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".