Sunday, 19 April 2015

Blank blank blank ..... red wine

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah .................. nope, I'm struggling to think of anything interesting to write about that. How would you describe it then ..
Perfunctory.
Workman like.
Ordinary
Routine, perhaps ?
No it was just dull. Oh it was and you know it was deep down inside. Hamilton went out, dominated all weekend and Nico tried his hardest to look he had some bones. Vettel fumbled around for some talent and Kimi reminded us all how good he used to be.

I don’t want to bang on about it here, but the WEC race at Silverstone .. No wait, the entire weekends racing at Silverstone last week was some of the most amazing racing I’ve seen in years. F1 has lost the point of racing, its blank, sterile ... its androgyny write large. Desperately wanting to be interesting, it needs your attentions but it is too coy to flirt with you or show you the goods behind the velvet curtain. It wants to lead you on this interesting adventure and tell daring tales, stand in the moon lit forest glade, howling at the moon as the burning embers spark and scatter into the dark abyss.  

But we’re just left bored and unsatisfied, the old men that run this sport stand around and argue about the number of cylinders the engines will have in two years time. Whilst we the dwindling band of (mostly) older men, fail week after week to show our children, the future fans of F1, why Formula 1 is interesting. My son isn’t interested in the number of elements on Hamilton’s from wing or the amount of fuel Vettel has used this lap. He’s upstairs playing Minecraft and making youtube video.
F1 isn’t talking to that generation. It’s not connecting with the fans of the future because it’s too concerned with not giving anyone else an advantage and making sure they’ve got enough money to pay for the air freight to Do Darr land and empty grandstands next week.

Maybe I'm just getting old! I’ll watch it next time; I always watch it next time. Like red wine and pork scratching I keep coming back even though I shouldn't.

Okay...

Hamilton won, made it look easy yet again.  If you didn’t have him for the win, you’re missing the point of the game!

Kimi was second and looked like the Kimi of old, the one we used to rely on for fastest laps and daring do.  And to a large extent the shot of the Ferrari garage as they watched the start and Kimi’s over take of Nico was the old Ferrari I used to love too. That garage has got some fire and passion now; they’re hunting for win’s not points anymore. They’ve got a car and two drivers they can believe in and they’re hungry for the good old days. Mercedes have got a real fight on their hands.

Nico was third, and after getting a bit of kicking yet again on Saturday, he came out fighting on Sunday. Not enough to actually win or anything but at least he didn't whinge about it this time. I think he still believes he’s in this championship fight and all credit to him for not giving up, but he’s in a race the first loser now.  

Bottas was fourth and everyone at Williams clapped themselves on the back for that. But hang on, Vettel didn’t look like he was going to pass Bottas at the end there. No that Ferrari looked a bit ordinary when it was stuck behind that Williams, Vettel made a few half hearted moves but move out of desperation than expectation. Maybe .. Just maybe if Williams actually believed in themselves they could be ahead of Ferrari at the start of the race and then finish on the podium with Mercedes. Now wouldn’t that be a thing!

Vettel was fifth because he made too many mistakes and couldn’t pass anyone in the pits and make it stick. Nico seemed to pass him with ease and he seemed to make mistakes with ease. An off day you may think ... I think his unnatural luck deserted him for a change.

Ricciardo was sixth and blew his engine up spectacularly on the finish line. I think that’s his third or four engines for the year ... though he may possible have a spare recon unit knocking around the back of the garage. I'm not sure what happens when they use up their fourth engine, if the grid penalty is applied each race or just for the first race they use that fifth engine.  Well we won’t have long to wait until we have an answer at least.

Grosjean, was in a Lotus

Perez was apparently in the race

Kvyat .... this
 
Is that a moustache he’s trying to grow !!

And tenth Massa. Look, see that’s how good the Williams is, he started form the pit lane and still ended up tenth ahead of some good cars and the McLarens ... come on Frank, let the boys have at it !!

Blah blah blah , the bottle is empty now booooooo. No WAIT ... I HAVE SOME PORT ... ooooh i’d forgotted about that. Happy days !!!!!!!!

Kimi was fastest, hurrah. I love Kimi, he’s ace. Miserable and Finish or Danish or something , but ace yeah defiantly ace.


Oh and a Manor Marussiam was last  .. can you guess which one ? .. Good because that’s the point of this game, well done., you’re improving.  Oh yeah, it was Merhi again.  He’s got interesting hair, he’s one of those new kids that thinks spiky hair jell all over the place makes him somehow more interesting to look at. I know, what an idiot. Hoh ho. Yeah last, three laps down. Spiky hair pffft.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Sir, sir, it's all so unfair sir ....

Okay, we’re all back on track now. 

Bahrain then this weekend. Another straight fight between Lewis, Vettel and the increasingly petulant Nico. You know you can always tell the good from the merely right place, right time drivers. The good ones say things like, “Well I didn’t really get the car going the way I wanted it, but we learnt stuff today so, we’ll do better next time”. The not so good say, “ Sir, sir … he was backing me up and going too slow and I couldn’t over take because  the tyres sir, yes the tyres were round and black sir, I didn’t want to wear them out sir and he made me go too slow sir”.

Everyone who heard or read those words from Nico must have reached pretty much the same conclusion as me … “Well why didn’t you overtake Lewis then, if he was going too slow ?”

And I can’t really think of a reason as to why he didn’t, can you? Someone pointed out to me that Lewis spent last year tucked up behind Nico waiting for that mistake, the split second when he could make the move and take the win.  He’d rag the tyres till they bled, push the car till the brakes cried enough. But he’d get the points and Nico would stand on the lower step, bottom lip trembling slightly as the champagne hit him in the face.  

Lewis didn’t complain that Nico was too slow! No, he berated himself for not qualifying better and allowing Nico to dominate on Saturday. Then he’d win and  make it look easy, Nico became increasingly desperate with the last lap crash in qualifying in Monaco and the elbows out crash at Spa. The crowds responded to this petulance by casting him as the panto villain and booing him on the podium. It wasn’t until Abu Dhabi, when Nico asked to be allowed to keep going till the end in his sick car, that the crowds forgave him for the tantrums and unsporting behaviour.

Nico is no fool, he is a pretty good driver, but he doesn’t seem to have that thing, that edge, that ability to win races when he doesn’t have the best hand of cards to play.  Where Lewis or Alonso will just keep going, dragging whatever car they have under them to victory, Nico like Vettel needs a winning car before he can win. The two of them can get the best out of the car, but nothing more.

And Vettel has a very good car, Kimi is showing us that. For too long Kimi has been bored and dismissive during interviews. Mono syllabic answers, hiding behind big dark sunglasses and batting inane questions away with a lazy flap on his hand. Last year you could be forgiving for wondering if he actually turned up for the races he was so under the radar. Now though, robbed of a result in Australia, a drive back through the field to fourth in Malaysia and what I assume was another easy fourth in China and Kimi has his mojo back. Not enough to beat Vettel  yet, but then he isn’t as lucky as the German.

So then last of the season opener fly away races, Bahrain was fantastic last year. It was Merc letting rip and showing just how fast they were. Nico and Lewis put on a show as Lewis stamped his authority all over Nico and showed him what was really required to win a championship. Going on past form, I can’t see there being much difference this year. Vettel … well Bahrain isn’t normally a high tyre wear circuit, so I think third again here unless Lewis does a better job of backing up Nico this time ;)

Williams next again .. Massa, what the Sally Hill has happened to Felipe Baby then? He’s got his act together and is showing Bottas the way home. Not the story I was expecting!

Then you get to choose from Nasr in a resurgent Sauber, Danny in a woefully poor Redbull and Grosjean in an unlucky Lotus. Although the championship points don’t really reflect it, the one to take a punt on would be Verstappen, who is raising plenty of eyebrows with feisty and controlled drives. I still think he’s a bit young, he doesn’t look like he even shaves at all, but he’s go the talent to get noticed, now he needs the talent to bring it home consistently.


