Sunday, 5 July 2015

Sorry about this.

Hi, sorry about this. Due to a massive family emergency I'm going to have to suspended the prediction game for the foreseeable future.

I'll give you more details later but for now I have more real world problems that need me.

Sorry again.

Julian

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Ramble on ...

Ok then, time for a bit of perspective.
Is Formula one in trouble …. ?
Yes, yes of course it is. Half the teams are spending more time fighting creditors off with a finely tooled carbon prop shaft than chasing championship points. The racing is restricted by tyres that go off way too fast, fuel flow meters mean drivers have to lift and coast rather and nail it where the angels fear to tread. The muddy scum on the banking are kept well away from any contact with those paid to entertain them. Social media is a dirty word as other racing series fall over themselves to throw information at the punters, overload them with data and behind the scenes footage. F1 inc is taking down fans Youtube clips taken from six miles away on the banking, banning online F1 games that haven’t paid for the rights to use the drivers names or results of the races. There’s no attempt to engage with the audience, it’s only available to those prepared to pay through the nose for access and information. And that access and information is tightly controlled by just one man, a man dismissive of anyone that doesn’t have the money to buy a seat at his expensive race day tables. And a man who isn’t too concerned just where that money will have come from either. Dodgy third world dictator, not a problem, questionable attitude to human rights, come on in.
The only people telling you there isn’t a problem are those with a vested interest in things staying exactly as they are; Anyone connected with Mercedes, Bernie and his various tame media outlets, the FIA, Pirelli tyres, Ferrari. But not Redbull, especially not Redbull who are lying on the ground kicking their heels, throwing their toys at any passing media and screaming red faced at absolutely anyone that will listen about how unfair it is that they aren’t winning anymore.  It’s all particularly unseemly.
So yes, on and off track, it’s not looking too clever really. Talking of clever, where are the F-ducts and mass dampers? Those clever bits of thinking that can turn a midfield garagista into a front runner …. Banned.  The only difference now is buried deep under the carbon fibre skin, electrical systems tick and fizzle with innovation. KERS and ERHS powering man and machine faster for less fuel, more bang for your bucks. But all kept oh so secret, until it explodes then the fingers start pointing and shoulders are shrugged.
All this would be fine of course if there was a BUT next wouldn’t it ….. Nope I can’t think of one. The absolute highlight of the season so far, the biggest talking point, was Mercedes calling Hamilton in when he was leading the Monaco GP, oh and Maldonado crashing a lot.
Did you catch any of the other motor sport events I mentioned at the start of June ?
It all kicked off with the Canadian GP; Hamilton was the fastest, some cars almost hit some local wildlife. I fell asleep.
The following weekend was Le Mans and possibly one of the best races of the past decade, Porsche and Audi scrapping it out for the win, Toyota completely outgunned, Nissan getting a rude awakening and a social media kicking, the plucky KCMG squad from Hong Kong taking the LMP2 win with a faultless run ahead of much more experience teams. Then Corvette taking the honour in GT pro after a race long battle with Ferrari and a fleet of Aston Martins. Heartbreak for Aston in GT am with a crash for the leading car with less than an hour to go, Dempsey making in onto the podium in second behind the SMP Ferraris.  It had everything this year, racing all race long, beer,  Audi beaten at last, baguettes, Corvette winning, roast chicken. I hardly slept for 24 hours.

The Austrian GP: Roseberg was the fastest, I was in London having a good time with my son. So I didn’t fall asleep during the race this time, I fell asleep watching the highlights instead.

And finally I couldn’t find any live streams of Pikes peak. But I did watch the Formula E race from London, the final round of this new championship and it was an absolute belter. Buemi looked like he’d cruse to the title, but Piquet Jr drove a spectacular second race to hold onto the championship lead by two points.
Formula E is an odd thing, because the cars will only do half the race they have to swap cars at about half distance. So the driver has a choice weather to lift and coast to save power so they can get an extra lap to have more power with the second car at the end. Or go hell for leather at the start, build a big lead and then eak out the power of the second car to defend the lead. Where F1 is dull because the drivers are having to lift and coast from pretty much lap 4, Formula E manages to make this racing exciting. 
Putting up temporary circuits in cities around the world has brought the racing to people who wouldn’t normally see any live racing, okay the design of the circuits needs a little more thought. They were often too narrow for the bumpy city roads and parks and didn’t always promote much overtaking. But the cars looked fast on the narrow tracks, overtaking had to be about picking the right moment and often muscling past defensive minded drivers.  They might not have sounded very interesting, but the cars look different and the racing was exciting.

With both Le Mans and the Formula E races, social media was all over them like a rash!
I watched Le Mans from the comfort of my sofa, I had my nice big tv with its HD picture showing the two days of practice, and the entire 24 hour race. I had my PC set up showing a full timing service, Tweetdeck following all the major players who tweeted constantly, Facebook with various motorsport sites running race long threads. I watched live feeds from the 3 Nissan in car cameras with Nismo TV’s youtube feed. They had live reports from the pits, the cars, a studio at the back of the garage. Nissan had a great social media race if not an actual race.

Formula E actively encourages fans to get involved with their “Fan boost” via the FIA website.  Fans vote for their favourite driver and the top three get a five second power boast. It’s a bit simple, relies on the driver or teams PR department ability to reach out and do the FIA’s promotion for them. But as a direct result of this I’m now following Instagram feeds for Buemi and Bruno Senna and added dragon racing to my facebook time line. I’ve not watched the whole season, but I’ve watched races that I stumbled on whilst flicking though the tv channels.

