Friday, November 26, 2010


The Itallian press is demonstrating its calm, steady, measured approach to covering Ferrari's escapades in the Formula One series:

Ferrari 'heads will roll' after title loss
"Some things will change and, sure, some heads will roll," said the authoritative Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.
...yeah, not so much.

I don't think that there is any way for Ferrari to view 2010 as anything other than a run-away success. The fact that Alonso was still leading the championship going into the final event beggars comprehension considering how fragile the Ferrari engine was through the rest of the season.

The rest of the team organization, though, fired on all cylinders when it counted. The principle example of this was Monaco, where Alonso wrote off a car on Friday, and the replacement turned a wheel for the first time on the shake-down lap Sunday afternoon, and the car ran flawlessly for the entire race distance -- that's a Ferrari accomplishment to be truly proud of.

For all my dislike of Alonso as a person, I think he is one of the best drivers on the grid today. Performances like Singapore, where he held off Vettel's visibly faster car for the whole event, stand up well beside events where the Ferrari cars had the edge on the rest of the field.

To suggest that Ferrari faltered at the end is too easy a Monday-morning quarterback call to make. Alonso had a devil's choice: stay with Vettel and risk Webber passing him before the pit stops; or cover Webber's stop and hope Vettel had to follow suit immediately.

I thought it a strange choice to cover Webber. At the very least I would have left Alonso out another lap to look at Webber's sector times after he got the new tires going; waiting that long would have cast doubt on the viability of the strategy.

But Ferrari made their choice.

Massa I think was a study in disappointment through this year. From visibly holding his team mate up in the early races, to suffering mysterious failures here and there, Massa's engagement seemed to be reduced by what happened in Germany. I still think Massa is a capable driver, one fast enough to help Alonso achieve a Manufacturer's title for Ferrari, but head-to-head Alonso is going to be the faster man more days than he's not. If Massa can accept that his days as a title contender have passed, he can still enjoy the success that a Ferrari can bring him. However I suspect Massa is too much the competitor to let that aspect of racing go, and he will continue to be less engaged in 2011, to both his and Ferrari's detriment.

For the team overall, this has been a huge year. This was supposed to be a building year, getting the personnel and experience together for a proper run at the titles in 2011. While Ferrari's presence near the front owes much to the mistakes made by the other teams and drivers, Alonso and Ferrari were good enough and consistent enough to take advantage.

To expect 2011 to be an improvement is extremely optimistic.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sebastien Vettel, World Champion 2010

So after all is said and done, Vettel finds himself holding the Driver's World Championship for 2010.

2010 has been a weird year in this respect, in that there hasn't been a single worthy driver who's claim on the title has been irrefutable throughout the whole season. Not that I'm claiming that Vettel, or his competitors, were un-worthy. But the fact of the matter is that everyone seemed to depend on other everyone else making mistakes or having bad luck.

And mistakes in the end is what sealed the deal for Vettel. True, Vettel won from the front going away, but had Alonso not pitted to cover Webber's gamble, he likely would have finished far enough up that the title would have been in the Ferrari driver's hands instead. Ferrari's mis-step was Vettel's gain.

Vettel's talent still seems a bit wild at times, but he should settle down; assuming he doesn't crater his own career with foolish team choices, this probably won't be his only World Championship. Now that he is a legitimate title winner, he should find this goes a long way towards having a team built around him rather than him being built into a team.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Race Emissions

Joe Saward reports on Williams' environmental impact report from 2009:
It is interesting to note that emissions generated directly from race cars remain a fraction of the company’s total CO2 output at 0.46% for 2009.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Massa Courts Disasta

In some ways, I pity Massa after this weekend.

All through the weekend he struggled, and despite turning more qualifying laps than other drivers who managed to get into Q3, he ended up stuck in the mid-field.

At the start he managed to out-guess himself, and... well...
At the start, Rosberg, who was in front of me, got away poorly and at first I tried to move to the left, but Sutil was coming there. Then I moved to the right, but in so doing I found myself on the grass and the kerb. At that point the car took off on its own, I was unable to make it through the first corner and I ended up colliding with Liuzzi’s Force India.
Really, this kind of move was never going to be on, and Liuzzi just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Again, if you happen to believe Martin Brundle.)

But the big problem with this kind of move? If he had managed to stay on the grass to the corner and resumed under control, he would have demonstrably cut the corner, ie "shortened the track to gain an advantage".

Tears were inevitable.

Massa's season has really had the lungs gutted from it since Germany, where he learned that he was in no way to trouble his team leader's charge for the title. Before then he might not have been as quick as his team leader on most occasions, but he was certainly luckier. Personally I think that his performances have dropped off because of Ferrari's favoritism, not due to any lingering effects from his injury last year.

Massa really needs to get it together in a big way through the rest of the season to justify his continued presence in the team -- ie come in tracing his team-mate's wheel tracks big. Ferrari has demonstrated on multiple occasions that they are willing to buy out drivers who are perceived as not doing the best that can be done.

The problem is that I don't really see that kind of improvement happening under the increased pressure that these requirements are going to bring.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Alonso's Engine Situation

Reports James Allen:
He has two engines which have both done one race each – Spa and Monza. These will be used across the remaining four races.
So that is a slightly better spin on things than otherwise could be. Rather than one engine having to do the remaining races, he has two which will have to do two more, each, for a total of three each.

Still a long way to go for an engine which has been fragile thus far this year..

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Four Wins

I'll say it up front: maybe I was wrong about Monza being the peak of 2010.

To be sure, Alonso's taking of his third fourth win of the year shows that neither he, nor the Ferrari F10, is merely adequate to the task of competing in Formula 1.

And while Vettel might have claimed he wasn't pushing his car hard, he never seriously looked like troubling the F10 on the track. If he had stayed out for a lap or two at pit-stop time things might have been different... but he didn't.

Thing of it is, Massa's woes illustrated my point exactly: engines are going to turn out to be Ferrari's weakness down the stretch. Ferrari took advantage of a horrible situation to swap out Massa's used engine for a fresh one at effectively no additional penalty, putting them on their ninth engine for the year. But in my opinion, four races (plus Sunday in Singapore) is a long way for one engine to go.

Ferrari will have to chose now between trying to reduce optional track time running (ie free practice) with the associated loss of time to do setup and new parts evaluation, or push through with the full program and risk a blowup which requires a 10-place grid penalty.

If they are really unlucky, the blowup will happen during a race on Sunday, meaning they'll lose the result for that Sunday plus effectively give away a huge advantage to the rest of the championship contenders for the next race.

