Tuesday, November 4, 2014


So on Saturday afternoon, I said:

On Saturday I fired up the TV at 1PM to watch the qualifying.  Confusingly to me, only the NBC channels had it on.  Oh well, when in Rome -- so I clicked over to NBC.  After ten minutes or so I figured out that I wasn't actually watching qualifying, but a tape-delayed P3 session from the morning.  Which was interesting, as I have not had much occasion to watch practice over the last many years.

Once 2PM ground around and qualifying actually started, I took a closer interest in what was being presented.  And after ten minutes, I was done with NBC.

During an active, timed session that counted, while cars were on the track, we were "treated" to several minutes of Anthony Edwards and Matt LeBlanc.

Memo to NBC: I don't tune in to F1 qualifying to watch some VIP-row reporter listen to what "Goose" and "Joey" have to say.  I'm barely interested in what Hobbes and Matchett have to say, but at least most of what they talk about is relevant to what is actually happening.

Fortunately, TSN was actually showing the session, so I didn't have to suffer with Entertainment Tonight style programming.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Disney to bid on F1?

Forbes on Why Disney Looked At Buying Formula 1

I was going to have some commentary, but this link is from back in July sometime and I totally forget what I was going to say.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Standing Starts

Frankly I could excuse stupid ideas like the titanium rubbing strips to make the show more visually interesting.  That kind of thing is harmless.

But a standing start after safety car is not harmless.  There's just too much chance of collision, of someone having a poor start and losing out that position.   We've seen too many cars swamped at starts and lose out track position.  It doesn't seem a reasonable thing to risk that much a shake up of the order just in the name of improving the show.  And what about false starts?  If someone has an engine problem and stalls?  What will the abort procedure be -- everyone stops their engines and we do a full start routine, or what?


Monday, June 30, 2014

Systemic Problem

It is becoming clear that Ferrari has a systemic problem: Fernando Alonso is an exceptional driver.

No wait, bear with me a minute.

Does anyone seriously believe that Massa is a better driver than Raikkonen?  Anyone?  Well, except you in the back, you can sit down.  But here in the real world, Massa is rated as inferior to Raikkonen.  And yet, Massa found himself in Austria running ahead of not only his replacement at Ferrari, but his former team leader as well.  In a driver-to-driver comparison, this is simply not a result you would expect.

And thus: the problem.

It is clear to me that Alonso's team mates are perhaps providing a realistic view into what the Ferrari cars provided are seriously capable of.  Alonso, being Alonso, is capable of extracting more performance from those cars than mere mortals can -- providing Ferrari with a false sense of accomplishment, and plain making his team mates look bad.

Ferrari needs to figure out how to make a car that mere mortals can drive.

Until then, success will continue to elude Ferrari.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Massa On Ferrari's 2014 Season

Massa's insights into Raikkonen's struggles are really interesting:
"To beat Fernando, your car has to be perfectly suited to your style, because if everything is not 100 per cent right, it is impossible to beat him."
I think that I was wrong at the beginning of the year, that Alonso would tilt himself and Raikkonen would just get on with business.  I think that it is clear that Alonso is getting on with the business of wringing the most possible out of the car, while Raikkonen is trying too hard to force things into happening, and not getting away with it.

Massa rates Alonso as on par with Schumacher skill-wise, which I think might be over-rating him a bit -- but not by much.  Alonso has the skill to drag an uncompetitive car into contention, even if it isn't quite enough.  This is similar to Schumacher's skill, where he was always in the title hunt even if the car wasn't quite up to it.  Personally I'm not quite convinced that he's that good.  He's pretty good, probably the class of this year's field, and definitely deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Schumacher.  But his equal?  I'm not sold on that.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Live Racing

Ah, Monaco.  A week of specticle and a couple hours of poor racing.  It seems that the business ofracing trumps the actual racing, since that can be the only explanation for Monaco's continued appearance on the calendar.  There is no passing and lots of collisions; the grid order is usually closely related to the finishing order.  And this year the way the cars lined up (Mercedes-Mercedes, Red Bull-Red Bull, Ferrari-Ferrari) showed that for the most part the car is more important than the driver.

Still, one gets a sense of who can actually build a car over who can pick an engine.  Ferrari's appearance ahead of such Mercedes-powered teams as -- well, everyone except Mercedes themselves -- shows that their car is perhaps not entirely the brick with wheels that its finishing record has suggested.