So, formula one didn’t really shine in July, when the highlight of the month is Jean Todt telling Bernie to stop bad mouthing F1 to the Media and who is going to buy the rights to the series … you have a problem. There is no positive news from any of the teams or drivers or even the people charged with promoting the whole damn mass !

I have no idea what answer to all this is, but what F1 needs right now is someone to lead the thing whose primary concern isn’t his own ego, legacy or bank balance.

Okay, enough grumpy complaining .. We have the British GP this weekend to look forward to.
Well we do, and if you like watching Kimi being evasive in front of a frenzied media witch hunt you’re in for a proper treat.
The last few weeks have seen Kimi struggle to qualify well and then keep up with either of the Merc or his team mate Vettel. Normally this wouldn’t be too much of a problem, a number two driver is supposed to be there or there about’s and not put the highly paid number one under too much pressure. But this is Ferrari and any sign of weakness is jumped upon by the Italian media and eventually the rest join in. It’s a quite month, not a lot of on track action to write about, let’s pick on a driver make him feel bad about his perceived lack of performance.

So the media have been rumbling for a week or two now about how badly Kimi was doing, the usual “Ferrari number two poison chalice” stuff. If Ferrari isn’t coming first and second than clearly it’s the number two drivers fault. Then Arrivabene held a press conference to say no they weren’t looking to sign Bottas any time soon despite not being asked that question, and the interest in Kimi ramped up.
Vettel is doing a good job of looking renewed and exciting, he got a win and Kimi has failed to win anything and is thus now over the hill and ready for a job at Marussia apparently.
And this week, apparently Ricciardo thinks it’s “nice” that Ferrari are interested in signing him at some unspecified time despite a rock solid contract with Redbull. So the media circus is chasing Kimi around asking him when he’s going to be fired and why is he so rubbish now. Kimi, not the most charismatic media presence, is hiding behind his big glasses and muttering “no comment” whenever he’s asked about his future. Expect this weekend TV coverage to be dominated by this total non-story.

Right, yes, Silverstone .. total power circuit, so Merc win, and Ferrari close behind, the same as Austria and Canada really. I should imagine that Hamilton would like to get a win on home soil, it’s a circuit he likes and knows well. Nico will probably be right in his wheel tracks.
Errr Ferrari (Vettel) the Williams boys looking to put on a good show, Lotus with renewed vigour and I thinks its Perez’s turn to do well this weekend. Throw in a Torro Rosso for the laughs.

Things to look out for, how many engine changes Renault have across all their teams. How many laps the McLarens complete all weekend long and how many grid penalties they get starting from Friday practice one. Will Kimi make it to Q2. And how many minutes Redbull last before they start complaining about their Renault engine.

Once again, I have father/son duties to perform with a party for him and his mates. So the results might be a touch late.


Good luck.   

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Happy fathers day.

And yes it was, because I didn't subject myself to that tedium. No I was off enjoying some quality time with my boy a the Royal Academy Summer exhibition, and having a very enjoyable afternoon lunch above Covent gardens.

No dull motor racing here thank you.

OK, I did watch qualifying, which was interesting in a "just how did Kimi mess that up so badly!!" kind of  way. And wondering just how McLaren were going to be penalised 25 grid slots when they struggled to get out of Q1.
On a serious note here, yes I know it was supposed to stop teams slapping in a whizz bang qualifying engine on Saturday morning and changing it for a nice solid race engine on Sunday. But Honda have produced an utter piece of garbage! Cut the guys some slack, cut all the back marker teams some slack. Redbull are on their eleventy billionth engine I think, they're not troubling the front of the field so let them burn through engines till they find a solution.

So yeah Lewis lucked a hot lap after trying far to hard to catch Nico. Tried to defend it and spun yet again, only to be saved by Rosberg spinning try to beat him.

Come the race day I was in London with a glass of wine trying to make sense of modern art.

Is it the right way up ??

which made me question the struggle man has with nature ... I think ? I wasn't too sure. To be honest the wine was very nice, chilled perfectly and cheaper than the £10 they wanted for a Gin and Tonic.

£60,000 to you guv'ner.

I did check the F1 and some stage, The McLaren's went out early, Kimi tried to assault Alonso. eruum Hamilton wasn't as fast as Rosberg, err some stuff. I gave up and went back the art, which appeared to be mirroring my thoughts on F1 these days ...
Yes, yes you can polish art it seems.

But enough japes;

1. Rosberg - Very fast.

2. Hamilton - Not as fast

3. Massa - Bring your kids to work day

4. Vettel - Sticky nuts

5. Bottas - Somthing something pits

6. Hulkenberg - Second career starting nicely

7. Maldonado - Still fully loaded.

8. Verstappen - Max attack.

9. Perez - Nice smile

10. Ricciardo - Still smiling

Lewis got pole.

Nico got a fastest lap to prove a point

and Merhi continues to act as a mobile chicane in last place

Right, it's Silverstone next for the British GP and I promise to take more interest and try to be serious for that one, unless the misses goes into labour way too early. But until then, I'm going to the shed at the bottom of the garden to practice my Jackson Pollocks.

Good night.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Back to the grind I'm affraid.

Right. Okay, I'm afraid these are going to have to get a bit more focused and shorter now. It's one month till my wife is due to give birth, so I have a huge long list of stuff which I'm supposed to be sorting out. Rather than wasting my time away writing silly Formula one stuff.  
But I've sneaked a beer into the den and closed the door. I think I've got enough time to give you a preview of the weekends Austrian GP.

So then Mercedes will win .... Or will they ? Austria is very much like Canada, long fast bits with a couple of tight chicanes. It flows up and down the side of a mountain and fast times come from fast powerful engines; Mechanical grip is required as the teams trim the cars out to make them as slippery as possible.

