Sunday, 23 November 2014

And now the end my friends.

Every year I claim that I'm not going to write so much. It’ll be results, points, red wine. And every year I fail in that plan, apart from the red wine element which is usually the reason for 2000 words.
Anyway, this time I'm going to stick to the plan.

A Bottle of wine earlier today......

The right man won.

Lewis was the winner and thank the Lord for that. He’s been the better driver all year and I think there would have been a riot if Nico had sneaked it with the double point’s finale. Mercedes may have missed out on the final one two finish of the year, but they have to be happy with the result. Like him or Loath him, Lewis is an incredibly bankable asset and he’s wearing a works Mercedes jacket.
And let’s not take anything away from Nico here, a great champion NEEDS quality opposition to define him, someone to push him and take the points when he’s found lacking. In 2008 Massa was aided and abetted by the FIA who felt the need to wade in to give us a grandstand finish.
This year the FIA has had too many off track distraction to keep it busy, the only thing getting in the way in 2014 were the two team mates. Nico has really pushed Lewis, especially in qualifying where you would imagine Lewis would reign supreme. But it was Lewis pushing just that little bit too much on Saturday that put Nico in front and made Lewis work for all those wins.
And in the final reckoning, Lewis won more races than Nico and is champion, as it should be.

Let’s hope he gets sports personality of the year this time, shall we.

Massa was second and almost spoiled the party for Mercedes. The Williams boys have been fast all year and Massa, despite some iffy races has been up there showing he isn’t quite finished. 

Bottas was third just to underlined how much Williams have improved in 12 short months.  Last year they struggled to finish races, mostly because they were continuing to employing that liability Maldonado. Once he was discarded the team seemed to find a new lease of life, the Martini money replaces the Venezuelan hush money and Massa brought Nick Smedly with him to give the team a calm sensible pit wall. Frank stepped back to promote his daughter Claire and the team came out fighting this year with a fast slippery car and two solid drivers.
If you’re of a certain age than you get a bit misty eye’d when you think of William F1, they were one of the teams that defined the 80’s and 90’s of F1 and its good to see them back after too many years in the wilderness. Who knows, next year they could be fighting for the championship.

Ricciardo was fourth and fully deserves that, I was very dismissive of him at the start of the year and I have no problem saying now, I was wrong. He has been a revelation this year, fast, clinical and all with a big smile and the time to talk to fans and media alike, he’s been a real breath of fresh air from the Redbull stable. As Vettel as hurrumphed off after yet another bad race, Vergne has looked sullen with the lack of attention till it didn’t matter anymore and Kvyat was very Russian. Danny has grinned all the way through the year and announced himself as a potential champion.  He’s got that “driving a bad car to places it doesn’t belong” spark that excites the muddy scum on the banking and then he’ll stop and chat to them afterwards.
Chasing back for starting in the pit lane to fourth he got the fastest lap.

Here’s a thought. If Renault had got their act together before the end of last season and given Redbull an engine that worked from the beginning, do you think Danny would still have beaten Ricky, and would Vettel be off to Ferrari now?

Button fifth and was this the last F1 race for the likeable chap? You have to say, probably. Now this might be a bit controversial, but I think he should leave because now is the time to move to the endurance racing scene where there is less politics and more racing. Let’s be honest, unless Honda has a phenomenal engine, McLaren are not going to be beating Mercedes next year, and if they do, Alonso is going to be getting the wave past. Better to go to the WEC and be part of a team, imagine a team with Webber and Button! Throw in a hot shot young buck and it’s got Le Mans winner written all over it.  Time to leave on high, rather than end up in a Sauber or Force India, he’s an ex world champion damn it, he deserves to go out with an unsullied name.

Hulkenberg was sixth and has pretty much lost all his shine from 12 month ago. Last year he was the best talent ina second tier team there was, he dodged the Lotus career ending move and looked to be set fare for a stellar season with Force India. But then Perez happened and all his confidence seemed to desert him.  Was it the car? Were we all just hyping him up? Who knows, but he’s no longer being talked about as the best talent not in a top line drive. He’s no longer being talked about as the driver to replace Button or Vettel.  He’s done alright this year, but we’ve come to expect him to be the one out driving the car, dragging it up the order. Not Perez who was fired from McLaren after one year for being rubbish! He’s going to need something special to come back from this year.

Perez was seventh and did an awful lot to rebuild his cache this year. The firing from McLaren should have been the death nail in that career coffin, but he kept his head down and grabbed every opportunity that came his way.  The McLaren year was noted for the pep talk to make him more aggressive and then the finger waving to tell him to be less aggressive. This year there have been no headlines about his driving, just raised eyebrows with a quizzical “maybe we were a touch quick to judge” look.  Another year like this and I might have to be nice about him!

Vettel was eighth and you know what, that just underlines how poor he’s been this year. Riccy never stopped going for a podium but Vettel limped along with one eye on his Ferrari seat next year. The car wasn’t the worst out there, maybe it was the worst Vettel had ever driven, but he didn't do anything with it, he didn’t rag it or spank it to a podium. Okay he’s just won four championships on the bounce, a pretty special achievement. But the nagging feeling that it was all due to the car persists. And then as if to underline that, Redbull got slapped by the stewards for running an illegal front wing that flexed FAR too much in qualifying.  They started the year with an illegal car and ended it with one ... that says it all about Redbull for me (but not Danny, I like him J  okay).
What does the future at Ferrari hold for him ... not an awful lot in my opinion. He’s spent too long being the centre of attention at Redbull with its little team mentality. He’s going to Ferrari, they have more history in their brand Logo than Redbull have in their entire team. Italy IS Ferrari, that kind of pressure can break a driver.

Alonso ninth, not very good is it. After four years of being the almost man, now he’s back here fighting it out with the Force India’s and a lack lustre Vettel. Oh how the mighty have fallen.  Ferrari have had enough and effectively fired him, McLaren who are supposedly taking him are umming and arring about the whole thing.  Don’t get me wrong, if I was a team owner I’d sign him up in an instant. Yeah he’s a political animal and he whinges to the press far too often and he divides the garage and he’s a never happy and he blames everyone else and he’s a pain in the backside. But give him a quick car and he’ll win you a championship.
If anyone can take him and win, it’ll be Ron and the boys. He’s gone out and tried this year, you have to give him that credit.  But Ferrari did him no favours this year, the team is into a rebuild phase and if Alonso wants another title he has to go find it somewhere else. Redbull and Mercedes don’t need him so all that’s left is McLaren. Personally I think WEC is a better move for him. The young gun are here now, his time is over.

Kimi was tenth and like the whole year didn’t seem to give two hoots about it. He’s signed on for next year because he is quite happy to take the abuse and collect the paycheck. He’s doing it for the racing now, not the competition. What has he added to his career tally this year? What notable moments, other than avoiding career suicide at lotus and being paid for a change, have we seen this year? Nothing, that’s what, we used to get a semi waiting for the kimster to turn it on and blow us away with an outrageous move or yet another fastest lap. Not any more, he is now the very definition of a picking up the paycheck driver.

Magnussen was eleventh and might not have done enough to save his job. Button in fifth saved McLaren from ending up behind Force India in the constructor’s championship. Which is worth about 45 gazillion Euros to Ron and the boys, and it’s Button that has done most of the points scoring this year. Kevin is a talent, no problem there, but is he a McLaren talent? Possibly not, I think he needs another year to be sure but I don’t think Ron is prepared to pay and wait and see. There have been races where he’s been feisty and shown the skills. But there were races where he was anonymous or overly aggressive. Not as bad as Perez was, but the fallout from that debacle might well colour Kevs future.  The thing is, a year with old man Alonso might knock the edges off him and teach him how to win, the Honda will probably need a year to bed in so there’s unlikely to be a title run next year. Button will want equal billing and will balk at letting Alonso past. Kev has nothing to lose as he’s at the start of his career.  But it’ll be all about the money as usual I expect.

