Sunday, 26 May 2013

Like Father Like Son, Nico does it with style.

Finally Mercedes convert a pole into a win and a well deserved win it was for Nico, so much for Hamilton blowing him away and the team being built around the multi-million dollar signing.

Yes, I think we can put to bed the idea that Nico is some second rate driver that is in it to make up the numbers. The last few weeks have seen him really step up his game with a succession of poles and classy races. Mercedes have been knocking on the door of the Ferrari, Redbull big boys club for some time now and today they gain entry.

I doubt it’ll happen again this year, Monaco is a race all of its own. Nowhere else is it so difficult to overtake and control a race from the front. There just isn’t the room to make a 50/50 move up the inside and rely on the run off to save the blushes. Here you commit to the move and hope the other driver sees you coming. Get it wrong and bang it’s goodnight to your career Mr Grosjean, who I expect will have the book thrown at him his antic this weekend. If he was walking a tight rope before, now the Lotus board must be looking at ending his career sooner rather than later.

No Grosjean, you're doing it wrong You're not a porn star, stop trying to mount him !!!


So , yeah a win for Rosberg and I think he truly deserves it. He stuck it on pole on Saturday on a damp changeable track.  Then on a bright clear sunny Sunday he was fast, control the race pace, and looked after the tyres. For the first half of the race until Massa’s car tried to kill him and the first safety car was called out. He had Lewis behind him to play tail gunner for him making sure the Merc could look after its tyres without having to defend the lead. Hamilton played the dutiful team mate, never getting too close whilst holding up the Redbull.  Until the safety car when the pitwall called them both in and asked Lewis to slow down to allow the team time to reset after servicing Nico, who as leader got first dibs.
Normally a safety car will pick up the first car to reach it, in this car Vettels Redbull, and then wait until the race leader joins the snake. Then the cars in front of the leader are waved past until the race leader is behind the safety car. Except this time the wave past started whilst Nico was in the pits. So Vettel and Webber were waved past in time catch Nico as he left the pits and joined the queue, just ahead of Hamilton who had slowed to allow the team to get his tyres ready. So from a potential one two, Merc found themselves first and forth with Vettel breathing down Nico neck.

But this is Monaco and a determined driver can keep a driver that is looking to pick up points rather than risk wiping out a nose and losing everything, behind him. Nico carried on as if it was only Lewis behind him and never let Vettel get within two seconds of him.  Hamilton had a few pops at Webber in third but didn’t have the traction out of the slow corners to really challenge the grumpy Ozzy in the braking zones. A bit of weaving around and a cheeky lunge up the inside of Rascas were all he managed, but Webber is more than a match for that and eventually bagged the third spot on the podium with ease.

So Rosbergs second career win and there was no gifting or last man standing about this one. On a day when lesser drivers showed how easily it is to screw the thing up royally, he kept it simple and didn’t try to do anything stupid or clever. He was lucky Vettel didn’t jump him when he was in the pits during the safety car, but that’s part of the game here.  A race win he can be proud of and one to really get inside the head of Lewis with. Will he do it again ... I don’t think so, unless Mercedes found something special with their extra test after Bahrain .. ho ho.

Vettel second and you could probably call that fortuitous. I think he was waved passed the safety car early but there you go. He didn’t really seem to be having a go at Nico when he got there, and had only tried to pass Lewis on the first few opening laps. I think he was keeping an eye on the bigger picture where Nico isn’t likely to be hunting for the ultimate prize so why risk a DNF over a few extra points. Webber wasn’t going to do anything stupid (probably, you never know with him) so enjoy the ride and see if Nico makes a mistake.
He did grab the fastest lap at the end, like a big child. Just to prove a point though.

Webber spent most of the race watching Hamilton burn his tyres out trying to get past. Again he didn’t really have to do much so a third place was about what he deserved.

I think Hamilton in fourth was unlucky, as I say. But he was never really in with a shot at beating Nico, who was dialed in to the circuit all weekend.  I think he knew that and seemed pretty happy with the result in the end.  This is still the “learning year with a new team” phase of things, with the title out of reach for either Merc driver so a win here and a second there don’t mean that much. But if Nico continues to deliver the poles on Saturday and the points paying finishes ahead of Lewis on Sunday things might get a little fraught towards the end of the year.

Sutil fifth for Force India and this is a fully deserved result. He mugged Alonso and Button for seventh and eighth and showed you can make a pass at Monaco if you’re committed and not an idiot. This was good solid driving from soft hands Sutil and shows how well that Force India goes when the playing field is a bit more even. I expect them to go well in Canada too.

Button was sixth and should have done better really. He spent a lot of the race being passed by his new team mate and complaining about it to the team. Like Hamilton, he’s suddenly got a team mate that isn’t too impressed with how good his PR is. Jenson is in very grave danger of being seen as “that old bloke that used to be something” Come on man, McLaren needs a team leader, someone to pick it up by the boot straps and drive it forward. Not someone to whinge to the team that he’s been past by his team mate. You will notice the lack of simpering Girlfriend and gurning big nosed father team Button; even they don’t want to be seen around the pits with Jenson these days!

