Friday, August 29, 2014

PR bollocks of the week.


Nico has had a good long think about his lack of judgement. and is so, so sorry.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Spa .. It's handbags at twenty paces !!

Right I've had a very busy weekend riding around a forest and stuff, so this is going to be short as I need a shower.

Hamilton beat Rosberg off the line, Rosberg thought he had enough room and it turned out he didn't. Though when I watched it back he jinxed back in to swipe Hamilton's rear wheel ... in my opinion.

 Whatever the truth of what happened, and Nico is the only one who really knows if he meant to hit Lewis, the pit wall was in no doubt that Rosberg had fumbled the ball spectacularly and cost the team the win. And for a very good reason, Ricky boy has now got three wins and could, if the two boys keep driving into each other, cock up the plan and win the championship. Unlikely I know, but Kimi sneaked the silverware from under the McLaren boys in 2007 because they couldn't control Hamilton and Alonso.

The end result is probably going to be a flat "No more racing now, you idiots" rule, something along the lines of Senna and Prost, the first one into the first corner is allowed to win scenario. It sucks, but there is a lot of money at stake here. After that I was kind of fast forwarding, the end looked fun, and Rosberg's move on Bottas round Blanchemont was pretty awesome.


Right so Ricciardo wins by nipping past Vettel when he made a mistake on lap three, after that I don't think we saw him again until the flag dropped. If the Mercs screw it up Danny boy will be there to collect the prize money. It all you want from your driver.

Rosberg got second and the crowds jeers. To be expected really he ruined what should have been a good race. Made up for it with the move on Bottas though, He's been around long enough in this game to know you don't need to be going wheel to wheel on the first lap, especially not your team mate. He got off lightly and put daylight between himself and Lewis in the title race, so all in all i don't think a bunch of Belgians booing him is going to upset him too much.

Bottas, Mr Number Three delivers again. I don't don't think a win was on the cards, Williams are still reacting to the cars around them, they're not forcing others to follow what they do. The cars is fast in a straight line, so Monza could be theirs for the taking.

Kimi has a whole bunch of fastest laps and looked at one stage like he was going for the win. But the engine and car just doesn't have the sustained grunt for a circuit like Spa, I guess they hoped burning a load of fuel early he'd build a big enough lead to eak out the rest of the race in front.

Vettel, continues to be out driven by Danny.

Button got beaten on the road by Kev, but the FIA stung by criticism that they had been too lenient on Ferrari for having mechanics on the grid at the cars went off, threw the book at Kev for defending a bit to vigorously. It all looked okay to me, no one got hurt and no one lost a championship after all. But yeah, Button did all right for a change, he even looked a bit feisty at the end there!

Alonso had a day to forget.

Perez was on form again, looked handy and didn't hit anything.

Kvyat does what the car is capable of on the weekend he learns he's going to be team leader next year.

Hulkenberg was tenth and looked a bit out of sorts all weekend long. I think the sheen has clearly come off him now, what a difference six months can make.

Rosberg got the fastest lap chasing down points after the nose change.

And whilst Alonso, Button Kev and Vettel where scraping it out for the minor places you might have noticed Chilton and Ericsson  tripping over each other for last place. And blow me down if Max didn't pull a blinder and sneak past Ericsson. Probably, I don;t know we didn't see it on the TV replay because nobody but us cares. Well raise a toast to Max tonight, he wasn't last and he didn't need other people to crash to achieve it.

Okay, that's your lot I'm off to have a beer and soak the dust off. 45th out of 49 teams doesn't just achieve itself you know.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The mid season review.

Right then, Let’s have a look back at the first half of the 2014 F1 season. There are two ways to look at it really, in summary.
If you’re a Ferrari fan – it’s been an awful season with rubbish cars that sound awful and dull racing.
If you’re an actual fan of F1 – it’s been a great season with some superb racing with an exciting second half in prospect.

Ranged in that Ferrari – it’s been rubbish – camp, is Luca Montezemolo, obviously, the chairman of Ferrari and self appointed (in his head) “voice of the people”. Bernie Ecclestone the president and CEO of F1 who was recently the successful defender in a case of bribery and corruption regarding some money resting in someone else’s bank account.  And finally Flavio Briatore, a disgraced former team owner, insurance salesman and owner of QPR football club.
These people have bleated on all year about how the cars “don’t sound right”, the drivers are just “racing to save fuel” and how the car manufacturers are just interested in making engines for road cars and not the racing for the fans.
The fans, however, mubbled about the sound being “A bit quiter then we were used too” then realised they could talk to the person next to them, hear the commentary and hear the sound of the drivers working the cars through the corners now.
But mostly, the fans, have been provided with fantastic racing this year. Mercedes have turned up with a championship winning car and two drivers capable of doing the job. The team in a moment of PR brilliance said, “yeah sure, they can race each other ... who else are they going to race ?” and let them get on with it.
But not just at the front, the racing throughout the field has been exceptional this year. Redbull and Ferrari are continuing where they left off in 2013, Whilst Willimas has got their act together and were making Mercedes work for the glory. McLaren after a cracking start faded fast and look to have once again lost a directional focus. Force India have picked up points and a podium but haven’t quite delivered on the promise. The back end of the grid is a sorry tale of woe though, Torro Rosso look fragile, Lotus hamstrung with a Venezuelan lunatic.  Sauber have gone backwards and Caterham can’t be far off receivership. Only Marussia have anything to smile about back there.

This season has been exciting and interesting thus far and I think the second half will be just as fantastic. The Ferrari camp can complain all it likes, but those old farts have their own agendas and care not a jot for you and I sat at home. We’re just numbers and wallets to be raided, not heart and minds to be won.  

So, in reverse constructor’s championship order, let’s start at the back with the dross

Caterham: Zero points, 9 retirements and a best place of 11th for Marcus Ericsson at Monaco.

 Well what can you say really, It’s all gone to rat shit for these boys. They fired their two previous drivers hired Kobayshi with his crowd sourced chequebook and death or glory attitude. Then signed up Ericsson as a favour to his mum I think.
Pre season testing suggested they had a car capable of more lap than the dodgy Redbull car. A quizzical eyebrow or two was cocked and the merest hint of point or two was mooted at by the team. Having pretty much sacked off last year to concentrate on the new 2014 rules, they looked like they’d got it right for a change and brought a car worthy of being described as a Formula One machine. Then the cloth covering the ramshackle facade was ripped off in front of the world as both cars failed to finish in Australia.  They finished in Malaysia just beating Max, then last in China and the pattern was set.
Their owner, Fernandez, tired of throwing good money after bad finally called it a day at Monaco where they become the record holder for the team with the most race starts without scoring a single point. He flounced off without even a backwards glance and sold the lot to a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors. They promptly fired half the work force to improve the efficiency and more importantly, their bottom line.  Those ex team personnel then promptly began legal proceedings for unfair dismissal.
So the future for Caterham racing looks shaky to say the least. I can’t see the car getting any better this year and the drivers whilst not quite hopeless are flogging a dead horse and they know it.

Edit: and then to cap it all, they’ve let Crazy Koby off for a weekend and given Andre Lotterer a drive this weekend in Spa. Now some of you will have no idea who Andre is, well he’s one of the lead drivers for Audi in their WEC program, a three times winner of Le Mans and a front runner in the Japanese Super Formula series. He’s got the chops, but why he would choose to waste his considerable talent in this dog of a car is anyone’s guess. Where this leaves Kobayashi is also anyone’s guess, apparently his seat was a bit iffy when Fernandez sold up, the team assure the press that he’s still part of the team, just making the tea instead maybe.

Sauber: Zero points, 10 retirements, two 11th place results for Sutil.

If Caterham have failed to live up to the expectation, then Sauber have failed to live up to their pedigree.  Last year they were a bit rubbish but managed 57 points, this year just finishing a race has been a struggle. Even if the car hangs together for the whole weekend, they’re relying on others to fall by the wayside to get any points. Clearly they have money issues with virtually no sponsors on the car, the Russian money seems to have dried up and Sirotkin (the Russian child prodigy) doesn’t look to be getting any seat time this year.
There was an ungly rumour going round recently that Sutil had been unceremoniously fired from unknown reasons, there was a slight pause long enough to make people think, ”maybe it is true!”. Then the team turned up with all its drivers and bluffed it out in front of the cameras, “Its all fine, no really, everyone is really happy ... for sure”.
As with Caterham, I can’t see them getting any points in the second half of the year either.

