Sunday, 26 June 2011

Valencia, the Low Point of an Exciting Season

The European Grand Prix at Valencia was definitely more exciting than the last three times it has been run. But sadly in a year of stunning races, this was definitely the most dull. Can anything save this race from being a bit rubbish or is it just a lost case? And how can anyone persuade Bernie to get rid of it? It showed promise early on though...


Photo Courtesy of Team Lotus
It was very hot for the start of qualifying and continued to get hotter throughout the session, combined with the slippery track here there was a chance of some errors creeping in. Predictably, Vettel set the early pace but Jenson found a little more speed shortly after as the track improved. Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull were all very close as the session continued and then Nico Rosberg jumped up to fourth as the last runs began to show that Mercedes are still involved as well. The shuffling started to push Webber and Massa down towards the drop zone but they both saved themselves at the last with Massa taking fastest lap by 0.6 seconds.

In Q2 most of the drivers had their fast laps done nice and early which was lucky for them. Pastor Maldonaldo broke down in the middle of the track and bought out the red flags for a few minutes as a crane had to rescue him. The fast guys didn't bother to go out again after that. Paul di Resta was trying hard at the end but his lap was too scruffy to be quick and he lost out on a place in Q3. His team mate, Adrian Sutil, did make it in though, which made for a good result for Force India.

With 5 minutes of Q3 remaining  the top six was Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Webber, Button and Massa. The top 4 all decided to do another run at the end, Webber set off first and Vettel was the last. By the end of his flying lap though, Vettel hadn't improved and jumped into the pits to save his tyres. Webber managed to get a faster time but only good enough for second. Button somehow ended up in 6th place as the cars all came home and another slightly disappointing qualifying session ended.


The cars lined up on the grid on an even hotter day than Saturday which was making the teams nervous about how long the tyres might last.

Photo Courtesy of Force India
As the lights went out both Ferraris got good starts with Massa getting the best of all. Hamilton bogged down a little and both of the red cars were past him by the first corner. Alonso made the best of the second turn though by running around the outside and putting himself into third on the way out of the corner. Massa tried to continue his run off the grid but had to back out of it and settle into 4th. In the confusion Button ended up knocked down to 7th as Rosberg squeezed past into 6th behind Hamilton.

By lap 2 Sebastien Vettel had opened up a 1.3 second gap on Webber and didn't look as though he would have any trouble keeping it. As the DRS became active it was Button who was in the best position to take advantage to it. Sadly it didn't seem to be working to well for him, he was getting closer to Rosberg with the flap activated but not close enough to get past. Rosberg started to get a bit ragged as the pressure built, but it was on the way into turn 2 where Jenson finally just forgot to brake for a few metres and dived through on the inside.

Fernando Alonso was closing on Mark Webber up to lap 6 but didn't seem to be making enough headway to get through. In trying to hard he ran very wide on turn 20, right across the astroturf section and giving Webber a little more breathing space. Vettel was widening the gap as Fernando started again on catching Webber.

Lap 10 saw Massa overshoot turn 17 but Hamilton wasn't close enough to take advantage. The pit stops began on lap 12 with Heidfeld and Kobayashi being the first to blink. Hamilton was in the next lap and it was clear that nobody would be able to make the tyres last much longer as Vettel was starting to get some oversteer moments. Webber was the first of the Red Bulls to stop followed by Vettel on lap 15 with Alonso right behind him and Massa the lap after.

Michael Schumacher came out of the pits and tried to take the inside of turn 2 as Petrov was coming past. Vitaly thought the corner was his and turned in, loosening the front wing of the Mercedes. It proceeded to get more broken and despite managing to get past a Force India it ended up trapped under the side of the car by the tie he made it back to the pit. After an investigation by the stewards no action was taken.

The top three drivers were still less than 4 seconds apart by this stage. Webber found himself stuck behind some traffic at this stage which let Alonso get a little closer and the Spanish crowd were starting to get up on their feet every time he went by. He finally found a space and out-braked the Australian on the way into turn 12 and started to open out a gap.

