Translate this Blog

Monday, May 28, 2012

Conor Daly GP3 crash: Speaking of safety!

Once again off topic but related by way of Monaco.  This is the video of Conor Daly, son of Derek Daly, who nearly climbed through the barrier fencing at Monaco having taken off over the back of Suranovich.

 Not a pretty sight at all but thankfully everyone was alright particularly the driver and the Marshals who were very cool under what was a very tense situation.

The question has been asked as to whether the fencing would have withstood an F1 car in a similar crash?  It certainly took a pounding but, given the history of F1 and Monaco Harbour I'd be reviewing the safety of this section of the track (that's if they don't cancel it altogether).  The way the wheel and carbon fibre exploded through and above the fencing shows there are still crowd safety issues to be addressed in F1.

As for Suranovich, the car in front, he should not have been racing without his rear wing and he certainly should not have been attempting to defend his position. Driver's Fault or Team's Fault this is the kind of driving that needs to be addressed.

Two Die at Cavan Stages Rally

It's not really part of my form to discuss other forms of Motorsport on this Blog and as such I'm a little reluctant to break form, but at the Cavan Stages Rally in Ireland yesterday two spectators were killed and 5 injured after  a Ford Escort Rally Car lost control on the roads outside Bailieborough, a small town in County Cavan.

According to reports the two who killed in this tragic accident were Rally Co-Driver Caroline Cleary, who was not participating in the stage and Sports Photographer Joe Lane.  To their families I wish to offer my sincerest condolences and to the 5 who were taken to hospital with injuries, including the driver and co-driver, I wish them a speedy and successful recovery.

There is a tendency at times like these to seek quickfix solutions to the very apparent crowd control issues that plague many motorsports, but none moreso than Rallying.  There is no quickfix solution unfortunately.

While we F1 fans are cosseted behind high fencing and separated by wide run-off areas and distance we, like the rally fans, would prefer to be right up on top of the action.

Where do we go to watch our races? We go to the bends and the bumps - those places where we are likely to see overtaking, mistakes, or crashes.  It is the nature of the Petrolhead to seek out the most thrilling sights and the most controversial corners where crashes can happen and, in rallying, the fact is that these locations are along the public road where little or no protection is available.

I have to confess that a few years ago, during testing at Silverstone, I had no issue of personal safety in my head when finding myself at two Marshall breaks in the armco fencing at Vale and Abbey.  Armed with my Camera I stepped into those breaches to get the best shots possible of the cars under breaking.  Stupid, yes but would I do it again? Sadly the answer is probably.  We have a trust in the drivers' proven abilities in the cars.  They've done it many times, they've studied the stage in detail with their co-driver, they have notes in respect of hazards, corners, bumps, speed, and gears, they are as well equipped with information of the course as pilots are in plotting their flight paths.  This, unfortunately, never accounts for the unexpected.

This does not negate the fact that safety should be looked at in rallying but I'm just pointing out that it is the nature of the fan to seek out the best viewing points and that this nature often leads the fans to ignore personal safety to do so.  I don't know how you might control rally fans gathering at the most spectacular locations, certainly, as with F1, the photographers are allowed far more leeway than others at these events.

No death in Motorsport should be taken lightly and I am upset at the outcome in this instance, but kneejerk reactions and quickfix solutions will not help the sport to recover from this tragic accident.

Serious consideration must be given as to how we might improve the safety of spectators at rally events but the solutions will be difficult to implement without the support of the die-hard fans.

Retire Monaco: I Can't Believe I'm Saying This!

I know that I go on and on about the tyres and the DRS and the KERS and how the three combine to create artificial racing, with Pirelli being the major culprit this year but what we saw in Monaco was utterly processional, with the exception of Vettel's drive which was, from a strategy perspective, Masterful.

I can't believe that I'm going to say this:  It may well be time for Monaco to be dropped from the calendar.  We've known for some time that it is an anachronism, a throwback to a bygone era when the cars were smaller, narrower, and slower with less grip, no electronics, and no driving aids.  Overtaking was possible and happened with regularity.

Yesterday's GP served to highlight the limitations of the circuit.  The fact that every driver from Rosberg back, every commentator, every journalist and spectator prayed for rain is a damning indictment of the ability of this historic circuit to stage a modern Grand Prix.

