Sunday, 25 November 2012

And so it ends .. But racing was the winner in the end.

Lewis, Fernando, Kimi and most of all Sebastian are the superstars or 2013, all have shown what it takes to be the best of the best, tenacious, single minded and driven to win.

But what of those other winners this year Maldonado, Rosberg, Button and Webber? They’ve all won this year haven’t they, arguable Nico and Pastor have done it in car that are but pale imitations of the likes of Redbull and McLaren. Are their achievements not greater for beating the class acts with inferior cars?

There is a great debate at the moment about just how good Vettel is, he’s the champion again and the first since Schumacher to win three in a row. Despite the mistake of the “comeback years” everyone points at Schumacher and says he is the modern Fangio. In fact the only other driver to win three in a row is Fangio and no one doubts his claim to greatness, the great by which all shall be measured.

So why should Vettels claim to greatness be doubted so much?

Unlike Fangio and Schumacher he’s up against some of the very best F1 drivers of the day in machinery that, if not on a par with than at least capable of taking the fight to the Redbull. This year the McLaren started as the car to beat out of the box but time and again dropped the ball. Ferrari got lucky and profited from the others mistakes but was there to do that profiting. Vettel had to work for those early season points, he wasn’t up the front and the car wasn’t fast enough to take the fight to the front.

What makes a driver one of the “Greats”? Winning championships? Winning in a car that is plain rubbish? How about over taking lots of cars or qualifying first and staying there for the whole race?

Schumacher spent most of his championship with a team mate to play tail gunner and winning with ease. They were particularly dull races it has to be accepted, with a few notable exceptions where the gear box stuck in one gear or Barrichello didn’t move out of the way until 10 foot from the line. But no one ever claimed he was a little bit rubbish and their granny with her dickey leg was capable of taking that Ferrari to the championship title. As it turns out it might well be that he is ordinary and it was just the car and team orders all along. The Mercedes years cast Schumacher in a very different light, gone is the domination and wining with ease. Now he gets in the way of the midfield drivers and has a nasty habit of crashing into the back of cars.

Is the tag of being “A great driver” just that, media hype? The media needs to hang a label on the drivers to justify their column inches. Mansell was a plucky whinging brummy for instance, who would drive his guts out for every last point. But the year he won his title the car was a technical marvel, light years ahead of its opposition. Electronic gearbox, traction control, start line control, active suspension … the list goes on. That Williams was the first of a new generation and the FIA had to ban 90% of the aids to get the racing back it was so far ahead of the rest of the field.

Yet Mansell is fondly remembered as the chap that wore his heart on his sleeve and tried his damndest to win who was robbed so often. He’s one of the greats.

Senna is always an emotive driver to talk about. The debate rages as to his greatness, I personally, don’t think he was great because he was willing to drive another car off the road to win. An act of aggression that tainted the sport for years afterwards, Schumacher took that baton and happily ran with it for at least three championships. Until the cars went digital Senna didn’t need to be aggressive or dangerous to win because was great. He could take rubbish cars and deliver them to the top of the grid, drive qualifying laps that took your breath away. And when given a front line car he became sublime, until he started to believe his own hype, thought he had a divine right to win and lost the plot.

Prost was perhaps the most intelligent F1 Driver to date. Known as the professor in the day before two way telemetry and a bank of computers in the back of the pits telling the pit wall what the car was doing before the driver knew.  He always knew what was required of him, the best way to win, the easiest way to win. Not for him the balls out do or die move the late lunge up the inside for a single extra point. He didn’t win every race but he won lots of world championships. He was dull, but he was great.
Back further and there are the like of Moss, Hawthorne and Clark. These drivers would drive an F2 car one weekend, win an F1 race the next and be pulling all nighters at Le Mans the week after. In the days when a mistake could leave you with fewer limbs than you started the weekend with ... or worse. They are all great because they risked, really and truly risked their lives to win.
 These days the cream of F1 doesn’t really face a life and death choice. We’ve not seen a fatality at a race since Senna in 94. Grosjean came close to doing Alonso a lot of damage at Spa but the high sided cockpit and survival cell meant he could walk away from an accident that would have killed the driver 20 years ago.

It was a different sort of great in those days and I think that is the problem with comparing Vettel to any diver of any age other than this year, today, here and now.

Here and now today,

Ferdinand did what he had to do, but then Sebastian did all he had to do, and that was the end of the story.

Button won, when Hulkenberg spun into Hamilton who almost gave McLaren the perfect send off after getting pole and fastest lap. Jenson has had a long and difficult year with a lot of head scratching and searching around for some direction. Next year he’ll have Perez under his wing and will need to lead the team. I get the feeling McLaren are at a turning point here, Perez needs to deliver on the hype, Jenson needs to be a true leader and the team needs to put a bad year behind them. To a large extent Lewis was a talisman for them, the man to take the fight to the rest of the pit lane. Now he’s gone they need Jenson or Perez to step up and give them something to believe in.

When Vettel got punted to the back of the grid after four corners Alonso was Champion. But it just wasn’t enough today. He has driven his heart out this year and won a lot of praise from those that disliked him and Ferrari. He’s driven with passion and humility and didn’t go and punch Grosjean when he destroyed his championship. For me he’s been the driver of the year because he’s just got on with it, in a car that wasn’t the class of the field by a long shot. They got the wind tunnel numbers wrong and never really dialled out its inherent oversteer, their “coanda” exhaust was always a bit of compromise and yet they just got their heads down and almost pinched the title at the end. Alonso was lucky to be in the hunt and unlucky not to win the title

Massa. Now sit down here, but I think Massa is the most improved driver of the year. No, really he is, he always goes well in Brazil, but this race was as good as he’s ever driven. He was told to go out there and support Alonso and he did just that. A couple of brilliant overtaking moves, giving his place up to Alonso, despite it being futile and then not throwing a hissy fit on the podium at the end.  He’s had a rough ride these last few years and I think he can look back as the second half of this season and feel like it was a job well done.

Webber almost took his team mate out at the restart and is obviously not a team player like Massa.

Hulkenberg was fifth after leading on merit. When the rain came back for the second time, a millimetre of throttle too far and he was in second place behind Hamilton. He’d driven a great race up to that point staying on slicks as the rain started and the rest of the pack went to inters. Next year he’s off to Sauber and given how well he drove today I think it might be a step sideways at best. But he also might, look back at today and realise this was a high point of his career.

Vettel needed to be in the points if Alonso was on the podium and that’s what he did bringing it home in sixth. He looked more nervous than usual this weekend, considering he’s been in this position twice before. The carnage at the start was due in large measure to him braking early for turn four and everyone getting out of his way. After that, well he drove a great race and really delivered.  Unlike Abu Dhabi where he collected backmarkers and needed safety cars, this time he took the thing by the scruff of the neck and just dragged its backside back to the points. A real top draw, not crashing into other cars just get to the end of the race, drive. I know, I'm just as amazed as you.

Schumacher, seventh, Will he be missed? No. Should he have come back? No. Was it the car all along? Yes. Is he one of the great? Yes.

Vergne eight, great drive, when bigger names forgot the golden rule that the dry line is the best line.

Kobayashi ninth and probably his last race in F1, the thinking is he’s off to Toyota and the WEC next year now. He certainly doesn’t have the money for another go and Sauber have already said goodbye. The most successful Japanese driver to date, but like all of the others he just wasn’t consistent enough.

Finally Kimi was tenth and never really in the fight for much more. Still I think he can look back at this year and say it was a job well done. A win and the next best driver after the Redbull pair isn’t something to be sniffed at. With Coca-colas “burn” brand and money all over the car next year this could be the next “Redbull team”. Kimi might well have fallen on his feet here.

