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.