Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Champion Vettel

You can't argue with the last two races. While the rest of Vettel's season was marked with inconsistancy, the fact that two weeks in a row he came from literally the back of the grid to score good points, enough to finish the year three points ahead of Alonso, to me means he is deserving of this year's titles. Coming from the back as he did were both champion's drives, and the net result on the rest of the year makes him champion for 2012.

A worthy champion for a great year.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


If someone had told us immediately after this year's disappointing pre-season test that Alonso would be 10 points behind the championship leader with two races left to run, I think we'd be ecstatic.

2012 has been another year where the car's performance has been constantly downplayed, yet Alonso has managed to score good points with it more often than not.  Combined with an excellent reliability record, plus no little luck avoiding other cars (Belgium perhaps excepted) and Alonso has placed himself in position to catch Vettel as the season winds down.

Unfortunately it isn't a case of catching Vettel, per se.  It is more a case of continuing with the reliability and consistency and being in a position to capitalize on Vettel's misfortune.

Sunday in Abu Dhabi offered hints as to what might have been.  Had Vettel not profited from the safety car periods falling when they had, Alonso might have cut the points lead that much more than he did.  However you can't wish away Vettel's good luck any more than Vettel could wish away the bad luck from Saturday.  Had that not happened, I think there's little doubt that the Red Bull would have circulated comfortably ahead of the Ferrari and the points gap would be larger than it is.

Red Bull is clearly the faster car right now -- I think Webber's fumbling around with it shows that the car has elite speed.  Massa's Ferrari still lacks parts that are on Alonso's,  but even so neither Ferrari can seem to live with either Red Bull right now.

With only two races left to run, the odds of a technological breakthrough diminish.  And we are definitely into the part of the season where express effort now against the rest of the 2012 season will negatively impact the 2013 campaign.

I think barring an extraordinary run of bad luck for Vettel, the title is his for 2012.

Those of us who cheer for Ferrari will once again have to be disappointed that the team came so close -- again -- and start contemplating next year.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Charmed Life

Red Bull drivers led a charmed life on Sunday.

While no one can dispute that Vettel got his act together when it mattered and managed to be in the right place at the right time, much of his spectacular result can be placed at the feet of profiting from the Safety Car periods that happened when he did. Further, while all the chatter about him passing a car while outside the white lines on lap fourteen, I counted no fewer than four changes of direction while he vigorously defended his position.  Vettel comes away very fortunate that he was permitted to continue without a sterner penalty than just giving back the position.

Webber, on the other hand.  His first collision I can excuse as a racing incident.  The collision with Massa similarly I would be willing to write off as a racing incident.  But my view is he caused Massa to spin -- the long-lens footage is inconclusive, but the in-car camera from Massa's car clearly shows Webber charging back on-track in front of the Ferrari, causing Massa to take abrupt avoiding action.

Massa was right to be incensed that no action was taken.  I wonder how the stewards would have ruled had Massa failed to take avoiding action and clobbered the Red Bull instead?

The comentators gleefully claiming that Webber had "frightened Massa into a spin" didn't help, either.

Frankly when Webber happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time once too often and got clobbered by Grosjean's avoiding action, I thought it was merely karma.

It isn't in Webber's history to drive like this.  I hope this is merely a one-off performance, and not an indication of things to come.

Victory Laps, Compared

Right, you're on. First of us to win a race in 2012
gets the other guy to clean his pool.
Kimi Raikkonen once again shows us how it is done.  His victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday might have been helped more than a little bit by Vettel's bad luck on Saturday and McLaren's fragility on Sunday, but he was in the right place when it mattered and kept his Lotus Renault in front of Alonso long enough to capture the win.

This I think is more in line with what Schumacher hoped for when he started his comeback tour three years ago. A car capable of being regularly competitive, consistant points-scoring finishes, and the occasional victory.  Then building towards being a championship contender in year three.

It hasn't worked out for Schumacher, who finds himself out of the top seats for 2013 and looking at a return to retirement.

Raikkonen has been the more consistent of the Lotus drivers in 2012 (although some of that is Grosjean's propensity for running into things on lap 1).  There have also been some odd strategic calls, such as in China where Raikkonen fell from 2nd or 3rd all the way out of the points over the space of a single lap.  But he never looked disinterested in the racing the way his critics accused him of being in his final year with Ferrari.  The Lotus was definitely top of the 2nd tier teams, hanging on to the bottom of the top tier -- and was usually in the right place to take advantage when the absolute top got it wrong.