Even though Alonso has brought Ferrari so close to the titles, my feeling remains that the engine situation means Ferrari is not as much in play as the points table indicates.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Highlight of 2010

I'm not a fan of Fernando Alonso, but when he came out of the pits and was side-by-side with Button going into the chicane I was yelling at the TV to encourage him on. Both Button and Alonso delivered precision drives today, with the Ferrari in the right place at the right time to turn in the victory -- and at the end of the day, Ferrari winning is more important than my feelings for the driver in the car.

Ferrari's 1-3 finish today at Monza will be seen as a capstone on the 2010 season for Ferrari -- the high point that in retrospect will be seen as the last step before the decline as the season rolls on. While Ferrari and Alonso both made good jumps up their respective championship tables today, I just can't see them continuing to hold their positions -- let alone continue to advance.

Why? Engines.

Both Alonso and Massa are currently using their eighth engine of the year. Lest we forget, the rules state that each driver has a maximum allocation of eight engines for the entire year; if more are required, they result in a 10 place grid penalty the first time each are used. To think that engines which have to date done an average of just less than two races each (7 engines used up in 13 races) will now do the five remaining races is, on the face of it, ludicrous.

By way of comparison, the two Renault drivers are on their 5th engine for the year. And Ferrari customer Sauber is using their 9th engine for one of their drivers already.

This means that, everything else being equal, both Ferrari drivers can expect at least one 10-place grid penalty each before the end of the season in order to install their 9th engine; and possibly more. Their competitors for the various titles are much better situated in terms of engine counts; I expect that Red Bull will be running tighter on Vettel's car than Webber's, but McLaren should be well placed for the run to the end of the season.

Given that Ferrari will likely have to effectively give away a good result over and above the racing incidents (whether self-inflicted or not) that will inevitably happen, I think that their 2010 title charges are effectively over at this point.

I think Monza is a great place for Ferrari's season to peak, and that the team probably should be focusing on 2011, as well as trying to sort the engine problems that have effectively blunted their 2010 challenges. I also hope that we see more competitive results from both drivers this year.

But titles?

I think the titles really slipped away earlier in the year and nobody has really noticed yet.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Team Orders Kinda Illegal

In a perverse way, you just have to admire the FIA. Given an impossible situation, they will never fail to find some solution which nobody thought about ahead of time which will make matters worse.

Take this team orders thing. The German Grand Prix stewards fined Ferrari $100000 for interfering with the result of an event and referred the matter to the World Motor Sport Council. The WMSC's options appeared limited to two opposite findings: they could back the Stewards' call and then find Ferrari guilty of bringing the sport into disrepute; or they could find that the team-orders regulations were unenforcable, and vacate Ferrari's fine.

Based with these options, the WMSC bravely found a third option:
The WMSC hearing over the matter took place in Paris today, but Angelo Sticchi Damiani, head of Italian motorsport federation the CSAI, told reporters outside that the governing body had agreed unanimously not to impose any extra punishment, according to the Reuters news agency.
That is to say, yes they used team orders, but no, it didn't bring the sport into disrepute.

This is a decision along the lines of Hamilton's knuckle rapping from Malaysia, in that Hamilton's weaving was considered bad, but not so bad as to require punishment, but future incidents of this sort would be punished.

So, are team orders still illegal? The WMSC's decision would tend to suggest that yes they are illegal.

I don't think that this decision will do anything to prevent it from happening again in the future, though.

Monday, September 6, 2010

2013 Taking Shape

Joe Saward reports on the formula taking shape for 2013 and beyond:
  • 1.6L 4-cylinder 3-bar turbocharged engine
  • wheel size increases from 14 inches to 18 inches
  • changed sidepod design to provide more lateral protection to drivers
  • limited ground-effect
The suspensions and brakes are also expected to change and there is even talk of engines having stop-start mechanicisms to save fuel during pit stops.
Changing the wheel size is good, it is a bit ridiculous that road cars have 17- and 18-inch wheels on them while the premiere racing formula gets around on wheels smaller than those on my stock Toyota Yaris (15-inches, for the record).

The ground-effect I think is a step in the wrong direction. While the racing cars should still look like racing cars, ground effects can lead to sudden losses in downforce should the car ride over a bump improperly.

These are still speculation at this point, but the FIA is keen to get this agreed upon as soon as possible so that engine manufacturers can start development in 2011 so that quality engines are available in 2013.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Force India Raw Speed

Interesting note of the weekend: straight-line speed does not solve all problems:
On a side note, both Force India cars at Spa were still 6km/h quicker down the straight than any of the title contenders.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Engine Rebalance?

F1Fanatic wants to know if the currently available engines should be equalized. Currently Red Bull is whining that the Renault engine they are using (to lead the Driver's championship with, natch) is down 20 to 30 horse power when compared to the Mercedes engine, currently the benchmark for power.

Like all issues in Formula One, the answer to this depends on what the FIA and the constructors want Formula One to be.

If Renault is permitted to boost their horsepower, then Mercedes will be put out because the Renault engine is lighter then theirs. Cosworth will be put out because the Mercedes is smaller. Ferrari will be put out because the Renault is more fuel efficient. Or whatever. The point is: whenever you have different engines, there are going to be pros and cons to each one. Some will excel some areas while being deficient in others; other engines will offer a balance of all criteria[*].

If you give legitimacy to this complaint, you are opening the door to validating the rest of the complaints, and this road leads to... a spec engine. If every manufacturer is making the same engine, you might as well just have one make the engine and save everyone some money.

Formula One is slowly sliding down the slope to a spec series, or a might-as-well-be-a-spec-series like CART used to be.

If you want to let engineers try to have new ideas in an attempt to gain an advantage, you have to accept the fact that sometimes this advantage will put some teams ahead of others, and that sometimes these ideas are going to get it wrong, either in conception or execution. And this will happen in all areas of the car that are not "spec".

The engine freeze probably looked good on paper, but in execution it makes the manufacturers line up rather predictably. And this running order is rather rigid.

It also puts even more lie to the idea that concepts learned in racing are (or even can be) applied to road cars. Especially since aside from the last round of rebalancing, very little has changed in Formula One engines in two years.

From all that, I have this opinion. I think the engine freeze should be lifted in its entirety.

But failing that, I think that a "rebalancing" isn't appropriate, as it would lead to other complaints.

[*] = In the case of Cosworth, the only particularly important area this engine excels in is "availability", since most teams cannot get a Mercedes, Renault, or Ferrari engine for any price. But that's still a valid advantage for Cosworth.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Commentator Disconnect

Is it mandatory that commentators talk out of their hats, or is it something they do for free?

