Tuesday, 15 April 2014

China, but more importantly .. It's the SILVERSTONE 6 hours

Okay, China up next and after the amazing race in Bahrain, I’m not going to be watching it.
Not because I’m afraid it won’t live up to Bahrain,  that it will be a return to the sort of race we had in Malaysia all dull and processional. And not because I think it’ll just be another race between the Mercedes of Lewis and Nico. I rather enjoy watching two team mates have at it.

No, I shall miss the race because I will be at Silverstone watching the first round of the 2014 FIA world endurance race (WEC) championship, because it’s going to be mighty.  

Endurance racing has been in a bit of a rut the last few years; if you didn’t have an Audi then there wasn’t a lot of point turning up to the race. Peugeot had a crack at them and left with a bloody nose in the dead of night. Toyota stepped up to the track after the French had turned tail and run. The Japanese squad showed some promise but failed to capitalize on that first season as new boys, last year Audi just steam rolled all over them at Le Mans and pretty much everywhere else.
Audi didn’t always have the fastest car or the most efficient engine. But they have a phenomenal team on the pit wall, in the garage and a driver squad of proven winners. They are the most drilled, the most professional and yes, ruthlessly efficient team possible.

But now they have a real challenger, on old warrior has been awaken, has risen again and is coming back to claim what was once their crown. A glittering crown made from the defeated enemies of countless battles.
 A behemoth of a company which in days of yore, bestrode the world as the absolute last word in racing domination. They can trace their linage back to the very dawn of motorsport.  They've driven the small and helpless away from danger, they’ve driven some of the world’s best remembered dictators around the parade grounds.
They've raced in every corner of the world, on every surface, at every level.
They are Porsche and they are coming back to ground the upstarts into the dust and take back that which was stolen from them.
Porsche are coming back and they are going to win.

Not that I’m a particular Porsche fan by the way, I want Toyota to win, but that’s like supporting Williams when Redbull and Mercedes are slugging it out with their cheque books, pretty futile.

Porsche, Audi and Toyota, racing for the crown of Endurance Champion of the World and it’s all going to start at Silverstone this Sunday. So whilst Mercedes disappear off into the distance in China, three manufactures will be racing for the win in England.
And the best thing about it, they are all different. Porsche have a two litre turbo charged Petrol V4, Audi a single turbo diesel V6 and Toyota a normally aspirated petrol V8. And if you don’t like the sound of the current F1 engines, come and listen to that Toyota scream, and hear what a really silent diesel car can sound like at 180mph.
Then you’ve got a load of GT cars; Aston Martin Vantage V8’s, Porsche 911 RSR’s, Ferrari F458’s. And best of all the Stig has got himself a ride in a blue and white Ferrari.

For just £35 you can watch 6 hours of proper racing, sit in the stands or wonder round the track. Get there early enough and you can breeze on into the pits and have a chat with actual real racing drivers. Not weekend cowboys with a Fiesta and janspeed bolted on. The real thing, people that drive in the dark down poorly lit French country roads at 200mph, honest to goodness heroes.

Or ... you can sit on the sofa at home, moan about the lack of sound, have a cup of tea, fall asleep and wake up to see which of the Merc have won this time.

I’ll be there Saturday (for the ELMS race which is just as good) and Sunday for the big event.   


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Brilliant, just pure brilliantness served up with a glass of fantasticness.

What an amazing race !
Do you remember a few years ago, how it was all really dull and boring. Vettel would get out into the lead and we’d watch him tool around for lap after lap, nothing would happen.  Then Webber would get a bit close and the team would be all like, “Now now, know your place lad” and we’d all go back to counting down the laps.
That’s how you don’t win fans. Alright it’s how you win world championships, granted. But it’s dull and no one really likes you for doing it.  The fans feel a bit robbed, the winner is viewed with a suspicion that he was gifted the win, that he wasn’t really trying and anyway he waves that finger around like he’s special or something.
When you let your two driver “have at it” when you let them go wheel to wheel, they demonstrate who is the best, they right man wins. There is danger, excitement, they might take each other off, you know this means something to them and honour is at stake ... and a shed load of cash too, oh and points and bragging rights, but yeah honour is involved.
And you’re watching two drivers at the top of their game; Nico and Lewis know they are fighting for the world championship here. Not to be the best of the rest behind a Redbull anymore. They have a car that is two seconds a lap faster than anyone else, no other team is even on the same page as them.  Unless someone comes up with something incredible in the next few weeks, one of the Merc drivers is going to lift the world championship crown in November.  Imagine the pressure that sort of knowledge brings, these two are in their own private battle to be recognized as the best of the best.
And best thing about it is, we get to watch it each race. The days of the Vettel dull-a-thon are over, Mercedes made it clear (for now) they are going to let their drivers race each other for the title, to allow talent and desire to win the day, not national pride and favoritism. 

