Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Scarpper lads it's the rozzers !!!

Just when it looked like things couldn't get much worse for the caterham boys and girls, it appears the law has turned up and started asking awkward question of the accounts department.

What this means to team in Japan is anyone's guess, but given it looks like HMRC have got involved I don't think you should be banking on any actual caterham points this weekend.

The team has issued a swift denial of any problems with the law, but not through their official website, only via twitter. So the race is on then between Sauber and Caterham, who will go to the wall first ? 

130R .. It's proper scary !

Right, we’re back to struggling though an alcoholic haze to get up really early or pulling an all nighter, depending on how much red wine you have on Saturday night.  But it’s all worth it, well the first one is … because this is a big hairy chested manly circuit that likes to strut around with its pecks thrust out daring ne’er do wells to “have at it”.  

Suzuka is one of those circuits that likes to separate the talent from the money. Its fast, narrow and rewards drivers that like to go and attack the tarmac, cocking around being dangerous is a guaranteed trip to the wall. Respect the black stuff as you thrash the car for its impertinent remarks about matrons risqué hemline.
Japan is worth the trouble to get up early to watch, you can imagine the likes of Surtees, Lauda and Hunt thundering around the place in cars that regularly killed their drivers. In places there is little or no run off, no sop to the digital generation that must have their mistakes caressed and kissed away. If you go off line you go into the wall hard. The circuit sweeps and dives around the hill in a figure of eight until the cars reach the end of the lap and the fearsome 130R. There are so many sanitised corners around the worlds tracks now, no real sense of danger to them, in today’s digital cars a driver merely has to turn the wheel and let the electronics do the rest.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m an engineer and  I’m constantly in awe of a. the minds that created these technical marvels, and b. The modern drivers that can adjust brake bias, change the engine mapping programme, adjust their entry and exit speed of any given corner to save fuel and still avoid Maldonado spinning across their past at 180mph. Even Max is a better driver than we mere mortals, for some of you changing the  radio station and driving in a straight line can prove ‘challenging’ after all.

But Suzuka and its 130R, sorts the committed drivers from those that can shake hands and smile at suits really, really well. The driver approaches the corner though a tunnel of concrete and catch fencing as the speed builds to an eye watering 310km/h, the entry is blind the over the brow of a hill, a twitch of the computer console in the drivers hands flicks the car left. The really committed, the special few that are tilting for a pole lap, grab a lung full of air  before the lateral load builds to 6G and breathing is impossible for a split second. Driver and car flash under the gantry above the exit of the corner, before it’s all over and the left foot stamps on the anchors to get the car slowed for the turn in to the hairpin.  It’s a corner that demands respect and the driver to have total faith in the carbon fibre and metal machine under him.  

This  .. this is what it’s all about. This is why you wake up and watch it all live.

So then what’s been happening around the circus.

Well the frothing about Alonso’s future continues. With claim and counter claim being fired at the internet by  every hack with a laptop and some time to kill. McLaren Honda, stay with Ferrari, off to Porsche and a Le Mans drive etc etc. Who knows, I not sure Fernando knows to be honest.

Button has been jumping up and down at the back of the room with his hand in the air telling everyone that “Sir, sir .. please sir, Honda needs an experienced man that knows Honda and McLaren .. just like me in fact sir”. For all the world giving the impression he wants to stay for another year!

 Meanwhile Honda have released a few picture of what their new engine will look like before its slipped into the soft pouting confines of a McLaren MCP-dodarr-12-F-43-GB-JP-FAX F1 car.

Guten tag boys ..eeerrr I mean Konnichiwa  

 And if I didn’t know better I’d say it has more than a passing resemblance to the very successful Mercedes engine. Intercooler at the front, turbo at the rear. So maybe a year on the side lines has paid off after all, though the idea they have only now decided on the design and hasn’t even been built yet, is quite frankly laughable. They’ll have had half a dozen version run into the ground before the press got to see this one.  Still we shall see how it goes, which is expected to be the young drivers test at the end of the season in Dubai.

