Monday, July 28, 2014

Hungarian F1 weekend gallery.



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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hamilton saves but Danny wins the day ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nico: “Why isn’t he letting me past?”

Pit Wall: “Lewis, get out of his way”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 N: “Sssiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr waaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have we got time to sign Kimi ?

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

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

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

Okay.

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

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

What's the right pedal for again ?


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



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Its a slow news week...

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

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

In no particular order;

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

Then Bernie said, "Think before you drive "

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

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

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

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

So then, this weekend ...

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

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

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



Sunday, July 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

Anyway the result.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Germany, for FRIC sake, now what?


Hello all how are you?


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

 

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

 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's all about the spectacle apparently.

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

No.

I have no idea why, either!

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


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

Credibility that way ... Morals that way.

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

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

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

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

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

   

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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I lost my train of though about half way through the bottle.

 Just what is it, that a team requires of its drivers ?

Simple, to win.

But is it that simple ? Does just winning satisfy the teams’ desire for a leader, for a talisman to get behind and cheer on.

This weekend was not Mercedes best, in as much as they didn’t dominate as they have done thus far this season. Until Canada, you could pretty much guarantee that the silver cars would be on the front row of the grid and then cruse to an easy victory. The only challenge was going to come from the other side of the garage.

But then in Canada both cars failed within 22 seconds of each other, with identical problems a KERS unit failure in the rear wheels. The once bulletproof Mercedes mechanical reliability was found wanting and they lost the race. It is also worth pointing out, Nico managed to bring that car home, down something like 180bhp and had all its braking going though the front wheels only, that was my friends a top draw drive. Too many people wrote Nico off at the start of this season, it was all going to be a matter of time before Lewis took the title and Nico learnt his true place in the pecking order, but as the season has gone on Nico has just got better and better.  

And here is the important bit; the pole in Monaco, the second with good grace in Bahrain and bringing a broken car home in Canada don’t just give Nico some nice mantle piece silverware, it lifts the whole team. It gives them a leader they can believe in, especially when Lady Luck is pouring champagne into their cups at the end of the race.  

Lewis went from tenth to fourth in the space of seven corners. He overtook some of the best drivers in the world, okay in the car that is the class of the field. However, it still wasn’t good enough to win the race and tonight it’s not him the team are slapping the back of and talking excitedly about where to have the celebratory championship dinner at the end of the year. The title once thought to be his for the taking is slipping further and further away.

The twittersphere and Social networks have worked themselves up into a froth of self righteous indignation tonight, claiming the team is favouring its German driver and the plucky English lad is getting a raw deal. The race was “lost on the pits stops” the Lewis lovers are crying, “it’s all a fix, the team took longer to change his tyres and that’s why he lost!!”. But that wasn’t the reason, a damaged rear brake hub slowed the wheel change by 0.8 seconds. And he was even brought in ahead of Nico to give him a chance to undercut Bottas for second.

I think my point is, bearing in mind i’m 2/3rd of the way through a particularly fine bottle of white, is that Nico is on a role and the team are responding, whilst Lewis is starting to panic and is overdriving the car. He’s also just not as lucky as Nico right now and sometimes that can be the hardest thing to beat.

Let’s also take a moment to savour the return of Williams to the front of the pack. Last year was a bit of a mess, not helped by paying Maldonado crash the car each weekend. They started the year giving Mercedes a run for their money during the testing days, but then the wheels feel off the wagon and it looked like a return to last year’s woes. Not helped by wacky pit wall calls either, telling Massa to get out of his team mates way indeed.

Then Rob Smedly turned up on the pit wall and things calmed down. There seems to be a bit more focus and a belief in what they’re doing. They didn’t try to race each other or Mercedes this weekend, they had a plan and they stuck to it.


Rosberg wins and had to work for it again. He didn’t really do anything amazing or spectacular either, he just sort of won. This puts him one win ahead of Lewis now and its pretty much his to lose now. He must be due some bad luck soon though,

Hamilton has had all the bad luck he needs this year, I can’t find the reason for the spin in Q3 that left him in tenth place, the team claimed it was nothing to do with the car which leaves the suspicion that the plucky English lad is over driving the car chasing his team mate. Whatever the reason, he need to get his mojo back if he want to win this thing. Nico is building too much of lead.

Bottas, Williams claim they weren’t trying to win this thing. They knew the Mercs (who supply their engines remember) were going to be faster and there was no point trying to fart against thunder. Yet they were pulling away from the silver cars on the long bits and didn’t look like they were saving their brakes at the end. So I think they had a chance at the top step and bottled it, which is fine given how things went last year, make hay whilst the sun shines and all that, but it would have been nice if they’d gone for it a bit more.

