Sunday, 30 March 2014

You can take your pit wall call and stuff it up your ar...

You know, these early races are an important time for the drivers, especially those drivers who have changed teams in the winter and are still feeling their way with team mates, mechanics and the voices on the pit wall telling them what to do.
Imagine your Magnussen, stepping up to a front line team from GP2, you want to impress the professionals and deliver on the promise they’ve bestowed on you. You luck into a second place at your first race and want so much to repeat that stellar result. But the reality twins, judgement and perspective, come barrelling through the door like a pair of drunken students on spring break and ransack the place, leaving your race in taters with a penalty drive through.  A hard lesson will be learnt, it’s not all champagne and flashbulbs.

Now imagine your Filipe Massa, a driver past his greatest days, dropping down the pecking order and having maybe one last hurrah with the petrol sponsorship money before a “sabbatical” in GT2 or DTM.  You land a seat with a team also on its downers but with potential and possibly a chance of a podium or two, much to your surprise.  Years of being told to move over for the star driver burning away at your pride and indignation, years of being told that the “star turn is faster than you” or “save the engine, we need the points. Oh and let your smug team mate through too”. Year after year, race after long race, and all the press crucifying you for not being committed enough.    That sort of thing would eventually get to you wouldn’t? And especially as when you had the chance to prove them all wrong, you were robbed of the greatest prize by a pure luck and a some second rate driver who could keep Hamilton behind him.
So, I personally, can imagine Massa didn’t take the order to “move out of Valtteri’s way lad” with anything other than pure, unadulterated rage.
” How dare they ask me to get out of the way of driver, probably half my age and next to no experience”. He may have though, “I’ll show them, he can come past if he’s willing to fight for it”.
And it’s a jolly good thing he did because the rest of the race was pretty much a dull fest , I went and had a shower half way though, missed the only interesting thing when Danny got his pit stop all wrong.  The new era was supposed to be exciting, and whilst its technically mind blowing that you can watch a real time table of which driver has used the most amount of fuel as the laps tick down ....  Its’ not really very exciting to watch is it.  Yes, I'm over the moon that Hamilton got the win but there wasn’t an awful lot of racing in that second race of the season. Force India went with its wacky pit wall calls plan again and expected Hulkenberg on ratty old hard tyres, to somehow stop Alonso and his fresh soft tyres. There was only ever going to be one result there, however good the Hulk is.
So yeah, I blame the track mostly, don’t have much hope of something better in Bahrain next week, and salute Massa for sticking it to the pit wall for once.   

Hamilton wins with a pretty convincing display of driving skill. He nabbed pole with ease in the end on a wet Saturday as the other driver’s faffed around in the downpour. He was helped in no small part by Nico putting Vettel off on the last throw of the dice. A late lunge past the Redbull to make the line before qualifying ended, forced Vettel to drop back out of the spray too far and so he missed the starting the lap by a few seconds, leaving Hamilton on pole by a gnats whisker. On Sunday in the dray there was no chance of the Lewis being caught he was off and up the road whilst his team mate held up the chasing Redbulls, a nice easy flag to flag win.

Nico was second, but still leads the championship, was muscled off the pole by Hamilton who found the grip when it mattered. And didn’t look like catching his team mate all afternoon. But as i said last week, it’s a long season and he’s still leading the title hunt.

Vettel third and not many of you had that, did you? The idea that Renault and Redbull have built a dud might well have to be rethought. They might not have been o n the pace of that Mercedes, but they were better than Ferrari and comfortably ahead of any customer Merc cars. If Danny hadn’t  had yet another nightmare weekend, he’d have been up there giving Vettel a run for his money at the end. The car looks planted and drivable, they didn’t look to be fighting it in and out of the corners, and all the recovery systems seemed to work, if a little down on power. there’s just that silly little problem with the fuel flow sensors still not working. They had eight different once to test and use this weekend and dang it, would you believe it, the one they put on Dannys car failed after a handful of laps. It’s purely a coincidence ... that’s all.

Alonso, still plugging away in fourth.  I might have a sub game where we predict how many races it’ll be before he goes postal and tells the press just what he thinks of the new car and is promptly fired by Ferrari. Not long now .....

Hulkenberg was fifth and when is Force India going to employ some pitwall staff with some brains?  Race, the idea is to go racing! Not save tyres for the next race!!! You have to give them back at the end of the event; you don’t get any extra points for handing back unused tyres you Muppets!  The car is too far up the grid to try and eke out points with a two stop strategy; the cars around you are too fast for that plan, you have to go and race them, by being faster!

Button was sixth and was pretty anonymous all weekend.

Massa, had a brilliant race and laid a marker down for future event. He will go to sleep halfway through the race and then completly ignore team orders to get out of the way of his team mate.  You can’t suddenly wake up and start trying harder at the end of the race when the pitwall slap you. I have a certain amount of sympathy for him for all the years of pitwall slaps he’s had, but if he was able to challenge Button why didn’t he?  I mean it’s good to see a driver sticking up for himself, but realistically he was told to get out of the way because he wasn’t trying hard enough. It should make for an interesting race next week at any rate.

Bottas was eighth and can pretty much write this weekend off as a bad lot. I mean getting owned by Filipe “double vision” Massa at the end of a race! How embarrassing!