Also of note this weekend, the news that young Verstappen will get his big debut this weekend in Fridays free practice one. Lots of people will tell you he’s too young, other that he’s got the skills to pay the bills. He’s certainly got the cash to buy his Torro Rosso seat so let’s see how the youngest ever F1 driver copes with whole piranha pit shall we. Do you remember when you we 17 ? All I thought about back then was the contents of Juliet Browns cardigan and where I could get some cheap cider from. Which might explain why I’m writing this from an office in Yateley and not the Ferrari hospitality suit. Ho hum. Anyway .. good luck to him, there’s plenty of time to be rude about him next year.  

Over in Sauber land things look like they’re about to reach crunch time. Simona De Silvestro, the next lady to get a pop at an F1 drive and who some consider to be on a par with the mid field boys at least. Was supposed to be getting a seat in the car next year, but it looks like the Sauber boys were asking just too much money. Contract negotiations have broken down, much like the car this year, apparently the problem is on her side and I suspect she’s been outbid for next year’s car. Given how well Sutil has gone this year, that might not be a bad result for her career anyway.

Okay enough, the race is on at some ungodly hour of the morning, If you have Sky and motors TV then this weekend also see the final American Le mans series race at Road Atlanta on Saturday night.  (I know its TUSCC now but most of these people will have no idea what that means, pipe down at the back). Endurance racing at its not quite best, it’s worth watching if you want to hear big grunty V8 and Ferrari V12 being ragged through the American countryside.

Done forget to update your predictions … yes some of you really do need to .. and good luck.     

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What a race that was !!!!

What a race!
Alright, maybe not such a great race if you’re a Rosberg fan, but for the neutrals and the Hamilton fans that was a belter. For Formula one it was a great result too, it means the last five races are going to mean something, neither of the Merc boys has their hands on that trophy yet. It’s all going to come down to that double pointer in Abu Dhabi isn’t it? And you never know, Danny is still here, stranger things have happened before.   
So Lewis got pole by the slimmest of margins from Nico; 0.007 seconds at 200 mph is about the width of Bernie wallet after he’s been to visit his mate in Germany. But that wasn’t the whole story of qualifying, Ferrari had rolled up to Singapore with one less El Presidente and a new found purpose. Kimi especially looked like a new man with a very real danger of actually starting the race on the front row until an engine glitch robbed him of a second run.
Alonso took a swing at it but just wasn’t as fast as his team mate and ended up behind the two Redbulls. Riccy just edging a rejuvenated Vettel to third and fourth, the German looked disappointed but had the good grace to say he was impressed with Ricciardo.  In fact Vettel looked a lot more chipper all weekend long, seeming to suit the track, he was up around the sharp end all weekend.

Come race day and suddenly as the Merc boys fired up Nico’s car, there was a lot of worried looks and then panicking.  As Rosberg pulled the clutch lever in and make his way to the start line, nothing happened. Ctrl Alt-Del .... pull the lever again, nothing, just a bit fat N on the LCD display. Okay try a new steering wheel and reset the system again.  Success, with minutes to spare he’s out the pits and through the pit lane before it closes. He makes it to the grid where the engineers pounce on it and try to figure out the problem. Queue much frantic gesticulating and bodies diving head first into the cockpit to tweak connectors, check fuses and flip switches. There was much shaking of heads and worried looks.
As the other teams engineers cleared the grid for the parade lap, over the radio Nico is told it’s an intermittent problem and importantly they don’t have a handle on what the route cause is.  As Charlie waves Lewis off to start the parade lap, Nico is stuck on the grid cars streaming past him as he tries in vain to find a gear.  As the last car heads off to warm its tyres and brakes up, the Merc boys push the stricken car into the pit lane to reset the system yet again and try a third steering wheel.

