Sunday, 22 June 2014

I lost my train of though about half way through the bottle.

 Just what is it, that a team requires of its drivers ?

Simple, to win.

But is it that simple ? Does just winning satisfy the teams’ desire for a leader, for a talisman to get behind and cheer on.

This weekend was not Mercedes best, in as much as they didn’t dominate as they have done thus far this season. Until Canada, you could pretty much guarantee that the silver cars would be on the front row of the grid and then cruse to an easy victory. The only challenge was going to come from the other side of the garage.

But then in Canada both cars failed within 22 seconds of each other, with identical problems a KERS unit failure in the rear wheels. The once bulletproof Mercedes mechanical reliability was found wanting and they lost the race. It is also worth pointing out, Nico managed to bring that car home, down something like 180bhp and had all its braking going though the front wheels only, that was my friends a top draw drive. Too many people wrote Nico off at the start of this season, it was all going to be a matter of time before Lewis took the title and Nico learnt his true place in the pecking order, but as the season has gone on Nico has just got better and better.  

And here is the important bit; the pole in Monaco, the second with good grace in Bahrain and bringing a broken car home in Canada don’t just give Nico some nice mantle piece silverware, it lifts the whole team. It gives them a leader they can believe in, especially when Lady Luck is pouring champagne into their cups at the end of the race.  

Lewis went from tenth to fourth in the space of seven corners. He overtook some of the best drivers in the world, okay in the car that is the class of the field. However, it still wasn’t good enough to win the race and tonight it’s not him the team are slapping the back of and talking excitedly about where to have the celebratory championship dinner at the end of the year. The title once thought to be his for the taking is slipping further and further away.

The twittersphere and Social networks have worked themselves up into a froth of self righteous indignation tonight, claiming the team is favouring its German driver and the plucky English lad is getting a raw deal. The race was “lost on the pits stops” the Lewis lovers are crying, “it’s all a fix, the team took longer to change his tyres and that’s why he lost!!”. But that wasn’t the reason, a damaged rear brake hub slowed the wheel change by 0.8 seconds. And he was even brought in ahead of Nico to give him a chance to undercut Bottas for second.

I think my point is, bearing in mind i’m 2/3rd of the way through a particularly fine bottle of white, is that Nico is on a role and the team are responding, whilst Lewis is starting to panic and is overdriving the car. He’s also just not as lucky as Nico right now and sometimes that can be the hardest thing to beat.

Let’s also take a moment to savour the return of Williams to the front of the pack. Last year was a bit of a mess, not helped by paying Maldonado crash the car each weekend. They started the year giving Mercedes a run for their money during the testing days, but then the wheels feel off the wagon and it looked like a return to last year’s woes. Not helped by wacky pit wall calls either, telling Massa to get out of his team mates way indeed.

Then Rob Smedly turned up on the pit wall and things calmed down. There seems to be a bit more focus and a belief in what they’re doing. They didn’t try to race each other or Mercedes this weekend, they had a plan and they stuck to it.

Rosberg wins and had to work for it again. He didn’t really do anything amazing or spectacular either, he just sort of won. This puts him one win ahead of Lewis now and its pretty much his to lose now. He must be due some bad luck soon though,

Hamilton has had all the bad luck he needs this year, I can’t find the reason for the spin in Q3 that left him in tenth place, the team claimed it was nothing to do with the car which leaves the suspicion that the plucky English lad is over driving the car chasing his team mate. Whatever the reason, he need to get his mojo back if he want to win this thing. Nico is building too much of lead.

Bottas, Williams claim they weren’t trying to win this thing. They knew the Mercs (who supply their engines remember) were going to be faster and there was no point trying to fart against thunder. Yet they were pulling away from the silver cars on the long bits and didn’t look like they were saving their brakes at the end. So I think they had a chance at the top step and bottled it, which is fine given how things went last year, make hay whilst the sun shines and all that, but it would have been nice if they’d gone for it a bit more.

Massa, was told not to rag the car trying to prove something against the Merc’s and his team mate. Having got pole he didn’t really capitalise on it, i’m not sure he was capable of much more though to be honest. I think the shock of actually getting pole went to his head a bit.