Magnussen ninth and I think he was a bit harshly judged for the collision with Kimi. The Ferrari chopped in front of him I thought and Kev didn’t have too many places to go. But I think they’re trying to stamp out any sort of contact now the cars are packed full of things that can explode given half a chance. So the old knees of the stewards might be on a hair trigger to move up these days.

Finally Kvyat does it again and scores in his second ever F1 race, yeah he was a bit all over the place and gave Alonso a bit of a shock in qualifying, and yeah he doesn’t really look in his mirrors and thinks he’s some sort of driving God, but he’s Russian so he can do exactly as he wants .

And woooh looky here its Max plumb last again. Now who would have predicted that !!?!?! Well some of you didn’t apparently!  You do understand the rules of this game don’t you .. it’s called a prediction game for a reason.

Right, Bahrain next which I think is under lights ... or into the sunset something like that, anyway it’s this weekend so check those predictions before Friday. Good luck.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Round two, how many laps will Lotus do this time ?

Right then, time for race two.

After the hurly burly of the first round, this should be a bit more relaxed. The teams have a bit more of a handle on how the cars respond to set up changes, how they work over a race weekend and which bits are most likely to fall off Maldonado’s car first. Meanwhile, the FIA has flexed its muscles, slapped Redbull with the ban hammer and let the rest of the paddock know who's boss.

This whole thing with the fuel flow sensors has gone from "We've got a bit of an accuracy problem chaps. But bear with us and we'll let you know what we think you should be doing". To "Redbull have been cheeking the master in prep and so we've decided to suspend tuck privileges for everyone in the upper 5th".

Redbull, by deciding to push the FIA and basically ignore the rules that didn't suit them, have upset the rule makes and caused them to dig their heels in over this. There is a problem with the accuracy of the sensors, not a great one, but in a sport that measures performance in millionths of a second ... It’s a problem.

Rather than say, "we're not happy with this equipment we don’t think it’s up to the gig here!” They threw a hissy fit, told the FIA what it though of their sanctioned equipment and used this own measurement technique instead. Which you just can't do I’m afraid, there are rules and everyone has to race to those rules, however much you dislike them. Otherwise its chaos..... And Redbull would start winning everything again.... And we don't want that, do we!

So yes, whilst Danny boy did a cracking job and thoroughly deserved his podium, the team lost it for him by thinking they are bigger than the sport. Hopefully the FIA will dismiss the appeal and fine Redbull a gazillion dollars for wasting everyone's time.

The most amusing bit about all this wily waving, is Mateschitz puffing up his chest with enough self-righteous indignation to power a small third world dictatorship and declaring that,
"failure to reinstate Danny, could mean the end of the very existence of; the team, all its personnel, any merchandising we have ever sold, all of Milton Keynes including those stupid concrete cows and possibly southern England and maybe a bit of Austria too. The team will cancel the Redbull summer BBQ party and pointedly not invite anyone from the FIA to its party in Monaco this year. Okay ... we mean it too".

Its just the sort of thing Ferrari did when they were winning everything and thought everyone hated them. Which wasn't too far off the mark to be honest, small world isn’t it…..

Anyway, as I say hopefully it’ll all get thrown out at the appeal in April, with a Gaelic shrug and a “rules is rules sunbeam” summing up. 


Mercedes: considered the “team to beat” by the rest of the grid now, the question of team leader could be brought into sharp focus on Sunday. A win for Lewis and its honours even, a win for Nico and another DNF for Lewis and momentum and pressure will start to build. Sure it’s a long season, but points now mean a more comfortable run in at the end.

McLaren: Even without Danny getting slapped with the ban hammer McLaren had a good weekend. They’re now leading the constructors table, something I’m sure they didn’t think was ever going to happen ever again after last year. Anyway, watch Kev this time out, has the wave of hysteria crashed over him, will he repeat the podium result of the last race or stuff it in the wall. And has he learnt to get it off the line cleanly ?

Ferrari: I don’t think they’re even bothering to paper over the tracks this time, its slow again and the braking/KERRS system (at least for Kimi) needs a lot of work. Expect them to still be behind the Merc engine cars.

Williams: Well they have the car to deliver, they just need lady luck to come and visit. See if Bottas has learnt from the high spirits of the first race. Ragging the car didn’t get him anything, will he be more controlled this time ?

Force India: Nico did his thing, Perez tooled round and picked up 1 unexciting point.  They always used to build a car that was quick in a straight line so this place with its two long straights might suit them,  the brave amongst you will have the Hulk on the podium.

Torro Rosso: A good solid start to the season saw both cars home in the points. Kvyat looked pretty handy at times, let’s see if he can build on that.

Sauber: …. Who cares ?

Marrussia: Did alright, but must be disappointed that they didn’t get any points and Max is still the slowest driver on the grid. I’m struggling to see who he can realistically beat actually. If you assume the Renault powered lotus and Caterham drivers are going to stop that leaves the Sauber ahead of him and maybe a Redbull. Even a hobbled Vettel could limp it past Max and the Sauber is comfortably faster. So if you’ve not got Max as plum last, I think you’re missing a certain 5 points.

Lotus: How many laps do you think they’ll do this time ?

Caterham:  See above..

Redbull: Will either bounce back with a flag to flag victory or dial it all back throw a huge hissy fit about how it’s all so unfair threaten to go and play somewhere else and stick their tongue out behind the stewards back and throw any toys they have left out of their pram. Being generous to them, they do look like they have a car that is planted and predictable to drive. It wasn’t all over the show like the Ferrari’s or McLaren’s and even with the extra fuel Danny was comfortably ahead of Kev. They could well be podium material here. Depending on what they do with the fuel flow of course. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Its always important to read the rules.