Meanwhile Lewis pulls up to the line for the start of the race, his run to the first corner unchallenged. The lights go out and off he goes, never to be seen by the chasing pack again he hopes.  Vettel jumps Riccy off the line and whilst they’re squabble over the same piece of tarmac, Alonso jumps them both, but misses the brake point for the first corner and takes to the run off. He just about avoids the Armco and gives back second to Vettel a few corners later.  And then we settle down to wait for things to happen.
At the back of the field, Nico has left the pits to join the race but is stuck behind Max of all people. This is a Merc remember, the cream of 2014 there is no better car in the race. Surely it’s just going to be a matter of corners before he’s past, but no, for lap after lap he was stuck behind a car that looked as though it was just faith keeping it on the road. You don’t often get to see Max at work all the way back there, slogging around for nothing week after week. And now you could see just what he had to work with. I’ve seen a half set wet jelly stick to a plate better than that car to the road, some of it may have been Max just being inept, but really, that car looks like a real handful even in the slow stuff. I have a new found respect for Max now, that car is awful.
Anyway. From the onboard, you could see Rosberg fighting a car that didn’t want to change gear when he wanted it too, kept going from third to fifth by itself. The DRS wasn’t opening on request and the Lights to tell him when to change up and down didn’t appear to bear any resemblance to the engine note I could hear. In short, it was like a Scottish ‘yes’ vote, all inevitably in vain. By the time he got to the pits stops, he couldn’t get the thing into neutral, so had to stall it coming in to the box. They gave him yet another steering wheel, but he still couldn’t find a gearbox to control and they called it a day. Having apologised to the team for being a cock in Spa, this time it was Toto’s turn to apologise to Nico for not being able to fix his car.

Meanwhile Lewis kept on going and kept on leading, Vettel had given us the impression that he was racing for the lead, but Hamilton was never in any real trouble. That is, until Sutil forgot to look in his mirrors and ran over Perez’s front wing. Normally a marshal would run on at this point, grab the bit left on the road and start checking ebay for prices as he ran back. But this wing broke free of the Force India’s nose before exploding in a shower of carbon fibre under the car.  Out came the safety car and suddenly Lewis had a problem.
He still needed to change to the harder compound tyre, but the safety car was too early to comfortable finish the race on one more set of tyres. And as others had already changed to the hard set, he would end up down in 10th places with little hope of getting past cars on similar rubber.  So he had to stay out on super soft rubber and rebuild his lead.
He had 20 odd laps, half a tank of gas, 0.8 seconds head start and he needed to be 30 seconds up the road to keep his lead when he stopped next. As the rest of the teams told their drivers they were going to stay out and not stop again, Lewis was told to spank it like it had been caught stealing from matrons handbag yet again. “Open her up lad and demonstrate just how much of an advantage this 2014 Mercedes Benz Formula one car has over the rest of the field”.  14 laps he went, 14 laps of pure Lewis magic, three and half seconds a lap faster than Vettel, Ricciardo and Alonso, on tyres that were already 10 laps old. The team kept telling him to stop worrying about everyone else and just get on with it as the lead grew by three seconds, then six and nine, lap after lap he absolutely ragged that car. Feeling every bump and slide, every wheel spin and missed apex. Desperately trying to build enough of a lead to stay in front of Vettel after the inevitable pit stop.
On lap 53, with a lead of only 23 seconds he came in, the crowd rose as one and stared back down the start finish straight. Vettel pulled round the last turn onto the straight, the mechanics dropped Lewis and he gunned it out of the pit box. Vettel was over the line ticking over another lap. The crowd held its breath as Hamilton crawled up the pit lane limited to 50 mph, Vettel at full chat down the straight to the first corner, Lewis could see the pit exit and freedom, Vettel swept into the first corner and past Lewis who shot out of the pit lane exit the rear dancing around scrabbling for grip as he just managed to stay ahead of Ricciardo and Alonso. The crowd let out an enormous cheer, what a race.  Ricky tried to hustle Lewis for a corner or two, but his tyres were over 20 laps old now and didn’t stand a chance against Hamilton’s brand spanking new rubber.
Vettel got his head down and tried to drive away from the Merc, but Lewis was like an unstoppable force of nature.  Reeling the Redbull in hand over first, it was like shooting fish in a barrel, before the end of the second lap he was back past the current world champion and off once more into the distance, leaving Vettel, Danny and Alonso to watch helplessly as he kept the championship alive.

What a race!