Ferrari was right up Mercedes chuff in Canada, or they would have been if Vettels power unit had held together. Kimi normally qualifies a few tenths off Vettel and in Canada he was only half a second or so behind Nico's rear wing. If Vettel hadn't had his problems he would have been right up there making Mercedes work for their points. So Ferrari should be just as fast this time and a punt on some Vettel top step action isn't such a long shot. You certainly want at least one Ferrari on the podium.

But what about a Williams up there, I hear you cry. Well last year they should have sneaked a victory, but pragmatic point scoring trumped spirited racing. This year the car is just as fast and now more reliable, but the Mercs have pulled further ahead and Ferrari have got their engine working so the best they can reasonably hope for is a fourth but it'll probably be a fifth. Really they're waiting for last year's prize money to clear Bernie's "resting account" around the last third of the season. Next year it's going to be all about the Williams boys, trust me ;)
Lotus looked to have got their act together in Canada; Grosjean was beaten fair and square by Maldonado who managed to avoid hitting anything for a change. Austria being a power circuit I think a top ten is more than likely, and there's plenty of space for Pastor to charge around in.

Out of the points will be all the Renault drivers again. The Redbull A1 ring that Redbull pay to maintain, goes up the side of a mountain so if your engine runs out of puff on anything longer than 100 yards of straight road, you're in trouble. I've lost count of how many engines the various Redbull and Torro Rosso drivers are on but I expect someone will get a penalty for changing something this weekend. A Renault engine car in the top ten is a very long shot this weekend.

And finally Nico Hulkenberg, He's had a bit of a quite season thus far. So he went off and with the help of Porsche, British driver Nick Tandy and New Zealander Earl Bamber, only went and won Le Mans. It was mostly due to Nick Tandy who drove it like he stole it though the night. But this wasn't some seat of the pants, wing and a prayer, last man standing win. This was a gutsy, hard fought and well deserved win, beating the normally ruthless Audi winning machine. We all knew the Hulk was a top class driver and I hope he gets a bit more respect now, If he isn't in a factory LMP1 program next year, there's no justice in this world.




Right that's enough. Flip a coin to chose who follows Lewis home, Mercs and Ferraris up front, Williams best of the rest, throw in a Lotus and a Force India and then chose between the remaining Merc engine cars for the rest of the top ten.    

Oh one last thing ... McLaren Honda. The tension ramped up several notches in Canada. Alonso openly saying "Look the car is dog slow, unreliable and handles like a fat kid in a chocolate shop..... Now you're telling me its thirsty too.  Oh for f.... "

Alonso is not a happy camper. This is not the McLaren he signed up for and he can see no end to the pain he's having to endure at each round this year. There seems to be an awful lot of head scratching around the car and yet another bit melts, or falls off, or grenades itself, of just stops working.  Sure the other teams had these teething problems last year! But Honda had a year off testing whatever they wanted to for however long they wanted, they had no testing restrictions at all to sort these problems out.

The car is fundamentally wrong, the engine is going to take years to sort, meanwhile the Merc and Renault squads are getting further up the road. 

The Hulk goes off and wins Le Mans in the car Alonso was expected to be in, but was banned from racing by Big Ron. I wouldn't be surprised if Fernando burst into Ron's office and demonstrated his frustration to Ron using the medium of a clenched fist. Repeatedly.

Right no, that is it. Update your prediction before Friday please and good luck.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Nope, sorry, I fell asleep pretty early on

Okay, it's been a very long drunken weekend for this little lad and so I fell asleep at about the 10 lap mark. Woke up briefly when Nico started to catch Lewis, then didn't so the eyes grew heavy again and I think I saw the McLaren boys heading for yet another early bath ....

Which is all a shame really, the track and the fans deserve a better race in Canada. Further back there was some actual racing, but I think there were a lot of drivers managing fuel and brakes and tyres. All rather dull really .. ho hum.

Okay so Lewis won and pretty much deserved it, he got pole on Saturday with ease again. In the race the Ferrari attack never materialised and Williams knows its place behind their engine supplier. Nico had a pop but Lewis could answer it and never let the gap close to much more than a second. Fuel and brake managing and not coming in for any unnecessary pit stops this time, not the most exciting victory but a very important one for #teamLewis.

Rosberg Second and the team gave the impression he was allowed to race Lewis for much of it. But whenever he got close to the back of his team mate, suddenly his brakes started to wear out and he had to drop back. So he wasn't really racing anyone. Kimi sort of made him work, well he made Nico sweat when the lights went out at the start. Other than that, the day was a case of play follow the leader and make sure it's another Merc 1-2. Job done.

Bottas was third for Williams's first podium of the year. I think this was more due to the fact Kimi had a problem with a power spike and spin rather than a faster car. Williams claim the engine upgrade all the Merc teams got and some new aero tweaks have moved them ahead of the Ferrari boys. Certainly the car looked to have a bit more straight line cajoners but was it faster than Ferrari? I'm not convinced. Ferrari seems to have a few pit wall issues that are robbing them of better results. Vettel showed the car is fast, so I think Bottas was lucky rather than some sort of corner being turned by Williams.

Kimi was fourth and should really have been on the podium. But the car glitched as he was coming out of the hairpin onto the long back straight, that caused him to spin and gave Bottas enough time to get in and change his tyres ahead of the red car. Kimi used to be a driver you looked forward to watching, when the blood was up he was lighting far for lap after lap. And yes he did get the fastest lap of the race, But one again he was managing the brakes and fuel and never got the train going. I think it was telling that Arrivabene was standing at the back of the grid with Vettel as the cars were pushed onto the grid. Vettel was a long way back and the chance of a podium slim whilst Kimi was in third and was eyeing up a podium result. I think it demonstrates who Ferrari are pinning their future hopes on, we could be looking at Kimi's last year in red overalls.

