News and views on motorsports

Friday, December 17, 2004

F1's Success = Bernie's Success?

In this story, Max Mosley defends the unprecendented 19 race calendar of 2005. Formula 1 teams are under enormous pressures during the summer as it is. Now with 6 races back to back they will probably be torn apart. The only mitigating factor is that most of the teams bar Ferrari have agreed for a reduction in testing. Whether or not they stick to this verbal agreement is another matter. If development calls for it, I believe some teams will drop it. BAR-Honda have hinted at this possibility especially if Ferrari goes testing unchecked.

I love this quote from Max: "Perhaps 19 races are too many, but F1's success dictates it." F1's success dictates it??!! Or is it Bernie's success that's dictating all this? Frankly speaking we don't need races in Bahrain and Turkey. As I've said in previous articles, what relevance have these countries got as far as racing is concerned. They don't even contribute to the automotive industry in general. So why do we need these Tilke designed dogs? Of course you know the answer to that. Their governments pay a helluva lot of cash for the "privilege" of running a Formula 1 Grand Prix. This trend of course was started by our very own Sepang based Malaysian Grand Prix.

Even races like Hungoraring should be dropped. Even the organizers themselves admit that race is a tremendous yawn fest. The organizers rely on off track gimmicks such as hookers in tents to spice it up. That's completely silly because whilst that may satisfy the 100,000 spectators or so on track, the 300 million or so spectators at home watching on TV can only fall asleep during the race. Or if they're lucky enough, have a good romp with their partners instead.

That's at least 3 races they can drop. The races are only there for Bernie's sake. Or as Mosley likes to put it for "F1's success." These are there to make money. They do nothing for the fans.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


The team in the news these days is Red Bull. Ever since taking over Jaguar Racing and this being the off season, the news is filled with their headlines. This is especially so with regards their driver selections.

First off the Coulthard-Red Bull courting ritual. I swear I'm not going to read anymore bullshit (pun fully intended) regarding these two. First the new owner, Dietrich Mateschitz says that they are not interested in Coulthard, prefering Heidfeld or Liuzzi. Next, he states that he'd like to re-consider Coulthard. Coulthard then hints that he might be a Red Bull driver soon. But in Dietrich's mind that he would prefer youth in the form of Liuzzi and Klein, even Heidfeld. He also would have liked Anthony Davidson too. Of course then Coulthard's motorhome arrives at Jerez and the Scot proceeds to annihiliate both the young 'uns. Which prompts Red Bull to say that perhaps "experience" is also important. But still, having youth is preferable.

Coulthard meanwhile is still hoping that a call from Grove will happen one of these days soon. But with Mario Thiessen making cheerleading noises about Nick Heidfeld, I don't see it forthcoming. Still Coulthard makes some cautious noises about a deal with Red Bull.

Dietrich Mateschitz goes on to proclaim that Coulthard's deal is all but done. Then his managing director at Red Bull David Pitchforth as lately saying that the deal with Coulthard "could still go wrong." Will he won't he? Will a Scottish backside be filling the Red Bull seat or will he be out on permanent gardening leave? God only knows. Whatever statement Red Bull comes out with next, I'm going to take a whole pile of salt with it.

An idea that Dietrich Mateschitz thinks is "conceivable" is the one where both Liuzzi and Klein share a seat at Red Bull. What the hell is this berk thinking? Liuzzi of course is none too pleased with that saying that it would be "counterproductive." Incidentally Liuzzi is thinking of a Williams drive(!) or perhaps a Jordan deal. Haven't heard anything from Frank about this but I doubt he'd like Ferrari's protege in his cars. Again, lead cheerleader Mario will also have things to say about his star quarterback Heidfeld.

Red Bull are spewing lots of crap. Is this simply some sort of publicity stunt. Nothing really to report on the track, so keep some sort of "excitement" going on off track instead. Or perhaps the British press are going overtime again with nothing else to cover but a British old age pensioner trying to get a seat in Formula 1.

Deck the halls with fields of holly. Teams have packed up only to return in January. With the lack of more F1 testing news I might just turn my attention to "other people" instead. Mwah ah ah ah.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Silverstone Moving Along

Silverstone has been saved. God bless Silverstone. Both the British and the French Grand Prix are in the FIA's Formula 1 calendar for next year. The British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) has agreed a new 5 year deal with Greedy Bernie Ecclestone.

The BRDC also announced plan for major developments within the Silverstone circuit that include an innovation park for motor racing activities and a state of the art wind tunnel complex. Excellent stuff that will be backed up by the East Midlands Development Agency. Read about this here and here. Moreover, there will be a revamp on the Silverstone track layout. (See here) Alex Hooton, CEO of the BRDC insists that "the one thing the BRDC would not want is to reduce Silverstone to some sort of standard European-type track" and "we don't want to lose the individuality of Silverstone as a very fast circuit." Huzzah! That's what the fans want to hear. I surely hope this means that the moron Hermann Tilke will not be involved. Stories in previous months even suggested Our Nige lending a hand in the redesign. If left to Tilke, then I'm sure he'd want his blasted hairpins and drag strip long straights. I'm quite sure he'd want to top off his 200 degree Sepang Turn 1 and 270 degree Shanghai Turn 1 with something even more ridiculous. I wouldn't put it past this idiot to suggest a 360 degree turn or something. Silverstone according to Hooton will retains its rectangular shape. These guys may not please businessmen like Bernie but they sure know how to give fans much needed on track action. And why shouldn't they? Its the fans that pay for the sport in the long run.

This is great news for the 6 teams based in England. I'm pretty sure even Minardi would want to consider a move to Silverstone now especially with that new wind tunnel complex in development. More importantly is the speculation that Mike Gascoyne will want to persuade his Japanese bosses at Toyota to move their base from Cologne to the Northants circuit. As I have said many times before (see here and here), the Cologne base is a complete mistake by previous Toyota boss Ove Andersson, thinking that Formula 1 operations are comparable to rallying and sports cars.

Now here is a chance for Toyota to do it right. I'm not sure how they can abandon their hundreds of millions worth of investment in their current facilities. However, given manpower and personnel recruitement problems, they'll definitely need to do it and soon. Germans make damn fine engines but not racing chassis. Remember the Zakspeed team of the 80s or the Porsche Indycar effort? Absolutely atrocious. Making state of the art racing chassis is the premise of the British. Discounting Ferrari of course but look closely and you'll find that their team is very much an international one these days. Renault may be French but they're based in Enstone. Sauber, pfft. They're not going anywhere based in Hinwil. Unless of course, like this year, Ferrari hands over old chassis designs to them. I know this is denied but surely this year's Sauber looks like last year's Ferrari. No?

I'm glad to see Silverstone back on the map. I'm also thrilled to see that plans are in place to make sure that the British motor racing industry remains at the bleeding edge of development. This should ensure that specialists like Cosworth will continue to be a going concern in the long run. This should dispel thoughts of teams being based in silly places like the Middle East. Unless you're Dubai F1 of course in which case you'd need lots of luck.

