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.