Tuesday, 12 March 2013

F1 2013: More of the same

 A new season of Formula 1 is almost upon us. Here's some brief thoughts on what could happen in Australia and beyond...

The car launches, testing and quotes get people chatting again but there is nothing like the anticipation of those five red lights going out at Albert Park for the season to really begin. Normally I like to post before the first race of the year and talk about the changes that have occurred in terms of the rules but there's not a lot to discuss as most things remain unchanged. It should mean more of the same in terms of the competitiveness between the teams. Testing doesn't give away too much and the main things to take from it were probably the fact that understanding the tyres will be vital again

A key change for 2013 is the rules regarding the Drag Reduction System (DRS). The use of the device in practice and qualifying is now only allowed in the designated zones. However there will now be two zones at most tracks this season to encourage teams to gear their cars higher to ensure overtaking is still feasible. You can see the location of the DRS zones for 2013 on AMuS. I'm a bit disappointed to see these changes as i don't think the risk was that big when the usage of the device was unlimited. And the placement and length of the zones had been better at most tracks. Having two zones will change this dynamic but it will depend on the length of the zones and whether there will be separate detection points for the tracks where zones are placed on consecutive straights. Hopefully the zones will be slightly shorter and then we can have the pack being kept closer together with the extra opportunities to use the DRS in a race. Time will tell.

Two zones means that there shouldn't be a major alteration in a team's potential in qualifying but the demise of HRT will make Q1 more pressurised. The last three seasons has seen seven cars exit after Q1 and six of them have usually been the 'new' teams. This season we will have six exit and only four of them will be predictable in Caterham and Marussia. So there will be more of a squeeze in whether you need to utilise the option tyres and of course this could ultimately be key to your race strategy, especially in the early part of the season when tyre degradation can be a big issue.

As for the championship itself you have to expect that Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso will be scrapping it out again. Jenson Button is certainly capable of mounting a challenge if he can get into the groove with his revised car and tyres. And it will be fascinating to see how Sergio Perez does at McLaren. A great young talent but a man who hasn't scored a world championship point since September. Lotus seem to have a very consistent car again so should be more good results achievable for Kimi Raikkonen although i think the title might be a step too far. I really hope Roman Grosjean can remind people how good he is and recapture that early 2012 form. Nico Hulkenberg takes up a new challenge in the graphite Sauber and it could be a tough baptism of fire for Esteban Gutierrez.

The Williams drivers have been bullish about the speed of their new car. I certainly felt they didn't make the most of their package in 2012. In Pastor Maldonado they have someone who has the raw speed to get the car in amongst the front runners and there will be plenty of eyes on Valtteri Bottas as the Finn goes out to prove that he is more than a Twitter hashtag. Force India stopped development of their car towards the end of last season and actually found gains as they concentrated on getting the best out of what they had. With the big rule changes looming in 2014 it will be a big decision for teams in the midfield particularly as to what resources they throw at their current cars as the season enters its latter stages. Force India have got a solid driver pairing in Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil and they'll be hoping to benefit from that with a lot of rookies elsewhere. The stakes are rising at Toro Rosso with Daniel Ricciardo already stating he not only wants to beat Jean-Eric Vergne but destroy him. Charming! The Caterham/Marussia battle may be another 'pointless' one but hopefully they can move in the right direction and that one of them at least can have the glory of a first point.

Finally here's a nicely put together infographic from Money Supermarket who got the views of some of the bloggers and websites out there about their thoughts on the season ahead



Grand Prix Preview 2013 – An infographic by the team at MoneySupermarket Car Insurance

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Top drivers of 2012


I was asked last month to give my opinion on who were the best 10 drivers in Formula 1 this season. Earlier today the full results were published and you can view them here with this very nicely made infographic. All courtesy of Moneysupermarket.com


        Image source: MoneySupermarket Car Insurance

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Land of the Rising Seb


The latest chapter of the 2012 season saw controversy, first lap drama, home delight for one driver and a championship that has become even tighter with just 5 races to go…

Vettel and Red Bull heap the pressure on in title battle: It’s amazing how the championship can turn in only a couple of races. The current points system probably make gaps seem bigger than they really are but Vettel’s back to back wins have seen him surge to within 4 points of Fernando Alonso. However the biggest worry for Ferrari has to be that Red Bull have found some pace, both in qualifying and the race. Both Red Bull drivers were on it in qualifying although Vettel can count himself a tad fortunate that he only got a reprimand for impeding Alonso at the end of Q3. However that does mean that one more reprimand this season will mean a 10 place grid penalty so he has to be careful. It’s now unlikely that consistent points finishes will get the job done for Alonso and I feel he’s going to need a big result somewhere, be it a victory or a problematic race for Vettel. One advantage for the Spaniard is that he still has two fresh engines left for the remaining races, whereas Vettel and Raikkonen only have one left and Hamilton has none.