PS/ 3 years. 5 tops. That's how long Dubai F1 will last.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Sauber's Got Albert

In this story on, Sauber announces the launch of its new supercomputer for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling. More details of this can be found on the Sauber website. The Swiss Dalco company built the supercomputer in tandem with Ferrari partner AMD and has 530 AMD microprocessors providing 2.3 terra flops (i.e. 2.3 trillion floating point operations per seconds) of processing speed and 1 terrabyte of main memory and 11 terrabytes of physical storage. That's a bloody well lot of computing power right there.

Albert is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the racing business and the automtive indutsty as a whole. Williams also has a supercomputer based on clustered Linux servers. See the press release here. I have absolutely no doubt that McLaren, with its technology partnership with Sun Microsystems utilises either a clustered or monolithic solution for its CFD modelling needs.

When I first read about CFD some ten years ago, people were talking about it being deployed on workstations like SGI or Sun. Now it seems, these are not enough for Formula 1 needs. Supercomputing facilites are the order of the day. I have no doubt that Albert will assist Sauber in making enormous strides towards its competitiveness and the effects will either be seen next season or the season after that.

One can see the levels of investment required to be competitive these days. How does one expect Minardi to survive I wonder. In these times of economic uncertainties, how does one find the money to stay ahead of the curve. It simply boggles the mind. If you think about it. It is investments in these infrastructural facilites such as wind tunnels and super computers that lead to costs figures like USD 2000 per lap or something silly like that to run a Formula 1 car.

This brings me back to my point. Teams should be allowed to purchase cars from manufacturers and competing in Formula 1 by simply operating those cars. At the moment, each team must manufacture their own cars. The costs of that is becoming much too ludicrous I believe. If you allow teams to buy cars, say from a manufacturer like Dallara or Lola for instance, the cost per car and the cost per lap per car would immediately drop. After all, infrastructural costs like supercomputing facilities can then be allocated over a larger number of cars and customers. No doubt, if Formula 1 continues on this path many teams will be out of business soon enough, degrading the level of competition even further.

Peter Windsor of F1Racing magazine makes the point that Formula 1 is or should be the pinnacle of not only racing technology but automotive technology as a whole. In a recent issue of F1Racing magazine he suggests that the smaller teams should be left to die since they contribute nothing as far as technological advancement is concerned. His view is shared by many I believe. It is however a little parochial.

Formula 1's main concern to me is that it is a sport. It is the pinnacle of motorsport. Not necessarily technology. It is the category that decides who at any given year is the best driver on the planet. Think about it. That is why it is called the world championship. That's why the Formula 1 champion is termed the world champion. In deciding who should be crowned the champion of the world, the sport should provide a competitive arena for all drivers in that category so that the title is won by the person truly deserving that title because he beat the other guy by driving harder and faster. The technology involved really doesn't matter I believe. Its about providing a category with the fastest cars (not necessarily the most technologically advanced) with the main objective here to find the best driver in the world.

Does Formula 1 really pioneer road car technology? If you compare a good road car with a Formula 1 car you will find that a lot of road cars have technology that was first pioneered on the road and not in racing. Most of the technologies are now banned in Formula 1. Active suspension, anti lock braking, continuously variable transmission, variable geometry steering, fully automated gearboxes, traction control, active aerodynamics, active torque transfer systems are just some of the technologies banned in Formula 1. These technologies were first utilised on road cars and not the other way around.

So what does it matter that we have a dumbed down or at least cost cutting Formula 1 in the future? It would still give racing fans the fastest road racing cars on the planet. The category would still be about determining the world champion. And this really should be the main objectives. Automotive manufacturers looking to showcase technology should really do it where it counts. In the showrooms. Formula 1 is sport. It should not be a showroom. For if it is a technological showcase, the automotive manufacturers would not be in the sport in the long term. After all, if you were Mercedes, would you really want to be beaten by FIAT or BMW time and time again for the next 20 years? It could happen after all, and if it did Mercedes would soon be out of Formula 1. Renault in fact are now thinking about this exact same thing.

If Formula 1 becomes a showroom then a lot more corporate politics and marketing PR crap would be streaming on the race tracks of the world. To the fans, this is completely boring. As a fan, I really couldn't give a goddamned how advanced the technology is in a Formula 1 car. After gawping about it for about an hour or so, in the end, I am really interested in the on track battle. I'm really interested to watch drivers race.

The proof is in the DTM German Touring car championship viewing figures this year. You regularly have crowds of over 100,000 people watching it. No to mention the TV audiences for it these days. Even people from America are starting to catch on. In technological terms the DTM cars are ancient dinosaurs compared to a McLaren. And yet, fans are clambering to see them. Why? Because the on track action is simply amazing. Look at the BTCC in the 90s as another example. Relatively low tech but the battle on track beats anything I've ever seen then or since.

Formula 1 I believe is losing its direction. Yes, I'll always watch it because I'm a hard core fan. However, it could be a lot lot better if the management just quits its greed for a moment and go back to the fundamentals of the sport. It is a sport for drivers and teams not a corporate automotive showroom.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Spot the World Champion

David Coulthard has had an interesting run in the Red Bull Racing (nee Jaguar) team lately. The old guy managed to end the day a half second quicker than Christian Klein and about a second faster than new boy Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Vitantonio as you may well know won the CIK World Kart Championship back in 2002 before jumping into car racing the following year in German F3. After a good season in F3, winning a race along the way, he graduated into F3000 and absolutely dominated the series. He's now a test driver for Ferrari and is looking for a seat in Formula 1 with Red Bull. Not bad. From Karts to Formula 1 in just a couple of years. Just like the man Kimi.

Vitantonio's career has barely begun. But what I'd like to comment on is his performance compared to Coulthard. Back in 1983, I remember a young Brazilian conducting a test with McLaren. You remember him. Three time world champion Aryton Senna. Along with him was Martin Brundle, now commentator with ITV and part time sportscar driver. These two were incredibly talented and were at the time fresh out of British Formula 3. Senna having won that year from Brundle.

I remember during that test at Brands Hatch, a certain John Watson, who incidentally retired that year, did some laps in the car to set the benchmark. Both Senna and Brundle summarily blew it away on their first go in the McLaren. You knew you were watching some special people right here. Especially Senna.

Fast forward to 1991 and Michael Schumacher's Formula 1 debut with Jordan. Again, superbly quick almost straight out of the box. He qualified in seventh I believe ahead of his team mate during the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. Prior to that, he deeply impressed Eddie Jordan in testing. Admittedly the 7-Up liveried Jordan 191 was a brilliant Gary Anderson design.

