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.