Lewis wins and takes the lead in the championship at last. Finally lady luck escapes the Bratwurst and sauerkraut party on the second floor of the Mercedes hospitality suit and comes looking for a pie and pint dinner. He wasn’t gifted this win with Rosberg hitting trouble. The safety car could well have scuppered the quiet afternoon drive through the city plans. But if Lewis can do only one thing, its drive the balls off a car when ordered to do so. Three and half seconds faster than anyone one else, a hatful of fastest laps and a pit stop to not mess up. At any point he could have tagged a wall or snatched a brake and smeared it Maldonardo style down the Rolex branded wall. But he didn’t, he drove it beautifully and showed everyone why he’s brilliant.
Vettel was second and didn't have to make too many passes to get there. As ever put him at the front and he’ll finish at the front. There was a moment there, when having predicted he would never win another race I thought I was going to have to eat humble pie, my least favour desert, even with a glass of full bodied desert wine. But Lewis was there to save my blushes and saves us from that finger being waved around.
Ricciardo, fluffed the start and lost out to Alonso and Vettel, managed to sneak past Alonso but couldn’t quite reach Vettel with no pit radio to tell him to not overtake his team mate what so ever laddie.
Alonso, looked at one stage like he might go for pole or a win or a podium or something, but like Ferrari this season failed to deliver on the promise.
Massa, had a quiet race with not too much drama. Looked after his tyres and avoided any wall action. Williams said this was unlikely to be a track that suited them, but Massa looked like he might have sneaked the pole, if everyone else hadn’t bothered to come out for their second runs. Still lots of points, keeps that ‘beating Ferrari’ dream alive.
Vergne, having been told his services are no longer required for next year, JEV has suddenly realised he has to start knocking his CV into shape. With little to show for his career so far he’s remembered what the words “RACING driver” means on his contract and started to drive with some spunk. A liberal interpretation of the term ‘track limits’ led to a 5 second penalty to be applied to his time post race. So he drove like a man with something to prove and passed car after car and built a nice big gap to keep his top ten finish, it was almost inspiring. But as other drivers have learnt to their cost over the years, driving with some vim and vigour after being told you’re fired rather than before, is not a very good calling card.  This will be the highlight of his F1 career I'm afraid.
Perez, was minding his own business until Sutil bumbled past him and drove over his wing. In the end it sort of saved his race as it meant he had to change tyres too early to make it through to the end. So he had to change again and was able to pick up places as those ahead ran out of grip. Not very moral boosting I know but points mean prizes, however you come by them.
Kimi was eighth in the end and must be disappointed with that. He was all over qualifying until the engine glitch and on a track that is difficult to overtake on, he was mired back in the pack. In clear air the car was fast, but behind other runners the lack of top speed grunt left the red car wheezing around for a chance opening.
Hulkenberg was ninth and ran out of grip at the end. But yet another race behind his team mate, bad vibes for his future continue to grow.
Finally Magnussen who I though drove pretty well all race is promoted to the top ten within sight of the line as Bottas runs out of sticky rubber before it doesn’t matter. Kev is starting to get his act together and I think has done enough to keep his seat if Alonso or Vettel decided to just ship to Woking next year. He certainly deserves to continue, he could do with dialling the aggression down a notch or two, but he’s got the skillz to pay the bills kidz.

Sorry ....  I went a bit street there. No idea why!

Aaaah, okay, yes, Hamilton got pole and the fastest lap and our ever faithful points machine Max ‘ the grin’ Chilton was last man rolling across the line keeping the timing and scoring people awake. Good for him.

It’s Japan in two weeks time as this fascinating championship year rolls on. See you there.

This weeks gallery picture is of the High Society heiress Lady Luck and her old school friend, the Goddess of checking the wiring loom Kevin. Help the Mercedes team boys prepare the cars for the forthcoming race. 

Miss Luck and friend working on a sticky shaft 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

He's BEHIND you !!!!!!

Our players have been assigned their rolls and costumes have been donned, lines learnt and props … propped. Now it’s on with the lights, let the entertainment commence 
Lewis as our plucky hero, robbed of his rightful inheritance, he has to travel the world searching high and low for the magic points with which to defeat;
Nico, our Panto villain with his dashing good looks and a twinkle in the eye. He has beguiled Lady Luck into a tawdry affair and trapped her in a never ending cycle of champagne and bratwurst parties.