This win is well deserved, and I think we all enjoy it more than we would have a Schumacher victory.  Schumacher is regularly out-shone by Rosberg, whom himself is not doing anything really special with the Mercedes.  The whole last three years make it look like Schumacher's time really has passed, and it is time for him to assume his rightful place as one of the historical elite.

Ironically, Raikkonen was hinting that he'd call it quits after 2013 before the race started.  It will be interesting to see if he finds himself in a more competitive Lotus next year and changes his mind.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Best Possible Result

Let's be honest -- third from Korea was an outstanding result.  With McLaren cursed with bad luck twice, the podium was there for the taking, and Alonso delivered.  Underscoring the lack of coherent opposition was Massa's 4th place, making this absolutely the best result possible.  Red Bull was just in another world and was never going to be caught short of bad luck in traffic or mechanical difficulties.

Ferrari is perhaps the #2 team at this point in the season, the problem is that Red Bull is the #1 and has an advantage in hand going into the end of the season.

For some reason both Mercedes and Renault have fallen away as the season ages -- the former more than the latter.  This isn't really surprising in the case of Renault, in fact one could make the case that their level of competition has remained more consistent through the end of the season than in previous years.  Mercedes' drop from the list of competitive teams is more surprising.

Short of Vettel having another DNF this year, I seriously doubt that Alonso can capture the title.  Vettel has had two mechanical failures, more than his share.  And collisions in traffic are really too much to hope for.  Alonso has suffered in traffic twice, again more than his share.  The car's reliability has been outstanding.  But all things being equal the Red Bull is faster.  So at this point, the title's is Vettel's to lose.

Ferrari can't stop at this point though because if Vettel does have some bad luck, Ferrari still has to be in a position to take advantage of it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

That's All: Schumacher Done?

So now the music has started to stop on the driver's seats for 2013.  Lewis Hamilton will move to Mercedes, Sergio Perez moves to McLaren, and Micheal Schumacher is basically left out in the cold.

When you think about it, of the top six seats, at least four of them were already locked up: Alonso, Button, Vetel and Webber were all locked up.  Hamilton looked like a forgone conclusion, and his move briefly freed his McLaren seat until Perez got tapped.  Only Massa's seat remains in doubt of the top six; and even if Massa isn't retained, it seems extremely unlike Schumacher will get the nod there.

I wonder if Schumacher either decided he was out earlier, granting Mercedes the ability to pursue a replacement.  I somehow think that had Schumacher put his mind to it, he could have re-signed at Mercedes with very little effort.  The fact that he didn't leads one to suspect that either he or the team had approached the other some time ago about 2013 to say it wasn't on; probably him, since if he'd wanted to go elsewhere I'm sure those kinds of inquiries would be impossible to keep quiet.

So I think this means the end of the road -- again -- for Schumacher.  He has been pushing hard in the car, but somehow I don't see him happy toiling away in an even lesser car.  His return hasn't been exactly plated in glory, and his best result of the last three years -- 3rd in Valencia -- came courtesy of extremely abnormal attrition ahead of him on the road.  Yes the Mercedes wasn't up to the task.  But I don't think anyone expected that this would be the limits of his second go-around in Formula 1.  I don't think it has been the embarrassment I feared when he announced his return.  But it isn't the triumphant cap on this career that was envisioned at the time.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summer Is Over, Back To Racing

Two more races in quick succession.  Comments on Belgium:

  • I called the trigger of the accident at turn 1 -- Grosjean didn't give Hamilton enough room, and they touched.  After that, Sir Issac Newton did all the work.  I didn't think that Grosjean should have been suspended for that move.  It was optimistic, yes; it was dangerous, yes; it was wrong, yes.  But if he'd done it at turn 2 instead of turn 1 and only taken Hamilton off, he'd only have received a grid penalty for Italy instead.  The fact that two championship contending cars were taken off, along with one car being tossed over Alonso's nose a couple of feet from Alonso's head I think played disproportionately highly in the minds of the stewards.
  • That said, I didn't mind Button winning in Belgium.  Alonso escapes his bad luck with his championship lead intact, and one less race remaining for those behind him to catch him.
  • I sure hope that the first turn collision doesn't make enclosed cockpits "inevitable".  Enclosed cockpits would be even harder to see out of, especially during wet races, and potentially would hinder drivers' abilities to get out of the car quickly.
  • Maldonaldo probably should have received a one-race ban.  He's been involved in too many incidents this year and needs to calm the f--k down a bit.  That said, his jumped start made me laugh, recalling previous drivers explaining that their transgressions were not jumped starts, they were just "good anticipation".  And the comments about Ferraris in Italy who's races just happened to start a half second before everyone else's.  Good times, good times.
Quick comments on Italy:

  • TSN didn't start the qualifying coverage with the commentary feed, and frankly I think that would have been an interesting experiment -- just have the noises of the cars for the qualifying session.  Reminded me of that time a few years ago where some labor dispute left CBC broadcasting hockey games with no commentary, only the noises from the rink.  Sometimes the commentary is just blather, with the hosts talking just for the sake of filling air time, not leaving the viewers the time to think about what has happened for themselves.
  • And while we're on the topic of TSN, the lack of proper audio-video synchronization continues to annoy me.  The video was about two-thirds of a second ahead of the audio, you could really tell on the in-car shots where the driver would pull the down-shift lever and the engine note wouldn't immediately adjust.
  • Ferrari's playing with tows down the main straight in qualifying was interesting, but ultimately futile since A) Alonso had mechanical problems on his run, and B) Massa actually managed to go faster at the end when he didn't have a tow.  Monza is probably the only circuit where such playing around might even possibly be productive.
  • I though the aggressive defense that Vettel was putting up against Alonso through turn 3 was probably over the line, but only marginally.  If Alonso had lost control and speared the Red Bull then it would be open and shut... but it wasn't.  It is another data point for wondering where the FIA is going with this crack down.  So between this, Vettel-vs-Button from Germany, and Hulkenberg-vs-Maldonaldo in Hungary, we can predict that had Vettel hung onto the track in Germany and been punted by Button, the stewards would have punished Button for failing to leave sufficient room for Vettel.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.
  • Seems like a strange quirk that there was so much action coming out of turn 3, that the cars would be suitably fast yet not suffer from following so close behind the car ahead.  This is probably just a quirk of the track and the current technical rules.
  • Vettel's falling away with another engine problem was disappointing from a competition standpoint.  I would rather Ferrari beat Red Bull on the road, not because the Red Bull is parked at the side of the road.
  • Button's retirement probably puts his title hopes to bed for this year.  While there's still some of the spin-the-wheel-of-random-results going on, Alonso's Ferrari is consistently near the top of the results sheet race in and race out.  While it is possible someone -- Button or someone else -- could put together a string of race wins and catch him, I don't see it happening unless Alonso suffers another DNF.
  • The Renault powered cars are probably glad to see the back of Italy and Belgium, since they don't seem to be deal well with the requirements for straight line speed over all other considerations.  Webber especially hasn't done well since the summer break ended.
  • This time I'm not as impressed with Perez's results storming through the field at the end of the race.  He showed good tire management to drag his first tires as far as he did, and then had the benefit of exponentially fresher tires over the opposition at the end.  It was a good strategic call, and while Perez had to be competent to pull it off, I don't see it as an exceptional drive.  Plus, of course, it profited from at least Button's early departure, if not Vettel's as well.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Data Point

Kinda interesting that almost immediately after I wrote about the FIA having to decide what happens when cars collide because one is trying to stay on the track that Maldonaldo gets involved in an incident.

The details: Maldonaldo was catching Hulkenburg's Force India.  Maldonaldo made a pass attempt from wa-a-a-a-y back, and had to fight the car to control it on the exit.  This required him to counter-steer to control some over-steer as he put the power down.  Unfortunately for him, Hulkenberg was still hanging on around the outside, giving Maldonaldo lots of room.  Not enough, as Maldonaldo's counter-steer thrust the Williams' front left tire into the Force India's side pod, and Hulkenburg was summarily punted off the race track.

Perhaps because it was Maldonaldo, who's shown no reluctance to bounce things off his car should it suit him, the stewards awarded him a drive-through penalty for "causing a collision".

Not "causing an avoidable collision".

