stand on a Formula One podium. He drove a fantastic race, from third on the grid, to hold third right to the chequered flag. The crowd went crazy, chanting "Kamui! Kamui! Kamui!", as the three podium finishers received their trophies and it felt as though Kobayashi had been the victor as opposed to the young German World Champion.

The Japanese Grand Prix winner, Sebastien Vettel, is really taking the fight to Alonso, chopping Fernando's Championship lead down to only four points. It appears to be coming down to a two horse race, as we approach the conclusion of the season, and with Alonso trying to defend his Championship lead in a slower car and only completing two out of the last four races, it's looking more and more like Vettel might make it three titles in a row.

Grosjean took the controversy headline in Japan. It's an awkward situation when a driver simply appears to be out of his league. Another first lap incident and another one that's been caused solely by Romain Grosjean and, almost the worst thing about it, the incident wasn't malicious. If Romain was causing these collisions with intent, then action could be taken against him and we could all say that he needs to change his attitude. However, it's not an easy task to actually improve your driving skills at the absolute peak of motorsport. It's very difficult to know what to hope for with Grosjean; that he gets banned from the sport? that he gets dropped from the team? but I guess the most favourable outcome would be that he can improve and overcome this period.

The incidents and accidents are ramping up, people making rash moves and irresponsible decisions, as we close in on the final race of this topsy turvy season. With only five races to go, every single point is extremely valuable.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Bring on the carnage!

The prediction I made in my last blog appears to be right, so far, as the Singapore Grand Prix delivered no end of thrills, spills and incidents. There were lost or damaged wings, punctures and wall slams aplenty, at a circuit renowned for its lack of passing opportunities. Also, a rare thing occurred this weekend, when the driver who took to the lead in the opening laps failed to go and take the victory. Its important to point out that it was due to a gearbox failure that Hamilton was forced to drop out, leaving Sebastien Vettel to take the race win, but Vettel was pressuring Lewis and there was a good chance he could have challenged for the victory anyway. The win promotes Vettel to second in the Championship and poses the question, could Sebastien conjure a repeat of the 2010 season, when he came from behind in the Championship to take the title.

There were quite a few instances of rash passing attempts and, especially on the first couple of corners, people leaving the track. Despite this, fortunately the FIA decided not to take action and destroy an otherwise thrilling race. As I pointed out in my last blog, the stakes are getting higher and higher, and as a result drivers are trying to snatch up every point they can. Filipe Massa took a plunge around the outside of Bruno Senna and almost got squeezed in to the barrier, only just making pass stick despite getting a scary tank slapper on. Hulkenberg made an opportunistic move on Kobayashi, after Mark Webber had passed Kamui, and ended up making contact with the Japanese driver. Hulkenberg punctured his tyre and Kobayashi lost part of his front wing, but it was just another display of drivers pushing their luck a little too far in pursuit of as many points as possible.

It was refreshing to see Michael Schumacher eating a little humble pie, after ploughing in to the back of Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso. Neither driver was hurt, but it was obvious that the incident had been entirely Michael's fault and that Vergne hadn't stood a chance of avoiding the collision, so it was nice to see them putting their arms around each other and instantly quashing any suggestion of controversy regarding the coming together.

As a result of the early races in the season, the Championship is extremely close and every result changes the standings quite dramatically. However, disregarding his bad luck in Spa, Alonso appears to be the most consistent driver and is skillfully holding on to his lead.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Ferrari take an extra helping of luck at Monza!

It's becoming quite a common occurrence. A driver from one of the front rows of the grid, takes to lead in the first couple of corners, and goes on to run an uneventful race. In Monza it was Lewis Hamilton's turn, and although the race never appears to be difficult for the front runner, I think credit has to be attributed to them for steely concentration and the ability to regulate their pace, with no other cars to gauge it by. It was Hamilton's first Italian Grand Prix win, so that was an achievement in itself and it also promotes him to second in the hunt for the Championship.

However, the real story for me is that of Ferrari's abundance of luck at their home Grand Prix and Red Bull's awful bad luck. It all started with Alonso's incident involving Sebastien Vettel, in which Alonso made a ridiculously rash move around the outside and ended up running over the grass. Pathetically, Sebastien was penalised with a drive-through penalty, for keeping his own racing line, which naturally forces the car out to the outside of that corner, as a result of something called centrifugal force and momentum. Alonso was not past Vettel as Vettel moved out and, all that aside, it was exactly the same circumstance last year, only with the roles reversed. Last year Alonso was not penalised for squeezing Sebastien out and Sebastien made the pass stick, even on the grass (see video).

