02 May 2009

2010 and the WMSC

Last week the World Motorsport Council (WMSC) was gathered to pass judgement on McLaren, following their misleading of stewards in Melbourne. The punishment (in addition to the already-imposed disqualification): a three race suspended ban, to be imposed only if a further breach of the same rule occurs within 12 months. In other words, no further punishment, but watch your step.

However, more important were some decisions about next year's rules:
1) The number of entries permitted to be 13 instead of 12 (following several applications, there might be 26 cars on the grid for the first time in ages).
2) Voluntary budget cap of £40m or €45m (I haven't seen which is the official version, but most media, from the UK, Spain and Germany, quote both). If budget is not followed, teams must not have adjustable wings, and must have their engine revs capped.
3) Refuelling banned (supposed justification - give advantage to any team that can develop a fuel efficient engine).
4) Increase in minimum weight from 605kg to 620kg. This will allow heavier drivers some ballast even if they use KERS (a system that weighs about 30kg).

The teams mostly back the plans, but Ferrari are livid about the budget cap, whilst Williams want it to be compulsory. The big test for the teams is whether they can produce and maintain a united response to these changes (they suit the 5 privateers better than the 5 manufacturer teams - BMW, Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and Toyota).

30 April 2009

RIP Roland Ratzenberger

15 years ago today, in qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix, Roland Ratzenberger bexame the first F1 driver to die in an accident since 1986. His was the first at a Grand Prix weekend (as opposed to testing) since 1982.
His death was overshadowed, the following day, but the death of triple world champion Ayrton Senna, but that should't lessen the impact of losing a young driver, in only his 3rd Grand Prix weekend.
Thankfully no driver has been killed since that weekend in 1994, but we should never forget.

27 April 2009


A few words, first to congratulate the ITV-F1 team on their BAFTA. Also, I wanted to take the chance to recommend a new blog from Carl S, available at carlonf1.blogspot.com. He's starting off with a review of the season so far, for each of the teams. He's also less blinkered than I am when it comes to Rubens Barrichello, my favourite driver.

26 April 2009

Theissen on Bahrain strategy

Auto Motor und Sport have an article (in German) where they ask Mario Theissen about BMW's terrible performance. He says that after qualifying a lowly 13th and 14th they'd "tanked up, put on the hard tyres, and hoped for a safety car."

This is the sort of risk that Piquet took in Germany last year and was probably the right thing to do, since they wouldn't (probably) have been able to do anything else from where they were, in the 7th best car.

However, Bahrain is not the sort of track where a safety car is likely (I don't rememebr any) because of its massive runoff areas and clear sight lines.

Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The article also mentions an aero-upgrade for Barcelona. But they all say that.

Under Pressure

Team-mate comparisons are the most accurate ones available in F1. Some drivers suit certain car characteristics better than others, but generally, if you're beating a well-regarded teammate, you're doing well.

If, however, you're being completely overshadowed, then you're number may soon be up:

Piquet - Has one of the best drivers since the Prost, Senna, Mansell era as his teammate, but then so did Lewis Hamilton. Getting a kicking in the press and on TV, but ultimately, he must raise his game, if he is to keep his seat beyond Spain (or Turkey, depending on the rumour you hear). Rumour also has it that only his dad's friendship with Flavio Briatore saved him from the chop last winter.

Bourdais - Multiple Champ Car champion has managed to prove how worthless the Champ Car series is, having been outdone by a rookie last season (admittedly Vettel) and being outdone by another rookie, with an uninspiring CV (Buemi). Must stamp his authority soon, otherwise Sato might get a call (or else one of the Red Bull youngsters).

Nakajima - Has managed a top 8 position in a session that counted only once (8th in Q1 at Bahrain), which is one more than Piquet, but far fewer than Rosberg. Nico Hulkenberg might replace him, or else another Toyota favourite, but realistically it is only his Japanese passport that is keeping him in F1 for now.

Kovaleinen - Has been overshadowed by Hamilton for a year and a bit now. However, his performance in China will keep the pressure off for a while yet.

Fisichella - Very experienced, but unable to wring the best out of the car. He is losing the head-to-head with another inexperienced driver, and probably won't get a drive next season. Whether he loses his drive in the meantime, however, depends on whether McLaren decide to "persuade" tehir partners to give De La Rosa some racing.