Article 5.1.4 of the 2014 FIA Technical regulations states very clearly, in black and white, you have a fuel flow rate of 100kg/h. If the sensor doesn’t work and you stick your own one in, and that also doesn’t give you the result you want .... it’s not the sensor that’s broken, it’s your engine.
Ricciardo drove a pretty flawless race whilst Hamilton and Vettel copped the bad luck fairies attention. Ricciardo came home second on his debut with the world championship team in front of his home crowd and looked like a proper racing driver with skills and talent and stuff. But the Evil FIA called the team to the steward’s office after the race and told them that they had used fuel to fast during the race also that they had told them half way through the race what was happening and they had to fix it. Redbull replied it was a faulty sensor and not their problem.
But the rules are the rules and if the sensor says you are using the fuel too fast, you have to slow that rate down. Now I can sympathise to an extent with Redbull, after the winter they’ve had with a car that is reluctant to complete more than a hatful of laps. Here they were in second at the opening race and pretty much learning on a lap by lap basis, their new car. It was the longest it had run in one go and the fuel flow rate was probably as much of a surprise to them as it was the FIA. But the rules I'm afraid are the rules and if their own sensor, which they had used on Saturday after they noted problems with the FIA sensor, still didn’t give them a legal fuel flow rate...  they’re screwed.
As Ricciardo stood in the steward’s office champagne dripping silently off his race suit, the boyish grin slipping slowly from his face, the men in well fitting blue suits shook their collective heads as the Redbull management argued their case.  The result was his well deserved second place was taken away from him and Redbulls disastrous 2014 campaigned continued.
But every cloud has a silver lining doesn’t it. This all meant that my new favourite driver was promoted from third to second. Step forward Kevin Magnussen, McLaren’s latest Uber talent, and the first Danish driver ever to stand on an F1 podium. I like Kevin, I really do, he’s been fast from the moment he got in the car and he doesn’t swagger about giving it all the “big I am”.
And also its a return to form for McLaren who had a torrid year in 2013. In fact 2012 and 2011 were pretty rubbish. So Big Ron’s come back, sidelined the slackers (Whitmarsh on day one and by all accounts Sam Michele any day now). Picked up Eric “I hate Lotus” Boullier for a song and nailed McLaren back onto the podium. We should make Ron prime minister, he’d be absolutely fantastic. And Jenson got a podium, all be it after everyone else had gone home and without any razzamatazz, but I think in a way that may have been for the best.

So yes, the race then, did you enjoy it ? I did, even with Hamilton stopping after a couple of laps. His pole in the wet on Saturday was typical all out attack Lewis. Especially after he’d only completed 100 yards of the first practice session before his engine shut itself down.  If he hadn’t had an engine glitch on the parade lap that robbed him of one cylinder I think he’s have walked the race, just like Nico did. The biggest surprise for me was the pace and reliability of Ricciardo’s Redbull, Vettel was nowhere all weekend but Danny was up there through all the practice sessions and qualifying. He almost looked like he deserved that seat!
I also liked the sound, now my real love are the Le Mans cars of the world endurance championship and they or rather the Audis have sounded just like the new F1 cars for years now, a turbo whistle and the squeal of the tires protesting in the corners.   I like the new grunty V6 turbo sound, and you can hear the crowds again, especially when the local lad beats the chap who stole a win for the previous local lad. Give it 6 months and you won’t even remember the sound of the old V10’s

Right okay the result then. Just to confirm. Ricciardo was excluded from the result by the FIA and because we don’t like cheats that get caught before everyone has packed up and gone home, he gets excluded from our results. I'm sure Redbull are going to protest about this and to be honest I think it’ll get overturned by the courts in a month or so. But I can’t be bothered going back and changing results so this is the result we’re sticking with. If by some miracle you’d predicted a the grinning Ozzy new boy to be on the podium I am sorry, I think he deserved the result but the FIA don’t agree and that is the end of it.

Nico wins and gets the 100th win for a Mercedes engine I think. Given the winter testing results that looks to be about the right result really, it was going to be either Nico or Lewis according to the bookies, who are usually right. He won by a country mile, and got the fastest lap to boot. I suspect the first round of fly away races are going to be between the two Merc drivers and the bad luck fairies.

Magnussen was second after the FIA threw the book at Ricciardo. Kev was fast in all the testing he did over the winter and the McLaren has shown it has the speed to be at the sharp end this year. I'm expecting great things from this lad this year. All he needs to do is learn to get the car off the line cleanly, another wild moment like today could see him hit with the FIA ban hammer.  It looked spectacular, but not if you were Alonso it didn’t.

Jenson was third and profited once again from a timely pit call and not driving the nuts off the car. He still can’t qualify but he can certainly drive a car. Could this signal a return to the top table for McLaren ?

Alonso was fourth, but the car is slow, almost half a second off the Merc boys. Apparently both Ferraris had some sort of electrical issue during the race so Fernando’s result is once again testament to his superb driving ability. But I think this is yet again another year where Ferrari has not given him the car to do the job. McLaren are certainly ahead of the red cars, Force India isn’t far behind and Redbull may apparently have them beaten too. Worrying times for the Ferrari pitwall I imagine.

