Sunday, 21 April 2013

Who cares, summers here.

Alright maybe Lotus is going to be the one to beat this year. Well, once they beat Vettel of course.

I spent Sunday having a jolly good time with friends and a cheeky bottle of red from the south side of the Loire I'm afraid.  So I'm not too sure what happened in the race.


Alonso’s flappy wing got stuck, so he wasn’t going to get many points, that’s now two races out of four that have cost him points. Hamilton demonstrated to Nico that going fast on Saturday isn’t as important as being fast on Sunday. And the Lotus boys laid a marker down for the rest of the season, they’re going to be up the sharp end all year it would appear.
Force India got their act together at last and Di Resta showed he can be as irritating as any of the top runner. Also getting their act together was McLaren and surprise, surprise Perez finally grew a pair and showed why he’s a McLaren driver, a proper feisty run in an underpowered car.

Okay, the FIA website isn’t publishing the official results as I write this, so things might change. But I’ve seen nothing to say the FIA have thrown the rule book at anyone in the top ten, so I’ll go with the result on Autosport. If there are any problems I’ll sort it all out later.

So Vettel gets his second win of the year and no one can complain he stole this one. Nico beat him to pole on Saturday to pretty much every one’s surprise. But when the lights went out on Sunday it didn’t take Vettel too long to get to the front. This time Redbull didn’t try to be too clever or roll any dice, they just went for outright speed and controlled the race from the front.  When the TV director spend 90% of the race watching McLaren team mates duking it out, you know the leaders under no pressure what so ever. And so it proved today, this win pops Vettel into the lead of the championship and I think on current form its going to take a lot to shift him. Ho hum

Kimi is Second and again it was because he looked after the tires and didn’t do anything stupid. He’s now ten points behind Vettel in the championship and yes it looks like it’s going to be a two horse race between these two. It could be worse; it could be between Vettel and Webber I suppose.

Grosjean, yes remember him? Well he didn’t hit anyone or do anything stupid and delivered the points with a solid third. Well done him.

Di Resta. There you go, get your team mate to rile you up into a towering rage of self important self righteous indignation and you too can finally show the world that you do indeed have some talent. All that PR nonsense wasn’t just smoke and mirror it seems. Well, in reality he should have had a podium and didn’t really make Grosjean work too hard, so I'm still not too sure why some people think he’s the second coming. But give the kid his five minutes of glory; he’s equalled his best F1 result to date.

Hamilton, in a face saving drive from ninth to fifth result and he still can’t do any wrong in my book. More rubbish British drivers would have just let Webber cruise off into the distance, but Lewis kept at it and once again showed Nico just who is the number one driver at Mercedes.

Perez, oh lordy can you believe it the Mexican Dullard actually has a pair of balls and can actually race like a proper F1 driver. He was feisty all race, dealt with Button who was being extremely slow and rubbish and  looked like he actually knew what the loud pedal was for. He’s still boring and far as I'm concerned, when the team manager has to tell the media that his driver has to get his finger out, you know he’s dull.  But this might just be the race that Perez looks back as the turning point.

Webber, was never going to be up the front and so it proved. A late race dice with Hamilton was entertaining whilst it lasted.

Alonso then. What seemed like “the year to finally win” is fast turning into “the year it all went wrong”. Everyone expected Ferrari to walk away with the race but a sticky flappy wing meant two early unscheduled stops and an afternoon tooling around avoiding Perez and Maldonado. Just think last year everyone in a Ferrari top was running around like a headless chicken, waving their arms about and declaring it the worst Ferrari ever. This year they started the season with a knowing wink and a gleam in their eye that it couldn’t be as bad as that again!! Never count you winner’s trophies until Vettel stops waving his finger around. A salutary lesson for us all there, I think.

Rosberg ninth, well that didn’t go to plan did it! Get pole and win was the game plan, not get pole and rag the back side off the car and drop slowly down the order until you limp home behind a man with no DRS for the ENTIRE race. Hopeless, absolutely hopeless! I said he needed to show everyone what he was made of and remind the team that it was him that held it all together as Mickey collected the pay cheques. I mean the pole was brilliant, no one predicted that and the first time Mercedes got back to back poles since Moss and Fangio in 1955. And yes I know the Mercs are really hard on their rear tyres, but Hamilton can deliver the results, why can’t Nico?