By lap 22 Button was being told on the radio that the cars in front would start "degging" soon, indicating that their tyres would be degrading fast. A couple of laps later and Hamilton was informed that he was on the same pace as the cars behind. Normally this would get Lewis asking what about the cars in front, but not this time. The McLaren cars didn't seem to be showing the same pace they have had in the last few races, and it seemed as though this might be as far up the field as they could make it.

Later on during lap 27, with a fresh set of tyres, Lewis still found enough to put in fastest lap of the race up to that point. His engineer was on the radio asking him, "please manage your pace," or in other words, "don't wear your tyres out too quickly!" Webber made his second stop on lap 29 with Alonso coming in one lap later but he came back onto the track behind Webber.

By lap 30 Lewis was getting warnings from the pit again, this time his rear tyre temperatures were too high. To which he replied, "I can't go any slower." That's the sort of attitude we like to see! As Button pitted for his second time, Webber was catching Massa fast and dived past him as the Brazillian dealt with some traffic on the way into the pits.

Button was on the radio on lap 33, being told that his KERS was not working. This prompted the McLaren engineers to go and get their rubber gloves out. Hamilton was again not doing the right thing and on lap 40 he got another message from the team to up his pace. The reply this time, "I'm going as fast as I can go!"

Now the track started to make its mark on the race properly as no real progress was made by anyone for a long time. There were some good scraps in the midfield, but compared to the races so far this year it was quiet and almost processional. Despite the top three still being within 12 seconds on lap 50 nothing really seemed to be heating up and the top 6 finished as they had been for more than 10 laps.

Vettel seemed to be particularly pleased with this victory for no reason that anyone could fathom out. It just looked like another of his pole to flag victories, despite his romantic claims that its him against the car and the track. Sadly for us it seems to be the track that is the problem. As Tiff Needell tweeted afterwards, "Even Pirelli's best efforts and the wing flappy thing can't turn a truly boring circuit into a racing track."

The final result ended as Vettel from Alonso with Mark Webber taking the final podium position. Hamilton stayed in fourth with Massa, Button and Heidfeld behind that. Jaime Alguersuari got himself a good eighth place to boost his season, despite this being one of only three Formula 1 races ever where everyone who started also finished. And one of those was the infamous Indianapolis race where only 6 cars started.

Valencia is just a track which doesn't seem to inspire any racing and its hard to say why. It's a great location, not as narrow as a street circuit but still with walls that should make mistakes count. Long straights, tight twisty sections. Everything it should need is there, but just put together in a way that makes it dull.

Still, next time out is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and that is a track that often produces a good race. It can be helped out by the Great British weather of course, but this year there are also major changes to the circuit. Specially designed to create mistakes and introduce more passing. With the added bonus of the Pirelli tyres and DRS this should help make it the sort of race that has been keeping us interested for the first part of the season. Come on the Brits!

Full Result

Championship Standings

Friday, 24 June 2011

Valencia Weekend Starts Grey and Dull

The weather in Valencia for the European Grand Prix started grey and dull. Much like the last few races here really. This year though there are hopes it may brighten up on the racing side of things at least. The Pirelli tyres, DRS, KERS and now the engine mapping changes are all working together to give us a good chance of the best race ever at this track.

Photo Courtesy of Force India
Paul di Resta swapped his drivers seat with Nico Hulkenberg for Free Practice 1 and probably wished he hadn't shortly after. Nico almost immediately flat spotted his tyres and followed that with losing the back end under braking and putting the car into the wall early on in the session. There was some confusion for Hamilton as he told his engineer that his rear wing flap wasn't working and was informed it had been disabled for testing.

Red Bull were seemed to be running two very different sessions. Vettel was not going quickly, there was speculation that this could be because they were testing engine map settings for Silverstone, where the hot blown diffuser ban is to be introduced. Webber meanwhile was at the top of the time sheets and stayed there as the session ended a little early. That was thanks to Glock, who half spun his car and stalled it on the exit of turn 4. Petrov was next on the list followed by Alonso, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Massa and Button with Vettel only able to get up to 16th place.

