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.