Vettel was fifth and that isn't too shabby is it. He was a naughty boy in practice on Friday, overtaking when the red flag was being waved for Hamilton's accident. So he was starting a long way back in the race. He kept it sensible, passed people cleanly and hauled it back to the top five, as I say, not too shabby.  The Italian love affair continues.

Massa was another that had problems in qualifying and started a lowly 15th, again his drive back to sixth shows the car has made some improvements. Maybe not quite on a par with Ferrari then but certainly enough to keep Ferrari looking over their shoulder now.

Maldonado was seventh and didn't hit anyone surprisingly.

Hulkenberg showed what a Merc engine can do for you in eighth.

Kvyat was a creditable ninth with the underpowered Renault.

And tenth was Grosjean who demonstrated that it isn't just the young lads that can drive like a complete idiot. Carving up Stevens in the Manor Marussia, a car that is hopelessly slow, was just stupid. And to then get on the radio and shout "he hit me, he hit me", was pathetic. I thought he grown out of being a total tool, but apparently not.

And because he got nailed by Grosjean, Stevens was this weeks last place Johnny

Okay, it's late, time for bed. Le Mans next week. Join me here for all the fun.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Mike Hawthorn - Le Mans 1956 - Jaguar D-Type



The following day in the race, 83 people died when Pierre Levegh crashed into the back of a car and somersaulted into the banking in front of the pitlane grandstand.

Hawthorne always claimed he had nothing to do with the crash, but many say Levegh was trying to avoid his Jaguar and didn't see the car in front until it was too late.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

It's going to be a busy month !

June is the here and that means Motorsport heaven.

If the smell of burning four star, smells like victory to you and the sound of big grunty engines powering through the cool night air raises the hairs on the back of the neck. June is just ram packed with high octane fun for you.

We start this weekend with the Canadian GP, a proper old school track surrounded by fans who know where the engine is in an F1 car. I love this track, the first half is tight and flowing through the tree lined park. The run back to the start line is a flat out blat along the waterfront before the deceptively easy looking chicane and the wall of champions.   

Once we’re through with F1 in Canada, the focus pulls back to Europe and the Le Mans 24 hours world endurance race.  Which is my personal heaven; it’s a party with a race in the middle, a weeklong orgy of fast cars, beers, chips, and baguettes. Headlights and glowing brake discs, V8s, V10s, turbos and whisper quite diesels, runny cheese and smelly toilets. Think Glastonbury with slightly less mud and much better catering.
Eurosport are coving the whole thing on TV, There is a WEC app with live timing, highlights and commentary for your phones and tablets. Last year you could watch the whole race from inside the Audi or Porsche cars, with live telemetry beamed to your PC. This year Nissan have a whole suit of online content to impress you with and Corvette will have pits and car cams, pit wall audio. If Bernie think the new digital media world is a waste of time, he should see what the Endurance racing world is doing, there is so much content, you can’t fail to be impressed. Its inviting, it welcomes you to the party rather than demand the contents of your wallet and give you a warm sausage on an F1 branded cocktail stick.

We stay in Europe for weekend three and the Austria F1 GP at the reopened Redbull A1 ring. Last year was a nip and tuck fight between the Merc, but Williams missed their best chance of a spoiler. This year with Ferrari bringing a fast car to the party we could see their second win of the year.

And finally, the last weekend of June we have the Pikes peak hillclimb event in Colorado USA, the second oldest motorsport event in America, they’ve been racing up this hillside since 1916 testing man and machinery to the limit over 12.42 miles (19.99 km) through 156 turns, climbing 4,720 ft (1,440 m). And these aren’t boys in ratty Lotus sevens and clapped out minis, in 2013 Peugeot sent Sebastien Loeb up the hill in a 875 bhp 3.2ltr V6 monster in a time of 8:13.878 shattering the previous record by 44 seconds.

From one of the oldest motorsport events to a possible future for motor sport and the London round of the Formula E series. Now before you throw your arms in the arm and flounce off muttering about how electric cars sound awful and it’s just rubbish, rubbish I say. Have you actually watched any of the racing ? Because what I’ve seen has been pretty good so far, there is certainly more racing than F1 can muster these days. Yes, it’s a bit cack handed with swapping from one car to another half way through because the battery technology is a bit duff. The fan boost
is more about good social media skills than racing ability and yes some team are there to make the numbers up. But at its core its racing, it is exciting and it will only get better.

So that’s June for you. And it all kicks off this weekend in Canada.

The talking point is going to be Lewis and his relationship with the team here, which is a bit of a shame because as I said I really like this track and the racing is usually pretty good. It’s refreshingly old school, it doesn’t look like some bland industrial estate on the outskirts of a large urban splat in this month fashionable third world dictatorship. The fans in the seats are there by choice having bought tickets with their money and will fill all the stands. Thus providing what is increasingly becoming unique at F1 events these days, an atmosphere. We should be celebrating this, not asking weather Lewis is talking to Toto or who’s making the strategy calls on the pit wall.

Anyway, Merc blah blah blah, Lewis Pole and the win if there's any justice.  But Nico has had two wins on the bounce now, so you never know. They had a problem with their brakes in Canada last year and this year Lewis had problems with his brakes in Barcelona i think it was. So they may opt to play it say and not disappear off into the distance, if they play that game then Ferrari might try to push them the see how well their brakes hold up. The temperatures look like they're going to be high this weekend too, so we could see another tyre wear race.