Raikkonen and Hamilton remain firmly in the hunt and there’s enough races left for them to overcome the margin to Alonso. McLaren have shown great pace at most venues recently to challenge for the podium. Lotus haven’t quite threatened the leaders as much in recent races. They have staggered their development across the year and are introducing a lot of updates (including a Coanda style exhaust system) in Korea so that could be a crucial weekend in terms of how realistic Raikkonen’s chances will be of a second title.

Grosjean under siege after another collision: It was sad to see Romain Grosjean get himself into another tangle on Sunday. It was a clumsy collision with Mark Webber into turn 2 rather than anything malicious and his subsequent lacklustre race and demeanour afterwards was of a man who is starting to feel things mount up on him. However I disagree with the likes of Johnny Herbert and Martin Brundle who suggested afterwards that there was nothing that the Frenchman can do to turn things around. It’s also frustrating to see the media constantly referring to him having been involved in 8 incidents at the start of races this season when most of those haven’t been his sole responsibility. Grosjean clearly has great speed and ability but has been too eager and aggressive at times this season to make up positions. Especially in the current era of Formula 1 when overtaking is much more plausible. Strangely, team mate Raikkonen hasn’t been as spectacular but has shown his race craft and experience to rack up the points and be the only driver to complete every lap of every race so far in 2012.

Grosjean has to learn pretty quickly but he can do it and we have to remember that he remains pretty inexperienced. Sebastian Vettel came in for plenty of criticism during 2010 (including from me which I feel embarrassed about on reflection) and Lewis Hamilton has bounced back from an error strewn 2011 to drive a season full of clean battles.  I also felt Webber lost out unfairly afterwards as the safety car came in too soon. Once it is deployed it is meant to wait for the cars to form up in a train and Webber wasn’t given any chance to do so and lost a bit of time in the process.






That wasn’t the only drama of the start in Suzuka as Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen made contact, pitching the championship leader into a race ending spin. I must admit I needed to watch this incident back quite a few times to determine what exactly happened. For me, Raikkonen did nothing wrong. He always had part of his car alongside the Ferrari and was entitled to hold his position. Either Alonso thought he had left enough space or was trying to be aggressive and force the Lotus to back off. It’s not the first time the Spaniard has had an incident like this recently. At Monza on the approach to turn 2 he squeezed Paul di Resta onto the grass but no damage was done to either car. I think the verdict on the Suzuka contact is that it was a racing incident but it would have been interesting had Raikkonen been the victim whether the stewards would have investigated Alonso for forcing another car off the track.

Kobayashi delights home crowd: It’s always a great moment when a driver finishes on the podium at their home race but it really was a special moment to see Kamui Kobayashi delight the fanatical fans at Suzuka with third place. The Sauber driver managed to navigate through a yellow flag zone to put himself on the second row of the grid and a great start saw him right behind Sebastian Vettel at the restart. It looked like he wasn’t paying much attention as Vettel streaked clear by the time the green flags were out again. However watching back some onboard footage after the race revealed that Kobayashi was paying attention and when Vettel put his foot down, so did he. However the Sauber appeared to be in the wrong gear, one that was too low, and Kobayashi immediately hit the rev limiter and had to upshift a couple of times to get some momentum. Thankfully that would be the trickiest moment of the afternoon and despite some late pressure from Jenson Button it was mission accomplished for Kobayashi. 

Felipe Massa did even better with a vital second place for his confidence. The Brazilian made a good start then brilliantly swerved around the chaos in front. Not making Q3 gave Massa the advantage of starting on a fresh set of options and this allowed him to run longer in the first stint and he really made the most of this to get the jump on Button and Kobayashi. After that he was untroubled for the rest of the race. The question now is what role they will have in the next shuffle of the 2013 drivers market. Nico Hulkenberg has been linked with Ferrari and Sauber. I’d be surprised if he went to Ferrari. Not because he isn’t good enough, in fact I rate him very highly. But Ferrari seem to want a 1 year deal so they can be open to any new options in 2014 and if this is the case then surely Massa is the obvious choice, especially after his improved performances in the last few races.

Esteban Gutierrez has the backing of Telmex behind him in his bid to get a race seat. Kobayashi has the experience within the team and with Perez leaving this could be useful but it seems that he is unable to bring in much financial support from Japanese companies. I think we could see some changes amongst the teams at the back as well with the likes of Narain Karthikeyan and Vitaly Petrov looking vulnerable.