Vergne ... yeah him. Imagine a police line up with a Santa, the Easter bunny, Lord Lucan, Shergar and Vergne standing in front of you, could you honestly pick him out on your first go? The word is his got himself the third man testing role at Williams next year. Which is perfect for him, he can stand at the back of the Williams garage and tell the mechanics there to get their own coffee and sandwiches. To be fair, however, he’s got more points than Kvyat this year and not just after they told him he was fired. But yeah, he’s not really done enough has he.

Grosjean was thirteenth and will be very happy to see the end of this season. Lotus after last year should have hit the ground running, instead they missed a step stumbled, flailed around, narrowly avoided the wine waiter and slammed headfirst into the desert trolley.  It was mess from the moment the 2013 season ended due entirely to money. And now we have our second apology. I have been almost as rude about Gerard Lopez, the owner of Lotus F1, as I have about Maldonado over the years. But as Caterham and Marussia failed, Lopez was one of the few to stand up and say “No, this is wrong and the people in charge are the problem”, I think it took balls to stand up to Bernie and the FIA and lay the blame squarely at their feet. He coped a lot of flak for doing it, but he has the balls and I hope he’s going to be the one the smaller team unit behind.  Maybe there is a racing heart there after all.  So anyway, yeah Grosjean, better than Maldo, for what that’s worth.

Rosberg was fourteenth in the end and I think he deserved better than that. He has had some great drives this year, and with any other team mate he would have nail the title with five races to go. But all too often he just didn’t have an answer to Lewis. He owned qualifying this year, which does win you something for a change, but it wasn’t enough, so I go back to that suggestion that he goes to sleep for weekend, though now I think he goes to sleep for portions of a race, there are laps where he isn’t driving that qualifying lap, he’s on a Friday morning practice run when he should be building on the advantage.
He showed what a professional he is though when the team told him to pit with a handful of laps, rather than park it up and slink off to an early flight home, he stuck it out there and finished the damn race. Better to go out fighting than retire to lick the wounds. Respect for that, although Mercedes might not appreciate Lewis lapping Nico to underline the mechanical failure. But that’s by the by.
Yeah Nico made this a good year, the panto villain bit and keeping Lewis honest to the end.

Guiterrez wasn’t last and can disappear off to obscurity now. Sauber were mostly rubbish all year and Estaban didn’t really ping on anyone’s radar all year ... apart from Maldonado, who tried to kill him in Bahrain.  

Sutil was sixteenth and he too will disappear off to pastures new.  I foresee a testing role with  .. Ferrari maybe or McLaren even. But yeah, he’s had his second chance and he chose the wrong team. Bad luck.

Finally Will Stevens was given the Caterham poison chalice as the team scrapped together enough money to bring a scratch pit crew to the last race. He did alright and we might see him back one day. He didn't bin it and managed to annoy both Alonso and Raikkonen for extra lolz. Good man.

Okay the DNF’s ..

Kobayshi, who I discovered was contractually obliged to drive for Caterham this year, rather than continue to build a solid WEC career with AF corse Ferrari. He was doing alright with the tin top boys so it must have been an extra special reason to come back to risk his career in F1.  If you saw the picture he tweeted of the running repairs the team made to the rear suspension arm in Russia, you’ll also wonder why he didn’t walk away like Ericsson
Caterham, unlike Marussia who are in debt up to their eyeballs, where the victim of piss poor management and just sheer stupidity from those supposedly in charge of the team, rather than financial failings.  When Fernandez sold up he claimed the buyers didn’t pay up, whilst the buyers claimed they didn’t get the shares they’d been promised! Surely, just walking down to the factory and sticking your name on the door of the biggest office you find would be enough to let people know you were in charge now. But no, they all faffed around and now a whole bunch of people are facing an uncertain future whilst they wave their arms in the air and pout at each other.

Maldonardo. Hahahaha the highlight of the race was the look on the Lotus mechanics faces as Maldonado rolled to a fiery stop at half distance. That tells you all you need to know about their car and their driver.  Unfortunately he appears to be signed on for yet another year; money as always, talks the loudest in F1.

Kvyat, and what a year he’s had! Five minutes in the job a couple of handy races, nothing special that I could see and bob’s your aunties live in lover he’s promoted to a race seat with Redbull. I suspect only because, Vettel caught Redbull on the hop with his announcement he was off to Ferrari and the fact he isn’t Vergne. Other than that and, well you have to wonder why he got the promotion?  Look, Button is probably available, Sutil .. even Max would be a better bet than Kvyat who’s been here for five minutes. Yeah he’s handy, I’ll give him that. But is he a top line player ... I'm not sure. Vergne got more points than him this year, what does that tell you?

And those that didn’t make it to the end ...

Ericsson did alright in the end after a less than stellar start to the year. He got as high as eleventh in Monaco and seemed to impress the folks at Sauber enough to get a contract for next year. How much that has to do with money over talent is no one’s guess really. He looked feisty when he could and beat. I don’t think he’s going to set the world alight but you never know, Alonso after all was rubbish when he first started

Max “the chin” Chilton, was fantastic all year long. He was upbeat, feisty, he grinned all the time, always tried his hardest, never gave up, was always two laps behind the winner and looked like he spent hours in front of the mirror getting that quiff just right. He was a five point last place machine for us and we all owe him a very great debt of gratitude.  But you know what? He was driving a Formula one car in the world championships, something you can never take away from him and something we’d all give every single penny we ever earned to have a go at. Clearly he had no hope there, but he came back week after week and never stopped grinning. What an inspiration to all us arm chair F1 hero’s he was.

Bianchi, was ... is... everything Max wasn’t. The latest news is he is out of an induced coma and now in a natural one. They’ve moved him from the hospital in Japan to one in France. I truly hope he wakes up and smiles at his parents once again, but ....
The irony being he got the points that would have seen Marussia survive for another season, the TV money would have been enough and things might have been different. But now, the team is no more and Jules is being kept alive by a machine.

And that one that flashed past our eyes.

Lotterer was offered a drive with Caterham at Spa and I don’t think there is a single one of us that would have turned that down.  Spa ... in an F1 car. I’d have donated a left gonad if that was what it would have taken to get me a chance to race on the second* greatest track in the world. So when he turned up all happy and jolly to drive that excuse for a racing car the world must have fallen out of his world.
Loterer is not some new buck full of piss and vinegar; He is a three time Le Mans winner, arguably the biggest race in the world that third victory came this year. He’s a champion in the Japanese Formula Nippon, double world champion in Japanese super GT.  He’s got the chops to stand next to the likes of Alonso and Hamilton.
But stick him in a piece of crap and he’s going to struggle just like the rest of them. Thankfully his race only lasted one lap, but that was enough. Asked if he wanted to try again at the Italian GP he informed the team what they could do with their car.

errrr ... that wasn't the plan ...

*My heart belongs to Le Mans first, then Spa, then probably Bathurst ... Silverstone is a long loooooong way down the list. Below even the scramble track my brother an i made in our back garden.    

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Who do you want to win ?