The fact that it waited until the race was over showed that even Ecclestone doesn't have the ear of Heaven.

The only points of interest throughout the race were Vettel's superb drive, Red Bull's complimentary strategy and Heikki's brilliant drive for Caterham.

Other than the foregoing the GP was nothing more than an F1 procession through the Principality.  Let's face it, even in the late eighties overtaking was nigh on impossible and the '90's (remember Mansell chasing Senna down but not being able to pass?) were generally unspectacular.  This century, no, this Millennium represents the final nail in the coffin for Monaco unless...

Well F1 has two options for the Monte Carlo track -

1.  They all drive historic F1 cars from the 40's/50's once a year at Monaco, or

2.  Remember Bernie wanted artificial wet races?  Where better to test this proposal.

If we want to keep Monaco something must be done.

My thing is that I don't mind a race without overtaking but at least at other tracks there is the potential for overtaking, At no stage yesterday did I feel that Rosberg could overtake Webbo, that Hamilton, or Alonso or Massa could move up the rankings on-track, and let's face it, regardless of how well Heikki drove - when a McLaren can't overtake a Caterham on-track there is a serious problem with the track.

It's time to retire Monaco (I just can't believe that I'm saying that)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jenson Button in McLaren reporting Mix-up

There are two stories out quoting Jenson Button in the lead up to Monaco, one from ESPN and one from Autosport but the final quote in both, while essentially the same provides two different perspectives on McLaren's Championship prospects.

ESPN quotes him as saying:

"It's amazing how few points people are getting this year. I think there have been 125 points up for grabs and the leader has 61 - it just shows you how mixed up this season is. Obviously you want to be as consistent as possible and the people that really understand the tyres and can consistently score good points are the people that are going to be there at the end. We've got to get back consistency, and obviously we've got be consistently winning, but I don't think that's going to happen for a while yet."

While Autosport's story says:

It is amazing how little points everyone is getting this year. I think there have been 125 points up for grabs and the leader has 61. So it shows you how mixed up this season is. Obviously we want to be as consistent as possible, but the people who understand the tyres and consistently score good points are going to be there at the end, and we have got to get that consistency. Of course we want to be consistently winning but I don't think anyone is going to be doing that for a while yet."

What is the truth? Are McLaren not going to win for a while or will no-one be winning consistently for a while? The two statements set out two radically different scenarios for the season ahead, one where McLaren fall down the pecking order and one where they maintain the status quo and move forward.

One of them is obviously a misquote but which one?  Having read Jon Noble's articles for many years I'd back his version but...I've asked @TheFifthDriver for clarification and am awaiting their response.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Williams and Maldonado (in Senna's Helmet) Win Again!

See this story in the Metro.  Williams F1 have won a Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower show

Photograph copyright of Alpha

This is a version of the hedge car "Topiary" which is in place outside the team's Grove HQ.

Impressive.  I must send a version to @gmeenaghan who loves Alternative F1 cars!

Michael Schumacher defended by Ross Brawn

Welcome back to Ross Brawn after his illness.  I for one am delighted to see him back, not just for his technical ability and his knowledge of the car but also because he is genial, knowledgeable, and frank in the majority of the interviews he gives.  He's a man who tells it like it is and generally tells it to us the listeners, in language which we can understand, a quality which I have found to be rare in Tech Experts (actually in people from all areas of expertise).  Simple language plainly spoken that's Ross.

You're all wondering about the point of the foregoing "Love Ross" paragraph well it's in the title.  We all know that the web press have been writing that Michael is under pressure from Mercedes to perform and in this blog I wrote that maybe it's not Michael who needs to be performing, maybe Mercedes need to up their game or he'll decide that they're not doing His racing legacy any favours and retire.

Ross has said exactly the same thing to Bild:

"A lot has been said and written, but we should not forget that we - the team - have let him down in three of the fives races, not delivering the job we should have. We must do better. We saw Michael's real quality again in the first race, so it's for that reason that I believe we will see him on the podium this year."

In Malaysia he was hit by Grosjean forcing his retirement.  So in 4 out of 5 races he has retired for something which is not his fault.  One cock-up in Spain is allowed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lewis Hamilton 15th in BBC's "Formula 1's greatest Drivers"

Interesting choice, of the BBC, putting Lewis 15th in the "20 Greatest Ever F1 drivers".