Massa, was told not to rag the car trying to prove something against the Merc’s and his team mate. Having got pole he didn’t really capitalise on it, i’m not sure he was capable of much more though to be honest. I think the shock of actually getting pole went to his head a bit.

Alonso, still plugging away in a dog of a car, they think if the car was a little bit faster things would be better. I think they need a new car, engine, team. Alonso is wasting his talents in Italy.

Perez, laid the smack down on Hulkenberg yet again. It’s like he’s had some actual working balls grafted on him or something. Where has the spunk come from ?

Magnussen, finally the weekend gels and he gets the think back to the top ten. He’s been copping a lot of flack from ill informed nitwits of late has Kev. Sure he’s no Hamilton, but he isn’t Maldonado either.
Ricciardo, bit of a come down from the win last time out, Redbull were pretty shit all weekend really. The highlight being Horner turning up post race and with an absolutely straight face blaming all of the world’s problems and some problems from distance as yet undiscovered worlds on Renault. The problems was their engine wasn’t powerful enough and it hadn’t changed since Australia and it was a travesty and no, they had no plans to make their own engine despite inviting a whole bunch of engine making companies to Austria. Sort of ignoring the update and pretty much glossing over the new engine Renault took to Canada and they won the race with. Redbull are locked into a contract with Renault next year at least and i doubt Mercedes or Ferrari want to supply engines to these chaps, which doesn’t leave Redbull with too many options does it.

Hulkenberg, beaten buy Perez again, he didn’t look a happy chap post race.

Raikkonen.... yeah, apparently he’s still driving for Ferrari! Still could be worse, he could be in a Lotus.

Gutierrez was last and Perez was fastest.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

This is how you do Le Mans

Le Mans is more than just a race, it's more than just a round of the WEC.
Le Mans is week long celebration of cars, beer, technology, good friends and racing. Once you've been to Le mans and spent time watching the cars racing though the night it gets into your soul. It draws you back year after year, well it does for me.
This year though I had to make do with just the TV experience. "Oh" you might say, "you'll have missed the atmosphere then?" And the answer is a resounding no.
This is the digital age as we all know. This year's race features 54 car, each with 3 drivers in. Pretty much each driver had a Twitter if Instagram feed to follow. The big teams like Audi and Toyota had team social media feeds. Audi and Porsche both had on board live feeds from their cars, Audi even had live real time telemetry from this cars. All for free I might add.
I could choose from a veriety of comms channels, Radio Le mans live from the race track, the race steward to teams comms, or even pit to car comms from corvette. The race organisers, the ACO and FIA, had an app with live race video and live timing, available on the web or as a stand alone for your tablet.
There wasn't anything that happened that I didn't know about the moment it happened and all for free.
This weekend its the Austrian GP from the newly refurbished A1 ring, now called the redbull ring. Bernie doesn't think social media is important to, it's a fad as far as he is concerned, some the kids do rather than listen to him blather on and on. He is a fool, a joke.
The race will be won by the same car that has won most of the season so far. Ferrari will complain it's not exciting enough as their car continues to struggle. There will be the usual back stabbing and infighting in the paddock.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Its Lady Luck, that's what you need

What a race that was, It had everything, inter team rivalry, one stoppers getting in the way, Power failures and a brand new winner of a Formula one Grand Prix.  What’s not to like about that?

But I’ve said it before and I'm going to say it again, World championships are won on pure luck and consistency.  Right now Rosberg is cruising along with Lady Luck riding on his shoulder, waving to the crowds and sipping champagne with a starry smile, occasionally she’ll nudge Nico away from the wall or wrinkle her nose up and Hamilton’s’ brakes will explode. Its simple things like that, nothing more.

Lady luck and her friend the Goddess of rear wheel brake hubs earlier today!

Right, qualifying wasn’t all that exciting, everyone thought Lewis was going to walk Q3 and start at the front. But as I predicted, Nico turned up with a new found confidence and self belief and pinched the spoils from under the plucky Brits nose with the last role of the dice.  Hamilton made light of the matter in the post qualifying interviews, “oh it doesn’t mean so much here”, “I think I can sort this out pretty easily”, etc.  The most interesting thing about Saturday was Vettel sneaking into third with a car that isn’t supposed to have the grunt to stay with the Merc. Yeah he was a second or two behind, but he was ahead of the other Merc engine cars. That wasn’t supposed to happen.
Also slightly odd was the appearance of the Williams at the front of the grid.  Both cars were going really well, something I wasn’t expecting at all. The Force India’s, my tip for the top, had a torrid time as both cars failed to make Q3, which wasn’t in my script!

