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Monday, November 7, 2011

Third Cars discussed by F1 Commission

I think this is a very interesting little tidbit to come out of the Autosport story which talks about the F1 Commission meeting in Geneva to address questions which related to the collaboration between teams and the upcoming name changes at Lotus (Caterham), Renault (Lotus), and Virgin (Marussia).

Stuck down in the middle of the story they refered to third cars on the grid and give the following quote from Ross Brawn:

"It sounds simple – make a third car and sell it to another team, but if that team can run a season with a very competitive car for a lot less cost than a manufacturer, you are going to start losing manufacturers because it doesn't make sense for teams to make their own car. And we don't want that.
"In F1 it is important we have the constructors and different manufacturers involved. It has been one of the most distinctive things about F1 for many years. I think we need to explore these ideas, but I would be very cautious about the concept of selling cars.
"If the most competitive car is sold to a number of teams and they flood the grid with that car then it is damaging for the rest of the teams. We need to be very, very careful about the solutions we find in the future".

Obviously a serious business and a good point well made but then it struck me that in the past history of F1 a number of privateer teams appeared on the grid racing a manufacturer's chassis, on the basis that they couldn't construct their own.  These teams normally only raced one car, one driver and were run on a shoestring budget.  Often the teams only raced in a couple of GP's in the season, in their own country and maybe in one other nearby, or at a particular event of note.

Ecurie Ecosse which ran in the 50's is a good example. It only ever competed at the British GP.  The team is of note for the fact that Jackie Stewart's brother Jimmy raced for them in a Cooper T20 in one World Championship F1 event in 1953.   Jackie raced with them in lower formulas and events before joining up with Ken Tyrell in Formula 3.

The manufacturers competing in BTCC provide competitive cars to privateers.  Matt Neal began his BTCC career with Team Dynamics and showed his racing talents by driving a factory car with a privateer team.

So what's the problem?  This kind of enterprise would allow a young privately sponsored Schumi to buy a works car, hire a team and go racing in F1 to show off his/her! talent.  The only downside that I could see is that it might encourage an up and coming P*nt*n* to buy a works Ferrari (with your blessing Luca!) and make a nuisance of himself in the midfield.

So while it's got its pluses and minuses, what you would have is the opportunity for new teams to enter the sport at a relatively reasonable price and perhaps form the Brabham's, Tyrell's, or Jordan's of tomorrow, moving into production over the course of a few years.

Of course you'd have to bring back pre-qualification! but that's another story.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Indycar and Dan Wheldon

On the death of Dan Wheldon I have to say that I'm at a loss to really address it in any meaningful way.  I can only give my sympathies to His wife, children and his family and say that from my perspective I was only aware of Dan's abilities in a racing car.

Before he went to F2000 in the US, Autosport used to make much of his abilities in Formula Ford and put him down as a potential future F1 star.

Sadly that opportunity never arose so, from an F1 fan's perspective, I never really got to see him race other than in highlights showing him winning the Indy 500 and read about him as Rookie of the Year and Indy Champ.

I'm afraid that I've never been a great fan of the Indycar series and I'm also very sorry that these accidents seem to be relatively regular in that sport.  In F1 we are lucky that since Imola in '94 we have had no fatalities on the track but in Indycar in the same period there have been 5 deaths, 6 now, and several serious accidents.

I don't know the ins and outs of Indy racing or the safety measures which they have put in place over the years but I would point to Kubica's accident in Canada in 2007, Webber's in Valencia last year, Massa's horrific injury in Hungary 2009, Perez' crash at Monaco this year, and Ralf Schumacher at Indy in 2004.  The level of safety which has been put in place since 1994 is such that, in the majority of cases, the driver's have walked away from accidents which, pre '94 would have been likely to be fatal.

Watching Mosley last night on the news I was struck by the point he was making, that oval racing and the banking evolved due to the fact that the original cars didn't really do cornering particularly well at speed therefore the banking allowed higher speed racing to evolve.

Modern Indycars are well capable of cornering at speed a fact that is evidenced by the number of street circuits on the calendar so really I ask the question "has the series outgrown the ovals?".  Can they not leave them to Nascar and evolve the sport to increase the safety of the cars and drivers and future circuits?

Look at modern F1 circuits in comparison - we've moved on to a state where gravel traps, common in the '90's, are now replaced by large, tarmacked run-off areas; where modern designed circuits are wider and bigger and the fans are moved further and further away.  While I'm not a fan of the Tilke tracks there is no question but they are safer - a little duller perhaps and requiring gadgets like DRS and KERS and degrading tyres to liven them up - but safer.

F1 has its anachronism being Monaco - and these are necessary to celebrate the history of the sport - but Indy has the Indy 500 which could be its anachronistic track - it's bow to the history of the sport.  In light of the sad death of Dan Wheldon perhaps it's time for Indy to move on.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Champion Crowned

Apologies to SebVet for not recognising his achievement earlier - I guess Murray took precedence in my head - probably because it is his second championship so obviously not quite as important to him!!
I have to say he has been massively impressive this season blowing away Webbo as well as the rest of the field.  It's a big contrast to last year where I thought (and hoped) that Webbo would achieve the chamionship.  His form was pretty close if not on par with Sebs and his Red Bull was the better of the two in terms of consistency.

This year he hasn't been at the races at all really.  Where Sebs car has been bulletproof all season he had problems with his KERS and his DRS at nearly all of the first six races after that it seemed to me that he had given up on the season - a shame after everything that he achieved last year.

Seb has driven superbly (though there are still little questions over his ability to race through the pack to a win) and has had the car underneath him to deliver the goods.  Newey has once again produced a sublime piece of machinery, a true world championhip car, and Seb has shown just how good it can be on track.

I just want to say congrats to him and to the Red Bull team and, on the relatively safe assumption that they win the constructor's Congrats to all of the engineers and R & D guys and of course to the kingmaker Mr. A.N. a knighthood can't be too far away.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Murray Walker OBE

Being Irish I'm not one to go around calling Bob Geldof, Sir Bob.  In the same way I wouldn't be calling Alan Sugar, Lord Sugar.  That kind of shtick is another country to most cases.  Murray is a different animal entirely.  Here is a giant of the motor racing scene, a man who deserves titles and praise to be showered down upon him on a nearly daily basis.  Master of the Microphone, the original F1 fanatic, the "Voice" of motor racing, there just aren't enough appellations, nicknames, or titles to go around.

He always commentated on a race in such a manner that, even if you knew nothing about the sport, you could immediately get into what was going on.  It was part of his ethos, as he said in an interview with the Gold Coast Bulletin in 2002:

My target audience in my mind was not the dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool knowledgeable anorak, who would watch anything and listen to anything on the subject. It was the un-committed, uninvolved and probably not very enthusiastic ordinary folks who were watching at home. I wanted to grip them by the throats and say 'Hey look this is fantastic! I love it and you ought to love it too. And here's why!'.

What he brought to the commentary box was his love of the sport and it was he and James Hunt commentating in 1990 that really brought the whole F1 show into clarity for me.  I understood the enjoyment of it and wanted to know more about it.  He gave me an insight into his love for the sport and gave me some of it.

Obviously without Murray there would be no Murrayisms and we all have our favourites, mine particularly came in 1993 when Senna was in the McLaren, obviously the wrong car that year.  At the time James was his co-commentator and Senna was in third place but massively uncompetitive, holding up about seven or eight cars behind him.  He was doing a brilliant job of it though and Murray in his enthusiasm referred to the crocodile building up behind him.  James immediately corrected Murray (which seemed to be a habit of his) saying, in his laconic manner, "I think you'll find it's called a snake Murray".  There were a few moments of silence only punctuated by the engine noise from the circuit and then Murray capitulated.  Obviously James had broken Murray's flow and Murray for a moment only was lost for words.

It wasn't really his Murrayisms that stuck with me though.  The phrase that he used over and over again that stood true up until this year and the introduction of DRS, KERS, and degrading tyres was "As I always say it's one thing catching up to the car ahead, it's another thing entirely to get past".  The last time I thought of it was at Monza when Lewis couldn't get past Michael for lap after lap.  I know Schumi enjoyed that and I bet Murray did too, if he was watching.

Happy Birthday Murray! Thanks for your dedication, your talent and above all for your love of the sport.  I wish you and yours all the best for today and for the future - Are Sky bringing you in as commentator? I'll pay for the Sports package to hear you aurally, with my ears!

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Weekend

My weekend is set up for me by sport.

Tonight it's Rep of Ireland V Andorra in soccer; at the moment every Rep of Ireland match is approached with trepidation because you just can't help feeling that they raise and lower their game depending on their opposition.  I mean...Andorra are a team of semi-professional players so you would expect no problems, but... they did score against us the last time we met.

Tomorrow morning then I'm afraid I have to sacrifice Quali for the Rugby World Cup Quarter Finals between Ireland and Wales.  Quali starts at 6.00am our time but the Quarter Final kicks off at 6.30am so quali will have to be delayed until the match is over and Ireland are victorious!