Alonso was seventh and I think we’ll just sum this one up as a bad day at the office. The car apparently had a bit of debris in the front win (probably from Masses accident). Which was causing the car to handle badly; yeah right, this is El Alonso who tamed a car that tried to kill him in 2012. Even Perez, who appears to have had Maldonado’s balls grafted onto him sometime between China and Bahrain, went past the Spaniard like he was asleep. With Vettel on the Podium things are starting to slip for Ferrari and they need a run of good results to get it all back on track.. soon.

Vergne was eighth, and is this week’s Torro Rosso driver looking for Webber seats next year.  

Di Resta did alright in the end after the team forgot that qualifying had started and it isn’t a practice session on Saturday afternoon. On a drying track he got left out on inters that were well past their sell by date and he ended up seventeenth. Pretty much a death sentence for point scoring here, but a bit of luck with the safety car and the usual idiots on the road left him up in the heady heights of ninth. Sutil has come in and made a solid bid for number 1 status so a driver like this shows the lad has some spunk after all. Canada could be a top five result for either Force India driver and may decide the direction he development path goes. Scottish or German.

Kimi gets tenth after being assaulted by Perez who was trying just a bit too hard. To be fair to Perez though, Kimi was wandering around the racing line like a drunk looking for the last dregs as the night winds down at a particularly rough wedding. You have to commit to over taking after the tunnel, as you go into the tunnel. So Perez was up the inside and I think Kimi was thinking about the post race party rather than where Perez might be trying to surprise him. By the time he’d turned into the hairpin, Perez was already there and the next thing the Fin was limping into the pits with a rear puncture.  But give the man his dues here, rather than park it and hit the ice cream chillier, he bolted on some sticky rubber and went for broke. Nicking tenth off Hulkenberg on the last lap. Good old Kimi.

Right last place then, Perez parked it up before the end so he wasn’t moving as the flag for the end to the race dropped. So it’s the turn of the ever reliable Van Der Garde to be our last placed driver again. Who despite being really rubbish, had Caterham’s best qualifying result to date and so he’ll probably keep his job until the end of the year. Which is good news for some of us!

  Right I'm off to the Jim Clark Rally to take pictures and getting wet next weekend, If you’re there let me no via the blog and we can discuss Jenson and how long before he heads for retirement oblivion at Sauber or *shudder* Williams.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Monaco and its black heart

If Monza is the spiritual home of F1, Silverstone its mechanical heart and Singapore the gateway to the new world

Then it is Monaco that is the beating black heart of its financial world. Bernie and Todt will join all the team principles here this weekend, doing deals to sell acres of prime carbon fibre advertising space and glad hand long term partners. The race really is secondary to the circus at times here; it just gets in the way of the face time and base touching. But there are few better places to get up close and personal with a 1000bhp snarling spitting Formula One engine.
For the lucky few in hospitality and those with invites to the corporate yachts moored on the waterfront. You just can’t get much closer to those cars that have the companies name smeared all over it. To see where the pension fund has gone and the “Global brand reimagining” is taking place. Primary colours of international brands scream past selling watches, petrol and computers to the punters hanging precariously to the cheap seats on the cliff.

There are companies with office space on the trackside, who rent out their 3rd floor balcony with views of the start line. This money pays the rent for the next 6 months. Imagine how much that is for a second; 1000 square foot of prime office space on Monaco’s waterfront. No wonder the locals head out of town for the week, staying would be like sitting in the garden burning bundles of used £20 notes.

Whilst all this financial black magic is going on, the team are hidden away in a multi-story car park round the corner. The super rich don’t want to get any oil or dirt on their Prada collection now do they! The glamour is strictly reserved for the front of house staff, not the people that do the actual work.

Then there are all the drivers, who have to negotiate between the corporate suits and a high speed steel trench. Nelson Piquet once descried a lap of Monaco as “like racing a bicycle round your living room” It’s not for the faint hearted or Maldonado’s of this world. Calm and collected through the Armco lined trench, get it wrong and it can be very painful. Kiss the barrier, even give it a playful slap now and again, but get too rough and it’ll snap back and take a wing off. Suddenly the grip will be all gone and the barrier embraces the car with warm enthusiasm.
Canada might have a short wall of champions to catch the unwary. Monaco is all concrete and steel.
This weekend, well yes it’ll all be about the tyres I’m afraid, and who is positioned best when the black stuff gives up. The smart money is on another Mercedes front row lockout and with overtaking being almost impossible, being at the front is what’s important. But the Merc don’t have the lightest touch with their tyres, so despite raw one lap speed, they might struggle to turn that into a win. But if they can control the pack, work together, it might work for them.
Last time in Spain Ferrari knew from the first practice they were going to go with a four stop race and planned accordingly. The teams that tried to be clever and work a three stopper, failed. Being realistic about they tyres, understanding what they will do rather than what they hope they’ll do will be key for the team on pole.
If Merc get it wrong, then Alonso and Kimi will be right behind them to pick up the pieces. Monaco is a proper drivers circuit, but it still needs a car that can deliver the driver to the front. Ferrari and Lotus look to have just such a car. Redbull… well the last three years have been good to the Milton Keynes chancers, with Webber having two wins to Vettels one. Can they make it four on the bounce, I don’t think so, but if Vettel plants it on pole then he’ll stand just as good a chance as the rest.
Qualifying starts on Thursday here, for reasons unknown, so please update your predictions before Wednesday midnight.. cheers

Saturday, 18 May 2013

No Joe ... you're wrong.