Ferrari's and specifically Alonso's race went from good to better, as they were able to implement team orders, giving Alonso the third place podium finish. For Red Bull, things went from bad to worse. After serving his drive-through penalty, Vettel was informed that he had an issue with his car, which could result in him stopping quickly. The inevitable happened and Sebastien lost all drive, parking his car on the exit to the pit lane. Mark had problems also, spinning off the track with a couple of laps to go and destroying his tyres beyond the point at which he would be able to achieve anything significant by the end. All in all, it was a torrid race for Red Bull Racing and things appear to be coming apart at the seams for the World Champions.

An interesting thing to note is the increase in the number of incidents and comings together, in the second half of the season. It seems clear that, whilst the first half of the season was a chaotic series of results, many of the top drivers considered that things would settle down and a loss of points here or there wouldn't make much difference. As we approach the three quarter point of the season, the chaos remains but with the drivers and teams are beginning to realise that they need to be the difference if they are to get the result they want in the Championship. In conclusion, expect more incidents as the season approaches its climax, and expect Race Officials' decisions to overtake Pirelli tyres as the subject of controversy.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Five week break and back in to the foray...

The Belgian Grand Prix started with a big smash, a common occurrance at the hugely exciting Spa Francorchamps circuit. Controversy surrounded the blame game, regarding the crash at the first corner, which saw two of the main title fighters prematurely taken out of the running. I think that after all had been said and done, and all angles had been looked at, the accident should have been put down to a racing incident. However, that wasn't the view of the officials, who have now penalised Grosjean, far too harshly in my opinion, by banning him from the next race. The resultant pile up was massive, but the original contact was fairly innocuous and was arguably a complete accident. I can't help thinking that drivers like Lewis Hamilton, who feel that they deserve to be at the front of the field, are often reluctant to ease off and concede position and in this instance it led to two cars making significant contact.

The main thing was that nobody was injured and, once again, Formula One safety regulations kept all the drivers out of harm's way. As somebody who knows a few F1 drivers personally, my heart is always in my throat when an incident like this occurs and I find myself praying, as the cars spin through the air and bounce over each other, that they don't flip over or catch a driver's head as they leap over a nose cone. Safety prevailed and we have to be thankful for that and, I have to admit, it's difficult to deny the excitement of an incident of this nature.

As to the victory, Jenson Button ran a fantastic race; faultless and composed. Sebastien Vettel also ran a splendid race, to take second place, coming from all the way down in ninth and driving a Red Bull car that looked completely unbalanced in the opening stages. In fact, both Mark Webber and Vettel looked unfeasibly good in the corners, whilst being incomprehensibly slow in a straight line. Webber seemed unable to pass the Williams of Bruno Senna, even with DRS, despite catching up at a scary rate in the winding parts of the circuit. Michael Schumacher was up to his old tricks again. He has a knack of taking his racing right up to the edge of the rule boundaries, whilst being well over the line of sportsmanship. In a situation where I felt Michael should have eased off and allowed Sebastien Vettel to pass him at the bus stop chicane, since Michael himself was pitting, he instead managed to get himself the wrong side of Vettel and nearly caused an accident. Sebastien was forced to drive almost straight through Schuey's Mercedes.

Interestingly, tyre wear didn't play as much of a part this weekend as at other Grands Prix. Perhaps during the five week break the teams used their opportunity to research and look in to the existing telemetry regarding the tyres, to try to improve their approach to dealing with the issues. Some of the drivers were able to preserve their tyres and utilise a one stop strategy, without finding themselves falling back in to the clutches of drivers on fresher rubber. Is this a sign that teams are truly coming to terms with the difficult Pirellis, or was it just the circuit and we can expect to see things becoming chaotic and unpredictable again in the remaining races?

Alonso's early exit meant he was unable to protect his World Championship lead. Fortunately for him, it still remains, however Vettel was able to eat in to that lead in Belgium and Button made steps towards keeping in touch with the fight at the top.

I think I speak for everyone when I say "welcome back to our Sundays, Formula One!"

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

More like Boring, than Hungaroring!