Alonso, still plugging away in a dog of a car, they think if the car was a little bit faster things would be better. I think they need a new car, engine, team. Alonso is wasting his talents in Italy.

Perez, laid the smack down on Hulkenberg yet again. It’s like he’s had some actual working balls grafted on him or something. Where has the spunk come from ?

Magnussen, finally the weekend gels and he gets the think back to the top ten. He’s been copping a lot of flack from ill informed nitwits of late has Kev. Sure he’s no Hamilton, but he isn’t Maldonado either.
Ricciardo, bit of a come down from the win last time out, Redbull were pretty shit all weekend really. The highlight being Horner turning up post race and with an absolutely straight face blaming all of the world’s problems and some problems from distance as yet undiscovered worlds on Renault. The problems was their engine wasn’t powerful enough and it hadn’t changed since Australia and it was a travesty and no, they had no plans to make their own engine despite inviting a whole bunch of engine making companies to Austria. Sort of ignoring the update and pretty much glossing over the new engine Renault took to Canada and they won the race with. Redbull are locked into a contract with Renault next year at least and i doubt Mercedes or Ferrari want to supply engines to these chaps, which doesn’t leave Redbull with too many options does it.

Hulkenberg, beaten buy Perez again, he didn’t look a happy chap post race.

Raikkonen.... yeah, apparently he’s still driving for Ferrari! Still could be worse, he could be in a Lotus.

Gutierrez was last and Perez was fastest.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

This is how you do Le Mans

Le Mans is more than just a race, it's more than just a round of the WEC.
Le Mans is week long celebration of cars, beer, technology, good friends and racing. Once you've been to Le mans and spent time watching the cars racing though the night it gets into your soul. It draws you back year after year, well it does for me.
This year though I had to make do with just the TV experience. "Oh" you might say, "you'll have missed the atmosphere then?" And the answer is a resounding no.
This is the digital age as we all know. This year's race features 54 car, each with 3 drivers in. Pretty much each driver had a Twitter if Instagram feed to follow. The big teams like Audi and Toyota had team social media feeds. Audi and Porsche both had on board live feeds from their cars, Audi even had live real time telemetry from this cars. All for free I might add.
I could choose from a veriety of comms channels, Radio Le mans live from the race track, the race steward to teams comms, or even pit to car comms from corvette. The race organisers, the ACO and FIA, had an app with live race video and live timing, available on the web or as a stand alone for your tablet.
There wasn't anything that happened that I didn't know about the moment it happened and all for free.
This weekend its the Austrian GP from the newly refurbished A1 ring, now called the redbull ring. Bernie doesn't think social media is important to, it's a fad as far as he is concerned, some the kids do rather than listen to him blather on and on. He is a fool, a joke.
The race will be won by the same car that has won most of the season so far. Ferrari will complain it's not exciting enough as their car continues to struggle. There will be the usual back stabbing and infighting in the paddock.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Its Lady Luck, that's what you need

What a race that was, It had everything, inter team rivalry, one stoppers getting in the way, Power failures and a brand new winner of a Formula one Grand Prix.  What’s not to like about that?

But I’ve said it before and I'm going to say it again, World championships are won on pure luck and consistency.  Right now Rosberg is cruising along with Lady Luck riding on his shoulder, waving to the crowds and sipping champagne with a starry smile, occasionally she’ll nudge Nico away from the wall or wrinkle her nose up and Hamilton’s’ brakes will explode. Its simple things like that, nothing more.

Lady luck and her friend the Goddess of rear wheel brake hubs earlier today!

Right, qualifying wasn’t all that exciting, everyone thought Lewis was going to walk Q3 and start at the front. But as I predicted, Nico turned up with a new found confidence and self belief and pinched the spoils from under the plucky Brits nose with the last role of the dice.  Hamilton made light of the matter in the post qualifying interviews, “oh it doesn’t mean so much here”, “I think I can sort this out pretty easily”, etc.  The most interesting thing about Saturday was Vettel sneaking into third with a car that isn’t supposed to have the grunt to stay with the Merc. Yeah he was a second or two behind, but he was ahead of the other Merc engine cars. That wasn’t supposed to happen.
Also slightly odd was the appearance of the Williams at the front of the grid.  Both cars were going really well, something I wasn’t expecting at all. The Force India’s, my tip for the top, had a torrid time as both cars failed to make Q3, which wasn’t in my script!

