Sunday, 27 May 2012

Franchitti wins Indy 500

And well done to Dario for his third Indy 500 win.

Wheres the rain when you really need it ?

Monaco then ... well that was a bit dull wasn’t it ?

Someone needs to point out to the teams that just sticking your hand up from behind the banks of data screens will tell you if it is actually raining or not!  

Everyone was waiting for the rain that never came, trying to make their tyres last as long as possible and well, just sort of rumbling along in a train.  Massa, who surprisingly was in the top six for a change, was only 6.2 seconds behind the lights to flag winner Webber. This on paper would suggest a close exciting razzle dazzle finish, with cars jockeying for position right to the line wouldn’t it ?

But in truth it was all over as a race after the first turn, Hamilton got a slow start which bunched up the faster starting Ferraris, who pushed Grosjean out into Schumacher. He tried to avoid the Lotus but couldn’t avoid the rear left of the black and gold car running into his front right, which pitched Grosjean into a half spin and carnage to the back of the grid boys.  

Maldonardo, last week’s hero and next owner of Massa’s seat at Ferrari, failed to heed the mantra “Don’t believe the hype lad” and first took a swipe at Perez in free practice for allegedly blocking the Venezuelan. Then lied his face off to the stewards about it, claiming the car had “slid out” and he was “correcting it” as he drove across the track into the front left wheel of Perez. The stewards told him to shut it and gave him a 10 place penalty, and then he broke his gearbox and got another five place penalty. Which put him 23rd one place ahead of Perez who had crashed in qualifying after his front left wheel had suddenly and mysteriously stopped working after being damaged somewhere.  

So after last weeks heroic the star of Venezuelan motor racing had a chance to redeem himself with a fine drive from the back, just like Hamilton did last time and prove he has the driving chops to play with the big boys of the upper fifth. Well that was the plan ... except he piled into the back of Pedro De La Rosa, broke the nose off the Williams, limped round after the rest of the field and eventually crashed it into the barrier at the Lowes hairpin. Classic.

That was the highlight really. Is was slow and dull and nothing really happened. But that’s what happens at Monaco there isn’t enough room to overtake if the driver in front has any talent or a healthy car. The DRS zone is too short and a goes through a big long corner and the breaking zones are all single file.
 Hamilton just whinged all day about his team not helping him, didn’t drive fast enough whilst trying to look after his tyres and did his best with what he had.  Alonso looked faster than him all day and jumped him at the pit stop, then Vettel went forever on his set of soft tires before jumping past Hamilton at his stop and pushing the feisty English lad back to 5th place. Still it was better than Jenson “where has the balance gone guys?” Button who also made a rubbish start and ended up behind Kovalainen in 14th for most of the race before binning it in a do or die move.  Those are the highlights ..... hmmm

So then Webber becomes the sixth different driver to win this year, a new record and jolly well done to him. He did have to work at it, he controlled the drivers behind him as they all waited for the rain, didn’t hit anyone or anything and did what he had to do.  It wasn’t the most exciting race for him but a win is a win and this year the championship is going to come down to day like this where points are saved and the likes of Button lose them.

Rosberg had a few stabs at trying to make a race of it, but couldn’t get close enough out of the final corner to trouble Webber too much. A fine job in qualifying netted 2nd place at the start and that’s where he stayed all race.

Alonso shows that Ferrari have turned their killer car round into a beast with pedigree at last. He was faster then Hamilton for most of the race and as the track cooled he took advantage of a slow McLaren pit stop and took third from the Brit. A fine result which now means he leads the drivers championship, and that all that matters really.

Vettel tried to be clever and very nearly pulled it off, started on the prime “hard” tyres and went deep in to the race before changing, at one stage he was 22 seconds ahead of Webber and could have pitted for the super softs and kept the lead. But he would then have needed to run 40 odd laps on the very soft rubber, which would have left him in trouble at the end of the race so he held out for the rain that never came. When he did pit he came out in front of Hamilton and never looked like losing or gaining from there.

Hamilton could see the winner four seconds ahead of him for most of the last 15 laps. That must hurt, to be so close and not be able to do a damn thing about it. When , no really just when is his luck going to change ?  The gap to Alonso is now 10 points in the driver championship and he is slowly slipping further back, as Webber leapfrogs him.  He needs a win soon to reward the effort. Although he could have been a bit faster  when Vettel was leading to save 4th really.

Massa, surprisingly said this was going to be the restart of his season and it was ... I know, I'm just as surprised. The Media are now saying that Massa should get Massa’s seat at Ferrari and put Massa out of his misery for Massa. But if everything goes to form this new owners of Massa’s seat at Ferrari will have a terrible next race out.

Di Resta was 7th ahead of his team mate again

Hulkenburg did alright for 8th.

Kimi was 9th after holding most of the field up for moist of the race waiting for the first rain shower that didn’t turn up.

And Senna round out the top ten and is being linked with no one’s seat anywhere, not even his own.

