Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2009 Begins To Shape Up

More launches:So by my count that leaves us waiting on Force India, the Red Bull twins, and maybe whomever rescues Honda as the teams who have still not launched their 2009 cars.

Of the lot, the Renault features perhaps the ugliest nose revealed so far. However Williams and BMW seem to agree that the wider nose has its advantages.

Interesting: Canada's The Globe And Mail newspaper has covered the launch of the BMW F1 car, but has remained silent on its competitors.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Toyota TF109 Photos

Links to studio photos, and a technical analysis of the TF109.

Just looking at it as compared to the Ferrari F60, the nose is visibly different, and the front wing appears a lot simpler. There is also a more substantial, sculpted "feel" to the sidepods and rear body work, probably due to fewer aerodynamic turning vanes than the F60 has. Also interesting is a more substantial shark fin on the back of the air box.

Here is a blog post comparing the F60 and the TF109 side by side.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Engine Clarification has an explanation of the 2009 engine rules:

[Ferrari team boss Stefano] Domenicali explained at the launch of the team’s F60 racer that drivers will now be allocated eight engines for the whole season.

Unlike in 2008 and before, therefore, this year engines do not need to be used consecutively, meaning that drivers can avoid the risk of using the same engine at arduous power-circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps and Monza.

Also crucially, penalties for ‘unscheduled engine changes’ will not be allocated until a driver has completely exhausted his season’s supply of eight power plants.

It means that a driver could theoretically use one engine in qualifying and another for the race, without attracting a penalty.

The theoretical use of a different engine in qualifying and in the race will only be possible if the parc-ferme rules are relaxed between qualifying and race start. If this is so, the race mechanics will be back to working many long hours overnight changing engines back and forth as the whims of the drivers and team management change.

I wonder what this will mean for the rent-a-driver market -- could a back-marker (or indeed, any!) team get access to more engines without penalty if they fire the driver who has nearly exhausted his allocation of eight, on the grounds that his replacement hasn't used any? I am sure that if the rules do not already allow for this occurrence, they would be quickly modified if someone tried it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

F60 Technical Analysis

I know we're spending a lot of time on Formula 1 right now, but the bottom line is that this is both relevant and far more interesting than Senators hockey at the moment. Don't worry, the parade of mediocrity is due to return shortly.

Back on point: Autosport offers a more detailed technical analysis of the Ferrari F60. Also here is a page of studio-shot photos of the F60.

After spending more time studying the photos, I stand by my initial reaction that the rear wing is what lets the look of the car down. Without a big, wide rear wing, the car just looks like the picture has been taken through some perspective-trick lens or something. I know the small rear wing and restricted front wing are to improve the racing, but the car doesn't look complete at at the back.

But on the other hand... there's just something so right about slick tires on a red F1 car.

Monday, January 12, 2009

F60 Is An Ugly Duckling

OK, there are photos of the F60 running from today in Italy. From the front, the car looks like it's being simultaneously stretched in the front and squashed in the rear. And I don't like it.

I think it's going to be a while before this car layout grows on me, but of course the ultimate measure of a Ferrari of any type is how fast it is relative to its peers. If this... thing... wins the World Championship, nobody will care what it looks like.

2009 Formula 1 Championship Starts Now

Link to Press Photos of the Ferrari F60 launch. The car is named F60 to celebrate Ferrari's 60 years of involvement with Formula 1.

First impression: not terrible looking, although I'll reserve final judgment until I see TV footage of the car actually running.

Looking at the photos makes me wonder if the press people at Ferrari work out what is the most flattering angle for the official photos of the car. There's just enough offset that the flat front wing is displayed, without showing detail of the upper elements. Similarly, the rear wing is displayed, but the narrowness of it is hidden by the angle.

Hopefully we'll get to see photos of it running today too.

We should get official launches from some other teams in the next couple of weeks, and from there we can start comparing which car is the ugliest of the year.

Ugliest F1 Ferrari?

While we are waiting (dreading?) news and photos from Mugello* of the 2009 Ferrari F1 challenger, how about this nomination as the ugliest Ferrari F1 race car ever: the 1973 312B3 Spazzaneve.

