Friday, September 18, 2009

Translation Programs Like F1

Red Bull set F1 racing blog: Red Bull puts apparatus See resolution on hold
[...]Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner has said that he when one pleases not stew more wide-ranging its locomotive locale until after next week’s FIA World Motor Sport Council hearing into Renault. Accepting a second-rate locomotive apportion is not on the team’s agenda – which is why it has no more than been account the Mercedes-Benz or Renault road. [...]
The rest of the "article" is similarly badly translated.

I gather the original source has been swiped from elsewhere and then double-translated, so I doubt reproducing it here will cause any trouble.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm absolutely floored

Renault will not contest race fixing charges; Briatore, Symonds leave team
ING Renault F1 Team Statement – 16 September 2009

The ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. It also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team. Before attending the hearing before the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 21 September 2009, the team will not make any further comment.
I really don't know what to say.

I've long thought that team orders should be legal -- at the time my argument was that Ron Dennis pays a lot of money to run two F1 cars, if it should please him to run one particular one in front of the other, then that should be his privilege. Assuming of course that there's no unsporting behavior going on.

Using one car to defend another -- that's been done for years. Recall Boutsen's Williams at Hungary in '89 or '90 -- Patrese in the sister car delayed his pit stop, destroying his own chances at a good result, so that Boutsen would have a few more clear sailing laps before the McLarens would catch up with him.

And holding up faster traffic, especially lapping faster traffic, is a time-honored tradition, even if it is technically against the rules now.

But deliberately crashing one car to the advantage of the other?

Frankly, I'm stunned that it happened, let alone that Renault has, as an organization, essentially copped to it.

(Update: Comprehensive analysis at

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Podium at Home

Ferrari comes away with a podium at their home Grand Prix, albeit one gifted them by a very strange mistake made by Hamilton. I seriously wonder why McLaren permitted Hamilton to keep charging with only two laps to go -- the extra two points on offer were not risking the six points already in the bag. The rate that Hamilton was closing on Button left me with little doubt that while the two cars would probably cross the line nose-to-tail, the McLaren would not be able to pass the Brawn. It was out of reach.

Raikkonen did what he had to do, although for the second race in a row he found himself trying to fend off a Force India car. Unfortunately for him the car was much less happy on the last set of tires than previous sets, and that let Sutil stay closer than perhaps anyone at Ferrari cared to see. But until then the Ferrari had more than enough to keep the Force India behind.

Speaking of which -- hey whoa, those Force India cars really are fast. Sutil didn't feature in Belgium, but he got the job done here this weekend. I can only wonder what might have happened had Fisichella stayed with Force India.

Fisichella himself sees a bit of a redemption -- ninth is better than dead last, and knocking on the door for points. I doubt he will get on terms with his new teammate this year, but extra points will always be a good thing.

Overall though the race was a bit of a tactical procession, save some Toyotas trying to bang wheels at the end. I must say that I still don't see anything that gives me hope for an improved quality of racing next year. The KERS cars can occasionally pass non-KERS cars, but straight-up there is little passing unless someone makes an error or has a problem of some sort.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Brief Deadpool Update

Toyota confirms F1 Participation:
Toyota's Formula 1 chiefs have been assured that the Japanese manufacturer is not planning a shock withdrawal from the sport later this year - but the team has been warned to prepare itself for major costs cuts.
So that's good news. However, some are speculating that Renault's tenuous commitment to F1 will be dashed by the FIA's investigation into last year's race at Singapore.

Personally I'm more than a little surprised at this level of interest by the FIA. I would have thought with F1 as fragile as it is, the FIA would have sought every possible excuse to deal with this quietly and sweep it away under the rug. The fact that it has gone this far must mean there is something very compelling behind this issue.

Given Renault's lack of results over the past two years, it would not be surprising if this bad publicity pushed the company to decide to pack it in after this year or maybe next.

Fisichella joins Ferrari

Well, I sure called that one, didn't I? Not.

I sure hope Force India will be well compensated for releasing Fisichella. I still think that Fisichella was Force India's best chance to secure meaningful results, and the lack of those results will hurt the team's ability to attract sponsorship.

One mistake I made in my analysis was to assume that Fisichella was still thinking of continuing beyond this year. Many articles this week have made mention that Fisichella was hoping to be named Ferrari test/reserve driver for 2010, a position which would be almost totally ceremonial in today's testing-free environment. Take away Fisichella's concerns for the future, and going to Ferrari now is a good move for him.

It is a good move for Ferrari, too. Fisichella represents perhaps the best chance to convert the 2009 car's capabilities into points. Although those chances may narrow somewhat as the team moves their focus to the 2010 car.

The Monza setup should be well-developed though. It is the home race for Ferrari, and even though it is a one-off in terms of downforce and car configuration, the team will come well prepared.