So to the race on Sunday and off the line, Lewis was away just a tad faster, but Nico held his line and pushed Hamilton wide, allowing Vettel to sneak through to second. As the cars streamed up the track into the first chicane, it looked like Lewis would have the position back within a matter of metres. But the Marussia’s collided as Max got it all crossed up into the braking zone and collected his team mate into the wall and the first safety car came out to clean up the mess.   Max later claimed it wasn’t his fault, but only a big paycheck is going to save his sorry ass this time, he was sideways way before the apex, even the turn in point. So it was well and truly his fault whatever he says.

Once all the bits of carbon fibre had been cleared away the safety car peeled off and Lewis breezed pasted Vettel after a few laps and got on with the business of passing Nico, except he didn't. He was almost there, but the his team mate was always just a little bit quicker out of the corners or later on the brakes and try as he might he couldn’t quite get that break to make the pass.
Behind them, the Force India’s were holding various people up as they tried to one stop the race and leap frog the faster cars. Vettel, Ricciardo, Bottas and Alonso all took turns being stuck behind Perez and Hulkenberg in the race to be the best of the rest.

Lewis and Nico were giving it the full beans, miles ahead of everyone else. Then suddenly ... Lewis was dropping back, the car sounded as rough as a bag of spanners on the fast bits. Then Nico started to slow. Where was that script, we were all expecting Mercedes to win every race this year. Suddenly Massa in third looks like he could be on for a nose bleed up the top step. Both Merc drivers are complaining that the powers gone from the cars.   Apexes are being missed and the cars sound awful on the straight bits. The technicians are running diagnostics and trying to figure out what’s gone wrong. It looks like the energy recovery systems have been fried on exactly the same lap for each car.

Well this is interesting. Massa has 20 odd laps to catch the two hobbled Merc 10 seconds up the road, who else can catch them? Perez has Danny boy and Vettel up his chuff. Rosberg dips into the pits for new boots and rejoins behind Massa, and then Hamilton is in the pits for his last stop, he rejoins behind Massa but ahead of Nico. Even under powered they could still get points.
The order is Massa, Hamilton, Rosberg, Perez, Ricciardo and Vettel.  Then Massa has to make a stop and he drops back behind Vettel, a final run in to the line of super soft rubber, it could be close!
But then suddenly Hamilton’s rear brakes start smoking horribly and he can’t get the car stopped for love nor money.  Rosberg is back in the lead with Perez and co right behind him, he’s a sitting duck his brakes are kyboshed and it’s just a matter of time before he’s out. But with the brake bias rammed hard into front only he’s just about making things work for him a he’s staying ahead of Perez.
For lap after lap, Perez holds up Danny and Vettel with Massa closing fast. With seven laps to go the Brazilian has caught up to the Redbulls and you thinks it’s just a matter of cruising past with his fresh tyres. But Massa ... well he’s just Massa and doesn’t seem to have the race craft to pick the slower cars off.
With a handful of laps left Danny dives past Perez into turn one and it looks like he’s just shed 20lbs, he’s off up the road catching Rosberg in a flash, Vettel still can’t quite pass Perez and Massa is sort of climbing all over the back of the Redbull like he’s got 20 laps left or something. Ricciardo reels in the Merc like its standing still and just blows past Rosberg with chequered flag in sight. Vettel finally jinx’s past Perez for third as the Mexican drivers brakes begin to fail which, I think, catches Massa out and he ploughs into the back of the Force India at full tilt into turn one. Both cars end up in the wall and a trip to the medical facility for both drivers. The safety car is called out again and Danny finally get’s the win he has so richly deserved all year.

What a race !

Ricciardo wins and he absolutely deserves the victory, he kept his cool, passed Perez when the opportunity presented itself and then caught Rosberg. He’s been knocking on the door marked win since the start of the season and as soon as the Mrec have a problem he’s right there to collect the reward. Well done to him. I, along with pretty much everyone, said he was going to get blown away by Vettel this year and it was just a matter of time before he got fired. Well I was wrong, he’s showing Vettel the way home and doing it with a bloody great big smile. Good on him, he’s the Redbull driver it’s okay to like.