Marussia: 2 points, three retirements and a best of 9th for Bianchi in Monaco.

And those two points were well deserved. Marussia have really worked hard this year so far, with good solid driving from Bianchi, whilst Max has done what Max does best. The fact Bianchi is 16th to Max’s 21st in the championship, doesn’t really tell the whole story. Max hasn’t been blown away, well okay he has, but he’s not going to win a championship anytime soon. And he’s kept Bianchi honest at least and when the planets have aligned and the Lady luck waved her champagne glass in his direction he’s almost been passable as an F1 driver.  
The team haven’t tried to be too clever with the design of the car and have set realistic goals for the year. Caterham are comfortable beaten and Sauber don’t look like challenging them for anything. So the ninth they currently hold in the championship looks safe and it’s worth a whole shed load of cash to them. I doubt they’ll get anymore points, but you never know.

Lotus: 8 points, 8 retirements and one DNS with two 8th places for Grosjean.

The writing was on the wall last year, not paying a driver like Raikkonen after he’d got them a hatful of points and delivered a win with just stupid, it was to no one’s surprise that he walked away. Then the mastermind and team principle, Eric Boullier, was kidnapped in a dawn raid by McLaren and you just knew things couldn’t get much worse. But remarkably they did ! They signed Maldonado, despite actually knowing who he was, then quite blatantly said it was because he had a shed load of cash and that’s what they needed.
I have very, very little sympathy for Lotus, who screwed Caterham over the name of Lotus, painted the car Black and Gold in a cynical attempt to appeal to the likes of me. Then hired a driver that shouldn’t even be allowed to operate a little tikes cosy coupe unsupervised, let alone be given the keys to an F1 car.  They had it all there, a team of professional engineers and with ideas, drive and determination. They had history and pedigree to draw on and Gerard Lopez came along and prostituted the whole lot out to increase his personal portfolio and business interests. Yeah, sure, Chapman was no saint in the business department, but at least he made sure the drivers and mechanics got paid .... i think.
Anyway. Grosjean is doing what he can and Maldonado is still doing what he does. The two 8th places in Spain and Monaco for Grosjean where mostly fortuitous, and they’re going to need more luck to get any more points. The car is fragile, underpowered and needs a delicate touch. With so little money and talent left on the pitwall I can’t see too many more forays into the top ten, certainly not from Maldonado anyway.

Next the midfield

Torro Rosso: 17 point, 9 retirements with eights, nines and 10th places

Vergne and Kvyat have sort of bounced around the bottom of the top ten so far. They’ve scored 8 times between them, Vergne with those two eighth places a ninth and a tenth just edging Kvyat with his two ninths and two tenth. The car has looked fast if a touch fragile, it’ll either score or retire.
Kvyat has been something of a revelation, another driver from the Redbull driver program stable, who hasn’t disgraced himself and has appeared confident and cocksure when in front of the camera. Vergne, who I still couldn’t pick out of a line up, has done alright and according to the team, “Just needs a big result to validate his progress this year”. Which is a bit of a kick in the teeth I think, “Yeah you’ve got points and all, but they were all lucky ones, man up buddy”. He’s picked himself back up after being passed over in favour of Danny boy for the hot seat at Redbull, Kvyat has turned up and made him work for those points. I'm not sure they can move up much further than eighth place though, because they’re chasing that reliability there isn’t a chance to develop the car into anything resembling a top five car.
Then after writing all that, they go and fire the French guy. Mr Vergne is now on the side lines for 2015 as the incredible young Max Verstappen has been signed up. I didn't know he was on the Redbull development program if I'm honest (and now having read his Wikipedia page it turns out he only joined the program at the start of August ... six days later Vergne was fired and Max V was in –such is the state of F1 today). Currently in Euro F3 he looks to be doing it alright with a hand full of wins and plenty of podiums.

McLaren: 97 points, 1 retirement but a double podium in Australia is the only highlight.

It started so well; Big Ron was back on the pit wall, the preseason test started with lots of fastest laps and a car that looked like it could take the fight to the Mercedes boys. Then in Australia with a result that rather flatted the true nature of the car, they got a double podium after Danny’s Redbull was disqualified. But once again, just like last year, they lost their way and struggled to focus on making the car faster.  Eric Boullier, the new team boss after Martin Whitmarsh was “disappeared”, has talked about wading in and cracking some head together to get that focus back.
This year is a bit of a holding pattern for the team from Woking as Honda gear up in the wings to bring their new engine to the track in 2015. The Last time Honda were playing as an engine only supplier they were pretty much unbeatable, so lots of drivers are looking at McLaren and weighing up their options.
Jenson want to keep the seat, but the results and his enthusiasm have waned this year so the thinking is he’ll walk away at the end of the year, though he insists he staying for 2015. Kevin is on a one year contract and was groomed by the team to be the next Lewis, that hasn’t really worked out so his place is a little uncertain at the moment.   
There is a feeling that the Perez debacle of last year has led to picking up Kev before he was ready, as the year has gone on the team have cooled somewhat in their press releases about him. I think if Alonso was to throw his hands up in the air and walk out on Ferrari right now, McLaren would crush several team principles in the rush to sign him up. The only question would which driver they fired to make a seat available.
When a driver doesn’t feel his future is safe, he usually starts over driving things and making basic mistakes. Just look at Massa’s last few years with Ferrari, he was so paranoid about getting fired from race to race he couldn’t build up any sort of momentum. Each race was dissected and the bad bits pulled out to be waved around for all to see. McLaren are treading water at the moment, both drivers are worried about their race performance and no one is standing there and telling the team the direction the development needs to go. Though to be fair any development on the car would be wasted as it won’t really carry over to next year’s Honda powered car.
So apart from the money a championship position brings, McLaren aren’t really chasing anything this year, pride maybe, but not a lot else. They’re still a good top ten bet, but I think a top 5 or podium is maybe wishful thinking.

Force India: 98 points, 3 retirements a DNS and one podium for Perez.

Force India look to have put their off track problems behind them and have built a car that is fast on all the tracks, not just the power circuit. Perez has put that horrendous year with McLaren behind him and picked up third place in Bahrain.  And he had to work for that, whilst everyone was watching the merc boys trade paint, Perez was in a real dog fight for that last podium spot. But he’s not really replicated that result a 6th in Austria and couple of 9th. He has qualified well but failed to turn it into points, he’s just not as consistent as Hulkenberg is. Although the hulk is struggling this year when Perez is on form, there have been a couple of shaky races for the German with missed set ups and poor decision.  Not enough to drop him out of the top ten, but enough to keep him off the podium.  In fact Nico is the first driver you pretty much have to have in to top ten each race with only one retirement. Like Max, he’s should be a banker point for you. 

The Front runners.

Williams:  135 points, 4 retirements and two 2nd places for Bottas so far

Talk about a return to form, Last year they couldn’t buy points the car was so bad, not helped by having a Venezuelan hooligan drive the car into the scenery/solid objects/Perez. The car was a total dog and if it wasn’t parked up on the side of the track gentle smoking away, it was tooling around at the back of the field making the Caterhams and Marussias look respectable. It was I think their worst ever year in Formula 1 managing a total of just 5 points.
Having dumped the Renault engine at just the right moment, they’ve emerged as the second best Mercedes powered car, the teams ahead of them are the official works teams, so to be just behind them and latterly, pushing for wins is a pretty terrific job. It’s not quite a revival of Lazarus proportions, but throw a shroud over the car and you could start a cult with it.
They’ve made a few mistakes this year though, telling Massa to get out of Valtteri’s way at the second race was a bit of an own goal, and needed Rob Smedley to calm things down back at the factory. Talking of Massa, he seems to be having a bit of a renaissance with his move away from Ferrari, years of playing second fiddle to Alonso and being verbally slapped when he got in the way are now forgotten. He looks like he’s enjoying the racing again. Canada should have been a high point, but Perez weaving around the track put paid to an impressive dice rolling strategy call.