So to the race on Sunday and off the line, Lewis was away just a tad faster, but Nico held his line and pushed Hamilton wide, allowing Vettel to sneak through to second. As the cars streamed up the track into the first chicane, it looked like Lewis would have the position back within a matter of metres. But the Marussia’s collided as Max got it all crossed up into the braking zone and collected his team mate into the wall and the first safety car came out to clean up the mess.   Max later claimed it wasn’t his fault, but only a big paycheck is going to save his sorry ass this time, he was sideways way before the apex, even the turn in point. So it was well and truly his fault whatever he says.

Once all the bits of carbon fibre had been cleared away the safety car peeled off and Lewis breezed pasted Vettel after a few laps and got on with the business of passing Nico, except he didn't. He was almost there, but the his team mate was always just a little bit quicker out of the corners or later on the brakes and try as he might he couldn’t quite get that break to make the pass.
Behind them, the Force India’s were holding various people up as they tried to one stop the race and leap frog the faster cars. Vettel, Ricciardo, Bottas and Alonso all took turns being stuck behind Perez and Hulkenberg in the race to be the best of the rest.

Lewis and Nico were giving it the full beans, miles ahead of everyone else. Then suddenly ... Lewis was dropping back, the car sounded as rough as a bag of spanners on the fast bits. Then Nico started to slow. Where was that script, we were all expecting Mercedes to win every race this year. Suddenly Massa in third looks like he could be on for a nose bleed up the top step. Both Merc drivers are complaining that the powers gone from the cars.   Apexes are being missed and the cars sound awful on the straight bits. The technicians are running diagnostics and trying to figure out what’s gone wrong. It looks like the energy recovery systems have been fried on exactly the same lap for each car.

Well this is interesting. Massa has 20 odd laps to catch the two hobbled Merc 10 seconds up the road, who else can catch them? Perez has Danny boy and Vettel up his chuff. Rosberg dips into the pits for new boots and rejoins behind Massa, and then Hamilton is in the pits for his last stop, he rejoins behind Massa but ahead of Nico. Even under powered they could still get points.
The order is Massa, Hamilton, Rosberg, Perez, Ricciardo and Vettel.  Then Massa has to make a stop and he drops back behind Vettel, a final run in to the line of super soft rubber, it could be close!
But then suddenly Hamilton’s rear brakes start smoking horribly and he can’t get the car stopped for love nor money.  Rosberg is back in the lead with Perez and co right behind him, he’s a sitting duck his brakes are kyboshed and it’s just a matter of time before he’s out. But with the brake bias rammed hard into front only he’s just about making things work for him a he’s staying ahead of Perez.
For lap after lap, Perez holds up Danny and Vettel with Massa closing fast. With seven laps to go the Brazilian has caught up to the Redbulls and you thinks it’s just a matter of cruising past with his fresh tyres. But Massa ... well he’s just Massa and doesn’t seem to have the race craft to pick the slower cars off.
With a handful of laps left Danny dives past Perez into turn one and it looks like he’s just shed 20lbs, he’s off up the road catching Rosberg in a flash, Vettel still can’t quite pass Perez and Massa is sort of climbing all over the back of the Redbull like he’s got 20 laps left or something. Ricciardo reels in the Merc like its standing still and just blows past Rosberg with chequered flag in sight. Vettel finally jinx’s past Perez for third as the Mexican drivers brakes begin to fail which, I think, catches Massa out and he ploughs into the back of the Force India at full tilt into turn one. Both cars end up in the wall and a trip to the medical facility for both drivers. The safety car is called out again and Danny finally get’s the win he has so richly deserved all year.

What a race !

Ricciardo wins and he absolutely deserves the victory, he kept his cool, passed Perez when the opportunity presented itself and then caught Rosberg. He’s been knocking on the door marked win since the start of the season and as soon as the Mrec have a problem he’s right there to collect the reward. Well done to him. I, along with pretty much everyone, said he was going to get blown away by Vettel this year and it was just a matter of time before he got fired. Well I was wrong, he’s showing Vettel the way home and doing it with a bloody great big smile. Good on him, he’s the Redbull driver it’s okay to like.