Hamilton got the fastest lap on the driest laps

And Karthikeyan was this week’s last place driver. (Yes I know Di Resta is the last place classified driver, but he was parked in the wall with four tires pointing in different directions at the end).  

Thank you all for playing this year. I can’t do this if I don’t have players. Well I could still write this rubbish but even fewer people would read it. I hope you’ve enjoyed the game and that I’ve added a little something to your enjoyment of the racing this year. I think you should care who comes last each race and hope that Maldonado beats Rosberg for ninth place.  
Each Monday after the race someone always comes up to me and says, “I had the top 5 there until Grosjean crashed into Webber and suddenly I had no points at all!!” there is always a conversation about whether Karthikeyan is worse than De La Rosa for last place. Who will Maldonado or Grosjean hit this time and if they’re worth a punt for the bottom half of the top ten?
At the start of every season I pray that the racing will be good and I’ll have something to talk about, after 3 races this year I wished the racing wasn’t so close and there wasn’t so much to talk about
So thank you all once again for sticking with this and playing, sorry about the appalling spelling, terrible grammar and rampant Hamilton man love.

See you all again next year 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Right it’s all come down to one race. After around 3800 miles of racing over eight months we finally arrive in Brazil with two drivers trying to become world champions for the third time.

Who do you think will win and who would you like to win ?

The young gun Vettel looking to become the youngest ever consecutive triple world champion but that question of weather he is one of the greatest still persist. It’s not been an easy ride for him this year with a car that didn’t want to qualify at the start of the season and an engine that likes to burn out its alternator. He’s had to battle through the pack and scrap it out with the midfield rather than win from the front. The first half of the season was one of picking up results when the others failed to finish, the second half the Redbull seemed to find a new lease of life and hit the front with a vengeance. Hamilton stopped him last week in Austin, will he do the same again this weekend ?

Vettel doesn’t need to win to retain the title, just finishing will pretty much do it for him. But he’s not good at sitting back and waiting for the race to come to him, It’s all or nothing for the German and that might be his downfall.

Alonso and Ferrari have had a very rocky ride this year. With a car that has looked like it wants to kill its driver at times but saved his life in spa when Grosjean tried to take his head off. From the highest height of that win in front of his adoring public in Valencia to the Spa where he was lucky to walk away from a car destroyed by a flying Lotus. This has been a classic year for Fernando, he’s fought tooth and nail and never given up, Ferrari have admitted that they got the wind tunnel numbers wrong. Even going so far as to pack up the wind tunnel team and transport them to Germany and the ex-Toyota facility to start over again.

By rights he shouldn’t even have a shot at the title with a car that is the third best car on the grid, but it says something for the Spaniards luck and tenacity that he’s there 13 points behind Vettel and you know he’ll thrash that Ferrari to within an inch of its life to get the result he needs.

The maths are pretty simple for Alonso, beat Vettel by more than 13 points, so win, and hope Vettel isn’t second. If he’s behind Vettel its all over, he has to be in front of the Redbull and have at least two cars between them to stand a chance. If the Redbull alternator fails then he has to be third or better to take the title

But lets not forget the McLarens of Button and more importantly Hamilton. McLaren have lost this championship, pure and simple. They had the best car and one of the best drivers in Lewis. He is absolutely at the top of his game and should have walked the title hunt this year. But comedy pit stops, poor reliability and just plain taking their eyes off the prize have left them with nothing. A few race wins and a fight for second place in the constructors chase.

The fact that Hamilton is happy to go to Mercedes, who have failed spectacularly to deliver despite their budget, tells you all you need to know about how Lewis feels about McLaren.

Hamilton beat Vettel in Austin as Alonso struggled to dial the nervous Ferrari into the track. Brazil is far more of a know quantity so the Ferrari should be right at the sharp end this time. Throw in the predicted rain storm and we have the making of a great end of season.

Please update your predictions for the last time this year before midnight and good luck,

Monday, 19 November 2012

Hamilton on Fire, Alonso just about keeps the dream alive

Put it away lad, you've not won the cup yet!

Well what a race that was, finally someone has the cracking idea of taking the all the memorable bits from around the world and sticking them on one track.  Take Beckets from Silverstone, The horse shoe turn seven eight and nine from Turkey, the uphill turn two from the A1 ring in Austria and you end up with a superb track.

Just how superb it’ll be with soft sticky tires remains to be seen. But with hard solid tires the cars looked like they were driving on ice at times. The exit of turn 19 was especially difficult for everyone with pretty much everyone taking a trip across the run off during the weekend. The only driver to look like he had his car dialled in was Vettel who was a good half second faster than everyone during the practice sessions. He looked a shoe in for pole but had to work at it in the end to stay ahead of Hamilton, who just got better and better as the track came to him.

A driver not looking like he had any idea what the car was going to do from one corner to the next was Alonso. He was all over the show as the grip appeared to desert his car. He trashed it within an inch of its life but still only made it to ninth when the chequered flag dropped. To keep the championship alive he needed to be as close to Vettel as possible, he wasn’t going to get much done from back there. Meanwhile Massa qualified in sixth ahead of Alonso and looked to have a much better handle on the car.
Grosjean had to change his gearbox, so got a five place penalty pushing him back to tenth and Alonso to eighth and the dirty side of the grid.  Normally the start grid of a track will have a ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ side to it, the racing line will have plenty of rubber on it and all the dust will be swept off to the other side. But this track has seen no action before this weekend, is still green and dusty off line and the tires were taking four laps to get proper grippy. So all the car on the even numbered dirty side at the start were predicted to be two places further back by the time they got up the hill to turn one.  

Any team worth its FIA entrance fee has a Zen master who has read the rules cover to cover and divined every single word and every single nuance of the rules and they’re exact meaning and the subtext to that meaning and the legal and ethical meaning to that meaning. Then they read them again.
 Ferrari spotted that if Massa in sixth was to have a gearbox ‘issue’ he would be penalised five places back to eleventh which would promote Alonso up to seventh and they’d both be on the clean side of the grid .
They wrung their hands for about two nano seconds over the ethical nature of this course of action, then broke the seal on Massas gearbox and called the FIA over to have a look. Redbull climbed on its high horse about other teams having to use ‘cynical tactics’ to keep their championship alive, how Horner kept a straight face I’ll never know.

So once all the hoo harr was over with we got a race, and what a race it was. The prediction that the even numbered grid slots would lose two places off the line was a little wide of the make.  Hamilton lost second place to Webber as Vettel took off into the distance and Alonso had a cracking start and was up to forth by the end of the first lap.
What happened next were 20 laps of wheel to wheel action as cars struggled to find any grip and actual real driver skill made the difference. Hamilton caught and passed Webber after four laps and was soon up behind Vettel making life uncomfortable for the German. Lap after lap the Redbull and McLaren traded fastest laps. Hamilton would nail the long fast sweeping corners of sector one but couldn’t quite close the gap to under a second for the DRS to kick in. Down the long fast back straight they were even stevens with McLaren just closing up as the very end of the straight. Vettel’s Redbull just had phenomenal drive out of the hairpins of sector three enough to pull put an advantage and stay ahead each lap.

Webbers race lasted until lap 16 before that pesky Renault alternator packed in again and left the grumpy Australian stranded out on the circuit. Thankfully this is FIA racing so we didn’t have to sit around for eight laps behind a safety car as the American marshals got their act together. Webber was cleared with the minimum of fuss as the race got on around it.