They have a zip and vim about them now, they look handy and they look like they’re taking the fight to Mercedes. They aren’t quite confident enough to go for the wins just yet, maybe by the end of the season when they’re safely ahead of McLaren and Force India they might hang it out a bit. But for now you could do worse than predict a Williams driver on the third step each race. Massa isn’t having much luck but Bottas looks like he’s coming of age.  I think they’ll really push Bottas for that first win in Rio.


Ferrari: 142 points, 1 retirement with two podiums for Fernando

I don’t suppose you remember the good old days of the 70’s and 80’s when you could almost guarantee some random Italian madness from the boys in red each season. In those days before the old man died, no driver would ever dare complain about the car, it would be career suicide. No the car was never a problem the engine the heart of the car was strong and resilient, just like the heart of a true Italian. Any problems were always due to the driver, the team personal the mechanics and pitwall team. NEVER the car, NEVER, EVER the car. That was always perfect.
Then Ross and Mickey shoes turned up and the who thing was suddenly the epitome of efficiency and military precision. If you want to win the championship, first you had to have a Ferrari and be called Michael Schumacher, if not, give up now.
But it couldn’t last forever and with the passing of the dream team into retirement and other teams, the good old days of arm waving, not communicating with each other and basic errors has crept back in. AND as Alonso demonstrated recently, you still can’t complain about the car in front of the media. 

Drivers always get misty eyed and stare off into the distance when they talk about driving for the Scuderia, that chance to say they’re driven for the oldest F1 team on the grid, with all that history and passion, apparently none of them can resist the chance. A place where these proper racing drivers are revered and admired, adored by the Tifosi. The reality is usually very different though, they like to put their eggs in just the one hot seat at Ferrari, just ask Massa, Barrichello or Eddie Irvine. If you’re not the lead driver your just there to play tail gunner an dget out of the way when told too.

Alonso is wasting his talents at Ferrari and they all know it. He missed the top seat at Redbull and he’s now missed the seat at Mercedes. There is talk of him staying at Ferrari for a couple more years, but why the hell would he want to do that? They just aren’t going to improve and they are a team in desperate need of ground up personnel rebuild. Kimi is just kicking his heals, he doesn’t like the car an di think the team have remembered why they fired him in the first place.  Oh they’ll be in the top ten, and ahead of Force India and probably Vettel. But it’s just embarrassing now.

Redbull:  219 points, 4 retirements 1 DSQ and 2 wins for Danny boy.

Who saw this then? After winter testing everyone and their dog had written off Redbull and their Renault engine as dead in the water. It was slow, thirsty and more worryingly for Redbull couldn’t complete more than a handful of laps. But in Australia, Ricciardo took the thing to the podium, and then the FIA slapped the ban hammer down on them for burning the petrol too quickly. But still no one expected a podium. Danny retired in Malaysia , then hit a rich form of podiums and top five finishes before rounding it all off with a fortuitous win in Canada.   He won in Canada because the Merc’s hit trouble, but he win in Hungary was a top draw full on well deserved victory.  He has absolutely blossomed this year as his team mate, the current F1 world champions of the last four years, has had a torrid year.
For whatever reason, Vettel has struggled this year. He clearly doesn’t like the car now it has no off throttle blown diffuser, the loss of grip to something around what the Torro Rosso had last year has knocked his confidence in the fast corners. He doesn’t commit the car the way he did for the last few years, where before he would have a clear grip advantage over the other drivers, now its more of a level playing field he’s not quite so shiny and untouchable.
To be fair to him he doesn’t have a lot more to prove, he took four championships in succession, some of them he even deserved. The last one is a bit iffy seeing as how everyone else gave up when Pirelli changed their tyres to suit the Redbull. There have been a few grumpy comments to the pit wall and a petulant “I'm not letting him past me buddy” hissy fit. But really i think he’s realised there’s no point farting against thunder and is letting Danny get on with looking ace. I think he knows he can’t catch the Mercs to there’s little point trying to race for pride, pick up the paycheck and wait for Adrian to work it all out.
Except Adrian is off to build boats and isn’t going to build a car for the German anytime soon. I will be amazed if Vettel ever wins another world championship again. In fact, baring a multiple accident, I don’t think he’ll ever win another race. His time is over.  Danny is clearly now his replacement and Verstappen or Kvyat are going to be in a Redbull in a year or two. Vettel is yesterdays news and it only took 11 races !

Mercedes:  a gazillion points, 3 retirements and nothing but wins.

Lewis or Nico are going to win the championship, that much is a given. The car is 2 seconds a lap faster than anything else. It has a bit of a brake calliper issue that can cause the KERS unit to fail at the really hot tracks. But it’s a known problem now and Mercedes will have a solution for Spa and the rest of the season. But other than that the only thing that will stop the two team mates winning every race left is human error.
To date Lewis has had all the problems; a broken spark plug in Australia, the rear brake failure in Canada and an engine fire in Hungary.   But despite that he’s still second in the championship to Nico by only 11 points. And in Hungary he went from the pit lane at the start, had an accident and still beat Nico who had been on pole, when the car is firing on all cylinders he is just unstoppable.
And its fantastic to watch, years of Vettel being handed the wins dulled the thrill of F! For many, but now two team mates have been given carte blanch to “have at it” and prove who is the best. Thi sis how championships should be won, fighting for the points, saving it when things for haywire in qualifying. Changing the way the car is driven when something goes wrong.  It’s so refreshing to have a contested championship for  a change and I have no idea who is going to win it in the end. Both of them have brought their A game to the table and either of them will deserve it at the end.
Nico, because he saved that race in Canada, when the KERS brake harvesting unit failed, he had to change his driving stile with only a laps notice. Suddenly he was something like 150BHP down and a sitting duck. Yet he brought it home second. It was, i think, his best drive to date.
And Lewis, for the drive in Hungary where it all went so wrong, the car sitting in the pit lane merrily ablaze could well have ended the title chase there and then. But the boys rebuilt the car in time for him to start the race, he spun and almost crashed on the second corner after everyone else had gone past, but then he absolutely flew round that track, he got the luck sure, but he made passes where you shouldn’t be able to pass. He attacked the circuit lap after lap and dragged himself onto the podium and stuck one to his team mate at the same time. It was possible the greatest drive I’ve ever seen. (After Nigel beating Piquet at Silverstone .. obviously).


Right, so its been a pretty spectacular year really, the Mercedes fight at the front, Ricciardo grabbing his chance with both hands, Alonso dragging yet another dog to the podium. Williams rising from the dead back to the front. The Lotus boys failing spectacularly and Force India finally joining the big boys. There has been something to watch throughout the field and plenty of positive stories to follow.
So whilst the Ferrari “it’s all crap” camp tell you it’s rubbish and boring and it all needs to change, watch Hungary and Bahrain and Canada and Austria again and tell me those weren’t classic races. This year will be remembered for the racing, for the on track action and that should be applauded for a change.  I’ve not even touched on the fact that these races are being run with a third less fuel and a greater reliance on efficiency and new power recovery technology.  That these cars are a step change in the way F1 has gone racing in the past.  

This is the start of a new golden era.  Go on, enjoy it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hungarian F1 weekend gallery.



Lady Luck and her friend the Goddess of tightened fuel lines, help the Countess of not driving on the wet white lines you idiots, home after a short weekend break in Budapest.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hamilton saves but Danny wins the day ...

It’s not often in a year I get to say this twice, but my God .. What a race that was ! I though Bahrain was going to be the highlight of the year.  But throw in a bit of moisture and stick some drivers out of position and Hungary delivers a belter of a race.

It all looked like it was going to be another dull-a-thon on Saturday when Lewis managed two thirds of a lap before his car burst into flame. He was be all over this track on Friday and Saturday morning, it looked like all he had to do was get out of bed on Sunday and he was going to walk away from Hungary with a comfortable win. But the damn thing sprung a fuel leak as he open his qualifying campaign and then rolled to a fiery stop just inside of the pit entry road.