Still, with both Senna and Schumacher you could sense that these guys simply knew what was going on immediately. No need for acclimatisation or a period of getting used to things. They just simply stepped up and looked like they were already old hands in the business. This is what one would call genius. Pure and simple. Senna came close to winning in his first year and won his first race in the second year of his career. Michael of course going one better, winning at Spa 12 months after his debut. In the process, Michael summarily dismissed his vastly experienced three time world champion teammate Nelson Piquet.

After Schumacher and Senna there was also the sight on Mika Hakkinen, first time racing in a McLaren in the 1993 Portugese Grand Prix, taking pole position away from Senna. How about Jacques Villeneuve grabbing pole in his first ever race in Melbourne in 1996 in a Williams.

All these guys have won world championships. All can be considered geniuses. The only one left is Michael of course. And just look at him go. Seven world championships and a win count far in excess of anyone else. Only Senna's pole record has not been broken but next year it will be.

These days when a new guy steps in to a Formula 1 car, you expect him to go through a feet finding phase before he can start blitzing the car. Take Liuzzi for instance. He's definitely finding his feet. If he were a true genius in the mold of Senna and Schumacher, he'd have blown away the geriatric Coulthard without even trying. As it is though he's still struggling.

He sort of reminds me of Jos Vestappen. Fantastic pace in German Formula 3. But when he stepped into a Formula 1 car he was seconds slower than team mate Michael Schumacher. Not the stuff of genius. He looked really lost in the Benetton those early days. Michael by contrast had stepped into the Benetton on his first go and annihilated Nelson Piquet. And look where Jos is now. Complete and utter failure.

In recent times, Montoya, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen have fit the genius bill. Raikkonen more than Alonso and Montoya, I'd say. His magnificent debut with Sauber impressed the Swiss enough to take him straight from Formula Renault with Ron Dennis signing him up after that. That's probably why Ross Brawn keeps repeating the fact that once Schuey rides off into the sunset, they'll be in touch with either him or Alonso to take over the town.

So, if you want to spot the next world champion, look for a young driver (Webber didn't count - he'd had plenty of experience by the time he stepped into a Minardi). Look closely at his first go in a Formula 1 car. If he starts destroying incumbent drivers' times and has that immediate awareness of everything that goes on around him, then he's got what it takes. He will be the world champion.

By that standard, Ralf Schumacher as I've always said is a lemon. The jury is still out on Liuzzi.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Awards and Glory

The end of the year is usually noted for awarding outstanding drivers and teams for their achievements during the season. A time to reflect on the events that have transpired during the year. For the victors, its a time to bask in glory and revel in their achievements that no doubt have been hard won.

I'd like to turn my attention to little known awards dished out by the Sepang International Circuit, namely their Motorsport Awards. Amazingly, they have two team of the year awards. One for Honda Racing Malaysia and the other for Symphony Racing. I don't really know what G1 Symphony Racing's big achievement really is but I do applaud Honda Racing for their valiant efforts during the 2004 Merdeka Millenium Endurance race. For you international readers out there the MME is an endurance event over 12 hours held at Sepang to commemorate the Malaysian independence day.

This year the MME event was won by the Honda Malaysia Racing team who entered two Honda Civics. A superb effort by any standards beating out other competitors driving ubiquitous Porsches and outlasting the ridiculous Japan GT500 Lamborghini Murcielago, which quite frankly, is in the wrong race and should be trying to win the Suzuka 24 instead of bullying production cars in Malaysia.

If one analyses the Honda effort, one notes that they have a good driving team made up of Malaysians and Japanese drivers. The team of Hiroki Katoh, Eddie Lew and Fariz Fauzy not only outlasted the competition but also completed a record number of laps over the 12 hours. In addition to these drivers, they had a slick team headed by the boss of the Kunimitsu team, yes, the very same one that runs Honda NSXs in the Japan GT. If one observes the team in action, one would rapidly come to the conclusion that the pit crew is a well drilled machine able to turnaround cars rapidly whilst their competitors flounder in the pits. Well, it helps when the Civics have built in air jacks and proper racing fuel fillers.

Nevertheless, take nothing from them. They did a fine job running in Class A (for standard production cars over 1800cc) beating out open class cars. It was a classy victory and one that appeals because of the intelligence and capabilites of the team members. So, quite rightly, they picked up the team of the year award. Again, why Sepang felt the need to dish out another award for team of the year to G1 Symphony is beyond me. Honda Racing achieved a whole lot more employing drivers of ability instead of deep pockets. Bravo.

However, Honda, to my mind, sullies their achievements by making some bold, and if one thinks carefully, very ludicrous claims. The Star newspaper of 8th December had this to say: "Fielding two 2000cc unmodified Honda Civic i-VTEC, which were locally assembled at the Honda plant in Malacca, the team finished first....."

Unmodified? Errrmmmm..... nope. I just don't think so. The standard 2 litre i-VTEC produces some 150 bhp or so. Maybe a little more. They take on Porsches with some 360bhp (or even 460bhp in the case of one competitor) and almost matches their lap times in the race. The Lotus drivers were heard to say that the Civics serenely passed their Lotus Exige (with at least 190bhp on tap with ridiculously low weight) on the straights, apparently with very little effort. Unmodified? Bollocks.

Let's just come right out and say it shall we? Yes, the Honda body shells are locally made. (Are they? I'm not sure) But were they using the 2 litre i-VTEC engines installed in locally sold Honda Civics? Yeah, maybe in the marketing managers dreams.

The truth is, let's be honest, the MME Civics were fitted with K20C engines from Honda Civic and Integra Type-Rs. Yes the same ones with 220ps (in Japan) or 197 bhp (in the UK). Let's take the truth even further. 200 bhp Civics still aren't enough to challenge raced tuned 911 GT3 RS-es and Lotus Exiges, no matter what riceboys would like you to believe. So shall we say those engines were modified then. At least taking on Super Production Group N+ specifications. Who pray tell would supply the parts for such modification? Let's just whisper the name, Mugen. Yes, the famous Honda tuners from Japan owned by great Soichiro Honda's son. The same ones that power half the field in British Formula 3. The same Mugen that used to make Formula 1 engines that powered Olivier Panis' Ligier to victory and took Heinz Harald Frentzen to a fighting finish in 1999.

Well, now it makes perfect sense doesn't it? Quite why Honda Malaysia feels the need to hide this is beyond my comprehension. So what if people know about it? Personally, I think its great that my Honda can be equipped with go faster parts to make it quicker. It would still convince people to get one. After all, you need to buy one to put in those parts right? Honda Malaysia tries very hard to give the illusion that this was a very Malaysian effort. Not sure how that makes good marketing for selling their cars. I have news for the marketing peeps at Honda Malaysia. People don't buy Hondas because they are Malaysian or are assembled in Malaysia. They buy them precisely because they are Japanese. The average person in Malaysia who is considering a replacement for his/her Proton don't really want anything to do with Malaysian cars anymore. After the squeeks, rattles and atrocious quality of Malaysian made vehicles, he/she wants to move up. And that means buying an import. If anything, they should emphasize the Japanese connection. I certainly would be less interested in a Honda if the image I conjure in my mind is of a Malaysian made rattle-after-a-month-no-glove-compartment automobile.