So, Hungaroring has delivered the first boring race of the season and it was a truly processional affair. Credit shouldn't be taken away from Lewis Hamilton, who ran a clean race from the front, to take the victory. However, its interesting to point out that, as in other grands prix, the man who has taken the lead at an early stage has gone on to win the race. The difference in this race was that the action was lacking further down the field as well.

There was an almost complete lack of passing, due to the fact that there are almost no passing opportunities around the circuit and this was made worse by the fact that the DRS zone was completely redundant. The main problem with the Hungaroring is, and always has been, the abundance of slow corners, which rely too heavily on car aerodynamics. This results in drivers being unable to stay close behind an opponent without losing down force in their turbulent air. This issue directly affected the DRS zone, at the weekend, because the exit of the final corner prevented the drivers from being close enough to utilise the DRS facility down the start/finish straight.

Many fans will argue that they were glad the DRS zone wasn't having an influence on the race. However, I see the Hungarian Grand Prix as a stark reminder of the positive effect that DRS is having on the racing this season and an indication of what the racing would be like without it. To put it bluntly, boring. It was only the Pirelli tyres that showed any hint of injecting some excitement in to the race, when near the end of the grand prix, a couple of the teams made a third pit stop and, on fresh tyres, were over two seconds a lap faster than teams on older tyres. In the end it didn't prove enough for any positions to change, but it created a bit of a stir.

Fingers crossed for a return to the exciting season, from before the Hungaroring, in the remaining grands prix. Hungaroring was a complete let down and as for Placido Domingo interviewing the drivers... well, need I say more?

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Alonso takes the reins

Fernando Alonso proved, once again, in Germany, just how good he is. The answer to that is extremely good and, arguably, the best. Some have never doubted that the spaniard was the best, but many are just realising that Alonso is achieving feats well above and beyond the capabilities of his Ferrari. Last year, and now this year as well, Fernando outclassed his team mate, Filipe Massa, proving that he is squeezing so much more out of his prancing horse than the brazilian.

Alonso was faultless all weekend. He took pole position in changeable conditions on Saturday, held the lead after the start, protected his tyres and kept Vettel at a comfortable distance for the whole race. Alonso takes his tally to three race wins and its crystal clear that he is taking the bull by the horns, so to speak.

The real drama came on the penultimate lap of the race when, after storming up behind Jenson Button, Vettel attempted a pass on one of the hairpins. Sebastian took the outside line around the corner and then clearly took to the runoff area, on the exit of the corner, to get traction to pull away past Jenson. I don't think anybody is in any doubt as to whether Vettel was in the wrong by using the runoff area to take Button. However, the punishment was arguably too harsh.

The move certainly wasn't malicious and if there had been more laps and more time then it may have been the case that Sebastian would have been told to yield the position. I think a fair punishment would have been for the positions to have been swapped, Vettel for Button. Therefore, I think that to penalise Vettel with an added 20 secs, which resulted in him being bumped down to 5th, was wrong and put an unfortunate downer on the whole result. Lets hope that in future the FIA make more responsible decisions, regarding trivial incidents like this. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

A dry day at Silverstone?!

Despite the torrential rain in the build up to this weekend's race, surprisingly Sunday at Silverstone was dry. On a positive note, it allowed for a race based more on skill and tactics than luck. Neutrals would argue that the absence of rain took away a lot of the potential excitement but, considering the Qualifying was red flagged halfway through, there was a threat of similar during the Grand Prix.

Mark Webber ran a quiet and composed race and, as a result, crept up on a struggling Alonso. To be fair to Alonso he made a fantastic bid for the victory, from pole position on the grid, and he would have brought his tally up to three, had it not been for a another misjudgement of the tyre wear, partnered with a determined and focussed Webber. Mark has now made it two-all with Fernando and if somebody else doesn't assert themselves, then the season could become a two horse race, or more fittingly, a horse and bull race.

The controversy this weekend lay in the way the FIA and the circuit management dealt with the rain. I find it quite ridiculous that the sport still has wet weather tyres, since the drivers and teams now refuse to drive in the wet. As soon as it gets to a stage when the wet weather tyres are needed, the teams veto the session, or race, and the red flags come out. The drivers complain that when the rain gets heavy its dangerous and cars spin off the track. I think some of today's drivers should watch some old footage of Formula One and they will see that their predecessors had spins all the time, even in the dry.