Rosberg was second eventually and that it one hell of a save, By rights he should have been parted up with Lewis with 10 laps to go, but he drove around the problem and picked up vital points. It is possible to look at this result and claim he has the championship in the bag now. He’s got the luck, he’s two races up on his team mate who now needs Nico to DNF if he wants to take the title. I can’t imagine they’ll have the same problem with the brakes again, so I think this is now Nico championship to lose. Even this far out, even with the double points at the final race, Rosberg is firmly in the box seat.

Vettel was third and quite magnanimous about his team mate at the end.

Button, unseen by the camera had a bit of a stormer in the last 10 laps with passes on Hulkenberg and Alonso for fourth place, given how bad the weekend had been up to that point this is a cracking result for McLaren and its driver. A season that promised so much is slowly falling apart and i suspect they’ve started work full time on next year’s Honda now, so result like today give the boys and girls a bit of a lift as the go to work on Monday morning.

Hulkenberg, got shown up by his less fancied team mate again. Even though Perez didn’t finish he was almost on for the win there, whilst the Hulk scrapped around for pride. Picking up point’s race after race is one thing, but a team in financial trouble needs headlines for sponsors to see.

Alonso with another race to forget, even the team massaging his ego in the press didn’t help make the car any faster.  He still talking up his chances, but it’s just for pride and column inches now.

Bottas ... well he didn't crash into Perez i suppose, but the promise was just not delivered today for Williams. Okay it’s not as bad as last year, but it should be so much better.

Vergne, eighth, errrrrr I’ve got nothing.

Magnussen ninth, see Button above.
Kimi was tenth and still doesn’t look like he’s mastered KERS braking.

Right last place this week it Sutil who was still behind the crashed cars of Massa and Perez, but he has all four wheels still attached to the car and was moving as fasted as that Sauber can go. Which is quite slowly.

Massa on fresh rubber and with a dim memory of past glories burning through the fog of a blunt head trauma got the fastest lap on lap 58. So that’s something I suppose.

Okay, its Le Mans next weekend. So be prepared to be amazed by that .. details to follow soon.





   


  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Stop it you two !!

Okay, nanny has picked up all the toys from around the prams and the two children have been told to hug and make up. Fingers were wagged, grudging apologies awkwardly mumbled and promises that it won’t happen again waved away.



Will it make a difference in Canada, not a chance.

Would you want it any different? No, me neither.

The great years of Formula have always been booked ended by huge ego’s getting all puffed up and throwing their weight around. Senna and Prost, Schumacher and Hill, Mansell and the whole world. All classic years where the racing was dominated by what the protagonists were saying about each other in the press. Snide remarks about favouritism from the team, unfair advantages and broken gentleman’s agreements, were always fun to read about. Okay Nigel whinging on about how it was all so very hard for him could get a little boring, but watching uncomfortable post-race interviews where one driver quite clearly wanted to smack the winner in the face, make great TV. And during the Senna/Prost years that was often the most entertaining thing.

But I’m afraid they were the good old days, the chance of a punch up on pit lane have receded as the faceless PR suits have grown in power and quashed any sort of chance of an embarrassing outburst. The last really good ill-tempered spat was between Hamilton and Massa, and had more to do with Massa getting a shafting from Ferrari than either of them driving dangerously.

Nope, all the good personal vendettas are in the past now. Lewis and Nico will be a bit grumpy in front of the camera and that’ll be your lot.

As for this weekend, the question is going to be, how much did Nico’s “sportsmanship” affect Lewis. Will he come out all guns blazing and totally dominate the weekend to prove a point? Or will he be all messed up in the head and overdrive the thing into the wall?

Historically Lewis is win or bust here. It’s another of those tracks that really suit his style. Nico though is on the up now with his “win” in Monaco so he’s coming to be brimming with self-belief and confidence, always a difficult combination to beat.


Further back, well Danny has been the best of the rest so far, Vettel is due some luck. But the Renaults might not have the top end grunt to hold off the faster Merc cars. I’ve got a Force India on the podium here, I think this place will suit the car and drivers. Alonso to be there or there abouts, Kimi’s still not happy in the car. Williams and McLaren will continue the fight and Lotus could well join the battle here, watch out for Maldonado everybody !!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monaco in a nutshell

One corner of one lap and the title might have been decided...