And it just looked like “Yet more Hamilton bad luck”, as though the fickle patron saint of gamblers and daredevils had deserted him once more, Lady Luck was in the garage next door sipping champers and feasting on bratwurst. This did give a chance for the Red face loons to work up another froth of conspiracy paranoia, however. Apparently having paid enough money to bank roll a small third world dictatorship to get Lewis to come to Mercedes, they were now sabotaging their English driver in favour of the German driver!

I mean how stupid do you have to be to believe that sort of tin foil hatted nonsense? Time and again Mercedes have said the drivers are free to race and it’s all open and honest. No one is being favoured unless there is a damn good reason for it.  Mercedes aren’t stupid; they watched as Redbull and Ferrari got all that bad PR for those “Vettel/Alonso/Schumacher – is faster than you” calls.  They know the value we, the fans, place on letting the boys ‘have at it’.  So no, there was no special secret button that Toto pushed to grenade Hamilton’s engine. It was just a simple error by a mechanic who missed tightening a fuel line.

But, having to rebuild the car meant he was going to start from the pit lane, there was no car to put into park ferme, the boys were in for a long night. Joining them were the McLaren boys after Magnussen discovered the track was just that bit too wet for slicks on the final qualifying run. Rain had been threatening and only decided to turn up as the last ten drivers took to the track for the final time. Rosberg crossed the line to start his of three runs and when he got to the first corner discovered there was no grip at all. He narrowly avoided a trip to the tyre wall, as Kev turned up seconds later and wasn’t so lucky. He mashed the front of the car as it ploughed straight into the first solid object in his path.
Once that was all cleared away, Rosberg made the Mercedes pit wall sweat a bit and gave the Redbull boys three minutes of hope. Before cruising to an easy pole and what looked like an easy win on Sunday.

Except on Sunday it didn't work out quite like that. A massive rain storm dumped a swimming pool load of water on the track before the start. Cars were doing multiple pre grid laps to see where the grip was or wasn’t. Full wets or inters which way to go ? There didn’t appear to be much standing water, but the forecast was for more rain after half an hour of racing. It looked like the pit wall was going to win this race. A driver can only tell you what the track is doing under his backside at that very point in time, he has no idea if the corner he went through 1.24 minutes ago in the damp is going to have the same grip the second, third or fourth time round. His pit wall has to tell him when and if the rain is starting or stronger or if it’s clear now. A pit wall gives the driver confidence and a good call can make all the difference, as McLaren and Mercedes found out.

So it’s a wet start and the teams are expecting more rain. The red lights go out and they all get off the line cleanly, Rosberg is a bit tentative, but is soon off into the distance. Vettel doesn’t quite have the grip or the faith in the front end and is jumped by Bottas. Alonso makes his usual lightening start and is soon past Danny and Vettel.

Hamilton and Kev leave the pits after everyone has gone past and we sit back to watch Hamilton fight his way back to the top ten. Given how far ahead Rosberg is after three corners it looks like the Plucky Brits fight back is going to be the only thing worth watching.

But then the TV cuts back to the on board camera above Hamilton’s head and we have a view of the car facing the wrong way and bouncing along a guard rail .... now that’s not supposed to happen. And here we have our first “pit wall moment”. You still have to remind world champions that a car that hasn’t done its warm up lap is going to have cold brakes and tyres, it seems. So you’ve just rebuilt the car that tried to torch itself and given it to a man that has had nothing but bad luck this year. Understandably, he is going to be a bit nervous of the car don’t you think?.  Once Lewis has the thing pointing in the right direction the lads on the pit wall spent a lot of time trying to calm their driver down and reassure him that his car was fine. It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon.

Not having a long afternoon was Ericsson. Who managed to avoid hitting Maldonardo by spearing off the road and testing the battering ram on the front of his car. The tyre wall won that little encounter and the first safety car of the day was despatched to allow the marshals to clean the mess away. Unfortunately for Rosberg, Vettel and Bottas the safety car was called for just as they went past the pit entry line, as everyone else dived into the pits for new tyres, the leaders had to do one more lap before they could come in.
Just as it was all going to get started again, Grosjean forgot the golden rule. “Don’t touch the white lines when it’s been raining, you idiot” and left the queue of cars following the safety car to test how strong the front of his car was against a tyre wall, once again the tyre wall won. So we had another couple of laps behind the safety car to clear up that mess.
Which all left Button behind Danny by some strange quirk of fate, which leads to out next “pit wall moment”, as Jenson called to his pits and asked “Lads, why did you put me on inters again when the rest of them are on slicks?” the pit wall called back to say, “There’s more rain coming son, now off you go”.
Hamilton was now behind Vettel, who was following Rosberg who had a smoky rear brake as he sat behind the Torro Rosso of Vergne. “Right” we thought, “just a matter of time before the Merc’s are passed this lot and fighting for the lead”. Maybe Lady Luck was eschewing bratwurst for fish and chips for a change! Starting from the pits then an accident at the second corner and now just two places behind his pole starting team mate, aye aye, fireworks ahoy.

Except the Mercs didn't seem to be able catch or let alone pass the cars in front of them. Try as he might, Lewis was stuck behind Vettel and Rosberg just wasn’t close enough to Vergne. Lap after lap saw them concertina up and then drift apart on the start finish line.

Up the front Jensen’s “inters experiment” lasted one lap before the rest of the field streamed past him as the pit wall was forced to concede that, “no, no there’s no more rain coming today Jenson ... sorry”.
Things looked static for a bit with Danny leading Massa, then the wily old fox Alonso, Vergne doing a great job, Rosberg not doing any sort of job, Vettel throwing it around like it was his first 1.2 ltr low insurance hot hatch and Hamilton worrying about how hot his arse was getting.

Time for Perez to step up to the mark and test his car against a wall, yes he too forgot the golden “Wet white lines, you idiot” rule and smeared the front of his car down the pit wall this time. Time for more safety car fun and yet another important “pit wall moment”. With more than half the race to go, do you call the boys in for hard tyres and get them to the end ? or go softs and make it two stops to the flag ?

Danny came in for softs and two stops, Massa went for the hard tyres and one stop the others stayed out and held their cards close to their chests. Alonso now led from Vergne who must have got a nose bleed that high up the pack.  Hamilton sensing something could be on here and damn it wasn’t it his turn for some luck was on a roll. Rosberg sick of being “stuck” behind Vergne, pitted and was followed in by Vettel who didn't have much rubber left. Lewis caught Vergne and in the biggest ballsiest move of the championship so far, went past him exactly the way Nico hadn’t done. The win could definitely be on here, come on Lady Luck.
Alonso pitted, followed by Hamilton a lap later and Ricciardo was back in the lead. When it all shock out Hamilton on the hard tyres was looking to go to the end and Rosberg was behind him on soft rubber and needed to get past. And here is our last “pit wall moment” of the day. Nico needed to get past to gain enough time for his last pit stop. Lewis didn't have the time to slow down to let him past. Nico, suddenly learnt that “fumbling a corner in Monaco” can actually have repercussions, it is remembered and good mates can bare a grudge.

Nico: “Why isn’t he letting me past?”

Pit Wall: “Lewis, get out of his way”

Lewis: “Sorry, you’re break kkereppppaaaoowowowow ing up there, what?”

N: “He’s in my way still, what gives?”

PW: “Lewis, Nico is on a different strategy, let him past on the straight.. okay?.”

L: “Sorry, did you say two Bombay duck curries and a pint of carling?!?!?!?!!11?!”!!!”

N: “SIR .....wwwwwwhy is hheeeeee stilllll in myyyyy wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!”

L: “well alright, if he gets closer I’ll let him past”

 N: “Sssiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr waaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”

PW: “Well we told him and he said you’re not close enough and you shouldn’t have been mean to him in Monaco and you didn't invite him to your wedding and he’s pretty pissed off about that”

N: “I told him, there weren’t enough chairs at the registry office to invite him and Nicole”

PW: ” Well we told you to in invite him and now this has happened, so it’s your own fault really. Look hang back a bit, and wait till you get the next set of tyres, you can over take him at the end .. okay”

N: “Well okay .. But I'm going to be slightly grumpy about this and look a bit perplexed when I explain it all to the BBC later, during which I shall make passive aggressive comments about being fair and playing for the team etc etc etc etc”

hmmm maybe I should have found more seats .....