As spectators and fans of the sport, we see little enough incident as it is. That's not to say that fans want to see massive, lethal crashes, that put the drivers' lives in danger, but it is exciting to see spins and shunts. So let's see these drivers suck it up and get out on the circuit, come rain or shine. I mean their doting fans brave the weather just to watch them and they aren't being paid millions of pounds to do it, but are paying hundreds for the priviledge.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Alonso makes it two!

The European Grand Prix broke all it's own rules regarding excitement. A race that had become notorious for it's tedious and processional nature, delivered a lightning storm of a race. We finally broke the chaos of different winners every race, with Alonso taking an emotional victory to take his tally of wins up to two and launch him twenty points into the lead of the Driver's Championship.

Vettel failed to capitalise on his pole position, for a second time this season. However, its important to point out that it wasn't the German's fault, as his Red Bull car, which showed such promise in the opening stages of the race, gave up the ghost and slowed to a halt, on lap 34 after a safety car period. He probably would have gone on to win the race, but after seeing Alonso's reaction to the win in his home country, it's difficult to grudge him the glory.

Hamilton had a familiar moment of madness on the penultimate lap of the race, reliving some of the memories of last season. His tyres were failing as he went in to the last few laps, evidence of another misjudgement regarding the life of the Pirellis. Cars were catching and passing with ease and as Maldonado attempted to pass Lewis, in his much faster Williams, Lewis countered the move by eradicating any remaining space and ending his own grand prix immediately.

Alonso and Vettel appear to hold the slightly more dominant position, Vettel with the race pace and Alonso with the Championship position and tenacity to win. The season is beginning to take a little shape and maybe the next race will be a little more predictable.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Lewis' turn in Canada...

Incredibly, in Canada, we saw a seventh different winner, in the shape of Lewis Hamilton. Everybody will begin to believe that they could witness twenty different winners by the close of the season. Hamilton’s win was easily the classiest win so far. McLaren must be credited with having fantastic vision, in a season where the unpredictability of the Pirelli tyres has caught everybody out.   

In the closing stages of the Grand Prix, McLaren were monitoring Hamilton's pace, watching closely for the signs that his tyres were reaching the cliff, before falling in to relative uselessness, and for the moment when Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, in second and third positions respectively, would start reeling him in. With twenty laps remaining, McLaren called Lewis in to the pits, for a stop that many saw as too late; people had assumed that all of the front runners would simply press on to the end and hope for the best. It turned out to be an inspired decision, as Lewis' pace, with the fresh tyres, was almost four seconds a lap faster than both Alonso and Sebastian.

Hamilton caught up very quickly and retook, Vettel in second place and then Alonso who had moved in to first. Red Bull showed similarly good vision, recognising what Ferrari failed to see. They pitted Vettel, dropping him back down the order. However, with the fresher tyres, Sebastian was able to make some of those places back and he eventually finished fourth; signifcantly, ahead of Alonso. Ferrari had to helplessly watch Alonso fall in to the clutches of Grosjean, Perez and finally Vettel, and then come under pressure from Nico Rosberg. Mercifully for Ferrari, Alonso did manage to finish fifth and still grab some precious points.

Once again, controversy surrounds DRS and Pirelli tyres. A seventh different winner, in seven races, whilst making for an unbelievably exciting season for the neutral fan, supports the argument that the unpredictable nature of the Pirelli tyre and the relative ease of passing provided by DRS, is rendering any difference between teams, regarding quality and pace, redundant. It could be argued that, it doesn't matter if you have produced a slow racecar, as long as you get luck with the tyres and get close enough at the DRS activation zone.

I disagree with all of the above paragraph. Despite the fact that the results this season have been slightly erratic, I think that the Canadian Grand Prix has shown strong evidence to support the argument that the performance of the Pirelli tyre can be predicted. It takes work and it takes risks and gambles, but it can be done. As for DRS, I hold to what I have said before. When passing, DRS is never a sure thing. A driver has to be close enough when they enter the DRS zone, which, as Canada showed, isn't always the case. Drivers were finding it difficult to get in to the right position on the exit of the final hairpin and defending drivers were discovering ways of making this difficult.

I think that, in Valencia, we are going to witness some unconventional pit stop decisions, with more teams taking risks and trying to catch out their opponents. It should make for some very exciting racing, because it will result in cars with very different levels of tyre degredation at different periods of the race to each other.