Okay.... 66 practice laps, 26 qualifying laps and 78 racing laps; a grand total of 170 laps in three days.  In all that time except for one lap, the most important lap of the entire weekend, when nothing else really matters, when Nico Rosberg couldn’t get his car slowed down enough to make the turn into the Mirabeau corner.
It’s a tricky little corner no doubt. Over the crest of the hill at Casino, the car dancing around the lumps and bumps, the track falling away left and right as it plunges downhill into the right hander and the slowest corner of the whole championship. It’s not a particular important corner either without any championships, up to this point, being won or lost on this short piece of smooth black tarmac.
But as Nico attempted just one more lap in the dying seconds of final qualifying he got it all crossed up out of Casino and just missed the braking point for Mirabeau. Not particularly dramatic, a snatched brake, a wobbly drive up the narrow escape road, no harm done.  Except at Monaco that sort of mistake brings out lots of waved yellow cloth and screws up the next few cars that whizz past you, on what was also their last chance at moving up the qualifying grid. And who do you think was right behind the Mercedes driver? Buy wait who is this? Isn’t that our plucky friend Mr Hamilton and what do you know.. He’s on one of his famous pole stealing “hot laps” that would secure pole and beat his team mate, Mr Rosberg.
No chance of that now, the waved yellows mean “slow down there lads, we have a driver in trouble” You can’t go getting your fastest lap of the weekend with a yellow flag being waved in your face, no sire bob!
Then just to make sure he wasn’t in anyone else’s way, Nico reversed back onto the circuit and carried on the chequered flag and the end of qualifying. Well what do you know ... he was on pole because no one had gone faster than him on their last lap ... gosh!

There wasn’t even muttering from the hacks on the pit wall and wits in the garages. Pretty much to a man or lady they all came out and said straight to camera. “Yeah, that was pretty cynical of Nico”.
As the two Merc drivers climbed from their cars to face the flash bulbs and cheers from the crowd, Nico looked like he’d just won the world championship there and then. Lewis looked like he was biting back more than the desire to speak his mind.  I don’t think he even bothered to shake Nico’s hand. Lewis, along with a lot of other drivers was clearly of the opinion that he had been cheated out of pole by his own team mate. Just to rub it in, Rosberg than attempted to out smug Vettel in his pomp, in every interview he gave. I think he rather enjoyed himself, and the more grumpy Lewis looked the wider Nico’s smug grin got.

Now. okay, I'm one of Hamilton’s biggest fans. I love his style, his “let’s go racing yeah, enough talk, drive”. He’s a great driver. But he was behind Nico all weekend. Whenever it counted Nico went faster than him, I don’t think Lewis ever looked like he was in full control of the front row. Nico was faster than him, period. And when you look back at that final run, that he insists was going to be the new pole time, he was behind Nico by the time he got to Mirabeau. He was beaten fair and square, and I think he knows that deep, deep down.
And, I don’t really think that’s the sort of driver Nico is, Schumacher, was a cheating git from day one.  When he crashed you checked to see how it affected the championship before wondering how he was. Mickey could and would use every incident to his advantage, legal or not. But like his father, Nico has always played it with a straight bat, but then again, he’s never been in the car that will win the world championship before. That sort of thing can make people do odd things.
Maybe the pressure of Lewis behind him just got the better of him and he tried that little bit too much, knowing full well that the Merc that started second was going to be the car that finished second. He’s always gone well here and perhaps he pushed it too much and made an honest mistake. The reversing back onto the circuit was a bit cynical in my opinion, but as for the initial mistake, no I think that was just “one moment” in an otherwise exemplary weekend. The basic fact is Nico was too good for Lewis when it mattered this time.

As for the race, it was dull, all the good stuff happened on Saturday, Rosberg got it off the line cleanly, Hamilton didn’t hit him at turn one (as some had hinted he would when he said he’d sort the matter out like Senna). After that it was all extremely processional. As it pretty much always is. You can’t overtake here unless the driver lunges it up the inside and catches the driver ahead napping. Rosberg wasn’t going to fall asleep and Hamilton knew that not finishing was going to be more than a bad PR job. Sit back, apply some pressure, and accept the points, live to fight another day, cross his team mate off his Christmas card list.   Further back Vettel had more bad luck, Kimi forgot how to apply the word “professional” to his driving and errr some stuff happened, I may have fallen asleep as some point, the race for the minor places was interesting, the front, less so.  Oh and for the first time in what I think is 40 years, Lewis “got something in his eye” and could only drive with one eye open for a few laps.  How times have changed, Nigel used to complain that all that changing gear gave him blisters the size of golf balls, these days it’s grit in the eye..

So Nico won, and goes back to the top of the table. Slapped Lewis down on Saturday and made sure this title race isn’t going to be a one horse affair. It will go a long way to dismissing any self doubt he’d had after coming second in the last 4 races. Nope. He’s always gone well here and this was no different, the car looked good all weekend, nothing scary or wild, just smooth and in control, job done now on to Canada next which will be a bit more of a challenge.