By making claims that the MME Civics are of the standard Malaysian assembled variety, Honda Malaysia are being incredibly insulting. Anyone with a grain of intelligence would be able to deduce that something about the MME Civics is not quite what it seemed. If the MME Civics are indeed standard production, they defy the laws of physics. Well, at least the marketing manager makes it seem that they do.

But no matter. I suppose its easy to prey on the ignorance of the majority of buyers in the showrooms. Honda make loads of dosh flogging good cars (Integra Type-Rs as the Americans would say, rock... won't you guys please officially import it?) and they win races. So, all kudos to the Honda Malaysia team. If they tried to be more open about their racing, the public I believe would be even more receptive to them. Well, at least I would.

Moving along, spare a thought if you will for a chap named Lai Wee Sing. Winner of the Super Sixteen championships in the Malaysian Super Series. From what I can gather, here is a competitor who's in it purely for the spirit of motor racing. His charge is an old Honda Civic EG, the man wins four rounds of the 6 round series. Lai is not a person who can command the financial resources of some of the businessmen who race in the Super Series. In fact he who couldn't drive his race car back to his hometown simply because he couldn't afford to pay the motorway toll. His bank manager I would imagine, would be very much annoyed with him for regularly emptying his bank account for the sake of his racing. And yet, he does it simply for the love of the sport. And he wins races as well despite a desperate lack of cash.

If anyone deserves the award for Driver Of The Year, it should have been Lai Wee Sing. He had the will and the wherewithal to do it. Its easy when you can afford the best stuff with a bottomless bank account. To do it his circumstances is heroic. I guess if he were an influential businessman, he probably would have walked it and would probably have won Driver Of The Year. As it is, Lai should take heart. Most Formula 1 drivers including Senna and Schumacher were poor on their way up. But they just kept on winning.

So there goes the SIC awards. A rich businessman wins the Driver Of The Year award. Team of the year goes, curiously, to two teams. Roll on 2005 then. More of the same I suspect.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Ferrari's Proposal - Fair Or Farce?

Ferrari proposes its own testing reduction plan is the headline on today. Let's examine in it further.

Jean Todt in the interview with proposes to limit testing to just 15,000 kilometers per team per season. Testing for car development must be conducted on a single track. This is based on the assumption that with a team with two cars running an average of 400 kilometers a day running for the total 24 days (as proposed by the other teams) would yield a total of 19,600 kilometers of testing. So Ferrari's proposal of 15,000 kilometers seems a good move towards reducing testing even further.

Here comes the next part. Really, I don't know whether to laugh or cry with this one. I certainly had a broad smile on my face reading it. In addition to testing for car development purposes, Ferrari proposes additional running for tyre testing. OK this sounds fair enough. But what they propose is that tyre testing be limited to an addtional 15,000 kilometers. This is applied per tyre supplier. Tyre companies would be free to choose how much of this mileage to divide amongst their teams.

OK, so let's take a look at that situation. On the face of it, it looks fair. This way each tyre company has the same volume of data to work with. But hey, Bridgestone needs to divide their mileage amongst a smaller number of teams. And if you think about it, teams like Minardi and Jordan skips testing altogether at times because they can't afford it. And so, guess who Bridgestone will allocate their 15,000 kilometers to the most? Yes, you guessed it, that would be Ferrari. Good one Jean Todt. Michelle screwing with your head or something?

By contrast Michelin will need to divide their testing to a larger number of teams. Top teams at that like Williams, McLaren and Renault. Not to mention, big ass factory teams like Toyota who I'm sure will be demanding more mileage from them. Each of these teams take different philosophies with regards aerodynamics and mechanical design and Michelin needs more mileage to cater for each of their needs.

This proposal of Ferrari is very damaging for Michelin. There will be lots of unhappy chappies in the pitlane who will feel they deserve more Michelin mileage. It will be harder to cater to all their needs. Bridgestone after all need only cater to Ferrari's need. What do they care about Jordan and Minardi after all? Do these teams ever appear in their promotional material? No its Ferrari's need that comes first. Michelin does not have that luxury. They have a far greater number of clients.

I can't believe Ferrari is really serious with this set of proposals. Prima facie, I admit it seems fair to both tyre companies. But if you look closer, Michelin's burden is far greater. And having their mileage restricted in this manner makes no sense and penalises them further. Of course the teams are up in arms about this. Read this story in here.

And come on, does tyre testing really mean tyre testing alone? I would imagine loads of other mechanical, aerodynamic, engine and electronic components get tested along with it. These proposals simply give Ferrari an advantage of more test mileage for development purposes than any other team.

Ferrari are being unreasonable and as has happened for a long long long time now (since the 50s) they are using their influence to bend the rules to their wishes. And that ladies and gents is why all the other teams band together against these bastards. That is why I think their successes are flawed by foul play and political manuverings. Yes, the other teams also want things their way. But only Ferrari gets what they want all the time.

These politicians at Ferrari didn't even have the decency to sit down with the other teams face to face but rather faxed their confounded proposal. Typical goddamned CRONIES.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Bravo Mr Webber

In this day and age of political correctness, PR consultant lead corporate robo-speach, we still find some drivers who are not afraid to speak their minds. And thank god for that. Winess one BMW-Williams driver Mark Webber who is apparently unafraid to pour scorn on team mate Antonio Pizzonia. You can read the stories here on PlanetF1 and here on

Mark is quoted as saying that Pizzonia "has been lying" and that "he's a loser." Harsh words and perhaps not the sort of thing corporate BMW or even Claire Fiorani of HP wants to hear. One wonders why Mark reacted so strongly to Pizzonia's allegations that during their time together at Jaguar, Mark was given preferential treatment. It is alleged that this biasness on the part of Jaguar was what had caused Antonio's less than stellar performance with the Milton Keynes based outfit leading to his dismissal after the British Grand Prix.

Accusations of preferential treatment in a team is nothing new. Alain Prost accused Senna of hijacking the McLaren team to his own detriment during the 1989 season when the two were team mates. Ayrton acted with aplomb. He basically said nothing. Perhaps it was true, but I've never really known McLaren to be unequal in their treatment of drivers especially where equipment is concerned. Perhaps Alain was simply unhappy that the young pretender was usurping "his" team. Well, Alain himself has been guilty of being political. Just ask Niki Lauda and Keke Rosberg. A case of can't swallow his own medicine.

If one looks at Eddie Irvine, well, everyone knows that Michael Schumacher gets preferential treatment at Ferrari and Irvine himself lets everyone know of this fact. Michael's reaction, like Senna, is to neither confirm nor deny this fact. He just shuts the hell up. Well, Schuey is a very shrewd competitor on and off the track. His silence is made up by the fact that he simply pulverizes the competition on the track and quite rightly, his actions speak louder than words. Rather like the Queen, Michael keeps his dignity and maintains a regal silence, without feeling to justify a reponse to those beneath him.

