Sunday, 25 September 2011

There's been an incident, give Hamilton a drive through.

Well it wasn’t a classic, but it had its moment.

But if I was Lewis Hamilton I’d be asking........... WHY ME ???? 

Yeah I’m a fan of Lewis, I admit it, I love his balls out get the job done, “I stop racing when the flag stops waving” attitude. I think he’s ace and I also think the FIA is trying to stamp on him and his old school attitude to racing. 

If you want drivers to go out and try racing, you have to expect a certain amount of actual racing. There might even be a bit of contact now and again, but as long as no one gets hurt that’s all good, right? It’s exciting and we want exciting after years and years of watching processional races. This sort of exciting racing we are talking about could be typified with the Rosberg/Perez incident. Rosberg gets it a bit squiffy coming out of a corner so that Perez can get a bit of a run on him and takes the position, but Rosberg is having none of it. Onto the main straight they wave around a bit as Rosberg pulls alongside into turn one and they end up having a bit of a handbags match which results in Perez being bumped off the circuit. The upshot is that Rosberg keeps his place and Perez drops back enough for Schumacher to have a run at him. Except Perez “brakes earlier then I expected” according to Schumacher who collides with the back of Perez’s car and is launched into the air, before smacking the wall quite hard. 

How does the FIA react to this “exciting” racing? They ‘investigate’ Perez and Rosberg for a bit, and then decide that there was no malice and intent and everyone was fine so let’s get on with the race. No harm, no foul. A racing incident you could say.

Now let’s look at the way the FIA react to the Massa/Hamilton ‘incident’.
Lewis is tucked up behind Massa; he’s out of position after a poor start when he had to avoid a slow starting Webber. Finally after a few laps of following the Ferrari Hamilton is within one second and has his DRS open coming into the braking zone. He’s gone to the outside but realises that he’s not going to make that work so brakes and starts to cut back to try and undercut Massa out of the corner. But Massa on the inside of the corner and ahead, is braking earlier than Lewis. This catches the McLaren driver out who locks his front outside wheel and the left side of his wing clips Massa’s rear right tire. Lewis loses the right side of his wing and Felipe gets a puncture.

No one is hurt and there are no flying cars. Massa limps it back to the pits for a new tire, whilst Hamilton tries to carry on for another lap but has to pit for a new nose a lap later. They are both back towards the rear of the field after all of his but both can carry on. 

So how does the FIA react? No harm no foul? A racing incident perhaps? No they throw the rule book at Hamilton and give his a drive through for “avoidable contact”, yet Rosberg nurfing Perez off the circuit and indirectly causing Schumacher to end up in the wall is laughed off with a cheery “you guys!!” wave.

Where is the consistency here?

The only highlight of all of this is that we are treated to the spectacle of Massa in the post race interview looking like a kindly old uncle has offered him a Worthers Original then tried to touch him in the unmentionables. He bleats on that Hamilton is a dangerous driver that doesn’t think and he could have killed everyone in 20 mile radius with his Kamikaze move that was dangerous and mad and stuff and he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a race track.

Oh get a grip Massa, he touched your right rear tire, he didn’t crash into the back of you and drive over your head. He also didn’t then drive like a school teacher after a hard day in front of the upper fifth three days before the end of term. No he went out and spanked it passing Massa easily the second time and hauling his backside from pretty much last to 5th. Proper old school racing that.

Yet the FIA seem to have a downer on Hamilton, he could have won this, but lady luck just doesn’t want to give the plucky Brit a break right now. He got caught by Webber off the line went left and got squeezed into turn one, from there on in he was always fighting to get back to the leaders.  But I want to see that, I want to see drivers fighting to win, not tooling around whining like a baby when they get found out.

However just to be fair, after the race Schumacher did get a slap wrist for driving into Perez.....

Anyway, Vettel won.


Yet again.

Button kept him honest at the end by appearing to catch him, but it was all a little bit too late and ultimately in vain. Vettel had the race won by the time he got to turn one when the lights went out.  As the others tried to catch him he was turning in fastest lap after fastest lap. Dull really, but there you go the perfect storm, Newey has produced possibly the best car of this generations whilst Vettel is completely and totally in tune with this slab of automobile perfection. Even a second rate talent like Webber, even race after race as he cocks up the start yet again he can haul the car onto the podium. He’s not as in tune with it as Vettel but he can show the potential of the car ... Imagine Hamilton in the car... that would be something to see.