Adrian Newey had a collision in a BTCC support race that he'd entered. He was extracted from the car on a back board and taken to hospital as a precaution. Word is that he is sore, but probably alright.

But here's the clip of film in question:

The kick is at the end of the clip, where the commentators are cheerfully saying that everyone's out of the cars and is quite alright thank you, when the video is showing an ambulance waiting for Newey to be extracted -- meaning that while everybody might be alright, there is some doubt about that, and at the very least, not everybody is out of the cars yet.

Brundle's job, such that it is, seems quite safe.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dangerous Driving

Micheal Schumacher seems hell-bent on destroying his own legacy.

Yesterday, Schumacher defended his position against Barichello by chopping right as the two cars went down the main straight. Barichello kept his foot in it, and the only reason why the two cars didn't end up in the wall was the fact that the wall didn't extend as far as Barichello had to go in order to avoid the collision.

How close was it? Go look at this picture. Damn.

(Update: here's a better, high-resolution photo of the incident. Schumacher left Barichello room, but not much.)

This is the second race where Schumacher's positional defense was... let's say excessively vigorous. Back at the Canadian Grand Prix, Schumacher chopped both Kubica and Massa. Kubica blotted his copybook with an excessively aggressive pass on the pit-in, and Massa further confused the issue by speeding in the pit lane. Schumacher got a pass on his transgressions.

But this time there wasn't anything else to confuse the stewards. Schumacher's act was investigated, and he was awarded a 10-place grid penalty for the next event.

Schumacher's return this year hasn't been exactly covered in glory. He is consistently out-qualified and out-raced by his younger teammate, who himself is not exactly tearing up the scoresheets.

Pedro De LaRosa has provided a defense for Schumacher's lack of form. De LaRosa, who is also returning to F1 after an absence, claims that with the lack of testing available to drivers it will take someone at least a year to get to grips with the cars now. Not that De LaRosa was ever particularly on fire in the standings.

This whole return was supposed to be a ready-made triumph. Mercedes had aquired the championship-winning constructor who had won with the Mercedes engine. Having two German drivers, one of them being arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time, was Mercedes' dream.

Unfortunately it didn't turn out that way.

I speculated last year that Brawn was going to find it tough to repeat their title-wining form. Their season of dominance came courtesy of Honda's total abandonment of 2008 very early in the year, and Brawn was permitted the luxury of time and Honda money on a scale that was not available to any other team. When combined with the Mercedes power plant, the result was a car that was far and away the class of the field.

Lacking both the time and money spent the previous year, I think that 2010 was always going to be lesser. I don't think Schumacher really counted on it being this much of a come-down from 2009.

So I think that between the lack of results and the driving incidents, Schumacher really has no choice but to soldier on in 2011. He needs to point to this year as a learning year, and hope that Brawn can get the team's act back together to provide a competitive car that can win, and then win with it.

If he quits without winning (which is the increasingly likely result of the 2010 campaign) it will provide a blot on his record.

...of course this all assumes he doesn't get himself hurt by vigorously defending a single point or something stupid.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Team Orders Should Be OK

F1Fanatic has an article saying that the no-team-orders rule in F1 needs to stay. While one could make the case that fans want to see drivers in contention for the world championship be free to pursue that, the defense of the rule is ultimately hypocritical:
It’s clear from the vehement reaction to Austria 2002 and Germany 2010, and the muted response to Brazil 2007 and China 2008, that fans have far less objection to team orders being used when one driver is out of the running for the championship.

But they expect teams to allow their drivers to compete for the championship as long as both are in contention. It’s clear F1 needs a rule to enforce that and I see no reason why the existing article 39.1 can’t be updated to do so.
Such an update to the rule would make it unwieldy. How are you going to make the update? Based on points behind the championship leader? Wins? Some kind of sliding scale that changes based on the number of races remaining?

There is also the semantic difference between a race result being "fixed" as a result of the team's orders, and a race result being "fixed" as a result of two drivers conspiring. As in: I don't really see one. Both results are "fixed", yet because one came from an order from the pit wall, it is somehow bad.

I've written on team orders before. Even though I was very disappointed to see Massa be ordered to yield to Alonso, I think that team orders should remain. I noted that McLaren spends a lot of money to have two race cars run on Sundays, and if it should please Ron Dennis (at the time) to have one car run in front of the other, then I see no reason why he should be denied.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Well Played, Sir.

Seems like bad luck is following Alonso around this year the way good luck is following Hamilton.

Yesterday's result, however, can be laid at Alonso's feet almost entirely. He claims he had an issue with the clutch at launch; whatever actually happened, Alonso fell backwards through the grid in the run up to the first corner. He found his feet ahead of his team mate, however in my view he defended his line rather aggressively against Massa, triggering a collision with the result that Massa had a tire go down and was forced to pit at the end of lap one. Thus ended Massa's day.

Later on Alonso got tangled up with Kubica, engineering a situation where he allowed himself to be forced wide, cutting the corner -- after which he went charging off into the distance.

At that moment I said Alonso had cut the corner and should hand the place back. To do so now would mean a loss of 5 seconds; if Alonso stalled long enough, the FIA would force him to make a drive-through which would cost him 20 seconds.

And isn't that more or less exactly what happened?

The fact that Alonso's penalty was assigned just before a Safety Car period was just bad luck, but with all the bad-mouthing of the FIA and stewards that has been coming from Ferrari over the last two weeks I don't think anyone in the stewards' room felt terribly bad for Alonso.

The net result was Ferrari's worst event since something like 1988. Well done, sir.

(Update: I stand corrected, it was the worst finish since 1978:
But Ferrari suffered their worst two-car finish since the 1978 French Grand Prix, when Gilles Villeneuve and Carlos Reutemann finished 12th and 18th respectively.
Worst result in 32 years. Outstanding.)

The whole weekend makes me think about going back and looking through the other incidents of Alonso having bad luck to see how many of them he actually engineered for himself.

Somehow I don't think this is the kind of result envisioned by the Ferrari team directors when they ousted Raikkonen and had Alonso join early.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Environmentally Friendly

Here is an article about the environmental impact of F1:
A FOTA-commissioned report into the environmental impact of Formula found that each team produces an average of 215,558 tonnes of CO2 per year. Of that, 0.29% comes from the burning of fuel by F1 cars in testing and races. Over half an F1 teams’ emissions are produced in producing parts and electricity consumption accounts for another 30%.
Of course the largest impact a sport has on the environment is the fans travelling to and from the events. By this measure, the World Cup has a higher environmental impact than does Formula One.