Our last places driver as usual is Karthikeyan, who lest be far got out of the way in a really professional way a lot of the time and didn’t hit anyone. So well done to him.

Right it’s late, two weeks till we get back to a proper track in Canada, see you all there.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Winner number six is on the way

So then, five races completed with five different winners in five different teams. Shall we have a look at those five different winning combination?

  1. Australia: Button - McLaren
  2. Malaysia: Alonso -Ferrari
  3. China: Rosberg - Mercedes
  4. Bahrain: Vettel - Redbull
  5. Spain: Maldonado – Williams

It’s an interesting bunch is it not? With two new faces in the line up that we have not seen before, one was knocking on the door marked “win” for some time whilst the other said “paid drivers only”.   The others have visited the top step numerous times over the years, two of the drivers are double would champions.  Vettel and Alonso are now tied at the top of the heap with 61 points each, Vettel has complained about the handling of his Redbull whilst Alonso has complained about his whole Ferrari. Experience, determination and shear bloody grit is driving these two to get points out of cars that don’t want to play. Button thought he had a car to take him back to the lifestyle marked “World Champion” but the team and the tyres has worked against him.

But to me, the most interesting thing about that list is who is missing from it.

Where are Hamilton and Kimi? Two of the fastest and most determined racing drivers you will ever have the privilege to see on that thin ribbon of tarmac.

Lewis and Alonso have been the best drivers this year, constantly driving out of their skins to deliver points as either the car fights them or the team makes yet more mistakes. But, Alonso has got a win and is leading the championship with Vettel and Lewis has only three 3rd and two 8th places to show for all his hard work.

Whilst all the media was clamouring to talk to this week’s “next Ferrari driver” they over looked a drive from the back of the grid to a solid points paying top ten spot and he did it on a two stopper. A driver normally slated for burning his tires up as fast as he can, beating his team mate on the way who could only go from 11th to 9th. That was a brilliant points saving drive that keeps him in third behind Vettel and Alonso.

Meanwhile Kimi has, completely against my expectations I will admit, blown back into F1 after tooling around the forests of the world and shown Schumacher how a comeback is done.

He learnt in China that the tyres can go off very, very suddenly. The team was overly cautious in Bahrain with tyres capable of taking the win from Vettel and he almost stole 2nd from Alonso in the dying laps of Spain.  He is going to get a win this year, as long as Lotus can keep ahead of the McLaren Ferrari and Redbull development curve that is. Meanwhile Schumacher has bitched and moaned about the tyres being rubbish and then drove into the back of Senna for good measure. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

This week’s big seat rumour is that Mickey will be getting the heave ho before the end of the season and a promising young Scot from the Force India side of Mercedes will be parachuted in to pick up the points.
Massa has been told to shape up or ship out by Ferrari ... yet again. But until they can come to terms with another team I suspect Massa is going nowhere (given how well he went in Spain) literally.

Also being told to get his act together is Senna at the new fighting fit Williams. As the dawning realisation hits that they have a car that can win, they’re looking at their drivers and looking at the cheque they bring and the points they’ve got. Most drivers know that Williams is a team with a winning history, so lots of well paid drivers are starting to knock at Franks door with better term and better cheques than poor old Bruno. Even before Pastor won there were questions about Bruno's long term future in F1, I’ve never rated him as a winner so this is not a surprise at all to me. I'm sure he’s a nice bloke and all, but Williams can do better.

So then Monaco where, coincidently Lewis has always gone well (yes, yes apart from last year) and Kimi has demonstrated a win or bust attitude to the place.  It’s always a bit of a lottery, round here, and tyres that have a mind and life of their own will certainly spice things up.
 Pastor is talking his race up, taking every chance he gets to tell the media how much he loves the twisty circuit.  But then all drivers say that when they are fresh faced and new to the glitz of the winners circle. But will he be a first to get a second win this year ... I'm not sure he has it. You need to know when to fight the battles round here to win the war. Last year as Hamilton was tooling around working out his anger management issues on the track and generally behaving like a Chav in a stolen Astra round the local estate, Pastor tried to pick a fight and demonstrate he had some balls. He came off worst in a car that was never in the reckoning to begin with, he should have just let Lewis past and driven for the points, not tried to make a point.
This year he has a better car but Monaco is not the best place start believe all the media has generated around you. You still have to do they driving and avoiding the barrier which is no respecter or ability what so ever, just ask Alonso or Perez about how hard it can be.

And I'm sorry but it all comes back to the tyres, the guy of pole can drive the race he wants. He doesn’t have to follow anyone and the back markers have to get out of his way. He can nurse the tyres look after and protect them. The cars behind are chasing the leader, they will be moving around behind him burning up the rubber and shorting the life of the tyre.