So for this race I am less inclined to credit Alonso's fourth place to the failure of the junior Mercedes teams' to execute and to credit it more to both the basic servicability of the Ferrari and Alonso's mad skills as a driver.  To be sure, Vettel's gearbox expiry certainly helped, as apples-to-apples the Ferrari is never going to pass a Red Bull around Monaco.

I'm starting to wonder about Raikkonen, though.  His lunge down Magnusson's inside at the hairpin was rushed, when anyone could see that the McLaren would be easy pickings in any safer passing place.  Raikkonnen fell out of the points with this manuever.  It makes one wonder as to how much of the rest of his "bad luck" Raikkonen is actively courting by trying to make things happen when they shouldn't.

Overall the race was pretty boring to me.  I am not amused by Mercedes cars chasing each other at the front of the grid.  But then, I'm a blatent Ferrari homer.  At least I admit it.  The British coverage is all about "how can Hamilton make the pass", and when Saint Lewis runs at the front, it is all about "how can Hamilton defend against the pass."  I'm tired of listening about Lewis Hamilton.

Today I did something different, due to a change of Sunday circumstances I got to watch the race live. So I indulged in a season pass to the F1 Timing And Scoring App for $11, and got to be able to track the progress (or lack thereof) of the Ferrari cars through the race.  It is interesting to watch, even if it is out-of-sync with the actual race -- it appeared to be three quarters of a lap behind the actual running on TV, but I suppose that I could have paused the PVR and then had actual synchronization (note to self... that isn't a bad idea).  One interesting thing is that the app commentary identified the cause of Raikonnen's second pit stop under safety car almost immediately, while the TV commentary didn't figure it out for 20 or 30 minutes.  

I'm not sure if I'll get to watch any more races live this year, but frankly I've spent more on less in the past, so I don't view it as a waste.

Monday, May 12, 2014

This Season Just Gets Worse

...well I did say it would be a return to normal service, yes?  Although perhaps not exactly as predicted.  While the "other" Mercedes-powered teams were again not really present, you can't argue with the Red Bull return to form.  And add some promising developments from Lotus, and the stage seems to be set for a catastrophic result for Ferrari should the "other" Mercedes teams get their collective acts together.  Ferrari is no longer even competing for "best of the rest", they are competing for the bottom half points.  And that, frankly, is a terrible development.

I'm not sure how to take the "news" that Adrian Newey is being linked with Ferrari.  While everything he has touched has turned to gold -- more or less -- one has to wonder if he is out of tricks.  Still, a team with Ferrari's resources could cock-up everything and still occasionally score points, so I don't see how having Newey in the fold could do any worse than what is happening this year.

Two weeks to the interlude in Monaco, a week of pageantry and terribly boring racing.

(Update: Joe Saward has better reasoning as to why the Newey-to-Ferrari story is probably rubbish.)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

20 Years: Senna

Senna was definitely one of the greats, but the greatest? I don't know if we can say that. That Senna deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Schumacher and Fangio is a given, but frankly the name Prost deserves the same respect and Prost was one of Senna's contemporaries. One might even argue that Senna rose in a period of great opportunity, with Prost as his principle foil but Mansell and Piquet, although not in the same league, had the talent and equipment to make the competition of the time mighty.

Had Senna continued on with Williams or Ferrari, who knows how many of Schumacher's championships would be held by Senna instead? Had Senna gone to Ferrari, would he have been able to turn the team around sooner? Would Schumacher have even gone to Ferrari? If Schumacher stays at Benetton, where would Alonso have bloomed? So many dominos could have fallen differently had that day not happened that way 20 years ago.

I've often thought that Schumacher's record of greatness is principally because of his competition's lower caliber. There just wasn't another talent capable of taking the fight to Schumacher as Senna could have. 

Senna might have been over his peak, but the sad thing is we will never know for sure.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ratzenberger: 20 years

I read something that suggested that far from being overshadowed by Senna's death the following day, Ratzenberger's name is better remembered today because of its proximity to what happened. I know that at the time I thought that Ratzenberger would become the answer to a trivia question, but the internet seems to remember far better than I anticipated people doing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm an unacknowledged comedy genius

No love? I'm hurt.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Well that turned out a lot better than we were afraid it was going to, didn't it?

(Yet!) another fifth place on the grid for Alonso, and another forgettable grid position for Raikkonen, and one might be forgiven for anticipating yet another race of mediocrity -- with maybe some points at the end of the day. Instead Alonso ran in the top three with little to genuinely worry him. While the Mercedes were -- again -- in a different zone, it didn't look like they were on the different planet that they were in Bahrain two weeks ago. Alonso never really challenged them. But conspicuous by their absence was every other Mercedes-powered team: Force India (6th and 9th); Williams (7th and the error dropping Massa); and McLaren (forgettable and worse than that).