Bottas brought it home fifth in the end and should have delivered more really. Those Williams cars are pretty fast, I’d even go as far as to say on a pace with the Mercs. Bottas was seconds faster at times and he had avoided the wall that destroyed his right rear wheel he was on for a podium.

Hulkenberg was sixth in the Force India, see he’s just brilliant.

Kimi was seventh and didn’t look like he enjoyed a single minute of his return to Ferrari.  The new fly by wire breaking system looks like it’s going to take a bit of getting used to for the Finish lad.

 Vergne was eighth even after I bad mouthed him in the preview! And now he’s the best placed Renault finisher too!! Yes I'm more than a little surprised, I bet none of you thought he’d be in the top ten did you ...

Kvyat was ninth and no doubt will get a bit kiss from Putin next time he’s back in the mother land. He looked alright throughout the weekend actually.  Well, apart from getting in everyone’s way during the practice sessions, but once he figures out the shiny flappy things to his right and left our mirrors he’ll be fine.

Finally Perez is given some points and told not to brag about it to anyone important. Check out that McLaren you were driving last year, look where it is now. That’s what talent gets you, not money.

Finally, Max  .. .hurrah ...... is last again and his little puppy dog eyes were all aglow in the post race interviews. His eventual 13th place might prove to be very important to Marussia. Yes yes yes I know technically Bianci was actually moving at the end, but he did less that 90% of the race and thus the FIA say he didn’t finish. He was pretty much just tooling around on an extended test session anyway after he missed the start of the race.
Ok, the red wine is almost finished and I need to go to bed. I think the new season has a lot of potential, the podium looked happy for a change and it’s always nice to see some new faces up there.  The future looks rosy for a few and Lotus has a mountain to climb.

See you in two weeks for the Malaysian GP. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

It all starts here

Welcome to the new 1.6 litre V6 turbo engine era, which is augmented with energy recovery systems that harvest energy when braking and deliver power when accelerating. The teams have a lot more energy to play with and no limit on when or how much KERS they can use they also have less fuel than ever before and limits on fuel flow rate for the race.
Trick systems to limit wheel spin, keep the turbo spinning to reduce turbo lag and aid braking are now allowed. This is a completely new way of going racing, speed isn’t everything. Strategy and the careful use of the resources are what are going to get the car to the line first.  

That’s not to suggest the racing will be dull, if team A disappears off into the distance, team B will reach them eventually with their more conservative approach. Reliability is going to be of absolutely paramount importance. To finish first, first you have to finish and testing has shown that some teams had forgotten that.

Renault have got it very wrong, the engine is too hot and needs far more cooling than they realised.
Mercedes turned up to the first test, pressed the GO button and haven’t looked back.
Ferrari have a thirsty but fast engine.

The midfield is as tight as ever, the tail end Charlies could well be fighting for more than pride this year and its all change at the front.

Right then, here are the runners and riders of 2014. We have the team and the engine they will be using, the drivers and the numbers they have chosen to go into battle with.

Caterham – Renault

Because they couldn’t afford to spend any time or money on the car, they just went with a bunch of bits kicking around the back of the garage. This thing has radiators about the size of north Wales. And as a result they have done more laps than Redbull by a country mile. This thing is probably going to be the only Renault car that makes it to the finish line in Australia. They actually stand a pretty good chance of getting some points. And if that happens we might start to see the, conspicuous by his absence, Tony Fernandez back in the pit lane.
He seems to have lost a bit of his love for F1 these past month, time was you could always rely on Tone to turn up on the post race show and tell the world that, “Caterham were going to be massive any minute now”.
But the results didn’t come and they were beaten into last place by Marussia last year.  So this year they’ve read the rules, realised that getting to the end is what’s going to count and built a car to do just that. They’re like the Ryan air of the F1 world. It’s the very definition of no frills racing, FINISH and the points will come, is the mantra.

19 – Ericsson: The latest cheque book to walk through the door. Apparently something of a whizz in the lower formulas, so you know, let’s see how he does. Realistically his job will be to beat Max.
10 – Kobayashi: Still crazy after all these years. Head and shoulders the best driver Caterham have ever had. He has, however been making some rather disparaging remarks about the car being slower than an F2 car and about as exciting to drive. So we’ll see how this relationship pans out.

Chance of a top ten – Maybe, certainly the best Renault engine for the first half of the season

Marussia – Ferrari

This could just be good year for these lads. They have lots of feisty new engineers and techy people from Cranfield and the like, which might mean it takes a bit to find their feet the higher up the field they go. But they defiantly are the small team it’s okay to root for, they still need money to keep up with the development curve so the early races are vital to impress wavering sponsors.
They did alright last year on less than a shoestring budget.

04 – Chilton: He’s still got a great name and you just have to love that happy puppy dog grin he has when he explains why he was three laps behind the winner.  Last year was an easy gig because the car was rubbish and he had no experience, now they have much better engine and he knows which way the tracks go. So he’d better not be 3 laps behind the winner this year.
17 – Bianchi: It turns out he wasn’t the next big thing, but he still has a big enough cheque book to keep his seat for yet another year. He’ll beat max again, probably the Caterham’s and possible a Renault car to two. 