Finally Button had a race to forget in tenth, it was all rather embarrassing, having to plead with the team to stop Perez trying to over take him. A sort of half hearted attempt at dominating his team mate was rather limp wristed and Perez was soon past. Like Perez, Jenson might well look back as this weekend as a turning point. The car looks to be back on track though, if not yet fast enough to challenge the top ten on Sunday. If they just had two drivers that could qualify well, they’d have more options and not have to try and pick up points like a pair of fat pigeons standing under the bird table.

Vettel got the fastest lap, just to show off I think,

And Van Der Garde is last yet again. I think he’s going to get fired any day now. Kovalainen was back in the car on Friday here to “Help the team evaluate the car and its problems” he said they had two rubbish drivers and maybe they shouldn’t have fired him last year. So, if you don’t have Mr Garde in last, you’re really missing the point of this game ! 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Is Lotus about to surprise us all ?

hmmmm Ice cream ........... i need and ice cream ... mmmmmh

Are we about to see a championship fight between two big old grandees of the sport ?

Many hacks far too long in the tooth are starting to talk of this year being one of a Ferrari v Lotus slugfest. Redbull are being quietly written off in a “lets hope those terrible oiks have learnt their lesson and just go away” type muttering into a very stiff pink gin. I’m not sure why, they had a bit of a rough ride in China, but that was only the third race. There’s plenty of racing yet to be done and Redbull don’t particularly look like they’ve given up just yet.

But people who apparently know a thing or two are talking up Lotus as the new (well “new” this century) kid on the block. But I think they’re just confused by Kimi being a bit more focus than the last time he was racing. Grosjean has had two pretty unspectacular races where he just sort of tooled around not getting in the way and avoided any sort of controversy. The Lotus car might be reliable and in the hands of Kimi quick, but this year isn’t really about being quick is it? It’s about making sure you’ve got the tyres to take you to the finish line, if the driver chews the tyres up getting to the front, he’ll be a sitting duck for the cars behind that have some meat left to race with.

As Vettel demonstrated in China a car on new rubber can close a 10 second lap down in five laps at the end of a race. All those midfield also ran’s are going to look at that and think, “With a 20 second lead of the guy behind, it’ll be worth rolling the dice at the end of the race and seeing how far we can get with some new tyres”

So then, are Lotus (or more realistically here, Kimi) the new power house of the grid ?

Well, I don’t think so I’m afraid. I think Redbull dropped the ball, tried to recover the fumble and fell on their face last weekend. Vettel almost made it work, but a mistake at the end and he missed out on the podium. All Kimi, like Alonso, did was to get his car dialled into the track and then stroked it home to a podium.
Mercedes had a car that was initially quick but couldn’t maintain the tyres or pace for a full stint. Also, apparently, the wing on Hamilton’s car got clogged up with bits of rubber as the race went on and that caused the front end to lose grip and blah blah blah high tyre ware.

So Kimi (Lotus) and Alonso (Ferrari) were the only two driver to not suffer any sort of problem and unsurprisingly they were the ones at the front. Not because they were any better than the Merc or the Redbull, they just didn’t need to push the car and make mistakes.
And that’s going to be the story of the season, like so many seasons before it. If the driver tools round like a nutter he’s not going to get any points and will get fired at the end of the year …. Maldonado for instance, is a prime example of this.

So then, it’s another quick turn around and the circus is already in Bahrain for this weekend’s GP.

Do you remember a year ago, there was an awful hullabaloo about Bahrain and whether the F1 circus should even be there?
 The evil government were oppressing the saintly population who were demanding free speech and liberty in all the media around the world.
There was a huge stink about it all for ooooh a good three days whilst the world’s media was in Bahrain. Most of whom you will note, where sitting around the swimming pool and making up stories of nightly riots and kids being clubbed to death on street corners.

Yeah, that’s the one. Now have a think about how much those self righteous media types have written about Bahrain since. Go on, have a good hard think and recall how many column inches there have been about the government or the people and the situation in Bahrain in the last year. I can’t think of any. Do you not think that’s a bit odd?