Hamilton was second and looked pretty grumpy all weekend. Fair enough you can’t win them all and at least he made it back to the podium this time. Nico is proving to be a tough nut to crack for Lewis and even though he’s got more wins he needs Rosberg to have a few mechanical failures, or that DNF in Australia is going to prove very costly. Canada next, which suits his style a bit more than Nico’s. If it’s wet, he should be the one to beat. The press has got itself into a bit of a tiz over the whole qualifying incident, the “team mates at war” headlines are being dusted off and hands are being rubbed together in glee down fleet street way. But, I think it’ll pass. Both drivers are pragmatic enough to move on and just ignore all the hoopla. Nico was evidently faster all weekend and Lewis knows there’s more than half a season left. The headlines will get written, but I imagine a lot of it will be exaggerated. The toys will get tidied up from around the pram and we’ll get on with the racing.

Danny is next and pretty much confirms his elevation to stardom. This is a driver’s circuit and to watch Danny hustle that Redbull though the swimming pole complex was sheer joy. Here is a driver who is right on top of his game, has total faith and commitment in the car and knows this is his chance to shine and damn it, he looked like he was having fun. Yet again Vettel fell foul of the “number two driver” curse with some engine gremlin or other, but he didn’t look as smooth or as fast as Danny at any point during the weekend.  Danny is now the Redbull driver it’s okay to like.

Alonso was fourth and pretty anonymous all race long. Head down, stay out of trouble, pick up the points blah blah blah. With Rosberg signing a new contract with Mercedes, the good seats for next year are disappearing fast. Unless Vettel, in a moment of madness, decides to swap seats with the Spaniard,  Alonso looks like he’s going to be stuck at Maranello and can kiss goodbye to ever getting a third title. Shame that.

Hulkenberg is his usual fifth and needed that to get his reputation back on track. The last few races have seen Perez get his act together, remember all that ho harr around the Mexican when he was at Sauber, everyone though he was the “next big thing”? Well he’s making the Hulk work this year and a few people are starting to question whether Nico is, ”all that” after all. It’s fashionable to point out when the Hulk beats Perez and then look the other way when the result is reversed. Maybe Perez is just being lucky, perhaps not. But Hulkenberg needs a really good result soon or his stock is going to start dropping fast.

Button, sixth, took out Perez on the first lap and then avoided anything like an over take all afternoon. This is a better result than the last few races, but what has happened to that podium car in Australia?

Massa seventh and didn’t crash into anyone.

Grosjean gets some points for Lotus at last, the car still looked to be a real handful and there is obviously still a lot of work needed there, maybe the prize money will help to pay some of their bills.

Lordy be and save us all It’s a new name to the top ten!!! Last seen bouncing around the back of the grid in an noncompetitive GP2 car, its Bianci in a Marussia, no I can’t quite believe it either. And all credit to them here; they beat a McLaren, a Ferrari and the two Caterham’s. In the case of the two Caterham’s pretty much on pace.  He even clouted Kimi’s Ferrari and had a drive through, which they took illegally during the safety car period. They got pinged again and were given a five second penalty at the end of the race.  So in fact Bianchi was ahead of Grosjean’s Lotus on the track. I told you they were going places; I told you they had a super little team of engineers down there and look all that promise has paid off with two championship points. Which puts them ahead of Caterham (obviously) and now Sauber in the championship, hurrah for them. J

Finally Magnussen was tenth after Kimi “had a moment” and drove them both into the wall.

Kimi got the fastest lap by the way, after taking Kevin out, he had to go to the pits for a new nose and got some tyres into the bargain, que a couple of fast laps at the end to prove some sort of point.

And finally Max was last on the day he didn't crash when everyone else did and still he couldn’t beat them.

Okay that’s enough for now, Its the Le Mans test day next weekend, then the Canadian GP before the Le Mans week and some proper racing. ;) until then stay safe.  

Before all of that however, I'm off to the Le Mans Dinner in London for  Hope for Tomorrow. a charity that provides mobile cancers treatment service and Aspire a spinal cord injury support charity. I've never been to one of these things before, but the chance to pimp my photography and Blog whist getting drunk on some particularly fine wines whilst listening to some of my driving hero's, was not one to be missed. Wish me luck, things could get messy as one of the unwashed ordinary people, joins in with the beautiful people behind the velvet rope :)