Sunday, 24 October 2010

Break out the storm laterns, there are cars out there somewhere

Lady luck can have a very strange sense of humour at times. She can take a liking to a driver and shower him with poles, fastest laps and wins galore. Fantastic wins in a claustrophobic Monaco and the windswept fields of Silverstone for Webber, she can rewards the brave balls out drivers of Canada and a soggy Spa for Hamilton. Even Button has impressed her enough to sneak wins in Australia and China.
But what ever Vettel does he just can seem to impress this fickle lady with a liking for Champagne. In fact the whole Redbull team should have had both championship sewn up weeks ago, they are so much faster than anyone else yet the have had bad luck after bad run. Webber has hit most of the field and Vettel has had pretty much every part of his car fail at some point this year. Time is fast running out and Lady Luck is starting to look quite minx in Ferrari Scarlet.

I have to say it was a better race than i was expecting. The track looked okay, if a little ugly and boring. I imagine for a normal dry race you wouldn’t get much in the way of over taking, but throw in the rain and a track that was only laid 11 days again and you get an exciting race. Hurrah! I always though Silverstone was in the middle of a windswept nowhere. But the Koreans have found the only ugly bit of a windswept coastline next to a shipyard and some interesting looking mountains in the world. If they get the money the they’ll build a city and a marine around the track, for now though it looks like the marsh in the middle of nowhere with a half build track on top of it. Spactator wise, they all turned up latre and left early. The stands had punters but there were still big empty gaps. Especially the darker it got.

Vettel made pole look easy on Saturday and after almost 2 hours of sitting around behind the safety car start and being bored on Sunday afternoon he disappeared off into the mist and gloom of the race. Hamilton who had looked pretty fast all weekend (behind the Redbulls) spent most of his time behind the safety car start complaining that it was fine to drive and they should all be on interes anyway. Once they were released to race, he got passed by Rosberg in the Merc that had had a few tweaks on the grid whilst they waited for a break in the rain. Everyone tip toed around for a few laps before Webber ran wide on turn 7, hit the wall and as he crossed the track backwards, collected Rosberg. Which left Vettel behind yet another safety car ahead of Alonso then Hamilton, Schumacher and Massa
Once they’d cleared Webber and Rosberg off the track we had a bit more racing. Until Buemi tried to take out first Kovalainen then Glock before ending up beached on the kerbing minus a wheel and several areo bits. Hamilton managed to jump Alonso for 2nd as the pack pitted during the safety car, but once it all got going again he overcooked the first turn and let Alonso back into an important 2nd place. And that looked like being it for the rest of the day. Sutil attempted to hit both of the Saubers with some horrendous overtaking moves. Actually you’d struggle to call them overtaking manoeuvres, they were more like desperate lunges at non existent holes in an embarrassing attempt to look like a bankable driver for next year. What he ended up looking like was an arse.

Then suddenly Lady Luck got tired of sitting in the rain and gloom at Redbull and wondered off to see if their was any free champagne down at the Ferrari hospitality rooms. The Engine of Vettel gave a rather strangled cry and blow a couple of Renault pistons out the side of the block, depositing a large quantity of oil, water and chunks of metal down the straight until he ground to a halt. There you go nine poles and 3 wins so far this year. It didn’t look like a particularly tough circuit for engines this one, especially in the rain where they’re nowhere near caning it on the twisty bits. Lady luck was then to be seen getting slightly tipsy in the back of the Ferrari garage as Alonso cruised off into the growing darkness, followed by Hamilton who was struggling on very used rubber and Massa who was taking it very carefully in 3rd.

Schumacher didn’t hit anyone this time out and made it to 4th ahead of Kubica who couldn’t live up to any of his hype in 5th.

Liuzzi slipped and slithered where his team mate couldn’t and ended up in 6th ahead of Barrichello who struggled for a long time on used tires to grab 7th and was thankful that it was all over.

Kobayashi had a more subdued race than last time, a few brave moves but the kamikaze stuff was left to the Torro Rosso and Force India boys this week. He picked up 8th mostly by luck and not hitting anything.

Behind his team mate and out of a job next year already, Heidfeld did alright but it was nothing special in 9th. Mostly he just avoided getting clouted but Sutil.