Barcelona showed just how far the Mercs were ahead of the Ferraris, and I would expect to see the same sort of advantage here with Williams as usual next, Force India and maybe Lotus. Actually, I think Kimi could be on for a good one here. Yeah, i think he'll be on the podium here, for no other reason than I think it's his turn. The team can't keep screwing him over can they ?

The brave amongst you will put a Renault car in the top ten, Torro Rosso maybe might just sneak Verstappen or Sainz in if the other teams have problems. But Redbull are going to struggle on a power circuit with an underpowered engine and a car with handling issue. The Redbull PR machine has gone quite of late regarding how jolly unfair it all is for them, their threat to flounce off if Audi refused join them backfired when Audi said it had no plans to join F1. And then no one backed Helmet Markos' plans to let Redbull win because they were Redbull and really, really, really important. The drivers have been told to grumble about unfair engine rules to little effect. There was a sort of grudging acknowledgment that "yeah, Newey had built a bit of a dog this time" and then a shrug as they accepted they were going to get grid penalties for using too many engines.

I don't know if they're first +1 engine will get used this weekend but it wouldn't surprise me. So putting Ricciardo in the top ten is going to be very risky.

 Okay, enough random rubbish. Predictions in before Friday as per usual cheers.

And finally, I'm sort of thinking about a doing a one off prediction game for Le Mans this year. Top 15, pole, fastest lap and the total number of laps the winner completes. Drop me an email if you're interested, this would be a spread sheet one off so I'd need a fair few players to make it worthwhile.

Cheers all, and good luck.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Someone is in trouble tonight!

There wasn't a mugging, there was no day light robbery. That was a spectacular cock up, a dropping of the ball and a failure worthy of an English cricket team in full ashes collapse.
Hamilton had the race won! He'd done all the hard work on Saturday with a comfortable pole and a team mate floundering around the escape roads home. Ferrari had briefly threatened to upset the script with Vettel looking handy. But the cold track on Saturday had played into Mercedes hands and all Hamilton had to do was demonstrate just how fantastic he is. Sunday was just going to be a cruse in the sunshine, no chance of rain unfortunately, it was hot and clear blue skies as far as the eye could see. There was nothing, absolutely nothing there to stop Hamilton winning in Monaco and burying Nico's challenge stone cold dead.

I'd even drifted off it was so dull, the low drone of the engines, Martin Brundels soft voice like warm honey in the ear informing me just how easy this all was for Hamilton. The minor places being scrapped over by old boys and young bloods. McLaren having a good race for a change, Button into the top ten as Alonso has a Monaco to forget.
The Torro Rosso boys making a name for themselves; Sainz starting from the pit lane after the FIA threw the ban hammer at him for a minor misdemeanour in qualifying, was charging back through the field. Verstappen was harrying the lotus of Grosjean and my eyes were getting heavy, sleep was washing over me as the smell of freshly mown grass wafted through the open windows. A glass of chilled Soave glinting in the afternoon sun, Hamilton on the way to the chequered flag... sleep enveloping me like a warm comfortable blanket.

Then crash bang wallop, how's yer father, Grosjean has brake tested Verstappen into the first corner and sent the young scallywag barrowing into the Tecpro safer barrier; Sparks and wheels and bits of carbon spraying off in all directions! It's a big one, but the Dutch lad was able to walk away with only his pride injured.

Charlie up in race control threw a virtual safety car to begin with, where all the drivers have to stick to a set speed following each other, no overtaking, as the marshals clear the Torro Rosso away. But there were too many bits of old car on the racing line and they have to be removed by hand. So the safety car was sent out to pick up Hamilton and neutralise the race.
At this point, a soon to be ex employee of Mercedes racing gets it into his head that Hamilton has enough time to get back to the pits, change his tyres and get back out ahead of Rosberg, who has been quite unremarkable all afternoon, and Vettel who can't overtake because this is Monaco.
No he didn't. Ferrari weren't out in the pits about to change Vettels tyres, Mercedes knew Nico wasn't coming in. So why the Sam Hill bring Hamilton in? No one else pitted, no one else though "14 laps to go, we need nice new rubber for this".
Every single pit boss watched Mercedes stride out into the pit lane as Hamilton turned into the last corner and as one though "Why !?!?!?!?!. Every single person who had sat through 64 laps of tedium watched Hamilton drive down the pit lane on his own and though "Why !?!?!?!" Nico thought "Why?", Vettel thought "Why?" and then made sure he got to the pit lane exit line before Hamilton and thought "hahahahahaahahahahaahahahaha ...........mmmmmwwwhahahahahaahahahahaha"

The first rule of Monaco is  ... you can't pass at Monaco, unless the other guy screws up.

Vettel was never going to screw up with 10 laps of racing left. He's a four times world champion. He might not be brilliant, but he's not an idiot and he knows how to defend a position. What where Mercedes thinking? They knew Nico wasn't coming in and damn sure as mustard he wasn't going to hold back and let Hamilton cruse back into the lead.

So the safety car eventually goes back in and we get to watch Hamilton desperately try to overtake Vettel for a bit, the chilled Soave gets a bit too warm to be enjoyable anymore and Nico picks up what has to be the easiest victory of his entire career.
Nico didn't even have the good grace to look embarrassed about it all at the end. He was waving and jumping around like he's fought tooth and nail for every inch of that track. Instead of being blown away and generally tooling around until his team stunningly fumbled the ball handing him the win on a plate. He didn't even get the fastest lap! Ricciardo did that chasing Hamilton down at the end to make it even more uncomfortable with the unlucky Brit.