The two leaders came in for tires, Hamilton was stuck behind Kimi for three laps before the lotus driver made his stop and the fight for first could be rejoined.  Hamilton crept up to the back of the Redbull then fell back as Vettel pulled another fastest lap out of the bag, then he got a message from the team that the tires and fuel were going to be okay and he could turn the McLaren all the way up to 11 and take the fight to Vettel. For 18 laps he was tantalisingly close to the Redbull but never quite close enough for the DRS to give him that slingshot into the lead. Then on lap 42, our favourite last place driver Karthikeyan who was minding his onw business in last place suddenly found he had two much faster cars behind him in the middle of the fast sweeping turns of sector one. He desperately tried to get out of the way but with nowhere to go he held Vettel up fo r that crucial half second that Hamilton needed. Onto the back straight Lewis was now close enough to pick up the tow from Vettel and DRS did the rest. Vettel went to the inside to defend the corner but Lewis was already past before they got there.
Vettel wasn’t quite beaten yet and stayed with the McLaren as the two drivers continued to trade fastest lap. Alonso up to third with a good driver was 30 seconds down the road so wasn’t going to trouble the leaders. Vettel perhaps mindful of the championship didn’t try too hard to beat Hamilton and was only 0.6 seconds behind as they crossed the line.
Hurrah, it’s always good to say a race won with a pass for the lead.

So with that second and Alonso back in second the championship will be decided in Brazil next weekend. It’s always good for the championship to finish with a race that matters, Can Alonso steal this from under Vettel nose ? i don’t think so, but it’s going to be fun to watch.

Hamilton first and he thoroughly deserves it. I'm not too sure if he’s going to miss McLaren more than they miss him, but their partnership has been one of the more successful stories for the Woking based team. I think he’s now ahead of Prost in the all time list of McLaren winners. He just got faster and faster all weekend in Austin, he needed Vettel to be held up for just that half second to take the win, but you make your own luck in this game.  He never stopped trying and it was wonderful to see the happy bouncy Lewis of old when he got out of the car at the end of the race.  After the heartbreak in last few races.

Vettel second and pretty much has both hands on the trophy now. He’ll need to not finish and Alonso will have to be in the top three for the German to fail to become the youngest back to back triple world champion. Given than Renault doesn’t appear to have fixed that pesky alternator issue and if Alonso’s jammy luck makes a sudden return, that’s not beyond the bounds of reason. In reality Vettel just has to finish in the top ten and not be too far behind Alonso. But the Redbull is on song right now and Vettel seems to be able to stroke it to the podium. He’ll want to go for the pole, win and fastest lap just to prove a point. And that might just be his downfall.

Alonso, despite Massa taking one for the team he was still almost 40 seconds down the road at the end. Can he steal this at the end, I just can’t see it. It’s going to need that Renault alternator to go bang mid race, for the Spaniard to stand any chance. The Redbull is just faster than the Ferrari despite Alonso driving the nuts off the scarlet pony and that been the story of the season.

Massa was fourth with a pretty damn good drive in the end. You could call the gearbox penalty as unsporting by Ferrari, i think is a bit cynical at worst, but they didn’t have anything else on the table and ultimately it worked for them. Massa has a contract for next year and he’s back to the form that took him to within one point of the title. Whilst the likes of Webber moaned about having to follow team orders, Massa gave a rueful smile and said “Alonso was lucky to have a team mate like him”. He out qualified Alonso with ease and if he’d not been bumped at back to Eleventh i think he might very well have made the podium.

Button couldn’t find the grip in qualifying and started way back in 12 but like Lewis the track came to him and he was able drag the car back up the grid to fifth at the end. He’ll be the day facto team leader next year and drives like this will help him cement that. Perez can’t qualify either so the two of them will be having fun driving through the field next year.

Kimi was sixth and with a car that spent as much time going sideways as forward.  It looked a handful for most of the weekend and must have been a bit of a come down after the win last time out.

Grosjean too spent a lot of time trying to catch the car as it tried to spin out of the corners. He was his usual banzi self with several heart in the mouth moves on his way to seventh. It looks like he’ll keep his seat for next year, due mainly to the sponsorship rather than his racing skill though.

Hulkenberg confirms his best Force India driver tag with another fine top ten finish. Di Resta is most certainly yesterday’s man as the Hulk brings it home in eight.

Maldonado continues his rehabilitation with a ninth place result, passing Senna with a handful of laps to go just to prove there’s more to him that a dirty great shed full of state money backing him.

And the still contractless in 2013 Senna rounds out the top ten.

Karthikeyan was dean last as usual and that is Austin GP review.

Only one race left this year and thats next week.  Good luck and good night.  

Thursday, 15 November 2012

America home of the car, lets see what Redbull can do.

Hello race fans, just a quick one this time.

We’re on the final leg in America this weekend and the final race of a very, very long season in Brazil next weekend.

The Circuit of the Americas is a brand spanking, never before seen, or used, state of the art, circuit in the middle of nowhere in a dusty corner of Texas. I have no idea what it’ll be like, though I do expect the stands to be full. If nothing else the Americans do like to see the Europeans turn up now and again to show them how an open wheel championship should be run.  

The feeling is this is going to be another Redbull track I'm afraid. As long as they don’t *ahem* “have a fuel problem” this time. But all the big boys have a fully spec’d up sims of the track layout and the lower fourth teams have been playing it on F1 2012 for a couple of weeks at least. So there won’t be any surprises for the drivers. Friday might see a fair bit of action as they explore the limits of the tracks and confirm their setting, as the track beds in the top teams will be able to dial the cars in whilst the cheap end of the pit might struggle.

A race in America is always special because F1 should be in America, the home of the automobile. With a five year contract let’s hope they can build a bit of a following again. The last time the circus was in the states they left with their tails between their legs as two thirds of the field refused to race. This time it should be a bit more professional.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

HRT up for sale.

How do you make a pocket full of change and fire countless engineers ..... start with a bunch of Bankers and give them an F1 team to play with.

Once again the owners of HRT have found out that no one gives a shit out their crappy cars or their crappy team. They have two crappy drivers and soon they'll have a big expensive crappy factory in Spain that is worth more as a car park than an *ahem* state of the art Formula one team factory.

 No one ever bought an F1 team to make money and turn a profit after a couple of years. So why did a bunch of bankers think it was a good idea to buy an unsuccessful F! team in Germany and transport it to Spain where there is no infrastructure for that sort of thing. And they do it in the middle of the worst economic crisis in Spanish history.

Who will buy the team ... no one , it's shit.

Not even Bernie has his fingers in this one.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Kimi proves just how wrong I can be

Only Two races left now lads. 

Well that just goes to show you what I know about F1 racing. I didn't think the Lotus had the oomph to take a win this year and then Kimi pops up and does just that. Alonso kept him honest, but it wasn't enough to stop Vettel driving himself into the championship today.

A technical issue with the fuel tank had left the German stuck on the circuit at the end of qualifying; usually this means some idiot didn't put enough fuel in the car, but this time the Renault engineers had told Vettel to stop immediately on track due to some vague “it’s all gone a bit wrong” reason.

Now you’re not supposed to stop on the track after qualifying and the FIA take a very dim view of teams pulling the old “ we've got a problem and in no way is it related to there being too little fuel in the tank Guv’ner” excuse. So as Hamilton and McLaren celebrated an easy pole, the Redbull lads were in the steward’s office holding their hands up and making excuses. They managed to convince the FIA that “yes there was a problem” that had “nothing to do with fuel”. Except when they came to take the mandatory one litre of fuel from the car to make sure it wasn't illegal, they got 850ml. Oh dear.

“Well that’s not a problem Mr FIA , if we could just take this panel off here and open this special pipe here, I'm sure we can get the last 150ml of fuel you require” ..... Except the rule clearly state that no panels or part of the car can be removed to get the fuel.