Lady Luck the beautiful but fickle heiress to a large silver cup with the words “F1 world champion” written on it. Sister to the Goddess of not driving on the wet lines you idiots and the countess lady have you tightened that fuel line Kevin. She is the love interest of our Hero who hopes to rescue her from incarceration in the Mercedes hospitality suit. 

Monza was the last of the European season and now we head off for the start of the home stretch for the quest of the chase for the title.

Japan (Suzuka)
Russia (Sochi) … probably will happen now.
America (Circuit Of The Americas)
Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)

With the double pointer in Abu Dhabi, that’s a maximum of 150 points  up for grabs. Which means this thing is going to go down to the wire.

We’ve not had a wet race for a long time, so the weather Gods have perked up and look set to dump a load of rain all over the Singapore circuit this weekend. If that happens I’m not sure they’re going to actually race, I’m pretty sure a wet street circuit at night is going to be too much of a PR risk for the chaps in race control so I imagine there will be a lot of safety car action.

If its dry, well Lewis is my favourite, he’s a bit of a whizz around street circuits and like Monaco, loves this place. Its more open and flowing than Monaco but shill punishes the drivers who like to push things to the limit. Nico is almost certainly going to be in championship protection mode now. He doesn’t need to win every race so he can sit behind Hamilton and hoover up the points. No need to get all puffed up to prove anything now.

This could be a good one for Danny as the circuit shares a lot common with Hungary, lots of flowing hairpins with low grip and Redbull have been talking up his chances. Renault are making noises about a pole on Saturday, something I think is beyond them realistically if the Mercs are on song as usual. But it’s a mark of how far the engine team has come from the start of the year, where finishing in Australia was considered an amazing result. So Danny on the podium is a pretty confident bet.

Ferrari could be a surprise package here, the car is a dog but a wet or soggy circuit would level the field for them. Dry and they’ll be behind the Merc/Redbull race, scrapping it out with Williams who missed their shot for the win in Monza and this place isn’t for them. They’ll be top five at best on a dry track.

Williams are now targeting a championship position ahead of Ferrari so a press statement from Ferrari saying, they are starting to work on their 2015 car now and have no interest in racing anymore, will be welcome news to the boys from Didcot. Ferrari isn’t going to win anything so there’s no point busting a nut trying to chase a lost cause.  There’s pride and expectation of course, but they don’t pay the for Kimis’ ice cream bill.


Further back and Kobayashi is allowed to keep his seat for another week as Caterham grub around in the dirt and behind the sofa for any loose change to pay for stuff. The hot rumour doing the rounds in Monza was whether Christian Albers, the new team boss after the fire sale, was still working for the team. The answer came a few hours after the race when he quit for “private reasons”, which appear to be the fact the new corporate owners had failed to pay for anything and had stopped answering the phone to him.  

If this team was in prison it would have a 24 hour suicide watch standing over it. The chances of them making it to the end of the season are looking more and more remote by the hour.

Also having a few sleepless nights are the Lotus team, with lots of rumours floating about suggesting there are still suppliers looking to be paid for work undertaken months ago. Into these dark clouds was dropped the incendiary news that the Merc engine deal was less than certain due to the German engine builders still waiting for the first down payment. The Lotus management of course denied there was any sort of problem whilst visibly sweating and avoiding any sort of eye contact.  


Singapore looks absolutely gorgeous in HD on your TV, I imagine it looks even better live. The track usually throws up a bit of a race with plenty of overtaking and last of the late breakers. It should a be good race, with lots to watch though the field.

Lewis and Nico upfront, Danny continuing to impress and Vettel looking grumpy.

The Williams and Ferrari fight, as Force India and McLaren look to capitalise on any mistakes they make.

Don’t forget to update your predictions before midnight tonight.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Nico saves,but Lewis scores on the rebound.

Right this is defiantly going to be a quick one because it was my birthday yesterday and I'm still partying. !! The roast lamb and new potatoes will be done in an hour and i’ve already cracked the Red open.