Lastly, I have to apologise for the delay in this blog post. For the last couple of weeks, my time as been solely taken up by preparations for my wedding. Now that I am a married man, it’s back to the blogging. I can’t wait for the European Grand Prix in Valencia... and to discuss an eighth different winner?

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Webber throws Snake Eyes again, in Monaco!

After the Spanish Grand Prix, pundits, fans and the like, speculated about the possibility of a sixth different winner in Monaco and it happened. Mark Webber took the win from pole position, with a performance that was deserving of the victory. In the closing stages of a gruelling race, Pirelli tyres losing grip and allowing the cars to slide nearer and nearer to the imposing barriers with every lap, Mark Webber’s nerves must have been on the ragged edge. To add to this, he had a train of world champions and seasoned race winners breathing down his neck. He kept his cool and he took his win, claiming his seat amongst the other race winners this season.

It’s still extremely difficult to pinpoint any specific battle this season, which is exciting for the neutral fan but frustrating for the teams and drivers. The only thing that is clear is that there are at least five top teams that are fighting for dominance. Surprisingly, considering their relatively weak start to the season, Red Bull Racing have had the most success, with both their drivers winning races and the team leading the Constructor’s Championship. Following close pursuit are Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Lotus. With Maldonado taking a victory, even Williams have joined the fight.

Controversy surrounded the tyres again this weekend. The decision of when to make pit stops and the tyre choice in those stops, played a very large part, with threats of rain throwing the decision making process in to further disarray. Although many of the drivers are voicing their frustrations and aversion to the Pirelli tyres this season, it is clear that the tyres are making for some very exciting racing and despite criticism of DRS are KERS, neither make for sure fire overtaking opportunities and both add a huge amount of excitement to the grands prix.

In such an extraordinarily exciting season, who can even attempt to predict the outcome of the next race? Not I.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

5 races!! 5 different winners!! from 5 different teams!!

The world of Formula One has gone loopy it seems. The Spanish Grand Prix played witness to yet another grand prix winner and this time it was Pastor Maldonado. He ran a spectacular race, promoting himself from second place on the grid to first and then holding it for the remainder of the race. Like the Niko Rosberg victory, everybody but Fernando Alonso fans were behind the Venezuelan as he charged his Williams race car home. At one point it seemed that Fernando Alonso might breeze past Maldonado, but Pastor put up a valiant fight and, with about ten laps to go, he started pulling out the gap again and sealed the victory.

Again, much of the racing was extraordinary. DRS was at no point a sure thing when it came to overtaking and in many cases the combination of slip streaming, DRS and KERS resulted in wheel to wheel racing and a lot more passing and re-passing. There were more mistakes in the pit stops, again from McLaren, which, if any presumptions can be made at this very early stage in such an unusual season, may well be hindering their season and preventing them from asserting themselves as the dominant team.

Its strange not being able to discuss the way the season is unfolding, because it just isn't. It's wide open and completely unpredictable, so its really not possible to draw any conclusions. However, it would be fun to see Kimi Raikonnen, in a Lotus, win the next grand prix making it six different winners, in six different races, from six different constructors.

The only thing that overshadowed the weekend, but fortunately didn't result in any fatalities, was the fire in the Williams garage. In hindsight it is important to point out that the situation was handled magnificently, by professionals from a number of different teams, and this has meant that Maldonado's win can still be the main focus of the weekend.

Roll on race six... and a sixth different winner?! 

Friday, 4 May 2012

4 races, 4 winners...

It's about time the reigning World Champions actually entered the title fight this season and Sebastien Vettel made the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix the race to do it in. Not only that but, unbelievably, it launched him in to the top spot in the Driver's Championship. Despite Red Bull's apparent lack of performance this season (so far), they really slipped under the radar in terms of the title fight. The one great result in Bahrain, has catapulted them to the top and, if anyone was unaware of the drama we have seen so far, they may have been forgiven for thinking that Red Bull had taken up where they left off last season.

The big question on everybody's lips was 'should the Bahrain Grand Prix have actually taken place?' and, to be honest, I don't think it should. I love to watch the racing, but sometimes life and safety has to take precedence. However, the race went ahead and it was another massive spectacle. So far, the driver's who have taken the lead at the beginning of the race have tended to dominate until the chequered flag, however Vettel didn't find it so easy. There was an edge-of-the-seat moment when Kimi Raikonnen came within a hair's breadth of taking the lead. It turned out to be his only chance, but it's fair to say that Vettel had to deal with people breathing down his neck for the whole race.