Nowhere else does pole count for so much than Monaco, and who is the best qualifying driver this year? Our boy Lewis, with three (one of which was illegal I grant you) so far this year.  So this has to be it, this time the team isn’t going to screw up, Lady Luck is going to smile on the lad and give him the pole and the win, this time. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

It's back to Europe and racing at a sensible time

Hello race fans, welcome back to the start of the European season and the dull as dish water Grand Prix of Spain at Barcelona. If you have something else to do this weekend … I suggest you do that, rather than watch this. I’m off to the Middlesex rugby sevens at Twickenham this weekend so the results might be delayed a bit.

So what’s been happening these last few weeks then ?

The teams were testing in season last week for the first time in years. It was all very low key with teams testing new bits of kit and giving nothing away. Redbull and Lotus have called it a waste of time, Ferrari crashed a car and Schumacher grumped about the tires. McLaren tried out a new higher nose which might well turn up this weekend in Spain.

Schumacher has continued his unprovoked attack on Pirelli and their tires. He is now claiming that after a handful of laps as the tires go off, it’s like driving on raw eggs! Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I watched a motor racing event where a half ton of raw eggs were spread over the track with hilarious results. So I’m not too sure where Mr Schumacher is coming from on this one.

There are a lot of people pointing out that Kimi made the podium after four races whilst the seven times world champion Mercedes driver is yet to get a sniff of the champagne spray since his return. And whilst Kimi looks like he’s not lost any of that raw speed and ruthless will to win, Mickey is sort of messing around the middle of the pack. Okay he has a wheel fall off in china, when Nico won, but he’s not dominated a weekend like the good old days.
Added to this the rumour mill has the board of directors at Mercedes HQ, getting rather hot and bothered about signing off on another year. Okay Nico won .. but he’s not really German enough to justify the gazillions of Euros it’s costing the car manufacturer to tool around the midfield. Especially as it appears that Lotus has a couple of handy drivers and a good car under them.

Of course they’ve denied they’re about to up sticks and head to DTM just like BMW did. But the pressure for more results is falling firmly on Mickey’s shoulders, and I think the Pirelli attack maybe an attempt to justify the lack of wins.

Another week goes by and another driver is being linked to Massa’s seat at Ferrari. After flavour of the moment Perez forgot to read page two of the script where he won the next race, he has been dismissed by the media who have now decided that Ferrari needs to sign Webber as soon as physically possible, if not before. The report earlier this week was that Webber has a contract in place for 2013, a report strenuously denied by pretty much everyone. Ferrari, Redbull and Webber himself have all said it’s a load of rubbish and I pretty much believe them.

If Alonso is going to see out his career in red, then they need a good solid number two that will understand the phase, “Teflonso is fast than you buddy”. Something Webber singularly failed to understand when Horner told him that “Seb is faster than you mate”. Webber, for all his faults, does go out with the intention of winning races, and will driver through other cars to do that. When told to get out of the way, he’s grumbled about it to the press for weeks afterwards and made the life of the PR department very hard indeed.
Why would Ferrari want that ? No, they’ll pick up Perez or someone like Senna who car get a car home, do as he’s told and not kick up a fuss.
McLaren have fitted a new higher nose to try and claw back the advantage they seemed to have at the start of the season. Thankfully it’s not one of these stepped ones, but it’s not as pretty as the original version. After starting the season looking like it was going to be a cake walk for the Woking lads, it’s all gone a bit tits up. Rubbish pit work and poor strategy calls have lost points and wins for the normally super slick McLaren. Meanwhile down the pit lane as Redbull looked a bit lost they got a win and are now leading the drivers’ championship.
It’s not time to panic just yet. But the rear left wheel gun man has asked to be relieved of the responsibility (apparently McLaren operate a volunteers only selection for the pit stop team, no one does it unless they really want to). The design of the wheel nut has been modified to captured rather than loose. So as long as they have six calm and slick pit stops during the race everyone will be happy.

So then Barcelona, it’s a pretty dull track, old school a mix of pretty much every type of corner. It’s why they test here in the off season, if you go well here you’ll go well everywhere. With this year’s tire management racing, it’s going to be a toss up between a two stopper and driving miss daisy to the line or three stopper and nail it like you stole it.

There is a lot of talk of Lotus and Grosjean getting a win here, I’m not convinced he’s the second coming just yet, but he certainly backed Kimi up and fully deserved the 3rd he got in Bahrain. Lotus is going well and the team look to have a renewed confidence about them. The money issues might not have gone away, but there is a clearer picture there now. It’s been a lottery for the win so far this year so I wouldn’t bet against it just yet.

But Redbull had their game face back on in Bahrain and showed that they’re not beaten by any stretch of the imagination. Webber is having a good solid season whilst his (admittedly current leader of the drivers’ championship) looks like he hasn’t got a handle on the car yet.
This might just be the same problem as everyone else, no idea what the tire ware is going to be from one lap to the other.  But he doesn’t look as happy as he did last year .... well until he won in Bahrain obviously.

So then New bits for the big boys, McLaren looking to get a win the championship back on track, whilst Ferrari look to get some sort of Championship going. Redbull want to keep the ball rolling and Lotus desperately need some win bonus money. Mercedes ... well you never know.

Pick a winner from that lot.