So then, Vettel gets pole and wins blah blah blah he only needs one more point to take the title. Do you think he’ll drop the ball now ... no me neither.

Button gets second which is about as good as he could hope for, Vettel played with him a bit at the end but he was never going to be caught. This is Buttons 5th podium since Canada eight races ago. If only Vettel wasn’t so far ahead, we could have had a classic season on our hands, If Button can win every race and Vettel fails to finish anymore we would have a British champion. But that’s not going to happen any time soon. To his credit though he did get the fastest lap in the closing stages, so at least he can say he was trying.

Webber is third and didn’t have to do too much for that. A couple of spunky overtakes, but only because he didn’t get it off the line cleanly yet again. This year there has been a lot less whining about the team favouring Vettel over him, I think the penny may have dropped that he’s not all that great and it’s better to get results then believe your own press.

Alonso drives it home to 4th the Ferrari once it gets to half distance just seems to give up the fight and fade away. It’s rubbish on hard tires and half a tank of fuel. Alonso will always try, but you can’t pass wind in the face of a thunderstorm, as I tried to explain to my God Daughter only the other day.

Hamilton eventually brings it home to 5th, if the FIA hadn’t got all in his face he could have been with Button giving Vettel a few squeaky moments towards the end.  Another one to chalk up to experience and move on, next year’s car will be better.... hopefully.

Paul Di Resta rediscovers his mojo and gets an excellent 6th. He drove a smart intelligent race, not making it easy for faster cars to pass him, but not being getting in the way of cars he was never going to beat. This might sound like he was giving up and not fighting, but to finish first, first you need to finish. He doesn’t have a car that can beat a healthy McLaren, Ferrari or Redbull. So why ruin their race and risk getting punted in to the wall, better to let them pass and not lose time to his true rivals in the Sauber and Williams cars. A good solid result and another step towards a front line drive one day.

Rosberg ends up 7th and needs to buck his ideas up. He couldn’t pass Sutil when he needed to and looked like a hoodie with a car full of recently ‘acquired’ DVD players being chased by the old bill through some market down of central England on a Saturday night. When Perez tried to punish him for his mistake he was all over the shop, perfectly acceptably according to the FIA as it turns out. I’m surprised he didn’t get out of the car at the end and make a dash for the nearest garden shed to hide out from the eye in the sky with the heat seeking camera. Time is running out for this once very shiny star.

Sutil... yes remember him? Well he was 8th, got in the way a lot and was dull.

Massa 9th should do his talking on the race track and stop whining like a girl that it’s all so unfair when the bigger kids get a bit rough.

Perez makes it to 10th which is a shame; he could have got more if Rosberg hadn’t punted him out of the way. But really, he’ll think that this sort of boring slowly, slowly racing is somehow worthy. That if you stay out of trouble and just tool round you will pick up points as other more interesting and exciting drivers aim high but fail. He’s starting to think he’s a big fish in a small pond with this uninspiring point collecting races.
 He had a test drive with Ferrari last week, as part of their driver development program. And this sort of thing will do his hopes of getting a Ferrari drive in 2013 no harm what so ever. But he thinks it’s because he can win in a faster car, when really his ability to do as he’s told and just keep driving round without getting into trouble is all Ferrari want to compliment Alonso. It’s kept Massa in a job for the last two years after all.

Now our last place driver is going to be the Liuzzi because even though the FIA classified Alguersuari as a finisher, he wasn’t moving when the flag dropped, therefore he can ‘t win our award.

And that’s you lot, see you two weeks for the Japanese GP, I’m going to bed its late.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Can Vettel take the crown under the flood lights

Okay then, the European season has run its course and now it’s time to crown the F1 world Champion.

Welcome to the Singapore Grand Prix and Vettels ascension to the hall of the greats. Yeah, I know he’s not one of the greats, but he has (almost) won back to back titles and there aren’t too many that have done that.

But am I getting ahead of myself ?

Will Vettel clinch the deal in the cool night air ?

Well to string it out for a few more races either Button or Alonso needs to win and Vettel needs to not finish, but given how reliable the Redbull has been this year that’s unlikely.

Basically, if Vettel wins and Alonso and Button are not on the podium, It’s a done deal.

Vettel might crash, but he’s one of these new young guns like Hamilton and Rosberg who can go out and spank the street circuits like Monaco and Singapore. Also given that he’s a qualifying God these days, he’ll be up the front and thus does not have to work his way past other cars, which always makes things easier.