Normally Monza is just about the spirit of racing, the history and passion of the fans. Usually there isn’t much in the way of entertainment once the red light goes out at the start of the race.

But it turned into yet another fantastic race! 2014 really is turning into a classic season. There was actual real over taking and racing and stuff. Button, Perez, Kev, Bottas and yet again Danny Boy put on an excellent show for the minor places, but it looked like they wanted those places, they didn’t follow each other and hope an opening would appear, they muscled their way past, pressured the guy in front and put on a show.

Up front the Mercedes infighting was absent but what we did see was the stark difference in driving style of Lewis and Nico. Off the line Lewis, who had got pole with a stunning lap on Saturday, suddenly found a launch system refusing to launch. He mashed the loud pedal and smoked the rear tyres up the start finish straight to turn one to find himself now behind Nico, in the lead and Magnussen in front of Massa. There followed lots of urgent calls back the pit wall telling them exactly what he thought of the Mercedes software and then on with the business of being phenomenal.

Massa, showing the sort of form only glimpsed in the “Alonso is faster than you days” dispatched Kev pretty soon as Lewis chased them down. Nico was four seconds up the road by the time Lewis passed Massa to take second. He was soon up behind his team mate as the single pit stops started for the best of the rest. Vettel hoping to make a move pitted early, very, very early to try to jump the bunch ahead of him. That triggered everyone else who wasn’t expecting to catch the Mrec to call in too.

As Nico was leading the race he got to pit first, Lewis got the “hammer time now” pit call but only closed the gap by half a second once they were back on track together.
“Right Lewis”, came the pit call” the best thing to do here is sit behind Nico for the rest of the race and not get too close to him and maybe ... errr yeah maybe have a pop at him with a couple of laps left to race when the tyres a re a bit subpar and its all sort of over with ... okay lad”

But Lewis didn’t sit back and wait, no. Lewis spanked his car and caught Nico who was being all smooth and boring and technical. Hand over fist he was catching the leading Merc, until suddenly into the first chicane, Nico locks up the brakes and slithers up the escape road slalom course. Hamilton took the conventional route round the chicane and into the lead. Game set and job done.

Nico then got the “no racing now lad” message and the TV people looked for something else to follow. What we got was 30 odd laps of Button trying to pass Perez who was continuing to demonstrate he does know how to drive a car fast if he gets some love. Bottas recovering from dropping to eleventh at the start from third, with an absolutely belting drive. That Williams is like a missile in a straight line, easily the fastest thing through the speed trap. Ricciardo also recovering from a poor qualifying result with yet another “stamping on Vettels reputation” drive.

Kev got pinged again for poor sportsmanship, when the FIA decided he didn't give Bottas enough room as he tried to overtake. It looked pretty harsh to me; Kev was racing and tried to avoid crashing into Bottas as they entered the first chicane together. He was defending his line and to be fair he did all he could to avoid Bottas. I thought the Williams driver bailed early from the move and did the sensible thing. Maybe if Kev hadn’t been pinged weaving around at Spa he’s have been alright here. As it was the FIA got bored of not cocking things up for the views and gave him a five second penalty. As I say, i think it was harsh.

Okay, the new potatoes have been blanched and are now in for roasting. The water is ready for the broccoli and worryingly, half the red wine has gone! I suspect evaporation! Lets rattle off the top ten.

First Lewis with a another stellar “the bloody car has let me down” seat of the pants, balls to the wall, ace drive. If he wins all the other races and Nico come second every time, he might still win the title. But he needs, as John Virgo would say “Snookers now, Steve”. If you want a feisty driver that will spank a car and race till the last corner of the last race, 
Hamilton is your man. But Nico has lady luck riding shot gun and she can be a bugger to shift.

Nico lost this, all he had to do was brake at the same point on the circuit for lap after lap and the big silver cup was his for the taking. But as we saw in Monaco, sometimes it doesn’t quite work out like that for Rosberg, a momentary slip in concentration and suddenly he’s off down the slip road. This time he could carry on but only finish second, what a shame.