15 down, 5 to go: Next up on the calendar is Korea. I personally think it’s a great track. The long straights in sector 1 create exciting battles and makes the opening lap a thrilling prospect! Sector 2 has a couple of high speed direction changes before the final sector which is twisty and partly surrounded by concrete walls. The super soft and soft compounds should add to the fun as well. Then it’s off to India where the organisers claim the issue of dust has been solved and the kerbs that broke Felipe Massa’s suspension twice in 2011 have also been lowered. Abu Dhabi is a tough track on gearboxes and there seems to have been a plague of problems with them already this season so watch out for issues there.

Then it’s time to head back to the USA for the first time since 2007 as Austin joins the F1 scene. Rumours of the garages being too small at the circuit have been dismissed and Charlie Whiting has hailed the facilities as absolutely first class. From driving the track on the new Formula One game I can tell you that it has a lot of corners, a long straight in the middle and a massive uphill gradient into turn 1 which will make the start quite challenging. And then it’s Brazil to end the season on November 25 where hopefully both championships will still be up for grabs. The drivers title looks like it could well come down to the race at Interlagos. Red Bull look good in the constructors but certainly not out of reach. Another intriguing battle could be for fifth place with Sauber closing in on Mercedes. Caterham will also be desperate to get a twelfth place finish or better to retake tenth in the championship from Marussia.

There’s only a quarter of the season left and it’s all going to happen in the next 7 weeks so make sure you enjoy it. I sense it’s going to be one of the most dramatic of recent years.




Monday, 23 July 2012

Alonso seizes the initiative in title battle

Firstly i have to apologise for the silence on here recently - more important things have taken up my time and meant 'F1 on the Web' has unfortunately been halted as well as thoughts on the recent races. 


Anyway back to F1 matters and here's some thoughts on the latest action and in particular the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim...


Alonso does the business again: There can be little doubt that Fernando Alonso is in the form of his life. From daring overtakes on the tight streets of Valencia to slithering his way to wet weather pole positions at Silverstone and Hockenheim the Spaniard has been the driver of the year so far and his controlled victory in Germany as he withstood pressure from Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button was another impressive display.  The Ferrari driver has built himself a good buffer of 40 points at the halfway stage of the championship but don't think this championship is ending to a early climax. Red Bull have clearly gained ground in the development race recently and although we await to see how they are affected when the inevitable clarification is issued over their engine mapping, you can be assured that Mr Vettel, Webber and Newey will not be giving up easily

Vettel pays the penalty: For a man used to winning, it's been a frustrating period for Sebastian Vettel. Pole position in Montreal was only converted into a 4th place and then an alternator failure robbed what looked like an almost certain victory. His team mate Mark Webber then won the British Grand Prix. I felt he was overdriving a bit at Hockeneheim. A very aggressive start was followed by various off track moments, most of which were not really punished due to the plentiful run off areas at the Hockenheimring. He was also overtaken by a backmarker during the race. Lewis Hamilton was well down after a early puncture and found himself amongst the leaders. I'm wasn't really sure what to make of it all. It was strange to see a lapped car attacking the leaders and i felt Lewis should have just stayed out of it. However what he did was not against the rules and it wasn't like he blocked Vettel once he was past as he pulled away on fresher tyres.

Then we had the controversy on the penultimate lap between Vettel and Button. It was pretty clear for me, Vettel made an early decision to use the run off area to complete the overtake and that was clearly illegal. He didn't even try to stay on the track after the corner at all to even try and go alongside Button or wait to be squeezed wide (which might have given him more of a defence in the stewards room). The only issue i had was the penalty handed down. The German was penalised 20 seconds (the equivalent of getting a drive through penalty during the race). The stewards have the power to give an alternative penalty if they feel it would be more appropriate and i feel this was such a case. 5 second penalties have been used before at the 2010 European Grand Prix for several cars which exceeded the safety car delta time but gained very little. A 5 second penalty for Fernando Alonso was also one of the proposed penalties at the World Motor Sport Council hearing into Ferrari's team orders at the 2010 German Grand Prix as a way of swapping the position of the Spaniard and Felipe Massa.

Now i'll admit that it is a bit artificial sometimes to start handing out a customised penalty and slotting cars back into a position on the classification which would have been a likely finishing position without knowing how things would have exactly unfolded. However i feel in a situation like this so late in the race it would have been the best option. Another reason is the fact that in Hockenheim it costs a driver 10.8 seconds to drive through the pitlane without stopping which is only 54% of the time Vettel had added to his race time. What surprised me is that Derek Warwick recently brought the issue up of the various pitlanes on the F1 calendar having different lengths and time loss and how a 20 second penalty for every track wasn't the fairest way of doing things. Yet who was the driver steward yesterday? Derek Warwick!