Senna is out on DVD here today and, having watched it in the cinema I'll have to apologise to my wife but it's one to watch again and again.  It is so well put together and contains so many insights into him and the world of F1 that it will never grow old.

Then, obviously, Sunday morning I'm up with the Sun to gaze adoringly at Suzuka, to race the 130R flat out, and to rejoice in the spectacle, the theatre, and the drama of Japan for probably the last time.  I have to say that I hope Seb gets his championship here on Sunday.  How fitting would it be that this circuit, so often the scene of the final showdown, would see a World Driver's Champion crowned here in the year of such a disaster.

The motorracing mad Japanese deserve all of the best things to happen - to return to life after the struggles, anger and sadness of the past year - Keizoku wa chikara nari

Equal Machinery - Who would win?

The constant speculation surrounding the question: "who is the best?" is one which is rarely answerable in any definitive way. You can talk about number of wins, number of pole positions, fastest laps, championships, etc. but the fact is that no matter who you are, it's likely that you've won the Driver's Championship thanks, in large part, to the fact you've got the best car in the field.

This is why commentators always say that your first job is to beat your teammate.

Still, that too is a bit of a misinformant when it comes to that ultimate question because luck, mistakes, and other outside factors always come into play over the course of a championship.

Look at Button/Hamilton this year, Jenson is ahead on points but then he's also been involved in fewer race ending collisions.  Lewis has had opportunities but has scuppered his own chance at success in a number of them.  But then you can point to Button's immense drive in Canada in changing conditions and, to cloudy the waters even more, his ability to slip past both Hamo and Schumi at Monza while Lewis got caught lap after lap after lap after lap...

Which of them is the best? for Speed probably Lewis, for Experience and Racecraft probably Jenson.  Over the course of a season it doesn't amount to much difference but in a championship winning car it's the difference between the title and none.

Vettel has the best car without a doubt and he is the best driver in the team with the best car...ergo the championship is his to lose. Put everyone in the Red Bull and the championship could go to one of many drivers: Hamo, Button, Alonso, Vettel, Schumi?, Rosberg?, Di Resta (Rookie of the Season so far)?, and maybe even the likes of Kamui, Sergio, et al.

The only thing that's sure is that the stars of today are the veterans of tomorrow and they'll be replaced with someone younger, faster, fitter, and more exciting.  Who's the best driver on the gird? Over a single qualifying lap - Old school with fresh soft rubber and fumes in the tank - it has to be Jarno Trulli!

Monday, October 3, 2011

William's Worst ever Season

With 5 races left Frank and Patrick are facing their worst ever result in the history of Williams in F1 - and that includes 1978, where they scored no points and only ran in 7 races.  If the points system were the same Williams would be on 0 points for the season.

Where has it all gone wrong for the Grove?  This will be the first time since 1978 that they've finished in 9th place.

The rot would appear to have set in around 2004 when the team finished 4th in the constructor's championship.

At the time the result would have been identified as a blip on the William's Radar in the same way as the 5th place in 1999 was.  At least there was an excuse for that '99 result - Mecachrome engines and the worst driver line-up of Schumacher (R) and Alex Zanardi (he of the steel brakes).

So what happened at Williams in 2004 and since? What has caused this spectacular collapse in form? Can it be addressed and everything made right again?

Three things of note appear to have occurred within the team in 2004; the first was the appointment of Sam Michael as Technical Director and Patrick Head moving to the position of Director of Engineering; the second was the opening of the team's second wind tunnel; and the third was the Walrus Nose (Yes - THAT nose!).  As well as these it was announced early in the season that Montoya would be moving to McLaren for 2005 and Ralf, of course, went to Toyota.

Of course the FW26 was also a relatively radical departure from the team ethos in that it was a brand spanking new car rather than a derivative of its predecessor which had been the most competitive of the BMW-Williams partnership.  The FW26, designed by Gavin Fisher, was further limited due to the fact that the BMW engine now had to last the full race weekend.

Nonetheless, the FW25 ('03) and the FW26 ('04) were both new cars out of the blocks but while the FW25 performed and brought the team 2nd place in the constructor's,the FW26 only brught the team 3 podiums, including the win in Brazil.

Antonia Terzi left her post as Chief Aerodynamicist in November 2004 and was replaced by Loic Bigois (ex-Prost designer).

One other thing of note happened in 2004 - the demise of the Jaguar Racing Team - in 2005 Red Bull Racing entered the F1 feeding frenzy.

With Montoya and R Schumacher gone the driver line up for 2005 was Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld.  BMW and Williams fell out very publicly with each blaming the other for poor results. One of the rumours around the paddock that year was that BMW refused to allow Williams to utilise the engines power to its fullest extent during the race weekend, effectively installing a limiter on the engine revs. This due to the Rule Change which now required each engine to last 2 GP weekends.

Each team was also limited to one set of tyres to last both Quali and the Race event, in order to reduce cornering speeds.

The FW27 was the first outing of a car designed by Sam Michaels, Gavin Fisher, and Loic Bigois.  It was not as aerodynamically sound as some of its competitors, and if we take the rumours as fact, unable to make full use of the Beemer engine.  The car scored some good results but flattered to deceive, taking 2nd and 3rd at Monaco from the Renault of Alonso on bald tyres and a full fuel tank. No wins and 5th in the championship.

2006 was even worse.  8th in the constructor's.  Rosberg (Nico) came into the team while Heidfeld moved with BMW to Sauber.  A Cosworth Engine in the FW28, Gavin Fisher was fired as Chief Designer due to te 2005 results and was replaced by Jorg Zander (Toyota and BAR).

Now we had Sam Michaels in his second year as Tech Director, and ex-PIG (I mean Prost) aerodynamicist and a Chief Designer who had put in work on the conspicuously absent Toyota and BAR F1 wagons (Funny that BAR won its first GP in 2006 with Geoff Willis, ex-Williams chief aero).  How was the year going to work out? Obvioiusly poorly. No podiums and few points.

See where this is going?


Can we put it down to Sam Michaels - old to the game but new into the role?

In 2007 Webbo left the team to join Red Bull Racing and was replaced by Alex Wurz who had been test driver the previous year (good in his day but many years out of the racing game at this stage). Toyota engine. Limited testing. No Michelin Tyres.

The FW29 was designed by Sam and Loic.  Jorg Zander had resigned in 2006 and had joined up with BMW at Sauber.  A much improved performance but only one podium and 4th place in the championship.

2008 and the FW30 is designed by Sam and Jon Tomlinson (Jordan followed by the Championship Renaults). Loic goes to Honda in 2007. Kazuki Nakajima is brought in for Wurz.

The 2008 season was up and down for Williams. Rosberg managed 2 podiums in Australia and Singapore but the car struggled at circuits with high speed corners. The team switched to developing the 2009 car (where new regulations come in) mid-season and they finished 8th.

2009 and Rosberg is now an old hand, Nakajima just hasn't cut it but is still racing. The FW31 is another "from scratch" car because o the wholesale rule changes and everyone is trying to find their feet.  Perhaps the reason why Brawn GP spectacularly manages to capture both crowns.  Red Bull show their hand also.

This is a difficult call to make.  In '09 they come 7th but the entire season is riddled with innovation and creation and I think the season turned into a bit of a lottery in respect of a number of teams sailing close to the wind in design terms.

Nico got a number of points finishes and all the points and if Nakajima had been capable the team might easily have been 5th respectably behind Mclaren and Ferrari.

2010 they come 6th with the FW32 Cosworth.  Reubens and Nico Hulkenburg are in the driver's seats.  It's the tightest world championship in years with RBR, Mclaren, and Ferrari all looking to take the constructor's, nevertheless the 69 points puts them firmly in the second tier of constructor's.

What changes have been made since? well we know that Sam Michael is now gone to be replaced by Mike Coughlan in 2012, this should bring stability to the team in that he's a good guiding hand (regardless of his prior history).  If only the team could take on two strong drivers - guys who can finish GP's and who can race for position.  I love Reubens as a driver but I think the spirit is weakening - his desire is waning on the basis that he's driven uncompetitively since 2009.  Maldonado too is not an option - he's just not good enough. What is needed is a pairing like Webber and Coulthard in the early RBR.  Rip it all up and start again - Good tech data providers, older, strong drivers who can set up a car reliably, a bulletproof engine, a balanced car and write off 2012 and perhaps 2013 with a view to 2014.

William's have the track record (pardon the pun) and just need to be a little more patient.  I think Sam Michaels is excellent - perhaps just not quite ready for tech director. If the will is there Coughlan can steer the team back to success.  I'd cross check that second wind tunnel data though - just for the sake of accuracy!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Should Hamilton have Won Hungary?

It's taken me until today to really get my head around how Lewis lost in Hungary on Sunday last.  Regular readers of this Blog will know that I've been pretty critical of him over the course of the season so far, sometimes for his driving but mostly for the ludicrous nature of his outbursts in the media and his clumsy handling of his attempts to involve himself in his driver contract negotiations.