Finally, by retaining Fisichella for the remaining races, Massa is given the rest of the year to heal and get ready for next year. Although I am sure Massa will be itching to get back in it, it probably won't be a bad idea that his next turn behind the wheel will be in testing and not a high-pressure Grand Prix weekend.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Driver Problems

Ferrari has a driver problem. In that, they need one both immediately, as well as to build the future of the team.

In the short term, Luca Badoer has shown that whatever his credentials in testing, he is just not up to driving this year's car on no practice and testing. Ferrari desperately wants to hang on to third in the Constructors championship, and needs someone who can potentially drive the car for points-paying finishes.

This is a problem, because in my opinion this person does not exist outside of Formula 1 today. The field is too tightly packed in terms of performance week-to-week, reliability is unbelievably high, and most attrition seems to come from cars running into each other or other driver-related failures. In this environment, there is not anyone you can parachute into the Ferrari and have them produce what the car is capable of -- especially when you consider that for the first part of the season, it was difficult to see both Ferraris in the points, never mind high up in the points.

The press seems enamoured with the idea that Fisichella will be raised up from Force India into the second Ferrari seat, and he would be further rewarded with a "testing" position next year.

In the short term, this isn't a bad idea. Fisichella has the experience in a 2009 car, and can surely come to grips with a Ferrari somewhat faster than Badoer has/can. Whether or not he'd come to grips with it enough to bring a Ferrari from the back row into the points soon enough to do any good for the Constructor's table is anyone's guess, but he's better qualified than most other candidates.

In the long term, my first reaction would be that this was a bad plan for Ferrari. Everyone is expecting that the Ferrari driver lineup next year is going to be Alonso and Massa, with Raikkonen bought-out or sold to the Fiat World Rally Championship team or something. Further, if Massa is unable to get the job done at Ferrari next year, if this injury really is a career-ending one, Raikkonen could be kept on enough of a string to be brought back -- although a team with Alonso and Raikkonen would be definitely unpleasant to work at for everyone, drivers included. Especially if there was a championship in the offing.

But if Ferrari is serious about divesting themselves of Raikkonen, then having Fisichella in reserve is a smart move.

Note that personally I don't put any stock in these stories regarding Micheal Schumacher making a return next year. It wouldn't do his reputation any good. I think that he wouldn't be able to come to grips with the cars after so long away, and a Ferrari in his hands would be wasted. Even if it was a "third car", something else I don't rate highly as a possibility for next year.

Ferrari has assembled themselves a lot of question marks for next year.
  • Alonso -- will he be any good out of the box?
  • Massa -- can he really return and be effective?
  • Raikkonnen -- is he motivated any more?
And to add Fisichella to that mix.

There are two problems with Fisichella, neither of which are really Ferrari issues. First, there's the issue of Force India. I'm sure Adrian Sutil is a sincere guy, but lets face it -- he drove the same car as the one which chased a Ferrari around Spa last weekend without it being anywhere near as interesting to watch. And new guys Alguersuari and Grossjean showed that while they were better than Luca Badoer, that's about all they were better than.

To suggest that Force India is about to accept losing the driver who seems the difference between being competitive and being present is ridiculous. While selling Fisichella to Ferrari might help settle some outstanding accounts with respect to an old engine contract, the results that Fisichella could potentially bring to the team will be worth far more in terms of both short-term sponsorship dollars and long-term prestige. Packing that in to run Sutil and another inexperienced driver for the rest of the year -- well I wouldn't do that. I'd hold on to Fisichella with both hands, and make sure that Ferrari understood that the selling price would exceed their grasp, no matter how long a grasp they might grow.

Fisichella is the second problem. While practically any Italian driver might drop everything for the chance to drive a Ferrari, especially at Monza, it is a career risk. As pointed out above, there is a potential logjam for Ferrari seats in 2010. The "reward" of a test/reserve driver position is virtually meaningless in the no-testing environment of Formula 1, which means Fisichella would be basically relegated to the sidelines, watching his skills atrophy. Basically Fisichella would be in the unenviable position of hoping both that Massa can't come back, and Raikkonen gets moved along before Massa withdraws; nothing less would give him a competitive seat at Ferrari.

There is also the chance that Fisichella might not get the Ferrari to score points, which won't do his chances for 2010 elsewhere much good, as he's already shown that he can run competitively. If he stays at Force India and does nothing else this season, the results will be blamed on the car. If he goes to Ferrari and does nothing but "be better than Badoer", the failing will be blamed on him. If I was in his management, I'd be encouraging him to stand pat at Force India.

Given all that, the best use of the 2009 Ferrari seat is to build for the future. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be any room through 2010 to build, which means that building effort now would be wasted.

There is also the problem that Ferrari is on the verge of concentrating on 2010 instead of developing in 2009. Once that happens we can pretty much close the book on the season.

So that's a lot of words to say -- Ferrari has a problem. It is tempting to make a bunch of predictions, but I have not got many of those right recently and really I don't know what should happen, let alone what will happen.