The pit lane appeared to be the action hot spot in Bahrain. There were unsafe releases and faulty equipment aplenty. Lewis Hamilton's race was all but ruined when his pit crew had a problem changing his left rear wheel. Ferrari had further problems, showing that Alonso's win was a quite unusual and slightly fluky occurrence. We now know that there have been some quite major improvements for Ferrari and it will exciting to see what those do for them next weekend.

Only four races gone and four different winners and, even more amazing, from four different teams. It's almost impossible to judge which teams and drivers will break away in the fight for the Championship. Maybe we'll see a different driver winning next weekend, perhaps from another different team!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Awesome spectacle in China...

Mercedes dominated F1 news in the run up to the Chinese Grand Prix, regarding a dispute over (what a couple of the other teams considered) an unfair advantage. The Mercedes team had a feature on their car that enhanced the impact of the DRS system. However, before the start of the
weekend the F1 adjudicators deemed the feature legal and Mercedes went ahead as normal. The ultimate irony was that Nico Rosberg, in a Mercedes, won the race and in a domineering fashion. Despite the complaints it’s fair to point out that, numerous times in Formula One, teams have introduced items and features on to their race cars that have found their way around the rules and regulations (or in some cases transcended the rules and regulations; the six wheeled
Tyrell) and it is precisely this that defines Formula One as the ultimate motorsport series that it is.

Firstly, a massive congratulations must go out to Nico Rosberg. Despite it being a slightly processional race for him, nobody this weekend deserved it more. As for the rest of the race, it was anything but processional, proving once again that this season is going to be mightily
special. Red Bull appeared to struggle in the opening stages, with Sebastien Vettel playing the Lewis Hamilton card and whining, unhelpfully, about the car having no pace in a straight line. Okay, it looked slower than usual but him and Mark would never have finished in the top five in a car with no pace.

The McLarens achieved another couple of podium finishes, which will help them no end in the Championship. Whilst Ferrari struggled, showing the performance levels of the Australia Grand Prix, as opposed to the performance levels that they showed in Malaysia, with Alonso's win. The
racing was fantastic and had me almost falling out of the chair in excitement, as drivers switched places on the straights, the entries to corners AND the exits. At one point Kobayashi tried to drive his teammate, Perez, off the track and Mark Webber showed that Red Bull truly does give you wings, by almost taking off. Considering his past experiences in the Red Bull car, he must
really enjoy flying!

It was surprising to see Alonso get away with a clear example of dangerous driving. He ran wide and off the track, and then threw his car back on to the track almost straight in to the path of a speeding Perez. Nothing was really said about this, at the time or later on, which was a
big surprise.

Another race, another winner and, after only three grands prix, the excitement is tangible. Can Mercedes continue their assault on McLaren? Can McLaren assert some kind of real dominance? And can Red Bull actually enter the battle? Bring on Bahrain!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Malaysian Grand Prix

Now that I’ve caught my breath, I have to decide which bits to write about. There was just too much excitement and incident for a short blog; might have to make this a long ‘un!

Well it’s now safe to say that the season isn’t going to be a one horse race. We’re still only two grands prix in, but the title fight appears to be wide open. As the lights dropped, Lewis Hamilton managed to hold on to first place, with Button holding second and all the action
occurring behind them further down the order.

In true Malaysian Grand Prix style the rain set in almost immediately and, by the time the cars were embarking on the second lap, it was almost impossible to see them on the TV. Also in true
Malaysian GP style, the race was red flagged within a few laps and we all had a long wait before it restarted.

However, it was on the second lap (before the safety car and the red flag) that Perez and Sauber made their inspired decision to pit and change the tyres to ‘full wets’. It meant that the other cars were losing a lot of time, whilst Perez was making a lot. This resulting in him leading the race at one point and eventually finishing second.

It was a bit of a shock to see Jenson Button make an uncharacteristic mistake on lap fifteen; a mistake that saw him drop down to the back of the pack. He needed a front wing change after
hitting Narain Karthikeyan in a wild move. Button later apologised, but his race was beyond repair and he finished outside the point scoring positions… as did Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel made a slightly more characteristic mistake to end his own race. He shook his fist at Karthikeyan, who it’s fair to say was having a pretty eventful day, but it was entirely Sebastian’s fault and he could blame no one but himself. The top drivers consistently believe it is their right to have the track to themselves and, in this instance, that belief backfired. Sebastian gave Karthikeyan little to no room and clipped his right rear tyre on Narain’s wing endplate.