And the thing is the situation has changed. There are talks about more democracy and more freedoms. Not the sort of talks that end with rich people getting more rich either. Proper actual, “let’s make things better” type talks.
Oh there’s still a certain level of simmering resentment you always get when one group has power and another doesn’t. But the really trouble makers are allegedly Iranians looking to destabilise the place so Hezbollah can walk on in a set up camp.
And can you recall seeing anything recently about the fact the F1 circus is heading back to Bahrain when apparently nothing has changed? No, me neither.
So my point is, there was a lot made of the fact F1 was there last year. And most of it was from hacks that don’t normally travel with or even cover sporting event. They were there because there was a story to be had and a nice trip to a warm swimming pool to boot. And when the story turned out to be a lot of very peaceful people talking to a government that actually listen ... they had to go and find the story they wanted in the back streets down the dodgier end of town. I’m pretty sure if you travel in the darker areas of Manchester, London and Liverpool you’d find people willing to give you a similar tale. The dirt poor of any country always know they’re the ones with the most to gain from talking to the media.
Anyway ... there’s another race this weekend.
Webber has been given a grid penalty for crashing into Vergne last week. So he won’t be on pole.

Ferrari are playing their cards close to their sharp suits, with a, “It’s difficult to tell who’s going well at the moment” which is tantamount to holding up a big sign in Italian that says, “hurrrh at least we’ve got a better car than McLaren this year”. Alonso has got the bit between his teeth and I think he believes he’s got the car to take him all the way this time.

Mercedes have been talking about a quite year still, but every time the camera cuts away you can see Ross high fiving the lads on the pit wall and opening bottles of champagne. If Rosberg is going to remind everyone he is actually a racing driver and not the tea boy, then this weekend will be crucial. He’s either going to blow Lewis away or over drive the car off into the desert.

So, well Vettel, Alonso and Kimi for the podium, Lewis or Rosberg to follow them up and maybe grab a bottle of fizz if the other three fumble the ball. I think Force India might do quite well here; it’s about time they got their act together. McLaren and button might make it to the top 5 with a stiff wind and a bit of luck; he might even give Massa a run for his money. Webber with a poor qualifying slot will have to work his way back up the order, let’s be honest it’s not something he’s particularly good at. Then it’s between the Torro Rosso’s and Hulkenberg for the bottom of the top ten.

It’s worth noting that Pirelli are bringing harder tyres than they originally planned to this weekend, with mediums and hards for the teams rather than mediums and softs. I think the sight of cars pitting after just 5 laps might have swayed them, and the teams endlessly complaining about how rubbish the soft tyres are. So the joker strategy will be a one stop attempt by those starting around the bottom of the top ten. If Webber misses the Q3 cut he’ll try the long game with, I suspect, Button and Perez.

Right that’s enough rambling, get you predictions together before tomorrow night and good luck.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Its all about the soft sticky stuff.

Right then what did you think of that?

Exciting stuff with overtaking aplenty and a fascinating game of chess from the grand masters on the pit wall ? or A dull event where the driver with the ability to look after his tyres took the win ?

Do you remember when DRS was introduced a few years back, and the old guard came crawling out of the wood work to decry “this artificial racing”. It wasn’t real racing because “Fangio never needed this driver aid and he was a real red blooded hero, pass the pink gin nurse”. Which as we all know is utter rubbish because Fangio and Mercedes were spending more money than England did on tea to beat the rag tag buckets of bolts he was up against.
Well the old guard have been woken from their gin soaked slumbers yet again to complain bitterly that driving the car to look after the tyres is once again, not actual racing!  Forgetting in their alcohol haze of course those days when half the cars would fall apart after 10 laps. These days’ cars just don’t fail, engines run for race after race with no loss of power. Pit stops are over in the blink of an eye and drivers are fitter than Olympic triathlets.   Long gone are the days when Keke would flick his cigarette across the pit lane, haul his gold jewellery into his Williams and stick the thing on pole. No more tales of all night drinking sessions and Playboy bunnies being found wondering in hotel corridors as dawn breaks on race day.

No, these days every single little detail is on a list and has been analysed until a pit stop takes 2.1 seconds and the pit wall tells the driver to lift 0.02 seconds earlier into turn 4 to save 0.01 seconds on his sector time.

Sanitary, it’s all very sanitised and ruthlessly efficient.

So you have to throw something random into the mix these days to give the pit wall something to think about. They know the soft tyres will last five or six laps, but with a full load of fuel will that be four laps and a slippery in lap? or can the star turn make it seven and only lose a spot or two off the line? And if he can make them last will the next set work as well, for as long, or is it best to switch to the harder tyres earlier and take the hit on race position? Then you have to worry about what everyone else is doing.