Update: Hamilton vs. Safety Car

F1.Fanatic has a post which includes video of Hamilton's safety car transgression. Worth watching. Seems as though Hamilton could have made it through if he had not hesitated -- the difference at the line is about a third of a car length. Not sure if Alonso would have also made it through had Hamilton not hesitated.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rubber Side Down, Mark

So as much as Mark Webber's brief flirtation as a test pilot was hugely scary, there are actually some things we can take away from it.

Firstly and most importantly, Webber hopped out of the car right away. Even though the car came down on the roll bar assembly, Webber appeared to be shaken but otherwise unhurt by the accident. This alone is a huge endorsement for the work that the FIA and the teams have been doing to make the cars as safe as possible. Formula One racing will always be a dangerous sport, but the people in charge are trying to avoid it being unnecessarily dangerous. We can only hope that this won't shake his confidence the next time he steps into a car.

But secondly. While the safety car was droning around, Martin Brundle treated us to a lot of blather about how the problem was the huge closing speeds and the increased closing speeds are what makes incidents like that so dangers. He carried on by saying something to the effect that next year's movable wing idea is only going to aggravate the situation and that the people in charge will have to think very hard about this.

The problem with this logic is that it is totally divorced from what Formula One has become today. Today you can have a car that is demonstrably one or two entire seconds per lap faster than the car it is stuck behind. If you combine this with the current fasion of gerbil-maze courses that don't give the cars behind any reasonable chance to close up with the car in front, you are going to be in a situation where the only way a pass is going to get made is if the car behind is much faster than the car in front.

Fiddling with tenths here and there, which is what the movable-wing proposal is doing, isn't going to get it done.

We have seen on occasion brilliant racing this year. The most spectacular so far has to be Montreal, where the tires were so bad that the drivers were skating around on them. Now I'm sure that Bridgestone isn't keen on being the source of so much griping, but it does show that Frank Dernie was on to something last winter.

But the bottom line is that F1 has to look in the mirror and decide what it really wants. Tricky, aero-addicted high-traction cars on meandering road circuits isn't making for a formula that encourages passing. And if F1 really wants passing, something fundamental is going to have to change.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hamilton Skates Again

So once again Valencia managed to produce more in controversy than outright racing. Although I will say that someone has been working very hard on either the track or the TV cameras -- there appeared to be acres of space available on the track, a far cry from the gerbil maze of the first year.

Lewis Hamilton continued his charmed 2010 career, bobbling the Safety Car transition. Ferrari is predictably incensed, although in retrospect the only difference Hamilton's behavour would have made would be his leading Alonso home in 9th place instead. Ferrari had extremely poor luck with this Safety Car, as drivers ahead could continue at racing speeds while Ferrari tooled around behind it, and drivers behind managed to pit before getting caught up in the train.

Even the penalties which were liberally handed out after the fact were a whopping five second each and had little practical effect on the result. Even though Hamilton's drive through had a total of zero effect on the running order due to the stewards' waiting so long to assign a penalty and the Sauber holding up the rest of the pack, one can make a compelling argument that the drive-through time penalty meant Hamilton was in fact penalized the most strongly for the Safety Car transgressions. While the stewards had a lot of things to think about, they clearly didn't trouble themselves too much about any of it.

That's racing. Ferrari drew the bad luck this time. Get over it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Three rules clarifications from the FIA.

First, courtesy Mr. Schumacher in Monaco:
With immediate effect, no car may overtake until it has passed the first safety car line for the first time when the safety car is returning to the pits. However, if the safety car is still deployed at the beginning of the last lap, or is deployed during the last lap, it will enter the pit lane at the end of the lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.
Secondly, courtesy Mr. Hamilton from Malaysia:
With immediate effect, any car being driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically, or which is deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers, will be reported to the stewards. This will apply whether any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the pit lane.
Thirdly, courtesy of McLaren's behavior in Canada:
With immediate effect, if a sample of fuel is required after a practice session the car concerned must have first been driven back to the pits under its own power.
Keep your heads up and the throttles down, gentlemen.

F1 2011 Technical Regulations

Here are some rules changes for 2011.

The car weight minimum has been increased, presumably to encourage teams to use KERS:
From 2011, the minimum weight of the car must not be less than 640 kg at all times during the event.
The FIA also codified their latest complicated, driver-implemented, computer-arbitrated, invisible passing assist scheme, through use of movable aerodynamic pieces:
From 2011, adjustable bodywork may be activated by the driver at any time prior to the start of the race and, for the sole purpose of improving overtaking opportunities during the race, after the driver has completed two laps.

The driver may only activate the adjustable bodywork in the race when he has been notified via the control electronics that it is enabled. It will only be enabled if the driver is less than one second behind another at any of the pre-determined positions around each circuit.

The system will be disabled the first time the driver uses the brakes after the system has been activated. The FIA may, after consulting all the competitors, adjust the time proximity in order to ensure the purpose of the adjustable bodywork is met.
This phrase codifies FOTA's agreement to avoid use of the F-duct for 2010 and beyond into the technical regulations:
With the exception of the parts necessary for the driver adjustable bodywork, any car system, device or procedure which uses driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited from 2011.
And the 107% rule returns for 2011 even though it still isn't a good idea:
From 2011, any driver whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107% of the fastest Q1 qualifying time will not be allowed to take part in the race.

Under exceptional circumstances, however, which may include setting a suitable lap time in a free practice session, the stewards may permit the car to start the race. Should there be more than one driver accepted in this manner, the grid order will be determined by the stewards.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Hamilton added another "reprimand" to his 2010 resume this weekend in Canada when McLaren told him to stop on the circuit following his pole-position lap at the end of Q3. The car was going to run out of fuel, and that would have prevented McLaren from making available a fuel sample to the FIA should they have desired it. Such a strategy is a competitive advantage as the car ends up running lighter than its competitors; with each lap's worth of fuel carried, the impact on a car's time is of the order of a tenth of a second or so, which is not a trivial amount of time these days.

Now while this is a result of the team short-fueling the car for the qualifying lap, it is interesting that it happened to Hamilton and not the other car.

This adds to the odd results of stewards inquiries in Malaysia and China.

Mr. Hamilton is certainly leading a charmed life this year.

Monday, June 14, 2010

And Another Thing

...what does Martin Brundle have against Massa? Brundle was all over Massa for the first-complex collision with Liuzzi's Force India, going so far at times to say that Massa was repeatedly trying to have Liutzi off.

Let's look at it sequentially.