I've pointed the finger of blame at his management company for both of these matters and I'm convinced that this is where the fault lies.  My experience of F1, as a fan watching the sport, has led me to the conclusion that driver management is very specialised and is not something to be undertaken by a management company which is primarily interested in the commercial side of personality management.

Anyway all of the foregoing is beside the point; Hamo drove a fantastic race on Sunday up to the point where his chance at winning was rudely and crudely taken away from him.

It is great to see him going for it, racing hard against all comers, including his teammate - forcing mistakes - pushing the limits - taking every opportunity and making them stick.  Lewis in racing mode is a joy to watch and, under the changeable conditions, brought all of his talents to bear.

In my humble opinion there were a series of errors made which cost him the opportunity to fight to the finish at the front end.  Obviously the first and major talking point was the drive through penalty which - this time - seemed to be particularly harsh.  The stewards didn't make the right call on this (even though Di Resta did have to take to the grass to avoid him).  The fact of the matter is that Lewis, in spinning, was on the track and constituted a stationary hazard which would have required evasive action on the part of Di Resta in any event.

It didn't damage Di Resta's race and as such, given that it occurred just after the rain had started to come down again, the decision to award a penalty drive through was a little harsh and unwarranted.

The second thing which was obviously unhelpful was the decision to take on fresh (intermediate) boots - It was a gamble which just didn't pay off.  As Martin Brundle said at the time it could have been an inspired decision putting Hamilton on the right tyres while everyone else struggled on slicks (if only the rain had continued to fall!) unfortunately for him it didn't pan out that way and he had to come in to change back onto slicks as well as drive through to serve his penalty - this put him a good 40 seconds behind if you consider that the drive through was about 17 seconds and tyre changing probably adding another 21 seconds.

Given that he ended up about 48 seconds behind Button those two decisions, in conjunction with the spin cost him the chance to be at the sharp end come lap 70.

I was delighted (and surprised) with his press reaction afterwards as was his boss Martin Whitmarsh who commented on his mature attitude.  For me this was the first time this year when he would have had every right to have a go.  I think Allan McNish was the ex-F1 driver in the race stewards last weekend: I wonder what side he came down on in the penalty debate? (Not that I'm making any connection between Di Resta and himself both being Scottish!)

Sunday, July 31, 2011


So Sad - get back from holiday, switch on the TV for Quali and hear this terrible, terrible news.

Bernie has always said that the lifeblood of F1 was free-to-air. It's sad to see that this - the one thing that he has said that I actually believed, because it makes sense - has turned out to be nothing more than more hot air.

It looks as if this is going to be a short-lived F1 blog, or maybe in the future it might be a half season F1 blog given that I won't pay to watch the rest of them.

Really upset.

Does anyone know where an Irish guy can get free-to-internet F1 live streaming?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gizmo's, Gadgets, & Rubber Boots

Mercedes GP have carried out a mid-season review of the impact of DRS, KERS, and Pirelli Tyres on the season so far.  See the review and make your own judgement.

They have pointed out that there were 623 overtaking manoeuvres in total with 180 DRS-assisted passing moves, and 225 'normal' (i.e. non-DRS) passes - 175 passes took place of faster cars on HRT, Virgin and Lotus and 43 were between teammates.  Of the DRS assisted passes 50 took place in Turkey, 30 in China, and 29 in Barcelona.

46.4% of all normal overtaking moves (188 of 405) occurred when the car being overtaken was on boots which were more than 5 laps older than the car overtaking but when we look solely at the non-DRS overtaking that figure is 48% (87 of 180).

So what do all of the figures tell us?  Autosport argues that the figures confirm that the rulemakers have got it right.  But what I'm seeing is that Barcelona, China, Valencia, and Turkey have all benefited from the rule changes while the classic, older circuits haven't particularly required or relied upon these gimmicks to provide good races.

109 of the DRS passes took place in Turkey, China, and Barcelona while in Valencia 50% of passes were DRS enabled while only 11% were 'normal' (no information as to how many overtakes there were but it must be the case that the other 39% of overtakes were down to new Vs. old boots).

The report says that DRS has only accounted for 29% of overtaking manoeuvres over the course of the season so far but this figure incorporates all of the 623 manoeuvres.  If we break it down that's 44.4% of all on-track overtaking (removing the moves on the slowest teams and teammates) due to DRS.

In terms of old vs new tyres this type of manoeuvre measured 60% of overtakes which were not attributable to DRS (136 of 225).

This leaves us with 89 overtaking manoeuvres in total which cannot be attributed to DRS or Tyres - or 21% of all 'normal' overtaking moves over the season so far.

Are my calculations correct? If so then we are seeing assisted passing taking place nearly 80% of the time, that's 4 in every 5 overtakes directly attributable to DRS or Tyres or both.

On the back of these figures I wouldn't feel right endorsing the new rules as fervently as Autosport, in fact I'd be looking at them with more than a little suspicion - Oh that's right, I already have (here, and here, and here and all over really).

All in all I'm surprised at Autosport.  Their story is entitled 'Analysis: the success of Formula'1 new rules' when very little analysis has taken place.  They seem to have just taken Mercedes figures and rehashed them rather than attempt to make any analysis of what the figure show.  The fact is that the figures show that the F1 Circus has actually become a circus - where it's 80% show and 20% racing.  Having a respected publication like Autosport endorse the new gizmos, gadgets, gimmicks, and rubber boots is like a seal of approval.  Bernie and the boys are laughing all the way to the bank - James, Jim, Graham, Juan Manuel, Ayrton etc. are spinning in theirs!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Connew F1

I noticed that someone had looked at my July 2011 post recently, which simply served to redirect anyone interested to Barry Boor's site, and wanting to re-familiarise myself with their story I decided to click through to my post and from there to the story. I saw that the links were down and I had to find the story again and redirect the links to Barry Boor's site.  The web address has changed and I have updated the links accordingly.

July 2011 Post

Wow! Not a lot going on in the F1 world other than the normal non-story stories so, as I was researching F1 drivers who didn't cut it I came across this wonderful website about Connew F1.  This is the true spirit of F1 - Read the Connew F1 story in 6 parts from the link at the bottom of Paragraph 2.  This is the story through the eyes of Barry Boor who helped Peter Connew build and race an F1 car at the Austrian GP of 1972.

The story really gives an insight into the operation of a (very) small, inexperienced team and their efforts to get a car onto the F1 grid.  Great tale and I hope that you like it as much as I did.  One for all those guys out there who dream!

If you want a pre-story history Wiki has one (of course).  Here's a picture of the car with Peter Connew, Roger Doran and Ron Olive.  I'm crediting it to Barry Boor's Website

Friday, July 15, 2011

F1 Drivers who just didn't cut it

Talking of Grosjean and his atrocious 2009 season with Renault made me wonder about all those guys who didn't quite make the grade.  This Blog post is a big salute to all of those drivers from 1990 - 2011 who only managed to race at the pinnacle of motorsport for one season or less.

We can criticise drivers all we like, but Grosjean's return to form in GP2 after THAT season has made me take a moment to realise that each of these guys made it to F1 even if they couldn't hold down their seat.  These guys MADE it.  The horrible part of the story is that they couldn't sustain it and that we, the fans, tend to have very short memories of drivers who were there one day and gone the next.#

Who, for example, remembers Marco Apicella? Other than Marco Apicella himself, his family and his mates?

He holds the dubious record of shortest F1 career ever.  He was taken on by Jordan for the Italian GP in 1993.  He qualified in 23rd position and was caught up in a first corner accident (not his fault).  He never raced F1 again.  In 1994 he won the Japanese F3000 title.  While he hasn't won another title since, he has won races and has continued to compete.  At one stage he was test driver for Dome who were hoping to launch into F1 with Shinji Nakano and A.N. Other but the attempt failed.  Fair play to Apicella for being there in 1993 and continuing to race with success elsewhere.

What about Gary Brabham? Yeah you know the surname - Son of Jack, who like his brother David made little headway in F1.  While David raced for back of the grid teams for two or three seasons and doesn't make it into the criteria for inclusion in this Blog Post, Gary (Yeah son of Jack Brabham!) joined the LIFE team in 1990 and failed to Qualify on two occasions in USA and Brazil. He quit the team and never got another F1 opportunity.  He had won the first ever British F3000 title just the year before and in 1991 won the 12 hours of Sebring IMSA GT Race with his brother Geoff.  He retired in 1995.  Hard luck Gary, it's just a shame that the 1989 test drives with Brabham and Leyton House F1 teams didn't work out. I mean, HOW could the BRABHAM team not take on a BRABHAM? I just don't understand!