Chance of a top ten – Reasonable as with Caterham, the Renault engine cars once again have problems

Williams – Mercedes

Lots of people are talking these boys and girls up. They didn’t have too many problems in testing, lots of miles on the car, they’ve got the Merc power unit that looks to be pretty much on song and they’ve got a lot of money from the new title sponsor Martini.
They also, and this is crucial, got rid of that idiot Maldonado and got Massa in who is alright when he isn’t being told to get out of Alonso’s way. This is going to be the year Frank and the team get it all together and they stand on the top step again. The car looks fantastic in its new livery, Bottas is solidly fast and Massa won’t stuff it in the wall each week.
I know I keep saying this, but I really do have a soft spot for Williams, they are a proper little team and they used to be such a power house of win back in the Honda days. They were the benchmark in the early 80’s but the glory is well behind them now and they are but a shadow of that team that took Nigel and Damon to the championship. They were plucky and innovative, British through and through and Frank deserves one more season in the sun before he retires. Go on Frank, lead the faithful back to the path of glory, back to the halls of Avalon and eternal Immortality.

19 – Massa: Has never been the same since the accident in Hungary, but he’s alright, he does what he needs to do and on a good day with a trailing wind he’s almost as fast as he was in the good old days. If you want a man to go out there and diver with his heart and soul this is the man. He used to be able to give Schumacher a run for his money when he was on top form and whilst I doubt those days will return he isn’t going to tool around getting in peoples way and smearing the car down the wall every race. He is, in fact, the perfect Anti Maldonado for the money. He’s a nice guy, who can help develop a car and pick up the points you need to win a championship.  
77 – Bottas: I really rate Bottas, he didn’t moan in front of the camera or bad mouth the team last year, he got his head down learnt the tricks of the trade and picked up the points when he could. He is fast, he isn't a liability and he’s got a car that can do the job needed.

Chance of a top ten – Excellent, maybe even a tilt at the constructors title.

Torro Rosso - Renault

They could well beat their big brother team this year with their conservative design which has allowed for more cooling. But yet again you have to ask why they bother, they’re not even really an off shoot of Redbull anymore, they’re an independent team that trains drivers for other Redbull .. or the dole. I think they’ll pick up points, here and there, maybe ... who cares ? 

25 – Vergne: still dull, can you picture his face ... No ? ... I can’t either, how about his nationality, without looking it up, where is he from, can you remember his accent ? That is all you need to know about him ... in fact is it even a him? It could just be a wax work of Lord Lucan for all you know, you have no idea who I'm talking about do you, it could be a big collection of old rags draped round the wax form of a disgraced member of the British aristocracy and you would have no idea. ... . I fully expect this to be Vergne’s last year, or possible first half of a season, before he gets lost in some airport on the other side of the world and the first the team realise he’s gone is when no one get in the car at the next race.
26 – Kvyat: Continues Putin’s attempts at world domination by the Russian war racing machine. Apparently he is better than expected, so he might be alright given the random season ahead. He cleared up in formula Renault or F3 or euro something or other. I have no idea but some commentators are talking him up so you never know.

Chance of a top ten – Meh, probably not. Maybe last place but yeah, the top ten could elude them if the Merc and Ferrari boys keep it on the grey stuff.

Sauber – Ferrari

It’s not as exciting as we’re used to seeing from the Swiss boys so far. This used to be the team Newey would always go and look at first; they had ideas, design detail and interesting bits. But they looked a bit out of sorts in Spain and Bahrain. The car didn’t look ready for the start of testing and one could, if they were feeling mean, could start to question where the finance is coming from again. They ran for three days with broken bodywork at the start of testing, new bits not ready of something, because, you know, the date for the start of testing is a big secret that only everyone else in the entire world knows about ! How could they possible know they needed extra cars bits ready for the first test which they knew nothing about ???  

 But its Sauber isn’t it. Not too exciting to look at, nothing really exciting on the pit wall and nothing really exciting at all sat in the car either. It’s all very average and a bit dull and not terribly interesting. Think of grey paint drying on a wet day with the window open and a damp breeze blowing gently into the room slowly moving little piles of dust in the corners of the room, it’s not quite cold enough to make you want to shut the window or indeed actually dry the paint. You sit staring dejectedly at the grey paint noticing where you’ve smudged a small area here, dabbed the skirting board there, it’s not enough to get up fix in the cool damp air. So the paint remains damp, slightly sticky and still very, very grey. That’s Sauber.

21 – Gutierrez: Gets another crack at looking useful in a race suit. Let’s see if he can avoid hitting anyone else this year. At least I know he’s Mexican, but the face is still a bit hazy, I'm not confident I could pick him out a police line up.... actually thinking about it .. is he Mexican ?
99 – Sutil: Swaps seats with Hulkenberg ... which is probably more to do with money than talent. But he’s alright, nothing spectacular, moments to slightly raise an eyebrow over perhaps. German, he is certainly German  though.

Chance of a top ten – errr, well yes, but .... sorry I can’t stop thinking about that grey paint !