Massa, given a new contract by Williams and didn’t he look happy about it with a top draw result. He didn't exactly make it easy for Lewis to pass, but there’s no point farting against thunder. He was looking to get the maximum points he could for the team and you don’t do that tripping up the championship contenders. Williams want contractors points not bit of broken carbon fibre.  

Ricciardo had a bit of an off day on Saturday with a rubbish qualifying result, but made up for it on Sunday when it actually matters. I not sure he could have taken the fight to the Williams boys if he’d been better on Saturday, so this is about the best they were expecting 
I think. And he got to stick it to Vettel yet again.

Talking of whom, I now more convinced than ever that Vettel will never win another race. The car is good enough if the driver wants to win. I rest my case.

Perez showed some real balls today. That was about the best I’ve seen from him. It’s like all of a sudden he’s got belief or something. Hulkenberg was no where all weekend and Perez was up there hunting for points. Great stuff.

Button got shown the way home by the man McLaren fired for being a bit rubbish last year. Not a good race for Jenson really.

Kimi was ninth after yet another piss poor qualifying performance. Paging Doctor Lovegood, emergency career recus’ required in the red car !

Finally Kev was demoted back to tenth by the old farts in the FIA suits, even old Eddie Jordan though he was hard done by.

Lewis was the fastest man of the day and Gutierrez was given a 20 second penalty for being an idiot and is thusly last this week.

Right time to go and carve, see you next time in Singapore.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Monza, will the boys play nicely this time ?

Nico has been allows to get up off the naughty step after having a really good think about what he’s done, any more of that sort of thing will lead to all tuck privileges being a removed and extra Latin vocab. Lewis has been cuffed about the ear and told to stop winding up Nico or he’ll be made to stand up in front of the parents at the end of term and explain himself.

The boys have been sat down and given a stiff talking too. Just like they had after Bahrain .. and Canada … and Hungary … and now Spa. Any more of this sort of thing is going to have consequences. The word is Nico has even been seen walking form the headmasters office with a ginger step and a sudden dislike of sitting on hard surfaces. Oh the joys of inter-team rivalry, an all new and interesting game for the Mercedes management.

It's my turn to win , no its mine, mine, mine ,mine

You’d think Paddy Lowe an ex McLaren employee would know how to deal with two spikey team mates wouldn’t you! Alright he wasn’t there for the Senna v Prost title fight years. But he’s stood next to Big Ron and seen how you lay the smack down on the two numbskulls driving into each other. Lauda, Who witnessed at first-hand how il Commendatore would warn the drivers that the cars and points were more important than they ever were, should be able to knock some sense into these two. But week after week, Nico get the luck and the points, Lewis drives is heart out and puts the moves on Nico.

Mercedes have invested a whole shed load and possibly an out building or two of cash into winning the championship this year. They’d thought about the engine design for a good couple years unlike Renault who were a bit late to the table. When they snaffled Lewis from under Ron’s nose, it was with the promise that Mercedes WERE going to win the 2014 title. The board of directors wobbled a bit when Schumacher didn’t turn up to really appear to care about this return but they kept the faith and now it’s all going to pay off.

As long, and this is the only bit they can’t really control, the drivers do what they are paid to do and not throw it all away with hissy fits, stupid mind games and pissing competitions. Redbull are not as surmised at the start of the season, a pile of shit. That car has won three times now and Danny looks like he can easily do it again. He’s not fazed joining the big league and Vettel looks like he’s counting down the days till his contract ends now.  

Mercedes are in very real danger of fumbling this if they don’t keep a lid on Nico and Lewis growing animosity. The next one to cock the plan up might well find themselves sitting out the next race and thus waving goodbye to their championship party plans. Mercedes have to win the constructors and drivers title to justify all that cash and two nitwit drivers aren’t going to stop that happing.

Speculation about Alonso’s future plans have notched up a gear with Alonso saying “I want to win for Ferrari, I want to win here and finish the job that we started some years ago and we will see what the future comes” which to anyone who as ever witness a premiership manager in full flow, knows it’s akin to standing there and saying, “I’ve told you how much you’re going to have to pay me Mr rival team owner,  it’s up to you now!!”