I think he's a good driver, maybe even great, but I do think it's a little premature to rank him at this stage, particularly given that, of the current field Vettel, Alonso, and Schumacher must stand above him in the rankings, while Jenson Button, his McLaren Team-mate is definitely in the mix, probably outranking Hamilton at this stage of their respective careers.

Hamilton is fast, we know that and he has cajones when it comes to having a go, but he came into the sport with a top two team and therefore, with his natural ability there was no question but that he wouldn't prosper.  Having said that he currently only has one driver's championship and hasn't had the best of times during 2011 and 2012.

Much is made of his first season and the fact that his ability had a negative impact on Fernando Alonso.  I'd accept that but let's look at it from Alonso's perspective.  He's a double world champion coming into the McLaren set-up against a rookie Hamilton.  He expects to be the clear No.1 and is upset when McLaren's fair play policy is revealed.  To add insult to injury Hamilton is a Ron Denis protege and he's given extra support by the team on the back of that fact in combination with his rookie status.  After all you have to look after the new boys a little more because you expect the old guard to be able to look after themselves.

But then Alonso is only 25 and he's been clear No.1 since his first results with Minardi.  He too is used to being given a little extra from the team due to his protege relationship with Flavio Briatore and he's now in unfamiliar territory in an unfamiliar team set-up where he's expected to stand on his own two feet without the extra time and handholding which he can see going on over at Hamilton's side of the garage.

Psychologically that must have been devastating and this coloured that season. Does this mean Hamilton is better than Alonso? I think Fernando has earned his stripes and has matured since that disastrous 2007 season.  Hamilton still has a little growing up to do though he's showing more maturity in his approach to this season than he has previously.

Is Lewis Hamilton in the top 20 of all time? I don't think so: not yet and maybe never.  He's got plenty of potential to be there but he's got a lot of career to go before any serious call can be made. Give us another championship and show us some classic drives and we can make that judgement call.

I can't fill a top 20 driver's line-up but I might give a top 15 a go in a later post.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ferrari gets a Red Letter from Luca di Montezemolo

The Boss has sent everyone a letter to motivate them before the Monaco GP.  I saw this one earlier in Italian Luca but the translator was particularly poor at getting your point across with any accuracy.  I thought I'd wait for the Ferrari boys to do it right.  Without further ado here's the letter:

Maranello, 21 May – “The Championship is in our own hands.” Luca di Montezemolo chose to give the Scuderia a boost and a show of confidence through a personal letter addressed to all the staff, on the eve of the team’s departure for the Monaco Grand Prix. 

“The championship is very open and so far, there has not been one dominant force,” wrote the Ferrari President. “A series of circumstances and the work done here to improve the car, as well as Alonso’s great ability, has led to us leading the Championship after five rounds. We must capitalize on that, with each one of us giving our very best at home and at the race track, including Massa who must bring home the results we expect from him. 
“I know from Domenicali, with whom I am in constant contact, how hard all of you are working,” continues the letter. “Of this I am sure, also because winning the Championship depends only and exclusively on ourselves: on our ability, our creativity, our determination and our desire to show that we are the best.

Poor Felipe Massa; even in the motivational speech he's being chided as the most disappointing in the class and being held up to the rest of the team as someone who is not quite "one of us" anymore.  I'd really like to see him flourish at some other team - Back to Peter Sauber for a season in exchange for Kamui Kobayashi.

Surely Ferrari could do with a years free promotion in Japan where they have a strong market presence.

The American audience would call this "Massa Motivation 101"

Alonso on-board the Ferrari at Monaco

Tweeted by the great man "Nadgers" Alonso himself this is a beautiful one lap video of on-board footage from the Monte Carlo Circuit.  Made even better by the fact that it shows gear changes, acceleration, braking and speed around the track.  Very pretty and informative too.