Force India – Mercedes

This is the other dark horse of the field with its Merc engine they have the pace and as much reliability as the other customer Merc teams. They’ve had a bit of a choppy time in testing but when it all works bang on program it flies along and gives the works team a proper run for its money. But ... and this is a big BUT, once again you have to wonder how this is all being paid for ? VJ is still a shady character that you wouldn’t trust with your wallet or even the loose change in your pocket. His business partner Sahara has just been arrested in India for being extremely dodgy.
There are some ugly rumours being spread around that suppliers are not being paid in a timely fashion, that makes riding the development curve difficult if the guys supplying the nuts and bolts are waiting for cheques to clear before they send the next batch in.
Last year It was all a bit of a mess on the pit wall too, with some really wacky strategy calls and no one seemingly able to spot that a car going 7 seconds slower than a Marussia needed to come in and change its tyres. Then they’d save tyres in qualifying and not use them in the race! Maybe VY was hoping to get some money back when he returned them to Pirelli?
So if the rozzers don’t come storming in and arrest the management for embezzling the coffee fund and if they stopping making wacky strategy calls and just play to their strength (whatever they are now I come to think about it) they should be up there giving Ferrari a run for its money and wins could be on the cards.

11 – Perez: Still dull, got a bit of a pasting at McLaren so let’s see how his head is after being fired. If you need a driver to stand in front of the camera and nod stupidly whilst grinning inanely and Max isn’t available, Perez with his shed load of Mexican money is your man.
27 – Hulkenberg: I think Hulkenberg is the real deal, I think Lotus have made yet another huge mistake in not taking him and at the same time I think Hulkenberg dodged a career ending move to that slowly collapsing pack of idiots. The Hulk has bounced around numerous teams now and always without exception pulled out top line drives when the chance presents itself. You know you can tell the good drivers from the Maldonado’s because they get more out of the car than its capable of. Give Alonso or Hamilton a rubbish car and they will still get you points. That’s what Hulkenberg can do, and I don;t understand why the likes of Ferrari and McLaren aren’t climbing over each other to sign him!

Chance of a top ten – Nailed on I’d say, IF ... and this is a big IF they money is there any the rozzers don’t bust the whole thing wide open.

McLaren – Mercedes

One minute it was all peaceful and sunny, the cows were chewing the cud, the butterflies fluttering too and fro across the meadow, the very picture of a tranquil summer afternoon in a very British countryside. Then the very pits of hell rent asunder and a huge tower of basalt rock thrust up through the meadow with the cows, black as night and lit up like some huge stage prop at a Motorhead concert, thunder rolled around the world and lighting smote the slack jawed fools stupid enough to stand and stare at the return of Big Bad RON
 He fired the jolly nice Mr Whitmarsh, poached the rather grumpy French Mr Boullier by promising to actually pay for his services unlike his previous team Lotus. And then this new look team started testing, and every one not smote or slack jaw went


Then suddenly they appear to lose the plot again, how do they do this ? really they were all over Mercedes as the team to beat this year then suddenly it all fell apart at the last test and oh would you Adam and Eve it, they don’t appear to understand the car and how to push it forward and what to develop and all the some problems they’ve had for the last few seasons. And Ron looked angry again.
Also on the horizon of doom, is the continuing question about the legality or otherwise of the rear suspension. You’re not supposed to use the suspension parts for anything other than stopping the wheels from flapping around uselessly at the corners of the car, McLaren are supposedly using theirs to generate downforce and sell crack to kids on street corners or something. All the other teams took one look and raised a collective eyebrow, looked at their own designers with a “well ? Why didn’t you think of that you idiot?” look, then started reading the rule book to find something wrong with the McLaren.
I'm not sure what the bulgy bits do but some of the teams that have unreliable French motors rather than a ruthless German ones are unhappy about them. So expect a few waved arms and disgruntled team bosses until Ron lasers them with his eyes of death and sneer of invincibly. Those slack jawed idiots don’t stand a chance.

20 – Magnusson: You fire Perez and get a young gun in, and you get a young gun in because he’s got talent and guts and expressly not because he’s got a wad of filthy tenners in his back pocket and the ability to stand and talk at the same moment as a camera is pointed towards him. This is how it should be done you midfield teams that will never amount to anything. Magnusson is here on pure merit and talent and he paid the confidence back at the first test with fastest lap after fastest lap. He was out there taking it to the Mercedes. He wasn’t overawed by the limelight, he got in the car went fast and didn’t come back to the pits trailing bits of broken carbon fibre behind him. This kid is the real deal, he is the next Hamilton.
22 – Button: Jenson lost his father in January this year and whilst I would sometimes be a bit disparaging of his gurning and blatant ligging of John Button. I could appreciate how proud of his son he was and how much he meant to Jenson. John would let Jenson take all the lime light and knew when to step back and let his lad get on with being a famous racing driver, and if a camera crew required someone to be a cheer leader for the plucky English lad with a glass of wine in his hand he was absolutely your man.  Jensen’s father was a massive part of team Button and his loss is going to be hard for Jenson to deal with, I hope he can put a good year together and do justice to the memory of one of the characters of the pit lane. I get the impression there are a lot of people that will miss the bluff old duffer.

Chance of a top ten – absolutely you can count on it, wins certainly ... if the car isn’t deemed illegal after first practice of course.

Lotus – Renault

Was the missing first test a mistake? The problems with the Renault engines suggest not, but even a few miles of data is better than none. Money and headless chicken management insanity might well conspire to rob them of points.
They were the only team to really give Vettel a run for his money last year, but it was all starting to unravel in the background. With the sale of the team that wasn’t on, then was, then was to a different bunch of management nitwit, then it was off again and then Kimi stated asking awkward questions about when he was going to be paid. Then he flounced off to Ferrari and told the team what it could do with its contracts. They signed Hulkenberg, because they were going to be bought by some shady geezer they’d met whilst on holiday in Goa last august who promised to have the money just a soon as his mates got there from some Middle Eastern backwater. Then he disappeared and suddenly they didn’t have the money to pay Nico, so they send him a text “soz seat not yorz M8 lolz soz” then in a rather unseemly display of greed, lack of integrity and blatant desperation hired Maldonado for his Venezuelan oil money.
At no stage did they say, “He’s the talent we want, he’s the driver we feel can give us the best chance of a championship. We want Pastor because he’s fast and a tenacious driver that delivers results”. No they said he has a shed full of cash and they wanted it.