Worth a punt too would be Perez, who’s looking pretty handy in a the Force India. I think the Hulk is looking at his exit strategy to Porsche and Le Mans now, so he’s taken his eye off the F1 ball for now. Perez has been almost exciting at times this year, jus the car letting him down a bit.

Further back and  McLaren are sort of moving forward. But every time they tell us they’ll turn the engine up and start winning, I look at the car and think, “That car looks a bit of a handful”.
I don’t think turning the wick up is going to deal with the snap over steer or random handling quirks, she’s a bit of a handful and mistake. I think if they can get in to the bottom of the top ten before  Italy in September, they’ll have done well.

And then we have Manor Marussia and they are still there, still plugging away. They’ve lasted longer than I expected and go on them for that. I ‘m not sure who’s going to be driving for them this weekend., I thought Merhi was only on a 3 race contract. Let’s see if he came up with anymore cash shall we.

Right that’s your lot.

You can update your predictions here if you so desire.  


Thursday, 9 April 2015

Chocolate is my excuse.

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I know this is a bit late, but it’s been a busy week of eating Easter eggs and painting a nursery.  So, yes this is a bit late.

It’s the Chinese GP this weekend and not one I’m particularly eager to get up early for. It’s a dull, soulless circuit on a drab industrial estates in the middle of nowhere, which seems to typify the circuits we go to these days. There’s almost no various in the height of the track and the stands are virtually empty for much of the weekend so it doesn’t look like there’s much atmosphere to be had. Which means the racing is usually a bit tedious.

 So this year we have to hope that the Ferrari win last time out wasn’t just blind luck and they are going to make season of it. It’ll be interesting to see how close the Ferraris will be to the Merc boys here. Vettel had enough speed to stay ahead of Lewis and Nico, who were basically looking after their tyres, meanwhile Kimi went from the back of the field to fourth. The only cars he didn’t overtake were the two cars considered the class of the field and his team mate. So Ferrari are fast on hot sticky tracks … tick.

The pundits are still calling this a race Mercedes can only lose, it’s cooler than it was in Malaysia so tyre wear is less critical allowing the Merc to turn the wick back up to 11.  It’s also a tighter track than the open flowing Sepang circuit, traction and handling are the keys to a fast lap here. I think you’ll be brave to have anyone other than a Merc driver on pole and the top step. The trick will be predicting who joins them on the podium.

Where will Williams be then? From, “Just waiting to be winners” last year, to “Scratching around for the scraps” this year. It looks like they’ve seen off Redbull, but Ferrari sneaked round the back as they were slapping themselves on the back for a job well done! Although you could argue they were caught out by the same tyre wear issue Mercedes, but they didn’t do anything other than be ultra conservative yet again. They need to think big, go for broke and take the fight to the front, not this pussy footing around avoiding confrontation. Toro Rosso could be knocking on the door asking for entry to the big boys club at this rate.

Talking of which, do you not find it odd that Redbull’s Christian Horner has done nothing but bang on about how awful the Renault engine is, and yet Toro Rosso has had its best start to a season in years. Max and Carlos look like they’ve arrived to prove a point, they’re racy and feisty, the team is on an up and the supposed lack of engine power doesn’t seem to be affecting them too much.
 Sauber has had its good result for the year and looked much more like the old grey team of yore in Malaysia. Force India are struggling with what is effectively last year’s car until we get back to Europe and Lotus are struggling to understand its new Merc engine. Meanwhile McLaren are furiously redesigning their car/engine/battery/sunglasses  to make it all work together for more than 10 laps. So there is no midfield scramble at the moment, no teams “almost there” to pick up points left by the big boys Toro Rosso have stepped into this large midfield hole. They’ve got a reliable car and to handy drivers.

So , Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams. I’d pick Toro Rosso over Sauber but you might have more faith in Redbull. Force India need time and money and Lotus haven’t really arrived at the party yet. The Lotus should be fast, if they didn’t have Maldonado, they just need a bit of luck to string a weekend together until the chequered flag.

McLaren were talking their Malaysian experience up after the race with positive messages about getting further and being faster. But you can be the fastest car on the planet, if you don’t make the end of the race it’s all for nothing. However, they still didn’t whinge about anything so let’s not stick the boot in just yet.

Manor too, have stuck at it even after Bernie gave them a bit of a kicking  after Australia. Hopefully this time they’ll get both cars to the starting grid.

And good luck J


Oh, just to say, the results will be late as well. I’m off to the first round of the WEC at Silverstone on Sunday. 


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Hubris, it's not just a Greek salad!

Hubris (/ˈhjuːbrɪs/, also hybris, from ancient Greek ὕβρις) means extreme pride or self-confidence. When it offends the gods of ancient Greece, it is usually punished

"Hello? Yes hello ... Is that the Ferrari contracts department ?"

All Mercedes had to do this weekend was turn up and push the cars out onto the track, right? This was a pre ordained win, nobody else was close to them and nobody had a better driver than Lewis in a competitive car. It just goes to show you how much I know about things!
Certainly no one told Ferrari the plan, after firing half the middle management over the winter, losing the CEO and their second team manager of the year. This was the Ferrari of old with infighting, back stabbing and no direction. Except at the very first test of the year, Ferrari had come out of the starting blocks guns blazing and an engine firing on all six cylinders. Ferrari has suddenly got itself a fast car.
The only question was Vettel and how well he would adapt to racing for the pride of Italy. Well the answer seems to be, pretty well. Third in Australia and now in Malaysia, slap bang on the top step with seconds to spare over a couple of ordinary looking Merc boys!

Make no mistake here; Ferrari won this on pure merit, they popped the Merc bubble, beat them for pace, strategy and simply reading the circuit in front of them.  Mercedes set their stall out on Saturday afternoon when they sent the boys straight out on the soft tyre choice. They were going to run the hard tyres in the race and wait for everyone to catch up with them somewhere at the end of the season.  
Now, to a point you can understand why they went with the same strategy they used last year to such good effect. Lewis had missed the first practice session with an electrical problem that cut the entire car to pit telemetry; he missed much of the second practice with the same problem. When he finally got out to record a time, it was fast, but he didn't have much long run data to analyse. So the third practice session on Saturday morning was about finding a solid qualifying setting for the afternoon and hoping the race pace would follow.
Q1 and Q2 confirmed the car was fast and Ferrari were pretty close. Then it rained and after a lengthy delay we saw Hamilton at his best, on his first lap out onto the wet track he nailed the pole whilst the others tiptoed around. No one else got close; Nico tried to be too clever and lost second to Vettel just to confirm the Ferrari was fast in the wet as well as the dry.
But everyone though the Ferrari was just punching above its weight in the wet and the dry race on Sunday would see the normal Merc battle up front.

Sunday dawned very hot and very, very dry.
When the lights went out Lewis shot off up the road, Vettel squeezed Nico towards the pit wall and just about held onto second place in front of the Merc. The rest of the 19 cars that made it to the grid this time followed into the turn one complex, Maldonardo picked up a rear puncture that dropped him to the back of the pack. He was joined by Kimi at the end of the first lap when Nasr tried to use him as an emergency stop into the last corner. Other than that, it looked like another dull race where the Merc drove off with Vettel for company.

There was some feisty racing in the midfield between the Torro Rosso’s, Williams and Redbull drivers.  But the front looked like being a boring tactical battle of “How long will Vettel stay ahead of a Merc one two”. Except Vettel didn’t look to be waiting for Nico to come and take the place back, he wasn’t exactly catching Lewis, but he wasn’t eating a cloud of dust either.

