Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another "Learning Experience"

Well, if past history is anything to go by, Jenson Button has the best chance of being the World Champion. Hamilton won in Australia last year, Raikonnen the year before, and we all remember how those years turned out.

This event wasn't kind to Ferrari last year either, so we should not fall into the trap of trying to predict the whole season from one race. Last year Ferrari turned it around and won the day at the next race, so we can hope for a similar result next week.

In retrospect, using the option tire for the first stint was probably a smart move. There was always going to be an increased penalty for using the option tire, and it was surprising just how much of a penalty that turned out to be. By running the option tire first, you get the penalty out of the way early, and if (or, in Australia, when) there is a safety car, much of that penalty will be wiped out in one go. One strategy which now has to be investigated would be short-fueling the first stint, running the option tire, then running the rest of the race split in two stints. It would also put your fuel stops out of cycle with the rest of the field, which would be an advantage in that while you'd initially be unable to get on terms with the faster, lighter car ahead of you, you would then end up with the faster and lighter car yourself -- with, one hopes, clear track in front of you, once the car ahead stopped.

Raikkonen today:
"When I ended up in the wall it was my mistake. A shame as, given what happened later, I could have finished second. We lost valuable points but we will try and make up for it starting right away in Malaysia. There, we will get a clearer picture of the situation because this circuit is not very indicative of performance. The KERS worked well at the start, but there was not much room to go anywhere. If we did not think it gave an advantage, we would not use it. Definitely the main problem was in managing the tyres, but we also need to improve our overall performance."
Well good on him for accepting responsibility for the mistake; everyone is due one now and then. Hopefully it won't become a habit. Elsewhere he is described as thinking his failure cost him third place, I think this is somewhat optimistic even including the BMW/Red Bull collision in the closing staged. While he definitely was on course for points, I don't think that they would be a significant haul, and they would be enhanced by the collision ahead of him.

Massa's failure is described merely as "mechanical", and Massa does nothing to clear up the mystery in his comments. This will give the team something else to think about, as mechanical reliability was supposed to be the cornerstone of this year. Indeed, Massa's retirement is the only one which isn't at least indirectly a result of a collision, self-induced or otherwise.

It's a short hop to Malaysia next week, so there is not much time to make substantial changes. However you can be sure that even as the lawyers prepare for the FIA's Court Of Appeal, the engineers are working on a diffuser design that matches the Brawn's interpretation of the rules, to be quickly applied to the car should the lawyers fail. There is clearly enough to keep everyone usefully busy in the short term.

Australia 2009: Results

Well, I was close but I was way off, wasn't I?
  • A Brawn was on pole, however that was pretty much a gimmie. I was wrong about them being fragile, though, and the second Brawn lined up behind the first. BMW was towards the front, but both Toyota and Ferrari disappointed -- even before the Toyota penalty was taken into account.
  • Winner: I totally missed this one. Button's Brawn ran like a freight train, watch, or other excessively-reliable-cliche.
  • Podium: another miss. Even if Kubica and Vettel had not tangled at the end of the race the way they did, I would still only be one-for-three.
  • Race Happenings: I was wrong on the start, as Barrichello appeared to trigger a multiple-car pile-up behind him and then get off scott free -- but I disagree with Brundle's assertion that Barrichello was at fault; the rules state that if a car is alongside you (which he was, well before the corner) then you can't turn in on him. So that should get categorized as an "unavoidable race contact". There wasn't really any mid-pack mid-race incident, so I missed on that one too. What else? Well the Safety Car really is kind of a gimmie at Australia, isn't it, and Hamilton and Truly managed to get the stewards involved...
Overall the race seemed to show that the cars were more comfortable following one another closely through corners, which is good, and there were a couple of incidents which suggested that the KERS push-to-pass system also made a difference to a couple of passing or defending moments.

The good news from the weekend is that despite the domination of "the diffuser club" in qualifying, BMW and Red Bull seemed able to run with the Brawn, the BMW enough that when the Brawn and Red Bull were forced to run the option tire, it was able to close up the deficit. BMW had a legitimate claim to second today, and possibly first.

The only negative I can put up has to be the unabashed homerism that the BBC announcers show -- seriously, it is almost enough to make me look into getting Speed again just so I don't have to listen to how fucking wonderful Jenson Button is.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Australia 2009 Predictions

Ahh, time to put my money where my mouth is. Let's see:
  • Pole: one Brawn; the other will have technical problems and be at or near the back. BMW and Ferrari at the front, then the mid-field. Toyota towards the sharp end of the mid-field, maybe ahead of one Ferrari or BMW. Williams will disappoint. McLaren no better than 11th, and ForceIndia at the back.
  • Winner: BMW or Ferrari.
  • Podium: Two of either BMW or Ferrari, with one of the other. My thinking here is that the Brawn will be fragile; one of the cars will finish in the points.
  • Race happenings: a clean start. One mid-race mid-field collision which will take out two or three mid-field cars. The Safety Car will get deployed, and Safety Car rules will come into play, resulting in a protest by someone. Passing other cars will still be difficult.
For what it's worth.

Diffusers Legal, For Now

BMW's protest of the diffuser design on the Williams, Toyota, and Brawn cars has been denied:
[...] the FIA issued a statement confirming that the stewards believe the cars are legal.
This decision will, of course, be appealed and there will be a formal hearing of the FIA's International Court of Appeal. Since that is not likely to happen for several weeks, the cars are likely to be protested again in Sepang.