Into turn one, the cars are three abreast: Liuzzi on the inside, Massa in the middle, and Button on the outside. (Check it out.) So Liuzzi is steaming up the inside, while Button turns in around the outside. Suddenly Massa has nowhere to go, and he's going to hit somebody. Since Liuzzi is coming from way back (seriously, go look at it) you could argue that he was going to hit Massa even if Button wasn't there. So the initial collision can be blamed on Liuzzi.

Next stage: Massa's Ferrari pitches left, back into Liuzzi. Since the two cars have come together, there's a 50-50 chance as to which direction it is going to spin. Liuzzi got unlucky, Button got lucky.

Third stage: both cars try to accelerate out of the hairpin. Unfortunately for Liuzzi he's still too close to Massa, and his rear wheel gets caught on the Ferrari's front as he tries to get away.

(This very strange YouTube video is all I can find of the collision right now, and I'm sure that the FIA will get right on getting it canned due to a rights claim.)


Strange videos aside -- what part of that looked like Massa having a go at Liuzzi?

Liuzzi made a huge lunge at a hole which wasn't there, and bore the consequences.

Massa was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Schumacher On Thin Ice

Perhaps I'm in a minority, but I never particularly liked Micheal Schumacher. Right from the moment he moved over on Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez in an attempt to grab a driver's championship I filed him under "suspicious". I had been more charitable about his collision with Hill, I presumed that post-crash his car was not as controllable as it should have been and the subsequent collision with Hill was an unfortunate accident. Schumacher was living up to the category I'd filed him in, that being "fast but crashy".

Well those unfortunate accidents seem to follow Schumacher around like a little puppy, and yesterday we saw a couple more.

The collision with Kubica? The Renault had the line, Schumacher just wasn't going to give it up. Unfortunately for Kubica, he later flushed his credibility with that move around Sutil that the stewards judged to be dangerous, and Schumacher got the benefit of the doubt.

Then Massa came up on Schumacher and in the final chicane they came together. Schumacher arguably made a second move when lining up for the chicane, and this move cost Massa his front wing. Again, Massa compounded his woes by speeding in the pit lane when coming in for the wing change, and again Schumacher got the benefit of the doubt.

Hopefully the stewards will not continue to be blinded by Schumacher's history of achievement and will dole out some suitable punishments in future should these incidents continue.

I'm quite sure that Micheal would not have permitted Ferrari to take these kinds of offences had they been committed by a mid-fielder against him.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Minute's Noise For Bruce McLaren

Check out how McLaren honored teh 40th anniversary of the death of Bruce McLaren, founder of the McLaren team, which went on to merge with Ron Dennis' Project Four team.

Very cool.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Turkey Update

Briefly: The Canadian Press is reporting that talks are in progress that could see a 10 year deal to continue the Turkish Grand Prix.

Good to hear.

Monday, May 31, 2010


It probably doesn't feel like it, but Alonso got lucky on Sunday. This picture shows the damage done to his rear left wheel in the collision with Petrov's Renault in the closing stages; Alonso is fortunate that neither the rim nor the tire failed.

Alonso got a lot of press for calling out Ferrari's seemingly glacial pace of car development this year. The car clearly isn't on terms with the Red Bull or McLaren cars, but behind that it is hard to tell. Massa was right there with Rosberg's Mercedes all day, and the Mercedes acted as a road-block for many cars following it for much of the race. Alonso puts the Ferrari on par with Renault. I personally think that the Renault is currently faster, but that mish-mash of cars in the Mercedes-Ferrari-Renault list makes it hard to tell for certain who is where.

Ferrari appears to be pinning hopes on a upgrade for Valencia, although the gerbil-maze nature of that event won't really showcase upgrades much, and we'd have to wait a few weeks before getting on to more traditional circuits.

Farewell to Turkey?

It seems disappointing that a circuit which promotes actual racing is now possibly to be dropped by the series.

Where else have we seen this much actual racing -- in the dry no less?
  • Hamilton and Vettel off the start, and then back again;
  • Button passing Schumacher towards the end of the first lap;
  • Vettel having a go at Webber, even if it ended in tears;
  • Button and Hamilton having a go at each other;
  • Alonso passing Petrov for position.
And that's just the for-points passes.

Button's McLaren may have been up to a second a lap faster than Schumacher's Mercedes, but the point is that he was able to pass instead of being held up.

This circuit shows how a race course should be set up, both to let the cars run and to give them opportunities to pass.

It is too bad that is is out in the middle of nowhere and cannot attract sufficient spectators to make it a viable enterprise. This seems to be putting an end to the event, even though the track itself seems custom-made for actual racing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

800 GPs

Congratulations Ferrari on reaching the 800 Grand Prix milestone this weekend at the Turkish Grand Prix!

Seen here is the special livery that the cars will race in for Ferrari's 800th Grand Prix.

Wikipedia has some statistics on Ferrari's record thus far:
  • Races competed till now: 799
  • Constructors’ Championships: 16 (1961, 1964, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008)
  • Drivers’ Championships: 15 (1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1964, 1975, 1977, 1979, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007)
  • Race victories: 211
  • Pole positions: 203
  • Fastest laps: 220

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another American Boondoggle?

TimesOnline blogger Kevin Eason disses the recently announced US GP to be held in Austin, Texas from 2012 on.

He makes strong points. There's no history to this organization, there's no indication where the money will come from, and they only have 18 months to put it together. He compares it with the Donnington debacle and we all remember how that turned out.

Personally? I think F1 is on thin ice in the US right now. Between cutting and running from Indianapolis, the USF1 farce (which at least had Peter Windsor behind it), and don't forget the nearly-on-no-wait-its-been-cancelled race around Liberty Park in New York from all of two or three weeks ago, anything announced with any kind of fanfare needs to be solid and deliver.

If it turns out that a couple of hicks have conned Ecclestone then F1's reputation in the US will be permanently scarred.

Here's hoping these guys can do the business.

(Update: it isn't looking likely at this point: Joe Saward claims they don't even have any land yet...)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Too Hard?

Oh, one more from Monaco. I did find the pre-race discussion about splitting Q1 into "fast" and "slow" groups a bit refreshing in that the tone of the discussion was "it's too hard! wah! wah!" instead of "it's too easy! wah! wah!"

Being an old fart, I remember back when not only did Qualifying actually mean something (as in, you could fail to qualify, ending your weekend) but the large entry list meant that they had to perform Pre-Qualifying.