Then Ericsson spun into the gravel trap at turn one and beached the Sauber which meant a tractor to remove him, and because of Japan last year, out came the safety car and the race changed dramatically.
Having qualified on the soft tyres, the Mercs were desperate to come in and bolt on the hard options for a couple of long runs to an easy win. The Ferrari of Vettel was perfectly happy to stay on the soft option however, so as Lewis and Nico peeled into to pit under yellow we had a leader that wasn’t powered by a Mercedes for a change.
 All the pundits immediately threw their arms into the air and questioned what Ferrari thought it was doing !!!! How could Vettel stay ahead of the anointed championship winning Mercs with old soft tyres? But the thing was Vettel wasn’t the only one to stay out, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Sainz and Perez also stayed out and they would prove crucial to the Vettel race.  And because Nico had been stacked in the pits whilst Lewis got new tyres, he came out a further 2 places back behind Ricciardo and Massa.
Oh we all thought, Mercedes will just turn the wick up and breeze past the slower boys and put Vettel back in his place. But when the safety car pulled in, suddenly the Mercs didn't look quite so racy. By the time Lewis cleared the Force India of Hulkenberg, Vettel was 20 seconds up the road and Hamilton had burn the life out of his tyres. The hard option was already a second slower than the soft sets and Vettel didn't look like he was struggling to keep his Ferrari on the grey stuff.

It rather appeared as if Ferrari had pulled a bit of a master stroke and read the track better than the Merc pit wall. The red car was looking after the tyres better on the hot track and had the pace to hold off the silver cars. When Vettel eventually pitted it didn’t take him long to reel both Mercs back in and retake the lead. Whilst Hamilton’s race engineer assured his driver than he would be able to take the win from Vettel at the end of the race, the reality was they were on their back foot and Vettel was clean away.
To underline how good the Ferrari strategy was and how well the car was handling, Kimi who had been plum last after his puncture made it all the way back to fourth. And we shall take a moment here to look back over our shoulders at the forlorn figure of Alonso. Standing on the pit wall, in his McLaren Honda overalls after just 21 laps, last year he hauled yet another prancing donkey around the world’s circuits for very little praise and no reward. He was pushed or flounced off at the end of last year and waved goodbye to yet another poor handling Ferrari with an underpowered engine and climbed into a poor handling and underpowered McLaren Honda. Now he stands in the pits, helmet in hand, as the fine champagne mist from the Ferrari garage celebrations dry in the hot air around him. He must be crying over that contract now, you have to feel sorry for the guy.

Anyway, it was a cracking race this one. There was plenty of feisty racing throughout the field, Ferrari came back to win after far too long cluttering up the midfield. We’ve got a championship fight after all between two teams rather than just two drivers. It’s been said before that F1 is at its healthiest when Ferrari are winning, everyone who drivers a car has heard of Ferrari after all and every grandstand around the world is full of punters sporting red t-shirts. It’s just a shame it’s got to be Vettel waving his finger around on that top step.


Vettel wins and not even I can take anything away from him here. He won that fair and square on pace and strategy. I know I keep banging on about strategy, but Ferrari had a plan and stuck to it, they knew what they wanted to do, saw an opportunity and went for it. Exactly like Williams didn't do all last year. Without the safety car I'm not sure the win was on, but it still would have been a close run thing. Mercedes didn't really fumble the ball either, they had set their stall out in qualifying and it was up to Ferrari to bury them. Yes .. I suppose it’s quite nice to have a Ferrari back on the top step and it does rather put to bed the idea that Vettel can only win in an Adrian Newey car, that he can’t over take and only gains places in the pit stops.  Two races, two podiums and its game on then for the finger waving German.

Hamilton second and it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if there had been no safety car. The Merc wasn’t as kind to its tyres as the Ferrari and they didn't have enough of the faster soft tyres to give Lewis a chance at the end of the race. Where Mercedes complacent? That’s the big question. Did they just roll up expecting to win easily and didn't think anyone would beat them on pace? With the problems Lewis had on Friday they were always playing catch up, but the accepted wisdom was they had a good second in hand over the rest of the field. Is this the end of Hamilton’s championship run? Let’s see what happens in China where it’s not so hot and better traction is the key.

Nico was third and still didn't look like he was going to beat Lewis at any point. But let’s not stick the knife in just yet, I believe his wife is at home expecting their first child and isn’t too very well at the moment, there was hospital visit recently. So he can be forgiven for having an off weekend this once. There’s still a long way to go in this championship. He got the fastest lap for his troubles.

Kimi was fourth and as I said, underlines just how much faster the Ferrari was today. I'm still not convinced Kimi is doing anything other than pick up the cheques, but it’s good to see him in a fast car again.

Bottas made it to fifth and I think we can tick off that “Williams have been jumped by Ferrari” box now.  Pretty much the only positive thing Williams can take away from this is that Bottas is faster than Massa, and the car the best of the customer Merc engines teams. Other than that well they were far too conservative in qualifying and the race yet again, didn't have any sort of answer to Ferrari. And Torro Rosso weren’t too far behind either, I foresee testing times ahead for the Didcot boys and girls.

Massa was sixth and got mugged by Bottas at the end. He didn't look happy all weekend.

Verstappen becomes the youngest ever points winner of an F1 Grand Prix in seventh. And seeing as from next year you have to be 18 and above to gain a super licence, Max could hold that record for a very, very long time.  Verstappen has not disgraced himself at all so far, he’s been feisty and shown some real race craft in the two races we’ve had. The boys got the chops to be here on the strength of what I’ve seen so far. Let’s see if he can keep it up for the whole year.

And let’s not forget Sainz who, in eighth place, has also done very well. As all the ho har about the engines driveability and whether Renault will buy the team or not, these boys have just got on with things.  

Not quite living up to the promotion is Kvyat. Okay the DNF in Australia wasn’t really his fault, but he looks like a gawky teenager at the moment, all elbows and arms flailing around trying to puff himself up and look impressive in front of the bigger boys. It’s not really flowing for him and he need a pit call to Ricciardo to let he through to reach ninth. Maybe the promotion to Redbull was a year early, time will tell.

And Ricciardo was tenth and a bit rubbish. The Honeymoon’s over now young man.

Okay, well let’s have a look at last place ... and it’s a Manor Marussia!! Just like last year. But now Max is gone and we have to cheer on Merhi. Who is some F3 kid with a bundle of used Spanish Euro’s I believe, he’s only got a contract for these two races as far as I know and given he was three laps down I don’t expect he’ll be there any longer than his Euros last.


Okay. That’s more than 2000 words. All stone cold sober as I ran out of wine last night. I'm going to see if I can rustle up a stiff G&T to celebrate. The next race is in China after Easter, but I won’t be watching as I'm planning to see some proper racing at the Silverstone for the start of the WEC series. Big grunty cars that sound like they mean business;  here have a video to get you all excited J



Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Shut up and develop the car, you irritating little man!

So then, have you been watching the F1 circus this past week ?

If you have, then you won’t have failed to see one team making all the headlines after its poor showing in Australia. A once great team now fallen on hard times in the engine department, is not firing on all cylinders and the team isn’t happy about it. They’ve blustered up and down the pit lane demanding that they be given special dispensation to sort out their engine and how it just isn’t fair that one team is winning everything.

No, not McLaren, who had probably the worst start to a season in the team’s long and illustrious history. One car grenaded its engine on the way to the grid and the other car trundled around at the back of the field limping along without even a Marussia to keep it company. It was a spectacularly poor showing for a team used to winning multiple championships.

And yet there hasn’t been a peep from Ron complaining about how they can’t update the engine, how it’s all so unfair they can’t win. He’s not been shouting and pouting to all the media demanding attention and threatening to sell the team and flounce off with all his fizzy drink money. No, McLaren have said “Yupe, that was a bit of a mess … we’ll do better next time” and then got on with sorting their cars out.