The Rascasse, Portier, Mirabeau, Ste Devote, Tabac, Casino. and the Swimming Pool complex not to mind "THAT" Tunnel- evocative and emotive stuff.  Roll on the Weekend

Robert Kubica crash update

It's reported today around the web that Roger Benoit, veteran F1 Reporter, has said the following in Switzerland's Blick Newpaper in relation to Kubica's chances of an F1 return:

"The fans of Kubica remain faithful to Robert. At every race track we see posters. But since the Accident in February 2011 the Pole has become quiet. Why has the talking stopped? Because – unfortunately – a comeback is nearly impossible".

If it were true it would be a sad day for F1.  Having seen the video of him driving a rally car around Northern Italy I would hope that the talking has stopped and the driving has begun! I expect that Roger has made the statement in order to elicit some further news with regard to Kubica's health.  Robert lives in Monte Carlo, only a couple of blocks from the racetrack I hope we see him in the paddock next weekend.

James Hunt Wins in Japan!

Given that Ron Howard's "Rush" is in production and the excitement of F1 fans is palpable I've uploaded the race highlights from Japan 1976 into the F1 archive.  Just for fun I've put it up here too.  Great cars great days! Can't wait to see the film Ron!

Button wants a Monaco Win but McLaren is not suited to the tight circuit

Jenson reckons he should have won it last year and, with new tyres, he was catching Vettel and Alonso in the closing stages setting up for a brilliant finish as the Red Bull and Ferrari struggled on old rubber but then the red flag came and, after 72 laps of scintillating racing, the Monaco GP came to a tame and predictable end.  Button had to make do with third rather than first as the red flag allowed all the cars to change tyres and even let Hamilton fix his rear wing, damaged when Alguersuari ran into the back of the second McLaren.

2012 the teams are returning to the Principality next weekend with Jenson feeling that he has "a little bit of unfinished business".  He's just not sure that the McLaren is suited to the narrow, twisting track being better at the high speed circuits.

Given the topsy-turvy nature of the season so far anyone could win Monaco.  Check out Daniel Ricciardo's expectations for Toro Rosso which in a normal season you could dismiss as pure fantasy, but in the current  hurly-burly are not even worthy of a raised eyebrow!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pirelli on the burning tyre question

Jonathan Noble has interviewed Paul Hembrey of Pirelli for Autosport in relation to the influence of the tyres.  Another non-story because of course Pirelli are going to say that their tyres are not having too much influence on the sport.  but it's always interesting to see them say that and then come out and say that yes, they are having a huge influence, I quote the article:

And I think the vast majority of fans will be pleased to see exciting races. Anyone who begrudges [Pastor] Maldonado's win in Spain with Williams is someone who needs to get out a bit more, because the whole paddock was delighted. I think for a lot of people's views, that is what they want to see."
Hembery thinks that F1 delivering race-winning opportunities to teams like Williams is great news, and can have positive commercial implications for the sport.
"There are a lot of teams here who have to find budgets, find sponsors and justify their presence in F1, and if they do get the profile then that is great. Spain was an excellent win for Williams, but we saw Sauber getting a great result in Malaysia and we saw Paul di Resta have a good race in Bahrain with Force India.
"These are all aspects that are important for all these teams"

The fact is Paul, that the sport is not about making the racing closer in order that every team can get more money from the sponsors, it's about the teams building cars that can compete at the front and thereby, due to the results achieved from their hard work, gain more sponsors.  It's not F1 delivering race-winning opportunities to the smaller teams its the tyres!

Faking it to create a commercial spectacle? - let's leave that to wrestling shall we?

Rumours that Senna is under pressure at Williams are greatly exaggerated

Just because Maldonado has suddenly popped up and qualified 2nd on the grid, inherited pole and won a race is no reason for Bruno to get worried or upset about his future within the Williams team.

He's been doing OK up until Spain so why would Frank look to push him out?  up until Spain the following are the results of both drivers:

Australia      neither driver scored points (unfortunate race for Maldonado)
Malaysia     Sen 6th,              Mal no points
China           Sen 7th               Mal 8th
Bahrain       (even though I don't recognise this years race) neither driver scored
Spain            Sen No points    Mal 1st

So far Bruno has 14 points in 5 races while Maldonado has 29 , 25 coming from the win.

Hardly panic stations.  So far Bruno is doing a decent enough job to warrant retaining his seat, he's only 4 points behind Kobayashi in the actual championship, the Sauber driver who is, so far, performing in the most consistent manner (Perez has only scored points in one race so far).  In my Alternate Championship (- Bahrain) he's ahead of Di Resta in the Force India.