As the race progressed towards its conclusion, rumours of rain and talk of extra pit stops circulated. Lewis Hamilton didn’t seem to be able to get close to the fight between Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso, so they were left to duke it out. Perez was staggeringly faster than Alonso and he rapidly caught up with him, both before and after his final pit stop.

Everybody, excluding Alonso fans and Ferrari fans, watched with bated breath as Perez came within touching distance of Fernando. He was scuppered when he was, first told to hold his position (a call that was both reasonable and slightly suspicious), and then caught out by a moist white line that saw him run very wide and crucially lose all the ground he had made up between himself and the first placed Ferrari driver.

The race finished that way and I think almost everyone was a Perez fan by the chequered flag. However, questions and accusations started flying even before the cars had started slowing for their in lap. The first thought to cross many people’s minds was the one regarding the politics of Ferrari and Sauber, and whether Ferrari had the power to influence the outcome of the race.

Ferrari provides Sauber with engines and as a result Sauber could be seen to play second fiddle to the Italian team. Then the idea manifests itself as to whether Perez’s mistake was indeed a mistake or just made to look like one. Something tells me this discussion will continue to play out well in to next week. Personally I would rather not be sceptical about this one. I believe that for Sergio Perez (a young driver, running in second position, in the second race of only his second
season, with a car easily quick enough to take the victory) holding back and settling for second would be the last thought on his mind.

All in all, a fantastic race! It’s hard to see how it can get better than this. One thing is for certain, if it continues in this fashion, then I’m not going to run out of things to write in this blog.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

McLaren start as they mean to go on...

McLaren have emphasised the fact that their win in Australia was a sign of things to come, after filling out the front row of the grid again this weekend. Hamilton repeated his performance of Melbourne qualifying with a blistering lap early in the final session of qualifying, whilst Button was hot on his heels to secure second.

It's great to see Schumacher back up at the front and hopefully this weekend he can make it stick and mix it with the two Brits when the lights go out. Red Bull Racing have found themselves down the order again with Webber fourth and Vettel sixth, split only by the Lotus of Kimi Raikonnen. Red Bull will be striving to show that, (like in Australia) despite the car not having the pace in qualifying, it has considerably more pace in the race. Only time will tell.

It's interesting to note that the qualifying lap times were extremely close with less than half a second separating the top eight drivers. Alonso was almost a second off the eighth place Mercedes of Rosberg, showing the a worrying gulf between the top four teams and the rest of the field. However, four teams closely matched at the front sounds good to me, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race delivering on expectations.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

And it's 'GO! GO! GO!'

The 2012 season kicked off in style, beginning with Qualifying. Formula One enthusiasts and fans were immediately assured that the Red Bull Racing dominance is over. It was a little disconcerting to see the hint of a McLaren dominance, but in the same breath it was extremely refreshing to see a Lotus and a Mercedes near the front of the grid aswell.

It seems that the more conventional nose on the McLaren car didn't create a problem for Jenson or Lewis, what with them impressively locking out the entire front row and then Jenson racing away to a storming victory, whilst Lewis traded places with vettel but still managed to claim the third podium place.

The best thing about the Grand Prix was the action all the way down the field and that action couldn't have been appreciated without Sky Sport's great coverage. There didn't appear to be any prejudice in regards to which drivers or teams were focused on during the race. The Sky Sports F1 director even went so far as disregarding Jenson Button's final lap, in favour of showing the exciting fights that were going on throughout the field, right up until the very end.

The continuous coverage and absence of adverts was the same as the BBC's coverage last season but time will tell if the further advantages will be a regular feature of footage on Sky, however so far I am well impressed with Sky's commitment. As for the racing, well after this weekend it promises to be exciting and unpredictable.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Should women be in Formula One?

The announcement that Marussia have employed the female race driver Maria De Villota has sparked the old argument taken up by many F1 fans the world over; why aren't there any female drivers in Formula One?

It's true that in recent years there have been no female drivers gracing the Formula One scene and the sports history there have been fewer than a handful. However, rather than look at this with the presumption that women are actively prevented from driving in Formula One, let's look at this from a simple statistical and factual point of view.