He made up for it Free Practice 2 though by posting quick times straight away. Button complained about low rear grip as he tried to improve. It didn't seem to be affecting Hamilton's car too much as he was challenging for the fastest time with Vettel, Webber, and Alonso. Di Resta finally managed to get his freshly fixed car out of the pits with only 10 minutes of the session remaining and proceeded to do his best to make up for lost time.

At the end of the session Alonso had the fastest time just 0.2 seconds ahead of Hamilton with Vettel less than 0.1 behind that. Schumacher, Massa, Button and Webber were also close with Webber ending up just 0.563 behind his team mate. Paul di Resta only pulled himself up to 16th place but considering his very limited time in the car, that's a pretty good result. Hopefully he'll get a better run on Saturday.

Photo Courtesy of Team Lotus
After the dust settled it appeared that the soft tyre was around a second a lap faster than the new medium tyre. It also appeared to be lasting fairly well with some drivers continuing to improve their times after 2 or even 3 laps. The final times show that this could be a closer qualifying session than we have seen so far this year. But Red Bull are becoming infamous for pulling something special out of the bag at the last minute. Will the new parc fermé rules stop that? We'll find out tomorrow afternoon!

That throws a few more unknowns into the equation for predictions so I'm going on pure gut feelings! Lets see if Alonso can make the most of a home advantage and bring in a pole to give Ferrari's season a boost. For the race, I think that if he does get pole he will get mugged in the double DRS zones and not be able to bring it home in first. So the top three could be Vettel, a newly calm and focussed Hamilton and then Alonso. Sorry Button fans, I don't think this is his track, but he might hang on to fourth. What do you think?

Bring on the racing!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Rule Changes, Rule Changes and Changes to the Rules

The FIA have finally decided to implement the long discussed ban on blown diffusers from the British Grand Prix onwards. But of course, that on its own would be too easy, so an there is an extra change to the rules (effective immediately) which bans any change in engine mapping between qualifying and the race. Just to add a little more entertainment it has also been decided to postpone the major engine regulation changes to make Formula 1 greener, from 2013 to 2014.

The ban on hot blown diffusers has been talked about for a little while now and the FIA have finally got round to making a ruling on it. From Silverstone the teams must change their engine mapping so that when the throttle is closed no more than 10% of the maximum fuel flow is allowed into the engine. Some of the teams have been using a system where the fuel flow is kept high but the ignition is retarded so much that the fuel burns in the exhaust. This allows hot gas to exit the exhaust and create more downforce under the car. Now that this is to be restricted, we are left to wonder which cars will be most affected by the change. Its widely believed that Red Bull will see the biggest hit but nothing is certain until the British Grand Prix.

The teams have also been issued another ruling which will take effect this coming weekend in Valencia. Once qualifying is finished there are to be no changes to the engine mapping until the race is underway. Previously it was not regarded as a breach of Parc Fermé rules to plug in a laptop and make alterations to the ECU settings. This allowed the cars to use a far more aggressive mapping during qualifying, and then change the setting down for the race in order to stop the floor and exhaust from overheating. Again Red Bull are thought to be the biggest loser in this change. Their cars never quite seem to have the domination in the race that they show on Saturday.

It should be interesting to see if this has any noticeable effect during the European Grand Prix. Theoretically it is possible to change the engine mapping during a pit stop. But due to the time required, no-one seems to believe that it will happen, which means that the other cars may be a little closer to Vettel than normal. Some are unhappy that these changes weren't left until the end of the season but it does seem to slow down another (presumably) expensive line of research and may even help to close up the championship race. Which is never going to be a bad thing!