Should Paul Belmondo even be on this list? He did race in two seasons with Pacific in 1994 and March in 1992. I actually remember the name but that's probably because he was sleeping with Princess Stephanie of Monaco in the '80's.  Obviously he had buckets of cash because he paid for his drive at March where he spectacularly failed to qualify in all but 5 races of the season, ran out of sponsorship, and was replaced.  He did come 9th in one of those races but he was not a racing driver and he's here just so I can say - DID NOT DESERVE THE SEAT! His previous results along with those afterwards show that he had no racing talent whatsoever.  He appears to have lucked into about 4 wins in a driving career that lasted from 1983 - 2001.  He makes me think I should do a worst paying driver ever Post.

We move on to Robert Doornbos, Jordan test driver in 2004, Minardi Race Driver in July 2005, When Minardi were taken over by Red Bull he was retained as test driver and raced three times for RBR.  Another Driver who could have made it.  He was slow to come to terms with racecraft but his testing speeds often put him into the top ten and sometimes into the top three when with Red Bull.
In his combined total of 11 F1 races he never finished above 12th place but, in his first race for Red Bull in China in 2006 he qualified in 10th place and would probably have had a decent result if he hadn't collided with Kubica in the first corner necessitating a change of front wing.  He finished that race in 12th position. Both before and after his F1 career he took wins in F3, F3000, and Champcar and while he's never won a championship he has been brought back as test driver with both Jordan (2005) and Red Bull (2007) a testament to just how well he was thought of and how close he was to the top 24 in the world.

This could go on and on so I'll turn it into a series and stop after just one more driver - and the Americans in the audience won't be happy - Michael Andretti at McLaren 1993 (Sorry Guys!) - There's no doubting Michael's racing abilities and this horrific stint at McLaren followed on from a 1991 CART Championship Title and 2nd in the 1992 CART series.
Let's get beyond that and focus on F1, Michael as just another damn good driver who just didn't make it. He competed in just 13 races for McLaren and achieved one podium, third at Monza. So what happened? Let's look at this objectively (Unlike Marco his son!).
  • He came in as team mate to Senna, so he was already going to find it difficult.
  • He had no preSeason testing under his belt.
  • In-Season testing was limited to tracks within the team's own country - Britain.
  • Michael refused to move over to England, remaining in the USA - a six-hour flight away so testing was never going to be easy
  • The FIA imposed a limit on the number of practice laps on race weekends and limited the number of tyres.
  • He had no experience of Active Suspension, Semi-automatic gearboxes or Traction Control.
  • He had never done standing starts.
  • With little testing and no track knowledge there was little opportunity for him to learn the circuits for the races.
These are the preSeason facts of the case.
For a driver used to simple, turbo-charged brute force CARTs he now had to get into a technically advanced piece of machinery filled with gizmo's, with little or no testing, and find a result.
The odds were stacked against him.
Marco's rant against McLaren was low on facts.  He claimed that they were desperate to replace him with Mika Hakkinen but there is no doubt that Mika was hired in order to provide cover for Senna, who was looking for a Williams Drive and had only agreed to race for McLaren on a Race-by-Race deal - so he could leave at any time.

By not moving to Britain testing had to be carried out for him at specific times and this hampered his development.  This was definitely Michael's own fault, probably not helped by Mario's opinion: "All he needs is one or two tests. He doesn't need to grind away. Michael's not a test driver like some of those other guys, you know, there to do the donkey testing. He's there to go for it". (subtle!)
Let's face it, things had changed from Mario's time.  Testing was vital to get to know, and improve, the car, to familiarise yourself with all of the electronics, and to spend time with your team to build morale.  Michael's line was that he was not moving.

After first Quali put him in 6th onthe grid in his first race in South Africa the gremlins hit his active suspension system and put him down in 9th, three seconds behind his teammate (don't forget - Senna). His gearbox left him stranded on the grid at lights out and even though they got him going he crashed into the back of Derek Warwick on lap 4 breaking his front suspension - CRASH

Brazil - pulled himself up to 5th in Quali (less than a second behind Senna) but forgot at the standing start that he had to physically paddle shift up from 1st to 2nd gear and was overtaken by the cars behind him, forcing him into the path of Berger's Ferrari and Launching him into the barriers.  Big accident! - CRASH

At Donnington he Qualified 6th - less than half a second behind Senna - but on the first lap of the race Karl Wendlinger closed the door on him and both cars ended up in the gravel. - CRASH

San Marino - He was fighting with Wendlinger again, for 4th, when he spun in Variante Alta due to a rear brake lock-up - MECHANICAL FAILURE

Spain - 5th - RESULT

Monaco - Crash in the Wet at quali - Crashed in the race at Loews but finished the race in eighth nonetheless - STRONG DRIVE

Canada - Qualified 12th - a flat starter battery lost him 3 laps at the start of the race - TECHNICAL FAILURE

France - Problems with his gearshift in Quali meant he only came in 16th on the grid but then he raced to 6th place in the race - STRONG DRIVE

Silverstone - Qualified 11th - though he had rain on his quick lap - Spun into the gravel at Copse on the first lap - CRASH

Hockenheim - Poor Quali - Race - CRASH

Hungary - 11th on the grid but raced strongly in 6th up until he suffered throttle failure - TECHNICAL FAILURE

Spa - poor Quali followed by a sad race - finished in 8th - he already knew he was going by that time and chose to race for the final time in Monza - Finish

Monza - Started from 9th on the grid and finished in 3rd - PODIUM

Let's count them up 5 crashes, 3 Tech/Mechanical Failures, 2 points scoring finishes, 2 strong drives, and one sad race.

Not bad really when you look at the state of McLaren in that year.  Though it has to be said that Mika immediately outqualified Senna in Estoril.  Practice time is what it was all about!

Michael - No matter how you feel about the situation at McLaren I have to salute you - you deserved better than you got and your talent never really managed to shine through consistently whether by virtue of Berger and Wendlinger who seemed to be your two nemesis, or the gremlins in your McLaren.

to be continued...

Romain Grosjean to make F1 Return

Let's go milling again (at the rumour mill obviously).

This Grosjean lad is impressing once again in GP2. Let's face it, in 2009 he was a complainer, nothing was his fault.  There were poor quali sessions blamed on traffic hold ups, yellow flags, and an accident in Brazil.  There were crashes with Badoer and Button, Brake problems, lack of circuit knowledge, rain, retirements, tyre temperature issues, understeer, oversteer, wombling free (for the UK & Eire Fans - anyone who's unfamiliar with wombles here's a link).

Anyway, apart from that little walk down memory lane, Grosjean was, for all intents and purposes washed up after his rookie F1 year.  His F1 career was short and sour with little chance of anyone in the Piranha Club taking him seriously again.

Did he run away with his tail between his legs? No, He went back to GP2 where he won the inaugural Asia Series in 2007 and came fourth in the GP2 Series season in 2008 where he was the highest finishing rookie.  Now in 2011 he's once again won the GP2 Asia Series and is leading the GP2 Series season by 9 points.

This Swiss, who apparently still holds down a dayjob as a Banker (what else?), may well be worth another look from one of the midfield teams next year.  The only question is where can he go? Sauber? Toro Rosso? Force India? There is a rumour linking him to Renault for the end of this season if Nick doesn't come up with the goods and it's unlikely that Williams will plump for a Maldonado/Grosjean combo next year being a very inexperienced line-up.

Closed cockpit in F1's Future?

Interesting FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety and Sustainability video - with thanks to F1B contributor Christopher for providing the link to see it.

The Set Up - what happens when you throw an F1 wheel at a windscreen at 225km/h?

FIA Institute Jet Canopy Test from FIA Institute on Vimeo.

Closed cockpit anyone?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What's Up?

As you can see it's been a while since my last post - to tell the truth I've been very busy at work (long may it continue) and just shattered, getting home late, playing with my daughter, talking to my wife and often waking up at 3am or 4am on the couch (depressing!), slouching up to bed and getting up to do it all over again the next day.

Even on the Weekends there doesn't seem to have been any time to relax (other than to watch the GPs).  I missed quali for both Valencia and Silverstone due to all of the above stuff going on, but caught the races live on the Beeb.  Unusually I caught none of the build up - just the races themselves - and that, in conjunction with my lack of time online, has left me feeling a little bit out of the loop as to what's going on.

While I'm surprised at myself for not posting, in a way I think it's understandable given what happened at Valencia.  I haven't been quite so bored by a race in a verrrry looooong time. Snoozefest just doesn't describe it properly.  I'm not one of those guys who gets turned off by the same guy winning all the time or by a lack of overtaking, but it does turn me off watching a parade around a souless circuit with nothing much worth mentioning going on.  It was a sad day - I mean even in Barca there was excitement - even though it had more to do with the tyres than with anything else.

Even though I could have found the time to blog about Valencia what was I going to say? Crap race. Boring! Boring! Boring! You know it's bad when the highlight of the weekend is Vettel checking out the Silverstone settings in Free Practice - and even that turned out to be a psyche. Congrats to Vettel

Friday, June 24, 2011

Frree Practice 2

I was right about Vettel this morning - he was going around in Silverstone Spec.  16th in FP1 - that's gotta hurt!