Not so Redbull I’m afraid, who were pretty smug winners when they won four titles back to back and are now showing themselves to be appallingly bad losers.
We’re used to them playing fast and loose with the rule book and throwing their toys out of the pram when others show better technical innovation. But now they have gone fully tantrum and threatened to pack up their toys and flounce off unless the rules are changed to allow them to win again. As you should with difficult and petulant children, the rest of the paddock has resolutely ignored their shouting and attention seeking. The sole voice to agree with them was that of Bernie, a long time friend of the winners with money. Who mumbled something about “the show” and “the fans” and “how much can we charge them for this” then asked what an app was and how much they could charge the fans for that.

The highlight was Horner pouting at the media and claiming that “Sir, sir ... Redbull never dominated like Mercedes are now sir! Its soooooo unfair sir” Clearly forgetting the time Pirelli changed the tyre constructions and Vettel won every race by a country mile for the rest of the year.    

So Redbulls furious proclamations that they are “This close to selling it all to Audi and good riddance to the whole thing”, should be treated with the contempt it deserves. F1 has always been a cyclical sport, teams rise and fall all the time. Some rise and float for a time, some rise and flounder just under the surface for a time before being eaten by their creditors. Whinging that the life raft doesn’t have the right kind of seats and the champagne is too warm wins you no friends with the other passengers. As McLaren are demonstrating, the best thing is to get on with building a new raft and keep your mouth shut, for that I think I shall cheer on their efforts this year.


So then, this weekend.

Well Alonso was seen getting aboard a plane bound for Malaysia with a race suit and helmet. The word from the team is he will be in the car for first practice on Friday, it remains to be seen if he’s in the car on Sunday afternoon though. He’s been in the simulator catching up with all the updates since his accident or which he claims the steering went heavy before he lost control. The inference being then that the car was at fault and a mechanical system failed, not the sparky blue bits.

I think Alonso is too much of born racer to walk away from this car, but a couple of races tooling around at the back of the grid might weaken that resolve. But if you want a single team to develop the nuts off a car, then McLaren are your boys and girls. Sure it’s bad now, but eventually it’ll be at least alright. I don’t think a McLaren in the top ten would be a good idea just yet.


Also unlikely to trouble the top ten will be Manor (Marussia) who got slapped with having to pay their air freight costs after the non running in Australia. Whilst the FIA was perfectly happy that the team had a car and at least made it to the first race, Bernie threw a wobbler and told everyone they had no intention of running and where “Just ’avin a laugh” at F1’s expense.
Manor pointed out that Ferrari who make their engine had handed over a couple of spare 2014 unit for them to use at a just about affordable rate. But as there had been no plans to use 2014 engines because they were so rubbish, there was no software to make them start. The 2015 code wasn’t backwards compatible despite assurances it would be, a problem software companies keep seeming to have! Ferrari shrugged and said “it’sa too tight’a deadline sinore”. Then shrugged again and walked off so compare sunglasses.
Manor claim they will be up and running in Malaysia, but the pesky 107%, “your too slow” rule is going to be their biggest challenge.

Up the front.

Mercedes will win it .. and that means Lewis, unless Nico gets his act together.  Mercedes have been smiling slyly and hinting that have an even better update coming, just you wait and see. So anything other than a silver car on pole and the top step of the podium is a foolish notion. Even in the rain that car is so much faster than the rest. Pick your favourite driver for the win.

Next is interesting, Ferrari or Williams.

Williams had the measure of the Ferrari in Australia, although it is clearly faster than last year donkey, the front wing loses its entire front end grip when following another car. Massa was called in far too early, allowing Vettel to nail a couple of fast laps in clear air sail past the Brazilian. A sign to me, that Williams were still looking at a conservative and safe points claiming finish than a, “roll the dice and see what happens” strategy.  They need to hang it out there and have the courage to make thing happen for them, they’re Williams F1 damn it! They’re better than that.

Bottas is talking up his chances of returning, but anyone who’s had a back injury will tell you it doesn’t take much of a knock to set it off again. If the Williams driver is back, there are a few hefty bumps in Malaysia so I think he might be a bit tentative about pushing too hard.  Massa is paid to be safe and steady, so i think Vettel will be ahead of the plucky British cars again. Kimi, well your guess is as good as mine where he is.

Then you have the Sauber and Redbull fight. The Swiss team were more than a bit surprised just how much better the 2015 Ferrari engine is. They were expecting to just collect the odd point and try not to embarrass themselves this year, and here they are third in the championship only one point behind Ferrari! If Redbull are going to continue to have Renault issues than we might very well see Sauber in fifth place for the next race or three. And Nasr appeared to have at least some talent, keeping a number of more qualified drivers behind him all race long. Melbourne is a tricky little track that requires a certain amount of respect. He did alright did Nasr but Ericsson is still just their because he paid the winter fuel allowance at team HQ.

So then Lewis or Nico for the win, give Vettel another shot at Italian glory in third, Massa and Nasr to round out the top five if Kimi doesn’t keep his hands off the ice-creams.

Lotus will be better this weekend after promising so much and delivering so little in Australia and should be ahead of the Torro Rosso boys. Force India will be keeping McLaren company for the last point.

Okay.

Please feel free to update your predictions before the Friday if you want to, any changes after midnight on Thursday will only affect the next race in China.

Malaysia always throws up rain at some point remember. A wet track will level the playing field for the mid table boys considerably. Mercedes will still walk it ;)


Good luck everyone.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

T shirt sellers out number the runners in Australia!

Right then, you remember that rule I had last year about the number of cars finishing and not counting them if there weren’t enough to make a top ten. Yeah, how we never needed to use it because all the cars turned out to be pretty much bullet proof, well I actually had to dust off the rule book and find what I’d actually written last year after four laps of the race.

I was prepared for the fact Caterham weren’t there. That was fine, they were a mess and I never liked them anyway. And I was ok with Manor racing turning up and not actually fulfilling the “Racing” part of their name, I had kind of expected them to at least practice a bit not just sit and watch the whole thing from the stands.
But I had sort of kidded myself that McLaren had been fooling us all and would roll up with a car that could actually move quite fast and be a credit to the name “racing car”. Not limp around half heartedly like a Lib Dem candidate apologising for getting in the way and making a nuisance himself.  Then to add insult to injury Magnusson’s engine blew up spectacularly on the way to the starting line! Not even racing! Not even giving it some beans off the line, or seeing how fast it could go. No, trundle, trundle POP!

Alonso must have been sitting at home, glass of Rioja in one hand and his McLaren contract in the other. Staring dumbfound from the TV to his contract, searching desperately for the get out clause.

Alonso after reading his contract earlier today

 I don’t know if you can get secondary concussion by association, but if I was the FIA doctor I’d want to check over Jenson who calmly sat and told Martin Brundle that the car was going to be winning races by the end of the year.

Not getting much further was Kvyat. The newly promoted Redbull Russian managed to lunch his gearbox whilst on his way to the formation grid. Horner turned up all self righteous indignation and blowing his “It’s all Renaults fault” trumpet as loudly and as single not drone as ever. Apparently vibrations form the engine at destroyed the internal mechanics of the gearbox, written rude notes on the toilet wall about Horner’s wife and stolen the tuck money from matrons locked desk. They were very naughty and he wasn’t happy, not at all. 

 Renault just shrugged and walked off.

Also failing to start (gosh this is a long list) was Bottas, who somehow managed to compress a vertebrae in qualifying when he ran off the road at the last corner. I know these cars have very little actual suspension, but the bounce of the curb didn't look all that harsh and yet Bottas failed the mandatory “get out of the pretend fiery car ASAP” test that the FIA like to use when drivers have injured themselves. So he was told he wasn’t allowed to take part in the race and had to watch from the garage whilst sitting on one of the garden chairs the mechanics are made to sit on. There is a certain amount of speculation that Suze Wolf might get to drive the car if Bottas is still injured for the next race. But I'm pretty sure she doesn’t currently have a super licence at the moment.