Finally the major engine changes that were to be introduced in 2013. It was believed that the FIA had secured agreement for a change to 4 cylinder turbo-charged engines to be introduced in 2013 but now, after a meeting with all the teams a new agreement has been reached. And this time that means that everyone agrees. This will see Formula 1 moving to 1.6 litre V6 turbo-charged engines instead of the current 3.5 litre V8. There will also be a reduction in fuel flow along with a rev limit reduction from 18,000 to 12,000 rpm which should see fuel usage drop by up to 35%. These changes should see the current power output of around 750bhp stay roughly the same. KERS will also be beefed up to twice its current output.

These changes are intended to make the sport greener, but how green can a sport like motor racing really be? These are cars that have no purpose other than moving one man around and around in a circle as fast as possible. Not going anywhere as quick as you can is, by its very nature, a waste of fuel and energy. It is hoped however that the turbo chargers and energy recovery systems may boost the use of the same  technologies on road cars, which can only be a good thing.

In my opinion, the only real way to make F1 greener would be to limit the total amount of fuel used per race and drop that amount season by season. The teams would be allowed to use whatever other sources of energy they can (KERS, solar power, Mr. Fusion etc.) to make up the shortfall and increase the efficiency. Then we might see a technical battle worth watching and it might have a greater impact on the rest of the road-going world.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Lewis Hamilton - What Should Be Done?

Lewis Hamilton has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently. He has been in front of the stewards several times in the opening part of the season. Then it started to get worse in Monaco with a weekend to forget in the car, closely followed by his comments, which won't ever be forgotten, afterwards. The controversy continued in last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix with his early exit and yet another call to face the stewards. Then we have the ex-Formula 1 legends jumping in with their opinions that Lewis is dangerous and more severe penalties should be given out to calm him down.

Photo Courtesy of Dwonderwall
Lewis was the only other driver to clinch a win this year against the unstoppable force of Vettel until Button got his win last weekend. He knows he has the ability to win and he also has the determination and ambition that put him in Formula 1 in the first place. It seems that he is the one putting himself under impossible pressure to pull off overtakes that other people wouldn't even try. Then when they fail to come off, he is even more determined to get back to where he thinks he should be. Its this vicious circle that is putting him in more trouble than he should be in this year. The question is, what is he going to do about it?

There is no doubt that if he has many more incidents where the blame can't be shared, he will be on the receiving end of more penalties. But I can't imagine that will help. Hamilton seems to react badly to that sort of discipline, and it seems unlikely that will change. What might help more, is nearly taking out Jenson Button. I do believe that the McLaren drivers really are the good friends that they talk about being in the media, and the collision in Canada could well have taken them both out. Lewis isn't stupid, and I think that he must realise that Jenson would race him fairly, and that might get him to look a little harder at his own driving. The simple fact is, if he doesn't tone it down a bit he won't be finishing any more races this year, and that won't do his championship any favours at all.

Then there is the speculation about Lewis making a move to Red Bull, which seems to be based on the flimsiest evidence ever. Lewis spoke to Christian Horner. That doesn't seem a lot to go on to me! I'm not sure that Red Bull would want him, or that McLaren would let him go either. Stranger things have happened though, so I wouldn't rule it out completely, but I'm guessing not next year. Red Bull already have the best driver they could have in Sebastien Vettel. Add Lewis in there as well and you really would have an explosive combination. My guess is that if Webber decides to pack it all in for next year Red Bull will be looking towards the lower end of the grid for their new driver.

Thankfully there is only one more week until the European Grand Prix in Valencia. I can't wait to get some cars on the track so that we can have some actual racing to talk about!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Canadian Grand Prix is a Four Hour Epic

This year's Canadian Grand Prix was in every way an epic race. Stopped, restarted, rain, sun, safety cars and accidents, this race had it all. And even a fairy tale ending.

Photo Courtesy of Force India
Free Practice 3

Early on Saturday third practice saw Vettel fastest again while Pedro de la Rosa took the back wheel off his borrowed Force India. McLaren again couldn't get close to the Ferrari's and Vettel. Mark Webber however didn't get any running at all as his car was pulled apart to try and repair the KERS. Once again the KERS system costs Red Bull. Apparently their System only puts out 66% of the maximum allowed power. They claim that the lower weight and smaller size allow them to gain back performance in other ways. So far the balance seems to be right but if the KERS doesn't work at all, as seems to be happening so far, they are definitely losing out.