So then, Abu Dhabi;

If Lewis wins or comes second to Nico he will be champion. 

If Lewis fails to finish or is third and Nico wins, Nico will be champion.

And If Nico fails to win whatever happens Lewis will win the championship.

It’s that simple.

Is all about the Glory now, there are no hiding places left, no “Well I just tried my hardest but ....”. Win or bust, roll the dice, no playing safe anymore. It’s an intriguing end to the season which has seen these two totally dominate from the first practice session in Australia.

Who do you want to win ?

On the one hand you have Nico; after so many years being dismissed as purely a journeyman driver, there to make up the numbers with odd flash of something special.  He’s stepped up to the plate this year with consistent and gutsy drives. But he’s also played fasted and loose with the rule book at times and thrown the odd rattle from the pram.

On the other hand you have Lewis; a driver that wears his heart on his sleeve who will go out there and thrash the car to the line if he has too. He’s had bad luck all year long and at the half way point of the season looked well beaten. But then he put a run of wins together and suddenly he was back in the hot seat.

How did we get here?

Nico; Ten poles, five fastest laps for five victories and two DNF’s
Lewis; Seven poles, seven fastest laps for ten victories and three DNF’s

Australia, Lewis easily on pole but a broken spark plug handed Nico the win

Malaysia, Lewis bounced back and dominated the weekend, Nico was second.

Bahrain, Nico tried to assert some authority but Lewis slammed the door in his face and took a superb win under the lights. Nico settled for second again.

China and Lewis on a roll now with three wins in a row, Nico still second.

Spain and Lewis makes it four in a row, Nico looked a bit grim on the second step of the podium again.

Monaco was all about Nico, who with a “mistake” on his last Q3 run, prevented Lewis from getting pole and demonstrates how far he was prepared to go for the title. Lewis stood on the second step of the podium this time with a face like thunder. A line had been crossed.

Canada and both Mercs hit trouble whilst fighting for the win, Lewis failed to adapt to the brake issue but Nico changed his driving style and brought it home second to Ricciardo and retained his championship lead.

Austria and Nico holds Lewis at bay for the whole race for another Merc 1-2

Britain and Lewis, feeding off the crowd roared home to an emphatic victory on home soil as Nico hits trouble for his first DNF of the season

Germany after Lewis had a big accident in qualifying; he fought back to third but could do nothing about Nico out front.

Hungary and this was Lewis’s drive of the season for me! The car burst into flame on his first Saturday qualifying lap and had to start from the pit lane as the rain began to fall on Sunday. Nico from pole took a comfortable lead as Lewis almost crashed at the second corner he got to, but he went on to spank the car round the wet track.  He had enough time to tell the team what it could do with its team orders, then gives Nico a lesson in overtaking and defensive driving and ends up third after a quite magnificent drive. Nico was eventually fourth and looked stunned.

Then we get to the defining point of the season, Belgium.

Nico had made qualifying look easy, Lewis may have dominated the practise sessions all so far but it’s been Nico at the front for the parade lap on Sunday. But time and again he has failed to turn those poles into wins.  Until in Spa, tired of losing the lead when the lights went out yet again, Nico “fumbled” his attempt to retake the lead and took Lewis out of the race.  He still didn’t win either, Ricciardo drove to his third career win and on the podium Nico was roundly booed by the crowd. After the race, Lewis accused Nico of deliberately driving him off the road and Mercedes appeared to back the accusation, Nico admitted he had “refused to be pushed around” and would do it again to prove he was no pushover. Mercedes made him sit on the naughty step for week afterwards.

Nico, whilst leading the race made two unforced errors in Monza and handed the psychological advantage and victory to Lewis. Some red faced loons claimed it was all a Mercedes plot to penalise Nico for putting emotions before the team. I think it was more to do with the booing he got standing on the podiums at Spa. He was second again and still got booed

Singapore was Lewis at his very best; Nico’s car popped its wiring loom on the way to the grid and refused to reset however many steering wheels they replaced. Lewis just drove off into the distance as Nico stared at the telemetry from the pit wall.

Japan was wet, miserable and everyone was glad to leave. Lewis passed Nico with ease in the rain but there wasn’t much racing on show that Sunday. It looked like Nico was now going for the Prost route to the title; just keep coming second until everyone forgets your still there. Then pop up at the end and claim the big silver cup.

Russia was another unforced error from Nico and possibly the easiest win of Lewis’s career. Yet again Nico looked uncomfortable in second as the watching public woke up and wondered where the last two hours had gone!

The race in America was Lewis again taking the victory from the pole sitting Nico. The pass was cool calculated and once again made to look effortless. Nico shuffled up to his usual spot as the red faced loons claimed Lewis was now unstoppable.

But Brazil was all Nico, Lewis just didn’t have an answer to Nico who was always one step ahead of his team mate. When it really mattered Lewis made the unforced error and gave Nico a life line to the championship. Lewis stood on the second step for a change and claimed it was no big deal.

So here we are and in the end the double points won’t make a difference. The difference between the two is such that if this were a normal scoring round, whoever beat the other would be champion.
It’s been a great season on the track this year and I really hope we get a race that puts the cherry on the top of it all. What started as a season about lack of engine noise and “It’s all so boring when Ferrari don’t win”. Has turn into an enthralling, close, exciting battle between two well matched team mates. The team has generally let them get on with the racing, only when Nico over stepped the mark at Spa did they wag a finger and remind the boys there was a constructors title at stake too.  The FIA has kept its Ban hammer under wraps for most of the season, with far too much going on off track to stick their oar into the results.
And unfortunately I think it’s those off track machinations that could well be what the season is remembered for. Formula one faces a crisis as the smaller teams fight for less and less money. We’ve lost Marussia but Caterham are supposed to be back for the final round in Abu Dhabi with a scratch squad of drivers and pit lane staff.
Sauber, Lotus and Force India are starting to verbalise their displeasure at what they see as the unfair division of funds between then top team and them. “Ferrari, Redbull, McLaren and Mercedes are well funded manufacturer teams, why do they get such a large slice of the TV and sanction fees” they ask. The FIA look at Bernie who shrugs and claims it’s the way of things.

And talking of Bernie, he has become increasingly erratic with his pronouncements this year. He started the year telling us all that we didn’t like the sound the new cars were making and he was sorry for us, then despite all the evidence he told us the racing was rubbish because Ferrari wasn’t winning and that’s what we really wanted to see, wasn’t it!  Then almost smiling with glee as the two back of the grid teams fall apart, he told us that they were rubbish and they should have never been racing in the first place.
He told young race fans that, because they don’t buy Rolex watches or bank with UBS they weren’t wanted. Forgetting in his hast to get to the airport before the muddy scum on the banking perhaps, that they are the ones buying the billions of cans of Redbull and filling their cars with Shell fuel. His latest plan is to ban all social media and internet journalists from the F1 grid because they are generating free content which he cannot monetize.  Demonstrating to everyone how laughably out of touch he now it with the modern world.  There’s no official F1 instagram feed I can find, Facebook and twitter are devoid of interesting behind the scenes content. Team accounts are PR’d to the eyeballs and so asinine you have to wonder who is really delivering the content. If you did nothing but get your news of each race through the Redbull social media output for example, you would be under the mistaken belief that they have won every race this year and Vettel has already been crowned champion.   

The F1 app in its basic free form gives you the leader board of the race with lap times and a massive banner offering to give you more information if only you would part with £30 a year.