It is a statistical fact that vastly fewer women than men are interested in Formula One and so stands to reason that even less women actually attempt to achieve this goal. Add to this the not so obvious statistical fact that, in any one race season, there are no more than 24 human beings that are good enough to drive the massively challenging, powerful and agile cars. Speaking from personal experience, thousands of people would love to have the skill and stamina to be an F1 driver. Finally, F1 drivers need to be of a certain physical stature and even for some of them (the tall ones like Mark Webber and Justin Wilson) their physique is borderline when it comes to fitting in to a Formula One car; women have a very different body structure entirely. True, the teams could design the cars to fit but, with Formula One the way it is, what team is going to go to the expense?

With all this in mind; skill and ability, body shape and athleticism, and ultimately (arguably most importantly) the actual interest in being involved, then surely it's understandable that female drivers in F1 just doesn't happen. However, theres no prejudiced reason why not and I would love to see Marie De Villota get a first seat drive!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Oi Big Nose!!!

Nobody can fail to notice that this season's F1 cars have quite an unusual and, as many have opined, ugly addition to their nose cones. All of the cars, apart from the Mclaren, have a strange 'step' on the nose cone near the front suspension. The reason for this step is that, at the point where the 'step' appears, the nose must be at a particular height and aerodynamicists have found that having the front half of the nose lower is more beneficial to the movement of air over the front of the car.

At the time of the cars being unveiled there were two very interesting developments. The first one was that the Red Bull Racing car, designed by the genius and often unconventional Adrian Newey, appeared to have a hole in the 'step'. It is currently unclear as to what the hole in the nose cone is for but it is relatively logical to assume that it is there for a purpose and since the car is designed by Newey then it will likely perform that function more than adequately.

The Second development was the shock revelation that the Mclaren does not feature the 'stepped' nose cone at all. I have a theory about this and it is based on previous evidence that Ron Dennis and McLaren are more concerned with aesthetics than they are with actual performance (the McLaren factory was lavishly and expensively designed and built a few years back, the pit crew have to look sharp and trendy, just last season the drivers wore different race overalls designed by fans for each race, etc...). I predict that the McLaren will under perform this season, simply because the designers were encouraged to make the car LOOK good over making the car perform well.

Only time will tell, but my prediction is that Red Bull Racing's unorthodox hole in the nose will make them extremely fast, whilst McLaren's stubborness to forfeit performance over looks will set them back to the middle of the field. As for the other teams, its going to be exciting finding out which ones have made big steps and which have moved backwards. Are the new 'stepped' noses ugly? Its fair to say that there have been numerous innovations, over the years, that have looked a little unusual and out of place, but in time they become familiar and we all forget that we were shocked by them. The same will apply to the new noses, I'm sure.

Friday, 24 February 2012

For fans, what is the significance of pre-season testing?

Of course, nobody can question how important pre-season testing is to a Formula One team. It is completely essential that engineers and designers are able to test the complex and groundbreaking machines that they have spent the last four months meticulously designing and building. They need to be assured that when they put that car on the track for the first race of the season it isn't going to vibrate to pieces through the first corner or one of the wings isn't going to change shape at high speed and lose the car crucial seconds.

Similarly, the drivers want to be sure they are comfortable behind the wheel before they set out on to the track in that all important first qualifying session of the season. Sebastien Vettel doesn't want to be getting in to the car, on Saturday morning of the 17th of March in Melbourne, and find that he can't reach the pedals. So, pre-season testing is unquestionably extremely important to the teams, which brings me back to my original question.

Undoubtedly, as fans, we are all extremely excited as we approach the beginning of the new season and any news about F1 is lapped up as we anticipate the first race. But why can't the media be more honest about what pre-season testing means to us, instead of feeding us meaningless conclusions about how specific teams are looking quick for the new season having posted the fastest time, or how a team we expect to do well is looking slow. The pre-season testing is not a qualifying session, in which the drivers and teams are striving for the fastest time. It is the only chance to try out big things (new parts, different fuel levels, tyre and wing combinations, etc. etc....)

For this reason, it is unfair on fans, that the media draw these meaningless conclusions from incomprehensible circumstances. That's not to say that pre-season testing isn't an exciting chance to see the new cars out on track, in action. To take a look at the new design modifications and regulation aero parts, but lets not kid ourselves that when the pre-season testing is finished we will all know who the big contenders are. The fact is that only the teams know that and they aren't going to let on. So we should watch the pre-season testing for what it is and the media should report it as such.