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.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Well done Alex Zanardi. two golds and a silver at the 2012 Paralympics.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Hamilton adds a zero to the asking price.

Well, if you want the Big Boss to sit up and listen to your demands for more money, dominating the race weekend is pretty much the best plan. And to then have your old Boss turn up and put the screws on his replacement ..... well team Hamilton must pretty happy with the Monza weekend.
Lewis was all over this race from practice numero uno. He was just loving pinning his ears back and spanking the car through the Lesmos’, Ascari and the Curva Grande. It wasn’t much faster than Button or Alonso but it was and that was all that was required.
Out of the car however, well that was a different matter. I like the happy bubbly Lewis that kisses the camera and goes to celebrate a pole or a win with the team and the fans. Not the quite introverted Lewis that pats the car after getting pole and walks off to get weighed. I don’t think he’s back to the slashing the wrists “why me” dark soul Lewis of last year. But he doesn’t look like a man who’s feeling the love round the team at the moment.

So then qualifying was pretty easy for McLaren, not a case of ‘if’ more a case of ‘which one will it be’ they were just streets ahead of the rest. But Ferrari tried to make a fist of it and we witnessed another Classic “Ferrari shooting themselves in the foot - Italian style” event. They knew they didn’t quite have the straight line grunt to overhaul the McLarens so they had been practicing the old “draught your buddy to the pole” routine all Friday. This involved sending a car out for a lap, then as the first crosses the line the other is sent out to sit in front of the first car and help punch a hole in the air for the hot lap, usually out of Lesmo two the first car gets a slipstream gaining a few tenths of a second. The second car then gets out of the way before Ascari and gets a bit of a tow down to the Parabolica and onto its hot lap. If timed right both the cars will get an advantage and lock out the front row. Get it wrong and Alonso starts in 10th and Massa starts 3rd.  Not what the team actually wanted.  Actually Alonso had a loose bolt on his rear roll bar which meant he couldn’t get the power down out of the corners, some of the more unkind pit lane lags suggested Ferrari needed a bit more practice with Alonso following Massa.

The result was though, that Alonso was a long way back on Sunday morning. Along with the Redbulls which looked very down on power, Webber especially who hadn’t made it out of Q2. He and Vettel looked forward to a very long race.
When the red lights went out Massa got a flyer off the line and almost took Hamilton into turn one. But perhaps being mindful of last week’s carnage and Grosjean sitting on the naughty step, he backed out and settled into second spot. Alonso managed to make up two spots off the line which does suggest there’s nothing wrong with the Ferrari launch system.
And that was pretty much it for the race for the win, Massa couldn’t live with Hamilton and Button got held up by Massa. Meanwhile Alonso and Vettel moved up through the field. The expected attack by the Mercedes never materialised, the cars where there or there abouts, but they didn’t look they could take the fight to the big boys. Eventually Vettel made the mistake of pushing Alonso on the grass on the outside of the Curva Grande and the Stewards decided they hadn’t had enough input and slapped Vettel with a drive through penalty.
Now some might say, “Well Alonso did the same to him last year, with no problems! Why ping him now?” and the answer is probably that the FIA is now wary of drivers getting too feisty and pushing competitor off the circuit. Last year in Indy cars Dan Weldon was killed by drivers taking too big a risk, Alonso was inches from losing his head or arm in Spa last week. As Indy car found out, it only takes one accident and all the fun is taken out of the sport.  More importantly the Money doesn’t want to be seen with blood all over it. So they are going to ping driver more and more for this sort of move. There is no right or wrong here, no one wants to see a driver get hurt in the name of entertainment.

So that left Alonso behind Massa who was back behind Lewis after Button had a fuel pick up problem and parked the car on the circuit, so thing all looked fine and dandy for two Ferrari drivers on the podium. Except Perez was on another one of his blinding runs, after pitting  later for his ‘soft’ tyres he was coming back through the field like a hot knife through butter. When the Italian boys realised this they quickly put Alonso ahead of Massa and told the boys to get a hustle on.  But Perez was on a charge and was looking for a win this time. He passed Massa with ease out of Ascari and despite Alonso’s best efforts who knew that points today when Vettel and Webber were doing so badly, was worth more than stopping a Sauber from getting a few points. Let him threw without too much trouble.  Which left Lewis 10 seconds up the road, with 10 laps left it was going to take some hot laps top make this work, he started to catch the McLaren at 1.5 seconds a lap until Vettel suddenly decided that he’d had enough of having a slow car and parked up just after the pit exit, yet another alternator melting under the bodywork.  The marshals threw double waved yellows into the first chicane and effectively stopped Perez’s charge. Lewis had responded anyway and controlled the lead until the flag which he passed with a pretty comfortable margin of 5 seconds to Perez.