Wikipedia has this to say on the subject of Pre-Qualifying:
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the number of cars attempting to enter each race was as high as 39 for some races. Because of the dangers of having so many cars on the track at the same time, a pre-qualifying session was introduced for the teams with the worst record over the previous 6 months, including all new teams. Only the four fastest cars from this session were then allowed into the qualifying session proper, where 30 cars competed for 26 places on the starting grid for the race. The slowest cars from the pre-qualifying session were listed in race results as 'Did Not Pre-Qualify' (DNPQ). Pre-qualifying was discontinued after 1992 when many small teams withdrew from the sport.
In a way this scheme was amazing, as it meant that for some teams (up to nine cars) they had to run on the track for an hour at 8AM, after which the fastest four cars would be permitted to participate in the rest of the weekend through Qualifying. The rest of them? Pack up, your weekend is done Friday at 9AM.

But more relevantly -- can you imagine? 30 cars on the Monaco circuit all at the same time, and for more sessions, too, since exclusions happened only after Pre-Qualifying and Qualifying. So the Friday morning and afternoon sessions, as well as the Saturday morning session, all had as many as 30 cars running around at the same time. And Qualifying was a single session, which meant that the stakes were somewhat higher.

And these guys were worried aboug 24?...


Clearly Formula One drivers back then were True Gods Among Men for having been able to deal with such an impossibly dangerous situation.

Fortunately for us, Lotus decided that some kind of split session wasn't to their advantage so they didn't go along. And incredibly, these modern drivers somehow managed to not run into each other.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ferrari Prowess

James Allen points out something from the Monaco weekend that I'd missed.

Alonso's feat of dragging his Ferrari around for virtually the entire race on a single set of tires is an amazing accomplishment by itself, especially considering how competitive he was in the early stages.

(Aside: While we watched Alonso make his moves past back marker cars at the tunnel exit, Martin Brundle was complaining that we were being forced to watch actual passes for position instead of watching Mark Webber sail serenely and unchallenged off into the sunset.)

But when you consider that the car Alonso raced didn't exist on Saturday morning, that it had been assembled up from a bare tub and spare parts -- wires and hoses and connectors and everything -- and got a set-up based on Alonso's previous work -- and got its shake down in the pre-race out-lap -- and everything worked for the entire race distance...

Well that's just amazing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Safety Car Lines

Micheal's back, and the controversy rolls on.

The most recent issue is about the post-safety-car, pre-finish pass of Alonso's Ferrari. Personally I find the Steward's findings to be the correct one, although I freely admit that I may be biased by the colour of Alonso's car.

There is a valid argument on Mercedes' part, in that the messages issued by Race Control and combined with the withdrawal of the SC boards, the green flags and and green lights do imply that the track was open for racing -- all, what 250 meters of it between the safety car line and the finish line. Given that, the Stewards' findings regarding a race ending under Safety Car provisions can be argued to not be in force.


Opening the track for racing over all of two corners and all of 250 meters of track is a recipe for chaos. If everyone has a go at the car in front, someone somewhere is going to hit the car in front of him, and at Monaco especially this will result in a large chain-reaction that will probably prevent the cars behind from passing at all -- if they even manage to avoid being involved.

So while Mercedes' interpretations of the rules may be technically correct, opening up such a condition is in nobody's best interest in the long run.

The rules should be clarified so that races that end under Safety Cars are explicitly to end under Safety Car conditions -- something along the lines of "if the race is under Safety Car conditions at the beginning of the final lap, these Safety Car conditions will be automatically extended to the end of the race" or something equally unambiguous.

Alternatively the FIA could look at getting rid of the Safety Car line entirely and just use the Start/Finish line as the Safety Car line -- something which would make all this end-of-race-procedure discussion moot.

Monday, May 17, 2010


The Times Online wants to know if the Monaco race needs to be changed. They claim that its biggest flaws are the track, the fact that things are settled in qualifying and not in the race, and the fact that the glitz surrounding the race seems to take precedence over the actual racing.

Personally? I think Formula One has more problems than the fact that Monaco turns in a boring race.

The fact of the matter is, we've had three dry races this year (all of which had very nice weather, yuk yuk yuk). The problem is that the cars can't pass each other without there either being some kind of driver error or the passing car being hugely overpowering to the car being passed.

Both Spain and Monaco this year were very boring and processional, with the interest and position changes coming about due to car failures or collisions.

Once we can turn up at Monaco with cars that can pass each other on a "real" race track, only at that point is it time to talk about if Monaco itself should be changed.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Engine Changes For Spain

Despite insisting from the start of the season that there was nothing wrong with them, Ferrari has been granted permission to make changes to their engine due to reliability issues.

Ferrari replaced both engines prior to the race in Australia, and Alonso experienced an engine failure in Malaysia. Alonso is down to six engines for the rest of the season.

The linked Autosport article speculates that the issue lies in the area of the pneumatic valves used, which were thought to be leaking during use. If the valves don't open and close at the correct speed, it can lead to serious engine problems. James Allen's sources apparently claim that the issue has to do with how some of the moving parts in the lower-engine parts were fabricated.

It is unknown if the already used (but unbroken) engines can have this fix retroactively applied to them.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

1.5L Turbos in 2013?

Here is an Autosport article reporting that the likely F1 powerplant for 2013 and beyond will be a 1.5L turbo charged engine. The article is about Ferrari wanting to pursue direct gasoline injection technology on the grounds that it is relevant to road technology.

Interesting quote from the article:
"The fascinating thing about Formula 1 is it's fast, it's loud, it's on the limit," [Mercedes Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug] told AUTOSPORT. "We can discuss green initiatives, but Formula 1 needs to be technically driven. If you fly from Europe to Japan on a 747, you would use more fuel than an entire F1 season."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Your Obvious News For The Day

Unsurprisingly, Hamilton thinks that the stewards' decisions have been just fine so far this year. Since he's gotten away with at least two questionable actions so far, he'd naturally think so.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Business As Usual

Well I was working enough this weekend that I somehow failed to get the PVR sorted, and being on the job this morning meant I couldn't catch the race live. But like any good commentator I can have an opinion about something I've not seen, right?

So what happened?
  • Rain;
  • Button making a lucky brilliant tire choice;
  • collisions in the mid-field; and
  • Hamilton doing something which feels vaguely improper in some way but somehow escaping from the incident with nothing more than a warning reprimand. (Sure do enjoy the difference these former-drivers-turned-stewards are making to the effectiveness of the rules enforcement, eh? What's going to be the magic term for the next race? He'll be "cautioned" instead?)
Sounds like business as usual at the FIA.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rain Action

So we've now had two races with rain, and both of them yielded more action than the dry desert race we had before.