The WEC app by comparison, for free gives you a leader board with gaps, laps times, sector times, onboard views in fact it falls over itself offering you content. The F1 app is there to make money for Bernie; if you do pay it’s very good I'm told. But I already pay Sky to watch the races live, now I have to pay to see where my favourite teams and drivers are? This disconnect between entertaining and informing the punters and just trying to fleece them for every penny they have it too great now. We are only welcome if we have money and lots of it. Poor people are not wanted and anyone giving away content to these free loaders is certainly not welcome.

Something has to change over the winter, or the whole thing will implode next year.

Right enough, don’t forget that this is a double points round for us too, Caterham are going to be there but I have no idea as yet who their drivers will be. I’ll replace the drivers you can choose from when I know, and they’ll be in race number order.

There is a rumour that Max might have bought himself one last ride.

Good luck everyone.

Oh and Alonso will finally sign for McLaren this weekend ;)

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Alonso is faster than you, DON’T LET HIM PAST!!!

Well that was all very interesting wasn’t it?

Maybe not a classic race, after all watching driver’s work out how long their tyres are going to last isn’t what I call fantastic racing, but it does set up the final race as a bit of a nail biter. 
Now the idea that Nico had happily rolled over to let his mate win the world championships can be put to bed at least. Nico was imperious all weekend long; Lewis was always following in his wheel tracks from the moment they went out to first practice. Qualifying was just a case of how close Lewis was going to get to his team mate because the result was never in doubt.

It also confirmed that Rosberg has been the fastest qualifier all year. For which there is a trophy ... which I did know about but forgot to mention all year long. Sorry. You’d think I’d make a big thing out of it too, seeing as we try to predict who’s going to be on pole each race. So yeah, if you’d put Rosberg down for the pole each race, chances are you were going to be right.  And once again Brazil, on Saturday, was all about Rosberg at his best.

Unlike the Circuit of the America’s or Monaco however, Lewis doesn’t go well here. Yes, yes he was second and never really looked like being anything else. But he didn’t look like he had any sort of answer to Rosberg, he was always behind him. And them in the race when he had that one chance to pump the fast laps in and use the pit stop cycle to take the lead, he fluffed it. Ratty tyres and over confidence spun him off the track and into second place.
He blinked, this time he made the unforced error and suddenly he’s on the back foot going into the final race of the year.

The other highlight was Alonso getting the proverbial two fingers from Ferrari. For the past 5 years the ringing phrase “Alonso is faster than you, do you understand” would be floated over the airwaves and Massa or Kimi would “fluff” a gear change out of a lesser corner and allow the Spaniard past to pick up a few extra points. This time however, there were no instructions to Kimi to fade off the throttle on a long straight. This time the message was loud and clear. “Alonso is faster than you, DON’T LET HIM PAST!!!”. An ignominious end to a unsuccessful partnership. But you know scrapping it out for sixth place isn’t all that glamorous really.

Okay, the race was tense but like a Christmas stocking from Aldi’s thin on excitement and ultimately unsatisfying.

Rosberg got pole and won. Part one or operation “show everyone i can win a world championship” complete. He looked like he was cruising all weekend long. Nobody else was as fast as he was when it mattered. Job done.

Hamilton was second and got the fastest lap. Technically he didn’t need to win, but it would have made things in Abu Dhabi easier for him. Now he has to be second or better to Nico to take the title.

Massa was third and almost threw it all away. He was pinged for speeding in the pit lane at his first stop, with a five second stop and hold at his second stop. It looked like he’s blown it until Bottas had a problem with his seatbelts at his next pit stop and handed back the podium to Massa. There was some speculation that the Williams boys could get a win here, but it turn out that Mercedes already had their towels on the top steps. Still they did enough to pretty much bury Ferraris chances of third in the constructors race.

Button was fourth and once again showed why he should keep his seat for next year. Maybe McLaren will surprise us all and tell Alonso where he can stick his whiny arse next year. Jenson has, I think he’ll admit, had a difficult year but when the car has been on song he’s shown some real metal out there. There are divers from South American countries with far more money than talent, who can’t hold a candle to Button. Even Massa with his double vision and inability to remember telephone numbers these days has a quality drive. So the fact Button is facing the door marked EXIT is a real shame. Yeah sure I haven’t been his biggest cheer leading section over the years but I always said he had the talent and right to be there.

Vettel in fifth, well he had a lot of good cars over the years. I’ll leave it at that. . .... okay, okay, he made a few good overtaking moves and looked a bit feisty at times. But he’s off to retirement with Ferrari next year, make no mistake of that.

Alonso did nothing but complain and throw toys and blankets and wet wipes and rattles from the pram all weekend long on the way to sixth. There’s going to be no leaving party for these two at the end of the year. He was stuck behind Kimi at the end of the race for just long enough to stop him having a chance of catching Vettel.  Ferrari were willing to throw away the chance of beating Williams to third in the constructors rather than let tell Kimi to let Alonso past. Imagine how much money those constructors’ points are worth.  Just to stick one to a driver who they have failed to give a worthy car to.  It would be amusing if it wasn’t so pathetic.

Kimi was seventh and made hard work of that.

Hulkenberg who we have missed over the last few races, got a contract for next year with Force India (sort of) and remembered what the loud pedal was for again. Eighth was creditable result.

Magnussen was ninth and like button still doesn’t know if he’ll be driving for McLaren next year.

Finally Bottas was tenth, there was a problem with his belts, sure, but Massa had a five second penalty and still got on the podium.

Okay, Hamilton fastest lap ..

.. and Sutil is this weeks last places driver. He’s been given the heave ho to, no real surprise to me, his return was always a bit odd I though. This year’s Sauber has been a bucket of bolts held together with duck tape and faith mostly Sutils done what he can, but not enough it would seem. He’s better than Gutierrez, in the same way as David Cameron is better than Nick Clegg.  

Friday, 7 November 2014

Goodbye Max

Marussia have closed the doors for good. Goodbye Max you five point machine you.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

When the samba stops, who will be sitting pretty ?

Brazil is about one thing and one thing only.

No, not how did the national team implode so spectacularly !!!. 

No the one big question will be; Can Rosberg stop Hamilton and give himself a chance to pinch the title at the double points final ?

Nico is only 24 points behind Lewis, so Nico basically needs to win and have Lewis finish outside the points in Brazil, that would put him ahead by one point and then it’s just who finishes ahead of the other, first to tenth in Abu Dhabi.

If Lewis finishes second to Nico or wins, then all that’s left for Nico is a win in Abu Dhabi and have Lewis finish outside the points. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. I think we can assume now that the Mercs will be out the front fighting for the win. Danny or Massa might try to spoil the party, but it’s unlikely. Unless it rains than it’s a lottery at this place.

There are permutations for where Nico must finishes if Lewis finishes 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. But it all comes back to Lewis not finishing either race for Nico to take the title. And given the Mercedes has had an ongoing issue with brakes and its energy harvesting system this year, that’s not beyond doubt. Lewis suffered from a brake temperature issue in America that cost him the pole. Canada saw both cars suffer from brake issues and Germany say Lewis crash hard when he’s front brakes failed. So I don’t think either driver is counting the chickens just yet.

So the next question is: Who is the strongest driver mentally?

For years now, I’ve always complained that Nico just sort of goes to sleep for the odd race, you only knew he was there because he turned up on the result sheet. You never saw him, he didn’t feature in the story of the weekend. It’s something that Williams complained about when they sold him to Mercedes. But then at Mercedes he started to get his act together, beat Schumacher more often than not, but there were still weekends when he was just anonymous.