He's nicely placed to support the team as they go forward.  There's a saying that "one swallow does not a summer make" - one victory, particularly in the current year, cannot overhype a team to the extent that they expect their drivers to be challenging for wins.

A non-story made much of by the F1 rumour mill.  I'll withhold judgement until midway through the season, when all the driver's performances will come under scrutiny.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Kimi is a Wild Animal" - Boullier - But What Kind?

Boullier has likened Kimi to a Wild Animal in a Q&A on so I was wondering which Finnish wild animal he would be most like.  What do you think?
A cute Arctic Fox?
A Finnish Lynx?
A Finnish Owl?
A Brown Bear?
A Saima Seal? or
A Moose?

Having looked at all of the photo's I'm thinking the Brown Bear is a good choice - In this photo looking to hide from the cameras!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Alternative Championships

Given my opposition to Bahrain I decided to treat it as a non-championship event like the F2 days of old.  As such I've decided to do my own championship points tally without taking account of Bahrain.  It makes interesting reading both on Constructor's and Driver's Titles

McLaren lead the way in the Constructor's with 94 points, 22 ahead of Red Bull on 72, with Ferrari on 55, Lotus on 51, Williams on 43, Sauber 41 and Mercedes on 32.  Force India on 10 and Toro Rosso on 6 make up the other points scorers.

What emerges is a picture of 5 distinct groups, McLaren/Red Bull, Ferrari on its own, Lotus/Williams/Sauber/Mercedes all together, Force India/Toro Rosso fighting over scraps and the backmarkers.

In the Driver's championship the picture is more like business as usual with Ferrari & Alonso leading the way from Hamilton and Jenson in the McLarens, Webbo and Seb in the RBR's, Kimi, Nico, Maldonado & Perez courtesy of their 1st and 2nd, Grosjean in the other Lotus and Kamui in the other Sauber make up the top 11.

If Massa and Schumi were scoring points there's no doubt that Ferrari would be leading the pack with McLaren and likely Mercedes behind them, leaving Red Bull in a scrap with Lotus for 4th.  It shows how important to the team the second driver is.

Red Bull and McLaren are showing strongly simply due to the fact that both drivers are, relatively speaking, on a par with each other.

Frank Williams on Maldonado!

Worth looking at Autosport story, Frank on Pastor:

if we thought he'd been a wanker, he wouldn't have got in the team no matter how much money he had.


McLaren offer Equipment to Williams for Monaco

On a happy note McLaren have offered to bankroll Williams pit garage needs for the Monaco GP.  Following the fire Williams lost a lot of their tech equipment and IT infrastructure.  McLaren say that they'll provide whatever Williams needs to ensure that it can compete in Monaco.

Williams chief operations engineer Mark Gillan said:

We had a lot of damage and lost a lot of equipment, including IT equipment.  We will have everything we need to run operationally at Monaco, but we may be missing a few of the extras because obviously we don't carry a complete set of spares for everything.

Let's hope Williams resurgence can continue in Monaco and throughout the year

Is Schumacher appraising his racing legacy?

For Michael Schumacher his future is under scrutiny with a lot of webchatter talking about pressure from Mercedes. I don't think this is the case, based on the performances of the season so far  While this is his worst ever start to an F1 season it is he who must be wondering why he's still racing and not Mercedes.

So far this season his performance looks suspect but that's down to a number of factors:

    Australia - Great Quali (4th), great start (3rd).  Out of the race with gearbox failure
    Malaysia - Great Quali (3rd), Hit by Grosjean on the first lap. Finished 10th
    China - Great Quali (3rd), Started 2nd, Pitstop error forces retirement
    Bahrain - You know my feelings on this one but finished 10th after Mechanical problems in quali and gearbox change
    Spain - Qualified 8th due to not setting timed lap - Ran in 6th from the start to Lap 9, inherited 5th when Grosjean pitted, pitted himself and came out in 10th behind Senna who had yet to stop and then made a drivers error and ran into the back of Senna misjudging Senna's tyre degradation and his need to brake earlier for the turn

Based on the foregoing you can see that 3 of the 5 races have been affected by mechanical and pitstop issues, one was as a result of another driver and only Spain was Schumacher's fault.