I guess if you are the driver making the pass, the onus is on you to make it cleanly.

At least we have a data point to hang the stewards with in the future.

Friday, July 27, 2012

On Off-Track Excursions

So with Hungary weekend already under way as I write this I'm certainly late to the party, but I wanted to comment on the rules about leaving the track during races in general, and Vettel's penalty from last weekend in Germany in particular.

The relevant section in the FIA Formula 1 2012 Sporting Regulations say:
20.2 Drivers must use the track at all times. For the avoidance of doubt the white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not.  A driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track.  Should a car leave the track the driver may rejoin, however, this may only be done when it is safe to do so and without gaining any advantage.

The evidence, such as it is, turns out to be pretty clear cut:

There we see Mr. Vettel well off the left hand side of the track as denoted by the white lines.  In this case, the blue-and-white kerbing is not part of the track.

But -- and this to my eyes is the most interesting part -- the McLaren of Mr. Button is hanging off the track.  Mr. Button has clearly not left the track, since his right hand wheels are still between the white lines.

Here's why this is interesting:  had Mr. Vettel kept his car between the white lines -- or just tried to hang on to the track with this right had wheels -- the two cars would have collided.  The question as to who would have been "responsible" for the collision would be a toss up based on which result the view would most like to see.  Button's supporters could argue that since he had the inside line around the hairpin, his car had "the racing line" and therefore Vettel should have yielded.  On the other hand, since Vettel's car was on the outside, it had the racing line once the line came out to him, and Button should have yielded.

Personally, I would rather Button have the place since he is further behind Alonso in the Driver's Championship table; but I also personally see the value in drivers given the option to avoid collisions and surviving to contest another corner, so I would have ruled in Vettel's favor.

I think if the FIA is going to enforce this "leaving the track" regulation in these circumstances they are going to have to be clearer about who has to yield in these circumstances, because otherwise drivers are going to hang onto the track and we are going to have collisions as cars race.

A prime example of this would be the collision in Valencia between Maldonado and Hamilton.  Yes, one could argue that Maldonado was off track immediately before the collision; however we could equally argue that Hamilton pushed him there.  In any event, the stewards evidently considered Hamilton's retirement punishment enough; and Maldonado was awarded a drive-through penalty for being there at the time.

The FIA really needs to figure this one out.  If drivers end up retiring after collisions caused by desperately hanging on to the track to avoid this "leaving the track" nonsense -- how is that a net benefit for F1?

Monday, July 23, 2012


Alonso was the first to two wins on the year, and it seems somewhat fitting that he is the first to three.

I have to admit I knew the outcome before I started watching.  TSN scheduled the race to be on at 11PM on Sunday night, and there's no way I can stay up to 1AM watching racing if I have to be at work the next day.  However, after carefully ignoring the internet for all of Sunday, I accidentally brought twitter up in the office this morning, and poof -- I knew who won.  Not anything else or how he got there (although since I knew Alonso started on pole I could guess).

It is interesting that in the face of changing conditions on Saturday, Alonso planted his Ferrari on the pole -- and then managed to be competitive on Sunday.  Just like in Britain.  Ferrari must have the car pretty well figured out by now if they can be at or near the front under such bizarre conditions.

In fact, for all the complaining that Ferrari has been doing about this year's car, it has been remarkably reliable, and while it hasn't been the fastest every time out, it has usually been there or there abouts for most of the afternoon.  The result is that Alonso is enjoying the best average finishes and the best reliability of all of the front runners.

Ferrari has been here before -- I seem to recall a period where Schumacher went something like two and a half years without a mechanical failure while driving Ferraris.

So while I'm sure that eventually statistics will catch up to Alonso, I'm enjoying the ride while it hasn't.