As qualifying started Martin Whitmarsh claimed that McLaren are setting the car up for wet weather due to the weather forecast showing a 60% chance of rain during the race. A lot of cars got out nice and early for qualifying 1. It looked as though there could be a chance of rain at any minute and there was also the chance of an accident stopping the session that forced them out for a banker. The drivers were opting for up to 3 flying laps as well, the soft tyres seemed to get faster as the temperature built up.

The top 6 was established pretty early on in the session with Fernando Alonso setting the fastest time. Paul Di Resta put in a fantastic lap to put himself in 8th place by the end of the session. Pedro De La Rosa provided some entertainment by running a little wide and skimming the wall with both wheels causing a shower of sparks. Somehow he avoided any damage and complete his lap but his speed was nothing to write home about.

Q2 saw some pretty close times, with seven minutes remaining the seven drivers were all within 3 tenths of a second. Kobayashi once again proved himself an absolute hero as he tried to get the best out of his car. The rear end got a little loose in the last chicane. He kept his toe down and drifted it round while looking like he was steering straight at champions wall. He survived it but it was clearly not the fastest way to do it. Paul Di Resta was also trying hard but couldn't do any better than 11th this time out. Massa was on top by the end of the session but only by a very small margin.

Q3 was almost settled by halfway through. Most of the cars went out for a second run but failed to improve except for Alonso who jumped just past Massa to put himself second on the grid. The final grid order was Vettel on pole, Alonso second and Massa third. Hamilton ended up in fourth followed by Webber while Button could only climb up to 7th. It turned out that Mark Webber wasn't able to use the Red Bull KERS at any time during qualifying which shows exactly how much damage it can do to the performance.

Photo Courtesy of Force India

The track was wet as the start of the race approached, but it wasn't actually raining which raised hopes that the race would be able to start normally. Those hopes were to be dashed though, the safety car was at the front of the grid as the cars pulled away. Jaimie Alguesuari seemed to have made a great decision at this point. He had elected to start from the pit lane to allow the team to make some changes to the car and now he didn't  even have to catch up with the end of the field.

The safety car came in on lap 5 and the teams were put into a race situation on full wet Pirelli tyres for the first time. Vettel tried to start early to get a jump on Alonso but the Spaniard was right with him and trying hard to challenge on the start finish straight. As the rest of the cars followed through Hamilton found himself outbraking Mark Webber. It seemed as though he bounced of the kerb a little and knocked the Australian into a 180. The stewards almost immediately sent out a message that they were investigating the incident, no surprises there!

It appeared that Vettel was pulling out a four second lead, but replays showed that he had a short cut across the grass to help him with at least some of that. As Hamilton tried to regain the positions he had lost after his contact with Webber he came up behind Button. On the way out of the last chicane he got a much better run and dived towards the pit wall to try and overtake. Either Jenson hadn't seen or just wasn't expecting Lewis to be that fast as he moved over and the cars hit each other and Lewis hit the pit wall. Hamilton's car looked as though it was losing a wheel but he tried to make it back to the pits. He had to give that up by turn 5 though and parked it on the track, which bought the safety car back out again.

Jenson dived straight into the pits for a check up and a set of intermediate tyres. The car seemed to be ok and he rejoined the race a long way back and the only one on those tyres. A new message arrived from the stewards at this point. The investigation against Lewis for contact with Webber was dropped (yay!) and a new one was started. This time it was for being too fast under the safety car, Jenson got in on this one as well so that Lewis didn't feel left out.