Okay, right .. looking after tyres ... That's fine.

Looking after a fragile car ... that too is fine. 

Looking after tyres and driving at 75% to do so  ... that's not fine. 

Going flat out and looking after the tyres, that's okay.

In this day and age a modern F1 car from the back of the midfield boys forward is not going to fail mechanically. They are pretty much bullet proof. So you need to introduce a random element that gives the pit wall something to think about.

I understand that.

But giving the teams tyres that they can't really race on. Well no i don't understand that. And whilst the likes of Joe Seward complain that he is the only one that truly understands what is going on and we are all fools for thinking otherwise ... It's not much of a race if the winner is the one that drove slow enough to look after his tyres. Its not really racing is it ?

Well i don't think it is.

Ragging the arse off the car and rolling the dice with an extra stop ... fair enough. Driving Conservatively to get to the end without losing too many places ... screw that. Its not going to get the blood pumping to watch cars tool around, the pitwall telling the driver to slow down or he'll need to make a 5th stop.

That's artificial racing, right there. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Back to Europe and sensible start times.

Hello, how are you all ?

Looking forward to watching the racing at a more reasonable hour I hope. Yes, we’re back in Europe with packed grandstands in the rolling green (ish) hills of Spain and the Circuit de Catalunya. One thing is going to be a nailed on certainty this weekend; Maldonado will not be standing anywhere near the podium on Sunday evening. No sire Bob. Not a chance in hell. Not even in the top ten, no way buddy.

Well, probably not. You never know with this sport.

It’s all been pretty quite after the frenzy of the first four flyaway races. The teams have hunkered down in their respective factories with the boffins pouring over the date acquired over the last two months, trying to find the answers to why the cars are; a bit rubbish (McLaren), a bit slow (Ferrari) and lacking a bit of rear grip (Mercedes). So the PR machines have been a bit quite all around.

Bernie popped up to tell Marussia, the last place team that they wouldn’t be getting any TV money next year. Marussia shrugged and nodded at Caterham and smiled. While Williams after thinking about it, started telling anyone that “it wouldn’t apply to the established teams ... would it ?”

Lotus have waved goodbye to the only thing that was making a difference. James Allison, the best F1 designer you’ve never heard off, has been tempted away to ... well take your pick from Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes. And why, you ask, is this such big news? Well Allison is pretty much credited with being the best thing in F1 design circles after Newey. Considering how much money Redbull throw at the team, they achieve what they are capable of. Lotus on the other hand, has a pittance from Genii capital and still they are the next best thing, ahead of the big rollers Ferrari and Mercedes. A lot of people in the pit lane put this firmly at Allison’s doorstep. He’s got a cheap car up there with the richest team on the grid ... imagine what he could do a shed load of cash and a nice sunny view over Maranello *wink*wink*
 So I'm kind of expecting Lotus to fade a bit now, unless he’s left a big fat folder marked “Things to fix next” on his desk.

What else is new? Well Hamilton has expressed his delight in his new “Mercedes Freedom”, whilst talking about being “okay with being Alonso’s team mate ... if that ever happened”, but he still want to see his 3 year Merc contract out. Which is nice.

Button doesn’t think the McLaren upgrades for Spain will be up to much, but I think they showed in Bahrain that they’re maybe not that far off the big boys. Maybe its sneaky, “We’re no threat what so ever” ploy, from Button. That or he’s getting his excuse in early for why Perez over takes him this time.

As for the race then, well,  anyone want to take a punt on anything other than a Redbull ? no me neither. Maybe a Merc for pole again, this time Hamilton perhaps, but Vettel is the form driver to beat right now. Unless anyone has brought an amazing upgrade which changes the game in one move.

The main interest here will be the seeing which teams have opted to put all their development time into next year’s car. The midfield boys have to decide it they can nab a few extra points and move up the table for more TV money. Or concentrate on not going backwards whilst putting all their money into next year’s car. The back row Jonnies have nothing to lose trying to beat the midfield chaps, but don’t want to be that last place team that gets nothing next year. Marussia look like they’re pulling out all the stops here and Caterham might well be firing Van De Garde if he has another rubbish race.   

Whilst this is happening, the front running teams will look at staying ahead of the midfield. Merc and McLaren if they’re being realistic are not going to win the title so there isn't too much point developing the nuts off the car now. Ferrari, will give it a race or so to see if Lotus can keep it up or Redbull pull away too much. But Ferrari will still try regardless though, purely through pride.
These boys can pretty much afford to run two development teams anyway, so they’re not fussed either way. Lotus though are on a shoestring still so they’ll look at where they are relative to Redbull and try to figure out how much it’ll cost to close that gap.

 So, a race to set the tone for the rest of the season then.

Good luck.