I'm thinking that the rumours are a lot of hot air and all Schumi needs is a couple of finishes to put him into the right mindset, however one or two more cock-ups, whether his own, the mechanics, or another drivers may well see Schumi decide that the whole F1 circus is just too much hassle and is doing his reputation and legacy more harm than good.

One driver's mistake out of 5 races does not make this a Mercedes/Schumi crisis.

Massa not so much criticised as scrutinised

How quickly do the stories begin to emerge once we reach the European shores? Three stories in one blog in one day simply in order to give some idea of where F1 2012 is after the events in Spain.

  1. Ferrari put the pressure on Massa to perform,
  2. Mercedes put the pressure on Schumi to finish a race, and
  3. McLaren offer to bankroll Williams in Monaco.

For Massa the pressure comes from a relatively innocuous story on the Ferrari Website.  It's only mentioned in a couple of lines but has made itself felt Webwide over the course of yesterday:

As for an analysis of the Scuderia’s performance and its two drivers, Fernando has always maintained a very high level (67 points and second place in 2010, 51 and fifth place last year) while Felipe’s drop off has made itself felt. The Brazilian had picked up 49 points two years ago and 24 the following year, while so far this season he has just 2.

The statement is clear "Nadgers" is performing but you aren't Felipe.  It's time to get the finger out before we decide another course of action must be taken.  Some of the Web stories are pointing to the fact that Adrian Sutil was present in Barcelona and are linking that to the above Ferrari statement - that link is tenuous but surprising - I'd think that Sutil (were he to come back) would be more likely to take over from Karthikeyan rather than take a seat in the Red Car, However the Ferrari statement goes on to say that they expect greater things from Felipe in Monaco "his second home race":

In Montmelo, Felipe was very unlucky, both in the race and in qualifying, but everyone, he more than anyone, is expecting a change of gear starting right away with the Monaco Grand Prix, his second home race, given that he lives just a few hundred metres from what, as from next Sunday, will be transformed into the paddock for the sixth round of the 2012 championship.

Could the Ferrari meaning be any clearer?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nicknames: Kobayashi

I've been searching for nicknames for Kamui on the Web and found the following:

The Overtaker
Kobay-crashi (from GP2)
Gandalf - after Valencia 2010

The majority are obviously based on his name and nationality, and of course there are two which have links to the fact that if he hadn't gotten a race seat in 2010 he was going back to help out in his dad's Sushi restaurant - strange for a guy who doesn't go for the "raw fish" sushi options.

But the funniest thing I've heard is that he wanted to be a stand-up comedian before deciding to race, so, in the spirit of F1 there's only one practical joker from the grid to whom he can be compared.

Kamui - I bestow upon you the nickname "Berger".  I hope you keep up his tradition of practical jokes carried out on your fellow "unsuspecting" drivers - particularly those that you'll be fighting wheel-to-wheel in the following GP.

I'm thinking of making this one stick in the same way I have a tendency to refer to Alonso as Nadgers (that one for no particular [McLaren] reason!).

All hail Berger Kobayashi.

Kamui Kobayashi could have had a Podium

Kamui reckons he could have had a podium in Spain yesterday, if only he'd been able to take part in the third qualifying session.

Having made it through to the Q3 shoot-out he wasn't able to take part in the final session, having stopped his Sauber out on track during Q2 because of hydraulic problems. It's worth noting that there has been a lot of discussion on the web since Saturday about Q3 qualifiers not setting laps "to save tyres", however this does not appear to have been the case for Kobayashi.

His fifth place equals his best ever finish, having done the same in Monaco last year but Kamui obviously has a lot of faith in the 2012 Sauber:

I absolutely believe I could have made it onto the podium today if I had not been so unlucky in qualifying yesterday. If you start ninth you can be happy finishing fifth, but the car had more potential.

To illustrate his on-track abilities, which have been proven time and again since he stepped into the Sauber, he passed both Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg on-track and without the help of DRS:

I was in traffic and overtaking was not easy. I could not do it on the straights with the help of the DRS because there I wasn't close enough. So I had to take some risks and do it in the corners. I damaged my tyres quite a lot in the last stint.