So Nico won, and he didn't really deserve it did he. He messed up qualifying, never looked like really being on terms with Hamilton on Saturday. Okay, I'm sure the team talk on Sunday morning was a straight, "Lewis got pole, don't do anything stupid lad, alright" chat. Nico wasn't going to jeopardise a Mercedes one-two at the most prestigious European race of the year after all, tail gunner duties set to Germany this weekend. Hamilton built up a nice lead and never looked like making any mistakes that Nico could capitalize on, he was well beaten this weekend and no amount of high fiving the team that handed him the win is going to change that.

Vettel didn't have the grunt to pass either Nico or Lewis and thusly was the only happy person on the podium with second place. He wasn't expecting that second and said as much in the post race interview. The Ferrari looked better than it did in Spain, but Monaco is a bit of a one off so you can't draw any conclusion about the car here. Vettel however is looking much happier with his switch to Italy and you can't really begrudge him the results so far.

Hamilton was shafted by the team and I have never seen a driver so gutted with third place at Monaco. He gets a lot of respect for saying well done Nico for the win, watching his team mate cavort around like it was the greatest victory of his life must have been galling. They'll be other races, but none as painful as this third place.

Kvyat was fourth despite Ricciardo taking the first to Hamilton at the end.  Apparently Riccy was given the chance to have a go for third only on the proviso that if he wasn't on the podium on the last lap, he had to give the place back to his team mate who had let him past after the safety car. Bizarre indeed, I doubt there are many drivers on the grid that would give the place back. But Redbull are fighting for pride alone now, Vettel has gone and it's a more harmonious garage these days. So Kvyat got his fourth back......

.... and Ricciardo was fifth.

Kimi was sixth and still needs to work on his qualifying.

Perez with a bucket of spares parts nailed together and powered by the sweat of desperate men, was seventh. Not a bad effort with a car that is in desperate need of some new bits. Monaco unique etc etc luck blah blah.

Button was eighth and the McLaren boys and girls deserved that. They've plugged away with a terrible engine and hybrid system, a chassis that twists and turns more than David Cameron at an EU summit.  Alonso had a Monaco to utterly forget with numerous engine failures and technical issues but Button almost made it into Q3 for the first time this year and was chipper and upbeat all weekend. They've not turned a corner of anything, but they've got some points now to cheers up the faithful.

Nasr was ninth, I think because Grosjean and Verstappen took each other out. It's a good result for Sauber who look like they're struggling again.

And finally Sainz was tenth with a feisty drive from the pits. Apparently he missed the random mandatory FIA car weight check during qualifying, so the stewards took away all his qualifying times and made him start from the pit lane. To get back to tenth at Monaco is no mean feat, the safety car was late in the race so didn't give him any help. That was a pretty good drive, and he didn't his anyone up the backside, like his more fancied team mate did you'll notice.

Okay Riccy fastest lap, and the last place driver was Will Stevens this week, in the Manor Marussia. Is it my imagination or does Stevens look like the delivery boy from the post room who got mistaken for a racing driver one day and no one has the heart to tell him the to go home? No, just me then.


Right, dull race then, the winner didn't deserve it and the best man was third. ho 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Monaco, its not just about the money.

Hello everyone. It's time to put on the best bib and tucker, dust of the loafers and hitch up that winning smile because we're all off the Monaco and the yearly European F1 trade show.

Don't worry about the racing, watch qualifying, that's your winner right there. No need for all that tedious round and round nonsense. Well there's the guessing at what point Maldonado inevitably smears it down the wall but other than that, qualifying will give you all you need.

No, Monaco I'm afraid is an anachronism these days; it's too narrow, has far too little run off to play with. The spectators don't really get to see much, other than who's there and who paid to be next to the Royal pavilion. Singapore meanwhile is fast turning into the city race course it's ok to like these days.

Monaco is little more than a trade show for the B list money men who can't afford to go to Singapore. What used to be the highlight of the social season has turned into an unseemly dash for a shrinking pool of money. The likes of Ferrari, Redbull and Mercedes will wing the super rich to the Raffles hotel for the best night race of the year. But the less financially stable will have reasonably priced boats moored in the Monaco harbour and pray the weather holds all weekend and doesn't upset the middle ranking CEOs and mildly VIP. Some of them might even watch the race, most will be there to be seen and wonder what time the taxi heads back to Nice.

Don't get me wrong here; there are real fans at Monaco. If you look really hard, as the cars turn into the pit entrance there is a slab sided hill off to the right as you look back out to sea. I'm told it's a sheer cliff face; you take your life in your hands getting down there. But it's free, and it affords one of the best views in Formula one.

From there you can practically taste the history of F1 racing. A view out over the harbour that has hardly changed from the days of Fangio and Moss, watch the daredevil drivers threading the eye of the needle through the Armco barriers.  Cars dancing out of Tabac, through the swimming pool complex into La Rascasse, Anthony Noghes and the long curving pit straight.  Those nitwit on the boats don't appreciate what's happening in front of them, the level of skill they could be witness too.
There might not be much overtaking and actual racing, but watch Alonso in a dog of a car, Kimi rekindling his love of racing and Hamilton at the top of his game and be damned impressed for they are gladiators, fighting for our entertainment.

It's looking like it'll be a wet weekend in the south of France, just to add spice to the event. Normally rain levels the playing field and the rubbish cars get a chance to shine. But at Monaco it just makes the whole thing a more of a lottery, skill will still will out and all so that a Merc or two at the front with a Ferrari or Williams shadow no doubt. The rest of the top ten is going to be far trickier to predict.