The word is a failed attempt to bag the Redbull seat last year has turned into a dance with Big Ron over the new McLaren Honda seat next year. Despite having a contract with Ferrari until 2016, most people think he’ll be somewhere else before 2017. Just for his sanity if nothing else, he’s pretty much got the weight of expectation of all of Italy on his shoulders at the moment, dragging a crap car to the front year after year and people just start expecting you to drive whatever turd they pass in January. He wants a solid gold winner now and no one can see Ferrari making one of them these days.

So we are being treated to Alonso dancing around the question of his future, Ferrari trying to appear laid back and cool about its star driver, whilst at the same time desperate to either keep him or pin Vettel down to a contract he may or may not have already signed. McLaren are flouncing around like a love sick English lit undergrad on a weekend break in Venice with his chum Miles, trying to appear comely and slightly flirtatious but not actually coming out and saying,” let’s try again, you big hunk of manliness, take me!”. Meanwhile the F1 media circus, like a rapid pack of One direction fans,  is watching all of this and working itself up into a quivering lather of expectation.

I think he’ll announce a deal with McLaren for 2016 and sit next year out. Vettel will suddenly announce he does indeed have a Ferrari meal deal and join the Scuderia in 2015, Kvyat will get the nod for the then vacant seat at Redbull and some other foetus will be drafted in to learn the ropes at Torro Rosso. Jenson will get one more year at McLaren and Kev will get to keep his seat.

Or something else will happen ;)

Looking towards the back of the grid, Lotterer appears to be getting another run with Caterham this weekend at Monza. He did alright in Spa, he certainly didn’t disgrace himself, buy clearly the car is a pile of shit and the rumour that the receivers will be called in before the end of the season, might have some validity to them. There is no chance on God’s green earth they are going to get any points this year unless something amazing happens. So there’s going to be no prize money for next year, which might just have saved them.

Also looking a bit iffy are Marussia, the Max is he isn’t he driving in Spa story appears to be linked to the rumour that Aon, the company that Chiltons father owns, is going to buy the last of the shares in the team and take full ownership. Max getting kicked out of the car on Friday looks like a broadside from the current owners over Aons bows to get them to hurry up with the purchase of the shares before it all goes tits up and the Russian mafia busts in to get its money back.

In the good old days the back markers would turn up for a bit of a laugh and bask in a bit of reflected glory form the likes of Fangio, Moss and Hawthorn. Now its desperate battle to keep the cheques from bouncing and fighting off the creditors.

I give it two years before Caterham, Marussia and  Sauber have gone to the wall and the four top teams are running three car teams. And the likes of Force India and Williams are customer car teams. In 10 years … it’ll be spec cars and a choice of two engines.

Okay, enough fun, Monza this weekend.

Mercedes could well be in a straight fight with Williams here. This is the circuit the plucky English team is going to pull all the stops out for.  I don’t think they can challenge for the pole, but one of the white cars will be on the front row and if Merc have any sort of problem a Williams will win. The Williams twitter and face books pages have all exuding a quiet confidence this past week, I think they might have the belief to nail it and put the first female team owner on the podium with her boys. If it happens I’ll be cheering for them and a manly tear may appear when I get a little bit of dust in my eye as they sing the national anthem.

Don’t expect Ferrari to feature near the top ten, the Prancing pony press office has been flapping around all week trying play down any chance they have. The car is not going to be fast enough and could well be out of the top ten entirely.

As for the rest, Force India in the top five, Danny best of the rest, Jenson to continue the fair well tour and Kev to impress a few more with his speed and ability to swerve around dangerously.  

Saturday is also my birthday, so I shall have a large glass of red wine as I sit down to watch Lewis take pole.

Friday, August 29, 2014

PR bollocks of the week.

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vettel, continues to be out driven by Danny.

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

Alonso had a day to forget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The mid season review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next the midfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Front runners.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hungarian F1 weekend gallery.

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hamilton saves but Danny wins the day ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nico: “Why isn’t he letting me past?”

Pit Wall: “Lewis, get out of his way”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 N: “Sssiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr waaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have we got time to sign Kimi ?

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

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

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


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.