So Hamilton won pretty comfortably and looks to have the upper hand when contract negotiations restart on Monday. Will he go to Mercedes? Well they’d love him to I'm sure, the rest of the world knows it would be for the money and Not the glory if he did.  As wrong moves go it would be akin to walking up to Bernie and resting your pint on his head. Funny, but probably the last thing you’d ever do.  

Perez gets a very well deserved second place and I am not going to say anything bad about him this time. No, he drove a storming race, overtook two Ferraris at Monza and didn’t cock it up this time.  The odds on him being in a Ferrari next year just shortened again.

Alonso salvages a third place after the disaster that was qualifying.  That is how you win championship. He is still leading the race for the chase for the cup whilst his rival trip up and drop points.  

Massa does a very good job of getting out of the way of his team mate when required and made Lewis work for the win for 250 metres. He was lucky that Vettel and Button dropped out but fourth place is a pretty fair result for the Brazilian.

Kimi was fifth in a lotus that wasn’t fast enough.

Schumacher was sixth and the best of the two stoppers. He was carving his way back to the front as the race wound down, but he was left with too much to do to make it a podium finish. Still the Merc had the grunt to do the job, just not the tyres.

Rosberg was seventh and got the fastest lap, but again as with Mikey the tyres let him down.

 Di Resta had a pretty good weekend and he needed it. The team said on Saturday that they wouldn’t stand in the way of any other team giving them a shed load of cash for any of their drivers. Which I don’t suppose is comforting for either Di Resta or the Hulk.  I suspect VJ Mally would sell his own grandmother if he thought he could get enough money for her. So anyway Paul need to deliver a result to keep the McLaren boys interested in him if Lewis does go mental and leave for Mercedes. A good qualifying result ruined by a five place penalty for a gearbox change, then a fine drive back to eighth was what was needed to keep the stock high. There is a slight feeling that the Hulk might have got the better of him during the mid season, so a few more of these runs should keep his name linked with the bigger boys.

Talking of fancied drivers being made to look ordinary by supposedly inferior team mates, Kobayashi was only ninth and didn’t really look like being anywhere near his team mate on the podium. Koby has had a bit of a lack lustre year so far and this isn’t helping him.

Finally Senna was tenth beating Maldonado out of the last point, jolly well done to him.

And as usual way back down there in last place was Karthikeyan.

And that’s your lot. The Paralympics are about to finish and I want to see the fireworks see you in two weeks for the Singapore GP. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

There is no I in team.

Right then Monza next ...

No driver wins a championship on his own. There is an army of staff sitting in the pits, on the wall and back at the factory, delivering a car, analysing data and fixing the bits the driver knocks off in practice. Any driver that forgets, that they are ultimately a very small part of a very big machine, is soon shown the door to his next team.

When drivers start to believe their own hype, take their eye off the team and the mood within the team, it usually starts to go very wrong. Because all those team members that deliver the car to the driver and help him win the adulation, the prizes and the millionaire lifestyle. Don’t get the sort of money the driver gets. They don’t get to rub shoulders with super models and spend a weekend making rap videos with American musicians of dubious reputation. No, they live in a four bed semi in Woking, an apartment in Milton Keens and a well appointed maisonette in down town Maranello.

Yes they’re doing it for the love of the sport and the chance to be part of a winning team. But mostly they’re doing it to cover the mortgage, pay off the car loan and get the kids that Doctor Who sonic screwdriver that all their mates have. The pit boys and girls still have to go to those twenty races, fix the car when it gets smeared down the wall of champions until three in the morning, then get up and get it qualified up the grid. Think about all those HRT boys who must know they’re never going to win a race, yet still there they are race after race delivering what they can with a shoe string budget. They’re not spending Friday night at the local hot spot to be seen at and parading down a fashion show runway.

So when the driver throws a tantrum and his toys out of the pram telling the press the team isn’t working for “HIM”, how do you think those teams members that were up at 2am pouring over raw data files looking for that ten tenths advantage feel ?

Now imagine the driver takes a picture of said raw data that includes his teammates’ information too. And publishes that picture to demonstrate how hard done by they have been. So not only is he showing how both the cars are being set up and how they are working. He is showing the world the sort of information the team pays a lot of money to keep very, very secure !

It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth for all those hard working people back in Wokingor Milton Keens or Maranello isn’t it. They are being accused of not caring, of not working hard enough for the multi millionaire, highly pampered racing driver who has just spent 3 weeks sunning himself on a private island with his superstar girlfriend.

Spa was not a great weekend for Lewis, let’s see how it goes at Monza shall we……..

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Go team Jenson, go home Grosjean.

Well, not the most exciting of races really. But still a welcome return after five weeks off.  The problem with races where the leader disappears off into the distance and is never challenged for the lead well they are kind of dull. This is mainly because you never get to see the leader out there being made to work for it.