McLaren picked up Eric Boullier days later. And I really hope Eric went because he was disgusted by the way the whole affair had been handled. I hope he had the integrity to walk away from such a mean spirited and calculated act of greed.

I personally think it’s a disgrace to the name of Lotus, I really do.

08 – Grosjean: Well he did alright last year and had a very good end to the season. He was regularly on the podium and even made Vettel look in his mirrors a couple of times. But this year I think it’s all going to be for nothing. They don’t have the pit wall team anymore, a suit is running the show and that always works out so well.  Grosjean is an alright driver and actually, you know what I think he’s going to waste a year of his talent here. He’ll blow Pastor out of the water but that will be scant reward
13 – Maldonado: I don’t have the words to describe how little I think of this man. I think he’s a liability, I think he gets moments of red mist insanity, I think he holds grudges, I don’t think he has the ability to learn from  his mistakes and I think he makes far too many mistakes. I think at time he is a disgraceful driver .. the attack on Perez during practice in Monaco, taking out Hamilton in Spain. He is a glory hunter... trying to driver Alonso off the track in Australia rather than pick up points for Williams. His one win was luck, because Hamilton was robbed of the result he deserved. But his greatest crime was to bad mouth the Williams team after he spent the season driving like a total idiot. He is the perfect example of a driver that has bought his seat and is under the mistaken belief he’s some sort of driving God. He isn’t and he’s danger to himself and others.

Chance of a top ten – None, if there is any justice. Which is a bit harsh on Grosjean, but he should have left and gone to a team with some integrity.

Ferrari – Ferrari

Well, it’s the same old story at Maranello, have they built a car worthy of Alonso and now Kimi? Maybe … maybe not. Alonso has talked about having to relearn how to save fuel, going as far as to how to save fuel during a pit stop. All the cars now have 100kg of fuel from the moment they leave the pits until they get back to parc ferme at the end of the race where there has to be a litre or so left to test. Running out of fuel on the slowing down lap is going to get the book thrown at you and no points for the weekends work. The car has to use all these new fangled energy recovery systems to make the rocket fuel go further, it’s not about push to pass buttons, it’s about making F1 cars do more than 5 mpg. Mercedes appear to have an efficient engine with a healthy energy recovery system. Renault, well,  who knows what they have, I don’t think they even know if their system is efficient yet. And Ferrari has, it would appear, a thirsty system.
Testing has put them somewhere around the second half of the top ten, with Williams and Force India, maybe McLaren on a good day. But they’ve not been “a front runner” like Force India and Mercedes. Is this because they are trying to make the fuel last? That’s the suspicion. And if Alonso is working out how to save fuel during pit stops, they might have a bit of a problem. If they have to go out and chase the Mercedes they’re going to burn lots of fuel, then cruse round for the last ten laps and hope others hit reliability trouble.

07 – Kimi: I'm still not sure why he’s here, this is Alonso’s team now, not his and they didn’t really like him when he was here last either. So things must have been bad at Lotus for the grumpy Fin to come back to the last team to fire him. He proved he’s still got the where with all to win a race with a duff car, which might come in handy down Maranello way. But Ferrari need a team leader who can tell them what to do, not a monosyllabic Scandinavian who would rather spend the night drinking vodka and slipping tenners into garter belts then pouring over torque curve data. It just feels like a step back and a hands in the pockets kicking stones in the gutter walk to school on a wet Monday morning move. It had to be done, but only because no one else wanted him.  Then he totalled the car at the last test. Not a great start to the new season
14 – Alonso: Well this has to be the last chance of some glory doesn’t it. If only they had given him a car to match his talents. But if anyone can take a slightly duff car to the top step it’s got to be Alonso. I‘m not sure if Kimi is a hindrance, distraction or motivation factor.  Historically he’s not played well with drivers that can give him a run for his money. But Kimi is pretty much immune to the mind games so the Spaniard might have to bite the bullet and just get on with it. It’s an interesting dynamic, with the potential of some proper histrionics. Or it might just dissolve into a bit of half hearted grumpy stares and a few well chosen “private briefings of trusted media sources”

Chance of a top ten – either they’ll run out of juice 5 laps from home, or they’ll pass the Merc cars really slowly as they all try to save fuel with 3 laps to go.

Mercedes – Mercedes

If it’s possible to win the pre season winter testing war, then Mercedes crushed the opposition into the dust, stamped on the bits and them swept them up and buried them in the Bahrain dessert. Just like they did last year … Do you remember? How Hamilton and Rosberg put a gazillion miles on the 2013 car and everyone had them as season favourites …. Right up to the final days of the last test when Lotus and Redbull bolted on the soft stuff and suddenly went a lot faster.
Well it’s different this time.
No, really it is.
Due mainly to the fact the non Mercedes powered teams have yet to do a race distance, at any sort of speed, or a full chat qualifying run. So this time, at the dawn of a new Era, Mercedes are in the driving seat with the most miles and possibly the most reliable car. Whether it’s the fastest is pretty much immaterial for now, it will almost certainly get to the end of the race, and that’s the key thing this year. If the Renault engines all go bang after 10 laps and the Ferrari runs out of go juice 5 laps from the end, it’s going to be about the Merc engine cars and where they are. And you would expect the works team to be ahead of any customer teams.