He was right up the sharp end in FP2, in third place.  Nadgers was quickest for the third year running - the only driver to break the 1.38 mark.  Lewis was second and Schumi fourth.

4 different constructors could make for an interesting qualifying - if the times are relatively genuine.

Massa 5th, Button 6th, Webber 7th, Rosberg 8th - mirroring the constuctor's positions in the first four.

Can Schumi continue his rise out of retirement obscurity - if he keeps this up he'll be on the podium this weekend.

After Hulkenburg's crash on lap 8 this morning, Di Resta only got ten minutes on track and managed 7 laps without crashing.

Alguersuari spent the entire session in the pits with an engine fault.

First Free Practice

As with all free practice sessions times must be taken with a healthy pinch of salt.  For example, the two McLarens came in 4th (Lewis) and 7th (Button) in their overall times but they weren't using the DRS and were testing a new high downforce wing - the two times are therefore relatively redundant from analysis.  Of the front runners Button did only 16 laps, while Petrov only did 20.  The others were all into the low to mid 20's.

The only driver to do less laps than Button was Nico Hulkenburg who crashed Di Resta's Force India out on track on lap 8.

Vettel ended the session down in 16th place with 23 laps done - I wonder what he was doing? He did a 10 lap stint on the medium tyres.

Could it be that Webbo was using fully open exhaust engine mapping while Vettel was checking out the 10% rule?  Just kidding - particularly given that the two Renaults were up in 2nd (Petrov) and 5th (Heidfeld).

The times seemed to drop off towards the end of the session as the air and track temperatures began to rise.  A lot of the early part of the session was spent cleaning the track and particularly the racing line of dust, dirt, and debris.

Webbo first, Petrov Second, and Alonso third, Hamo, Heid, Mass, Butt, Sutil.

No Di Resta, No Trulli

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Senna Movie

Saw the movie yesterday evening.  All of the memories of Senna were very nearly overwhelming.  You forget so much with every new season.
Some fantastic in-car footage from Driver's eye height around Monaco - Madness!

Beautifully shot, beautifully edited and ultimately very sad (just in case you don't know how it all ends!)

Went in-car at Imola '94 - I was counting down the corners - 3...2...1...Tamburello

The entire tale is told by those who knew him, with interview sound from his Mother, Sister, Teammates, team principles, and of course, the man himself, with some incredible accompanying footage.

Really points fingers at Ballestra.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I love Luca

Those of you who dip in and out of this Blog are probably aware that "The Great" Di Montezemolo would appear to be an avid fan of F1 2011 and that I now tend to address him directly rather as a third party.

Having said that Luca, I have to applaud you on your interview on Italian Sky TV which confirms what we know and love about Ferrari:

"I'd rather see a competitive Ferrari that stops rather than one that finishes sixth or seventh. This car was not born well but I know the quality and determination of my men. We must respond knowing that this season did not start as we wanted. But hope dies last."

That Luca, expresses the passion of the Tifosi beautifully. Sometimes you've just got to love Ferrari.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hamilton's Intentions are Plain

My March Archive includes a number of blogs in relation to McLaren Team harmony and the fact that Lewis and his management were stirring the proverbial ***t in a serious way.  At the time I was of the opinion that it was partly a tactic to spur McLaren on, partly an attempt to renegotiate a higher fee, and partly a statement to other teams that he was available for a little chat.

What happened in Canada?  A little chat with Christian Horner.  Funny how his management company had a representative in Montreal when they weren't in Monaco, and even funnier that their presence was felt after the little chat took place.  A few strategic words to say that "Neither Lewis nor his management team have had any discussions with regard to moving team" and leave the rest up to yourself.  Remember Lewis slagging RBR off earlier in the season?

Hamilton's contract with McLaren is up in 2012 and it's pretty standard to be setting the scene at this early, pre-negotiation stage.

If I were McLaren though I'd be thinking like Frank Williams, that if I can produce a winning car then I only need to hire two drivers who can win and the season is sewn up.  The prime focus for the team is the Constructor's Championship, with the Driver's Championship only the public jewel in the crown.

Jenson can deliver wins; and with a winning car under his belt would do a lot of the work to grab the Constructor's trophy, all that's needed after that is another driver who, given the right car, can take wins where Jenson can't.

Once again we are talking about a winning car, the staple requirement for every Championship.

I mean, let's face it - regardless of his undoubted talent I have to reiterate again and again that Lewis, since he parted from the management of his father (and since Ron Dennis left the pitlane), has exhibited signs of an increasing egocentricity combined with a most unfortunate "Mansell"-like tendency to whinge when things aren't going his way.

While I'm sure that his vast talent makes him a very attractive prospect for most teams, as a front-runner McLaren really don't need him to win championships.  Given the right car Rosberg, Massa, Kubica, Trulli (call me sentimental), and a certain MS would have no problem bringing home the remaining wins, and creating a team where both drivers can compete for the Driver's trophy while ensuring the Constructor's Championship for the team.

Personally I think that Lewis needs a strong boss who'll stick his emerging hubris back into its box.  I'm all for self-confidence and pride but his boss needs to encourage that while discouraging the less attractive qualities which go with it.  I think Horner may be the guy to do it - Frank W just wouldn't engage with it and Lewis would find himself out on his ear after a year. I don't think Ross Brawn would be bothered reigning him in - Domenicalli isn't a runner and I don't know enough about Boullier to judge his abilities in man management.

What Lewis really needs is another Ron - but he won't get that unless he moves down the grid to the likes of Peter Sauber who is one of the stalwarts who has seen drivers come and go and is used to dealing with over-inflated ego's.

For McLaren, I think Massa would blossom in a partnership with Jenson (let's face it you just can't hate the guy at all!).  Both Jenson and Filipe appear to be genuine characters.  They both have the drive to win but it is packaged in a friendly and open manner.  Massa has suffered at Ferrari over the last couple of seasons - particularly since his accident - and needs a nurturing atmosphere, which McLaren would provide.  It's great to see him getting back in the swing of things over the last couple of races and this will help him move.

Rosberg too seems to be a genuinely nice guy.  Adam Cooper tweeted a few hours ago " #F1 Just had a chat with @nico_rosberg at Montreal Airport. He was in normal cafe, not some fancy lounge. Top bloke".  But regardless of Adam Cooper's take the way Nico talks on camera is serious, down to earth, and professional, but you can see that he has a sense of humour to go with it.

I think that either of those guys would be a great asset to McLaren from a driver's and a PR perspective.  Lewis' mouth is becoming a PR and team liability - which is just not the McLaren way, while his driving is also becoming somewhat erratic as a result of his increasing frustrations in the car.  One is feeding the other while XIX management seems to be more focused on Lewis the individual Brand rather than Lewis the team asset.

Hamilton should be encouraged to go elsewhere for next season - the Ron Dennis asset is turning into a Martin Whitmarsh nightmare liability.

Monday, June 13, 2011

O Canada! ...With Glowing Hearts we see thee rise

What a day.  From disappointment with the red flag in Monaco to exuberance with the red flag in Canada.  From the depths of my Spanish tyre depression to a most inflated sense of Canadian delight.  It really was the maple syrup on my pancakes, the wonder and awe and amazement that characterises the most complete thing (for what are pancakes without Maple Syrup? crepe!).

What did we not have in this race?

Start under the safety car - Given the state of the track I wasn't too bothered by this, remembering what happened at Spa in 1998.  I understand Eddie Jordan's feeling that the excitement of a proper start was lost but, given the conditions, I wasn't surprised at the way things worked out.

Torrential Downpour - I was amused really by the drivers on the live radio feeds talking at the race director through their teams.  Charlie is listening to all of this stuff and they all know it - why can't they just communicate to him? I know the link is to the team but given that they know he can hear they could appeal directly to him - I guess it's just a matter of form.

The weather really did disimprove dramatically and the red flag was inevitable.  The conditions were reminiscent of Adelaide in 1991 when the race was stopped on Lap 14.  At that time, if you remember, we had no access to pit-to-car radio transmissions and what I remember most of all was Senna, driving down the start-finish straight, along side the pit-wall gesticulating madly that the conditions were undrivable and the race needed to be stopped.  It was, on lap 14 - the shortest ever F1 race.  Senna won.

Even more so I remember it was the first time I didn't get up to see the GP live - I was meeting mates in the pub on Sunday morning to watch the replay.  None of us had listened to the radio or seen the news and we had no idea of what was going to occur.  We bought our drinks and sat down to watch the show, the preamble had built up our expectations for an exciting wet race, another chance to see Senna the Master of the Rain.  And then the pub owner dashed cold water over us - walking behind us he looked up and said the words "Oh yeah, that's the race that they cancelled after 11 laps!" - We cursed him from a variety of heights and grumbled into our drink - but we still watched the race 14 laps! and listened to the afters.  We never did watch another GP in that bar though.