Australia featured a lot of action, with cars having more ability to pass each other. Malaysia seemed to be drying faster, and after the initial burst of activity we were left with a high-speed procession -- until mechanical failures happened.

While the track at Bahrain was not conducive to having a lot of passing, one would have hoped that a car which was a second faster than the one it was catching up to would be able to at least have a couple of good goes.

Australia had the tire change gamble that paid off for Button and not so much for the Red Bull cars or Hamilton. Behind the leaders there was quite a bit of action due to the still wet sectinos of the track. Malaysia seemed to dry more quickly and once everyone settled down there wasn't much action.

At this point people are predicting rain for China tomorrow, and while that might be good as far as action goes, it would be nice to see a dry race to see if the 2010 cars are actually any good at providing more than a high speed train.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Driver Stewards: Not Impressed So Far

So one of the new ideas for 2010 is that one of the stewards at an event will be a former driver. The idea is that this driver can bring balance to the stewards council and the stewards will therefore be seen to be more fair and balanced.

The Malasian GP of 2010 pretty much puts lie to that theory.

The stewards made themselves noticed twice during this event.

First, Lewis Hamilton was fighting for position with Dmitri Petrov's Renault. Hamilton got past into turn one, but went deep and Petrov went by on the inside. Second time past, Hamilton went back and forth and back and forth down the main straight, an action that a lesser man might construe as "weaving". Hamilton defends himself:
I wasn’t weaving for him, I was weaving to break the tow.
The stewards took a look at this behavior, and decided that while it wasn't weaving, it wasn't sportsmanlike behavior, and Hamilton was warned.


Either it was weaving, or it wasn't. If it was, it deserves punishment. If it wasn't, then it doesn't deserve notice.

Now the problem from this is that drivers may get the idea that they can drive like that once and they will get away with a warning.

Consider this -- had it been Petrov's Renault doing the weaving trying to break the tow, no doubt McLaren would have been screaming bloody murder and Hamilton would have some words about how dangerous it was. And I don't doubt for a second that the stewards would come down hard on Petrov.

The second time the stewards got involved was at the end of the race when it was determined that eventual race-winner Vettel had passed a Lotus under waved yellow conditions during the race:
During Sunday's race, the 22-year-old passed Lotus' Jarno Trulli while yellow flags were waving, and a stewards report said Vettel "did breach ... the international sporting code".
Despite this determination, no penalty was assessed, because...
But the stewards, including former Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert, said the Red Bull slowed down in the yellow flag area, and noted that Trulli at the time had "an obvious problem".
...the "obvious problem" being that he was recognizing the yellow flags.

We won't see this decision tested, because the driver home in second place was the other Red Bull and there wouldn't be anything to gain by Red Bull protesting their own driver's conduct. But had the Mercedes been home in second place that close to Vettel's car, I'm quite sure there would have been a protest.

Both of these "decisions" are reminiscent of the FIA's clown-court favoritism that results in popular, or championship-leading, drivers being held to one standard while the rest of the field is held to another. The only thing lacking from this weekend was a decision against a back-marker driver that was similarly marginal, defended by the paper equivalent of shrugging shoulders and a "well them's the rules, sorry" explanation.

Having the drivers on the stewards board was supposed to eliminate this type of circus.

I'm not impressed so far.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

F1 IT 2010

A quick link to a CompuWorld article on IT in F1.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rules Proposals

An article from a couple weeks back: Why F1 doesn't need the 107% rule.

The argument in favor of the 107% rule is that the dangerous situation on the track is where you have slow cars and fast cars together, and the speed differential is what can cause the problems.

The thing is that the 107% rule does nothing to address the most dangerous situations of all during a race weekend -- during free practice when fast cars are light on fuel to set-up for qualifying, and slow cars are heavy on fuel to set-up for the race.

In race situations you generally end up with the slower cars starting behind the faster ones, and everyone is on race fuel so the loads are comparable. So there is much less "danger" to be worried about.

The other problem is that you apply a 107% rule to Bahrain this year, and only the HRT cars would be disqualified, and the faster of the two would be disqualified by less than a second.

Excluding slower cars would only make it harder for them to gain the exposure needed to raise sponsorship, which would again make it harder to do the development needed to improve speed, which increases the likelihood of failing to qualify...

So really, there's no point.

On a related note, there's talk of removing the blue flags shown to slower cars when being lapped. Personally I don't like this proposal either, for two simple reasons.

First, if there isn't a rule saying you can't impede cars lapping you, then lapped cars will start impeding for strategic reasons. Before the blue flag rule, team blocking was a matter of course. Lapped cars would take their own time getting out of the way of the lapping traffic, on the grounds that being too cooperative costs too much from their own races.

Second, the cars have enough trouble passing each other as it is, even if there is a performance differential between the cars. Look at Bahrain, where McLaren couldn't get Hamilton past Rosberg, despite the fact that the McLaren was a second a lap faster in clean air. If we are looking at some back markers like HRT being lapped four, five, or more times in an event, that is a lot of opportunities for something to happen. I know people want to "improve the show" but having leading cars taken out tripping over back-markers is artificial action at best that will in the long run devalue the sport.

Yes, part of the problem is that the tracks don't encourage passing. While windy-back-and-forthy tracks make for great visuals of F1 cars sweeping around at high speeds, it doesn't do anything to help the car behind close, and then pass, the car in front. But the aero/mechanical rules today mean that cars can't follow each other closely and that there are not going to be many mistakes granting opportunities.

If the cars can pass each other more easily, especially with a clear performance differential, then we can talk about removing the blue flags.

(I am classifying this post as F1 2011 because any rule change this year would have to be unanimously approved by the teams. I think it is unlikely that the slower cars would agree to the possibility of being disqualified, and I think it is unlikely that the faster teams would agree to the possibility of being impeded by slower cars.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Aerodynamicist's solution: Reduce Mechanical Grip

James Allen has an article where aerodynamicist Frank Dernie makes the case for reducing mechanical grip, not aerodynamic grip.