This year he’s won races, but generally when Lewis has had a problem and not been there to challenge him. In a straight fight, I don’t think Nico has that “next level” to up his game. Lewis is clinical, sees the chance and takes it. In America he hunted Nico down and took the lead from him. In Spa Nico fumbled the move on Lewis and almost took them both out. Lewis is feeding off the crowd, the media bubble and the team are helping him do it. Nico meanwhile has faded more and more into the background, shunning the lime light and making mistake on the track. The two mistakes in Monza was entirely his fault. Maybe it’ll works for him, stepping back and concentrating on the driving rather than Hamilton’s swagger.

But the most telling thing for me is his reaction to the booing at Monza, since then he’s not looked quite so chipper. The smile looks a bit forced and the aggression hasn’t been there. I think he’s one of those drivers that really needs to feel the love. Lewis has the vast majority of the crowd in his hand and he’s feeding off that love. Whilst Nico is playing the Panto villain and doesn’t appear to be enjoying the role cast for him. The reaction from the team – Lauda constantly telling the media world what a great driver Lewis is and Toto breaking out that big grin of his whenever Lewis glides past Nico - can’t be helping either.

In America, Nico blamed his second place on the fact he couldn’t find the rhythm of the circuit, whilst Lewis was into his groove from the moment the car fired up on Friday.

I don't think Nico has given up or Lewis has ground him down. I just think Nico doesn't have another mental gear to shift his performance up. He's a nice guy, but he's switched off after the fumbled move in Spa and not got over that.

So then. this weekend ... Do you think Lewis will make it six in a row ? My heart says "easily", my head says "he doesn't normally go well here". the last time he had a pressure race in Brazil he needed Toyota to save the day. He's older and wiser this time, but , well ... you just never know. I think he'll be ahead of Rosberg though. Lewis works best when he goes out to win the race, sitting back and "just doing enough" isn't in his dictionary, he's all about the glory. Nico meanwhile can't afford to sit back now, he has to beat Lewis.

Williams or Redbull could spoil the party, Danny especially. If the Merc boys get tangled up, the Redbull will be right there. And so too will the Williams boys. Bottas and Massa should be pretty handy round here, if they can hang onto their tyres then they stand an outside chance.  

There are still no Caterhams or Marrussias to come last, so some of you still need to adjust your predictions! 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Hamilton does it again.

Right okay y'all, its a late race this week so I'm afraid this is going to be a short one.

Hamilton rocks up to Austin and just does what he does best. Well almost he didn't get pole by almost half a second after dominating all the practice sessions. Apparently he glazed the brake pads on the warm up lap and spent his banzi lap locking up the front brakes. Which is not to take anything away from Nico's pole lap. It was top draw stuff and demonstrates that Rosberg is still in this fight, he's in no way given up the title to Lewis yet.

So Rosberg started the race ahead of Hamilton, the two of them driving off to continue their fascinating season long battle. The Williams and Redbulls kept them on their toes, but really is was another day for these two to decide the win.
Rosberg pulled out a 3 second gap at the first pit stop, Lewis struggling with front end that didn't want to got where it was asked to. A quick tweak to the front wing at his pit stop and suddenly he was catching Rosberg hand of fist until on lap 23 he slid it up the inside of turn 12, squeezed Nico tot he outside of the corner and took the lead.   Easy as that, Rosberg made a few attempts at catching Lewis, but whenever he made up a few tenths Lewis responded in kind.

There was a great race behind them with teams trying different strategies to deal with the high tyre ware. But they were all fighting for the bottom step of the podium.

Okay, So Lewis won his fifth race in a row and is now the most successful British F1 driver of all time. An accolade I personally think he rightly deserves. He's gone out an won those races on pure grit and determination. They weren't gifted to him and I don't think he's ever cruised to an easy win. You can measure a driver by his opposition and Hamilton has beaten the likes of Vettel, Alonso, Kimi and Schumacher (who wasn't in his prime to be fair). All drivers that have been considered some of the best in the history of the sport. When he's in a straight fight with Nico he's come out on top more often and if he loses this championship now because of this double points race in Abu Dhabi, there will be no justice in this sport.

Nico was second, and didn't have an answer to Lewis when it mattered. He claimed in the post race media grilling, that he "couldn't find his rhythm until it was too late". Which is code for, he was better than me. He's not given up, but I just think Lewis has that edge when it counts. The desire to be the world champion, where Nico is perhaps unsure if he can beat his team mate.

Ricciardo was third with a pretty stella drive after messing the start up. Feisty and committed, I'm really starting to like his style and personality out of the car. Vettel hurrumphed off out of the circuit the moment he's done the obligatory interviews whilst Riccy hung around and chatted to locals and media a like. So yeah, I like the guy.

Massa was fourth and i think should have been on the podium. He got a good start off the line and was keeping up with the Merc at the start, but then seemed to fade back and was beaten by Riccy who had better tyres at the end.

Bottas was fifth and considering he was about a gazillion miles and hour faster through the speed trap than anyone else, he should have got more for the race.

Alonso, saved face with a late stop for fresh rubber and salvaged some points. Still no word on what he;s doing next year, the word is the divorce from Ferrari is getting messy.

Vettel did all right really to get seventh. He started from the pit lane because the team had to change the engine, he huffed around at the back for a bit complaining that the car was a bit of a handful with a heavy fuel load. But as that load dropped, he got faster and climbed into the top ten.

Magnussen was eighth and I think he's going to get resigned by McLaren for next year, he's fast and feisty, some thing Big Ron always admires.

Now Vergne was beaten by Maldonardo on the track, but the lunatic was given a 5 second penalty for being a idiot, so Vergne moves up to ninth. BUT Vergne made a bit of a kamikaze move on Grosjean in the closing stages of the race and might get pinged for that. The FIA have only put out a preliminary result so far so he might get penalty he move down the order. For now we'll leave him here because we always like a tryer.

 So Maldonardo gets some point for Lotus this year. He is still a liability though.

Vettel got the fastest lap

And Kvyat was unlucky at the end to collect the bit of wing that fell off Grosjeans car after Vergne tried to assault him. Which meant he had to go into the pits with a handful of laps left to run and came out behind Gutierrez who we all thought was going to be out last placed banker form now on.

okay enough its very late and i want to go to bed. If the FIA throw the book at Vergne i'll adjust the results are required.

night night.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

There's a deafening silence from the FIA isn't there !

We live in interesting times.

Right now there are a lot of people wondering round the F1 paddock nervously glancing at their generic mobile devices, checking to see if their team is next to call in the administrators. On Wednesday last week the lads and lasses of Caterham arrived at the factory to find the doors locked and a message on twitter about administrators and trying to get the team refinanced. The word was Bernie had agreed to the team missing the next two races due to them having no money. Then over the weekend rumours started that Marussia wouldn’t be at the US GP either. Monday morning saw confirmation on social media that the team was in the hands of the administrators who were also looking to refinance.

You wait years for a team to buy at rock bottom prices than two turn up at once! except there are no buyers out there for two failed teams. The only thing they have of value is that they are F1 teams. And that only works if they pay for that entry … and turn up to every event. On November 1st the FIA will expect a cheque for £60,000 from Caterham and slightly more from Marussia to pay for their entry next year. Oddly the entry fee is based on the number of points the team got the previous year. So Marussia having got those two world championship point, have to pay more than Caterham who have nothing.