The FIA had a quick huddle, agreed that the fuel was probably in the car. Then threw the book at them and banned Vettel to the back of the grid. Redbull said it didn't really know what the problem was anyway so took the car out of parc ferme to work on it and left Vettel to start from the pit lane on Sunday. A drive form the back of the grid on a circuit that's very difficult to overtake on, at last we would see what Vettel is really made of.

What should have been an easy win for Hamilton who looked to be the happy and bouncy Lewis of old. Turned into a nightmare after the glory of an easy pole and perfect start, all he had to do was avoid the backmarkers and cruise to the line. He got away perfectly when the lights went out, had a bit of a moment when he expected the tires to have a bit more grip in them at the end of the long straight.

Vettel however was making life hard for himself as he battled, yes battled the Williams of Senna. Like all world champions who find themselves at the back of the grid, he forgot that the back markers are allowed to try and defend their position and do not have blue flags waving them through as normal. As Vettel finally made it past the Williams, Senna cut back across the front of the Redbull and took off the side of the front wing. Nothing major, but enough to lose some down force in the corners.

He didn't lose as much as Rosberg though who was following the HRT of Karthikeyan when its engine suddenly went bank and seized the engine solid. Rosberg had about 2 seconds to realise tyhe car in front wasn’t going to move out of his way and launched him Mercedes over the left hand side of the HRT into the crash safe wall. Lucky both drivers walked away from a nasty accident, yet another testament to the legacy of Professor Sid Watkins.

As the safety car tooled round, Redbull told Vettel that his front wing would be fine and nothing else was going to fall off. To celebrate this Vettel narrowly missed driving into the back of Ricciardo’s car who keeping his brake temperature up. Vettel demolished the DRS sign on the side of the track, swore loudly on the radio and wiped out the rest of his front wing. Now Redbull had to roll the dice and brought the car in early for a new nose and to put it on the soft tires a good 15 laps before it was due. This put him once again at the back of the field. But with nice sticky tires and a nice clean nose.

Game on.

When the safety car went in Lewis was off the leach and went off and setting fastest lap after fastest lap the car and driver were in perfect harmony when suddenly the car cut out. The plucky lad was left rolling down the road once again in a McLaren that appeared to be dead on the track. No light, no engine and no power. He climbed out of the car and watched Kimi inherit his lead and more than likely the win.

Vettel by now was up to second as the rest of the pack went in to change their tires. Speculation was rife as Ferrari, Lotus and McLaren tried to guess if and when Vettel would stop for another set of boots. Redbull said he was going all the way, Pirelli said “he’ll have to stop within sight of the line”. Alonso made it to third after passing Maldonado who was having a great race. Followed a few laps later by Button who was not having such a great race by his standards.

Back down the order Di Resta, Grosjean, Perez and Webber were duking it out for minor points, Di Resta undercut Perez into the chicane at the back of the circuit. Perez cut back and pushed Di Resta onto the grass at the next corner ran wide off the circuit and cut back into the apex of the next corner, just in time to find Grosjean already there and got t-boned off the track, Webber arrived at the apex to find Grosjean wondering around on the racing line and collected the hapless Frenchman. This brought out another yet another safety car so the marshals could clean up the mess, giving Alonso a run at Kimi and Vettel a chance to make it to the podium.

But Kimi is too smart to be caught like that, as the safety car peeled off into the the pits Kimi took off and by the time the DRS was turned back on he had more than enough time in hand to keep Alonso behind him. Button however wasn't so lucky and with just four laps to go Vettel passed him for the final spot on the podium and to retain the lead in the drivers championship.

If you want to see the definition of “a lucky driver” watch Vettel’s Abu Dhabi race again. Luck like that is what wins the big silver cup.

Kimi then, inherited the lead and didn't need telling how to win the race, it’s nice to see him back up there. He’s still not the most verbose of drivers, but it’s good to see a quality driver doing what he does best, driving fast and winning. And it pretty much nails him onto a third place in the championship. Much better you will note, than Schumacher who had yet another weekend to forget. Maybe a couple of years off driving in the scenery worked out for the Finnish lad.

Alonso, must be wondering what he did to annoy Lady Luck so much. When Vettel was demoted off the grid he must have though all his Christmases had come at once! The lead in the championship was there to be taken back all he had to do was get on the podium, and he drove the nuts off the car to achieve that goal. Then Hamilton dropped out and he was there, but Vettel still managed to get back to the podium and with a few more laps would have robbed Alonso of his second. At the end of the race, things haven't changed and he’s still behind Vettel in the race for the chase for the cup for the win. Time is fast running out with just two races left this year.

Vettel, from pit to podium, you just can’t beat that kind of jammy Luck!

Button fourth and looking forward to the days when he no longer has to explain to Martin and the team why he can’t be the leading driver with the same equipment. Say what you like about Lewis but you always know he’s going to thrash the life out of the car whatever he’s been given, whilst Jenson will always deliver you what the car is capable of giving you, nothing more but maybe less.

Maldonado was fifth and did a pretty good job. He made Webber work to get past him and survived being swiped by the grumpy Australian. Other than that he kept his nose clean and finally delivered a finish for the team. There is still a nagging doubt over his ability to focus on the job and not try and kill the other drivers, but he kept his emotions in check this time and made the faster boys work for their paychecks no leery moves or sudden swipes might be the sign he’s learnt to finish before proving a point.

Kobayashi sixth, didn't do too much and brought the car home for a hat full of points unlike his team mate who once again tried to show his new team what a real asset they’ve bought for next year. Koby still isn’t signed on for next year with Sauber and I get the feeling he’s not in line for any of the top teams anytime soon. He is fast but inconsistent and occasionally loses the plot. Drives like this keep his hat in the ring for next year though.

Massa seventh with another solid run to the line.

Senna looks to be on the way out now even with an eighth place finish. Maldonado is pretty safe in the other Williams seat and as Bottas is believed to have, if not a very signed contract to 2013, then a very nearly signed contract. Senna’s only hope now is Koby gets caught with in a room full of hooker snorting Columbia’s finest export of their pert pink flesh. No one else appears to want him and being likable is not enough in the piranha pool of F1 drivers.

Talking of nice but unwanted, Di Resta finishes in ninth. Some have said Hulkenbergs move to Sauber is a sideways move at best and a career suicide at worst. I think he’s going to get a seat with a conservative team that delivers innovative cars out of the box and picks up points with a no frills attitude to racing. And the Sauber team does enjoy a certain amount of respect from the big boys for producing cars and drivers that punch above their weight; Peter Sauber is a straight talking team owner that has been in the game for a long time. He’s not here for the money or, God forbid, the face time. So this move gives Nico the chance to be seen in a respected team not screwing it up and look like a top team candidate. Whilst Di Resta isn’t.

Ricciardo was tenth with a brand new contract with Toro Rosso for next year.

This week it was De La Rosa turn to be almost a lap behind the winner. Okay the two safety cars helped but hey, the HRT was on the same lap as the winner. I think that deserves a round of applause.

Right, it America and the brand spanking new Circuit of America next, Alonso will be praying Lady Luck gets drunk on bourbon and wanders back into the Ferrari garage.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Don't expect any sort of racing this weekend.

It’s another fast turn around and after the hurly burly chaos of India we're now in the soulless capital to Capital. Abu Dhabi and the particularly dull Yas Marina circuit, if anyplace typifies the current trend to go to countries to line Bernie pocket, this is it.

Long fast straights, check
Into tight hairpins, check
Goes around a dockyard, check
Has a few empty grandstands, check

Congratulations, it’s a Hermann Tilke identikit circuit. This one has a hotel that lights up rather than an old fish market to keep you interested. But as the sun goes down there will be precious little action on the track. Actually the hotel is all the lights on it changing colour is quite impressive, if a bit tacky.  There will be long periods of this race when you will think, have all the other cars crashed? The director will be following the third place car behind Vettel and there will be no other car within a hundred yard, it’s really bizarre how the track can look so empty.