There are two things that will happen from this: first, all the other teams will now prepare diffuser designs that are in line with Brawn etc's interpretation of the rules; however the teams which are on the record as protesting will not dare use them until after the hearing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Diffuse Speculation

F1Fanatic has a guest article up discussing the impending diffuser wars.
That teams can run a central section at all is of some contention. However a close reading of the rules suggests that a 150mm central section extending beyond the main diffuser is permissible. [...] The theory is simple. By increasing the overall volume of the diffuser air can be slowed in a more controlled fashion which reduces the odds of flow separation. I find it hard to believe that the FIA will outlaw this central tunnel as it is a fair interpretation of the rules.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Setup for a farce

Of course, since the FIA is involved, that's a given these days.

So the news of the moment is that the FIA has decided on a budget cap for 2010 of £30 million (roughly US$42 million). This is to include everything including driver salaries. Participation within the cap is voluntary; however participation will yield unlimited technical freedom in some areas. The FIA promises to tweak those areas of technical freedom on an ongoing basis to ensure parity between the capped and unlimited teams.

Left unspecified is the time frame of this cap -- could a team spend $50 million this year on development for next, and still count as a "capped" team?

I can already see loopholes. Capped teams will be permitted to pay dividends to their owners should they turn a profit (as some likely will). These owners can be engineers, drivers, and other organizations.

So follow my whimsy for a minute.

Lets say you have a cap team at $42 million that sees revenues of $100 million (not unreasonable today), for a profit of $58 million. So what you do is you sell part of your team to your driver of the year. He takes a nominal salary for the year, and at the end of the year receives his dividend on the profit. Once he's done this, he sells his share of the team back to the ownership group (or, more likely, on to the driver for the next year).

Of course it will only work while the team is turning a profit, but since most teams see more revenues than $42 million (and the top teams well in excess of that), there's profit to be shared.

Naturally there is a lot of ground to cover before anything like this come to be reality, but this thought exercise shows the futility of trying to limit expenditures.

Friday, March 6, 2009

That's the tenth: Brawn GP car runs at Silverstone

Autosport has the early picture of the BrawnGP (formerly Honda) car running at Silverstone. We can't tell much from the single picture put up, but the car does have an unusual low nose drooping over the front wing; Autosport describes the sidepods as "highly sculpted", although we are yet to see photos of the overall car for ourselves.

The car is due to run at Barcelona next week and we will probably get a better look at the car at that point.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Farewell Montreal eulogizes the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal.

I have to admit I am not surprised; as in any international "sport", the organization tends to follow the money. And if places like Malaysia and Singapore are willing to pay millions to get an event while the Canadians are not, well the sport follows the money simple enough.

But I am disappointed. I did go to several events in the mid 90s, and more recently went for the Friday practice sessions as I enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of the cars once a year. I was home for the rest of the weekend because I felt one got better coverage of the event's portions that count through the TV.

I was hoping take the boys out to a Friday when they got older, so they could share a little bit with their father something that I enjoy.

But all that has passed, for now. Maybe F1 will come back to Canada when the developing nations stall in development... but I honestly don't think so. I think a return to somewhere in the US is far more likely.

As I said, the sport follows the money.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No Changes Behind The Wheels

With Rubens Barrichello seemingly confirmed at Honda/Brawn for 2009, every team except the two Red Bull organizations will start the year with the same driver lineups that they finished 2008 with. This seeming stasis in Formula 1 has left some up and coming drivers out in the cold.

This is an unusual amount of stability for Formula 1. It also means all the speculative press from last year amounted to precisely nothing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

USF1 Spoof Site

Well, them good ol' boys may not have them there Forumulated One cars figgurd out so good, but they got themselves one of them there 'blog' things in the intertubes, complete with photos of their development car and secret footage of crash tests.

They're even on Twitter, too.

Funniest thing I've read all week.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What do the teams really think of each other's chances?

I was reading Vijay Mallya's comments about Force India's prospects for the upcoming season:
Vijay Mallya says his Force India team have 'no excuses' not to score regular points in 2009 thanks to their technical partnership with McLaren-Mercedes.
He's wrong, of course, in a pinch excuses will be found; but this got me wondering about how the various teams view each other.

There are two ways to analyze this statement. Firstly, and most obviously, there is the publicity angle. I don't think any team is formed, in any league at any level, to just "show up". You want to do well, you want to be improving. There will be ups and downs of course, but the ultimate goal is to one day win the various championships. As such, you don't want to be quoted in the media as saying things like "well our chances are pretty bad and we expect to be at the back of the grid all year long again". Such talk does nothing to encourage sponsors to be associated with your effort.

The second, and in my view more interesting, way to interpret the statement is that the team has evaluated the rest of the field and thinks they have a legitimate potential to do as well as they say they do.

This made me wonder -- just what do the various teams think the relative performances of each other are? Naturally, everyone except Ferrari and Mclaren presumes they are in the top half -- and Ferrari and Mclaren know they are in the top half. Everyone else is more or less up for grabs. But if you could get all those evaluations, then average them somehow, and then compare those predictions to the end of the season... that might be interesting.

It'll never happen, of course. But it is still fun to contemplate.

Oh, and while we're contemplating, here are the studio photos from the Force India launch.

Update: Technical analysis, too.