Force India has two excellent wet weather drivers.
Sauber has a fast car but two so so drivers.
Torro Rosso has thrusting young bucks and a handy little car.
Redbull will be able to turn the wick down and Danny has shone at wet races in the past.  


And what about McLaren ... if they're going to get anything this year, Monaco will be the place it happens. 

Please update your predictions before Wednesday midnight, due to Monaco starting the practice days on Thursday so they can have Friday off to get drunk I think.

Also this weekend in the Indy 500, four corners, speeds over 230 mph and a solid concrete wall if it all goes wrong. Hunt around for live feeds on the internet it might not have the global reach of F1, but those boys are racing at over 200mph 3 wide with no run off to save them. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Set aero to "unpassableness"

Well what do you think, is this the start of Rosbergs fight back? Or was that a prime example of where F1 has gone wrong?
Roll with me here, I thought this was supposed to be the age of the engine, energy recovery systems and cars actually racing for the win. But here we are four races into the season and we're back to four years ago and cars of similar speeds not being able to overtake each other. Because the moment a Merc gets up behind a Ferrari, on similar tyres, all the down force disappears from the front wing and the Merc can't follow the Ferrari through the long sweeping corners.

It's all about the aero again, sure the flappy rear wing thing will get the Merc past the likes of Torro Rosso and Lotus, but only if the Lotus has half its rear wing missing! And I don't think this is just this circuit, which the teams test on during the winter break and know like the back of their hand. This not being able to get close enough to overtake was evident in China, Malaysia and Bahrain. Those front wings are works of pure art, they are sculpted to within an inch of their lives. Multiple lines, element after element cascading in a spray of carbon fibre and Kevlar honeycomb, they are beautiful.  But they stop working the moment they get 20 foot from the car ahead.

I sometimes wonder if the aero designers, those oh so clever lads and lasses sitting in dark wind tunnel control rooms pouring over data screens looking for that millionth of a second difference. Do they ever stick another model in front of their new design and see what happens? Has no one explained to them that there are indeed other cars on track at the same time? And the chances are, their new front wing will have to negotiate Maldonado at some point.
I might only have a rudimentary grasp of aerodynamics from my HND at Farnborough tech back in 1989 but if I was the team boss of Sauber or Williams, I'd be telling the design office to make sure the front wing still worked six foot from the back of a Ferrari.

So anyway the race was less dull that I was expecting. Watching Hamilton is always exciting for me. His "rag it to the end" attitude encapsulated by the radio call at the end, wanting to know if it was just team orders to stop racing, or it actually was technically impossible catch Rosberg.  Sure there was plenty of whinging about not being able to catch and pass Vettel. And the usual old chestnut about not calling him when he's busy driving round corner and stuff. But all of that can be forgiven when the driver want the win not just the points.

And let's be fair to Nico here for a minute, he went out and got pole with a pretty special lap, that Hamilton couldn't get anywhere near. Off the line he didn't mess it up and then he just drove off. Ferrari's threw a shed load of upgrades at the car which didn't really make the car that much faster, certainly no faster than the Mercs anyway. So Nico did what Lewis did for the first four races, conserved his tyres, fuel and made it look easy, job done. Is the start of his fight back ... I don't know. If he can get his qualifying Mojo back then yeah sure, he'll keep Lewis honest. But realistically, I think this is Lewis's championship to lose still.  But we have Monaco next, and that has belonged to Nico these past few years.

Okay then, Rosberg won and made it look easy. Apparently he was less conservative in qualifying and just went for it like he did last year. So this time he hit the track running on Sunday, rather than worrying about how he was going to overtake Lewis.  

Lewis was second and had to break a sweat to do it. Too much wheel spin off the line and then a sticky wheel nut during the first pit stop and he was always going to be second. He complained all afternoon about not being able to pass Vettel and demonstrated when he had clear air that he had a smidge of a bit of a point. He got the fastest lap for his troubles, but on the same tyres as Vettels' Ferrari and four foot from the rear wing he was going nowhere.

Vettel was third and did the best he could. If debatable whether pitting early with Lewis would have helped, I think Vettel is still iffy in traffic and they knew they were comfortably ahead of the Williams.  Try the long middle stint and see what happens. Then Lewis started banging out fastest lap after fastest lap on the "slower" hard tyres and they knew the game was up. I think Ferrari is just happy they aren't fighting it out for tenth this year. To be just behind the Mercs is good enough right now.

Bottas was fourth and looking at the Williams social media stream you could be forgiven for thinking they'd won! Maybe they were just happy that their meagre upgrade kit had kept them in touch with Ferrari and Mercedes. They still don't have the cash to be building B spec cars, so to be there or there about is as good as a win for the plucky garagistas.

Kimi was fifth and I thought he was doing better than that, hmm. Anyway, the usual 1000 lines "I must do better in qualifying" on the headmasters desk Monday morning lad.

Massa, has some sort of issue in qualifying so only started from 9th, so something, something blah good show, instagram pictures of Massa Jr son all round, pick up the pay check. Goodnight.

Ricciardo didn't blow up for a change. Hurrah! and they managed to beat the junior team who had out qualified then by a country mile. People who know about these things said the pistons in the engine had been changed back to the old ones from the start of the year, rather than the supposedly better ones Renault took to Bahrain. Whatever the car ran faultlessly for a change and Danny gets himself some points,
Someone, I forget who, did mention that Redbull were basically running last year's car for the first four races and that was why they were so awful. It wasn't just the engine that was letting them down, this weekend they had a particularly fine new front wing and plenty of new aero pointy bits. I guess it worked for them.