The big news of the week has been how ferociously Ferrari and Vettel have denied that there is a contract or letter of understanding between them. I don't believe a word of the denials and I'm still sure the German will be wearing red in two years time.

Over at Sauber, they've confirmed Hulkenberg will be driving for them next year.  No great surprise really, as there wasn't really anyone else available with the experience or money. I think this is going to be a good match, if and it’s a big if here, they survive Perez taking his big fat wallet with him.

The race then, well I expect Vettel will win, if his tire doesn't fall off its rim like last year.  Then Webber or Alonso and the McLaren boys ahead of the Merc and Lotus chaps perhaps. Throw in a Williams or Sauber for good measure. Massa looks to have got his mojo back so I’d have him ahead of the Merc boys.  

Monday, 29 October 2012

The cynicism of middle age

So ... more of the same then.
You just know its going to happen don't you ? Vettel and Redbull are on a roll and there is just no stopping them now. Whatever you may think is going to happen, whatever you would like to happen, the reality is that Vettel is pretty much unbeatable right now.
The season started so well from a fans point of view with random wins and a Williams back on the top step. But now, well it's time for a Miss reality to to saunter back into the room with a casual flick of her long dark hair and a knowing smile that says "normal service resumed boys". She has two big burly bodyguards standing just out of sight  behind her. Whilst you're looking at the A line dress and plunging neck line, 'money' and 'politics' are standing there to make sure random chance and Lady luck are kept at a very long arms length.
Winning is not about being the best of the best on the day. It's about having the most money to throw at the problem and the most engineers willing to burn out for the cause. As Lance Armstrong proved, money and ambition will overcome all the odds.
Maybe I've just become jaded with motorsport ?
Maybe as i get older I'm starting to get tired of looking at a grid and thinking, "well they are the richest team, with the best of everything. So they're going to win ... aren't they!". Winning isn't about luck anymore, it's just about the money and how much the team has. Lance was right, winning is more important than taking part, winning isn't about pride and respect now. It's about completing a business transaction and delivering a result for the investors. It's about giving the marketing department the tools to promote the soft drink or the business solution. No longer a physical test or the triumph against odds.  
Maybe its just the red wine, but I'm finding it harder sell F1 to you. Pure brute force of capitol is what wins championships today, not passion and talent. Maybe that was always the case and maybe Gonzales and Fangio where the best because they had the best equipment from the richest teams.
Vettel won and it was pretty easy. When the TV director is looking at the battle for fifth and sixth, you just known he's casting around for some interest. I think you're a fool if he's not up for the win, pole and fastest lap of your prediction now. The rest of the pack is there to make up the numbers for the rest of the season. Is the car legal ..... until the FIA find the test that says no, they are.
Alonso second and he thrashed that car to get there. Make no mistake, the likes of Perez and Hulkenberg like to talk the talk but they will never be able to deliver the result of the Spaniard. I still don't like him, but my respect for him has grown immeasurable this season.
Webber third, had KERS problems apparently.
Hamilton, counting down the days till is leaves McLaren. He did what he could with what he had.
Button ... got the fastest lap on the last lap on the race. So motivation might be an issue
Massa was sixth
Kimi seventh and the last creditable challenge to the Redbulls, despite not winning a race this year.
Hulkenberg eighth to do enough for the Sauber seat next year.
Grosjean doesn't hit anyone one for two races in a row
Senna was tenth with a car that would have delivered a podium in the hands of a better driver
Karthikeyan is this weeks hopeless driver that has move money than the team can turn down. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Lady luck rather likes Redbull and Vodka it seems

Well not the most exciting race of the year again, which I appear to be saying a lot lately.

There's a sort of inevitable feeling to all of this now, like we've been here before, with Michael and those Ferrari years. Remember that feeling, whatever the others do it’s just not going to stop one team from dominating the championship for the foreseeable future ?
Well that’s how I'm starting feel now.

The press gang are of the one thought that Vettel has a nailed on contract with Ferrari for 2014 ... given how Redbull and more importantly Adrian Newey have turned this season around, you have to think that’s a bit of a stupid move. Not as stupid as Hamilton going to Mercedes is. But pretty stupid all the same, if it’s true of course.

For a change it was Webber turn to be on pole, as everyone else played catch up to the Redbulls. The McLarens still looked like they had the same broken suspension they had in Japan bolted onto the back of Hamilton’s car and Ferrari, though fast, weren't fast enough.

The Redbull machine was on song and duly delivered a second front row lockout.
Lewis third up as Jenson failed to make the grade in Q2 and Alonso kept them all honest after almost missing the cut in Q1. Come Sunday it was just a case of who was going to get into turn one first and win the race, Webber from pole or Vettel ?

It turned out that Vettel had the better start line software and won the race by turn one.

Alonso jumped past Hamilton and tried to take the fight to the Redbulls

 Grosjean managed to miss everyone and it was the turn of Kobayashi to pile into the back of the pack when he failed to spot the trend in the cars ahead to slow down for turn three. He drove into Jenson’s right rear wheel, then into Nico left side, then back over Jenson's right front wheel and off the circuit. Jenson and Nico stopped after less than 100 years, Kobayashi made it back to the pits for some running repairs and a few more laps, before he too called it a day. If things were chilly at work over his contract before, now they will be positively Antarctic.

The rest of the race was about tyres and how long they would last. Hamilton found his didn't last long enough; Perez tried to impress McLaren by driving forever in one set and failing. It was a bit of a cat and mouse game as teams tried to have the driver with the most life left in their tyres when the chequered flag dropped.

Hamilton who had yet more rear suspension issues this race found himself at the poor man’s end of the top ten fighting the Toro Rosso of Vergne and Ricciardo for eighth, ninth and tenth. He had fresher tyres but couldn't get enough grip with a broken rear roll bar. He fought valiantly but all to no avail. A comedy McLaren "sticky wheel nut" pit stop didn't help. Nor did the astro turf on turn 13 which wasn't stuck down with enough glue and attacked the hapless McLaren driver with 4 laps to go. What had looked like a safe, if disappointing 10th at the end, was made into a desperate drive for the line as Perez almost caught a Lewis who was dragging 20lbs of fuzzy green matting around with him.

As Vettel cruised around, the pits to car radio kept crackling into life to tell the German that his front right was looking less and less likely to make the end of the race. With a gap to Webber of around 10 seconds he wasn't in too much danger, maybe it was a bit of showboating by Redbull to make it look like the others had a chance. Vettel slowed down and didn't get his customary fastest lap. That was left for Webber on his last lap to show that he could have won if he'd wanted too, but he was too cool for that sort of thing.

And that was the race, it rather looks like Vettel and the Redbull just have to turn up to each race and the season is going to be theirs I'm afraid. The McLaren drivers are out of the hunt now and maybe Kimi could, if the Redbulls failed to finish every race, win I suppose. But it’s not going to happen is it ?  

Vettel wins then, nice and easy

Webber second, lost it off the line and didn’t really look like beating his team mate any time soon

Alonso finally gets to finish a race, but loses the lead in the championship. I don’t think he’s going to get it back given how well the Redbulls are going now.  But this is Alonso and you can never count him out until the final flag of the final race. But Ferrari is going to have to pull something special out of the bag here.

Massa fourth and pretty much confirms his contract for 2013. Again he’s here on merit and shows that the Ferrari isn’t a bad car. In point of fact he was coming back at the Redbulls until he was told stop to crowding the talent and stay behind Alonso.  Some things just never change.