*(Yes, I know earlier reports said Fiorano, but apparently winter is visiting that part of Italy and running the car would be impractical.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Missing the Annual

Know what I miss this time of year? Autosport used to do these fantastic year-end annual summary magazines of the past year in Formula 1.

The oldest one I have is from 1990, and it was just a forty-odd page insert in one of the weekly magazines. In 1991, however, they upped the performance. The '91 year features the race report from each race of the season as published in the magazine, sort of a best-of summary of the year, along with some of the technical drawings and some "expert opinion" fluff to wrap it all up. When combined with the photographs of the races, summaries of the starting grid and detailed results, you had wonderful reference of the year's actions.

But something happened -- by 1998, the magazine had turned into less of a detailed reference. The races were all there, with their individual photos grouped together -- but the accompanying articles were all fluff stuff. For example, the French GP "article" is about Eddie Irvine, and the actual race action is reduced to a two-paragraph box with a small table of results.

The 1998 issue is the last one I purchased. I thumbed through later issues for later years when they were published, but they didn't match what I wanted, so I didn't buy them.

I've felt that the "race reporting" of the F1 magazines I have been reading, including modern ones, had been declining into less of a sporting report, and more of a "lifestyle" type magazine. Useless, flowery prose which talks about a weekend from the quasi-fictionalized perspective of one of the drivers. It was that, as well as the fact that all the articles about the drivers tend to blend together (I mean seriously, does any driver get involved in Formula 1 if he doesn't dream of winning the championship, and maybe driving for Ferrari?) that made me stop buying the magazines.

That and the internet was starting to give me an adequate supply of news and reporting.

The real golden age of magazines for me was the early 90s. There was one in particular -- I can't put a name to it right now because they are all boxed up in the basement -- that had detailed technical drawings of the changes made to the cars, and discussions of how the individual technologies worked. Sure, Autosport had (has? I have not seen an Autosport here in Canada in years) some of that, but nothing in terms of the detail I remember. Sadly, this must have made it more of a specialist publication, and it didn't survive very long.

It is strange, though. It is these gaps between the seasons when I miss the magazines the most. I can occasionally spend time thumbing through the old ones I have, and it reminds me why I watch the sport.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy Thoughts

Why not have some good news for a change.

Ferrari's launch of the 2009 car will happen on Monday 12 January 2009. If all goes well, it will even run at Fiorano the same day.

That's something nice to look forward to, even if the '09 rules threaten to ensure the car will be the ugliest in a long time.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Driver Contracts

So F1Fanatic has it on good authority that Fernando Alonso has signed to drive for Ferrari starting in 2011. This is not inconsistant with the current contracts that Ferrari has, as both Massa and Raikonnen's contracts are good through the end of 2010.

This isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened. Alonso did his last championship-winning season with Renault, all the while having a McLaren contract in his pocket for the following year. At the same time, Raikonnen did his last season with McLaren while knowing he was going to drive a Ferrari the following year.

I would bet, though, that both Alonso and Raikonnen were a bit concerned through that season, seeing as how the relative paces of the McLaren and Ferrari was not exactly competitive. Ferrari was especially disappointing given that Micheal Schumacher was still driving the Ferrari, and only being able to snag a win under extremely unusual circumstances at Indy.

But this is the first time I can remember a driver being signed two years in advance. To me, this seems like an extremely strange risk to take. While Alonso is clearly in the top rank of drivers, it is not assured that he will still be after two more years of racing. Similarly, while the Ferrari is a competitive car and the team is still likely to enjoy a crushing budget advantage over the bulk of the field, the 1990s proved that budget alone is no guarantee of competitiveness for this team.

I am sure that the contract has numerous exit clauses that will permit either side to get out of it should Alonso become undesirable or the Ferrari team fails to maintain their status. And in that sense, the contract probably means that Alonso's place at Ferrari for 2011 is little firmer than anyone else's at this point, fodder for nothing more than media and weblog discussion.