Monday, December 2, 2013

Ending On A High Note

It is hard to believe, but despite the last half of the year I thought Brazil was a positive race for Ferrari.  Sure, it is merely a 3rd place, and sure, much of that was due to the lottery-like conditions where it seems like everyone else (except the Bulls) prepared for more rain than actually happened, but frankly the last little while has been so dry I'll take it.

Over all though I can't consider this year a step forward.  It started well, but it seems that things took a nose dive after the tire conspiracy and for whatever reason Ferrari didn't rebound as well as other teams did. It didn't help that Red Bull's dominance crystallized at exactly the same time.   Mercedes got their act together enough to take second in the constructor's title as Ferrari let it slip away.

Next year we're back to lottery conditions, what with the new engine rules in play.  We might see some teams less reliable than in recent years, and as long as Ferrari isn't in that group it might make things more interesting.

So although the 2012 car was ugly, it did do better than the 2013 car did.  More proof that looks don't always translate into results.

Tune in after winter testing for the quasi-regular half-assed predictions for 2014.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Well That Was Boring

I'll be honest, usually my interest is carried by at least one of two things.  First thing: Ferrari doing well.  I'll take podiums.  I'm a blatant favoritist and I won't deny it one bit.  But that clearly isn't happening these days, is it.  For all the beauty that the F138 has dazzled us with, it clearly isn't as fast as the other cars out there.  Alonso has locked up second place in the driver's championship, but he should be fighting for the lead, not trying to stay ahead of third.

I don't enjoy seeing Mercedes do well.  Red Bull I don't mind so much, I have no problem with their success.  Lotus, too, I like seeing do well, if only because the financial mess behinds the scenes is about to bring the whole thing crashing down.  And I don't like seeing Ferrari factory cars fighting with their customer-engined brethren.  These other cars should be behind the factory team.

Like I said, I'm a blatant favoritist.

Second thing: close racing.  Cars streaming along in a parade isn't interesting.  And while DRS and KERS and mandatory pit stops have spiced things up somewhat, we still have long periods of time where it is one car running two thirds of a second ahead of a second car.

There were moments, yes.  The terrible US broadcast aside -- I was clearly seeing the picture about two seconds before the commentator's reactions to it were sent to me -- there were some good moves made, both offensive and defensive.  But not enough.

Some of this can be laid at the feet of Pirelli, who brought two tire types which were rock-hard and lasted forever.  So a single stop for all was more or less in the cards, except for the unlucky few who had to stop a second time late in the race.  There was no incentive to try a two-stop.  So passes had to be made on track, by cars with similar fuel loads and tire states.  Fair racing, yes, but it was extremely dry.

Maybe I'm just in a terrible mood today, but that was boring.

For whatever reason, I think the only way I'll remember 2013 fondly is for the beauty of the cars.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bye Bye Mark

Mark Webber is done with F1.

Having walked away from Red Bull, he clearly doesn't care who he aggravates on his way out.  This little joy ride cost him ten places at the next Grand Prix:

Webber's so cool, he hails a F1 Ferrari as a taxi.
...not the ride itself, but the manner in which he hailed it.  And that, mostly because of two other reprimands he has already accumulated this year.

Somehow I get the feeling that this year Webber is finally tired of playing the games he's been playing for his F1 career, and he's either consciously or subconsciously getting back at the whole circus by being disrespectful.

I don't think the rest of the circus feels too badly for Mark Webber -- he's been paid very well to drive a car far better than most of the rest of the grid (if not all of the rest of the grid some years) and been granted the privilege to win with that car on occasion.  It is, frankly, a set of problems that most of the rest of the drivers would love to have.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Conspiracy Theory

So usually I'm not one for a conspiracy theory, but, the fact that immediately after Pirelli's proposed tire changes got blocked by some teams we had a cluster of potentially dangerous tire failures, leading to a clamor to change the tires.... is awfully interesting.

I wonder who is playing the opportunist now?

Personally I buy the theory that the combination of inappropriate low pressures and inappropriate use of the kerbing areas led some drivers to experience failures.  Not tire construction issues.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Better Looking Cars

The FIA has announced that from 2014, the stepped-nose cars we see today will be banned.  The change is to the maximum height of the rest of the car's nose, which will now be in line with the maximum height of the rest of the nose.

I did think that the vanity panel was an improvement over last year; we'll have to see what the 2014 cars end up looking like with the new rules.

