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.