The Bulls were around as usual, but Ricciardo didn't really look like he'd be able to collect up Alonso before the end of the event. The Bull was faster at the end, but the Ferrari was fast enough.

With all that, I don't think this is a breakthrough or a turning point, just a track that the Ferrari suits better than the other cars. I rather suspect that it will be back to business as usual next time with Mercedes-powered cars dominating the points, with the Bulls and the Ferraris -- in that order -- collecting what's left.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


So from today we can conclude that the Mercedes engine is a huge advantage.  I rate the Ferrari engine next, and the Renault bringing up the rear.  I think the Red Bull chassis is in the same ballpark as the Mercedes chassis, with the Ferrari probably next -- but Mercedes power covers a lot of sins. 

The way the two Mercedes romped away from everyone else over the last ten laps -- three(!) seconds a lap faster than anyone else -- was awesome.  Dispiriting to everyone who isn't driving a Mercedes, and even more so to anyone who doesn't have a Mercedes engine, yes, but still an awesome display of power.

2014 is going to be a long year for Ferrari.  Points today is entertain no points, but really the title looks like a "next year" prospect.  The list of teams beating Ferrari today is depressingly long and includes a bunch of teams which really shouldn't be there.  Force India?  Williams?  Really?  Yes, really, and we just have to ride this season out and hope that next year is better. And it feels terrible to be writing off 2014 just three events into the season but frankly without engine development being permitted I don't see any chance for significant improvement.

I think that the engine homologation rules are really going to work against Formula 1 for a while.  Freezing engines after the formula had been in place for a few years and everyone had done some real-world development was one thing.  The resulting engines were reasonably equal, with some trade-offs -- yes the Mercedes was more powerful, but the Renault was lighter and easier on fuel.  But now that there is clearly an engine disparity and no chance to make it up in-season, Formula 1 risks becoming a one-make series.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Your Q3 Qualifiers:

Seven Mercedes, two Ferraris, and one Renault.  Clearly engine choice makes no difference.

Now while in the long run having homologated engines is good for the sport, I fear that the fact that there is no longer any in-season development being done means everyone who doesn't have a Mercedes engine behind their shoulders is looking at a long season with scant chance of even points.  And that I think means that this year could be a right snoozer.

Friday, March 21, 2014


From Google:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Quiet Day Of Racing Down Under

So the fans in the stands were not terribly impressed with the noise, and frankly after listening to this I don't blame them:

I suppose that the bottom line for Ferrari is that we have to be reasonably pleased that both cars got home at the end.  Alonso looked reasonably quick as compared to the mid-fielders, so this car likely won't be struggling with the back-of-the-packers.  There's clearly still much to do to make this a competitive package.

Your overwhelming winner on the day was Mercedes, powering four of the top five places (and five of the top six), with Alonso being the only outlier.

Renault has to be the overwhelming loser, between problems for Vettel and the total Caterham collapse and Lotus' problems.  The highest place non-excluded finisher was a Toro Rosso back in 8th.

The honorable mention for being the loser has to be Red Bull, with Riccardo's car being excluded at the end -- one can only assume that had Vettel made the flag he would have had similar problems, Red Bull never being shy about doing what they think is right even in the face of overwhelming evidence otherwise.  At least the car wasn't slow and illegal.

Bottas showed that the Williams can be fast in the right hands, promising for them.

However over all the racing felt very dry to me.  Now this has been a common complaint for me about Australia, something about the circuit does not seem to be conducive to generating entertaining racing.  So I'll reserve judgement for now on the new rules.

Another complaint I had was that the safety car period felt like it went on for ever and ever, and TSN piling on commercial after commercial didn't help that feeling.  You can say a lot about the old CART days, but one thing they knew how to do was a safety car period.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Qualifying Notes, Australia

This the first time I have been able to listen to he sound of the engines.  After the high RPM of the past generation, and growing up with V10 and V12 power plants, is have to admit I don't like the sound.  It isn't even a growl, it is more of a "rasp". Definitely not my F1.

And since I have changed TV providers over the winter, I cannot judge if the cars look slower because of the rules change, or due to some artifact of being able to see a reasonable picture for the first time ever.

Hard to say at this point if the results were a function of "new rules" lottery or "wet session" lottery.

Mercedes at the front, more or less what I expected.