So Vettel deserved a penalty but perhaps a slightly more lenient one. However he put himself at risk by doing what he did and it cost him some important points. Hopefully after a weekend which seen many warnings from the FIA about exceeding track limits we will now see some consistency with this issue. In my opinion Lewis Hamilton should have been penalised in Bahrain for passing Nico Rosberg off the track and we've had examples of people getting away with it in the past such as Kimi Raikkonen at the start of the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix which was pretty ridiculous. We may well see some revisions in the 2013 sporting regulations over penalties and how they are handed out.

Midfield battle hots up: We've seen Sauber, Force India and Williams all have more opportunities to make an impression near the front this year and it's making the constructors championship more fascinating than usual. It was Force India with the advantage at the start in Germany but Sauber seem to have the quicker car and made good progress. Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez pitted later than their rivals which cost them through the pit windows but made use of the overtaking opportunities at the Hockenheimring to fight through to an excellent 4th and 6th place finish respectively. There were many great battles between the Sauber and Force India drivers throughout the race, very hard but fair and it was good to see

It hasn't been so smooth between Perez and Pastor Maldonado. The South American drivers battled for the GP2 title in 2010 with Maldonado coming out on top. In Monaco, Maldonado strangely cut across Perez on an out lap in FP3, hitting the Mexican's left front wheel. Perez was furious and the fact that that corner of the car had a failure in Q1 probably didn't improve his mood. There was also a last lap incident between the pair in Valencia that was unseen on the world feed. Maldonado was trying to complete the race without a front wing after hitting Lewis Hamilton. He ran deep into turn 2 and in coming back onto the racing line compromised Perez who was coming through which allowed Jenson Button to overtake the Sauber. Then Maldonado got loose at Silverstone and Perez was the unfortunate victim again. Williams haven't made the most of their car so far this year and now Sauber look good for 6th place in the championship

Thursday, 21 June 2012

F1 on the Web

Carly Street looks ahead to the European Grand Prix in Valencia -

European Grand Prix preview


Planet-F1 forum user Saorsa on the surprise they received in the post from an F1 team last week -

This morning I received a letter in the post...

Jaime Alguersuari on the Pirelli tyres and Jenson Button's recent woes -

Jaime Alguersuari column

An aerial view of the Circuit of the Americas as it prepares to host a Grand Prix in November -



Hannah Hough on the activity filled fanzone at the recent F1 demonstration in Dublin -

The Vodafone Fanzone

Peter Windsor on why Pirelli deserve credit, not criticism, for their recent work in the sport -

Tyred of all the criticism

David Coulthard breaks a world record by catching a golf ball in a car at 178mph -





Thursday, 14 June 2012

F1 on the Web

Vettel in the States, why F1 is a much better sport nowadays and reaction from Montreal features in this weeks F1 on the Web...

Keith Collantine on why F1 has become a much better sport over the past 10 years -

Ten ways F1 has improved in ten years

Sebastian Vettel's TV appearance in the USA. Talks DRS, New Jersey and Canadian customs -

 

Kayleigh blogs about sitting through the rain in Montreal last year to witness the longest race in Formula 1 history -

The 2011 Canadian Grand Prix

Ted Kravitz explains why Red Bull had to make changes to their wheels during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend -



Mark Hughes on Jenson Button's recent problems and why McLaren had to make a modification to their car in China -

Just why has Button become undone

Kimi Raikkonen tells it like it is after the race on Sunday













Peter Sauber on why his team needed that podium from Perez after wasting their potential in the previous two races -

Peter Sauber on 2012

Thursday, 7 June 2012

F1 on the Web

Suzie talks about her week long adventure at the Monaco Grand Prix. A fantastic fan perspective of the most glamorous race of the year

About Monaco: Part 1, 2 and 3

Michael Schuacher never wanted to appear on it and Lewis Hamilton was rejected but the famous 'Late show with David Letterman' will have Sebastian Vettel as a guest next week










A look back on the career of Swedish driver Gunnar Nilsson. He stormed onto the F1 scene with a podium finish in only his third race but his life was tragically cut short by cancer. A Grand Prix winner who could have achieved even more on the race track

Gunnar Nilsson memories

The first gameplay footage of the F1 2012 game from Codemasters has emerged and it features the Circuit of the Americas which will host the USA Grand Prix in November



A computer generated image of what the new generation of F1 engines, due to be introduced in 2014, might look like