There is also a question mark over weather Marussia signed up to the concord agreement before 2009, after that date any team that goes into insolvency (and why would you be calling the administrators in, if you weren’t insolvent). Is automatically banned from taking part in any future races. It was Manor racing which originally formed the team as Virgin, but that all got sold to the Russians and the key question is; was the signing of the agreement by the old team or the new team. If the consensus is no Marussia signed after 2009, they won’t even have an F1 entry to sell, it’ll all be over.

From what I've heard, the debt Marussia currently has could conceivable keep a small third world dictatorship in electric nipple clamps and gold plated AK-47 for a very long time. These boys have an eye watering large debt that isn't the sort of thing an "investment company" will want to take on. 

Which is a real shame in my opinion. For Jules, for the team and for Max, who is never going to get another drive in F1 … ever. And we can all kiss goodbye to that five point banker each race!

With Sauber being touted as the next team to call in the administrators and Lotus not long after that, we could be looking at a grid of 16 cars next year, and then we have this vague promise of three cars teams. An idea only Bernie and CVC seem enthusiastic about. There are rules apparently for all of this to happen, but they are deadly top secret and no one is allowed to tell us, the paying public, what those rules are.

What I think there is, is a total vacuum if ideas and love for the sport at the top. CVC are just trying to rape the thing for all its cash and don’t appear to give a shit how much blood is getting sloshed around to achieve that. Two teams have almost certainly gone to the wall and Bernie is wittering onto the Daily Mail business section (that bastion of calm, considered, fact based investigative journalism) about the upper fifth form selling old cars to the lower third. But only if they let them have their tuck privileges and Fotherington-smyth is allowed to drive the car because he’s driven his dads Audi R8 at least twice.

Someone, not necessarily anyone who actually knows the truth, says the teams need 60 days’ notice before they can roll out these third cars. Which means we almost certainly won’t see this at the last race. But if the teams continue to fall by the way side at the current rate, next year could be interesting. And by interesting, I mean a whole idiots convention of stupidness, If you think a double points finale is pushing the limit of plausibility then the 2015 season is going to be a real humdinger for you. A return to the glory days of the FIA/CVC/Bernie sticking their oar when they don’t like the results and random rule changes.

I think we should all be worried about where F1 is going. Patched up grids, no idea who wins and who gets what points, new cars appearing for a few races, the big boys getting further and further ahead. Even multiclass racing has been suggested as a way to fill the grids, with GP2 teams filling in for missing teams. Make no mistake here, F1 is at a real crisis point, there is too little money concentrate at the top, what money that is available is being withheld from the teams that need it most. The sport is being run as a business to make money, not as a way of promoting excellence through engineering and skill.

But all that is just depressing isn’t it. Let’s look at the racing instead, at least that’s been good this year.

I rather like this American track; The drag off the line up the hill is made for TV, then the high speed sweeping curves to play follow the leader. A couple of off camber right angle overtaking zones, then a nice fast straight into a challenging technical section made for cars with balance and poise to dance through. The cars need plenty of grunt for the long bits, but a well-balanced car can make up time in the sweeping and technical corners.

It gets bonus points for not being on some industrial estate or down town car park and with a crowd that is pretty good. These aren't he fans that are leaving NASCAR in droves either, these are the knowledgeable types that like to see a good race and have a good time. 

So yeah, I think its pretty good track with lots of potential for a good race.

Do you remember the first time we came here ? it was brand spanking new and the track had yet to be rubbered in, so it was like a skating rink. That was the first big event on the track and it made it a bit of a lottery. Well, the feeling is, these new torquey cars of 2014 might well struggle to find enough grip this weekend. 

Mercedes have been making a big song and dance all over the social media world about winning the 2014 constructors title, a bit of good news in all the doom and gloom, the expectation now is that they'll let the boys have a proper go at racing this weekend. there has been a lot of discussion about Nico and his lost win in Russia. Lots of "pundits" would have you believe that he'd beaten Lewis off the line and would have cruised to and easy win, if only he hadn't made a tiny silly little mistake. I think that's not the first tiny little mistake he's made this year and probably won't be his last.

In a straight fight, Lewis has made less mistakes on the track than Nico. Rosberg has made more unforced errors this year, the missed turn in Monaco, braking too late in Monza twice, braking far too late again in Sochi and fumbling the pass on Lewis in Spa and almost taking them both out. Call it a lack of maturity or not responding well to the pressure if yo like, but its not the best way to win a world championship.
He's still as fast as Lewis and if he keeps it all together has just as much chance as his team mate of winning this weekend. 

Okay, so The Merc up front, Williams next, Danny could be on for a podium if he can keep up with the Williams. Vettel driving for the Lolz now and Ferrari trying to impress in a key market.

Torro Rosso, Lotus and Sauber racing with one eye on the hot line to the accountants. 

REMEMBER ... There are no Caterhams or Marussias to come last here, it will be a new face at the back this week. This could be your chance to make up some points on those that haven't bothered to update their teams. 

Choose from Maldonardo, Sutil and That Mexican chap. Grosjean is better than all of them so he's safe. An outside bet would be Kvyat or Vergne. But i think realistically, baring any last lap idiocy, it'll be a Lotus or Sauber driver. 

Right that's long enough, time for bed   

Don't forget to update your predictions before friday. Good luck.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Follow the money trail

I am an engineer, a mechanical engineer which means I know how engines and aero work. The flow of life giving air over the sculpted flanks of a carbon fibre body before it is sucked into the heart of the beast. To spin the exquisitely designed and detailed turbo and thrust this symphony power and violence down a strip of tarmac as fast as possible.
Human minds design these things. People who were  bullied at school for being "smart", who sat in French lessons and drew pictures of cars with wings and big fat sticky tyres.
People who know stuff okay, honest to goodness people who identify problems and fix them.
Right now the honest to goodness people of Caterham are locked out of their work place. Not entirely sure of what tomorrow will bring.
Far away, suits argue about who said what and desperately try to cover their fat backsides from recrimination. Things will rumble on for six months or so, eventually they'll all walk away from this a little bloodied maybe a few million poorer, but essentially OK. Whilst the boys and girls back home who turned the suits and their accountants impossible demands and unintelligible spreadsheets into something approaching reality try to pick up their lives.
Okay it was ever thus, but back the day it was a half a dozen lads who could walk up the pit lane and start spannering for the next wannabe playboy. There are around 200 people at Caterham who face the very real prospect of redundancy in the next few days.
The administrator has said they will release the cars for the American GP next weekend if the creditors are paid in a timely fashion. At this point in time no one thinks that's going to happen. And where will Bernie be during all of this you may wonder? I can't imagine he's on the phone to Switzerland or Fernandez demanding the staff are properly looked after. Its a dog eat dog world out there after all, there has to be a natural culling of the deadwood.
So when it all finally comes crashing down and the media has picked over the rotting carcass, just remember that there are people like you and me involved here, not just fantastically rich men with airlines and palaces in Saudi Arabia.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Dull ... that is all

Dull dull dull dull dull  .. no really that was dull in an absolutely and totally “this is the very definition of the word dull” dull race.

I watched a bit of the practice session and established that;

  • A.  The track looks like a big car park for most of the circuit
  • B.  There was hardly any grandstands or vantage points for the spectators so it looked like an empty car park for most of the race/practice.
  • C.  It’s a dull track.
You are not here to enjoy yourself comrade !!!

So I didn’t see qualifying and Hamilton still got pole.

I watch the race and that is two hours of my life I’ll never get back. The only highlight was Rosberg locking up his brakes into turn 1 and robbing us of any actual racing. Then, rather than watch him drive back through the field in an exciting “I have the best car of the grid hear me roar” type entertainment, we watched cars follow each other around for the afore mentioned two hours.

