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.