On lap 12 the safety car came back in one more time and Jenson was handed a drive through penalty. Mark Webber was now in 9th place and trying very hard to improve. Once Jenson had completed his drive through he started to show some real pace on the intermediate tyres. Perhaps this had been a strategic master-stroke? Rubens obviously thought it was a good choice as he dived into the pits to try it out himself. Mark Webber didn't seem to be hanging about and pulled himself up to seventh. Fernando Alonso also liked the look of Button's pace, he dove into the pits for a new set of tyres as well.

By lap 19 the rain was starting to fall again as proved by Button aquaplaning towards the hairpin. It suddenly turned into an enormous downpour which bought the safety car out again to avoid any incidents. Alonso and Button both dived into the pit straight away to get back onto full wets. Sebastien Vettel followed them in next time around and thanks to the safety car not picking up the leader straight away managed to get away with only losing a place to Massa. Even that didn't last long as he also pulled in for a tyre change, Vettel gets all the breaks!

The rain was now increasing even more and  the red flag was shown on lap 25. The cars lined up on the grid Vettel in the lead followed by Kobayashi, Massa, Heidfeld, Petrov, Di Resta, Webber, Alonso, De La Rosa, Button and Rosberg. Kamui had not pitted at any point in the race and could now reap the rewards, a free tyre change and second place on the restart. The rain eventually stopped and the street sweepers were out in force to try and clear the track. The race was finally set to restart after a two hour four minute red flag delay.

The safety car led the cars off and after a few laps Kovavleinen was seen going slowly with what appeared to be a slipping clutch. He made his way back to the pits to retire and as it was announced that the safety car would come in on lap 35 D'Ambrosio jumped into the pits to go to inters. That was one  lap too early as it turned out and he got himself a drive through.

On the restart Vettel made his usual break for it and Kobayashi was too busy defending from Massa to worry him at that point. A fair few cars dived straight into the pit for intermediates and even more did the same on the following lap, including Jenson Button. Next time the Ferraris both went into the pit and had to queue for tyres with Alonso losing out. As he left the pit he ended up in front of Button who immediately tried to get up inside coming into turn 4. Alonso wouldn't give it up though and touched Button, spinning himself up onto the kerb and ending his race. Button got a puncture to show for it and made his way slowly back to the pit once again.

The stranded Ferrari meant that the safety car came out for another run, so Vettel stuck it back into the pit for a fresh set of tyres with no positions lost, while Button found himself in 21st and last place. Another investigation announced for the Button/Alonso incident.

By lap 44 Button had worked his way up to 15th place. Kobayashi was starting to struggle and Massa was trying very hard to take his place. By lap 46 DRS was being enabled and it looked like it was becoming time to change to slicks. Webber was well within the DRS activation zone was not able to take enough advantage to make a pass on Schumacher. Lap 49 and Button was up to 12th place. Buemi was sliding all over the place and that allowed Button to take his place, by lap 50 he was up to 10th.

Mark Webber was the first man to dare to go for slicks on lap 51. Kobayashi made a mistake on the way to the hairpin and Massa got alongside him. Neither of them could get any power down on the way out of the corner and Schumacher took full advantage of the situation and passed the pair of them to put himself into 2nd place. Lap 53 and Button pitted again, this time for slicks, with Schumacher and Massa doing the same on the following lap. Massa moved onto the wet part of the track to pass a back marker, lost all traction and knocked the front wing off his Ferrari but survived to continue to the pits.

Hiedfeld hit the back of a slow Kobayashi and broke his front wing supports. On the following straight the wing fell under the car and sent him flying down the escape road. The debris on the track caused the safety car to come out once more on lap 57. The order was now Vettel, Schumacher, Webber and Button with only 19 cars left in the race.

The race restarted on lap 61 with Vettel immediately opening out a lead on the other three. They stayed in order until the DRS was re-enabled. Then the fight began in earnest, Webber was trying incredibly hard but although he got alongside Schumacher, he ran wide on the final chicane. He had to give the place back and managed to do it without losing out to Button. He tried again next time round but this time couldn't keep the car straight on the way out of the chicane and lost his place to Jenson.