If you watched it too and didn’t fall asleep, congratulations, It wasn’t even interesting in a “will his tyres last?” because everyone else was running out of Go juice and couldn’t race anyway.
Turn three looked just about alright, but I won’t be counting down the days till the next Russian GP, I can assure you that.

Hamilton won at a canter and only had to avoid Nico running out of talent to extent his lead in the championship. To be fair he looked like he had this place nailed form the moment FP1 started. It’s exactly the sort of track he thrives on and he didn't fail to deliver. The win pretty much sealed the constructors’ championship for Mercedes with three races to go and you have to say they fully deserved it. Redbull pushed them at times but really it was Mercs to lose really.

Nico’s second was more a demonstration of just how good the 2014 F1 Mercedes car is than his skill, he didn’t break a sweat coming from the back of the field to the podium, the car just looked awesome. Shame we didn’t see any of it on the TV, it was the only thing of interest if you had the timing and scoring app going.

Bottas was third, he almost got pole apparently, He followed Hamilton for most of the race and tried to pretend he was racing for second with Nico at the end. All he did was confirm the Williams is fast in a straight line.

Button was forth and might have got a podium with a bit more luck. He’s another driver trying to demonstrate at the end of the year how much better he should have been at the start of the year. The feeling is he might have done enough too.

Magnussen was fifth with another plucky run, I think he’s done enough to justify another year with McLaren, he’s had a few duff races but in the main he’s been feisty and gone out there to get points.

Alonso is dying the slow death of a thousand rumours. This week, he’s going to buy half of the Lotus team with a fat wad of Spanish sponsors money and be a team manager come driver. Because that always works out for the best, doesn’t it Mr Prost. I think driver and team are just counting down the days till they can walk away from each other now.

Ricciardo was seventh on a day when Renault’s lack of straight line speed was shown up in all its glory. Being stuck behind Vettel for half the race didn’t help either.  

Vettel working out his notice, was eighth

Kimi was ninth on the way to picking up his pay cheque

And Perez was tenth was a petrol tank dangerously close to empty I suspect. He was getting calls to save petrol from about the half way point. Which always makes for exciting wheel to wheel action doesn’t it.

Okay so Ericsson was last as Max and the Marussia boys didn't look like they really wanted to be there this weekend, a perfectly understandable attitude given the situation I thought.
And Bottas got the fastest lap on the last hurrah for him.

Okay, well not the most exciting of races, but after the distress of Suzuka, it was probably what the sport needed. There were no dramas, no worrying moments and all the drivers that started walked away at the end.  We have a three week break now as the team’s head off to America, let’s hope we have some good news from Japan and Alonso finally tells us where he is going next year.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Putin on the Ritz .. Russian GP preview

Hello all you lovely people that read this nonsense, it’s because of you I have to drag myself to the keyboard time and again, not that many of you ever give me any feedback! This is a blog you know, there’s a comments box down there for a reason. Come on, my ego needs a boast if nothing else, tell me what you like, don’t tell me about the rubbish bits, I don’t need that kind of pressure.

Right yeah, anyway motor racing, that’s why we’re here.

I’m not going to talk about Jules Bianchi too much. There is a video out there that if you are particularly voyeuristic, which shows the crash and I have no intentions of viewing it myself. By all accounts it’s pretty grim watching. There are also pictures of the aftermath, the top of the car is missing and most of the left hand side is a mess, the general consensus being the likeable French lad is lucky to be alive.

The Bianchi family released a statement today, Jules suffered “A diffuse axonal injury” when the two halves of the brain are pulled apart in the accident, causing tares in the soft tissue. This is very common in side impact collisions and the most common cause of death in road traffic accidents. Those side impact air bags that manufactures go on about on your car, well they’re there to stop these injuries. They try to stop your brain sloshing around inside your skull by slowing down the impact with the window/door pillar. I imagine at 200 kmp/h or whatever speed poor Jules hit the tractor, he didn’t stand much chance. 90% of the time victims just don’t wake up after unconsciousness, those that do are usually permanently damaged. It’s about the worst accident you can have.

As to what happens next, I have my thoughts as does every other fan and pundit with access to the social media world. And I think it’s maybe best to wait to see what the FIA have to say about the accident before wringing the hands and demanding this and that immediate action. There’s opinion out there to agree or disagree with as you feel.

One final thing, a closed cockpit probably wouldn’t have made any difference here, he hit the tractor at over a 100 mph sideways. It was that sideways impact that did the damage.

Shall we move on then? What about Vettel then! He’s proper shafted Alonso hasn’t he ho ho! There was Fernando stringing Ferrari, McLaren and the worlds media along, “ I haze not made a decision por favor, I love a thez Ferrari and I want to ay win ay again with ay them, gracias”.

Ferrari had apparently released the grumpy Spaniard from his contract (read: got sick and tired of having Alonso messing them around for week after week so fired his sorry ass) and told Vettel that if he was going to come to Ferrari then this was his last chance, a well beaten ex world champion was no good to them, they already had one of those. Sometime between the Singapore race and the start for the Japanese weekend Vettel confirmed he’d join them.

Then Vettel calls up his boss Horner on the Friday night before the Japanese GP and calmly announces he’s had enough of being beaten by Danny and being made to look petulant and ordinary, so he’s off.

Redbull immediately call a press conference for Saturday morning to tell the worlds media that Sebastian is off to Ferrari and they’ve promoted Kvyat to the A team! The Russian looks a bit bemused but happy, Vergne can be seen visibly spitting blood in the background and quite rightly points out he’s been the bread winner at Torro Rosso so far this year. All too late of course the deal has been done and no one knows who he is or what the strange angry man is doing in a Torro Rosso team shirt.

Ferrari caught rather on the hop, not expecting Vettel to tell his team the news for a few weeks or Redbull to announce Ferrari’s new driver line for them, denied EVERYTHING. Alonso smiled awkwardly and said, “errrr” a lot whilst Kimi wondered if he could get an ice cream.

Pretty much everyone has their money on Button getting his marching order so Alonso can slot in beside Kev at McLaren Honda. The crazy money (and this would be mine) puts Alonso in an LMP1 car next year, either with Porsche and his good mate Webber. Because Porsche ARE going to win Le Mans next year and if Alonso wants to do it then now is the ideal time to pick up an easy ride. OR and this is very left field, with Nissan and their absolutely brand spanking new LMP1 program. It’s a long shot but he has ties with Nissan through the Renault connection. The Japanese manufacturer has been making lots of noise since they announced they were going to go back to Le Mans about getting the best F1 drivers on board from the off. Who better than the driver universally considered the best of the current generation? Unlikely, but if that does happen you all owe me a pint. Cheers.

How will Vettel do at Ferrari? … Well let’s put it this way, Alonso, head and shoulders the best driver out there, couldn’t drag this pony to the championship winning line for the last four years. Do you think Vettel will do a better job than the Spaniard? Because I don’t think he will.

“But what about his mentor Schumacher?” you all cry, “He took a rubbish Ferrari back to the top table and dominated for 5 years !!?!?!?!”!”?!”!!!””!£!”£!”