His view of the problem:
[...] that the “overtaking problem in F1″ is not the aero, but the mechanical grip from the tyres and the lack of mistakes made by drivers on gearshifts due to semi automatic gearboxes.
His ideas as a solution:
  • Manual gearboxes. If you miss a change, the car behind gets a chance.
  • Rock-hard, spec, no-change tires. If the tire is required to do a full race distance, it will have to be rock hard. It won't degrade as much, but since it has to last it won't be as grippy either. This has a knock-on effect that since the tires are not degrading, fewer marbles are getting created and there's less rubber bedded in to the racing line. Both effects reduce the penalty for driving off-line.
  • Less effective brakes. Longer braking zones give drivers more chances to get in front and more chances to make mistakes.
  • Single lap qualifying (my hero!). Drivers get one chance to set a qualifying time. Naturally, some will make mistakes, meaning you'll have "faster" cars mixed in with "slower" cars, a situation which can lead to passing opportunities.
Interesting ideas.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Desert Racing Extra Dry

Back in August of last year I said I was worried about the racing in 2010. The fact of the matter is that the cars just are not built to follow each other closely enough to effect passes -- witness Hamilton's efforts to pass Rosberg, despite having a car capable of going a half- to a full second faster per lap than the Mercedes, he couldn't get on terms to make the pass and had to do the business in the pits. The combination of the double-diffuser development with the intricate changes made to the front wings on the cars mean the following car just isn't as efficient as the car in front is.

I also noticed that there seemed to be a lot more flip-ups and aerodynamic "things" hanging on the cars than there were last year.

Even the "extra" action brought on by the new teams retiring at an increased rate did little to improve the show, although Senna's HRT car made it almost half way through the event, which is a decent enough amount for what was effectively its third day of running.

And while Ferrari had an almost perfect weekend -- missing out only on the pole position as an accomplishment -- one is left to wonder if their slow reeling in of Vettel was due to Ferrari pace or Red Bull exhaust issues slowly manifesting themselves.

I also have to comment on the graphics shown through the event -- a lot of the time it was difficult for me to understand what they were trying to tell me. I guess putting everything in stylishly slanted boxes is the coming thing.

One race is not enough to condemn an entire season, even if there are rumors about hastily amending the rules to make a second pit stop mandatory. Artificially trying to manufacturer more "show" is always going to result in silliness.

One just hopes that the FIA resists the urge to continue the silliness that was a hallmark of the Mosley years.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lets Review:

These are new the teams selected by the FIA for inclusion in the 2010 F1 World Championship:
  • USF1: Dead and finished. Probably permanently.
  • Manor Racing: Now Virgin Racing. This may or may not be a buy-out, it is hard to tell. They have introduced, and started testing, a real racing car.
  • Campos Meta: Now Hispania Racing Team, or HRT. Original owners no longer involved. Still waiting for the Dallara-designed and built car to be introduced, although that is allegedly going to happen on Thursday or Friday, a week before Bahrain. This means the first time it does any running, trivial or not, will be free practice session one at a race weekend.
  • Lotus: so far the most stable of the lot. No ownership changes, and they have introduced a (plain, slow) F1 car and done some testing.
  • BMW-Sauber: lost their entry while BMW was trying to exit involvement, only to gain it back when Toyota abruptly departed. Perhaps the most ironic team on the grid, since BMW is not involved at all any more, and the engines are Ferrari. Probably the best prepared of all the "new" teams since they really are not that new. We can't really count them as in trouble because all their drama happened last year.
So from five teams, you have one outright failure, possibly two total ownership changes, one very uncompetitive team, and one moderately successful team which again doesn't count because they are not really that new.

Oh, and the FIA has decided that Stefan GP won't be participating this year, even though USF1 has failed.

Now to be fair, part of the problem is that the first group of teams to sign up for 2010 did so when the FIA was planning the spending cap rules. The championship formula that eventually was decided on was very different, meaning that all these teams were suddenly underfinanced. USF1's Ken Anderson claims that the delay in sorting out the regulations for 2010 (there wasn't a peace brokered until mid- or late July 2009) meant that the new teams had no idea what set of goal posts they would actually be working towards until very late.

So you end up with a truncated timeline to meet a standard that suddenly would cost a lot more money than initially planned.

With these factors in mind, it isn't much of a surprise that the new teams would have difficulties.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mosley's Crusade

Ferrari's latest salvo at the FIA is thinly disguised as a complaint about the poor quality of F1 teams added to the sport for 2010.

Now to be fair, Ferrari has a point. Let's look at who they picked:
  • USF1, backed by Peter Windsor and with YouTube money. On paper this looked fabulous, especially when combined with American engineers with something to prove. However it turns out that progress has been lacking and money to continue isn't forthcoming.
  • Campos Meta, a spanish organization that was going to pay Dallara to design and build cars. This operation also had money problems, and is currently existing only thanks to an emergency infusion of the YouTube money that has deserted USF1.
  • Manor Racing, which might or might not have been taken over by Virgin.
  • Lotus, an operation bankrolled by the Malaysian government.
So of the four, Virgin and Lotus are the only ones which don't have immediate cash flow issues.

And while the car unveiled by Lotus was disappointingly basic, it is a F1 car and it is turning (some) testing mileage.

Two from four is not a very good batting average for what is supposed to be a premiere motor sport. Even though the FIA claimed they had done their due diligence on the applicants, it clearly wasn't enough.

Let us remember that all this came about because Mosley wanted to turn F1 into a much cheaper sport to participate in, and in the process of having a showdown with his established teams, brought on a collection of new teams to fill up his entry list. It is worth remembering that the F1 regulations for 2010 are a compromise from his budget-based F1, meaning while the existing teams have to reduce their budgets somewhat, the new teams are suddenly looking at battling established competition which will be spending more than they had anticipated when signing up. I doubt many in either camp were particularly happy.

As I mentioned, if either USF1 or Campos (or both!) fail to be in Bahrain, it will be a black eye for the FIA, although one which can be placed squarely at the feet of the now departed Max Mosley.

While Virgin and Lotus will probably be much more fragile and off the pace than the other series regulars, their presence will serve as a foundation for their future growth -- assuming they can find someone to fund it.

Ferrari also complains about Stefan GP, which has picked up the abandoned pieces of Toyota's F1 program and is lurking about in the bushes waiting for one of the anointed four to fail. This I think is more F1 business as usual -- there are always an assortment of marginally crazy people trying to get in. Every circus needs a sideshow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

USF1 Staggers Towards A Conclusion

I know I'm kinda beating a dying horse here, but the accident is too compelling to look away:
  • James Allen discusses the pros and cons of the FIA permitting USF1 to miss races in a bid to get their car sorted. In my opinion it isn't going to happen, no matter how bad USF1's failure will make the FIA's expansion selection work look. However, that will all be handily blamed on the now departed Mosley.
  • Campos has sorted its immediate future, nixing our discussion of a merger with USF1. Joe Saward talks about how the Stefan GP might buy USF1's entry (along with other assets) and will be able to participate in Bahrain branded as USF1, at least for a few weeks. I approve of the irony of an American-branded race team being entirely made up of ex-Japanese equipment and European management.