Grosjean eighth and that lotus still looks a bit of a handful, especially in crazy Maldo's hands!

Sainz on home soil muscles his way past the team he hopes to drive for one day and lands ninth. Now the official FIA result I'm looking which was published at 18:45. Has Sainz ahead of Kvyat but these two were under investigation for being naughty at the end of the race ... hang on, I can check that ... wait there.......hmm I can't find anything to say Sainz was hit with the ban hammer. Oh well if the result changes later you can shake your fist at the FIA and curse their new Media chap who has screwed up the FIA web pages so now nothing is easy to find.

So Kvyat was tenth and fairly anonymous all race, until Sainz bashed into his and went past off the circuit. The young  Russian has had a bit of a tough time of it so far, the words "out of his depth" could be used by a less caring and more unfriendly commentator. But I just think it was a straight up choice between Putin's blood money and Vergne. Damned if they did and Vergne.


Right enough sarcasm. It's time to celebrate a new hero for this stupid game .. step forward Roberto Merhi who is a new Max "the Grin" Chilton. Roberto was four laps behind Rosberg this week. With a best time, that's the best time he could manage during 66 laps of the race, of 1:34:211 on lap 51. Hamilton's fastest lap by way of comparison was 1:28:270 on lap 54. Six seconds, I have no idea how far that actually equates to, but it may as well be the dark side of the moon for Merhi. Let's hope for our sake he gets to keep his seat a little longer. 

Roberto was bemused to learn he was racing now, and no longer testing

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Pastor is richer than you!

Hurrah it’s all back to sunny Europe and falling asleep in front of the TV on Sunday afternoon. No getting up at some ungodly hour to wonder why you bothered.
After four rounds bordering on the tedious we’re back to Barcelona and the hardly exciting dusty wasteland of the Spanish countryside. No, I’m being disingenuous, Barcelona throws up some interesting races from time to time and we’re due a good one this year.

So then, the most interesting news of the last few weeks as been the head of Ferrari’s renaissance Mr Arrivabene, telling the media that he doesn’t give two hoots about Hamilton ever driving a Ferrari! No, he thinks Bottas is the boy they want to take to the title next.  Which sort of confirms that they like Vettel and don’t want to rock the boat with two number ones and are quite happy to have a monosyllabic Fin driving the car as long as he is willing to do the whole “number two” thing.
I'm not sure that Lewis is all that fussed about driving for Ferrari right now though. He’s clearly got the measure of Nico at Mercedes and with Redbull hamstrung by a rubbish Renault there’s no reason to jump ship for the next few seasons. 
They all pay lip service to the “I want the best team mate there is so I can prove to myself that I’m the best” but in reality they’d all take Massa and his “Alonso is faster than you” attitude any day of the week. Coming second is fine, just as long as it’s no to the other guy in the post-race team debrief.  Vettel tried it last year and didn’t like it one bit, so he went to a team that has no qualms about telling the other boy to get out of the way for the highly paid emotionally fragile talent.
So Arrivabene is just letting Vettel know he’s safe in the seat as long as he’s delivering for the Tifosi, the other teams that Kimi will be up for the highest bidder in ice creams in a year or so and that Bottas is the sort of driver, but not quite number one driver, they’re willing to pay for.

New this weekend will be the McLaren livery. How much of the car under it will be new is anyone’s guess. If you’re a particular McLaren fan who remembers the glory days of red and white Marlboro colours, or the Classic days of Bruce McLaren racing in Orange cars. Prepared to be extremely disappointed as Big Ron, never the most expressive of team bosses, has opted for a sort of stealth look to confuse the watching public as the car slips past at the back of the pack unnoticed.

Can you spot the difference ?
Gone is the pointless chrome to be replaced with black and new red “McLaren“flash lines have been added to the side pods. As a re-branding exercise I'm not sure what they were trying to do. The car doesn’t hark back to any classic paint jobs; it doesn't look much different to the previous 2015 livery and is now even more like Force India. Maybe that it, Ron is trying to fool his investors into thinking his cars are further up the field!

Amusing story of the week...
Maldonado has been reminded that no driver is guaranteed a seat week after week that he has paid for with a whole shed load of Venezuela's finest oil money. No, it turns out smearing the car down various concrete walls around the world is a bad thing. Also scoring a mere 2 points from 23 races is considered a bit below par. So despite bringing an estimated $27millions of PDVSA oil money, far and away the biggest single sponsor in F1 today, and pretty much clearing the debt Lotus had... it might not be quite enough for Pastor to keep his seat!

No, I don't think he has much to worry about either.  All the other drivers do but not Paster, he has 27million reasons to feel pretty safe.

Anyway, to the race.

Well the return to Europe usually heralds a raft of aero and mechanical updates for all the cars. Except for Force India who is still hunting for spare change to pay their suppliers, so they're getting nothing new this weekend. But everyone else will be bringing some sort for "B spec" car.
Now whilst the media would have you believe that the new engine in the Ferrari will catapult them past the Merc and Lauda telling the media how Ferrari are right up their chuff. The reality is everyone moves forward. Unless they suddenly realise they plugged the engine in the wrong way round (and Renault might just be checking their build plans) everyone will find a tenth or two and the status quo will almost certainly be maintained.
Other than of course the rich teams moving ahead of the not so rich teams and Manor, so Merc and Ferrari ahead of Williams with Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Verstappen knocking around the back of the top ten.
I can't see much past Lewis on pole and maybe a Ferrari for fastest lap.  Last will be one of the Manors, probably Merhi if he continues to "race"



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