Friday, January 27, 2017

End Of An Experiment

So that's it then for the "new boys" introduced in 2009.
  • USF1 didn't make it to the first test
  • Campos became HRT and expired at the end of 2012
  • Team Lotus became Caterham and expired in 2014.
  • Virgin became Marussia and several ownership groups later they have finally expired today in January 2017.
Now to be scrupulously fair, all four of these teams came in under the impression that a cost-containment spending cap was about to be implemented and planned accordingly. Unfortunately for them, the big spenders didn't want that to happen, and it didn't. Today Liberty Media is again talking about a spending cap, and we'll have to see how -- and even if -- such a scheme can be implemented. I predict rampant cheating.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Driver Must Drive The Car Alone And Unaided

So as I write this there is no word on whether or not Nico Rosberg will be penalised for the pit-wall radio transmissions sent to him during the race. But Martin Brundle was frothing at the mouth over the prospect of penalties over something which he thought was stupid, "so because some driver hasn't memorised a manual the car is going to break" is about what he said.

I have no sympathy for that.

Firstly, you can't argue that knowing this stuff isn't part of a Formula One driver's job -- the regulations as they are today clearly make it part of the job.

Secondly, these drivers already have to know a ton of stuff -- tyre management, sporting regulations and procedures, all the car management procedures, how to talk to the media and sponsors -- a whole ton of stuff. These guys are paid a lot of money for what they do, expecting them to know how to drive the diagnostics system isn't exactly unreasonable.

Thirdly, you would think that with all the simulator work that the teams do they could run some scenarios to practice this kind of thing so that the drivers get used to dealing with the menu system while in the car and under pressure.

Finally, there's a lot of money in Formula One, surely if the menuing system is too complicated they could have someone make it simpler?

(There's also the issue that most of the rules are geared towards making failures more likely rather than less -- increasing attrition and "interest" in the proceedings. But that's a separate concern.)

I think that Mercedes will be penalised somehow. And there will be a lot of complaint.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Making Elimination Qualifying Work

So having watched this so-called "disaster" for Bahrain (and not thinking that it was terrible), I think I understand both what the intent of the plan was and why it doesn't work.

The intent of the plan is to draw out the tension of the session, where the number of eligible running cars is reduced as time goes on. The idea is that things get more and more frantic as the bar for continuing rises and rises.

There are two reasons why it doesn't work: the cars, and the sessions.

Firstly the cars. Modern F1 cars have evolved into these complicated science projects that are good for one thing -- running Grand Prix races. They are not suited to an elimination style qualification. The cars basically have one good timed lap in them, so we get the situation that we have had for the last two races: everyone boils out of the pits, sets one time, and that's it. There is practically no chance that a team could turn a car for a second timed run, and since for the first two sessions the number of cars being dropped is relatively small, for the vast majority of the runners there is absolutely zero point in even trying. Thus, empty track time. If you send a car with enough fuel for more than one timed run then you will be compromising both runs since you A) have to carry around the extra fuel for the extra timed run(s), and B) you have to go easier on your tires so that you don't root them out too early. Neither situation is conducive to setting a time which is ultimately competitive.

Secondly, the sessions. Since qualifying is still broken up into Q1, Q2, Q3, then for the majority of the field there simply is no incentive to even try to run a second time in the session -- the times are set, and moving from 10th to 8th means nothing in Q1.

So here's my idea for solving both problems:

A) Make the cars start on race-fuel (or some common, minimum fuel level; and B) run qualifying as a single session, with the elimination starting after 10 or 15 minutes.

Presto, everyone has to look after their tires; the cars get faster as the session winds down; everyone would have incentive to keep running to keep burning off the fuel load; changing to the softer tires would become a strategy as to when you'd do it; and setting times would always be relevant because the times are always live.

You'd also get an hour of on-track chaotic running which the media thinks the man-in-the-stands likes to watch.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

F92A Memory

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

2015 Retrospective

So 2015 has come and gone, and frankly I expected it to be another waste of time. Nothing significant had changed at Ferrari -- Arrivabene and Vettel had both arrived too late to have significant input on the car's development, and with that in hand I didn't think that Ferrari would have any answer to any Mercedes-powered car, let alone the factory team running up front.

Shows what I know. Practically any other team would have killed to have had Ferrari's "bad year". A couple of wins, including the both pole and the win in Singapore. Second in the manufacturer's title, third and fourth in the driver's. And I believe Vettel's points haul rivals Alonso's from when Alonso was nearly champion a couple years back.

It was telling, though. The year that Alonso was nearly champion, we headed to Canada having had seven separate drivers as race winners for that year. This year we headed to Canada having had seven separate drivers as podium visitors for the year. Mercedes' reliability was epic, as was Vettel's machine-like predictability in picking up third. Although as a team fan I'm pleased with the result, it made for some dry racing.

Would Alonso have made out as well in this year's Ferrari? I'd like to say yes, but there's no way to know.

For the future, there's not much to say. None of the technical regulation proposals get me excited, and the fiddling around with a "cheap" motor and an equivalency formula just leaves me cold. The fact that the engines are hugely more efficient than what has come before is interesting, but really what draws people to the sport is the competition and the teams trying to come up with new technical solutions to close their gaps. Taking out in-season testing and engine development really puts a halt to that.

You really need multiple teams at the top with a fair chance to win on any given day, it makes the highs of winning higher and the lows of failing lower. You need a better reason for tuning in over "I wonder if Maldonaldo will run into anyone today?"

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Driver Skill Is Obviously All-Important

Your finishers, in China 2015:

If only Sainz had not fallen out and spoiled a perfect finish.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Best Of The Rest

A solid 3-4 finish is pretty good, especially considering the mess of futility that last year was.  I am pretty happy about it.

Thinking about it, I think the deficiencies, we can assume that the Ferrari engine is a huge step forward this year.  Maybe not "Mercedes" class -- although the engine is powering perenial back-marker Sauber into more reasonable competitive results, and we know traditionally their car isn't much good -- but still pretty good (the engine).  So from that, I think that the Williams car is inferior to the Ferrari car, which fits with my theory of the Williams merely being the best also-ran last year which benefited from the Mercedes dominance.  With the Ferrari resurgence, Williams is once again behind the serious leaders.  The other Mercedes team that benefited last year, Force India, is similarly unremarkable, and Lotus is really just coming to grips with things.  Clearly, the Mercedes is less of an advantage this year.

Renault is in big trouble, and not just because Red Bull is threatening to have a temper tantrum and go home.  Their engine is where the Ferrari of 2014 was -- which was nowhere.

Red Bull having a gearbox which is apparently made of glass isn't helping any either.  This is the first post-Newey year, but you'd expect them to have their act together a little better than this.

Honda is of course the worst of the worst, but that's because they are in their first year and anyways are showing a surprising amount of realism in their expectations.  I think Q2 is a reasonable goal for this year, judging from what's happened so far this year.

For me, I think this is as good as we can expect for this year.  Ferrari isn't going to take the race to the Mercedes week in and week out, but with reliability they can collect solid points and be there for when the Mercedes duo trip over each other.  Perhaps in the desert at Bahrain things might go better, and perhaps at circuits where engine power is less important (ie: Monaco) they will have a chance, but for me the titles are already out of reach.  And frankly I'm okay with that.