Button's DRS was obviously working better than Webber's as he passed Schumacher well before the chicane and started chasing Vettel. The German had a three second lead with only four laps remaining but Button gained back well over a second on the next lap. Webber finally got past Michael on lap 67 and Button was now only 1.3 seconds behind Vettel. Button went on to set the fastest lap of the race and finally get into the DRS zone on the last lap of the race. The pressure was obviously getting to Vettel and he put a wheel into the wet part of the track and half spun allowing Jenson to sweep past into the lead. He recovered to take second place followed by Webber and Schumacher. Massa used his DRS to catch up to Kobayashi and just managed to get a wheel in front on the line.


An incredible win by Button who had pretty much everything thrown at him during the race. It must have been incredibly dissapointing for Vettel who only made one small error in the whole event, but it was the most costly one it could have been. After everything else working out so well it was surprising to see such a slip-up from the man who, so far this year, could do no wrong.

Hamilton seemed to be trying too hard again. He was attempting moves that few others would try but that is how he got himself a championship. When they work he is the hero of the day, when they don't, he looks a bit foolish. That seems to be the result too often in the last few races, but if they gave out points for effort he would already have the championship sewn up. I'd rather see that than too much caution any day. Button said after the race that he just didn't realise Hamilton was trying to overtake when they touched. According to the team, no hard feelings. But you do have to wonder a little!

Schumacher finally managed to produce a performance worthy of his previous career. Some are saying that DRS cost him second place, but I'm not so sure. Once he was overtaken DRS didn't seem to give him back second place or even third after all.

Button and Alonso were not given Penalties for their contact, thankfully. In an incident packed race it seemed that far too many were being given out. One that changed the result of the race would have been a step too far for what was essentially a racing incident.

Surely there is no way Valencia can top a race like this, even with DRS and Pirelli tyres? I guess we'll find out in two weeks time!

Latest Result

Championship Standings

Friday, 10 June 2011

Crashing at Canada and No Bahrain

The Canadian Grand Prix started today. Both free practice sessions saw a decent number of drivers trying to find a way to avoid the walls and failing. This race will be the first time that two DRS zones will be used. There will be one activation line as usual but the flap will be used on both of the following straights. This should add an interesting twist, as long as it does not make overtaking far too easy.

Photo Courtesy of Force India
Friday started with an announcement from the organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix. The statement accepted that this years event would be cancelled which must have resulted in a huge amount of people suddenly feeling much more relaxed. It certainly seemed that if things had continued there would have to be some kind of showdown or standoff to decide the fate of the race. The race organisers seem to have taken the reigns and saved everyone that embarrassment.

In Canada however the race weekend started well. The weather was sunny unlike the previous few days and the cars headed out onto the track to get used to the new tyres. This weekend the race will be run on the soft and super soft tyres but the teams also have a chance to test a new medium compound. The technical problems started early for both McLaren and Red Bull though. Lewis Hamilton's car was being stripped down to try and find the cause of his steering wheel display going blank. Sebastien Vettel was suffering from front brake problems. That isn't going to be fun at the best of times but at one of the heaviest braking circuits on the calendar it must be even worse.

Hamilton had to drive the rest of the session using a beep played into his crash helmet to determine when to shift gears. Vettel's brake problem was solved but the German driver overcooked the final chicane and added his name to the list of victims at Champion's Wall. He bounced across the kerbs and hit the wall taking a big chunk off the Red Bull. The session was red flagged while the wreckage was recovered. Rosberg ended up with the fastest time in Free Practice 1 followed by Alonso and Schumacher.

Free Practice 2 saw Vettel back on track with a fully repaired Red Bull and Hamilton with a working dash. Sergio Perez however had decided that he was not fit enough to compete in the rest of the event and Sauber took the unusual step of borrowing Pedro De La Rosa from McLaren. They spent half the session getting the car modified to fit him in. It was at this time that the track started to take its toll again, Sutil being the first victim as he wiped off a front wheel on the way out of turn 7. He pulled the car off the track only for Kamui Kobayashi to hit the wall hard at turn 4 and bring out the red. Once the track was clear D'Ambrosio tried the same move and also brought the session to a standstill while his wreckage was removed.