Hulkenberg the soon to be ex Williams F1 driver if rumours are to be believed was 10th after a late tire change as he’d ran the rubber down to the canvas. I’ve not been overly impressed with the lad, he’s not delivered when given the opportunity and Barrichello 200 years his senior has shown him the way home too often.

Other notable exits, Petrov had a big one into the final corner and his seat might not be a safe as he though it was. Unless he can come up with a whole shed load of used tenners, he may well be fighting it out with the Virgin and HRT boys for a seat for next year.

With so many so called worlds best drivers and Trulli cocking around in the wet, Kovalainen comes home ahead of Both of the HRT boys. Okay the lotus was a lap down and the HRT’s two laps back but they finished when the Redbulls didn’t and you have to give them some credit for that.

So the Red machine profits from Redbulls double retirement and Alonso now leads the drivers championship. If you consider that he was 47 points behind the lead half way through the season, you have to consider him as one of the favourites now. He’s taken the most points this half of the championship, the only fly in the ointment is the lack of engines he has left, with a slender 11 point lead over Webber it’s not over by any stretch of the imagination. Lady luck has could still change here mind yet.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

And so it begins.

Apparently the track surface is already breaking up and will need relaying at least once. Expect gangs of Korea equivalent Irish navies to be patching the thing up on Sunday morning.

What a shower of shit !

This is all Bernies fault. We're only here to line Bernie and CVC's pocket and nobody wanted this race except them. There are hundreds of circuits around the world that could host an F1 race, but we're in South Korea at a circuit that the drivers can't even drive on.

it's a fucking joke.

Will there be hot as well as cold warter in Korea ?

Okay then after much ho har and Bernie threatening to throw his toys out of the pram, we’re off to Yeongam county for the inaugural South Korean Grand Prix. Which apparently is all perfectly fine and dandy and just waiting to hold it’s most important event ever right now.

The highlight of this weekend is going to be listening to the commentators picking the place apart. Extra points for spotting every time the Legard says “Still needs a lick of paint here and there but ….. “, and then saying some moronic statement or other.

It’s another FIA Tilke design as usual, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’ll be dull, lifeless and only there so Bernie and CVC can line their pockets with Korean money, no sir-e-bob.

This place is still a building site and it’s going to be another “spot the spectator” event for sure. They might be able to build all of the worlds landfill tat, but I doubt they can rustle up more than a handful of spectators that have “South Korean” stamped on their passport.
Anyway the final tarmac layer got laid about 2 weeks ago so it’s still curing effectively. Normally a circuit has to run a few FIA sanctioned events before it can call itself an F1 circuit. Even some chavs in a selection of stolen escorts and Saxos would be nice, but as far as I’m aware the only thing bedding this place in is construction equipment rushing to build the stands.

So the surface is going to be like a skating rink for the first two test session. Expect at lest one high profile name to crash test the scenery at some point on Friday and with home grown marshals rather than plucky English marshals, it might be a bit dicey if they do his the wall. Given just how slippery it’s going to be I have a fiver on the ex snow racing champion Petrov to go quite well here. Also the HRT’s should be okay because they handle the same whatever the conditions, as everyone else tries to find some grip the HRT boys will be wondering what all the fuss is about.
The track itself looks kind of like a cross between Malaysia, Valencia and Canada. A couple of blindingly fast straights, linked with a hairpin and then a noodles back section with sweeping corners and stuff, there’s not much of an elevation change and not a lot to look at. It’s got Redbull stamped all over it really.
So the podium is probably going to be between Webber, Vettel and Alonso. Hamilton could get a tilt at it, but Lady Luck appears to have the humph with him at the moment. Alonso has been talking up his chances of late and Ferrari are very much behind him, Massa has been doing a good PR job of telling all and sundry that he’s a Ferrari man through and through and is only there to help Alonso win. But I think this is a Redbulls drivers to loose now. Vettel is right back in the hunt with a couple of good results and Webber has been consistent enough. It could well come down to qualifying and that has been the preserve of Vettel this season. If he can get a pole here then he’ll avoid the carnage that will undoubtedly happen on the first lap.