What is incredible is that we are only at half distance for the championship and Alonso has a full race win in hand over everyone else.  So even if he does have a bad race or a collision with someone it won't be fatal to his year.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Championship-Affirming Result

Quick thoughts from Britain:

  • Alonso was right after the race -- it is disappointing to run at the front all afternoon only to be passed shortly before the end by a car that's doing better on its tires.  But had things gone the other way -- had Alonso been digging around in third and managed to bag second only laps from the end, we would all be ecstatic.  At the end of the day, Alonso extends his Championship lead over everyone except Webber.  So while a win would have been nice, this result is the sort that can lead to championships.
  • Nice to see Massa have a decent day and end up with fourth.  That makes this weekend the most successful for Ferrari yet this year.
  • Not cool: TSN pre-empted live coverage of F1 for Wimbeldon tennis.
  • Also not cool: the TSN-main channel broadcast the F1 race at 11PM Eastern on Sunday night.
  • So I ended up taping, and watching, the french RDS coverage of both qualifying and the race itself.  Since I'm not french-speaking, it was harder to follow -- although the only thing I was totally lost on was the translations of the itallian Ferrari transmissions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Illusion Of Improvement

So one more thought on Valencia.  I've seen a bunch of self-congratulatory blather in the media from a bunch of teams which normally don't feature in the points talking about how much they improved for this race.  The problem is that A) this race saw higher attrition than we normally would see, and B) the attrition was sharply biased towards the normal front of the grid, benefiting far more drivers than normal.

Consider that if Vettel and Grosjean's Renault engines not gone bang, your podium top three would have been Vettel- Alonso- Grosjean.  Pretend that Maldonaldo and Hamilton had kept their heads rather than running into each other, and suddenly Schumacher's impressive third becomes a less-impressive seventh -- still his best result of the season but less than we've expected. Webber plummets to eighth.  Many of the rest of the accidental points scorers get pushed back out into the cold.

So personally I'm not as impressed with the improvement these teams are claiming.

Yes, you have to be in the right place to profit from other people's problems, but so many of these places benefited from the abnormally high attrition rate that you can't seriously claim drastic improvement.

Now in the old days of F1 when the attrition rate was regularly higher, with fewer than 14 cars routinely running at the flag, seeing improvements was legitimate because you could count on the attrition rate continuing to be high.  Today, when usually we only loose one or two cars, and sometimes not even that, you can't count on cars ahead of you falling away.

(I'm not counting the absence of either Massa or Button as a contributing factor, since while in the long run it is, in the recent past it has unfortunately been business as usual for these two drivers.)

Monday, June 25, 2012


Oh, man.  You had to like that, especially coming back from a disappointing qualifying -- although one that was a tactical error instead of a problem with the speed of the car.  Starting from 11th and making it to the front with really only one gift -- Vettel's alternator failure -- and then holding it.  Hamilton never really looked like getting on with the Ferrari once it had eased past.  Alonso put on a clinic for us on Sunday, and as a result, it is Ferrari Monday.

I've said before, you have to be near the front in order to capitalize on other people's misfortunes.

Quick notes from Sunday:

  • Was I the only one who noticed that the Valencia podium featured the three former Ferrari world champions -- Alonso, Raikkonen, and Schumacher?  And a guy from Ferrari?
  • Oh, and Schumacher's climb through the defenseless at the end of the race was great to watch -- and he was well placed to benefit from the bad luck of those up the road from him.
  • Nice comment from Saturday: "Can you seriously contend that Massa is now rubbish if he's merely 8 hundredths behind Alonso?"
  • The Renault alternator failures remind me of a story from the 80s, when the engines were much less reliable and failures were far more common.  After one session which featured an explosive on-track failure, a team put out a press release blaming the problem on an "electrical fault".  Deep background research confirmed that this was merely PR spin -- in that what had happened was that the crank shaft failed, jamming a cylinder through the engine block, knocking the alternator off.  Yeah, "electrical fault".
  • In my opinion Senna got jobbed for the collision with Kobayashi -- being realistic it was a racing incident; if one was eager to apportion blame, one could argue that Kobayashi stuck his nose into a hole it was never going to fit in when Senna positioned for the next turn.  A cut tire was punishment enough -- the drive-through was insult to injury.
  • In the same vein I don't think that the collision between Kobayashi and Massa was actionable, even though it put paid to Massa's afternoon.
  • I also think the Maldonado-Hamilton incident was, at worst a racing incident.  The only reason why you could argue Maldonaldo had left the track prior to t-boning Hamilton was because Hamilton had pushed Maldonaldo off it.  Hamilton's punishment of the instant retirement was fitting.  Maldonaldo being awarded a after-the-fact drive-through penalty was more of the same jobbing.  Frankly if you put these high-speed cars into the concrete-lined gerbil maze that is Valencia, some of them are going to run into each other.
  • I'm getting tired with the BBC blather pack -- after Alonso was in front, the commentary was all about how the Ferrari was going to eat its tires and have to stop again, leaving the way clear for Hamilton to take victory.  It was only after several laps of this that the commentators remembered that Alonso's tires were changed at the safety car -- the same point that Hamilton and Raikkonen's were -- and that the cars behind the leading three seemed unlikely to be able to catch up.  
  • Although that did turn out to be wrong, as Maldonaldo caught up to the McLaren and probably would have had sufficient time to pass the McLaren had he not banged into it first.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Hindsight being what it is (ie: always 20/20), one could argue that it should have been obvious that the attempt to single-stop Alonso to victory was never going to work.  The pit lane in Canada is too short, and the tire drop-off too severe, to manage to fend off a competitor in a ligher, much-fresher-rubbered car.  And in fact that is what happened.  Hamilton caught Vettel with ten to go, and Alonso three laps later.  And the Ferrari was powerless to resist as the McLaren went flying by.