So why did Mark react the way he did? Perhaps he didn't want to be known as a politician-racer, unlike his good friend, the seven times world champion. Here is a person that perhaps needs the world to know that he beat his team mate fair and square and is very much concerned about how others see the means by which he achieved those results. As opposed to merely pointing to the ends and justifying any means. A straight shooter perhaps, our man Mark.

Quite frankly he doesn't need such responses because there are plenty who believe he is simply a superior driver to almost all of them out there. His bosses Frank and Patrick among them. After all he did drive better than Antonio during their time at Jaguar and he did beat a BMW-Williams driving Antonio whilst driving a Jaguar this year. Case closed I would imagine. Honestly speaking I don't really know why Frank is even considering Antonio for a race drive next year. He's a good tester and its a mistake to choose him to race. When Ralf got back in the car after his injury, he was clearly much quicker than Antonio in the Williams. Antonio is sub standard.

So there really isn't much to say about this at the end of the day. While I feel there was no need for his comments, I applaud Mark Webber's honesty (and bravery). He is already becoming like his predecessor, Juan Pablo Montoya, another man who doesn't mince his words. As for his bosses, I think they don't really care what Mark says, so long as he whips the competition on the track. Williams' sponsors though might have a word or two about it with him, but who really cares about what these corporations think anyway. It ain't about them.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Ant Update

On PlanetF1 today, Williams have denied BAR's accusations that they have been unreasonable with regards the Anthony Davidson affair. According to a Williams spokesman: "All we asked BAR for was the opportunity to retain Anthony as a race driver in 2006 if BAR were unable to offer him a race seat."

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. In my previous article I speculated that perhaps Williams considers Ant a superior driver to Button and that perhaps the 2005 season would be a try out for a longer term deal after 2006. I was under the impression that Button would be with Williams from 2006 onwards and that Ant is under a one year "loaner." However, if BAR are unable to offer Ant a race seat in 2006, why would Williams want to retain Ant as a race driver? Since they would simply get what they wanted i.e. Button. From the statement one gets the impression that BAR feels that whatever the case may be in 2006, Ant must come back to BAR even if they cannot offer him a race seat. It would seem that BAR are the ones that are being unreasonable then.

No matter what happens, it seems BAR have been making waves throughout the entire year on and off the track. Prior to the start of the season they irked the likes of both Michelin and Bridgestone for choosing to take up Michelin tyres. During the course of the season, there was the Buttongate affair, in the midst of sterling performances on the track. And now Honda ousts the team boss and we have this Ant affair. Not exactly the stuff of a world championship contender at any rate.

If one looks at the latest poll on PlanetF1, the majority of fans out there believe that BARs moves are certainly damaging Ant's career. I would fully agree with that. Racing drivers are born to race not sit on the sidelines preparing cars for other drivers. It seems such a waste of talent in this case. Ant deserves his shot and if a top team like Williams wants to retain him for a couple of years then why not? Even if compensation were paid at least we'd see a great talent on race weekends doing the business. On this, I tip my hat off to Peter Sauber for letting Kimi Raikkonen go when McLaren came a calling. OK, so he charged McLaren for it but at least he was big enough not to stand in the way of letting talent shine.

Perhaps BAR think themselves championship contenders like Ferrari already. What is interesting is that it is apparently Honda who is having issues with the Ant / Williams affair. You can read that story here on Planet F1. This came right after Honda acquired their large stake in BAR. David Richards apparently was the one who agreed to it in the first place.

Should BAR-Honda persist in their course of action I think they'll find that they have two disgruntled drivers in their squad. I'm sure Button is not entirely happy to stay with BAR. Now, I'm sure Ant will feel a little hard done by as well. Ant has been remarkably silent on this issue or at least I haven't read any remarks from him just yet. Perhaps he's got a gagging order placed on him from on high. Such a pity then. He deserves better.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Early Winter Testing Update

Toyota seem to be glowing in the light of new arrival Ralf Schumacher into the team. Mark Gascoyne going on to declare in Barcelona this week that Toyota has now got two world champions in their cars. Ralf Schumacher was also heard saying that the TF104 was better than he expected. He confirms what the rest of us knows, that the Toyota engine is "very, very good." Surprisingly he finds that Toyota to have a nice balance. Well, perhaps its only at Barcelona. Despite my dislike for Ralf - I think he's overrated and nowhere near his brother though his agent pretends that he is - I believe that Toyota with him and Jarno on board should see some better times from two "current" drivers who are perhaps at the peak of their driving abilities.

Elsewhere, Montoya is clearly enjoying his driving a McLaren for the first time, going on to set fastest laps in the Barcelona tests. On a high from his Brazilian Grand Prix victory, he seems rejuvenated in his new team after all the rows and acrimony with Williams.

Disturbing developments continue with BAR. Anthony Davidson (Ant), who I think is a brilliant, talented and super quick driver, has been barred from testing a Williams. Ant was of course in the running for a full time seat at Grove, with a shootout planned between Antonio Pizzonia, Nick Heidfeld and himself. Funny, I never saw any news story that mentioned David Coulthard in the running. Anyway, as BAR felt that since Frank Williams could not guarantee Ant's return to the Brackley based squad in 2006 should he drive for Williams in 2005, they felt compelled to block his Williams test. Geoff Willis is quoted as saying: "Anthony is one of the team's prime assets... We clearly cannot compromise the future of BAR." Ousted former BAR boss David Richards stating that Williams were being unreasonable.

Actually, I am at a loss as to why a problem exists here. Williams were pursuing Button for 2005 but have now got to hold that till 2006 whilst Jense finishes his contract there. Anthony Davidson deserves a drive or at least a shot at it. So why not settle for Ant for 2005 and then swap him for Button in 2006? Are Frank and Patrick perhaps suspicious that maybe, just maybe, Ant is a better driver than Jenson Button? Perhaps a nice 2005 season powered by BMW would confirm that. Personally, I would believe that Ant is the better driver. He just needs a shot at the big time. Between Ant, Pizzonia and Heidfeld he clearly is the best of the three. I mean Heidfeld is okay but remember he got blown away by outgoing Williams driver Montoya when they were racing together in Formula 3000. Pizzonia is okay as a test driver but isn't even a match for Ralf Schumacher let alone Montoya. Ant however, has been known to blast regular BAR race drivers in free practice. He's got speed and he's highly rated. There's definitely more than meets the eye here.

So poor Ant is for now relegated to being in the testing seat for yet another year. If anyone deserves a race drive, its Ant. Hope might yet lie in other directions. Last week apparently, BAR held a secret shootout testing nine potential young drivers for the team. Among them Nico Rosberg and Nelson Piquet Junior (no and oh, no) and also Macau winner Alexander Premat. The hopefuls were subjected to "physical, mental and verbal tests" in addition to driving road cars at Bruntingthorpe. Errr.... mental and verbal tests? Goodness, the demands of Formula 1 these days. I mean, verbal tests??? Okay, so maybe they are tested for their abilities to communicate with race engineers. I certainly hope so. I mean, I'd hate to think that its a test to see how well they do in a press conference for instance.