Raikkonen fifth, he’s still third in the title hunt but i can’t see him win the races he needs to claim the silverware. Still you have to admire his achievement. Schumacher came back after his time off for good behaviour and was rubbish. Kimi meanwhile has come back from driving into trees and walls on the WRC trail and here he is in third with a good solid points scoring championship year.  Not too shabby really.

Hulkenberg was sixth with nothing too exciting, he did the best with what he had and once again beats Di Resta in the “I'm worthy of the Sauber seat next year chaps” game. Bear in mind that the owner of Force India Vijay Mallya is currently on the run after an arrest warrant was issued and his fleet of Kingfisher airliners were grounded. Apparently he’s been paying the bills with rubber cheques, and the owners of Hyderabad international airport are not amused. I don’t think he’s going to turn up to the India Grand prix in two weeks time seeing as he didn’t turn up to court as summon last week. What this means for the team is anyone’s guess,   but I bet Di Resta and the Hulk are frantically calling Sauber when they’re not in the car.

Grosjean was seventh and hurrah he didn’t hit anyone. Well done to him, keep up the good work lad.

Vergne has a career best eighth and showed that the Toro Rosso’s are finally up to speed, Mercedes had better watch out ! Vergne came under a bit of pressure from Hamilton towards the end, but kept his head and kept it on the grey stuff.

Ricciardo in the other Toro Rosso was ninth and didn’t quite have the tyres to stop Vergne looking the better bet for a contract continuation next year.

Tenth and the last paying point for Hamilton, who must be counting down the days until his contract with McLaren expires; another broken car, yet another wheel nut not going on properly, another set up issue, pulled a qualifying lap out of the blue and failed again to turn that into a challenge. He was still as feisty as ever, making Kimi work for his points. But he looked like a sitting duck for most of the race and really, really must be wishing it would just all end soon. All in all then, a week to forget for Lewis.

So then, last place driver was Karthikeyan this time a mere two laps behind the leader. Webber got the fastest laps on the last lap of the race, no tyre issues for him then.

We’re off to Indian next, which is another soulless track in the middle of an industrial estate. It didn’t look all the interesting last year as I recall, its a 9.30am kick off so you won’t have to get up early at least.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Let's all Dance to Bernies music

Korea then and it’s another one of Bernie’s ‘take the money and run’ circuits.

Back in the day this was supposed to be the foundation of a great street circuit in the middle of a billionaires’ paradise and marina. Except the financial world collapsed and suddenly there wasn’t enough money left to build the hotels, restaurants and gin palace dry docks. So what we are left with is a reasonable interesting circuit in the middle of a reclaimed swamp next to a shipping terminal on a dreary bit of Korean coast. That has no infrastructure to speak off within 60 miles and no atmosphere what-so-ever.

If you think china has a dull looking circuit, you ain’t seen nothing yet !

So who have been the winners and losers this week?

Grosjean and his chums have been crawling out of the woodwork to claim that Webber caused the accident in turn two of the Japanese GP. The theory goes that Webber was off line in turn 1 and slowed more than necessary on the apex of turn 2. Grosjean had nowhere to go because he was boxed in by Perez, and ran into the back of the Redbull. Looking back at it … it looks like he piles into the back of Webber, who’s in front of him. Maybe he’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he’s spent a lot of this year in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Much like Massa and Hamilton did last year. He’s not a bad driver ... But he’s coping an awful lot flak for accidents even if it’s not technically his fault.
Lotus are sort of lukewarm about his future, so he’s got five races to keep his head down and not hit anyone else.

Lewis this week has had another, “think before you say anything moment”. An Idol twitter comment that “Jenson isn't following me on Twitter anymore, I thought he had more respect than that”. Was pounced on by a press pack and twittershpere to be a dig at Button and McLaren and Bernie and F1 and the fans and the money and sponsors and the team and the people than make those stickers that you can buy in little stalls at the circuit and God and the man that opens the gate to let the teams in and the truck driver and the WHOLE WORLD !!!!1!!!!!!!!!.
A hasty, “oh oops! he wasn’t following me in the first place” tweet later that day was met by a raft of comedy twitter comments from every living comedian on earth about how Lewis wasn’t following them and they felt they’d been let down badly.
24 hours and a lot of Korean beer later the press pack had completely forgotten where its hotel was, let alone what Hamilton had to say on twitter.

The third tear drivers market is starting to take shape; Ricciardo thinks he’s going to get another year with Toro Rosso, not the most exciting driver and certainly not Redbull full team material. He’ll be lucky to keep the seat unless he pulls out some top ten finishes from somewhere.
Kovalainen must be in talks with Sauber, because Caterham are talking about what a great guy he is and they’re sure he’s going to sign with them for next year.
The word on the street is Maldonado is off to somewhere new now. With all that lovely Venezuelan money he’ll be getting now Chavez is El Presidenta again, I imagine he’s harbouring thoughts of a the Sauber seat too. Williams are almost certainly going to pick Bottos for the car next year so Senna must be praying Maldonado walks off

Anyway .. errrrr yes Korea. Right This place is a bit like Valencia; technical with a few fast bits. Well Redbull and their sneaky deaky Double DRS they appear to have now should see them on pole. Newey has sneaked this one out under the radar and caught McLaren and Ferrari on the hop with their system, unlike the dreadful thing on the Mercedes, appearing to work and gives them a clear qualifying advantage. They locked out the front row in Japan remember.

Ferrari has been talking their game up and that usually mean they're panicking.

McLaren, well that’s anyone’s guess, its’ win or bust for them at the moment. You have no idea what sort of team is going to turn up - the win with ease or the back stabbing eyes off the prize, lads. Stick them out front and they’ll be difficult to beat, but if Redbulls rinky dinky double DRS is actually real and working McLaren will be the ones chasing.
Perez in the Sauber will be trying too hard again to impress the lads from Woking. Whilst Mercedes with their tyre eating car might well be late run for points contenders, when they have to stop with ten laps to go before the end as usual.

I think we could see one of the Williams boys in the top ten too. Both need to impress the teams to get a seat for next year.

Kimi ... well you never know. I don’t think he’s actually raced here, but that doesn’t mean he won’t do well here. Maybe a top five spot even a podium if Grosjean takes out a handful of the top runners.

Oh yeah and Massa, i think he could be in top five again. relying on Grosjean of course.

Right update you predictions before Friday and good luck.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

It's the finger of win yet again !

There we go then, not the most exciting race of the year really; it does make the race for the chase for the cup for the win a bit more interesting though.
It’s been a long time since Vettel nailed the pole, won the race and got the fastest lap. The last time he did it in India last year, the year he won the championship you’ll remember, after stealing it from under the nose of Alonso the year before, don’t forget.

There seems to be a sort of momentum building for the Redbull driver, The Ferrari development team seems to have hit a bit of brick wall whilst the lads and lasses in Milton Keynes have a whole new body shell ready for the Korean GP next weekend. They have a sniff of the title and are going for it body and soul. Whilst the McLaren team got bogged down in who was signing for whom, took their eyes off the prize and are now looking at saving a season going for the constructor title.  

The race wasn’t that interesting really; with lots of follow my leader and not being close enough to make a move type racing.  Alonso got punted off the circuit at the first corner when Button squeezed him into Kimi, who dropped back and tagged the unfortunate Ferrari driver. Lady luck looks to have left the Italian hospitality bar and is heading up the hill towards here new favourites at Redbull.
Meanwhile Grosjean pretty much got himself a two race ban when he slammed into the back of Webber whilst watching Perez. Webber was able to restart, but I suspect this will be the end of Grosjean’s F1 career. Unless he has a whole shed load of cash for one of the backmarker teams of course.