But for every Bahrain, there is last weeks Malaysia. You have to sit through years of Malaysia’s for that one Bahrain race. But when it turns up, it reaffirms everything you love about this sport, proper actual racing and not just for the win. All the way through the pack there was wheel to wheel action, dicing, talent, skill, brave moves and half chances grabbed. Markers laid down and points proved. Max having a blinder .. even Perez growing a pair and actually demonstrating he can race, he can drive with some passion and look he wants it.

oh I done goofed again .. sorry everyone

And there’s Maldonado, there’s always Maldonado to bring the whole thing down.  He’s like the anti race driver who is purely there to annoy me I think.  He got a 10 second stop and go for attempting to kill Gutierrez. Then at the end of the race the stewards handed him a 5 place grid penalty for China and 3 points on his licence. Personally, I’d make him stand at the end of the pit during first practice with a sign round his neck saying
Honk if you think I'm a fucking liability
Then have all the other cars fitted with a horn for all the drivers to use as they go past him.  Lotus should also be deducted points for employing him. Not that they have any points.

Attempted murder earlier today!

Anyway, he’s an idiot and almost robbed Lewis of a fantastic win. But as it was it just underlined how brilliant Hamilton is. Winning is what counts in the end, beating the team mate with same car who’s faster than you and still you win.  That’s how championships should be decided.

Hamilton first and I think it’s one of his very best victories. Because he didn't have a faster car than Nico and he knew it, he had to fight for this win it wasn’t gifted to him with team orders.  The drivers always say the races where they dominate the whole weekend are the best, the ones where they get the pole, the fastest lap and the win, where they are untouchable and mighty and it’s really boring to watch. But I think the best drives are the ones where they have to go and get the victory, sitting back and cursing to the line is easy if you have the best car, just ask Vettel. No, Nico was faster all weekend, yet Lewis still beat him.  It’s what I, as a fan, want to see. It the sort of thing i can show to non race fan and say “look, this is what it’s all about”

Nico was second and that is in no way a disservice to him. Both Mercedes driver could have won this and both would have deserved it, both showed grit and determination to drive the cars to their limits. The last ten laps with Rosberg on the soft tyres, Lewis on the hard, should be shown to aspiring drivers and just as importantly pit wall crews and told “Look okay, this is what it’s all about, and the other one too, both of these. That's what its all about”.  

Perez with third and you know what, he actually deserved that! He was outstanding during the race sticking it to Hulkenberg, Bottas, Massa and Ricciardo, a whole bunch of drivers that I would normally tip to make mince meat of the dull Mexican driver. But no he was aggressive, fast and used his head for once.  I was genuinely impressed by the move he made to overtake Hulkenberg, that was almost top draw stuff, the sort of thing he hinted at back in the Sauber days of old.

Ricciardo was fourth and he was faster than Vettel. You know, I'm pretty glad he got this after the disappointments of the last two races. He’s taken his opportunity with both hands and he’s been impressive. He didn’t look all that awed by Vettel when the team gave him a chance to shine as the German hit problems and off he scampered. I was convinced he’d fail to do anything with this ride when it was announced last year, but in three races he’s been up at the sharp end of the grid and looked impressive. The team robbed him of quality results in the first two rounds so this is a sort of vindication; let’s see if it leads to more results.

Hulkenberg was fifth and was most defiantly second fiddle to Perez all weekend. He was out qualified, out raced and out smiled by the Mexican. The fact both Force India’s were vying for a podium finish will have cheered VJ and the team in the garage. This was a great race for the team if not for the Hulk.

Vettel was sixth and didn't look at all like a four times world champion.  Okay he got the bad luck this time with a broken DRS flap in the race. But he qualified badly and was always on the back foot during the weekend. Could it be that having a team mate that is allowed to race him is upsetting his normally calm German exterior? Let’s hope so J

Massa in seventh looked for all the world like the driver of old at times this weekend.  Okay he fumbled it a bit at the end, whether it was the team or him I'm not sure, but a podium was there for the taking from either William’s car. I think they were unlucky and maybe underestimated the speed of the Force India cars.

Bottas was eighth and once again got beaten by Massa. He needs to do something about this soon, because it’s starting to look like he doesn’t have the talent we all thought he had. I mean, okay Massa was one point away from being a world champion (with a lot of aid from the FIA) back in the day, but he shouldn't be showing Bottas a clean pair of heels like this and he shouldn't have to rely on the team to get passed his team mate. Nico and Lewis demonstrated how its done, and Valtteri needs to up his game unless he wants the paddock to think he’s a second rate driver behind Felipe.