So Nico dropped back and left Alonso, Hamilton and a fast approaching Ricciardo to duke it out. And what a finale it was! I think races should be won with overtaking moves, chess games of who’s going to pit last are fine, but there’s is just nothing like three cars actually fighting for the win. This being Hungary it looked like Alonso in the lead would be able to hold off Lewis and Danny, he’s got the smarts, knows how to win a race and isn’t going to get flustered by cars weaving around behind him. But Danny is a force of nature right now and now is a good time to put his season into some sort of context.

He has never driven a good car, okay, the Torro Rosso was always a bit of a second hand parts bin special which had some good days but mostly was there to make up the numbers. Danny did alright but didn’t really impress me that much.  So this car, this 2014 Redbull is the best car he has ever driven. And on the flip side and very importantly it’s the worst car Vettel has driven in four years.  So whilst Vettel is struggling to get comfortable in the car, to find a rhythm or feel the car alive under him, Danny is amazed at how much better this car is in his experience.

So Danny is on fire (not in a Hamilton way), he’s got a car under him that responds to his inputs, is being improved race after race and he’s loving it. No one was going to stop the grinning fool today, he was unstoppable, and he was unbeatable. Straight past Hamilton, whose tyres suddenly didn't look quite so resilient, up to Alonso and bang, up the inside, turn one thank you and goodbye. Job done.
Hamilton found himself for a second week following a car that wasn’t going to let him past for a better podium spot. Except this time Nico was behind him and on a charge. The German caught his team mate with a handful of laps to go and it looked like only a matter of time before he stole the podium off the plucky Brit. Lady luck was back on the German sausage it seemed. But Lewis has been robbed of points too often this year and this time he wasn’t giving up. As they began the last lap Lewis got a tank slapper out of turn one and it looked all over, Nico went to the outside to get track position through turn two for the pass into three, Lewis brakes as late as he dared and ran Nico to the outside of the track and for a split second it looked like we were going to end up with two silver cars smeared down the Armco and a proper handbags on the apex fight !!!!! But Nico, thinking of the points lead no doubt, backed out at the very last second and left Lewis to take the final podium spot.
Hamilton did have the good grace to look like he hadn't enjoyed beating his team mate as he sprayed the champagne around at the end. Whilst Nico got to look wistfully at the cameras and be slightly perplex at the various post race interviews. Win win really for those two. Nico is still in the lead of the championship and Lewis has Lady Luck back on side.

Gosh that was long wasn’t it ... right I have a bag to pack for my holiday so the next bit is quick.

Ricciardo won and that was probably the best drive I’ve seen from him. He had a plan, stuck to the plan and it paid off. He didn’t try and second guess what everyone else was doing, he just drove what he had to the best of his abilities and he won. Well done him.

Alonso was second and again thoroughly deserved that result. He doesn’t have the best car but he knows how to bring sub standard machinery home when the opportunity presents itself.

Hamilton was third with a drive from the pit lane and an accident on the first lap. Just think what he could do if he didn't have a problem in qualifying or a car that broke down. He deserved this as it was yet another example of how you should win championships, never give up, never settle for the points and never wait for the pit stops to pass the other cars, get out there and drive it like you stole it! By God I love him

Nico was fourth and pretty much got owned today, he should have tried harder to pass Vergne, yes okay he was unlucky with first safety car, but Lewis showed the car could overtake anywhere, why couldn’t Nico do it ?

Massa was fifth and another victim of a poor pit call, they out him on hard tyres to get to the end but far too early, he had to make a late call to the pits for fresh rubber and didn't have the fight to make it work. Still he’s finished a race at last so that’ll give him some confidence.

Kimi had a nightmare qualifying run, failing to make it out of Q1 through idiocy rather anything he did. His pit wall team didn’t think they had anything to worry about when Maldonardo and Hamilton stopped before the action had started, so Kimi did one run and waited for the next session. Except Bianci of all people suddenly remembered what the loud pedal was for and out qualified the stationary Ferrari to move into Q2. There were a few vague shrugs and Kimi’s engineer picked up the phone to offer Luca his bollocks on a plate.
So after all that to make it into the top ten and sixth place is something of a save. Mostly because of the safety cars and a bit of luck, but he didn't mess it up and gets a good result in the end. I don’t think it’s going to do him much good in the end though, the word is Bianci is a nailed on certainty for 2015 and Kimi is going to be selling ice cream on Monaco harbour next summer.  

Vettel was seventh in the end and I'm not sure why. I think it was because of the first safety car or because he doesn’t actually have any talent. He certainly didn’t look like he was enjoying the ride when Hamilton was behind him, and seem mighty relieved to get out of the car at the end. My personal highlight was seeing his face when they came to do the team photo call at the end for Danny’s victory. No finger waving to be seen for a thousand miles and a “no, I'm going to sit way back over here behind my engineers and not next to the new golden boy thank you matey” attitude. 
Humility seems to just about suit him. Okay, to be fair there were no toys out of the pram tantruming this week and he’s not flouncing around as much as he could do. And you don’t win four championships with no talent. But Ricky boy has got two wins now and Vettel hasn’t looked close to that this year so far. Maybe he praying Pirelli will change their tyres again and he can win all the remaining races like normal.

Have we got time to sign Kimi ?

Bottas was definably a victim of the first safety car in eighth. The car looked okay with the new updates, but seemed to struggle on the tight stuff. They’ll have better luck in Spa and Monza.

Vergne was ninth and on merit I think. He drove away from Rosberg who might have had a brake calliper issue, but the Torro Rosso driver didn’t balls it up and delivered about what the car is capable of. He and Kvyat can usually be found back here so it’s a result really.

And Tenth was Button, who was a victim of the pit wall spending too much time looking at the weather channel and not enough looking at the sky or the people around them. I'm pretty sure he wasn’t going to win anything, but a top five was on the cards with a bit more actual thought. He did what he could with the cards dealt to him, the strategy team messed this one up for him.    

Okay.

Rosberg got the fastest lap chasing down the proper racing drivers and still failed to get a podium.

Hey hey hey ... look who it is .. Yup it’s that puppy dog grin and the happy go lucky attitude. Ruffle his hair and give him a treat, Max is dead last yet again! He’s like a five point machine for us. We should send him a thank you card at the end of the year.

What's the right pedal for again ?


Okay, I'm off on holiday and I might write a midterm report whilst I'm sipping red win and floating down the Canal Du Midi ... or not.
Part two of this fascinating 2014 championship starts at the end of August with the Belgian GP at Spa. Until then, go out and get some sun, its lovely out there people.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Its a slow news week...

Ok race fans, its a fast turn around and then everyone's on holiday for a month.

With these back to back effort there isn't usually enough time for any real news to be generated, everyone is either off rebuilding the car (Torro Rosso) or explaining to their drivers why the car is still, after all this time, shit  (Sauber, Torro Rosso, Lotus, Caterham, Marussia, Lotus and ... well yes Ferrari).

In no particular order;

 The red face loon keyboard warriors got some satisfaction when it emerged that the FIA had in fact, reminded all the drivers at the German GP that they should come back onto the circuit "safely". Presumably by getting out of the car, swapping insurance details with any other parties, getting a couple of eyewitness statements from the marshals, checking that the car is still in good working order and road legal and then carefully checking there are no obstacles in their way... or bloody great drainage ditches. . Before signalling and rejoining when safe to do so. The rumour that Maldonado was told to "Just stop!" are almost certainly untrue.

Then Bernie said, "Think before you drive "

Hopefully the well meaning but muddleheaded red faced loons will now shut up and go away.