Also for 2014, engine manufacturers will have to provide the same package to their customer teams that they provide to their factory teams; and the rules surrounding blown exhaust have been tightened.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tire go-around

Personally I don't think it appropriate to change the tire compounds in mid season.  Some of the teams have come to grips with it; some of them have not. This is the nature of Formula One in all of its rules. Nor example, Ferrari has adapted to this rule set much better than McLaren has.  But that is no reason to change the rules.

These are the tires that Pirelli has produced.  I personally think the teams should be stuck with them for the season.

Pirelli really is in a difficult position with the tires.  If they are too robust and fast, nobody notices them. But since they were asked to produce tires that degrade, now everyone just complains about them even though at is what they were asked for.

I also think it unreasonable to blame the Monaco parade on the Pirelli tires.  Monaco is always a procession to a certain extent.  And the wild number of tire stops required elsewhere shows that things really can be up in the air.

I hope things can stabilize somewhat before next year.  All this complaining about tires is somewhat unseemly.  And I doubt that anyone really wants to go back to the bad old days of the tire wars.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Swing And A Miss

The facts of this dispute are fairly straight forward:

  • That Mercedes did undergo a private test during the season with a current car; and
  • That the regulations specifically prohibit testing during the season with a current car.
Frankly, anything else is muddying the waters.

Mercedes may suggest that they undertook this test at the behest of Pirelli -- the fact that a third party enticed them to break the rules does not remove the fact that the rules were broken.

Mercedes may suggest that Ferrari conducted a similar test, but with a 2011-spec car -- the rules are quite clear that once the car is two seasons past, owners can do what they want, where they want, however frequently they want, so this objection has absolutely no relevance to the dispute.

Mercedes may claim that they gained no advantage from this test.  While this may possibly be so, there is A) no reason to believe this, and B) to conduct such a test and not gain an advantage from it proposes a stunning level of incompetence on the part of team management.

That said, the penalty of being forced to miss the young drivers test at years end is not so much punishment for the team as for Formula 1 as a whole, since there will be correspondingly less seat time available to groom future talent.  It is a joke.

Pirelli's argument that there needs to be a mechanism to test tire changes is a valid one, however the whole issue of messing with tire compounds in-season is another issue.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Alonso Reigns In Spain

Have to do it -- have to celebrate the win in Spain.  The F138 was the car to have yesterday, as Massa's result showed.  Not sure why everyone else got it wrong, the Mercedes especially vanishing after the start.

I'm also not sure I agree with Red Bull's claim that F1 isn't racing any more.  F1 has never been about flat-out, maximum attack for the entire distance.  You are always managing some kind of resource, be it tires, fuel, brakes, or even driver energy.

Complaining about the rules is just proving your car doesn't fit the actual competition.

Monday, February 4, 2013


The new F138 is gorgeous. It really is. Call it a "modesty panel" or "vanity panel", the lack of the stepped-nose really makes the car look like a proper F1 car again. And overall, now that we've had a few years with the new rules, I find the disparity between the huge front wing and the tiny tiny rear wing less visually jarring -- proving that with enough exposure, people can get used to anything.

The only dark thought which occurs to me is the thought that the car that has gotten the closest to being a world championship car has been the ugly one from last year.

I think I said a few years back when the car was ugly that the car would be considered beautiful if it was a winner.  And I'm sure that would have applied to last year's car -- had it been ultimately successful.

Hopefully this car will pick up where the last one left off.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Last Of The New Boys

One thing that F1 Fanatic called my attention to was the fate of the last round of "new teams" that were introduced with such fanfare in 2009:

  • USF1 didn't make it to the first test
  • Campos became HRT and expired at the end of 2012
  • Virgin became Marussia and have deteriorated to the point where they are having to choose drivers with money over drivers with talent
  • Team Lotus became Caterham and has managed to beat Marussa; being in the top 10, they are guaranteed money from the commercial side of Formula 1.
While F1 is supposed to be a meritocracy, and it is a good idea to have more teams than money-paying positions, you want to always have someone on the outside looking in, hungry to join the elite.  That keeps the old guard hungry, and if/when teams fall by the wayside you have someone new ready to pick up the position.

Friday, January 18, 2013

2012 Predictions Revisited

This is a monster post that has taken me two weeks to write because I've been busy with other things and have not had the time to get it done.  But we should get on with the laughing and pointing, because that's what is important in life, right?