After Friday was washed out by torrential rain, the teams had to take a bit of a punt on the set up.  Spa has three distinct sections starting with the first gear La Source hairpin into the run up the hill through the still frighteningly fast Eau Rouge and the Kemmel straight. Then it’s all a bit tippy toes through Les Combes at the top of the hill, dropping down round Pouhon and the double right at Stavelot. Before the ‘hang onto your conkers’ long sweeping Blanchimont straight to the chicane and the end of the lap.
So it’s either ‘some’ down force to make up time down the hill but lose time on the straight bits. Or balls out fast in a straight line ‘no’ down force and hope the tires hang together on the twisty bits. Too much and you be a sitting duck in a straight line, too little and you’ll chew your tires up in a handful of laps.

 Jenson got the balance just right and was all over Spa like a bad rash. Qualifying looked easy with fastest laps all over the show, Koby and Maldonardo got it right too and lined up at the front for the race with Jenson. Lewis got the balance all wrong and threw a hissy fit on twitter on Saturday night about it all. Maldonado continued to draw the ire of the FIA commandants yet again and got a three place grid penalty for apparently blocking Hulkenberg. (Which did look harsh to me).

To make up for this, Maldonado decided he was going to take back those three places before the lights went out on Sunday. As everyone else waited for the race to actually start, Maldo went early and was up the front when all the trouble began. Lewis got an average start off the line and was joined on the run to the first corner by Grosjean. You may recall that Grosjean does not have an enviable record when it comes to making it round the first corner of the race this year.    
And so it proved once again this time, like some 16 year old delinquent who has just stolen his first Renault Saxo he was pinballing up the road trying to escape the coppers, left, right, left and right bang into Lewis who was doing nothing wrong. As the Renault and McLaren became white knuckle rides for the two boys they collected first Perez and then Alonso, tagged Kobayshi who’d had a bad start and Maldonado who got held up by the carnage.
The view from Alonso’s onboard camera is chilling, as he turns into the corner and suddenly has the Renault smack into his right front wheel before pirouetting past his head. Whilst Lewis got out of his car when everything had come to a rest to explain to Grosjean just what he thought of the Renault driver, Alonso stayed in his car for several minutes as the doctor checked his head was still attached. Thankfully he was okay and walked away from the car back to the pits to watch the race.

We had a safety car for 4 laps or so as they cleared the mess away and the walking wounded got new nose wings and underwear.  When everything was ready to go, Maldonado decided he hadn’t broken enough rules already so drove into the back of Glock, broke his front wing and retired from the race.
That was the end of the fun stuff and for the next 40 odd laps Jenson led the race whilst Kimi, Vettel and Hulkenberg tried to keep up with him. Schumacher got in the way a bit and made Kimi work hard for his third and Vettel pulled the rabbit from the bag and got second.
After the race the FIA Reich command had a field day with the ban hammer and the naughty step. First they felt that Grosjean had been this week’s biggest tool and throw the book at him. He’s been slapped in the face with a white glove and told not to bother booking a hotel in Italy for next week’s race at Monza, he has to sit on the naughty step all weekend and think about what he’s done. Maldonado got a five place penalty for the jump start and another five place penalty for driving into the back of Glock.  Given Grosjean got a one race ban for being an idiot he should count himself lucky. Three penalties in one race weekend has to be some sort of record.
Caterham got a hefty fine for releasing Kovalainen into the path of a pitting HRT of Karthikeyan. The crash broke the Caterham’s nose off and something on the rear of the HRT, which subsequently pitched the Indian into the tire wall a couple of laps after being told to stop lifting off the throttle in Eau Rouge and be a proper racing driver.
The Redbull chaps got a stiff talking too for almost but not actually releasing Webber into the path of Massa in the pits, finally Schumacher got a stiff talking too for almost collecting Vettel when he went into the pits.

All in all it was a good day to be a race steward.

So then, Jenson wins and keeps the dream alive.
Vettel came second with a car that was out of puff up the hill and in a straight line.
Kimi was third at yet another race Lotus was targeting for a win.
Hulkenberg profited the most from Grosjean’s lunacy with fourth.
Massa in fifth showed the Ferrari was actually quite fast despite what Alonso says.
Webber in sixth, also struggled with a lack of top speed
 Schumacher made a fist of his 300 Grand Prix, but the tires let him down again, to seventh.
Vergne get a nose bleed climbing to eighth.
Ricciardo is still the second best Torro Rosso driver in ninth.
And finally Di Resta in tenth doesn’t profit at all from the carnage like his team mate did.

Bizarrely, Senna gets the fastest lap after a late stop for new rubber and this week its De La Rosa’s turn to be the most rubbish HRT driver in last place.  

Next up it's Monza, who do you think Maldonado will hit this time ?

It appear the FIA site is out of action this evening so results are unofficial at the moment, but i can't find anything to suggest they're going to change.