So I’m pretty sure he’ll be crowned F1 World Champion this weekend. Which is fair enough you have to admit, if you have a car that can win with ease week after week, then you shouldn’t be surprised if the driver goes out and wins week after week. Unless it’s Webber of course, who either hits other cars or forgets to engage first gear off the line, week after week.

Singapore then, this is the toughest circuit of the championship, it’s hot, humid and lasts bang on 2 hours. It’s a stop start track with lots of heavy braking into tight corners before short sweeping straight bits. The problem has always been that the brakes never get enough time to cool down, so the discs which run at well over 1000 degrees start to cook the wheels, which heats the tires up and this year’s Pirellis don’t like getting hot.

When the Pirellis get hot they start to lose their grip faster than a Greek government put in charge of a bailout cheque from the EU, Added to which, the cars need to be brimmed up with fuel at the start for a long two hour race. Heavy cars with hot brakes and slippery tires equal lots of expensive carbon bits smeared down solid looking walls being swept up by the cleanup crews.

We might well be seeing rather a lot of the safety car on Sunday.
 Singapore isn’t a bad circuit; it’s not too narrow like Monaco so there is overtaking to be had, especially if the tires only last 10 laps.  
 The cars do look fantastic under the stars and the arc lights, with the City lit up with neon and street lights. The place has bags of character and lots of happy looking punters. Exactly the opposite to Yas Marina in fact  
So all things considered being on pole is going to be at a premium here. Let’s look at the likely candidates.

Alonso – the Ferrari is nimble enough, and the Spaniard has the balls to drive it like he stole it, which is what you need here. Ferrari need to salvage something from this year with a car that’s been lackluster on the hard tires, if they can get ahead off the line then they can control the pace of the race and avoid the carnage behind.

Hamilton – has gone very quiet of late, with coded message to the press and media to cut out the character assassination column inches. He’s spent a lot of time in the steward’s offices around the world and I think it’s starting to affect his mojo. Last year he would have nailed Schumacher after two laps, this year and after many “stiff talking to’s” he followed the German for lap after lap. I think he’s found a team mate in button that can out drive him and he needs to prove to himself that he still has it. This place is like Monaco, a place Hamilton excels at, so a pole would go a long way to building him up again.

Vettel – Currently the best one lap specialist out there bar none, if you need a hot lap when the chips are down he is the go too guy this year. He doesn’t seem too fussed about the title either so he’s not holding back to pick up points, he wants to nail this and crush the opposition.

Webber – If he has it all his own way, he’s good for a hot lap or two. He needs to do something to prove he’s worth the contract extension after all.

Button - maybe, but he’s not really a Banzai lap kind of driver. With much umming and arring over his contract a pole and result would go some way to getting him a salary like Lewis has.

As for the rest will there’s Massa, not a chance and Rosberg likes this place a lot so he might have a pop.

As for the winner, well like I say it’s a long old widow maker of a track to it’s a game of survival. The Redbull is a bit suspect on tracks that are hard on tires, but with lots of lesser drivers painting the wall in hint of carbon fiber, they can manage their tires effectively. If they’re at the front then they can control the pace and not burn the tires out chasing the lead down.

 But I would love to see Hamilton win again, he looks a bit sad every week walking back from the race stewards office towards the media who are already sharpening their pencils. Remember the race in China all those months ago where he chased down Vettel and overtook him to win the race. That was vintage Hamilton and that’s what we’ve been missing
 The big grey thing on the horizon though is rain, and plenty of it. The met office is warning of a big old thunder storm sometime during the weekend. Last year it was during the day and was nice and dry but humid and hot for the race. There is talk this year that the typhoon sweeping over Japan at the moment will make it as far as Singapore by Saturday, so we could see some rain on the cars. Once that happens ... well we’ll see if we get a race at all.