Someone else short of a super license this weekend was Guido Van De Garde. He of Caterham fame, he was under the mistaken impression he had a race seat for 2015 with Sauber. The clue he didn’t, might have presented itself when he didn’t do any winter testing and wasn’t invited to join in the team photo at Christmas. 

He rocked up in Australia with a court order and a massive chip on his shoulder. The team and driver trooped down to the court house on Thursday and the judge said, “Well, it says here he paid for the testing job in 2014 and a race seat in 2015 ... so he should be in the car”. The team mumbled something about not having a seat that would fit him. The judge gave them a VERY hard stare and said, “I know he’s a bit rubbish and irritating, but he paid for the drive and if he doesn’t get it I will take all of your equipment and cars and we’ll go though all your contracts with a fine tooth comb ... case dismissed”.

The team trooped back to the race circuit and went to see the FIA and said, “yeah errrrr, right. Err Does Guido have a super licence and if not don’t give him one, cos we’re not paying for it”.

Guido turned up to the circuit followed by the world media in a feeding frenzy, he waved his FIA pass at the machine and assumed a nonchalant air of someone who’s got right on his side a court order to prove it. There was a beep, Guido strode forward and was almost cut in two as the gate failed to open, he frantically waved his pass at the machine which continued to beep at him and resolutely fail to open the nonchalant air dissolved into petulant shouting at bouncers and desperate pleading to those with working passes to let him in and the media frenzy went into over drive.

Eventually, Perez came out with a spare Force India pass and the show moved to the Sauber garage. There 
Guido was grudgingly given a seat fitting and told he didn't have a super licence so it was all a moot point anyway.  There was much hurrumphing from all concerned, the media followed everyone around and the Sauber cars sat in the pits for the first practice session.

Eventually Bernie was roused by the hubbub to come down and sort things out. He quite rightly pointed out to Guido that Sauber were two inches from bankruptcy and simply didn’t have the money to either give him his money back or give the other two drivers their money back and give him a race seat. What happened next is anyone guess, they all went into Bernie’s VIP trailer and thrashed something out. I like to think Bernie dipped in to his lose change draw and paid off the various parties and told them to stop airing their dirty laundry in public and sort these things out before the first race of the season. What probably happen was Bernie looked annoyed until Guido walked away from the circuit and wasn’t seen for the rest of the weekend and Sauber got on with the job of racing.

Back in the normal (rich) end of the F1 world, Mercedes carried on as normal with Lewis and Nico trading fastest laps in practice. Redbull complained that Renault engine was junk, Ferrari continued to look surprised that the car was going well, and Williams punched above its weight.
The qualifying for pole was a two horse Merc race. Nico had topped all the time sheet in practice, but Lewis took the last of his gold chains off in Q2 and was about five minutes faster than everyone else for the rest of the day.  He was so far ahead with his first run in Q3 that he could have got out of the car with 10 minutes to go and put his feet up. Nico simply had no answer, but Lewis still went out again and was even faster. The lad will be on song then, maybe all those winsome pictures of Rocco and sunset beaches did the job after all.

Right then, so yes, the race. Well once we’d lost Magnussen and Kvyat, along with the two Manor boys who were still sitting in the stands. As the lights went out for the start of the race, we had the glorious sound of 15 F1 cars starting the 2015 season for 200 yards. Roughly the length of the track from the start line to the first corner, where Vettel bumped across the inside curb, bounced sideways into Kimi, who ran onto the grass on the outside of the corner before cutting back to nudge Verstappen into Maldonardo who spun into the wall and wiped out the left side of his car.  For once I can’t even be rude about Pastor; he was the innocent victim of a racing incident for a change, not its instigator, which has to be a first!

So we were down to 13 cars. This was going to be a dull race then.

We had a handful of safety car laps to clear up Pastor and then I kind of lost interest as it was early and there wasn’t much racing on offer.

Button and Perez traded a bit of carbon fibre, errrr Ricciardo got stuck behind Kimi I think and  ... look I wasn’t really concentrating ok. 11 cars following the two Merc miles ahead is pretty dull. Not even Merc were letting the boys have at it. Nasr in the Tesco Value Sauber was doing alright, that was a bit interesting. And I suppose well done to Jenson on doing the longest run the car has yet seen.
But no, not really a classic race.

Okay so the result then.

Hamilton just looked awesome all weekend and especially against his team mate. I thought Nico would carry over his practice times to qualifying or the race and make an actual race of it. But no, he was well beaten on Saturday afternoon and I suspect Lewis didn’t break a sweat all Sunday. Just to underline how far ahead of everyone he was, Lewis was trading fastest laps with himself for most of the second half of the race. It confirms the Merc are a country miler ahead of everyone else and Lewis is odds on favourite for the title now.  This year might just test my love for F1 if it’s like this every weekend.

Nico was second and then had to suffer the indignity of being asked what it was like to be the second best driver of the day by Arnie Schwarzenegger grinning like an idiot on the podium interview. It’s going to be a question he gets used to answering this year I suspect.  

Blow me down with a feather Vettel was third in a Ferrari, who had money on that?? Not me I can tell you. Ok so they looked alright in testing and stuff, but you know, I thought that was all bluff? Not actual race pace.  He nerfed into Kimi at the first corner and didn’t look back from there. Post race Nico said he hoped Ferrari could develop the car nice and quick to give them a bit of competition, which is the same as saying “We’ll give you a five lap head start if you like?”.  This year is going to be about Williams and Ferrari coughing on Mercs dust. Still Vettel did all right, he didn't have to overtake anyone, it was all done in the pits, something he’s good at.

Massa was fourth and another one I didn’t see all afternoon.

Fifth was interesting. Nasr might just have demonstrated that the new Ferrari engine is actually pretty good and he, Nast, might be rather handy. Ericsson in the sister car was only eighth and never really looked like taking the fight to anyone. Nasr spent a lot of the race with some serious talent behind him, he wasn’t fazed, didn’t get all unnecessary and picked up desperately needed points for Sauber. In short it was exactly what was required of him after all the distractions of the “Who has a contract to drive the car this weekend” farce, let’s see if he can repeat that.

Ricciardo was sixth and it looks like Redbull have a lot of work to do this year. They need to stop pointing at Renault and telling everyone it’s their fault, it’s getting boring now. They need to sit down and work out why they have a problem and be honest that Newey has designed yet another no compromise car which doesn’t look that easy to set up. They’ll be back up the sharp friend eventually, but not on any power circuits.

Hulkenberg was seventh with a careful steady drive. The Force India boys had only had four days testing up to this point and whilst the car has a Merc engine and so should be reliable, the rest of the car was still a bit of an unknown. So to go out and come back with a solid points finish is again exactly what was required of him. Like Sauber, Force India are just moments from the bankrupt courts and need all the help they can get, they had to scrap around under the filing cabinets to find the change to pay for this year’s car to be finished. Points this early in the season are a God send, because McLaren might one day get their act together, Williams and Redbull only had a single car in the race so Force India had to come away with something here. Sauber got two cars home in the points and Nasr made it look effortless, if you had to put money on which of these two drivers would be in the top ten again, right now I’d have my money on the Sauber, Force India are still on the back foot and in trouble.

Ericsson and his enormous cheque book were eighth. Not very exciting and he benefited from others misfortune really. I don’t expect him to trouble the top ten much more this season.

Sainz was the only Torro Rosso to make it home in the battle of the rookies. He seemed pretty good , didn’t make too many mistakes and kept his nose clean.

Perez was tenth and made hard work of that.

And finally in eleventh and last man running was Button. In a car that looked slow and heavy and twitchy and just awful. Jenson assuring Brundle that the car was a winning is just laughable. I could be wrong of course, season veterans of this game will attest to that. But that car is just utter rubbish right now.
What were Honda been doing all last year? I mean they have half a dozen other race programs around the world, why didn't they stick the engine and KERS systems into a mule and test the thing to get it all working BEFORE they embarrassed Big Ron and the boys and girls or McLaren?
The word is, the Japanese KERS system they began developing when they pull out of F1 in 2009 was pretty capable and could have been the basis of an integrated 2015 system. But they binned it and jerry rigged an old Merc system that McLaren had developed in house years ago. Its just not good enough and no amount of money is going to save them here.
And as for Alonso, I really don’t he’s going to come back. Why would he? The car is 50/50 on making the formation grid and Alonso is a better driver than that.
  