Just to digress slightly, I undertook the little self test in F1 Racing magazine a couple of months ago which compares you to Michael Schumacher. I failed miserably and that's probably why he earns over a million bucks a race in the most glamorous team in the world winning the championship 7 times and I'm here updating this damn blog!

Anyway, back to the BAR issue, these days young drivers seem to be signing their lives away when they sign for a team. Whilst I don't see any real talent in the group of hopefuls except perhaps Premat, I sure hope they don't end up like Ant, being stuck in admittedly a solid up and coming team, but still denied a shot at the big time. I thought the Formula Drivers Association were against the trading of driver's souls but I guess times have changed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Cough cough. Draw your own conclusions:

At issue is a 50,000 buck tender to replace an old signboard at the Sepang circuit. The successful bidder apparently only refurbished them instead of replacing said signboard outright. Sure there aren't any more hanky panky going on in there? There are presumably people who'd tell you there's more than meets the eye down in Sepang.... but I wouldn't know any of them really. ;)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Notes From Macau

I love the Macau Grand Prix and watch it almost every year without fail since a few years ago. In an age of increased corporate atmospherics in races these days, Macau can still hark back to an age where racing was truly racing and a sense of fun and camraderie still existed. It is, as the Star Sports commentators mentioned, a race for purists race entered by real racing drivers instead of corporate robots. That is why Macau is visited by people like Charlie Whiting and other Formula 1 people.

To be honest, I'm more interested in the Guia Touring Car Race than the Formula 3 race. Don't get me wrong, the Formula 3 event is important. Together with the Marlboro Masters held at Zandvoort, it is the premier Formula 3 event every season and is the one that every future Formula 1 hopeful wants to win. Formula 1 team managers of course watch the event closely. Among the most famous winners of the Macau Grand Prix are Aryton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Ten Formula 1 world championships between them. Then of course there's Mika Hakkinen who was on course to win the event before crashing into Michael Schumacher. Ayrton Senna once described Macau as the most demanding circuit in the world. Despite a street style layout with a hairpin that is under permanent yellow flag, it's layout is far more interesting than Tilke designed dogfests. If you watched last year's race at Macau, you would probably have seen a Jordan doing demonstration laps there. Boy, was that absolutely thrilling. Anyway, this year's Formula 3 event was won by Frenchman Andre Premat with Robert Kubica of Poland taking pole position beating much fancied opposition in the form of American Richard Antinucci, Nico Rosberg and Nelson Piquet Junior. Both Antinucci and Piquet started from dismal qualifying positions and never really featured in the race. They both finished 9th and 10th respectively.

As I said earlier, I love watching the touring cars. Normally, this event attracts plenty of competition with cars of a variety different makes. Last year we had Honda, BMW and Alfa battling it out alongside private entries from Japan with Toyotas. This year however saw a grid filled with BMWs in the top 12 positions, with only a couple of SEATs spoiling an otherwise a total whitewash. No Alfas, no teams from Japan. The Hondas of Toni Ruokkonen and Simon Harrison absolutely nowhere. It was just dismal. Just what exactly happened to the rest?

Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the BMWs and SEATs were running to European Touring Car Championship rules. This is super touring specifications to you and me whereas the others are running super production. With Macau being a world championship round of next year's World Touring Car Championship, BMW and SEAT understandably want track time before coming here next year. But it all ends up being rather daft if you ask me. I mean, mixing super production and super touring cars in one race? I'm not surprised that this turned away many entrants. If you're running to Group N+ super production rules, why on Earth would you want to compete? You have absolutely no chance at all against the super touring guys. The results do not discriminate between the two sets of rules. It's all quite daft. I believe they just ought to run it to Super Production rules only. Incidentally, I not at all a supporter of the current British Touring Car Championship format where there are two classes. Its confusing actually. I mean watching a guy finishing 10th on the road but winning his class and going up the podium is just daft. They should go back to the days in the 90s when everyone ran to a single set of rules i.e. the super touring specification.

It all added up to a rather disappointing Guia race in my view. The most boring one in years really. Despite all the crashes in the Guia race, it felt like Formula BMW to me. Nevertheless the race was won by Jorg Muller who became the first man ever to win the Macau Grand Prix in both Formula 3 and Guia categories. Hopefully, we'll see a more exciting Macau Grand Prix next year. As I mentioned earlier, the Guia race becomes a full fledge world championship event in the world touring cars. Expect to see a more competitive race between a host of manufacturers including BMW, Honda, SEAT, Chevrolet, Citroen and even a Cherry! I just hope despite all the manufacturer attention, Macau will still retain its purist racing atmosphere.

Look Again Mario

Mario Thiessen of BMW Motorsport is frequently making comments in the news these days. In fact, I'd wager that he's more in the news than Patrick Head and Frank Williams put together. Read this article on I particularly like this quote: "This return to competitiveness was the result of a huge effort." BMW are blowing a lot of marketing spin these days. More than ever in fact, given their hugely disappointing season. I suppose they are making the best of things right now and are milking their Brazilian Grand Prix victory to the fullest. But let's get it right Mario. The only reason BMW Williams won the Brazilian Grand Prix was because Ferrari stopped developing their car. Ever since Monza I believe. Despite that, they still managed to whip you guys in China and Japan. Had Ferrari continued on their merry way and spent development time on the F2004, no one would be anywhere near them let alone be fighting for victory. Cut the crap Mario and just win it on the track, ok?

BAR and Honda's Decision Is Premature

Honda has announced that it will buy out 45% of the BAR team in a move signifying long term commitment to Formula 1. You can read the story on F1Racing here. A new joint venture company will be formed with British American Tobacco owning 55% of said company and Honda taking the remaining shares.

Commitments of this nature is nothing new. Mercedes already has a substantial shareholding in McLaren with talk of taking control of the team in the future. No doubt this will depend on future race and championship results. BMW also, is continuing to speak with Frank Williams on the possibility of taking control of Williams. Both Patrick Head and Frank Williams are getting on and one naturally assumes wants to sell out in the future prior to retirement. A process of "fattening up" of the team continues in anticipation of such a takeover. Manufacturer involvement in the team has its benefits of course, with the manufacturer making available facilities and resources that are otherwise unavailable to the teams. Such moves are inevitable in this sport and really there can be no complaints there.