Alonso was the fastest driver this time around closely followed by Vettel who was obviously not too bothered by his incident in the morning session. Massa came third ahead of Hamilton and Button with Force India's Paul Di Resta doing a fantastic job to finish up sixth.

With such an interrupted day, relative performance is even harder to gauge than usual. The Red Bull's do not seem to have a very high top speed, their impressive high speed cornering is not much help here. Ferrari on the other hand have been struggling with aerodynamic grip and making the hard tyres work neither of which will affect them nearly as much as usual at this track. McLaren are the unknown quantity having missed out on a decent run in either session. Their engine is strong but so far they just haven't had the chance to show their potential.

Ferrari could really do well at a track which suits their car but you can never rule out Vettel where qualifying is concerned. So predictions are going to be: Vettel for pole. The race could well be a different matter though. I still think McLaren will be strong in the main event so I'm going for Hamilton first, Alonso second and Vettel third thanks to tyres and DRS zones. This is the best chance so far for McLaren and Ferrari to get some points back on Red Bull. Can't wait to find out which way it goes!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Bahrain Race Won't Go Ahead (Possibly)

After the FIA announcement last Friday it appears that they forgot an important point about moving the Bahrain Grand Prix. This would be that the rules require unanimous agreement from from all competitors in order to change the championship calendar. This agreement does not seem to be something the teams want to give.
Photo courtesy of emifaulk

FOTA (the Formula One Teams Association) has written to the FIA telling them that they object to moving the race on purely logistical grounds. They apparently claim that this would essentially mean that their staff would get no break between the end of this season and the start of the next. An opinion which was mentioned before the FIA announced the reinstatement of the race. It is in some ways disappointing that there is no mention of the political reasons to call off the race. Formula 1 is a pragmatic business, however, and these are solid grounds for not holding the event without needing to bring up the difficulties of international politics.

Bernie appears to have forgotten his previous enthusiasm for going back to Bahrain and is now saying that the region is not as stable as the authorities are claiming. He is apparently now trying to get the FIA to overturn their decision by calling for the race to be moved to the end of the season to allow more time for the situation to be assessed.

The confusion is no doubt already costing some people money as travel plans may or may not need to be changed. The one thing that is needed is a definite decision one way or the other. At the moment it would appear that the teams have the deciding vote and they do not want it to happen. Presumably the organisers of the Indian Grand Prix will be pleased with the way things appear to be turning out, trying to organise the country's first F1 race must be challenge enough without being unsure as to when, or indeed if, it will take place.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Bahrain Race Will Go Ahead

The FIA have today decided that the Bahrain Grand Prix will now be held on the 30th of October. The race was originally scheduled to be the first race of the year but was cancelled due to civil unrest which started before the planned date. A decision was going to be made earlier in the year as to whether the race would be run but the deadline was extended until today.

The chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit said, "as a country we have faced a difficult time, but stability has returned." Not everyone agrees though. A state of emergency was lifted on Wednesday but there are reports of police using rubber bullets and tear gas to suppress protests today. Indeed some think that the state of emergency has been lifted, at least partly, in order to allow the race to go ahead.

The decision to reinstate the race is controversial. Mark Webber said, "When people in a country are being hurt, the issues are bigger than the sport." There is an online petition calling on the teams to withdraw from the race which already has over 350,000 signatures. Max Mosley suggests that sponsors will not be happy to be associated with the events in Bahrain, and the teams themselves are not keen on extending the season into December. This will be to accommodate the Indian Grand Prix which was to have been held in October.

The Formula 1 Teams Association may still not agree to moving the Indian race when they meet to discuss the FIA decision. It seems that returning to Bahrain may not be the best decision for Formula 1. It could be seen as condoning regime which has used highly questionable methods to repress protests.