So there you go.

Mercedes was the big winner of the weekend, the paying public and McLaren the big losers

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Round one Australia

Right, okay. All you old hands know the drill by now. I promise there will be less random, poorly thought out ranting fuelled by red wine and pork scratching this year.  It’s going to be tight ship from now on. No, really it is.  
And to you new bloods welcome to the show. This is the bit where I talk about the various highlights of the F1 circus and pass out some handy pointer for the upcoming race. You can either ignore my advice completely (probably for the best) or follow them and commiserate with me on Sunday afternoon.
The first important point is you don’t need to change your predictions every single race. Don’t feel the need to chop and change where Maldonardo is going to come. Take your time and feel how the season is developing, the first few races are always a lottery as the cars will be pretty much stock until they get back to Europe.
And secondly, don’t take it too seriously as it’s just a bit of a laugh that’s all. Don’t feel down hearted if you’re not getting 40 points every week, most of the time its just blind luck and especially now as Max Chilton isn’t driving anymore, we have no 5 point banker for last place.  
Well doesn't time fly when you're having fun ?!

It only seems like five minutes ago we were all breathing a sigh of relief and nodding our heads at a job well done. Alonso had finally signed for McLaren and we could all settle down for the winter break and stop worrying about who was going to give the Spanish whinger a berth in 2015. Then with the warm spring breeze and a hazy sunrise, we're all off again for yet another season of infighting, backs stabbing and rumour that is the F1 circus.
Happy days J

Yup, the 2015 F1 season is about to start and already the question of Alonso actually staying at McLaren have surfaced. The man is like a one man rumour machine! Yeah I know he's probably one of the top 5 drivers of all time. You give him a rubbish car and he'll drag it kicking and screaming to the podium week after week. But clearly the man has some limits and allegedly being fried into unconsciousness by a malfunctioning KERS unit in testing, is it. Or not, who knows? But Alonso isn't getting in the car this weekend and so as the more excitable elements of the media would have it .. ever again!
The claim by the team that "He was caught by a sudden cross wind, guv'ner", is fooling no one. Even his old team boss and bezzy mate Briatore has waded in to demand the FIA find out the truth of the matter.

But to be serious for just a moment, the other drivers have expressed a wish to know what actually happened too. Alonso was tooling along quite happily during testing when he suddenly ran wide and the car spun back onto the track and slammed into the wall, knocking Alonso unconscious in the process. The fear is that something went wrong and Alonso was unconscious before he hit the wall, there are a lot of very complex systems on a modern F1 car and some serious voltages flying about. Some of the back of the grid teams are buying in their energy recovery system and didn't design them from scratch. They only have the word of Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari that the systems are fine. Okay, Alonso was in a Honda system, but it’s based around the old Merc system McLaren had knocking round the back of the sheds.
So there are a few F1 personal wondering around asking difficult questions and McLaren are not doing much to allay their fears. Also, if it happens again, the McLaren might not hit the wall first.
There is also a lot of speculation that the car was fine when it hit the wall, the problem was Alonso blacked out for some other reason. There was a lot of flu going around the paddock that week, even Lewis had called it a day after a handful of laps on the first day. Could Alonso have just passed out, if that is what happened .. well once again, could it happen again ?

So then, Magnussen has been recalled to the squad and been told he's got the Australian gig. A chance to shine and prove he's got the chops for the job, he needs to beat Jenson, move to Japan and marry a Japanese supermodel before the race starts if he wants Jenson’s job though. The plucky Brit is practically driving under a Japanese residency visa these days and Honda will be reluctant to replace him.
But it all comes back to Alonso really. Did he have some sort of “episode” in the car? Is he in a real huff with the poor performance of the car, or did he just lose concentration for a split second and hit the wall hard.
It will be interesting to see how the team operates this weekend, and if Alonso bothers to turn up to see his new team start the new season without him.

So then the first race!

Well it’s always a lottery, last year we had two McLarens on the podium after Ricky was banned for driving a very illegal Redbull, a Redbull which up to that point hadn’t gone more than 500 yards without bursting into flames. After that McLaren went backwards and Redbull sneaked best of the rest from Williams.
There is no form book to draw upon here. You can only go by what happened in testing. And even then we have no idea who was running light fuel loads to attract late sponsorship deals and who was sandbagging to avoid giving the game away.
I think however, we can be sure Mercedes are going to win this one. They’ve still got the best car and engine gig. Two race winning drivers capable of cruising to the title if they were in against lesser team mates. My money is on Lewis for the win and Nico for the pole.  Fastest lap is going to be decided by which driver doesn’t get the pole.
Next up ... well, Williams or Redbull. I think Redbull will sneak it from a Williams team that just want to be sure they have a good car for a second year and want a banker result before the fun. Danny, Bottas, Massa. Kvyat might need a race or two to settle in.
Next Ferrari and probably Vettel who has something to prove. Now the Ferrari went very well in testing, are they back on form? If they are then they could be ahead of the Redbull and Williams boys. If like Williams  they too just want a banker to be sure, they’ll sit back with the wick turned down and collect the points.
So that’s: Lewis, Nico, Ricky, Bottas, Massa and Vettel in the top five. The next five are the tricky ones.
Kvyat, on the strength of the car, and Kimi should be there. Which leaves a Force India and Lotus for the minor places; Perez to edge out the Hulk and I’ll go with Grosjean.

Now then, who’s going to come last then, one of the new boys perhaps ? Verstappen and Sainz should have a capable car they could be in the top ten is the Force India isn’t up to speed. Nasr or Ericsson in the seriously dull Sauber, a car held together with a wing and a prayer.  I’ll leave that one up to you

As for the rest, well I don’t think the Manor cars will be get past the 107% rule, which states that the car has to be within 107% of the fastest cars time. Manor have a year old car with some 2015 bits gaffer taped onto the side, two drivers with little or no experience and an engine that was rubbish last year.  They’ll be over seven seconds off the pace. I think just getting to the end of the pit lane for first practice will be a spectacular success for them.

Which leaves McLaren doesn’t it. Do you think they’ll finish?  In fact do you think they’ll finish any of the practice session they start with the both cars in the pit rather than stopped out on the track. How about qualifying? What odds will you give me they don’t make it out of Q1.
If that happens, what odds do you give me that Alonso doesn’t get back into a McLaren Honda ?  

Okay, you have until midnight on Thursday to update your predictions.

That means all the little boxes have to be filled in and you HAVE TO PRESS THE BUTTON AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR TABLE, the one that says UPDATE MY PREDICTION.
When you have pressed this button a message in red will say “Predictions Updated”.


 If it does not, you have not entered a prediction.

Good luck everyone.

Monday, 2 March 2015

So all in all, it’s the same as last year ... but different.

I always like this bit of the season, winter testing has finished, the development paths are in full swing and the teams are packing their bags for Australia. It’s all shiny and new, freshly scented with hope and expectation.
 The new boys have been shown the ropes and have a feel for what’s expected of them this year, whilst the old hands have kicked the tyres and cast a wary eye over their PR commitments, All the teams are complaining about not having enough time to sort this or that problem, as finance managers fly from point to point trying to drum up that last Euro and Chinese Yuan.  The long dark winter months are over and with the brightening spring days the sound of Redbull complaining about their Renault engines can be heard gently wafting through the golden haze. 

The suppliers are in  .. lets go!


Welcome to the 2015 Formula One season.

So how has the winter series gone this year then?