What is interesting about the Honda deal however, is the dismissal of David Richards from the team. According to the article BAT had brought in David Richards and Prodrive to "restructure the management of the team and put BAR Honda into a position to challenge for the World Championship." Everyone knows of course that David Richards has done a sterling job with the BAR team. Getting rid of irritating annoyances in the team like Pollock and friend Villeneuve and then building a team around Messrs Button and Sato proved to be an inspired move. I have a feeling that of all the teams in the paddock, BAR and Ferrari are perhaps the only teams that currently maximizes all the available resources and are operating at peak efficiency. McLaren and Williams, the way I look at it, indulge in many frivolous exercises and should really look at the way BAR are getting on. Of course, having Geoff Willis as your technical director helps a whole lot. This guy is still popping up with new ideas unlike a burnt out Adrian Newey at McLaren.

However, given the brief of putting BAR Honda as a major championship challenger, David Richards has not yet completed his task. BAR's performance has been stunning no doubt and they will use numbers 3 and 4 next year but they are in no shape to challenge for the championship as yet. Next year they will probably be even closer to the top but I somehow doubt they will be able to stop the scarlet juggernaut just yet. Despite Button's third place in the driver's championship and BAR's second place in the constructors race this year, one must not forget that they have yet to score a win. Despite dismal performances by Williams and McLaren, they have scored wins. So to have Renault. This is important, as it demonstrates at least the potential of a team. Ok, so the BAR team came close in Germany but still it was a missed affair. Despite a brilliant performance at Monza, the Ferraris were able to catch up and after a stunning drive by both Schumacher and Barrichello, were still able to beat BAR. There is still a lot of work left for David Richards and the BAR team before they can be considered as championship challengers able to consistently battle with the Ferraris.

So why dismiss David Richards and Prodrive now when clearly they are needed more than ever? I might have an answer which was given to me by a BAR employee himself but I shan't be revealing it. It's probably something to do with the flow of money. Still, you must admit that David Richards is still the best chance that BAR have got. I mean, look back in years past when Ferrari were being trashed every weekend. Did they dismiss Jean Todt at the first opportunity? Of course not. It was probably the smartest move Luca di Montezemolo ever did keeping that little Frenchman in the team. Now look at them. They are nigh invincible. Strong teams and personnel that are performing should be kept and not dismissed.

I'm sure Honda and BAT are doing their sums and they've probably thought it out. Ummm.... yeah just like having Craig Pollock as team principal was a "brilliant" BAT plan. David Richards remains magnanimous about the whole affair. Read his comments here on Yes, David, much as I think you are a shrewd sort of person one cannot deny that he has done a superb job. Honda and BAR would do well to keep him but the die is cast. It remains to be seen but I fear his dismissal is a grave error and BAR will feel the effects next season.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sick Of Ferrari Fans

This feature on PlanetF1 has irked me quite a bit. In fact, Ferrari fans are very vociferous and quite partisan on this website. Well, there are more Ferrari fans than fans of the other teams put together, so I suppose their views get shouted out the most.

Take this quote from one of the readers : Last time I looked at the testing miles statistics in F1 Racing, it was Michelin, and the Michelin associated teams, who had tested significantly more miles than Bridgestone. I know most of the teams are on Michelin, but the Minardi, Jordan et al, do little testing, so the miles are consumed by the big three or four competitors of Ferrari

Yeah, sure the Michelin runners clock up a lot of mileage. But if the majority of teams are on Bridgestones, then Bridgestone would be doing the same. But taken indvidually, Ferrari clocks up more mileage than any single team. Testing is paid for by individual teams and it is not paid for by some collective pool of money by the Michelin runners. If this reader made a one on one comparison between Ferrari and McLaren or Ferrari and Williams then you'd find that Ferrari's mileage beats them both individually. There is Ferrari's advantage, the ability to test at any moments notice new developments on the car.

Another quote by another reader: F1 fans are always seem to hate being told how they are 'supposed' to respond, proven by the letters of support for Ferrari after the last team meeting (when we were 'supposed' to see them as the bad guys for not signing).

Well, I don't know what this guy thinks fans are supposed to do but in my view Ferrari have always been the bad guys. They've been so for ages. Enzo Ferrari himself is not a man to shy away from using political influence to his advantage. Might I add that only Ferrari have this level of clout with the FIA. No other teams possess such influence. If the other teams unite against Ferrari, its only a reaction to Ferrari's otherwise massive political power. Does this reader not realise that in the past that when Ferrari is not happy about something and protests, the FIA just falls in line. The one incident they were caught blatantly cheating in the 1999 Malaysian Grand Prix, they were let off the hook. And before anyone says anything, yes, they were cheating. I actually know some of the stewards of that race personally. And they all agreed that Ferrari had contravened the rules. Luca di Montezemolo then proceeded to say that a 5% tolerance level are allowed for parts like barge boards. If anyone read the rules properly, they would find that tolerance is only allowed for the flat bottom of the car and nowhere else. Yet Ferrari as usual gets away with it.

Let's move on to another quote : As has been said here many times, Ferrari didn't whine to the FIA and get the rules changed to slow the other teams when they were mired in mediocrity. They worked hard and turned things around. The other teams have clearly decided that they are incapable of making such an effort and instead would rather lobby the FIA to change the rules to slow Ferrari down.

Yes, I agree Ferrari has worked enormously hard, ably led by Michael Schumacher. But to say that they didn't whine to the FIA when their chips were down is completely untrue. This comment generally reflects the rose tinted (or scarlet tinted) world Ferrari fans seem to live in. Of course they whined to the FIA. Of course, they made every technical innovation from other teams illegal by bitching to the FIA. The case was so clearly seen last year. It was they who raised the legality of the Michelin tyres to the FIA despite the fact that the Michelins were running from more than 2 years on the exact same configurations as those in the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix. Rear brake steer, various gearbox innovations, materials in Mercedes engines all approved by the FIA were overturned at Ferrari's insistence. It was Ferrari who insisted on allowing V12 engines in the past when all other teams wanted to stick to V10s. Ferrari have been lobbying to the FIA to slow other people down since the days of Enzo Ferrari. Of course, to Ferrari fans, their team are crewed by harp playing angels. So they can't possibly do anything wrong right? Wrong you morons. Ferrari of course, do such protests away from the medias eyes. The teams of course have now protested in unison in a very public manner. Perhaps that is their error because they too look bad now. But after DECADES of Ferrari politicking, they have had enough of Ferrari.

These are just some examples of Ferrari fans' blind devotion to their team. There are plenty more of them in the past on PlanetF1. What sickens me even further is that the tone of their comments indicate such confidence in their convictions. As if to say their team can do no wrong. Well, morons, in the past the other teams have had their hand tied behind their backs to compete against the richest team in the paddock. Ferrari don't need politicking. But they do it anyway. In fact Ferrari are the most political of all teams in the paddock. Once upon a time the politics destroyed their team. Now all of their political inclinations are directed outside. The teams are now fighting back by coming together, as is their right.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ferrari will not agree

"I am sorry to say that what was presented is not sensible, This paper, you can just throw it away." - Jean Todt

Paul Stoddart has been the main mover and shaker in recent months with respect to a proposal to limit in season testing. You all know what happened. All the teams bar Ferrari held a meeting during the course of the Brazilian Grand Prix and in principle agreed to that proposal. Jean Todt and Ferrari claim that they were not invited to that meeting. One unknown source close to the teams upheld the belief that the decision not to invite Ferrari was deliberate and was intended to snub all the rest.