You could argue that, only Red Bull apparently came to the same conclusion that it was worth a go.

So instead of wondering how McLaren got it wrong, we are left wondering how McLaren got it right when Red Bull and Ferrari both decided to single-stop.  Again, hindsight makes the McLaren choice obvious.  And I can't prove it, but I didn't feel good when Alonso kept going past again and again without stopping.  It just didn't seem possible.

It was a gamble, sure, but it was a gamble that turned a sure-fire second (worst-case third) into a fifth-by-the-skin-of-his-teeth.  Not quite Raikonnen's free-fall in China from the podium out of the top ten over the course of one lap.  But the problem is that with any non-trivial amount of running left to go, tires will beat track position.

In the old days this wouldn't have been true.  Without the benefit of DRS, ridiculous tire performance drop-off, and rules that act as an impediment to blocking, we would have been treated to a three or four lap duel between Hamilton and Vettel.  And maybe Alonso would have managed to further keep Hamilton back.

But we'll never know.  This is the Formula 1 we have.

Quick comments:

  • Nice that Massa recovered to collect a single point.  He was definitely on it until his early spin.  Now his performance level in general is improved, hopefully the results will start to come.
  • For all the preseason angst about the new car, Ferrari seems to be the most consistent of the regular runners.  Sure, luck helps, but you have to be near the front to capitalize on opportunity.
  • Bizarre podium that was only made possible by both Vettel and Alonso's teams making the wrong choice.  If they had both pitted, we probably would have had less drama (ie how low will the Ferrari go?) and a more "establishment" podium.  Oh, and Alonso would probably still be leading the Championship table.
  • Schumacher has 5 DNFs in 7 races?  Sure, some are mechanical, but some are... self-inflicted.  Unless he catches fire the rest of the season (which seems unlikely as Rosberg's performances have been dropping off lately because the rest of the teams have been doing a better job of car development than has Mercedes) I'd say the odds of him coming back are slim.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Flavor Of The Month

I'm constantly surprised that the media is quick to proclaim some driver or other the next great driver based on one result.  This week's coming man is Sergio Perez, who's fine second place in Malaysia now has him all but occupying Massa's Ferrari seat for the GP in China.

Remember the last flavor-of-the-month, Nico Hulkenburg?  His shock pole  position in Brazil a couple of years so turned heads that he wasn't in F1 at all last year, and this year is pedaling a HRT.  And the media, for the most part, has already forgotten him.

I'm guessing this is more about the need to write something to fill those empty pages that get served across the internet.*

* Ironic, I know.

Monday, March 26, 2012


A win is a win is a win.

One can be less than charitable, claiming that Ferrari only won because

  • The changable conditions caused a restart, which
  • Made everyone start the restart on wets, but
  • Everyone dove into the pits to get their tires changed, but
  • Button went a lap early, meaning he ended up behind Hamilton and Alonso, and
  • McLaren inexplicably bumbled Hamilton's stop meaning he came out behind Alonso as well
...and while all that may be true, the bottom line is that you have to be fast enough to be present enough to take advantage of both mis-steps.  Even with the Hamilton mis-step, Alonso only came out scant seconds ahead of Hamilton.  And while the Ferrari was clearly faster than the McLaren, I'm not sure Hamilton wouldn't have been able to defend successfully.