Well mostly it’s a case of where they left off in 2014; The rich boys of the upper 6th are swanking around in their new overalls and freshly built cars, at the same time as the oiks from the lower 4th are sewing on new name patches to old race suits and fixing the worst bits of last year’s car. The potential divide between rich and poor could possibly be the starkest we’ve ever seen in F1 history.

 Caterham have defiantly gone and will selling off what remains of the assets in a few weeks time. No one feels like bailing them out after all.

But Marussia have changed their name to Manor Marussia F1 and are planning to raise, Lazarus like, to join the season with an updated 2014 car for round three in Bahrain. 

The mid table boys have been trying to look as professional as possible all winter, whilst not quite at the level of standing on the street corner next to a sign saying “looking for a good time ?” there has been a lot of parading around in short skirts and casting flirtatious looks at any passing trade. All the Russian sugar daddies suddenly being persona non grata on European soil means an unseemly scramble for Chinese and Middle Eastern playboys.

Lotus have switched engine and caused an internet storm by hiring a girl. Force India had a whip round of the staff and found the money to pay the suppliers to finish the car before the first race. Sauber have built a car that is so boring and bland is makes grey paint look even more exciting than it did last year. And Torro Rosso are officially a crèche service for Redbull now.   

At the front of the grid Ferrari have found some speed, Redbull have whined about Renault a lot and McLaren have had nothing but trouble. To no one’s surprise, Mercedes have continued pretty much where they left off from in 2014, they’ve not been making any fastest lap headlines, but as they don’t need any extra money, they don’t have too.

So all in all, it’s the same as last year ... but different.

Okay then, team by team in last year’s championship winning order.
    
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

All during winter testing the Merc boys have pounded round the Spanish tracks racking up the miles and occasionally grinding to halt. There have been very few dramas over the weeks. The most eyebrow raising moment was Lewis going home with a sick note after 20 minutes in the car one morning.  Oh and Nico got the early drop on the team mate rivalry by announcing he’s “knocked up the misses, unlike Lewis who doesn’t even have a girlfriend hahahahaha”. *Ahem* Anyway congratulations to the Rosbergs. Yeah other than that, they were pretty much happy to let the likes of Lotus and Ferrari, grab all the headlines. That was until the last day when Nico bolted on a set of sticky tyres and went 1.5 seconds faster than anyone else. They are still the Benchmark and I’ll put money on Merc taking the constructors with ease again this year.
As for the two boys, well Nico would like to prove he is a champion and Lewis would like to underline how much of a champion he is by winning two titles back to back. But Lewis didn’t go well the last time he was a single man, and his social media output of late has been winsome looks on beaches at sunset and much imploring of #teamLH so “stay strong”. Conversely the recently married Nico has announced he’s to become a father for the first time in August. This year the off track action could be the deciding factor in who wins the drivers’ championship.

Redbull:  Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat

Redbull, after a shaky start last season with the underpowered Renault, turned it around and were the only team to stop Mercedes clean sweeping the whole thing. Danny  surfaced as an Australian it was alright to like with plenty of feisty racing moves and officially the biggest grin in the paddock. But Vettel was being all grumpy about not being given an easy ride by the FIA and wasn’t really trying very hard. Then he announced out of the blue (except I’d been saying he’s do it for years) that he was off to Ferrari and screw the lot of you. Redbull caught rather on the hop, Told Kvyat to throw on the Redbull team shirt and come and be introduced to the media as the new replacement.  After that he failed to look anything other than ordinary in the Torro Rosso.
So Danny will continue to grin and be quite impressive, he’s now the team leader with all the advantages that brings at Redbull and he’s got the media on his side. He’s a nice bloke from what I’ve seen of him and I think he’s got the making of a champion one day. Kvyat is still wet behind the ears and didn’t impress me all that much at Torro Rosso. He’s alright, but he got beaten by that other bloke all year and no one even remembers who he was now.
The big question is Renault, who have been putting out feelers into buying one of the back row teams and renaming them Renault F1. They’re a bit tired of playing second fiddle at Redbulls podium celebrations and really rather annoyed when Redbull throw their hands in the air and flounce around blaming Renault when it all goes wrong. It’s not always their fault when Newey shoehorns their pint sized engine into a half pint space. There are limits, and Redbull always seemed to find them. So Renault has cooled the relationship somewhat after Horner started 2015 by complaining to anyone who would listen that “Yet again the Renault engine is a pile of French merde! Not long after that, suggestion started to appear that Renault would be starting their very own team soon. In testing the cars done more miles than it managed last year, but it’s not been out there making headlines. The thinking is they’re still behind Mercedes, and not much closer than they were six months ago. Ferrari might also be back on form and could give Redbull a run for its money.

Williams: Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.

Last year was a real renaissance for the lads and lass of Didcot. The car worked like a dream after the nightmare of 2013, it was fast and slippery and made the Merc work for the points at numerous events. But they didn’t quite have the courage to roll the dice and try to pinch a win. Understandably I suppose, the previous year had been one of no points and humiliation, Maldonardo spent a year smearing the car down the wall and walking back the pits with bits of car rather than bottles of fizz. They needed a confidence building year and they got it, thank in no small part to the Massa and Bottas in the cars and Smedly and Symonds on the pit wall. The car was innovative but sensible and the pit wall didn’t try to out think itself. They knew they couldn’t touch the Mercedes, so why bother? Plan to get third and see what happened, yes it was a bit predictable, but it got results.
This year, there’ll be more of the same I imagine. Testing would suggest that Ferrari have got their act together and have overtaken the plucky garagistas. But Williams are still ahead of McLaren and the mid field teams. The car is slippery again but now has more front downforce for those low speed circuits. The final test saw a slew of fastest laps so they could be tilting for poles again this year and if they’re on pole I think they’ll go for the win this time.

Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

Well I was all ready to write Ferrari off at the end of last year. Alonso was to all intense and purposes unceremoniously fired after flogging yet another dead pony for a year and telling the media just how much of a dead pony it was. Monty had been fired by the Fiat board of directors and at the end of the season they fired they’re second race director, I didn’t even have time to learn his name. In came Maurizio Arrivabene a man from the marketing department of Marlboro ciggies and would you believe it, turned it all around.
What should have been a spectacular firework of Mediterranean tantrums and covert media briefings. Turned into a restructuring, with clear lines of responsibility for managers and an engine that wasn’t made of iron girders! Then the car turned up for the first test with new boy Vettel and it didn’t fall apart of run out of petrol 200 yards up the pit lane.  It was fast and so far pretty reliable.  
Vettel looked all smug and “I told you it would work”, as Alonso kicked the broken down McLaren-Honda yet again parked at the side of the road.
Even Kimi looked like he was interested for a change; he smiled at least once when asked if he liked the car.
They still have to deliver of course, but I think they go into the 2015 with a bit more vim and vigour about them now. How much that has to do with Alonso’s departure, well I couldn’t possible comment on that.

McLaren-Honda: Fernando Alonso and Jenson button.

Well he turned up at McLaren then. After giving everyone the run around for 6 months last year, Alonso rocked up at McLaren and promptly had Kev fired in preference to Jenson. Start as you mean to go on aye mate!
Things than started to go bad as soon as the McLaren with its brand spanking new Honda engine rolled out for the end of season young drivers test the Monday morning after the final race of 2014 in Abu Dhabi. The car did approximately 100 yards and stopped dead. They wheeled it back in, all smiles and “oh it’s just a simple software error .. ahhhhah don’t worry”. They sent it out again and it stopped 300 smoky yards later... ohh dear.
This year’s winter testing season has seen the new McLaren-Honda mostly parked up as Vettel has cheerily driven past in his brand spanking new reliable Ferrari that Alonso wished he could be driving. Then to cap it all, it tried to kill Alonso when it unexpectedly speared into the wall as according to the McLaren PR squad, “A gust of wind caught it”.  Yeah right, these things are designed by more computing power than NASA used to get man to the moon. Alonso was pulled from the car unconscious and spent the next three days eating hospital food. Magnussen got a call up to drive the car at the final test in a classic “Here’s what you could have won” moment.
But don’t start planning the McLaren funeral just yet, no, because if you recall a year ago Redbull did exactly the same thing. Go out, tool round slowly for a lap or two, and then expire in a smoky conflagration.  But they came back and won three races in 2014 didn’t they. Yes they did, because they have more money than most tin pot African dictatorships can spend on illegal weaponry. They bought themselves out of the problem, and put Adrian Newey on a caffeine drip till he worked out what he’s done wrong.
McLaren aren’t short of a bob or two, but they don’t have a star designer of the Neweys calibre. They have a faceless grey cell of nameless individuals designing methodically and according to the grey hive mind. They don’t really do flare do they? Individualism is sort of frown upon.
So it might be some time before we see the boys from Woking back up the front.