Pish and indeed tish to your “Schumacher did it” nonsense. They had a dream team join at about the same time and a driver that could develop a car and who was prepared to win by any means. Vettel is inheriting a team that’s just lost its well respected manager for a used car salesman, and Fiat have effectively fired Monty for being a nut ball. They don’t have a plan, there’s no grand vision and super squad of engineers and brains to drive the thing to the championship. Vettel is the last roll of the dice for a desperate board scrabbling around for a miracle. Yeah he had to go somewhere, but the Tifosi will crucify him when he doesn’t deliver, they only barely tolerated Mickey in his heyday. Vettels a spent force, or at the very best soiled goods.  

He’ll turn out to have a renaissance now as Ferrari build their best ever car in 2015, just to spite me the jammy buggers.

Okay enough with the Vettel hate.  Good luck to him, a driver is only as good as his last race and the cocky git won four championships by fair means or foul. He still had to actually do the driving after all. And Ferrari is still the biggest thing in F1, any driver worth his fire proof overalls would jump at the chance to drive for them.

So it’s Russia and the brand new Sochi circuit. You remember Valencia, yeah, how utterly awful it was? The highlight of the part time dockyard circuit being the old fish market, how the beaches were full next door as the stands were empty?

Well this place looks just as awful except we have the whiff of power and corruption stinking up the show. Why the FIA have allowed this one to happen is entirely explained by money.
There is no reason on earth to come here, especially as the rest of Europe is currently piling on economic sanctions as Russia continues to invade Eastern Ukraine.  Oh but sport and politics should never be mixed blah blah blah.. bollocks to that!
There’s a clause in the FIA charter somewhere about no event to be used for political purposes by the host country.  I guarantee you this weekend will see a lot of Russian military might being paraded around for “security issues”. And no doubt Putin will be on the podium or visit the pits to congratulate the boy Kvyat on his new promotion. With lots of pictures of happy flag waving locals smiling at the Russian Premier, if he turns up to the Marussia pits with a wreath I'm turning it off straight away.

NO ..... Bernard, Kvyat will win and my tanks will come second. Do you understand ?

It is, I'm afraid, going to be another sordid chapter in the FIA history book of shame.

Still there’s a race for a championship on so let’s at least focus on that shall we.  Hamilton’s win in Japan was clearly overshadowed by events, but it now means he’s leading Rosberg by 10 points. I’ve seen the track layout and watch the simulator trip of this Tilke track and there is nothing of any real note about it. Its round the Olympic park last seen this winter, so at least its new and sparkly. But really it just looks like yet another industrial/techno park somewhere in central Europe. It’s a “road” course like Valencia was and Canada is. So sort of purpose built but temporary.

Mercedes had a big upgrade in Japan and were two seconds ahead of everyone else again, so one of them is going to win (unless Putin rolls the tanks in a Kvyat is declared the winner of course).    As for the rest, well your guess is as good as mine, I don’t know how the circuit will pan out, though there word is it’s going to be heavy on the brakes. High speed and long, Possible Williams do well and McLaren to improve. The Redbulls were fast in Japan, but only because they went for a really wet set up.

It’s going to be down to adaptability and the drivers that can read the feel of the car as the track evolves.

Time to dust off that looking glass and prepare to make your predictions. .. Good luck.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Japanese GP

Ok, At the time of writing this, Jules Bianchi is in hospital undergoing emergency surgery after colliding with a recovery vehicle. The tractor had come on to remove Sutils car from the barrier on the outside of the Dunlop curve. It’s a fast uphill left hand corner that goes on and on, the exit is blind and even in the dry pretty tricky.  
The reports are that as the tractor was lifting Sutils car back behind the tyre wall, Bianchi lost control, spinning the car under the rear of the tractor, which suggest there was no impact structure to bear the brunt of the crash, the first thing to hit was probably Jules’s head. I don’t even want to imagine what that must have done.  

It’s never easy to know what to write in these circumstances, I'm old enough to remember the years when you could expect at least one driver to be lost due to an accident on or off the track, it was almost expected. But the 80’s saw the introduction of more and more safety features for the cars, drivers and the tracks. Accidents because less frequent and we though the bad days were gone. Then Senna died and the safety efforts we increased again, some said to the detriment to the sport that things were being sanitised and the danger was missing. But then Kubica crashed horrifically at high speed in Canada, the car disintegrating down the wall in a shower of carbon fibre and engine bits. Amazingly Kubica all but walked away and everyone congratulated the rule makers for making things safe again. Lessons seemed to have been learnt.
But it seems as though whatever the rule makers do, the drivers head is always going to be vulnerable, Massa was lucky to be alive after hitting a spring that had fallen of Barrichello’s Brawn during qualifying in Hungary in 2009. Tethers were introduced to stop stray wheels bouncing around the open cockpits. Higher sides with deformable crash structure padding were added to stop heads bouncing from side to side and HANS devices made mandatory to stop heads being slammed into the steering wheels.
It looks like Jules was just in the wrong place at the wrong time; I just hope he will be return to F1

So there was a race, Hamilton survived his own crash on Saturday morning but couldn’t beat his team mate to pole in the dry.
The race on Sunday started in the wet behind a safety car, we got 2 laps before they brought everyone in to wait for the rain to stop. When they restarted behind the safety car half an hour later we got a hatful of laps as the track dried before the racing started.
Rosberg scampered off, but burnt his tyres out as Lewis pegged him back and passed with ease and then never looked back.  Button looked like he could get a podium, but the Redbulls with their wet set up were able to haul him in a Vettel got to follow the Merc boys for a change.

Then Sutil lost it and Bianchi followed a lap later, this brought out the safety car and eventually the red flag as the extent of Bianchi accident became clear.  As the cars parked up and the drivers were told of the reason why, no one wanted to celebrate the race. They were wet, cold and one of their own was being rushed to hospital. Some things are more important than champagne and points.

Hamilton wins and made it look effortless

Rosberg was second and was well beaten

Vettel was third after Redbull set the car up for a very wet race. – I’ll talk about his move to Ferrari later.

Ricciardo was fourth and unlucky, he pitted for new tyres just before the safety car and lost his place to Vettel when they counted back one lap.

Button fifth always goes well in changeable conditions. He made Riccy work his points with a feisty drive.

Bottas was sixth and was clearly struggling with a Willimas lacking downforce.
Massa was seventh and had the same problem as Bottas

Hulkenberg is classified eighth even though he’s stopped at pit exit. I think he was in the pit box when they took the lap before the red flag so get to keep his finish.

Vergne irate in ninth with his team for promoting Kvyat to the A team when he’s got more points than the Russian and out qualified him.

Perez was tenth.

Kobayashi was the last  driver to finish.

Sorry it’s a bit short and sombre this week, I’ll talk about Alonso’s future, Vettels move to Ferrari and Kvyats promotion next week, for now let’s just hope Bianchi is going to be alright. The FIA just put out a press release to say;

“Suzuka, October 5th
- On lap 42, Adrian Sutil lost control of his car, spun and hit the tyre barrier on the outside of Turn 7. The marshals displayed double waved yellow flags before the corner to warn drivers of the incident. A recovery vehicle was despatched in order to lift the car and take it to a place of safety behind the guardrail. While this was being done the driver of car 17, Jules Bianchi, lost control of his car, travelled across the run-off area and hit the back of the tractor.
Once the marshals reported that the driver was injured, medical teams were despatched and the Safety Car was deployed. These were followed by an extrication team and an ambulance.
The driver was removed from the car, taken to the circuit medical centre and then by ambulance to Mie General Hospital.
The CT scan shows that he has suffered a severe head injury and he is currently undergoing surgery. Following this he will be moved to intensive care where he will be monitored.

Mie General Hospital will issue an update as soon as further information becomes available.”