Red Flag - I thought the race director and his team did exactly the right thing.  Even though I had to wait for a couple of hours, listening to Martin and David discuss the merits of red-shouldered Blackbirds and grey shouldered seagulls (even with the constant threat of a black flag and half points), the wait was worth it.

Rhianna and George Lucas.  What I loved watching was the shot of Rhianna drinking her champagne immediately followed by a shot of the boys on the grid getting their polystyrene cups of coffee and a hunk of sandwich - The glamour of working in F1 eh?  Brundle, lost for something to fill the time, making fashion statements about Rhianna's hairdo, while equally cringeworthy, EJ tells George Lucas that he'd make a good Bernie! Live TV.

Restart - The restart was a shambles.  By the time that they had decided to restart the race, with all cars on full wet tyres, the track had dried to such an extent that some teams would have chosen to go with intermediates - as was evidenced by D'Ambrosio going in on the last lap under the safety car to change tyres - and the resultant drive-through penalty.

A slew of cars raced into the pits immediately after the Safety Car pulled in in order to change to inters with the Ferrari's in the next lap - neat work by the Ferrari pit crew, Massa out and Alonso straight in.

Alonso muddles into Button on the chicane and beaches himself - Button gets a puncture and has to drive around to the pits for the fifth time.  Safety Car out and another free pitstop for Vettel.  With Kamui K in second I was expecting him to have a go but Vettel really knows how to control the restarts and didn't give him a chance.

It was only a matter of time before he got overtaken.  Schumi overtakes Webbo - The man drove like the champion he was - just didn't have the car under him to hold the place.  Forget Hakkinen on Schumi around Zonta in Spa 2000 - best overtaking move ever? Michael on Massa and Kamui, on a drying track, on intermediate tyres, lap 52, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2011. It is the Master showing what he's capable of.

Button comes back from 21st to sneak onto the radar again - he's made a sixth visit to the pits and is flying on dry tyres He's up in tenth and surely is driving on pure adrenalin at this stage - he's putting in fastest lap after fastest lap, Jense in the Brawn in the first 7 races of 2009, consistent, fast, aggressive, controlled.  It's like he had drawn a target on Vettel's back and was honing in - He drove like he knew the race was his.

By lap 56 he was into fifth, Heidfeld lost his nose and brought out the safety car.  What a close call for the Track Marshall's - that was a lot closer than I'd ever want to get to Kamui when he was in the car - great control by Kobayashi to steer away from him.  The eternal question do you move and hope to escape the much faster missile pointing directly at you or do you let the driver avoid you?  Common sense says the latter, deer in the headlights syndrome says RUN!

Button flys up behind Schumi and Webbo who are going at it for Second place - Vettel is busy deciding what he's going to say on the team radio after winning again.

Webbo takes Schumi but skips the chicane and relinquishes the place - does a great job not to let Button through, but he can't hold him for long.  He screws up the chicane again, goes off-line and pulls back onto the dry line, Button is much quicker, has to dive onto the wet part of the track to avoid colliding with him, and powers past on slicks in the wet.  Heartstopping moment, could have been the end of his race right there and then.

Another burst of adrenaline must kick in - I've survived that and taken the place - DRS right past Schumi - no worries.  Now where's my target.  Lap 65 to Lap 69 Button pushes like crazy, probably still living on the adrenaline rush from the Webbo overtake, on 69 he gets into the DRS window but can't make it stick, just no quite close enough.

Vettel has stopped thinking about his winning speech and finally decides to concentrate on winning, but, like Brundle always used to say it's hard to pick up the pace again after you've been cruising.  Your mindset is all wrong. And we see the result.  Lap 70, Vettel Cracks for the first time this year - puts a wheel on the wet and spins, Jenson goes by, cheerio Seb! WOW! What a win, What a drive.  Definitely Button's best drive ever.  What a roller coaster of a race.  Even after writing this and recalling everything that happened It's like I've relived it. And I've missed so much Button/Hamilton, Massa, Button/Alonso, Heidfeld (who had a great race up until his run in with Kamui), Di Resta, KERS in the Rain, Button's 5 pit-stops and one drive-through, Schumi overtaking Hamilton, Hamilton running into Webbo, How the Safety Car worked for Vettel, Petrov, and loads more.  You could write a book.

Great drive Jenson, Great drive Michael, Great drive Webbo.  Hard Luck Seb - you still got second and didn't deserve the booing crowd - I apologise for them (even though it has nothing to do with me) but I guess they're just happy to see someone else on the top step for a change! remember the Michael era?  Loved and hated in equal measure.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Vettel the Champion gets acquainted with the Wall of Champions

Free Practice 1 sees Vettel smash the right side of his car up as he says hello to the famous Wall of Champions.

Funnily enough he did mention the proximity of the walls on Thursday - and then there was this question of how the super degrading tyres would work at close quarters.

He radio'd the pits immediately to tell them he was fine - the session was red flagged for a couple of minutes.

"It's official the white Patey helmet has been hung up for good...

...Stirling Moss has retired from competitive racing." These were the words of Sir Stirling Moss to his twitter fans informing him of his retirement from racing at the age of 81.

Moss epitomised the spirit of motor-racing believing that how you raced was as important as the final result.

He began his F1 career with HWM, a small team based in a garage in Walton-on-Thames, in 1951 and retired after a heavy crash in a Lotus at Goodwood in 1962.  Over the course of 11 years he raced in a number of great and evocative F1 cars such as Connaught, Cooper, Vanwall, BRM, Mercedes Benz, Maserati, Lotus, and drove alongside some of the greats of the sport, of which he is one, such as Fangio, Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorne, Phil Hill, Von Trips, Dan Guerney, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Innes Ireland, Bruce McLaren, etc.

He is often regarded as the best driver never to win a world driver's championship but probably should have won the 1958 title with 4 wins that year.  He lost out to Mike Hawthorne by 1 point.

The story goes that Hawthorne was going to be penalised in Portugal for restarting his stalled car by bump-starting it down the hill, against the oncoming race traffic but Moss defended Hawthorne's manoeuvre to the race stewards on the basis that he himself had shouted the advice to Hawthorne.  Moss won the race and Hawthorne came second claiming 6 points.  Hawthorne was the first British World Champion - if things had been different...

I just can't picture any of the modern era guys doing that - Maybe Barrichello, Webbo, Button...maybe.  I'd think the last drivers that you could guarantee would do it would have been the late '80's early '90's guys.  the pre-Schumi group, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part.

Apparently, Enzo Ferrari told Moss that he would build him whatever car he wanted if he would race for Ferrari in 1962 but after the crash at Goodwood Moss was in a coma for a month and spent the rest of the year recovering.  He returned to Goodwood in 1963 but came into the pits almost immediately and announced his retirement.

What can you say about a man who was a renowned master of the Mille Miglia (when it really was a race) and the Nurburgring 1000 km and won the 1957 GP on the Pescara Circuit, the longest ever GP circuit at 16 miles.

Long before my interest in F1, when I was but a child, I read about the Mille Miglia and in my head (whether or not it's true) I associate Moss with that part of the story which remains with me - even though I can't remember the book it was in.  That story refers to Moss? in second place, with darkness falling rapidly, racing towards the finish line without lights so that the leader (Fangio?) wouldn't be aware that he was catching up rapidly, and overtaking him with only a couple of km to go to win the race.  It was a real Boy's Own adventure story and had me racing up and down the drive on my homemade cart with that dangerous image in my head - If only my mother had known!

Moss returned to racing in the BTCC in 1980 unsuccessfully, and has been a regular competitor in historic racing events ever since.  In announcing his retirement during qualifying for the Le Mans Legends race he said "I was frightened before I even got in the car. This afternoon I scared myself and I have always said that if I felt I was not up to it or that I was getting in the way of fellow competitors, then I would retire. I love racing, but now it is time to stop."

For a full biography and all kinds of interesting info about Sir Stirling Moss visit his website.

Thanks for the racing and the attitude - "To me now racing is - the dangers are taken away: if it's difficult, they put in a chicane. So really now the danger is minimal - which is good, because people aren't hurt. But for me the fact that I had danger on my shoulder made it much more exciting" (I'll leave the rest of the quote out!).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Helmut "Groucho" Marx(o) is (Animal) Crackers

Groucho, as I'm now going to affectionately call the good Doctor (mediocre ex-F1 Driver) would appear to be losing it.  It's either that or he's made it his life goal to flood the top echelons of the sport with other mediocre F1 drivers.

Apparently he's now saying that, should Webber retire (or not have his contract renewed!) he'd expect that Buemi or Alguersuari would move into the vacant Red Bull seat!

These are surely nothing but the half-witted ravings of a man imitating an ostrich.

He bases the idea on the basis that Vettel has done alright

But Groucho -
Vettel showed his talent when he was in the Toro Rosso
Webbo showed his ability when he was in the Minardi

Buemi and Alguersuari have never shown any particular talent which would lead us to believe they should be in a top four team.  Don't get me wrong, the guys are OK, but if they're all that the Red Bull FDaD scheme can produce (Find Deitrich another Driver - pronounced eFFdad funnily enough) then the Red Bull Team's future is in doubt.