First image of the new F1 engine

The Monaco Grand Prix race edit which features some cool new angles of the action, music from Chase & Status and a bleeped out Raikkonen



Christine Blachford takes a look at the mixed start to the season for the Sauber team

Fast car, low mileage, two careless owners








Thursday, 31 May 2012

F1 on the Web

Mark Hughes on how Lotus showed some signs of frustration with Kimi Raikkonen in Monte Carlo

Raikkonen trying Lotus' patience

Sauber have made this fascinating video, showing a Formula 1 car (the BMW-Sauber from 2008) split in half and providing a great insight to what is inside



Analysis of the Mercedes W03 and the major changes it has undergone since the season began

Mercedes F1 W03 - Revised sidepods

Kamui Kobayashi captured mid air after contact at Ste Devote last Sunday 10 images from the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. Some superb shots here, really capturing the sport at its most beautiful

Top 10 pictures from the Monaco Grand Prix

A look ahead to the upcoming film 'Rush' which illustrates the battle for the 1976 world championship between James Hunt and Niki Lauda



Pat reflects on the Monaco Grand Prix and why it tuned out to be a largely processional affair

Thoughts on the Monaco Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button try their hand at the world of TV with hilarious consequences!



The first screenshots have been released for the F1 2012 video game from Codemasters

F1 2012 screenshots

One way to catch the action in Monaco without spending too much money is heading to the rocky hillside that looks down at the final corner of the track




Red Bull launched a special Formula One edition of their drink in Monte Carlo. With the idea backed by Bernie Ecclestone, the cans will be available in the Energy Station at races this year but won't be on general sale to the public

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Vergne runs out of rubber

After a Q2 crash out of the tunnel on Saturday and losing positions in the first corner mayhem, Jean-Eric Vergne found himself languishing down the order and even behind the Marussia cars. So Toro Rosso took a risk and brought him in very early on lap 17 for prime tyres with the plan being to run to the end. His midfield rivals stayed out for a further 12 laps, giving the Frenchman a massive undercut and he would eventually find himself 7th. Then it all went a bit mad for him in the final 15 laps. Anyone who follows me on Twitter might have seen me making the point that i heard Vergne shouting on the radio (on the excellent pit channel) about damage. A look at the timing screen showed me he had lost 4 seconds in the middle sector and with yellow flags out i presumed he had clouted the wall somewhere and that the team just put on some intermediates as they had nothing to lose.

 Turns out the 'damage' was simply tyre wear - the primes had fallen off the cliff after 53 laps and the one stop strategy was going to be unfeasible. So sorry for any confusion on that on Sunday for any of you on Twitter. Vergne had a 10 second gap on his nearest challenger in the laps before he started to fall away so you have to wonder whether a more conservative approach was needed once he had got track position. The big question is whether 10 laps with a bit of extra care for the sacrifice of a second for each of them would have been enough to get the extra tyre life he needed to hold on to the finish. Just having track position was enough on Sunday, as shown by the train of cars in the top 6 in the closing stages. At least Toro Rosso were bold enough to try something different and it nearly paid off for them.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

F1 on the Web

Viva F1 have all the angles covered in their preview to this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix

Monaco Grand Prix preview

Fernando Alonso shows off with some no handed donuts in a go-kart

 

The life of a Pirelli tyre is more than you think. Here's how they progress from being manufactured to being disposed of

The life of a Pirelli tyre

The Lotus preview for Monaco - including news, interviews, stats and some very nice artwork

Lotus Monaco preview

The fun and games have started in the Red Bull garage in Monte Carlo and the reigning world champion is already a victim


Williams are celebrating again after winning the prestigious gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show for their 'The Williams F1 story' piece

Williams win at flower show


Footage of the FP3 incident in Barcelona between Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher. The Mercedes driver was given a reprimand for this


Spain 2012 - Schumacher's Weekend by F1-Addict


A cool montage of F1 'Sharks' in an aquarium. Unusual but cool!

The F1 Aquarium

The European Grand Prix in Valencia hasn't been that popular since it joined the calendar in 2008. I'm not convinced whether this promotional video will help increase that or not...



Former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley on his experience of working at the Monaco Grand Prix and some of the unique challenges faced at the venue

Working at the Monaco Grand Prix

Ryan takes a look at the enforcement of the 107% rule amid recent debate over the worth of having it as a regulation

107 and a bit per cent

Compare 4 laps from Barcelona by Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel



Paul di Resta and England cricketer Graeme Swann help Kingfisher in their attempt to knock down 2012 bottles at Silverstone



Jaime Alguersuari on the challenge of Monaco, working with the BBC and on trying to return to the F1 grid

Jaime Alguersuari column