That day, those conditions, Alonso and the F2012 were fast enough.  And combined with his results from Australia, Alonso even leads the Drivers' championship.

I'll take it.

I worry for the near future, though -- the F2012 isn't fast enough in qualifying.  Both outings so far suggest that race pace is adequate, at least in Alonso's hands.

Massa again I'm not sure about, he definitely needs better results --immediately -- if he's even going to last the season.  I don't see him being dropped any time soon, but unless things improve there will be someone else in that car come September.

Roll on China.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Half-Assed Predictions for 2012

With the 2012 season gearing up, here are my predictions, such as they are, for 2012:

  • Your manufacturer's world champion: McLaren.  Just watching the testing buzz I think that Red Bull is vulnerable this year for some reason and that the McLaren will have an early, run-away advantage over the field.
  • Your world champion: Either Jensen Button or Sebastien Vettel.  I think that Vettel is the real deal and if anyone can overcome the challenges that I think Red Bull will have in the early going it will be him.  If he can't, my view is that Hamilton will be easilly rattled early going and Button will be the one with the lead. The question will be "can Vettel catch him before the end of the season".
  • Ferrari will have a miserable year.  Maybe two wins maximum, both for Alonso, both when the McLarens and Vettel are sidelined or held back for some reason.  Possibly regular podiums.  The car will be reliable rather than fast and the team will struggle to find speed.  Ferrari will be best of the rest this year -- possibly a distant 2nd or 3rd in the Manufacturer's title behind McLaren but on the approximate order of Red Bull.
  • Alonso will collect maybe two wins and a handful of podiums, but the car will be reliable rather than fast.  Alonso will deal with this reality better than Massa does.
  • 2012 will be Massa's last year at a top F1 team, possibly his last year in F1 at all.  Massa is a quality driver, no doubt -- he just isn't an elite driver and the car won't be able to make up that difference.  He'll be in around the Mercedes and Webber and achieve a reasonably reliable record.  It won't be considered enough and Ferrari might be decent enough to wait until the end of the season to announce a replacement -- but more likely it'll happen before September.
  • Mercedes may win one race, but it won't be Schumacher.  It will be Rosberg and he'll do it on merit -- not through "changeable conditions".  Overall they may hound Ferrari but my view is they'll be 4th overall.
  • Politically: FOTA will continue to implode as the FIA uses Ferrari's absence as a wedge with the rest of the teams.  There will be no replacement Concorde Agreement signed in 2012.  There will be some talk about the teams buying an interest in the commercial side of F1 but I expect this will be blocked by the smaller teams on the grounds that buying an equity position into F1 as a requirement for participation will blow affordability out of the water, and the alternative (the grandee teams owning an interest while the smaller teams don't) would be construed as the fox guarding the hen house.  Besides, any and all negotiations will be thrown up into chaos because...
  • Shocker: 2012 will be Bernie Ecclestone's last in F1.  I don't know if he's gonna die or have a stroke or get sent to prison or something, but my gut tells me we'll be dealing with the chaos of his sudden absence rather than his continued presence.  And chaos it will be since he won't be around to manipulate the Concorde Agreement negotiations or help take care of whatever regulations interpretation firestorm blows up.  There will be a ton of opportunists who streak in either to "take control" or make a money grab.  If the courts are involved and the various shell and holding companies Ecclestone uses have to be liquidated then control of the sport will be in doubt.  It will be a very tense winter in the run-up to 2013 with lots of people wondering if F1 will survive into 2014.
My 2012 Deadpool predictions:

  • Bernie Ecclestone (see above).
  • HRT will change ownership at least once if not expire completely.
  • Marussia (formerly Virgin) will change ownership at least once but probably survive into 2013.
  • Lotus Cars will experience ownership problems that will result in the Lotus team (formerly Renault) having catastrophic cash flow problems.  Whether or not the Lotus team survives is up to whomever buys Lotus Cars (unlikely) or the team's ability to find a large quantity of alternative financing in a hurry.  The results of the early season will be critical in terms of finding that finance.
  • Red Bull will have another go at selling Torro Rosso but be stymied again by the global economy and the fact that HRT will always be a cheaper buy.
  • I think the Indian billionaire financing Force India will stay ahead of the hounds for 2012, but the team will be fundamentally owned by someone else for 2013.
Tune in again in November for the laughing and pointing.