Groucho is obviously of the opinion that a driver can be made great rather than just being great in the first instance and making the most of their innate talent.

Great drivers make the most of their cars and their teams to do whatever can be done to get the best achieveable result - this often results in the drivers actually making the cars look better than they actually are.  Persistence, skill, a strong team ethic, talent, fitness, flair, aptitude, ability, skill, talent, flair - did I mention talent?

Sorry Seb and Jaime but I'm of the opinion that you have to chances of getting into the sister team - none and Bob and let's face it Bob's dead! -Oh! two Hopes! Now I get it...

Welcome home Felipe have a blue and silver can of sugary goodness!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bernie says No Bahrain GP

BBC, ESPN and Autosport are reporting that Bernie has finally accepted that there'll be no Bahrain GP this year.

About bloody time Bernie.

What a waste of time and effort on everyone's part when there was no appetite for the GP anywhere else other than at FIA HQ, in the Ruling House of Bahrain, and in Bernie's head.

Give them back the 40 mill and let's get on with the show!

FIA to Ban Exhaust Blown Diffusers after Canada?

This ban is interesting on a number of levels.

On one level - and once again the conspiracy theorist in me is leaping out of his chair and shouting - this could be interpreted as an attempt to tighten up the Championship by penalising Red Bull, who, let's face it, have made this system work and have reaped the benefits and racked up the points.  A ban might well see them lose a significant amount of laptime and allow the chasing pack to close up and bring the Championship back into play for Ferrari and McLaren, spicing up the back end of the season.

On another level Todt was right from an environmental perspective when he said that "It's a pointless consumption of fuel" as Renault had said that their engine had used 10% more fuel in Melbourne 2011 than last year

But from a racing perspective there is no such thing as a pointless consumption of fuel. is the place to go to see just how this system works, but basically what happens in the Red Bull is that, when the driver takes his foot off the accelerator the Renault engine throttle opens up fully.  This provides a constant flow of exhaust gas maintaining the downforce levels while the car is cornering and allowing for increased cornering speeds.  Those who know reckon it might cost the RB up to eight-tenths a lap in pace - more than enough for the rivals to sew up pole position and the race.

All of the teams have designed their cars to take advantage of downforce provided by the engine exhaust including Ferrari and McLaren, with Ferrari apparently pushing very hard to catch up to Red Bull.

Charlie Whiting has initiated the ban because he's come to the conclusion that, as ScarbsF1 says "when off throttle the engine is being used purely to drive the aerodynamics, this contradicts the regulation on movable aerodynamic devices".

Interesting interpretation.  Will it lead to another final race decider in Brazil? (You can read that question in two ways)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Open Letter to Jean Todt and the FIA

To Jean Todt, President, and Members of the FIA,

Today is a momentuous day for World Motorsport.  Today is a day when the governing body of motorsport can take a stand against inoperable and archaic Government systems which repress and assault their own citizens in order to maintain an unequal and unfair society where a person can be discriminated against on the basis of their Religious beliefs.  Today you must make a decision as to whether or not to hold a Formula one race in Bahrain.

Before you sit down to consider this matter I would like you all to take some time to think about what is currently happening in Bahrain.  Let's take a look at what those with information about the region have said.

Christopher Stokes, General Director of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) writes:

"In the kingdom of Bahrain, to be wounded by security forces has become a reason for arrest and providing healthcare has become grounds for a jail sentence. During the current civil unrest, Bahraini health facilities have consistently been used as a tool in the military crackdown, backed by the Gulf Cooperation Council, against protestors.

The muted response from key allies outside of the region such as the U.S. – which has significant ties to Bahrain, including a vast naval base in the country – can only be interpreted as acceptance of the ongoing military assault on the ability to provide and receive impartial healthcare.

While the government and its supporters in Bahrain continue to refer to the protestors as ‘rioters’, ‘criminals, ‘extremists’, ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’, the label that remains conspicuously absent for those who are wounded is ‘patient’.

Torture and beatings

Since 7th April, when Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF) first raised the alarm about the situation, our team has seen patients in villages across the country who were severely beaten or tortured in jail; schoolgirls who have been both physically abused and threatened with rape; and patients in urgent need of hospitalisation who still refuse to be referred due to the high risk of their arrest.

The militarisation of the only public hospital, Salmaniya, persists. Although Ministry of Health statistics show an increase in patients accessing the hospital, tanks and security checkpoints are still manned by masked soldiers at its entrances, searching cars and people.

The wounded tell MSF that they are still too afraid to go to the hospital in case of being arrested or beaten in the wards.

Medical staff arrested

Doctors and nurses also continue to be arrested during raids on health facilities, or on their homes at night. In fact, 47 medical staff are now being prosecuted by the Bahraini authorities.

Within Bahrain, the medical community itself is polarised. Many oppose the blatant militarisation of medical assistance, while others support the military presence in the hospital and the legal charges against fellow health workers. However, the impact on the patients is often disregarded.

By dragging the health system deeper into the political crackdown on dissent, Bahraini authorities continue to undermine patient’s trust in health facilities.

Wounded arrested

All of the 88 people that MSF has managed to see in their homes are at risk of being arrested if they were to present themselves at health facilities – simply for being wounded in protests by government forces. Some of them need to go to hospitals for surgery or x-rays – but MSF is unable to safely refer them.

This is because hospitals in Bahrain have received directives that any patient who presents with wounds associated with the current unrest must be reported to the police by health staff.

While there is a legal provision to report trauma cases to judicial authorities in many countries, this is designed to assist and protect victims of violence. However, in Bahrain today, the reality is that hospitals are being used to catch and imprison wounded people.


Our medical teams then face the impossible choice of knowing that patients who need medical attention risk arrest and a serious deterioration of their health condition in prison.

MSF has seen the results of violence and torture perpetrated against those imprisoned, caused by beatings with iron rods, boots, hoses and cattle prods on the back, legs, buttocks, genitals and soles of the feet.
MSF has also seen the serious impact of psychological abuse on those arrested, including extreme anxiety and fear as a result of sexual harassment and humiliation.

Humanitarian law

Ensuring the safe and impartial provision of treatment for the wounded is a basic legal obligation under humanitarian law. It is entailed in mandatory provisions of Common Article 3 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions – and is valid at all times.

Thus, as a state party to these Conventions, the Bahraini authorities must respect its obligations regarding the protection and provision of health care to the sick, injured and prisoners.
This healthcare should be provided by the high quality Bahraini health system, without precluding the offer of medical services by an impartial humanitarian organisation such as MSF.

MSF assistance blocked

Although we now have authorisation to begin training Bahraini health workers to deal with psychological trauma, other crucial assistance remains blocked.
Our requests to set up a referral system, whereby MSF can accompany wounded patients to health facilities to ensure they receive lifesaving care, are still met with insufficient guarantees about their safety.

The national security agenda of Bahraini authorities must not come at the expense of the lives and health of wounded people, whether in hospital or prison. Doctors and nurses must be allowed to provide healthcare in line with medical ethics, without the fear of reprisal.
This is impossible when health facilities are used as bait for arrest and torture, with the support of Bahrain’s closest allies".

Reuters write:

"Police patrolled Manama and villages near the capital to snuff out any protests before the meeting of the world motor racing body and fired tear gas to try to break up a protest by some 500 people shouting "Down with (King) Hamad" and "Gulf forces out" in the village of Sanabis on Friday.

The protest began after the funeral of Zainab Ali Altajer, who demonstrators said died from the effect of a sound bomb during disturbances the day before.

Military trials of 21 mostly Shi'ite dissidents continue. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has offered new dialogue on reform with all sides, without spelling out its parameters.

The court sentenced six men on Thursday to jail terms ranging from one to five years in prison for rioting and gathering illegally in public with intent to cause disturbance -- a reference to the protests -- the state news agency said.

An employee of the state-owned Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) which hosts the Grand Prix told Reuters 28 of 108 staff members had been fired. He said all 28 were detained and abused, and five remain in detention, including chief financial officer Jaafar Almansoor.

He said all the detainees were Shi'ite and many had taken part in or expressed support for the protest movement. The government has purged hundreds of Shi'ites from state jobs. It is not clear how many were arrested in total or remain in jail.

A BIC spokesman did not reply to telephone calls.

Britain lifted a travel advisory this week but expressed concern over rights abuse.
"We remain deeply concerned by reports of human rights abuses, including the recent arrests of protesters and medical staff and the nature of the charges brought against them," Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said on Wednesday".
(Reporting by Andrew Hammond and Hamad Mohammed; Editing by Jon Hemming)

A lead editorial ten days ago in the Times  highlighted the active campaign being waged by Bahrain to get the grand prix reinstated. It concluded: "It must not succeed. The roar of petrol engines around the tiny kingdom, smothered with advertising, would be too great a symbol that Western acquiescence to repression can be bought with stability and an oil industry."