Eric Boullier has stuck the knife into Massa this week, pointing out to anyone within earshot that the FIA were only investigating the Williams driver after the first corner incident and not his boy Kev. Magnussen is at that delicate stage now where he hasn't really impressed that much and next years contracts are being negotiated.  So his confidence is paper thin and Massa taking time out from barking at moving traffic to tell the media that Kev is a dangerous driver that shouldn't be anywhere near a race car, could ruin his career before it really gets stated.
 Which all plays back into the way Stewart racing treated his father. There was a talent that was ready to break into the top echelon  and suddenly Jackie Stewart 40 years since he'd sat in a racing car, is taking Jan round a Oulton Park in Ford Focus teaching him to drive. It was a pretty disgraceful way to humiliate a genuinely nice guy who was struggling with a dog of a car.
So, anyway, its nice of Eric to stand up for his boy and point out to Massa that he was the one investigated and in the end no one got a penalty because it was just a racing accident. Williams have yet to defend their boy, you will notice.

Talking of Williams, they have a big old update for Hungary. Lots of new sparkly bits for Massa to smear down the road. The perception is that they have a low down force package at the moment which means they have a nice high top speed, but are losing time in the slow corners. Which is what Hungary pretty much is. So this update, whilst not "Hungarian specific", is with these twisty circuit in mind.
 They weren't expecting to do so well in Germany, yet made the podium with ease. Can they do it again here? I'm pretty confident one of them will smelling of champagne come Sunday evening.

 Not confident in any way shape or form, Ferrari. Alonso has been muttering under his breath to friendly ears that he is "yet to be convinced about next years plans" whether this is just a play for a better contract or an actual broadside is anyone's guess. Experienced Ferrari watchers will recognise this as the standard preliminary contract negotiations dance where the talent makes disparaging comments about the forthcoming car. Whilst the team claim they know what the problems are and its all in hand, "oh and shouldn't the talent be concentrating on driving this years car better than bad mouthing next years ?"
 The fact Kimi has stop rummaging around the fridge for ice creams to stick his head out and say the same sort of things, suggest that neither of them are impressed in the slightest and both will be somewhere else in 2015.  

So then, this weekend ...

... Can Hamilton just catch a break and win ? I think he's starting to feel like he has to drive that little bit harder to catch Nico, rather than sit back and let it all come to him, he's pushing the limits and its causing things to fail, mistakes to creep in and accidents to happen. Don't get me wrong, it makes for entertaining viewing, I'd rather this than Webber being told he wasn't to race Vettel for race after race. But Nico is just not having any "bad luck", the random failures and dicey pit calls. apart from Britain he's either won or come second, no one has that sort of luck naturally !
  Well alright Prost had that sort of luck in 1988 when he and Senna won everything apart from the Italian GP. Even then Senna took the title because you couldn't count all your results for some strange reason. But its rare to see nothing but the top two steps all season long. So you know... it has to end soon.

So, its a tight and twisty place the Hungaroring, it doesn't get much use for the rest of the year so its pretty dusty until about mid way through the race on Sunday. Its usually described as Monaco, without the charm.
Its also very hot, and which car has proved unreliable in hot weather ... Those silver cars. So expect to see a lot of extra cooling vents all over the cars this weekend.

Right I have a dishwasher to empty so i shall bid you adjure and see you Sunday for the race.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

What ... Massa crashed again you say !!!!

Well that was a pretty good race, lots of stuff to keep you entertained. But really, you were watching Hamilton weren’t you. Firstly just how fast is that Merc when it’s being driven on the ragged edge? And secondly, if you want a driver to show you what the best car in the field can really do, you’d choose Lewis every time.

Rosberg didn’t really have much to do, and the midfield had its usual battle. Lewis whipped on through like a hot knife through butter. I'm not even sure how he did it, one minute they were clearing Massa away as usual and the next he was behind Rosberg. Brilliant stuff.

And the removal of the FRIC suspension systems didn't appear to make much difference. After the blisteringly hot Friday and Saturdays, the team had set the cars up for a wet race but when that didn't materialise; they were left with over steery cars which no amount of clever suspension would sort out.
Although the word is that Lotus was the big loser in all the hoo harr. Not that you would have noticed, Grosjean trundled to a stop at about half distance and Maldonardo got as high as 10th at one point. So the loss didn’t seem to make all that much difference in the end.

Anyway the result.

1. Rosberg: You can’t really complain about Nico here, he did what Vettel did last year. Put it on pole and cruise to the line, job done. Yet another win and takes him further away from Lewis again. He’s going to be tough to stop isn’t he ?

2. Bottas: Well looky here! It’s young Valtteri on the podium again, whilst his more experienced team mate is left to catch the early flight home. Not that Massa really had any say in his retirement yet again. But Bottas is really turning into a proper little racer here, the last 10 laps odd with Hamilton storming up behind him, were great to watch. He knew it was going to come down to who had looked after his tyres the best. He could have burnt out the grip trying to stay ahead as Lewis chased him down but he kept his head and let the Merc driver get close.  Then he just defended his line and didn’t do anything stupid. This is pretty much the first rule of being a good driver.

3. Hamilton: third is a real save here. He hit that wall hard on Saturday, he knew as it locked up it was only going into the tyre wall, he had the presence of mind take his hands off the wheel and brace for the impact. But even so he was winded when the dust settled and looked pretty shaken. Then the car needed a new gearbox and so he started way back in 20th place.  Getting back to the front of the race took balls and skill. Don’t think that just because he has one of the two best cars that he could breeze up to the podium. He had to make proper racing moves to deliver the result, the passes on Kimi, and Alonso top draw stuff, the fight with Danny boy and the midfield was enthralling. The fumbled move past Jenson, well, was not so top draw. Then he had to change strategy half way through the race from a two stopper to a four stint race after the tangle with Button increased the tyre wear rate.
So that was a full on, committed points saving afternoons drive. And the reason I think he’s one of the greats. The clash with Button only underlines how good he is because he apologised to button and still banged in the fastest laps of the race. He never gave up, but knew Bottas was going to be a pass too far. Take as many points as you can get and don’t risk it all passing a driver committed to getting more points than you. Bottas isn’t fighting for a world championship, so there was no point fighting with tyres well past their best.

4. Vettel: Hey, Vettel is still driving an F1 car, who knew !! He didn’t whinge too much this week and showed his team mate the way home for once. Maybe this will be the turnaround in form he’s looking for, or more probably a blip in an unremarkable year.

5. Alonso: Still brilliant, in an underachieving outclassed car, he’s delivering the points and keeping the name of Ferrari at the front (ish) of the field. He’s wasting his talents in Italy, he just has to go to another team next year.  

6. Ricciardo: Got caught up in the first lap melee and had to join Hamilton driving back through the field, which he did with almost as much style as the Merc driver. I have to admit here that I have really changed my opinion of the happy Ozzy driver. He really is the real deal and is not, as I predicted, going to get fired before the end of the season. No at this rate he’s going to the team leader pretty soon. It’s almost a shame he’s in the Redbull actually, because he’s not going to be allowed to be the team leader is he. Old grumpy chops is always going to get the nod round these parts.  But he’s done enough to justified his elevation to the big team.

7. Hulkenberg: Back on track with a ....... hey look, a seventh just like I predicted last week. See I don’t just make this rubbish up on the spear of the moment as the red wine takes me you know. No,  there is some, well very little to be honest, but some thought that goes into this. Anyway, the banning of FRIC didn’t appear to hurt them too much, no more than anyone else it would seem.

8. Button: Week after week he gets the car to the sharp end, than the tyres go off and he gets passed by car after car. It must be soul destroying for the old boy.

9. Magnussen: seems to have got his shit together at last and remembered what his actual job title is. There was some proper racing driver stuff this weekend and he took Massa out for good measure. I'm not sure, but I think punting Massa off a circuit around the world is some sort of ‘Racing driver’s rites of passage thing’? Alonso’s had a pop, Hamilton spent a year doing it, Schumacher must have knocked him off. I'm sure if I could be bothered to go and look it up, every world champion of the last ten years must have knocked Massa of the track at some point, and then been blamed for the accident by the Brazilian.  He’s like a magnet for good drivers to test their metal against. Undoubtedly it was “yet another” racing incident involving Massa and there wasn’t really any blame to be apportioned, but it’s another achievement unlocked by Kev to add to the CV


10. Perez: yeah, yeah well done I suppose.

Ericsson is this week’s hopeless arse in last place, he started in the pit lane for some reason or other I couldn’t be bothered to look up and pretty much stayed there all race. He couldn’t even beat Max, how rubbish is that. I suppose ... no actually, well done to the Caterham for getting the cars and team there this weekend. From what I’ve read the new owners have gone in and decimated the work force and told them to pull their socks up. Which I think is pretty heartless, moral is going to be at rock bottom for a team that has disappointed and failed at pretty much every turn this year. So the simple act of turning up for a cause they must know is hopeless should, I think, be applauded. Whilst flicking the v’s at the evil new management, give them the money and tools to do the job, don’t just halve the work force and tell them how shit they are.  