Everyone that isn’t in a Redbull, Ferrari or McLaren has pretty much stopped developing this years car, so they’re looking to pick up points where possible.

Kubica keeps fighting with Rosberg for the best of the rest title, Schumacher might get a result here as it’s a new track for everyone.
Hulkenburg is looking less and less likely to keep his seat for next year, whilst Petrov might get another year now the F1 circus has signed to go to Russian for a GP in 2012.
The chaps down at Force India are getting worried as neither, Sutil or Liuzzi has a contract for next year at the moment. The Word is Sutil is off to Williams in place of the Hulk, but other rumours have him getting the boot into the doomed “test driver” roll for some one after underperforming this year. There are a lot of Gp2 drivers getting linked to all sorts of seat at the moment. So there are lots of drivers looking over their shoulders rather than were the tarmac is going.
Meanwhile back at Ferrari, the word on the street at the moment is that Smedley is the one looking to move on after his boy got shafted by the Alonso machine. If he does go then Massa is probably going to follow him, Renault is the favourite at the moment with a swap for Kubica. I don’t see why Kubica would ditch the number one at Renault for a definite number two at Ferrari, but money can be a great incentive to some.

Predictions updated before thurdays midnight please, there’s still plenty to play for.

Good luck.

Qualifying kicks off at 5am on Saturday, the race is at 6am Sunday I think, the BBC is being a bit vague.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

It's petrol head fest of motorsport and by God i'm tired.

Ooooh what a weekend.

First off I'm up at some ungodly hour of Saturday Morning to watch the BBC try to make a very very wet Japanese track look exciting. I switched off at the point Eddie Jordan handed over two paper boat and tried to have a race in the stream running through the pit lane. It was just not going to improve from there really.

Which left Qualifying to be run at 2am British time. Which was excellent news as it meant i had a reason to stay up and watch the Ozzy Bathurst 1000km which started at 12.30 am and didn't finish until 7am, when the F1 race started in Japan.
It was motor sport heaven. An hour and a half of big grunty Australian V8's motoring up Mount Panorama is truly a site to behold, like Le Mans, Monaco and the Indy 500 i think it's one of those races a Petrol head has to have on their list of things to do before they die. Bathurst is like a mini Nurburing, It's narrow, dangerous and very fast. On the opening lap, after tagging a slow starting car off the line, driver Fabian Coulthard lost control of his Holden at 300kph into the chute corner and barrel rolled his car six times before he came to rest in the gravel trap. Just think about that. 300kph a little over 185 mph and he turns in to find he has a rear puncture and he has no steering or brakes at this point. The car was completely destroyed. All that remained was roll cage bolted to an engine. Mr Coulthard, once the car had come to rest, made sure all his arms and legs were still in place than calmly climbed out of what remained of his car and walked off to the pits.
They build them strong in Australia.

By 2am I'm ready for some F1 and thankfully it's a dry track in Japan. I'm not sure, the red wine and port had kicked in by 2.30am but i think it was a pretty dull qualifying with all the usual suspect in the right place. Vettel looked miles faster than the rest, only Webber, Kubica and Alonso looked like keeping him honest. Hamilton did well but after hitting the wall in practice he'd had to change his gearbox so got knocked back 5 places to 8th for the afternoon race. He was putting a brave face on it, but i think his title chances have pretty much gone now.

I had planned to watch the V8's, but the red wine had other ideas and I passed out at 3.30am, i think.

But not before setting the alarm which woke me up just as the cars are setting off on their formation lap. A quick check on the V8's and some one in a vodaphone had won and I'd missed it all for yet another year.

The F1 start kicked off almost immediately, with Petrov taking out Hulkenburg off the line, then Massa got lost on the way into turn one and speared across the track into a hapless Liuzzi. With Di Grassi crashing before he'd even got to the line we were 5 cars down before the end of the first lap. Then as Kubica was following the safety car behind Vettel as they cleared up the carnage, the poor Polish chap lost his right rear wheel and stopped halfway round the track . Six cars out, the Redbulls off in the distance and no one really taking the fight to them.