44 – Hamilton: This is it, he’s going to do it this year ......... if he can learn to not burn out the tyres, thrash the engine or rip through the fuel load. If he manages to do all of that, it’s his to lose.
06 – Rosberg: The thinking is, Nico will be better at getting the a fragile car home at the start of the season, if he can stay focussed these two are going to be fighting each other for the championship.

Redbull – Renault

You remember last year, the second half of the season was a Redbull fest, wasn’t it. Week after week Vettel would lead Webber home and we all got bored of the game. Well it turns out Redbull were still developing their 2013 whilst everyone else had given up and were quietly tinkering with their 2014 cars.
Each week everyone else would pull the dust sheets off their 2013 car, roll it out, get beaten by a country mile, shrug and then go back to working on the new car. Redbull it would appear believed they were in some sort of race for the championship. Then after the season ended in Brazil Redbull blew up their engines for all the media to watch, bit of a PR stunt, “let’s have a laugh , ho ho”. All the other teams, meanwhile, were on the plane home putting the finishing touches to their 2014 cars.

Redbull, it seems have got it spectacularly wrong! Not only is Renault behind with the development of their new hybrid energy recovery system, and it appears years behind Mercedes. But the word is they got the numbers wrong when they tested the engine on the dyno. The heat dissipation numbers they gave to the teams, were far too low, even with the wick turned down, the turbo, engine and electrical recovery systems are pumping out a magnitude more heat then they though. The first test saw Renault engine after Renault engine cook itself within a matter of laps. And having told the teams, “oh, it’s a pretty cool runner, no need for too much cooling on your new cars, no worries” Redbull took that to mean they didn’t need any cooling at all around the KERS battery and sub systems.

Day after day at the winter tests, the Redbull had more and more holes cut into its bodywork. Pipes were desperately being gaffer tapped into bodywork to direct cool air over the alternator or batteries.

Redbull are weeks away from being ready for the start of the season. They have done a handful of laps, nothing really at race pace, certainly no qualifying runs. In warmer weather the car has a life span measured in minutes. A gearbox that has a nasty habit of seizing suddenly and an electrical system that doesn’t seem to be able to cope with all the demands placed on it. The talk around Redbull is of a new car by the Spanish GP. A ground up, redesigned car! Imagine the amount of money they are throwing at this, Marussia and Sauber are scratching around for spare cash under the sofa and behind the filing cabinet. Redbull are building a whole new car for the fifth race of the season. From the looks of things, they’re going to need it.

01 – Vettel: Let’s see how he goes when he’s not in the fastest bestest sexy car. Let’s see how he goes in a rubbish car that bursts into flames after 15 laps. See how the ego lives with abject failure shall we. He’s probably handle it with no problems at all, but where’s the fun in that. If however, they turn this thing around are in with a shout at the last race with its stupid double points reward ... I just know he’ll bloody well do it won’t he. Hurrumph
03 – Ricciardo: 6 months ago when he signed the Redbull contract he must have though all his Christmases had come at once, now he’s going to be spending the season testing parts for Vettel to race the following week.

Chance of top ten – Based on the testing evidence .. Not a chance, but F1 Is nothing if not about the money and the richest team by a country mile will be on the podium before the of the just wait and see..

So there you go. Pick your favourites and settle back for the most unpredictable year in a very long time.

Good luck

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The new prediction game is GO

It's all the usual guff
For each race:
Predict the top 10 DRIVERS, get bonus points for drivers in the correct place.
Predict the DRIVER who starts on pole position
Predict the DRIVER with the fastest lap
Predict which DRIVER will be last across the line
New for 2014

Welcome to the new age of V6 Turbo charge Formula one cars. The FUTURE IS NOW !!!. except Renault forgot to read the email telling the teams the new era started in 2014. So their new engine and energy recovery system doesn't quite work. Oh dear.
So we face the very real possibility that there won't be 10 cars to finish the longer and harder races this year. Certainly Australia might be a race of attrition, which means for the first time we will only count those cars that can limp it over the line at the end of the race.
However the FIA classify cars that complete 90% of the race, which means Maldonado could in theory crash into the wall 200 metres from the line and be classified ahead of Max who kept his nose clean but is three laps behind the winner. I personally don't think Maldo should be rewarded for smearing his car down the wall yet again, so in this event Max would be moved ahead in our standing because he's still going.
In summery then; We will now only count those cars that cross the line at the end of the race, if less than ten cars finish, non finishers will not be added to complete the top ten. Cars that fail to cross the line will be bumped for cars that are still running, This might mean our result does not match the FIA result.
If this rule isn't working, because its not obvious which cars have stopped and when, the rule may be changed.
Sign up today, read the rules and the Blog at: http://sidewaysbob.b...ction-game.html
This years its going to be as random as its possible to get, Redbull won't be out front hovering up the points, so even you stand a chance of winning this year. come on give it a go, its a laugh.
Good luck and get lots of friends and family to sign up now.. there are only 2 weeks till the first race !!!!