ABC News has written:

"Bahrain has lifted martial law after months of pro-democracy protests in what the government hopes will be a sign of the country returning to normal.
Bahrain is also looking to get back their leg of the Formula One Grand Prix, which was cancelled in February when protesters, inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, clashed with police.
A meeting of F1's governing body on Friday could reinstate the race, but a human rights watch group based in the United States says Bahrain's ongoing crackdown on opposition activists should count in the decision.
According to online activists, there is still a heavy anti-riot police presence in Shiite villages on the outskirts of the capital, Manama.
Al Jazeera television quoted witnesses saying police used tear gas to disperse protesters, arresting several and injuring dozens more.
Ali Zirazdi, 30, says police fired tear gas at hundreds of people gathered in the Shiite village of Diraz.
"With the end of the emergency situation, the security should not be here but they still are," he said.
The interior ministry later denied troops had opened fire on demonstrators".

Max Mosely, your former president talked to ESPN and said:

"If I was president today, Formula One would go to Bahrain over my dead body," Mosley said. "It cannot happen."
He also warned that if it is rearranged for later this year, then pressure on sponsors may mean many will want their logos removed from cars for the race.
"The grand prix will be used to paint a picture of Bahrain that will be false," he said. "They will be attempting to use the grand prix to support what they are doing, almost using Formula One as an instrument of repression.
"There is only one reason Formula One is in Bahrain and that is a political reason. To go will be a public-relations disaster and sponsors will want their liveries removed."

Amnesty International Reported:

Human rights conditions in Bahrain have undergone a marked deterioration in recent weeks. This was clear and palpable during Amnesty International’s most recent fact-finding visit, following an earlier visit in February. The government’s resort to renewed excessive force to suppress the protests, its declaration of the State of National Safety and the extraordinary powers that contains, and the application of those powers to arrest and detain incommunicado hundreds of mainly Shi’a protestors and political activists has exacerbated tension between the Sunni and Shi’a Muslim communities and cast Bahrain on a very worrying downward trajectory.

There is an urgent need now, therefore, for the Bahraini government to reverse this trend and give renewed and greater priority to its obligations under international law. It must not fail that test.

At the same time, much more and more determined action is needed from governments in North America and Europe that have long maintained close diplomatic, trade and other ties with the Kingdom and which have been much more vocal in espousing the cause of human rights during the current turmoil in Libya and during the recent protests in Tunisia and Egypt than they have in relation to Bahrain. For many in the Arab world, this appears as another example of political selectivity when it comes to the advancement of human rights by such
states; they must act, and act quickly, to disperse this perception but principally to remind the Bahraini authorities of their obligations to uphold and respect human rights, including the right to peaceful protest, and to ensure accountability for unlawful killings, torture and other human rights violations committed by their forces or the forces of the other states currently assisting them.
In an open letter to Bernie Ecclestone, published as part of a Facebook campaign, the 'Youth of the 14 February Revolution' wrote:

"We are addressing to you this open letter publicly regarding the organization of Bahrain Grand Prix, and we, citizen of Bahrain, and human rights supporters of the world, are asking you to consider the challenges to organize what should be a happy sporting event in the middle of a country under siege and martial law, surrounded by tanks and military forces, while the population is being reduce to silence, killed, tortured, etc...
"Not mentioning the difficult climatic conditions, and the fact that organizing a motor sport festival in the middle of a despotic crackdown on the population, wouldn't be well understood and accepted worldwide.
"Also, in support of the population of Bahrain, we're asking you reconsider hosting Grand Prix of Bahrain until basic human rights and freedom are restored, and, if you wish, to issue a letter stating that the Grand Prix cannot, and will not, be organized in Bahrain until basic human rights and freedom are restored, and the repression is over. With your permission, we will display this letter of support on Facebook and other networks to show the solidarity of the Formula 1 sporting industry with the democratic and freedom aspirations of the Bahraini people!
"We thank you very much for your support and wish to see the Grand Prix in Bahrain soon, in a free and democratic atmosphere to which you would have contributed."
For myself let me just say that Bernie has repeatedly made the point that F1 is apolitical and should not get involved but Bahrain wants Formula 1 for purely political reasons - the same political reasons that South Africa wanted Cricket and Rugby in the 1970's - to give public and global credibility to an reppressive regime desperate to hold onto power using any means necessary.
At 11.33am today (20 minutes ago), as you are sitting there thinking, Associated Press have reported:
11.33am: Associated Press reporting that Bahraini police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters marching toward Pearl Square in the country's capital.
The downtown square was the epicenter of weeks of Shiite-led protests against Sunni rulers earlier this year in the Gulf kingdom.
Friday's march in Manama comes two days after authorities lifted emergency rule. It was imposed in March to quell demonstrations by Bahrain's Shiite majority demanding greater freedoms and inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.
At least 30 people have died since February, when protests erupted in the tiny island nation, which hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet.
There were no immediate reports of injuries. The eyewitnesses spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.
The only reason for Formula 1 to go to Bahrain this season is financial - you're all about cutting costs associated with the sport and last year was a bumper crop for all concerned with F1.  Take the financial hit and consider the morality of the situation - an attempt to prop up a gulf state by using MY SPORT, the fan's sport,  If we don't watch no-one gets paid.

I am watching you as you make this decision and I am not alone.  The Internet is full of opinion from fans on this issue and you would be wise to listen to their thoughts, to their voices.  Ours is the true voice of Motorsport - do not let us down.

I'll leave you with the voice of one of our own - Damon Hill -

"Formula One cannot put its head in the sand concerning the Bahrain Grand Prix because it is a very volatile situation out there and F1 is involved," he told the newspaper. "I am not a spokesman for Formula One. But I am surprised and disappointed that there is a lack of intelligent comment coming from the sport at a time when we should be trying to promote it in a positive way, a way which recognises human values.
"Formula One, its teams, its drivers and its sponsors, has to stand for values which are positive and aspirational. The ruling family in Bahrain have said they want to stage a race there, and we all do. But F1 must align itself with progression, not repression, and a lot of demonstrations in that country have been brutally repressed. You are either aware of that or you're not.
"It is clear, whatever anyone says, that some very violent events have taken place in Bahrain. It is not our country. It is their country. But we can't just fluff over it and pretend that the difficulties there don't exist, or that they will sort themselves out. It is an over-simplification to say that the rulers there are the bad guys and the demonstrators are the good guys. But we cannot pretend that the political situation there is not a factor, because it is."
"It is important that Formula One is not seen to be only interested in putting on the show, whatever the circumstances, " Hill concluded. "You can't just base your decision to hold a race in a country on that country's ability to pay."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Update on Bahrain

This is taken directly from ESPN - Nothing added by this Blogger

On the eve of the decisive World Motor Sport Council meeting, Bahrain looked unlikely to return to the 2011 Formula One calendar as reports of continuing unrest continued to circulate.
Martial law in the kingdom ended on Wednesday, just two days before F1's governing body sits in Barcelona to consider a new race date for the postponed season opener. Bahrain officials insist they are now ready to host a grand prix, but F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone had warned in Monaco that the event will only take place "If there's peace".
As the state of emergency ended, overseas media organisations claimed there was still turmoil on the streets of Bahrain. Al Jazeera television said police used tear gas against continuing protesters, arresting and injuring several of them. "With the end of the emergency situation, the security should not be here but they still are," said an eyewitness.
Reuters said the interior ministry denied the reports, while the Bahrain Shura Council's deputy president Jamal Fakhro insisted Formula One can return. "The end of the national security law and announcement of dialogue are both positive. It will be a shame if anyone is negative about it," he said. "Bahrain will welcome F1, and any other event. There's nothing wrong with that because life is back to normal now and it will be excellent to have it back."

The Professor, the Cooper, and the Virgin

It may seem lazy of me but I thought that these blog postings were so thoroughly well put together that there was no point in me having my say without giving you the opportunity to read them in full.

The first and most interesting post is by Professor Mark Jenkins - always well thought out, concise, and interesting.  This is about Virgin bringing their cars into the wind tunnel and no longer relying solely on Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for their design.

I, personally, am of the opinion that they had no chance at success if they relied solely on CFD and made that point when previewing the season on March 14th just before Melbourne (Virgin being at the back of the grid my comments are in the final paragraph - excuse my spelling of competitive!).  Now HRT have done a deal with Mercedes for the use of their "spare" wind tunnel at Brackley it is only a matter of time before they pass a CFD designed Virgin and begin fighting with Lotus, probably with Mercedes Engines.

Apparently Virgin parted company with Wirth Partnership, who operate the CFD designing and ordering upgrades to the car, after Pat Symonds, Team Consultant and Crashgate Phoenix, gave a bleak assessment of the teams position at Monaco.  Adam Cooper's Blog gives an insight into the tangled politics of Marussia Virgin now that Nick Wirth has left the role of Technical Director and has updated the story today.

I would say that Virgin can't get into the wind tunnel fast enough!