This week we saw Redbull trip themselves up as team infighting and a general air of bad blood pervaded the garage. Webber was to confirm he was off to Porsche and endurance racing next year at the end of the event, so his mind was elsewhere as he ran out of petrol in qualifying and the FIA threw the book at him.
Whilst Vettel told everyone he wasn’t really sorry and didn’t care what Webber thought of him. On the track he just didn’t seem to be able to find a balance with the car on the soft tyres as the Redbull was chewing them up in handful of laps. Usually he’d go out in Q3 and stick it on the front row with ease, this time he put on a set of the hard tyres and tooled round and back into the pits without setting a time. To be fair everyone was complaining about the soft tyres being a bit Mickey Mouse here. But Redbull have been complaining since the start of the season that they’re being specifically penalised because they’re too fast. Which is complete rot and they know it.

Pole was left for Ferrari and Mercedes to fight over with most experienced hacks calling it an easy 1-2 for the Italian squad. But as the flagged drop to end qualifying it was Hamilton sitting on the top of the heap with his first pole for his new pay masters as more and more the switch from McLaren looks like the right thing. But Kimi had popped into second and pushed Alonso back to confirm that Malaysia was probably just a blip in the Lotus push for championship glory.

Sunday, then was going to be about the tyres. Button and Vettel were going to try and pull a 2 stopper and look after the tyres for as long as possible and drag themselves from the back of the top ten starting on the hard rubber. The rest were three stopping and starting on the very, very soft tyres. There were a few nervous looking pit walls as the cars waited for the lights to go out. The pundits said they’d all be back in within 5 laps.
Off the line, Hamilton kept it sensible whilst it was Kimi’s turn to have a starting system throw a wobbler and he was swallowed up by the fast starting Ferrari duo.  Lewis tried to build a lead but you don’t leave Alonso in the dust when he has a sniff of the top step. For a whole five laps we saw some racing for the lead, then those that had started on the soft stuff started to peel into the pits for more suitable rubber. As they fed back into the pack, Vettel and Hulkenburg of all people, were left at the front to scrap it out.
This time Vettel couldn’t just ask the pit wall to hobble the driver in front, so he complained that he could go half a second faster if the Sauber driver would just get out of his way. Horner told him to get on with it and no one was surprised when he didn’t. As they came in together for their first stop, Redbull did what it does best and turned their driver round ahead of the Sauber boys. And that was the end of Hulkenbergs challenge. Vettel once again, needed a pit stop to pass.
Button was also up the front with a slow but steady run looking after his tyres and trying not to get in the way too much. He knew the McLaren was no match for any front line machinery, so this was a damage limitation dash for point run only. No clever stuff required.

Hamilton had lost out to Alonso in the pit stops and tried hard to stay with the Ferrari as it carved its way through the back markers. But the Merc doesn’t quite have the legs of Alonso when he’s on fire and Lewis was soon joined by Kimi who was recovering from his poor start and early attempt to break his nose off on Perez’s gearbox. As the laps ticked over Alonso pulled out a 10 second lead and had plenty of time to make his third pit stop. Kimi sneaked past Lewis and they too stopped for their final set of tyres.  Vettel meanwhile was trying to get as far as possible on his second set of hard tyres before switching to the soft rubber for as few laps as possible.
Finally with five laps to go he peeled in from second for the soft stuff and pulled back out into fourth and just eleven seconds down the road from Hamilton and a podium finish. For those five laps he caught the Merc at almost three seconds a lap, nailing sector after sector so as the final lap started be was within touching distance of the plucky Brit. He had the car, the tyres and the chance to make it to the podium, but where he should have had the calm head to pick the spot to nick the points, he lost the plot and attempted to lunge it up the inside from a country mile back. Lewis is far smarter than that and was past the apex by the time Vettel came sliding into the corner, that was the last of last the soft tyres had to give and he tank slapped it onto the long back straight and his podium shot spluttered out.

So then Alonso didn’t really have too much work to do, a couple of passes when required to keep him on track and a cool head to look after the tyres was the order of the day. It’s the sort of drive that Alonso can do in his sleep and shows that Ferrari have a solid shot at the title this year. The car was dialled into the track whilst he Redbull rival struggled with a lack of rear grip. China isn’t like any other circuit in that it tends to require the teams to set the car up for the track they find on Friday. It’s not predictable with its grip and wear rates so a car that goes well here either lucks into a good setup (Nico last year) or is flexible enough to allow the engineers to dial it in quickly. The Ferrari just got better and better as the weekend went on and when the chequered flag dropped it was Alonso sitting on the top step. It means we might have the making of a classic championship race.