Right Hungary next week and i might to a mid season report, if i can find the time.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Germany, for FRIC sake, now what?


Hello all how are you?


Right, sorry I didn’t write up the British GP, there were a couple of points to talk about weren’t there. Chief of which was the social media world going off in a collective bloat of self-righteous indignation over Kimi’s “accident”. Great were the number of tea cups that must have trembled as ‘AngryLad343 of Whitstable’ took to the internet and twitter to rant at anyone that happened to be passing by. “Kimi was a disgrace to the profession of driving and ought to be made to sit on the naughty step for at least the next six months” they all raged.
 

Right, so Kimi leaves the circuit to avoid hitting the other back markers, perfectly acceptable. Big crash or a bit of off roading, easy choice really. Then he re-joined the circuit and carried on, except he didn’t see the rain gully which pitched the car 3 foot in the air and delivered him to the nearest wall. The red faced loons would have it that Kimi failed to re-join the track in a safe manner. He should have slowed down (which, the FIA pointed out, he did do) and he should have avoided the gully!
 
Taking an unconventional racing line there lad
 

Now I don’t know how many replays you watched in the hour it took to fix the barrier the Ferrari had bounced off. But from the TV camera vantage point two foot above Kimi’s head, I failed to spot the gully in the slow mo replay. Run it at full speed and the car is in the air before you realise he’s off the track. Added to the fact he was looking to his left to see if was safe to get back on track and he didn’t stand a chance.
 

The FIA said, “Well, he was just doing what all the drivers would have done. Re-join the race and get on with things. So … we don’t see any problem there”. Then I suspect they went to the circuit owners and had a word about tyre walls in front of exposed barriers and maybe covering up some of those rain gullies. “No harm, no foul and all that” they said, “Yes it was a shame that Massa had been taken out and Max was lucky to be alive. But really… it was just a first lap racing accident, caused by no one expecting a car to go off there”. Trotted out the old favourite “lessons will be learned”, and headed back inside for another round of pink gins.
 

But these days, the keyboard warriors are never happy with a shrug and a logical conclusion. So spent several days dissecting the FIA’s words and reaching the conclusion that Kimi was in fact a monster, a danger to everyone including himself and they could do a better job anyway.  But by then, everyone who hadn’t built themselves into a towering rage of self-importance had wondered off to discuss the FRIC problem.
 
A red faced loon recently.
 
  
FRIC or Front Rear InterConnected suspension, is the new mass damper system to be banned. Back in 2006 Renault had the best car by a country mile and Alonso was walking away with the title. So Ferrari, in a very public hissy fit, threw all its toys out of the pram and complained about this new-fangled mass damper system the Renault had been using for a number of years. The FIA shrugged, rolled its eyes to heaven, picked up the toys and told Renault that its clever little system was a moving aero dynamic device and thus now all of a sudden, illegal.  No amount of pointing out that it had been fine for the last year or so made any difference. Ferrari were suddenly a lot closer to the Renaults and only narrowly missed stealing the title that year.


Jump forward to 2014 and Mercedes have the best car by a country mile, Ferrari are being beaten and Luca is throwing toys, blankets, milk bottles, dummy and FIA rule book out of the pram … do you see a pattern here ? This time it’s interconnected suspension. Which allows the car to control the ride height in and out of corners and improves the stability of the car when its braking, it’s been a staple part of F1 cars for at least three years. Redbull perfected it a few years back and with the blown diffuser delivered four world championships. Pretty much every team has some sort or FRIC system which was why there were so many raised eyebrows when the FIA said it was banning the system. Once again under the catch all “It’s a moving aero device” rule. It’s believed that the Mercedes and Force India systems were the best, worth half a second or so per lap.

 At first there was much throwing up of hands and “Mon due” comments. So the FIA said .. “oh alright, from NEXT year it’s banned, BUT only if you can all agree on the plan”.  But then McLaren of all people said, “Well, if it’s illegal we’ll turn ours off and protest any team that runs a system in Germany ….”. Which caught everyone on the hop. Mercedes, just to prove how cool they were said, “Ya, vee vill do ze same ya. Bring it on svinehonts”. And Redbull figured that nothing else was working for Vettel so they might as well give it a go. With those three playing brinkmanship the rest of the teams had to follow suit.
 

Will it make a difference ? Well to Mercedes probably not, they’ve got a good two second advantage despite the suspension, so I think baring accidents they’re nailed on for the win this weekend. As for the rest of them, it’s hard to tell. McLaren obviously had no faith in their system so they’ll be much the same as before. Redbull were happy to turn theirs off so still best of the rest. Williams and Force India will probably be the big losers this weekend, they had a package that was delivering consistent result and when you mess with a successful package it can take time to get it all back on song.
 

But what about Ferrari ? … well who knows. They continue to implode as the silly season for drivers starts in earnest. Rosberg has just signed on the dotted with Mercedes for another three years and Lewis isn’t going to leave a winning team anytime soon. Danny boy has impressed everyone at Redbull so he’s safe and Vettel, knows no one else would put up with is questionable attitude to team orders. Which leaves Ferrari the last of the big boys right now with two drivers that don’t appear to want to get in the car, let alone race till the end of the season.

 There are so many rumours flying around Alonso at the moment. A seat at McLaren is his for the taking, lead driver in a new Ferrari Le Mans LMP1 squad, Williams to fire Massa and replace him with the Spaniard. He was very vocal about the short comings of the red car at the start of the season, for which he got a very public slap from Luca, since then he’s kept it pretty quiet. But the body language speaks volumes.  Luca Di Montezemolo is kicking up a fuss about how F1 is rubbish now and the cars sound rubbish and the points are rubbish and the FIA are rubbish and is going to left to him to sort it all out. No mention of sorting his own team out you’ll notice, its everyone else’s fault. Domenicalli was the glue that was holding it all together for the last few years and now he’s gone, it is all just falling apart.

 Personally I think Alonso will hang on at Ferrari for another year and then go the LMP1 to Le Mans route. Any driver worth his salt knows the greats have to have that on their CV, Webbers shown him the exit strategy and its now just a question of whether Ferrari  builds him a car or he joins Porsche. Though Nissan are coming to the party next year and they need a whole bunch of hot shoes with nothing to really prove. How about a development year with Nissan in the WEC, sound plausible ? Its sounds more plausible than Ferrari building a winning F1 car next year.

  

So this weekend then … Mercedes yes, Redbull with Danny, Bottas is on a roll so top five at least. McLaren might surprise. Hulkenbuerg is pretty much nailed to fifth and sixth, is Button is on form the Hulk will be seventh. Alonso will haul the dying beast into the top ten and Torro Rosso will make the numbers up.

 

Down the back, Caterham will be last, the carcass has been reanimated and a new troop of idiots parachuted onto the pit wall. Only Sauber will keep them company with lots of rumours from the foreign press that Sutil has been fired. There’s been no official statement about this as yet so it’ll be interesting to see who turns up in grey on Friday.  Max continues to be rubbish but Bianchi is being linked with Kimi’s seat for next year, so he’s doing everything he can to look cool and Italian.

 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's all about the spectacle apparently.

The British GP this weekend is going to have to be pretty special.

The Tour de France kicks off in Leeds on Saturday with Cav tipped to go for the stage win and take the yellow jersey around Britain, before the big boys start playing for keeps.
Murray ‘could’ be in the Wimbledon final on Sunday, well you never know.
Further afield, the World Cup hits the quarter final stages. Brazil aim to beat Columbia to keep the Samba party going. The Dutch look to step on the plucky Costa Ricans. Both should be exciting games.

