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.