Button had gone for starting the race on the harder tires, hoping to stay out longer and try to gain some places. But the Redbulls just pitted, then caught Button and waited for him to pit. Alonso had a bit of a go, got the fastest lap a few times, but each time he did Vettel just went faster. Once Hamilton lost the use of the first three gears in his new gearbox, all the fun was over up front. Thankfully Kobayashi kept us all entertained with a few wild over taking moves, and Rosberg crashed with a few laps to go.

So it's Vettels third win of the season and put's him right back in contention. Eddie Jordan believes that he can now go on and win the last 3 races. He was all over this track all weekend and never once looked like being beaten. Webber doesn't yet have enough points to cruse to the title so it's going to come down to these two and how they get on. If they start taking each other out, Alonso could still sneak it. But Vettel who looked dead and buried 4 races ago is right back in the hunt. He was fast and confident all weekend and didn't need any luck to keep this win. A pretty easy pole and but for Webber getting all racy at the end he'd have had the fastest lap too. But it all only seems to work for him when he's at the front and the car holds together.

Webber, once again got lucky that Kubicas wheel fell off so he didn't have to racer him. But the luck didn't quite hold out to Vettel giving him the win. The pressure is now on the Ozzy to keep the lead in the championship. He needs the others to slip up or get some wins in the remaining races. He nicked fastest lap on the final lap to prove to Vettel that he's still a wheel failure away from the title. But i think the pressure might just be starting to tell on the Ozzy.

Alonso did what he could on a circuit that wasn't supposed to suit the Ferrari. He was there or there about all weekend, but never looked as fast as the Redbulls. He claims the next three races are going to be his for the taking, but i really doubt it. The Ferrari just couldn't match the Redbulls on the fast or the slow bits and Alonso was really just racing Hamilton until his gearbox got the gremlins.

Button in 4th benefited from Hamilton's gearbox problems, tried to be a bit tricksy in qualifying with hard tires for the start. But even that couldn't help him take the fight to the Redbulls. He's pretty much out of the championship now.

Hamilton is lucky to bring the car home in 5th. He was chasing Alonso down with fastest lap after fastest lap, until the new gearbox 3ed gear box went pop and locked him into 4th to 7th gear. He still managed to be faster than the two Mercedes behind him, but Button cruses up to him and passed with ease. He's still the best driver on the grid in my opinion and I'm sure he can win again. Abu Dhabi or Brazil could easily be his with a bit of luck. It just seems that Lady luck has got the huff with him at the moment.

Mickey Schumacher makes it to 6th after Rosberg's rear wheel fell off. Mickey couldn't get past Rosberg for a whole bunch of laps and looked ordinary as usual. This result goes some way to make up for the mess of Singapore but not by much.

Kobayashi drove a great race to get from 14th on the grid. He passed car after car going into the hairpin and i suspect he actually planned to pass a few of them. He certainly put on a show for the home crowed and has certainly emerged as a bonafid racing star this year. He's tied into a Sauber contract for the next few years, but you have to wonder why he hasn't been picked up by the likes of Renault while drivers like Petrov cock around. He didn't look he was going to be satisfied with just tooling around this weekend and he went for every gap presented to him. Avoided the carnage at the start of the race and fully deserves he points.

Heidfeld picked up 8th behind his team mate. Considering this is only his second race of the year, that's no mean feat.

Barrichello in 9th get's this weeks "was he there i missed him entirly" award. No, i tell a lie, i saw him being passed by Schumacher and Kobayashi.

Buemi in 10th well done him.

There you go then, I'm knackered. It's been a long weekend of motor sport an i need some sleep.

Hopefully we'll all be back for Korea in two weeks time, but given the pictures of the circuit floating around the net, i don't think it's going to happen. I've seen the layout and it looks like an interesting place, but they've only just put the top layer of tarmac on so it'll be like a skating rink for the race. But we'll see how much money they're prepared to pay Bernie i suppose.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Will Justin have tickets in Japan ?

It’ll an early start or a late night depending on how old you are or how much Petrol there is in your veins. Yes it’s the first of the late nighters (if Korea goes ahead next, that is) in good old Suzuka, Japan.

I like Suzuka, it’s pretty much old school non-Tilke-dull-a-thon perfection for me, mostly because it’s just dangerous. There are not acres and acres of run off, or miles of waste land with a lone marshal and no spectators in sight. The Japanese really love their motor sport and turn up in their droves to this proper circuit.