Hamilton who had made the classic mistake of signing for a new team before he’d won the championship with his old team. Went backwards with the set up on Saturday after dominating on Friday and only qualified ninth, from where he wasn’t going to get much out of the race with a car that wasn’t going where he wanted it to. First Perez had a bit of fun getting past him, before getting it wrong the second time round and spinning out of the race.
Then we had a flash of the old Lewis when he exited the pits along Kimi into turn one. It looked for a second as if The Lotus driver had done enough to stay ahead of the McLaren, but Hamilton kept his foot in and muscled his way past Kimi to take the fifth spot. Proper old school driving at its best.
And that was it for highlights. Jenson almost, but not quite caught Kobayashi for third as the race ran out. The suggestion that the McLaren lads don’t really have the heart for the rest of the season is a difficult one to shake. Realistically they’re both out of the title hunt, if they weren’t Button would have had another “gearbox issue” and let Hamilton though. But the team wants points for the constructors now and isn’t going to risk upsetting Jenson for a driver who’s off to pastures more silver and green next year.

Vettel and the finger of win claim back to back wins, and more to within four points of Alonso’s lead. Can you see him not winning the championship now ... no me neither.

Massa makes a rare appearance on the podium with a very creditable second place.  He got there on merit and you can’t take anything away from him here. It looks like his seat for 2013 at Ferrari is secure and that’s made him a happy bunny.

Kobayashi makes his first podium finish at his home GP, much to the delight of the home support. Jenson kept him honest at the end, but I think the likable Japanese chap and the Sauber team had it pretty much covered. He was miles behind Massa and never looked like taking the fight to Vettel, but that wasn’t his race today. The rumours are that Sauber are looking around for two new drivers next year after Koby has been less than stella this year. This third place might just change their minds.

Jenson was forth for a day the McLaren would like to forget.  He had gearbox issue in the first third of the race and was lucky to get to the end.  He made a fist of chasing Koby down, but didn’t look like getting there without the Sauber driver making a few big mistakes.  The much vaunted “I’ll help Lewis win the title if I can” stopped at giving up his fourth spot you will notice.

Hamilton was fifth, after telling everyone he wasn’t expecting to win a championship in the Mercedes next year, and nor will he win his last one in a McLaren.  

Raikkonen was sixth in a lotus that has defiantly gone off the boil.

Hulkenberg puts the disappointment of not even being asked if he wanted to talk about starting contract negotiation with McLaren behind him and makes a case for getting the vacant Sauber seat, is seventh.

Maldonado was eighth with a quite race.

Webber after being punted off by the prize idiot Grosjean, was ninth and can kiss his title chance away as well.

Finally Ricciardo did enough to keep Schumacher getting the last points at his last Japanese GP.  

Schumacher who had suddenly realised on Friday that the music had stopped and the other players were sitting down watching him. Then the Sauber team told him that their chair was being saved for someone else and that he was now free to go and help himself to the snacks at the side of the hall and wait for the goody bag at the end of the evening.  I'm still not sure what he was expecting to happen when he came back to F1 three years ago, but I doubt a couple of podiums and a lot of walking back to explain why he driven into the back of yet another car, figured in his plans.

Some people still think the sun shines out of his backside. I don’t and i never did. I’ll respect what he did, seven world titles is not to be sniffed at. But I lost all respect for the man when he tried to drive Ruben into the Hungarian pit wall.  The same as I lost all respect for Senna when he drove into Prost to win his championship. A driver making mistakes and just not concentrating is one thing; deliberately trying to drive another car off the road is another.

So then Grosjean almost salvaged something for you by being dead last, but he couldn't even manage that, so the HRT of Pedro De La Rosa takes the honors and the five points.

Right, the Korean “drive around a soggy looking waste land next to a river that no one in their right minds would ever go near “ GP is next. And I think you be a fool to bet on anyone other than Vettel for the win.  Unless McLaren get it right this time or Ferrari pull a new car out of their backsides. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Suzuka and a few questions

Right Japan then it’s time for the rather wonderful Suzuka circuit, a fast flowing track around the hills of Mie prefecture. This place has seen its fair share of drama over the years; Senna endlessly getting up close and personal with Prost, Hill taking his world championship here .
This weekend sees the circus return after Lewis confirmed he is going to be driving for Mercedes as of next year and Perez was snapped up by McLaren. So there are a few interesting points of interest to ponder over the weekend.

Firstly, if you were Martin Whitmarsh would you want to see your once most favoured son leave the fold after winning the world championship? Would you feel happy watching your rival tooling around next year with number 1 on its nose?  No I suspect not, so will McLaren be doing everything in its power to help Lewis win the championship this year? ... I don’t think so.
The word is there is now no love lost between driver and team. He’s thrown his toys out of the pram once too often, and they've failed to deliver the win too often.  Hamilton isn't going to be part of any “future car development” meeting and any new bits will probably be on Jensen’s car first.
I still think Lewis is the better bet for pole given Jenson has a 5 place penalty for a gearbox change, but the win could be Jensen’s.

Another thing to ponder is Perez, Hamilton only signed for Mercedes on Thursday, yet McLaren rather than say, “what a shame, we’re really going to miss the blighter and we will announce who’s going to replace him at the end of the season” instead they said “ yeah whatever, we've signed Perez already and he’s much better.”
This strikes me as odd!  They had him ready to stand in front of the press even before the ink was dry on Hamilton’s contract, no long goodbyes and “what a great guy he was” they stole the thunder from Mercedes and their new signing with a dawn raid on Sauber and a bit of a surprise signing ready and waiting. Perez must have bitten off their hand when they came knocking at the door.  

Now I'm not Perez’s biggest fan, I think he’s a bit dull and not terrible good at qualifying. But he’s shown he can drive the car and not hit the other drivers. He’s delivered points for Sauber and done what he’s been asked to do and I think he’ll be a perfect team mate for Jenson with a similar driving style. It’ll be interesting to see how he goes in a top line car next year.
 The word is that Jaime Alguersuari has got the nod for the Sauber seat; he’s certainly suggested it a few times on twitter. I think the loss of Perez’s Telmex millions means they’re going to have to get a big name in.

As for Schumacher, well he’s been fired hasn't he? Driving into the back of yet another car this year was the last straw, he’s not really looked committed to the cause with a third in Valencia as everyone else burned their tyres out, his only high point.  He’s bounced around the lower half of the top ten or the tracks side grass. There were a couple of half hearted rumors of a one year deal to return to Ferrari. But that was stamped on from a very great height by Ferrari. They’re happy with Alonso who is very happy with Massa. So he could swallow whatever pride he has left and go to Sauber, but I think he’s off to a seat on a board of directors and an import/export business in Germany. Maybe even a Mercedes dealerships network in Bavaria. His time is up and he’s been given his marching orders.  

Back to the racing then, and on paper this should suit the McLaren’s a treat, nice and fast it’s a ballsy circuit that rewards drivers who take a risk. The Redbulls will be close behind and Alonso will be there to pick up a podium if the others fail.
It could also be another good race for Lotus. It’s the sort of place Kimi loves, if the car is on song. They've been having a better second half of the season, Kimi’s podium were a result of others misfortunes and just sort of being there but that’s enough for him to be third in the championship.  They’re probably not fast enough on pure pace, but they’re been rock solid best of the rest all year.

Ferrari ... well they really could do with a win, but i don’t think the car is as fast as the McLarens or as planted as the Redbulls. Alonso is worth a couple of seconds a lap, but that’s not going to be enough I think. Top five if the others are reliable.

Okay Qualifying starts at 6am on Saturday morning; the race is live on Sunday at 7am.