Kamui does not lack self belief and would obviously love to equal, if not beat, Perez second place finish to prove his worth.

I'm already convinced that he can win races, but have cautioned that maybe next year is the time for him to step up into a faster car.  I'm pretty sure that his consistency in points scoring, in combination with his attacking style, will see him outscore Perez over the season and will attract the attention of the bigger Piranhas in the club.

Roll on Monaco...

Maldonado takes the Laurels in Spain

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Barcelona, 2012
     Image by Darren Heath

Williams had a fantastic result yesterday winning the Spanish GP on merit. There was no luck involved as Pastor Maldonado showed his true colours, bringing the Blue and Whites a long-awaited victory and a return to the dizzying heights of the top step of the podium. Frank Williams is a man who knows what that is like and I'm sure that he was spreading his wisdom throughout the team, advising them that this is only one result but that the car is capable of more and attempting to downplay the excitement while encouraging his team to celebrate the fantastic achievement which has seen them come back from the team's worst ever season in Formula 1 last year.

The unfortunate occurrence of a flash fire in the Williams Pit garage during the course of the celebrations dampened spirits to some degree but it was amazing to see all of the team personnel from around the pitlane, particularly Force India, Caterham, Toro Rosso, Marussia, and HRT rushing to the aid of the Williams crew to extinguish the fire before it could spread.

Frank got out safely and it would appear that nobody was seriously hurt with smoke inhalation being the primary concern.  One member of the Caterham team appears to have injured his hand.

The FIA released a statement which said:

Thirty-one team members were seen by Circuit Medical Centre staff and all have been released, with the exception of seven who were transferred to a variety of local hospitals where they are receiving treatment. 

Our thoughts are with all the brave guys involved.

In a related aside the incident has served to increase Maldonado's standing in my eyes and no doubt in many others also.  Not only did he win yesterday, making me feel like I'd completely underestimated him as a driver, but he also carried his cousin, wearing a cast on his right leg, out of the Williams garage when the flash fire broke out showing much about his character and his ability to think clearly under pressure.  Image tweeted by @Formula1_GP

Image by @formula1_GP

To take nothing away from the Team Williams victory I'm afraid this Blog must award Maldonado the combined title Driver of the Weekend/Hero.  All of the guys who participated in fighting the blaze get a combined bravery citation.  The question is being asked on every site and in every paper: Where were the fire crews?

Video footage of the Williams fire below.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Schumacher Right about Pirelli's - Pirelli Confirm "raw eggs" comment, Mercedes/Brawn concur. Other teams and drivers missing the Point

Pardon me for the long title but there was a lot to say.

I'm sure that by this stage we've all read about Schumi's "Raw Eggs" analogy for the Pirelli tyres: The basis of which was that the tyres themselves were influencing the racing far too much and taking away from the actual ability of the cars.

Ross Brawn said "We can't modify the setup between qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday and they are very different challenges, especially with this year's tyres". Basically accepting that the tyres are the most important component in achieving a good result and that you might have to sacrifice grid position in order to have the best choice of tyres on race day.

This is strategy rather than racing in my humble opinion, and while strategy is important it should be second to the quality of the car.  If you have the fastest car around a circuit with a good driver at the helm then you should be winning regularly QED.  Not so say Michael and Ross, Tyre strategy is the premier element and is the reason that the field is so close.

Pirelli have tended to pour cold water on any criticism of the tyres and they have been supported by the comments of a number of drivers and teams who appear to have missed the point being made by Schumi and Brawn with regard to the fact that this is MOTORSPORT and not tyre sport.

Pirelli have finally shown their true hand, which is to influence races to such a degree that they get maximum publicity.  Their remarks about the tyre choices (which they have made) for Spain prove that they see their role as exerting maximum influence on the ability of the cars to race - effectively closing the field up to attempt to circumvent the natural ability of the best car/driver combination to win the race:

"We've nominated the soft and hard tyre in order to highlight performance differences that will create a different challenge for the teams, showcasing both the speed and durability of our products," Paul Hembrey said.  "There is a whole step in between our two nominations for the first time this year and this should allow the teams to come up with a number of different tyre strategies that could make a big difference to the final outcome.  With many teams having expanded their knowledge of our tyre range and tested new components at Mugello, we're expecting a closely-fought Spanish Grand Prix - and maybe even the fifth different winner in five races."