Rosberg was second eventually and that it one hell of a save, By rights he should have been parted up with Lewis with 10 laps to go, but he drove around the problem and picked up vital points. It is possible to look at this result and claim he has the championship in the bag now. He’s got the luck, he’s two races up on his team mate who now needs Nico to DNF if he wants to take the title. I can’t imagine they’ll have the same problem with the brakes again, so I think this is now Nico championship to lose. Even this far out, even with the double points at the final race, Rosberg is firmly in the box seat.

Vettel was third and quite magnanimous about his team mate at the end.

Button, unseen by the camera had a bit of a stormer in the last 10 laps with passes on Hulkenberg and Alonso for fourth place, given how bad the weekend had been up to that point this is a cracking result for McLaren and its driver. A season that promised so much is slowly falling apart and i suspect they’ve started work full time on next year’s Honda now, so result like today give the boys and girls a bit of a lift as the go to work on Monday morning.

Hulkenberg, got shown up by his less fancied team mate again. Even though Perez didn’t finish he was almost on for the win there, whilst the Hulk scrapped around for pride. Picking up point’s race after race is one thing, but a team in financial trouble needs headlines for sponsors to see.

Alonso with another race to forget, even the team massaging his ego in the press didn’t help make the car any faster.  He still talking up his chances, but it’s just for pride and column inches now.

Bottas ... well he didn't crash into Perez i suppose, but the promise was just not delivered today for Williams. Okay it’s not as bad as last year, but it should be so much better.

Vergne, eighth, errrrrr I’ve got nothing.

Magnussen ninth, see Button above.
Kimi was tenth and still doesn’t look like he’s mastered KERS braking.

Right last place this week it Sutil who was still behind the crashed cars of Massa and Perez, but he has all four wheels still attached to the car and was moving as fasted as that Sauber can go. Which is quite slowly.

Massa on fresh rubber and with a dim memory of past glories burning through the fog of a blunt head trauma got the fastest lap on lap 58. So that’s something I suppose.

Okay, its Le Mans next weekend. So be prepared to be amazed by that .. details to follow soon.



Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Stop it you two !!

Okay, nanny has picked up all the toys from around the prams and the two children have been told to hug and make up. Fingers were wagged, grudging apologies awkwardly mumbled and promises that it won’t happen again waved away.

Will it make a difference in Canada, not a chance.

Would you want it any different? No, me neither.

The great years of Formula have always been booked ended by huge ego’s getting all puffed up and throwing their weight around. Senna and Prost, Schumacher and Hill, Mansell and the whole world. All classic years where the racing was dominated by what the protagonists were saying about each other in the press. Snide remarks about favouritism from the team, unfair advantages and broken gentleman’s agreements, were always fun to read about. Okay Nigel whinging on about how it was all so very hard for him could get a little boring, but watching uncomfortable post-race interviews where one driver quite clearly wanted to smack the winner in the face, make great TV. And during the Senna/Prost years that was often the most entertaining thing.

But I’m afraid they were the good old days, the chance of a punch up on pit lane have receded as the faceless PR suits have grown in power and quashed any sort of chance of an embarrassing outburst. The last really good ill-tempered spat was between Hamilton and Massa, and had more to do with Massa getting a shafting from Ferrari than either of them driving dangerously.

Nope, all the good personal vendettas are in the past now. Lewis and Nico will be a bit grumpy in front of the camera and that’ll be your lot.

As for this weekend, the question is going to be, how much did Nico’s “sportsmanship” affect Lewis. Will he come out all guns blazing and totally dominate the weekend to prove a point? Or will he be all messed up in the head and overdrive the thing into the wall?

Historically Lewis is win or bust here. It’s another of those tracks that really suit his style. Nico though is on the up now with his “win” in Monaco so he’s coming to be brimming with self-belief and confidence, always a difficult combination to beat.

Further back, well Danny has been the best of the rest so far, Vettel is due some luck. But the Renaults might not have the top end grunt to hold off the faster Merc cars. I’ve got a Force India on the podium here, I think this place will suit the car and drivers. Alonso to be there or there abouts, Kimi’s still not happy in the car. Williams and McLaren will continue the fight and Lotus could well join the battle here, watch out for Maldonado everybody !!