Below you'll see a driver-by-driver analysis for the top 3 teams, here I'll look at the rest.

McLaren: At the circuit where KERS has the greatest advantage (except Monza) they managed to get Lewis into the fight for the podium. Great to see that their Malaysia performance wasn't a one-off, but they'll be disappointed that Heikki didn't manage to match his teammate. Hoping to progress when the upgrades come at Barcelona (but then every team is saying that).

Ferrari: Finally got their first points, even if it was only for 6th place. Kimi's strategy was perfect, and he managed to get ahead of those cars that might have held him up. He even led briefly before his first stop. Massa was compromised by an early stop to repair damage from a first-lap collision, but such are the perils of racing in the midfield. Still have work to do, but should be in the fight for points from now on.

Renault: Alonso completely outdid Piquet again and had a wonderful tussle with Trulli after the Toyota driver's first stop. Nelsinho was underwhelming throughout, so will be surrounded by talk of getting replaced. Grosjean is a good driver, but not a great (at least based on GP2 form, where he matched Buemi, but was beaten by Pantano, Senna and Di Grassi).

Williams: Rosberg didn't manage to take advantage of the teams upgrades (Nakajima didn't get them at all) and they'll be disappointed since they've completely wasted a quick car over the opening few weekends. Now they'll face a massive struggle not to go backwards, as the "bigger" teams improve. Nakajima is another driver in peril (see separate, forthcoming, post).

BMW: Picked the wrong strategy (1 stop) which left the cars too slow over the opening lap, leading both into collisions, which spoilt any chance they had left. Heidfeld did finish his 25 consecutive race, which is a record, but he was last, so not a record he set in any style. Lots of work to do, and the sounds they make imply it won't even be for Barcelona. A tough May ahead for them.

Toro Rosso: Where were they? Looking back at the lap chart (registration required) Bourdais started well-ish, getting to 13th, which, like Webber in 11th, is where he finished. Buemi, on the other hand lost out on his 2nd stop, ending 17th. They'll be looking for more chaotic races, to take any points - perhaps a wet Monaco (their car is superb in the wet, second only to Red Bull).

Force India: Sutil deserved his penalty from qualifying, but they'll be disappointed that their upgrades only brought them into the fight for lower places, rather than into the midfield proper. Fisichella seemed to have a problem late on, slipping from 10th to 15th, but like Toro Rosso, they'll depend on rain to score points.

How the race was lost

Going into the race, Trulli and Vettel were the favourites. Brawn, Red Bull and Toyota seemed well matched for pace, so here's how 5 of their drivers lost.

Trulli - Lost the lead into the first corner, but wasn't held up by his teammate, so that wasn't where the race was lost. After his first pit stop, however, he was held up fighting with Alonso, and then gradually lost more time on the harder tyre. At the end, he failed to take advantage of the softer tyre to usurp Vettel for second.

Glock - Poor qualifying lap, but recovered well to take the lead. Held up by Rosberg after his first stop and then had absolutely no pace on the harder tyre (about 1s per lap slower than his teammate on the SAME tyres). Ended up slipping into Rosberg and Alonso's fight.

Vettel - Fuelled longer than anyone else on the first 3 rows, but slipped behind Hamilton into the first corner. Button followed through into turn 2, leaving him 5th. Wasn't able to follow Button past Hamilton so lost time there. Was then held up by Trulli, so unable to take advantage of the softer tyres. Used his fuel strategy well to pass Trulli, but should have been in the same position as Button.

Webber - Held up by Sutil in Q1, started 18th. Quickly got into the middle of the field, runing 11th until his first stop. However, he then unable to make any further progress, proving either that overtaking is still impossible, or else that he hasn't got the knack. A poor performance, he should at least have recovered to the points.

Button - Qualified only 4th and dropped behind Hamilton at the start. However, he managed to get past Lewis at the beginning of lap 2, and then took advantage of his tyres and his fuel to take the lead. He then never looked back.

Barrichello - Poor qualifying lap, left him 6th, with 4 heavier cars ahead of him. The KERS cars then passed him on the first straight, but he recovered to get back ahead of Alonso and Massa in turn 1. Also passed Kimi on lap 1, leaving him where he started in 6th. However, his 3 stop strategy only slowed him down, bringing him into a fight for 6th, rather than into the fight for 2nd to 5th.