Force India: Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.

Well we have no idea how they did in winter testing as they didn’t bring their 2015 car to anything but the last test.  According to the team this was because they were still honing the design and making sure it was perfect before they got it all messy on the track. The less technical reason is they didn’t have enough money to pay their suppliers for the 2015 bits they ordered three months ago and said suppliers, having been burnt by Caterham and Marrussia, refused to hand over the bits until cold hard cash was handed over in return.
Lotus tried this same trick last year, hang around the back of the pits smoking ciggies and looking shifty for two tests then tune up to the last one with a cobbled together mess of a car and expect it to hit the track running. It didn’t work for them and it won’t work for Force India. Engineers need to understand what they’re designed and how to set it up. Rocking up day one of the new season and expecting it to pick up where the previous car did, is a fools mission. Last year the Force India team seemed to finally get the idea of racing. They stopped making bizarre pit wall calls and let the drivers get on with it. Nico kind of fumbled it and Sergio rebuilt his confidence. Yes, they were always 10 minutes away from collapsing into administration and bailiffs kicking the front door in but they looked like a bona fide race team for once. Now it looks like they’re back to scraping around for loose change to pay the suppliers.

Torro Rosso: Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr.

Right off the bat, I like Carlos for no other reason that when Ted Kravitz interviewed him during the second test, he was an absolutely nice chap. He was honest, charming and didn’t feel the need to big himself up. I have no idea if he’s got the chops to succeed in F1, but he’s got a personality and that gets my vote.
I’ve not seen anything from Max so I have no idea what he’s like. He’s been aaaaalright in testing, he’s not nailed the wall or annoyed anyone, and so reports he’s the second coming will have to wait. He’s from that Lewis Hamilton mould of being groomed for this sport from the moment he pushed his first corgi hot wheels car across the table top. His dad was a bit of a cock back in the day with the mistaken belief that he was somehow better then Schumacher, hopefully Max hasn’t inherited his father’s puffed up ego.
Then again do you remember what you were doing when you were 17? I think I was still trying to work out if having a third can of woodpeckers cider was going to end in praying to the porcelain God once more. I certainly wasn’t looking at my first season in an F1 car ... Is Max too young? It’s going to be the talking point of the season until he either has his first big accident, or gets a hatful or points.

Lotus:  Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonardo.

Well, you all know what I think about Pastor and he did nothing to change that view last year. Romain I have a bit more time for, he survived a tough initiation into the sport and I think he’s matured into a handy, if unremarkable drive.
As for Lotus, well it’s all change for them this year. They ditched the unreliable Renault unit and managed to convince Mercedes that they could really pay for some of their engines. When they rocked up to the first test the thing went like a rocket and Pastor was the star of the week with fastest laps all over the place. The car was suddenly reliable and predictable and drivable, everything a team wants from a car. As the testing went on they sort of dropped back to mid table respectability, but they got the miles they missed last year and could be set for a bit of a solid year. Just as long as Pastor can keep his murderous death wish under control of course!
I'm not going to get in to the debate about them hiring Carmen Jorda to be their team development driver. I’ll accept that she probably isn’t the greatest driver out there. But I don’t think she has deserved any of the downright bullying she has received since the announcement. No one put a gun to the head of Lopez and made him sign Ms Jorda. And they are perfectly at liberty to sign whoever waves a big enough cheque at them. No one has said she was going to do any racing, so why have the Red faced loons gone into meltdown over this. Give it up, you loons it’s not the end of day!

Marussia: well .. errrrr Will Stevens i think and errrrrr someone

Right, well okay Marussia or Manor as we are now supposed to call them. Well they sold off half the factory to HAAS motor sport and his American F1 vapourware. Lots of expensive looking mills, work stations , monitors, hats, mock up cars and general stuff got auctioned off and we thought we’d seen the end of them.
But then the administrators knocked on the FIA’s doors and said,
“That wad of cash we are owed for the point we got in Monaco .. what’s happing to that? “
The FIA shrugged and said, “Well if you pay your entry fee and bring a team to the table, it’s yours”. The team went away, had a bit of a think then came back and asked, “can we race our 2014 car if we put this year’s sticker on it?” The FIA asked the other team if that would be okay and Force India quite rightly said, “Errr why do they get to race last year’s car and we don’t ???? Screw them!”
So the FIA told Marussia to build a car that was mostly last year’s car and looked quite a lot like this year’s car and have it ready before the fourth race of the season, oh and pay the entry fee ... and they were in.
Force India grumbled a bit and then realised they’d still be ahead of the Marussia whatever happened and let it past. So, having paid for and got a receipt for their entry, Marussia are in.  They’ve been given a dispensation to miss the first three races whilst they buy back all the equipment they sold and knock up a car that will pass inspection. The team are saying they’ll rock up to Australia with something that most pundits assume will be at least seven seconds off the pace of the Merc and will fail the 107%. If that happens the stewards will refuse to let them race (probably, you never know with the FIA) and we’ll move on to the next race. Just how long they can be outside the 107% and denied entry is anyone’s guess. I think it’ll last as long as it take to get the  TV money cheque.
But whatever, good luck to Will and whoever else they sign up. I hope they like F! because they’re going to be watching a lot of it from the stands this year.

Sauber: Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson

So, last year was an utter disaster. No points, no credibility and they got beaten by Marussia at times, notably in Monaco where the plucky back markers snaffled a point. Peter Sauber is no mug and he didn't really deserve the kicking he got last year, after bailing the team out when BMW flounced off he should have been given more support by the FIA. Instead they seemed happy to let the likes of Sauber, Caterham and Force India go to the wall to protect some manufactures interests.
With Caterham gone and Manor fielding an updated 2014 car, Sauber should at least be guaranteed ninth place in the constructors’ championship this year. The car they wheeled out for testing certainly didn’t look like it was going to be pushing the front of the grid at all.  They have elevated the word ‘dull’ to a whole new interstellar level of dullness, with a car that actually makes you think a stag weekend in Rotherham would be a brilliant idea. Don’t let the blue and yellow paint scheme fool you, this car is the racing equivalent of waiting at the doctors for a prostrate examination.   You just know it’s going to be bad news.

So we have lots to look forward to this year. Yes the Merc will be on top, but the inter team rivalry will be fascinating.
Ferrari and Redbull look like locking horns once more and Williams is punching above its weight as the best of the customer Merc engine runners.
The fight to be the team that doesn’t go into administration will be between Sauber and Force India.  Force India will also have the added fun of wondering when VJ will finally run out of companies with pension funds he can raid then sell off
Lotus looks to have put last year’s woes behind them and might finish a race in the points again. Whilst Torro Rosso will continue to look after the kids for Redbull and insist they are an independent team.
Over it all Bernie will make random wacky statements, do dodgy deal and continue to grow his own personal wealth.

But mostly the racing will be a lot closer this year and more unpredictable in the mid field.
I'm certainly looking forward to it.



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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Big Ron speaks.

"At McLaren, we don't need a title sponsors. we use my rage"