Expected Vettel to do better, with or without his team mate's performance.

Alonso 6th... Not what we expected.  Neither was Raikkonen being out after Q2.  Raikkonen sounded kind of vague as to what happened -- "playing around with the switches or something".  At this point it does not look like Ferreri were sandbagging in testing...

The displays on the steering wheels are quite elaborate this year.  (See caviar above about a reasonable picture.)

Ricardo did his job well -- run with the big boys when Vettel ran into trouble.  The rain might have masked power problems with the Renault, we will have a better idea about hat over the next few events.

Odd that Williams didn't figure more in Q3.  

Hope for a dry race tomorrow.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Half-Assed Predictions For 2014

Well with Australia less than a week away, it is time for our annual half-assed predictions for the coming year, something which I skipped last year for the usual no good reason.  Also, I was lazy.

Your Manufacturer's Champion: the smart money at this point of the year after testing would indicate Mercedes or Williams.  I have an irrational dislike for the Mercedes team, and I don't think Williams will be able to maintain and convert on their early season promise.  That said Mercedes have the strongest driver lineup of the Mercedes cars, so betting against them would be foolish.

Your World Champion: Jenson Button. McLaren will have the Mercedes engine, as well as a team able to make and maintain improvements through the season.  They'll be behind Mercedes and Williams at the start of the year, but I think they'll be on top at the end.  They'll lose out on the manufacturer's title because their new boy won't get up to speed quickly and/or will have a few silly offs.

Ferrari might be third in the manufacturer's title.  Right now the testing tea-leaves suggest that while the Ferrari is reliable, it isn't particularly fast.  If cars in front of them are less reliable, they'll pick up places and points, but not enough to seriously challenge on either championship table.

Alonso or Raikkonen: Alonso if the car is fast and reliable, and Raikonnen if it isn't.  Raikonnen will go about his business no matter what state the car is in, while Alonso will probably tilt himself if the going is heavy.

Renault-runners:  Renault looks unusually like it will be a train wreck for the first part of the year, what with the packaging problems causing overheating issues.  That and the rumour mill suggests that their engine isn't fully baked.  I think Lotus will start the best, but Red Bull will overtake them by year's end because Grosjean isn't really an elite driver and Lotus will spend most of the year scrabbling for finance rather than improving the car.

Red Bull's prospects: I think this year will bring Vettel back to earth with a bump.  There's a good chance they'll have things sorted for the back third of the year, but the 2013 champion will be conspicuous by his absence at the sharp end for much of the year.

Williams will enjoy (relative) success for the first third of the year, then the bigger teams will improve faster than they do and they will fade down the stretch.

The Mid-Field: Williams, Force India, Lotus, and Sauber -- in that order at the end of the year.  Force India will have a more predictable and steady year as Williams and Lotus fade down the stretch.  I don't think Sauber will actually do anything other than fade.

Force India might actually see a change of ownership this year as their billionaire owner appears to be merely a multi-millionaire now.

Making up the numbers: for Catarham and Marussia it is a pure lottery, one that will be driven by random unreliability between them and ahead of them on the road.  The team that finishes in front of the other will almost certainly do so on the strength of a single lucky (relatively) high finish granted them by unreliability on the parts of others.

Looking to 2015: The FIA will go through all kinds of contortions to avoid granting the proposed entry for 2015 to the Haas team, perhaps even going to the extent of pushing the entry back to 2016.  It's clear to me that for some reason they prefer the idea of the Romanian entry, even though that's clearly less credible.

Also in 2015: With Ecclestone finally gone, there will be chaos if the Concorde Agreement is not settled before he goes as everyone and their dog maneuvers into the power and money vacuum left when he departs.

Your 2014 Deadpool predictions:

  • Bernie Ecclestone (low hanging fruit that I've been swiping at since 2012) -- he'll skate on the bribery charges, but I suspect he'll "retire" before his paymasters publicly fire him.
  • Force India ownership
  • Lotus ownership
  • Marussia -- I feel like one of the two spear-carriers won't make it, and although I think it is a toss-up as to which one it will be, I'll pick Marussia just to narrow it down.
Tune in when November rolls around for the laughing and pointing.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Why Not Be Blatant About It

It kills me that this is what we're going to be watching run around this year:

Size Matters

...it's a penis with a Caterham attached to the back of it.

News from the front indicates the FIA is going to punt on the weird noses for this year and "address the issue in the regulations for 2015".

So for now we'll just have to deal with the less metaphorical expression of a sports car as a male appendage substitute.