Sort out your Predictions by Friday please.
 Qualifying kicks off at 3pm British time, the race is at 1pm BST.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Monza, better late than never

Monza then ... well they managed to have a two hour race where the highlight was Hamilton stuck behind Schumacher. That doesn’t sound all that exciting does it? And you would be right, it wasn’t all that exciting. 
Well I lie really, the first 15 laps or so were fun. Until you realised that Hamilton wasn’t going to get past Schumacher anytime soon. There was Liuzzi making an impact into turn one, where he impacted on Rosberg and Petrov and a few others, taking a lot of drivers out of the race in one move.  Alonso gave the ever hopeful Italian/Ferrari fans something to cheers about for 10 minutes as he passed Vettel off the line and had the lead whilst the safety car cleared Liuzzi’s mess away. Then we had the stunning scene where Vettel passed another car for the lead of the race and he didn’t wait for the pits or crash into the other car or hit his team mate or crash into the wall. 
So let us celebrate the first 10 laps or so, because Vettel won yet another race and will in all probability have the whole show wrapped up by the time we leave Singapore in two weeks time. I don’t blame him for this sense of anti climax that I now feel; I don’t even blame the other teams. The racing has been good and Vettel has done what he is paid a lot of money to do. Go out and win.
What annoys me is that whilst the world sat on its backside and watched the F1 race in Italy, a much, much better race was happening at Silverstone. For 6 hours Peugeot and Audi slugged it out with a brilliant show of tactical and balls to the wall racing. But not just Audi and Peugeot, BMW, Ferrari and Porsche battled for GT1 honours as the whisper quite Diesels battled around them, in some cases through them. 

Endurance racing is multi class racing with the big prototype cars, and you never get to hear about it in the main stream press. If you tell most non racing folk that you like motor racing they will almost always say something like ... “Oh I like Formula One too, that Vettels great isn’t he.” or some such nonsense. To most folk’s motor racing starts and stops with F1 on a Sunday afternoon.  Tell them that Audi won a brilliant 24 hour of Le Mans this year ahead of three Peugeots and a bunch of petrol cars and they’ll look blankly at you. Tell them about a race through the night with three cars chasing one car on a quadruple stint and they start backing off. 

To be fair this state of affairs does have an up side ... it means I don’t have to wad out £200 gazillion pounds to get into the circuit and I get to sit in a grandstand seat. It also means I can wander into the pits before the race and talk to team owners, drivers, mechanics and other assorted motor sport types as the cars are checked over before the race starts.

Trust me you don’t get this sort of access in Bernies ordered little world.

These are the mechanics of the 007 Aston Martin checking over a front brake problem they discovered with the car in the warm up 2 hours before the race, whilst I stand there and take pictures.

Meanwhile at the back of the pits, the pit lane babes catch up on texts and discuss tires strategies I imagine

Anyway, back to Formula One I suppose. Errrum yeah Vettel won, whoop dee doo. Was there any doubt in that .. probably not. Ferrari went of a bit of Glory, but Redbull and McLaren have the measure of them and only rain is going to spare Italian tears this year.

The result then, Vettel wins it was pretty easy, on a track that rewards going very very fast, there is little chance of one car chasing down another, especially one that seems to be working phenomenally well right now.
Button did another good job of nursing tires and fuel and not getting all hot under the collar to get to 2nd. He breezed past Hamilton and Schumacher as they fought each other to a standstill and just got on with things. It wasn’t all that exciting to watch but that’s what gets results. Button is having a storming time of it at the moment, being the most consistent driver behind Vettel. If only the McLaren could have had won few more, we might be seeing a different championship.

Alonso gets 3rd but was lucky Hamilton was held up for so long. The Ferrari really doesn’t work at all on the hard tires which is a major failing for the team. Nothing is going to change now, it’s too close to next season to start redesigning a car now. They’re just going to limp along and hope the others drop the ball.

Hamilton made it to 4th but could have won if this or that or maybe those things had gone his way. To his credit he could have punted Schumacher off numerous times and has every right to feel cheated.  I think being marched to the stewards office every race has got to him, he toned it all down and looked like a shade of his former self. McLaren had the wrong rations in the car and he was never quite fast enough to take the Mercedes ahead of him.  It was like watching F1 from 5 years ago. Dull.

Schumacher is a cheating German and that is all ... in 5th. I have no respect for him anymore. Too aggressive yet again and even his boss had to tell him to pack it in twice.

Massa 6th, not all that good.

Thanks to Liuzzi taking out much better cars means Alguersuari gets a deserved 7th, He’s sort of found his feet this year and has turned in several fine performances. Given Torro Rosso is a Redbull run gig, I expect he’ll be fired before the end of the season.

Di Resta had sort of faded from the picture over the last few months, so its a good result to get to 8th. It’ll put him back in the minds of the bigger teams again.

This week Senna makes up for the woeful performance last time in Spa with a creditable 9th.