Oh look , its the Ferrari duo! Alonso ninth, yes ninth and Kimi was tenth. They were nowhere all weekend; they didn't have the speed or the grip. Coming in to this weekend hey thought they were up there with the Redbulls ahead of the customer Merc teams but from pretty much the first 10 minutes of the first practice session they where limping along trying to find some balance or performance. It’s a complete mess over there right now and I don’t see it changing any time soon. I suppose it could be worse, they could be McLaren who have gone from best of the rest to zero's in three races. Ron is most definitely NOT happy.

And in last place its Max ............... no wait  ............ What’s this !!!!!!! I've just been handed the latest report and it seems Max wasn’t last. Bloody hell fire!!! No, this time it’s Bianchi’s turn to be the last placed Marussia driver (yes I know the FIA say it was Jenson, but he was in the pits when the flag dropped so we don’t count him). Max it appears was ahead of Maldonado (who should have been stopped and ordered to get out of the car anyway), Kobayashi and Bianchi. And wasn't his little face a picture after the race .. ahh bless.

Look at his happy little face, isn't he adorable.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Bahrain, I'm not expecting a lot of actually racing ...

Okay, Bahrain then, which now appears to be perfectly fine to go and visit, remember all that hoo harr a couple of years back, dirt poor people getting shot at, mass arrests ? … yeah… all gone now, perfectly fine as I say. Just don’t go talking to the local’s okay, if you can find one in the stands of course! Apparently, the gate was 30% down in Malaysia hence the look of a rather empty park on a Sunday afternoon in the west midlands. The naysayers will have it that the “lack of any sort of sound is driving the fans away”, but they are idiots so I can quite happily ignore them.  I suspect it’s more to do with the cost of a ticket.  There are races this year that you’ll need to take out a second mortgage to afford a weekend ticket for, let alone a grandstand ticket.

And the crowd goes wild !!

Ahem… sorry, went off on one there. Right, okay.

 It’s a fast turnaround for the teams so there won’t be too many updated parts on offer. Only the “post pre-season test” stuff that was on stream before the season started, so don’t expect things to be too different from last week.

Merc still the team to beat, Lewis looked peerless over Nico, but the German has usually gone well here.  I imagine they’ll be up the front as normal, Nico for pole… perhaps. 

 Redbull next with its dodgy fuel flow sensors, Danny is due some luck, until he gets told to get out of Vettels way of course. There was a suggestion doing the rounds that the FIA are going to scrap the fuel flow rule until they get the sensors sorted out. I don’t know if that was an April fool, I wouldn’t put it past them to change the rules randomly. As the other teams aren’t whinging about them it might just be a Redbull thing, like the tyres last year. Changing the rules worked brilliantly there didn’t they. Anyway, pre-season testing was a nightmare in Bahrain, the heat cooking the Renault engine, they look like they’ve sorted that problem but they’re short of a few horses at the top end. Vettel was a gnats underpants from pole in the wet, I would be VERY surprised if they are that close in the dry here. But the cars got the grip for the twisty bits so … top five, a podium might elude them I think.

Ferrari is still too slow and they need a podium here or they’re just going to get lost this season. Kimi looked happier in Malaysia; Alonso was still the one that got the points though.

McLaren, Kev landed with a bump last weekend and Button just continued where he’d left off. They weren’t fast enough on the fast sweeping bits of Sepang which was a surprise to the team, who had been expecting to be on the podium. McLaren can develop a car like no other team, when they have a direction and path to follow. Let’s hope Malaysia was just a blip. Their PR department has gone into a bit of a tizzy telling anyone that will listen that, “things have gone horrible wrong and they have no idea how to fix it” which is either desperate misdirection or a desperate warning to the sponsors. Talking of which still no title sponsor on the old bodywork you’ll notice. I imagine Big Ron’s going to pull something AMAZING out from under his cloak … any … minute .. .nooooooooowwwwwwwww!

Williams, with only a week between races there isn’t enough time for a full blown self-righteous indignation huff to build up a head of steam. Telling Massa to get out of the way was a mistake at only the second race of the season, and I think the team accept that now. Rob Smedley and Pat Symonds will both be at the track in Bahrain so wise heads might keep everyone a bit more focused on the job. Especially as the car didn’t look quite so special as it had in Australia, lost time now banging heads together and organizing the pit wall crew is going to cost them their chance of points. Win, then you can argue who is the best driver!

Force India, well Hulkenburg will be mixing it up with the front runners as usual, the pit wall will try and hobble him and Perez will be his usual anonymous dull self.

Torro Rosso and I think Kvyat might be worth watching, he’s certainly delivered so far, in a scary Russian war machine kind of way. Watching him being interviewed you get the impression he has contempt for pretty much everyone; the lads got self-belief and distain oozing out of every pore, you have to be impressed by that.

As for the rest, well Sauber; still grey, Caterham; still green and Marussia; still Max.  None of that lot will make it to the top ten and it’ll be another Max v Ericsson for last place (Max).

You have until Thursday midnight to sort your predictions out. Good luck one and all.