So let's have a look at those half-assed predictions I made for the 2012 season:

Prediction: McLaren wins the Manufacturer's Championship.

Verdict: Wrong.  Red Bull wins again.  McLaren clearly had the faster car for most of the year, but reliability problems -- mostly in the pits -- and Button's continued lack of results ended up weakening the team to the point that both Red Bull and Ferrari finished ahead of them.

Prediction: Button or Vettel as Driver's Champion.

Verdict: Half right.  At the time I wrote that I really thought Button would be the one, so because I hedged I'm not claiming full marks.

You can't really argue with Vettel as Champion -- despite some uninspired drives early in the season, his two results in the last two or three races were champion's drives, coming from the back (in Abu Dhabi, twice).  And Red Bull (or, more likely, Renault) kept letting him down in potentially race-winning circumstances.  At the end of the season, though, the cumulative result was enough.

Button though reverted to his long-term trend of uninspiring drives.  He scooped a couple of wins in changing conditions that made him look like a genius, but when the conditions were good he, frankly, wasn't.  Years ago when he was a team mate of Jacques Villeneuve someone said that because he and Villeneuve were roughly equivalent you could argue that Button was as good as Villenuve was at the time.  However I've never rated Villeneuve highly, considering him only capable of winning in a car that is exceptionally good.  Button's only real success came in the overwhelming Brawn, since then he's been an adequate driver that doesn't get from his car what his team mate can.

Prediction: Ferrari will finish 2nd or 3rd in the Manufacturer's Championship

Verdict: correct.  The tone of my prediction was a lot more negative than what happened.  In Alonso's hands the Ferrari was routinely capable of scoring podiums and good points; and while I don't think Massa is a great driver I think his results more closely show what a typical driver would get from the Ferrari.  Overall the year was much better than I thought it would be.

Prediction: Alonso two wins and a handful of podiums.

Verdict: three-quarters right because I was, again, too negative.  Alonso finishes the year with three wins and was mechanical in his reliability through the year.  He was well placed to pick up positions and points when his rivals encounterd problems.  His two non-finishes were both due to collisions.  Alonso's results given the car he started with are nothing short of awesome, and the fact that he was still mathematically within reach of the title through most of the Brazilian Grand Prix incredible.

Prediction: 2012 will be Massa's last year at a top F1 team, possibly his last year in F1 at all.

Verdict: wrong.  Massa turned his season around in a very big way once the knives came out in late summer.  That, combined with a weak selection of available alternates (and I'm sad to include Micheal Schumacher in that group) meant that renewing Massa for 2013 was a no-brainer.  Hopefully Massa can continue the momentum he showed at the end of last year; hopefully the Ferrari will be easier to drive and more competitive in the early season.

Prediction: Mercedes may win one race, but it won't be Schumacher.

Verdict: totally right.  The only race where Mercedes was dominant was China, and Schumacher threw away a competitive positioning.  Rosberg kept his car on the island and walked away with the victory.  Apart from China, the Mercedes never really looked competitive, and faded quite dramatically towards the end of the year.

Prediction: There will be no replacement Concorde Agreement signed in 2012.

Verdict: dunno but probably wrong.  There has not been any formal announcement of a signing, but the press has stopped yammering about the Concorde complaints and gossip, and we're definitely going racing in 2013... so I guess one has been signed.

Prediction: 2012 will be Bernie Ecclestone's last in F1.

Verdict:  Well it is technically 2013 and he hasn't quit or been drummed out yet... so we'll be charitable and call that a wrong.  I think lots of people will be predicting that 2013 will be Ecclestone's last year, but that's low-hanging fruit now.

Deadpool predictions:

  • Bernie Ecclestone (wrong, see above)
  • HRT (correct)
  • Marussa ownership change (hard to follow but I think so)
  • Lotus cash flow (I'm going to call that correct)
  • Torro Rosso to get sold (wrong)
  • Not Force India owner (correct)
Final score: for the predictions, I have 3.25 out of 8.  I did better in the deadpool, scoring 4 out of 6.

Overall, 2012 was a pretty good year, where we had seven winners in the first seven races, and Raikkonen/Lotus scored a surprise win before the end.  That's a huge percentage of the grid as race winners, and when you are looking for suspense and unexpected results, you look for this kind of turn-over.

Tune in in February for the 2013 edition of "half assed predictions".