If you’re bored on Saturday night you could do worse than spend a few hours trying to find a live stream of the Bathurst 1000, Australia premier tin top series. Think touring cars with big grunty V8 engines tooling up and down a mountain for 6 hours, whilst the punters on the banking get absolutely wasted. It’s like Le Mans, the British GP and the Indy 500 all rolled into one. It’s not on any TV networks outside Australia this year, but there’ll be a live stream here
Right get your predictions in before Friday. Don’t forget Jenson and Schumacher have grid penalties, so they’ll not be on pole.

Good luck. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Vettel can still win when McLaren lets Hamilton down.

Well not the most exciting Grand Prix you’ll ever see, but then you could say that about most street circuits. From the championship stand point of view it’s an interesting result though, Alonso still leads but Vettel now replaces Hamilton as the ‘best of the rest’.

Hamilton picked up in qualifying where he’s left off in Italy, a pretty easy pole after Vettel had a bit of a brain fade and spent too long trying to get a clear run rather than going fast.  Maldonado showed him how it should be done and put in a stunner to start second.  There were a lot of drivers attempting to crash test the wall with Senna having two goes at breaking his car before succeeding on the third go. Hamilton on his second pole run just kissed the wall with the right rear but reported no problems as he crossed the line at the end of the day.

Come the race and as predicted Hamilton pretty much disappeared off in to the distance with Vettel who’d made a great start for company, behind him Maldonado managed to make turn one and not collect anyone. But by the end of lap two he was back in fourth and didn’t look like he was going to trouble the big boys for the rest of the day.
After the initial flurry of opening laps the race sort of settled down into a bit of a dull rhythm.  The faster boys who were out of position moved up through the field slowly, Vettel kept Hamilton honest and Button tried to catch both of them.  
Then all of a sudden Hamilton swept into turn one and suddenly there was a puff of smoke and he had a box full of neutrals.  Apparently the right rear diff bearing had failed which led to no oil and a cooked gearbox.  Maybe slapping the wall on Saturday had affected the car after all. Post race and McLaren denied the problem was a result of the contact, claiming it was just a faulty seal , but you have to wonder.
Still the result was Vettel led the race with Button behind and everyone else following along. Then to spice up the evening our regular last place driver Karthikeyan decided he wasn’t getting enough air time for HRT so it with his job to smack the wall and bring out a safety car to clear up the mess.  This gave us a chance to watch the cars tool around behind the safety car for 6 laps during which Maldonado retired with an engine problem and Vettel brake tested Button who probably wasn’t paying attention.

Also not paying attention was Schumacher who, as the cars restarted the race, lasted a handful of corners before ploughing into the back of Vergnes Toro Rosso and bringing out a second safety car for another 3 laps.
As the race restarted for a third time, Massa in a stunning move worthy of the old days steamed it up the inside of Senna, who squeezed the Ferrari towards the wall. Suddenly the Brazilian got it into a tank slapper, with a dazzling display of car control he caught the slide, slowed it down into the corner and came out ahead of Senna. He’s still got the chops when required.

And that was the highlights ... dull, but it looked good.

Vettel wins, but didn’t really do anything for it really. Hamilton had him covered until his gearbox let go and Button couldn’t close the gap as the laps ticked off.  This win puts him into the fight for the championship, and with more Redbull friendly circuit coming up he might just have enough races left to beat Alonso.  After the race however the Stewards had called Vettel to the head masters study for a bit of a stiff talking too about break testing Button before the first restart. As yet I’ve seen nothing to suggest they’re going to throw the book at him and steal the win .... But you never know with the FIA .

Button is second and was happy with that.

Alonso was third and more than happy with that. The Ferrari isn’t as fast as either the McLaren or Redbulls so to still be leading the championship has to be pretty satisfying.  He’s 29 points ahead of Vettel and 52 ahead of Hamilton, so with a maximum 150 points still available it’s not all cut and dried just yet. But Lady luck is currently sitting in the Ferrari hospitality suit and knocking back the Verve Cliquey like there’s no tomorrow. Consistency and luck, that’s what wins you championship.

Di Resta was fourth, a fine result and given Hamilton’s retirement in the McLaren a very timely result.  The word is the whole driver market will be sorted on Wednesday, if Schumacher gets ‘asked to retire’ after the result today then Hamilton will move to Mercedes and Di Resta has to be a hot favourite for the McLaren seat.  The Merc links and years of DTM work will finaly have paid off.

Rosberg fifth, in an unremarkable drive.

Kimi was sixth and not very fast.

Grosjean kept his nose clean for once and made it home seventh.

 Massa had a surprisingly good run, after getting a puncture at the start fo the race he was dead last and still managed to bring it home eighth.  If he’s going to help Alonso get the title then he’s going to need to be further up than this though.

Ricciardo was ninth for Toro Rosso

And Webber was tenth.

Petrov was last for a change and Hulkenberg got the fastest lap after a late stop for a new front wing.

So after the not very interesting to watch Singapore GP we have a two week break before the very much exciting to watch Suzuka in Japan, a proper, old school hairy chested circuits for men. Though I expect the driver market is going to be the main topic of conversation.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Who's going to win under the lights ?

The pieces are set and the players in position; it’s time to wave goodbye to Europe and start the long haul to the end of the season.

All that’s left now are the six fly away races, starting this weekend with the night race in Singapore, and it promises to be a belter. Formula 1 looks absolutely stunning at night as the cars spit and snarl through the city street, if there was ever a circuit made for HD television this is it. It’s not as tight and twisty as Monaco, it’s sort of technical like Valencia but with more room for the cars to actually race.

Given that it’s a little bit Monaco and a little bit Valencia, you’d have to have Alonso as favourite. Yes I know Redbull like these circuits, but their alternator doesn’t.

Newey appears to have packed the pesky thing too close to the engine and it’s melting the internals on these stop start technical tracks. So they might be fast round here but I think it’s a bit of a wing and a prayer to get them to the end. Renault say they know what the problem is and are pretty sure it’s all fixed, but short of cutting a big hole in the body work to cool the unit, I think it’s too late in the season to be repackaging the important bits under the bodywork.

So Alonso for the podium then, but what about the boys from Woking who have won the last three races ?

Well McLaren look like they have the car on song again, if not both of their drivers. Contract negotiations with Lewis seem to be coming to some sort of conclusion; most people seem to think he’d be a fool to leave a winning team for the money on offer at Mercedes. I certainly do, he can’t be short of a bob or two, so why go to a team that even with a seven times world champion can’t string a coherent challenge together. Indeed why go to a team that isn’t Ferrari or one with Adrian Newey on the books ?

The whole thing is rumbling on in the background, with reports of Lewis being given the cold shoulder by Jenson and the two driver’s teams avoiding each other. Sometimes that works for a team, a bit of needle sharpens the will to win after all, usually though it ends with one driver in the wall and the other throwing his toys out of the pram in front of the world’s media.

Of course whilst Lewis is talking about leaving McLaren, the media is talking about who will replace him. The odds on favourite is Perez, with a dawn raid before Ferrari sign him up.!
What normally happens the moment Ferrari say “oh he’s too young and inexperienced for us. We don’t want to sign him” is that they have already signed him in principle and they’re just haggling over the clause that says ‘Alonso is faster than you buddy’

As usual Lotus have been talking their race up, again similar to Valencia where Grosjean went well. But it’s all comes down to that Renault engine and its dodgy alternator; will it last ?

I think this could be a straight brawl between the Ferrari and McLaren boys. If the Renault alternator holds together the Redbull will be fighting for pole and a podium, Lotus best of the rest and Mercedes nowhere … do you hear that Lewis … absolutely nowhere near the sharp end of the grid. Do you see them ? … No ! Because they so far back

so yeah, anyway, update your predictions before Friday and remember that Grosjean is back in the mix again.