I'm in agreement with Schumi, Ross and Mercedes.  With their quali speed advantage they should have at least a couple of wins under their belts at this stage and the chance for a couple more before the others catch up.  What they have at the moment is a chance for their drivers to have great races which are determined by tyre choice, tyre strategy and tyre quality.  I'm tyred of it all let's get back to racing.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ferrari/Webbo? Not with Kubica Racing Again!

Look, everyone is taking credit within webland for the first indication of the Nadgers Alonso/Mark Webbo Ferrari connection.

I see Joe Saward has brought it back to June last year based on his inside knowledge and the friendship that the two drivers have.

I'm staking my claim at being first with my March 15th pre-season musings from last year.  However I will accept that I discounted the partnership on May 16th 2011 on the basis that Webbo would not want to come up short against another World Champion.  I think his friendship will just make any such comparison even more difficult. At that time I flagged Kubica as the next Ferrari driver alongside Alonso, or in his absence one of four Rosberg/Vettel (for a chunk of change)/Webbo/Button.  I accepted Button is happy to stay where he is, Webbo wouldn't go for the reason set out above, Vettel is likely to consolidate his No.1 position at RBR, which leaves Nico or Kubica.

Regardless of the Ferrari Dream ,Webbo is in a good place at the moment and if I were him (and I am!! - only joshing) I'd be targeting Mercedes next year with Schumi likely to finally decide to bow out if he gets a couple of good results this year.  Nico is likely to consolidate with Mercedes and Webbo would bring a good and experienced brain to the operation to complement him.

Kubica, however, remains hovering in the shadows.  Not much has been said about his recovery recently but any such recovery would give Lotus a massive headache for next year with Grosjean and Raikkonen showing strongly in the early part of the season. a trip to Maranello might be just what the Doctor ordered.

Kubica has been driving karts and his rally car apparently.  I bring you this video from youtube (so obviously I don't bring you this video I'm just passing it on!) which allegedly shows him driving his Clio S1600 in a test on April 7th In Northern Italy.  It was reported that he completed 30 runs in the car.

Talk about getting back on the horse!

All I can say is Grande Cojones Roberto now that you've gotten back on the horse let's get Prancing (Chuckle chuckle - enjoyed that)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's in it for Sauber?

I've been racking my brain for the last couple of days since reading the news about the Sauber/Chelsea FC "partnership".  I'm sure there must be something particularly humourous which would link Roman Abramovich, Chelsea, Peter Sauber, and Sauber F1 but apart from sideways cracks (referring to the the fact that Abramovich will have to watch the Monaco GP through a powerful telescope because he can't get his enormous private yacht/ship into the harbour or something about how the only link between the two is their shared use of a particular Swiss bank) I'm afraid that so far the particularly amusing pun or link has eluded me. I'll find one eventually (when it's too late to use it)

On a more serious note I'm wondering what Sauber get out of this deal. Partnership - Blah, blah, blah - my backside.
As they said in their news section on the Sauber Website:

Both partners will support each other by featuring the other partner’s logo and thus benefit from a significant market presence outside their original sport. Chelsea FC will present the Sauber F1 Team logo at home matches on advertising boards at the stadium and on interview walls. Conversely, the football club benefits from Formula One’s television reach which, compared with the Premier League, is much higher and more international. Particularly in Asia Formula One enjoys enormous TV presence and, not least thanks to Sergio Pérez, is currently captivating more and more fans in Latin America as well.  Accordingly, the combination of both platforms at the sponsoring level is highly attractive especially for international brands. In addition, existing sponsors of both partners profit from joint events.

No talk of Chelsea having had to pay for the privilege of getting their crest onto the Sauber car even though F1 has a much larger TV audience.

I can't think that exposure for Sauber of advertising boards at matches will increase sales of merchandise to any great extent - maybe I'm wrong.

I've just never seen or heard of an F1 team advertising itself anywhere outside the motor trade.  The cars and drivers are used in advertising campaigns relating to their sponsors but I'm not aware of any advertising of an F1 team.

Maybe I'm wrong and if I am will someone please help me out and bring it to my attention.  This "partnership" just seems to be weighted quite heavily in favour of Chelsea FC.