Whilst over in France the Classic Le Mans 24 hours starts on Friday and that’s where I’m going to be.



For pretty much the price of admission to the British GP this year, I can go to France, eat and drink to excess and watch classic racing machinery being thrashed around. Imagine Glastonbury, but with more cars and about the same amount of mud. Whilst the Goodwood Classic Revival can certainly lay claim to being the absolute pinnacle of “po-faced old duffers looking under bonnets at the oily bits, and sneering at the lower classes”. The Le Mans Classic is now the largest classic car festival in Europe and takes a much more relaxed attitude to the like of me. Getting all sweaty under the collar looking at a 1929 Bentley speed 6 or a 1970 Porsche 917 in Gulf colours, is practically encouraged.



Le Mans does Classic racing so much better than Goodwood which wants you to dress like an effete Oxbridge undergrad, stuff teddy bear and all. You can’t move for Arran sweaters tide loosely around shoulders and battered straw boaters being lazily tipped to posh totty. Actual racing at Goodwood is reserved for the unwashed masses on the far side of the circuit, “The terrible oiks who don’t have a scrap of tweed between them!!!”

Le Mans doesn’t suffer from any of that corporate class snobbery; no, you can wander around, dress the way you want, taking pictures and drinking red wine to your heart’s content. And there is simply nothing better than watching the sort of machinery that would kill a man in the blink of an eye, that frisson of danger that comes from knowing some of these cars were considered the most dangerous ever made. These days it’s all a lot safer of course, far fewer things to hit and better fire protection but these are the turbo spitting, brake squalling “throw all the petrol in the world at the engine and give me MORE POWER mmmwwwahahahahahahaha” cars.

But enough having fun, we have a championship to follow.

So, back to Formula one and the circus rolls into Blighty. Home of the most knowledgeable fans etc etc.

It’s been a busy old time for some teams as they try to find that extra tenth to beat the teams around them. Whilst Mercedes sail off in to the distance Ferrari, Williams, Redbull and Force India are having a right ding dong battle to be the best of the rest.

The fight for the places just behind the podium is quite exciting, Redbull who had a bit of a stuttering start, finally got the ball in play but then seem to have dropped it spectacularly in Austria. Horner coming out with a tirade of abuse for Renault and their underpowered engine was pure pantomime. After four years of nothing but post-race Champagne for tea, they’re scratching around for points from their world champion driver as the new boy impresses everyone. That and Newey swapping his headphones for a captain’s cap and deck shoes, suddenly the Redbull management is getting visibly edgy. Even Dietrich Mateschitz the owner of Redbull racing had a pop at Renault in the following days “bad for Renault and bad for Redbull” he blasted. The sense of entitlement is astounding!
Williams meanwhile, are going from strength to strength. Not winning mind, but the days of a dangerous Venezuelan smearing the car down yet another wall/competitor seem to have gone. The car is fast on the straight stuff and out of corners, they lucked into a front row lockout in Austria when Mercedes fumbled the ball and had the measure of the silver cars until cold hard pragmatism got in the way of a good fight. They even have a super-sub in the wings that will get her first proper try out of the season at Silverstone.

At long last Susie Wolff will be taking part in the Friday free practice session this weekend and it will be interesting to see how she goes, the car is clearly top 5 material in the right hands so a result in the top ten is expected. Yes I know Friday really means nothing. But Mrs Wolff is the first women in 20 years to get a shot at playing with the big boys and Maldonado, you might argue this is all a sop to Toto, a good bit of PR, and you’d be right. But this isn’t some wet behind the ears F3 also ran with a shed full of cash and there is talk of maybe a full weekend of fun later in the season, a good result here might just seal the deal.

Force India has a bit of a problem, the hulk has lost his mojo and Perez is turning into a born again racer. He’s clearly put the failure of last year with McLaren behind him and is showing his much more fancied team mate a clean pair of Pirellis finest. The team is now in a three way fight with Ferrari and Williams for that third spot in the championship which is worth and awful lot of money. It’s taken them a long time to get to this stage and they need the Hulk to pull himself together and start to drive it like he stole it again.  Otherwise I’ll have to start liking Perez.... and that’s just not happening!


As predicted by pretty much everyone, Fernandez looks like he’s selling up his share of Caterham to some faceless corporate idiots. As usual they will try and make a fast buck out of the team, claim they are investing in the future, strip it of all its assets and disappear in six months or so. Faceless mega corps care nothing for the sport only the cash returns they think they’ll make. At this point in time there is no word from anyone as to what is happening, there are even a few ugly rumours going round that the boys and girls in green might not turn up to Silverstone, always a worrying development. Let’s be honest though, it has been a dismal failure from Caterham after pretty much skipping last year to concentrate on bringing a top ten car to the game in 2014. Yet they are now further behind than before. Testing had them knocking on the door of acceptability … almost half way through the season and they are now floundering around at the garden gate, trying to fight off the randy dog next door which is trying to hump their leg with a desperate rabid frenzy. Faces behind the windows stare out in pure contempt.

Things at McLaren are also not too rosy.  Big Bad Ron has told button to get his shit together and get on with being a racing driver, which seems a bit harsh seeing as he’s just lost his father! But if you want a shoulder to cry on and a manly hug to chase the dark clouds away Ron Dennis isn’t your man.

No, if you want love and cuddles you want to be down at Mercedes where Lauda has been wondering around telling everyone that “Lewis isn’t cracking up, he’s fine”. Despite no one suggesting he was or it even crossing their minds. Yeah sure he’s been beaten in the last three races and yeah sure he’s a win behind Nico now, but he’s not lost the plot. He’s regrouping, getting ready to blow Nico away ... any ... second .... nearly .... in ... a.... moment .... Okay no one is panicking yet ... okay.

"must win must win must win must don't listen to the voices must win must win"

The FIA have been quiet recently and that’s always a worry. So it is with very little surprise that they have popped up this week with another top draw “What the actually Baggins are they up to this time” shocker.
Apparently it’s too difficult for the “fans” to follow the restarts of races that have been following a safety car for any length of time. All that, “pace car peeling off and the drivers getting on with racing” was confusing the corporate suits in the hospitality units. One minute they were ordering another pink gin as the cars tooled around and the marshals cleared up Maldonado’s latest accident. And the next the cars were racing again and no one had told them. So from next year .... and you’re going to love this ... the cars will stop on the grid after the safety car has peeled off ... yes, line up on the grid, in the order they were in ... .and here’s the best bit ....... restart the race. Brilliant ... simply brilliant.

No.

I have no idea why, either!

They claim it’s something to do with safety and making a show of it and some other irrelevant bollocks. Bearing in mind this is after all the back markers have been waved through, which is another two laps of dullness. But I'm sorry there is just no need for this is there? It’d a stupid pointless waste of time, all it’s going to do is increase the likelihood of yet another safety car when whatever remaining Caterham grenades itself into turn two. Or Massa drives into the back of Perez again.


Bunch of arse, it really is, double pointer finalise and standing restarts.

Credibility that way ... Morals that way.

Right okay enough. This weekend, well Lewis is all pumped up working himself into a lather of expectation.  After he was robbed of the win last year he’s out for revenge and he’s due a bit of luck, except Nico is absolutely on top of his game right now and doing a phenomenal job.  
But Austria showed, Mercedes aren’t quite so far ahead anymore. The Williams was there on pace and maybe if they’d pushed it a bit more might have sneaked the win. The Redbulls were right on their tale in Canada, a very similar circuit to Silverstone. It might not be quite so cut and dried this time.

Well the heart says Lewis, Nico and Button on the podium. The head says Nico, Lewis and either Williams.

Alonso and probably Perez followed by Danny boy and a McLaren, Button hopefully. Where will Vettel be I wonder, top ten or will something else happen to him?

At the back, Sauber and Lotus will struggle to beat the Marussia’s and Caterham, if they turn up, will be last.

Fastest lap; Hamilton, to either salvage pride or nail the point home in front of an adoring crowd.

   

The results will be a little late I'm afraid as I will be in France over the weekend so won’t see the race until Monday evening.  So until then good luck and enjoy the race.