The thing about Suzuka is that it’s been the scene of many a moment in Formula 1. It used to be the last race of the season, back in the day Hill Jnr won his championship here in 1996 beating Villeneuve by 19 points. Schumacher won numerous championships for Benetton and Ferrari at Suzuka.

But there is one event here that has really come to define what modern F1 racing is and what is acceptable from a racing driver.
It was 1990, Prost and Senna were fighting for the championship and both came to Japan with a chance to win. Now you need to understand that Prost in the Ferrari and Senna in the McLaren did not like each other, they loathed the very existence of the other in fact. It defined F1 racing during the 80’s and meant every championship for ever after had to have a hero and nemesis (Hamilton v Alonso for instance). You also need to know that Senna felt that the FIA, controlled by one Jean Marie Balestre in those days had it in for the Brazilian driver. This was good old fashioned paranoia of the best kind.

So it’s all very tense coming Suzuka and there’s is a lot of “I’m the big I AM, me” type stuff coming from Ferrari and McLaren and after qualifying Senna had got pole with another of his brilliant laps and Prost had got second with another of his boring controlled laps. But pole put Senna on the dirty side of the track which meant Prost would probably take the first corner and win the championship.
Senna went to the stewards and said “can we swap sides on the grid. I don’t want to be on the dirty side”. The race stewards said, “Yeah sure ... no worries”. And everyone one went to bed happy.

Except when Balestre heard what had happened he called the stewards up and said “the hell you change the Grid, I’m French, the FIA is French and we say what happens round here. Tell Senna to shut up and do as he’s told. You move the pole back pronto sunbeam…. Merde!!”.

At the drivers meeting the next morning Senna was told that his request was now rejected and he had to start on the dirty side. He greeted this news in a calm collected manner and stormed out of the meeting claiming it was all a huge conspiracy and they were all out to get him. He then went to the press and ... “vowed that if Prost (starting second) got the advantage into the first corner, which most were sure he would, he would never make it into the first corner”

When the race started that afternoon, everyone watched Senna to see what he’d do. Would a world champion drive another competitor off the road to win a championship ? we got out answer 30 seconds later as Prost shot off the line and into an mediate half a car length lead. As the right turn rushed up, Senna on the inside but behind the Frenchman made no attempt what so ever to brake and turn into the corner. He ploughed into the side of the Ferrari spinning them both off into the kitty litter. The result meant Senna had enough points to take the world Championship and a new chapter in F1 began.

The FIA did nothing, not a thing. There were a few harsh words and bit of handwringing, but ultimately Senna had said he was going to drive Prost off the track and he did. Because the FIA did nothing drivers started to accept that dangerous driving for a Championship was now acceptable, that it was okay to bang wheels and intimidate other drivers because it was all in the name of entertainment.
Four years later Schumacher drove Hill off the track to take his first World Championship in Australia, then tried to drive Villeneurve off the track to win another in 1997. Now Drivers like Webber, can “aggressively defend” a corner or a line. Because the FIA won’t throw the book at them. Because it’s entertaining.

Anyway, I have no idea who’s going to win this weekend.

Alonso is talking down his chances, claiming the track doesn’t favour the Ferrari, which is usually code for “We’re going to cream this one buddy” He’ll be the first driver to get 3 on the bounce this year if he does win. I fancy his chances, he’s got that glint in his eye again

Webber is keeping things low key but is still most peoples favourite to take the title, if the luck from Singapore hold out he should be a top 5. He doesn’t need to go for wins at every race now, but he still needs to keep the points rolling in. He’s not one for looking at the bigger picture though, and mistakes can happen when he takes his eye off the main prize.

Hamilton is vowing to do what he does best and go balls out for wins. If we’re not going to Korean in two weeks time them he HAS to win here to stay in with a shout. But two duff races must have dented his confidence, will he over compensate this time out ?

The same goes for Vettel and Button, points are fast running out and these two will need the other three to drop points to be in with a realistic shout.

Last year rain threw qualifying into chaos and left the grid all mixed up for the race, Vettel stormed off into the lead and never looked like being caught. It’s a track he seems to like where aggressive driving will reward the brave and the bold.