Just ahead of Buemi in 10th, if Algi doesn’t go at the end of the year, Buemi will.

There you go then the only other news is Trulli gets to keep his Lotus seat for next year. Where does the man get the money from ? I can think of no other reason why he is still allowed to drive a car within 200 miles of an F1 Circuit.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Monza .. yes, i know

Yes i have watched the race and i will write something soon.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of an Audi

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Back to the home of F1 fans

Hello race fans.

The circus has decamped from Spa, traveled south and pitched up at the heartland of motorsport and the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in the suburbs of Milan.
If you want history, passion and speed then Monza is the race for you. This cathedral to motorsport is only rivaled by Silverstone in terms of speed and history with both circuits being there at the very beginning of the Formula one world championship. The likes of Fangio, Gonzalez and Moss made their name here, the likes of Peterson, Rindt and Von Trips lost their lives here.

Touching 210 mph as they travel like a missile through the Italian parkland, nowhere else do you see a Formula one car demonstrate just how fast these things are capable of going, just how much raw speed an engine, four wheels and a few bits of carbon fiber can have. In 2009 Montoya lapped the track in 1m19.525s (162.949 mph) which remains the fastest lap ever recorded in an F1 car.

As for the atmosphere, well there are no more fanatical race fans than the hundreds of thousands of Tifosi that pack the circuit for the race weekend. Monza doesn’t need to bus in the locals or fill the stands with clueless corporate suits on a day out from the office. These fans are here to support one team and one team only because this is Ferrari country, the stands will be awash with Scarlet as the Tifosi go wild whenever the Ferrari exits or enters the pits. They love it, Italy loves it.

Basically you have to have a car that goes like a hoodie carrying an armful of phones 4 U’s finest when the driver mashes the loud pedal to the bulkhead. Head down and fast, break for the right left Variante del Retifilo, into the woods for the long sweeping flat out right of Curva grande until you arrive at the left right Variante della Roggia, a short blast to the two right handers at Curve di Lesmo than nail the throttle until you get to the left right left flow of Variante Ascari a good exit from there and max out the rev all the way down to the Curva Parabolica. Nail the apex, let the car run out to the very edge of the track on the left as the tires try to spit you out of the right hand corner that goes on forever before you’re onto the start finish straight once again.

This place is as old school as it gets, get it wrong and it ends in broken bits of carbon fiber and pain. There are no tarmac run off areas to save your sorry backside. Ride the curbs and stay off the grass.

Pretty much no one, apart from Webber, thinks there is any chance of the championship leaving Vettels grasp now. But there are still honors to be races for and a win at Monza is one of those honors. No driver worth his pay check thinks this is just another race, the big boys will want to show the faithful that they deserve the praise and the also ran's want to have their moment of glory.

Given that the Redbulls don’t normally run well on the power circuits like Spa and Monza, I’d expect at least one or other of the Redbulls to win here too. But the McLarens were fighting with one hand behind their backs in Belgium. Button got to 3rd from way back in the pack and Hamilton was controlling things nicely until he took his eyes off Koby. Hamilton won’t give up until the chequered flag drops and he’s pumped up looking to save his year. But you know, Vettel has been showing Lady Luck a rip roaring time of late and she can be difficult to tempt away from a driver when she takes a shine them. I think she remembers the days when Schumacher and her used to go gallivanting around the world in a spray of champagne and trophy’s … It must be a German thing.

Whilst all this frivolity is going on with the sharp Italian suits and the attendant, but very bored looking, glamorous arm candy in Italy. I shall be in, a no doubt windswept and wet, corner of a Northampton airfield watching proper cars with roofs, lights and different engines continue to battle for the title of world endurance champions.

In what is becoming an annual event for me now, I will be huddling manfully in the teeth of a howling gale watching the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Silverstone 6 hour race.
Yes, after Le Mans and Spa this is about as good as it gets for me. For a mere £25 on Sunday I can sit in any grandstand seat, hang around the back of the pits whilst the race is on. Talk to any driver I happen to bump into and sit and enjoy 6 hours of quality racing. £25 might just buy you a cup of tea and sticky bun at the British Grand Prix, so a full days racing with the chance to meet the teams and watch the racing from inside a garage for the cost of an umbrella is damn good value in my book.

Right then, don’t forget to update your predictions before Friday. If it’s cold Ferrari won’t win, but don’t bet against a red car on pole. I think it’s going to be a straight fight between Redbull and McLaren.