This is pretty much confirmed with Kimi in second. Even after he smacked the Perez who was weaving around getting in everyone’s way all race long, Kimi stuck at the job and drove around the problem to stay with the leaders. Last time in Malaysia Alonso breathed into the back of Vettels gearbox and lost his wing and a hatful of precious points. This time Kimi nailed the McLarens rear and just ripped a hole in the top surface of the nose. Obviously Lady Luck was drinking Vodka late last night. It’s that sort of thing that gives you championships and I think the only think that is going to make it difficult for the Lotus driver is Lotus. There is still a big question over who’s paying the bills at headquarters.

Another race and another podium for Lewis in third and this time he earned it all on his own. Rosberg continued his run of poor luck with a broken suspension component and his second DNF of the season. Whilst Lewis tried to stay with the Ferrari and Lotus, they had the speed over one lap but couldn’t quite stay with them as the tyres went off. Lewis has always been a driver to trash the car to line, which is fine if you’ve got the rubber under you, but these days he has to learn to stroke the car to the line. Its a good result and he wasn’t fazed by Vettel coming at him like a freight train. The talk at the start of the season was all about staying with the leaders and not looking too rubbish, after three races expectations have moved up to maybe a win or two and an outside shot at the title. It’s still early days, but this moves seems to have revitalized Hamilton’s desire to race.

Vettel rolled the dice on this one for perhaps the first time in his Redbull career. The car wasn’t dialled in and he had to work hard to get points today. Not setting a final qualifying time must have been hard for a driver that has made Banzi pole laps his own of late. It meant he had to actually drive the car for the points this time too, rather than steal them off his team mate. In the end he showed why so many people dismiss him as “an average driver in a top draw car”. He really should have nicked third off Hamilton, with a bit more calculation and less “Schnell Schnell !!!!!!!” he would have waited till the back straight and crused passed in the braking zone. But he lunged from a mile back and the tyres told him they’d had enough. It was a great drive back to Hamilton, but he really should have got the points there.

Button, fifth, did alright with a car that looks slow and unresponsive. There’s no poise there no, dancing on the edge of adhesion. No this is a car that needs that fables McLaren development crunch. So a fifth is about what is deserves right now. It’s behind the Redbull, Ferrari and Lotus, probably the Mercs too, they just don’t have the pace to chase the big boys and Perez is going to need to get his act together sooner rather than later. They need direction, no weaving around getting in the way.

Massa, sixth, sort of faded away and looked like the Massa of last season again. Alonso drove a controlled positive race and Massa should really have been tail gunner to the line.

Ricciardo was seventh and would have got sixth if he hadn’t had to change his nose. I’m not sure why he had to change it, but the team say it cost him a place. This is the sort of result the Torro Rosso drivers will need to deliver week in week out with the news that Webber is off at the ends of the year. A prime seat is going at the sister team and Ricciardo is the first to leave a marker on it.

Di Resta tried hard not to finish at all but eventually made it to eighth.

Grosjean had another unexciting drive to ninth and is looking more and more second rate as Kimi gets a head of steam up for the title. Well, I suppose he isn’t hitting anyone anymore, so that’s a good thing ... isn’t it?

 Hulkenberg was tenth, with a car that led the race at one stage. He had the grunt to keep Vettel behind him for eight laps of so, but then Sauber got all panicky and he was faded into the background. He did better than Gutierrez though, who made the rookie mistake of not listening to his race engineer when he told him the car was heavier and would therefore need “more room to SLOW DOWN” at the start of the race. He slammed into the back of Sutil’s Force India on lap two and the FIA threw the book at him. A five place grid penalty awaits the Mexican manic in Bahrain.

Finally Mr Van der Garde beat Max to the final spot this week. See, all you nay sayers, Max isn’t the worst driver out there! There is a long list to choose from, Gutierrez and Perez are my current favourite idiots at the moment. Van der Garde looks way out of his depth. So yeah leave of Max, he’s doing all right.

Williams watch...he look ..... Maldonado managed to make it to the finish whilst sat in the car for a change! Bottas beat him, but hey he finished, 5 seconds ahead of Bianchi in a Marussia hurrah!

Friday, 12 April 2013