Now for those of you who don't know, Ferrari are opposed to in season testing. How could they not be. They own two circuits that they regularly use for testing, Mugello and Maranello. A testing limitation would obviously mean that these circuits would be under utilized. Perhaps they remember all too well the 2003 season where testing restrictions meant they had to endure much of the summer being humiliated by Renault and Williams.

In fact, I am myself opposed to in season testing for the simple reason that if teams get their cars wrong at the start of the season, they'll have to live with it till the end. Such a situation would produce enormously processional races during the summer as teams are unable to rectify the situation due to testing restrictions.

Jean Todt's comments regarding the proposal were very scathing. You can read it here on PlanetF1. I suppose a team like Ferrari does not tolerate being humiliated in that manner. They feel it is vendetta against them and quite rightly so. However, they should realise that its very hard on other teams when Ferrari, in concert with the FIA, likes to force them to dance to their tune.

Finally, in fact the teams have for once come to a mutual agreement amongst themselves after spending a whole season bickering about things that need doing. I suppose everyone knew that Ferrari would be the sticking point and the only way was to work together against them. But the FIA will not want to lose Ferrari. So I would seriously doubt that the FIA will listen to their proposals even though ironically, it is in line with Mosley's plans. The Ferrari name though is simply too big too lose and Formula 1 can't afford that. It can ill afford that especially in these times of economic uncertainty.

It is interesting to see what would happen in the next few months. Are we going to see a repeat of the FOCA - FISA wars of the early 80s? The stakes are so huge in the game these days that I doubt if teams would want to do that. Their corporate masters, the sponsors, would not stand for that I think or any action to bring the sport into disrepute. The most likely situation is that if Ferrari says no, the others will simply have to fall in line.

There will be ill will and resentment from the teams for sure but what do Ferrari care? They're in this to win and to use whatever facilities including their unlimited financial resources from Fiat to achieve that aim. Which means that if the other teams can't keep up, we'll just see Ferrari take all the championships until Michael Schumacher retires. And if they manage to replace him with someone like Kimi, then they'll just go on winning for many many years beyond that. In my estimation, the fact that the teams are coming to an agreement to reduce costs means that they simply cannot keep up with Ferrari's financial firepower and that bodes ill for the rest of us including the fans.

Dubai F1

I looked at a story about tyres here on What caught my eye was the end of the article. Its old news now to many of you, but I have just realised that Dubai F1 is going to be powered by Mercedes and they will get technical assistance from McLaren. I do admit to completely ignoring this Arab entry into motor racing. I mean, come on, they do sound like wannabes. Hey look at us, we're from Dubai. Come to Dubai why don't you? I have serious opposition to such blatant advertising from these Arabs. The same opposition fans of Arsenal have, now that their stadium is called the Emirates stadium for instance.

My first reaction to the Mercedes and McLaren connection was to ask what on Earth is Ron Dennis thinking about? I mean, he has enough trouble trying to turn McLaren around without having to sidetrack to other teams. Doing some searching on the net revealed this article on It seems that of course McLaren will be earning quite a bit for their technical assistance. The story also has it that perhaps the old Woking factory will be used to manufacture Dubai F1 cars. However, wind tunnel and team base will be in Dubai itself "to develop and demonstrate our skills in these cutting edge areas." Err yeah, I doubt that will be many Arabs involved in this. It's like to be crewed mainly by expatriates. A bit like calling Ferrari engines Petronas I suppose. Fools a lot of people into thinking that Petronas makes grand prix engines. (No, seriously, a lot of people in Malaysia at least are under that impression).

Thinking about it now, this is perhaps the best cost cutting measure for a new team like Dubai F1. I've talked about teams buying chassis to compete. Well, that rule isn't going to change, so I suppose the next best thing would be something like this. The Arabs are still going to have a wind tunnel and expensive manufacturing facilities but I suppose this greatly reduces the risks associated with a new entry these days. I still think this is going to stretch McLaren yet again but I guess with this project at least McLaren will be compensated handsomely in return I would imagine. As opposed to their silly toys like their media centre. This could be a very beneficial to McLaren. Just as having Swiss servants is useful to Ferrari. Like thirty million dollars per annum useful.

Well, this Arab team is not going to race until 2006 but I look forward to seeing their progress. Dubai F1 and Midlang F1 are going to be the first "private" new entrants to Formula 1 since Jordan in 1991. No, Toyota doesn't count I'm afraid. They're a pure works team. Well, with all that black gold financing these Arabs, I'm sure they'll do well if their expatriates don't royally screw them over. To the detriment of Jordan I suppose who was looking to sell his team to the Arabs. Let's wait and see.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Villeneuve: Rookie with big dreams?

I just read this amusing story on PlanetF1. The headline is particularly funny - JV: 'I feel like a rookie with big dreams.' A rookie Monsieur Jacques? Pardonne moi but I don't bloody well think so. Jacques asserts that given that he has won the world title before, he feels he can do it again naturally. Yeah, you and in which car mate?

Jacques is now stuck at Sauber. With the exception of one Kimi Raikkonen, people in Saubers do really go on to much bigger and better things. Oh yeah, sure Fisichella is off to Renault now but quite frankly, the odds of Renault producing a world championship challenger is always on the slim side relative to McLaren, Ferrari and Williams. This despite the big dip in form by McLaren and Williams this year. Still in the long term, you want to be with one of these teams. Jacques Villeneuve will only get into these teams over a large pile of dead bodies.

Does he perhaps think that he can get a Ferrari drive once big Schuey quits? Errrmmm.... not if Raikkonen has anything to say about that. He's being seriously considered by the Ferrari management. I'd say there's a better than even chance that he will end up there. But what about the second seat at Ferrari currently being kept warm by Barrichello. Well, with the stories of Liuzzi and Rossi being floated about these days, I'd say there's a good chance they're scarlet race seat bound as well. Ferrari I believe would definitely want an Italian behind the wheel of at least one of their cars.

Ron Dennis has had consultations with Villeneuve in the past but Ron passed him up for Raikkonen instead. I think Ron would want to consider other people rather than an old champion. So let's look at the Frank and Patrick show. Well, it's no secret that Patrick believes that Villeneuve is a difficult sort of fellow to work with. Furthermore, it is Patricks view that Villeneuve was making such hard work in 1997 when they won the championship together. Plus, seven years is a bloody long time ago and one gets the feeling that Villeneuve may have wasted one too many years at BAR under dog management of Craig Pollock.

So where does Villeneuve thinks he can go? At 33, he's getting on now and is a senior citizen. Whether or not you believe that Button blew his pants off in 2003, the perception of the press and public at large is that the Englishmen bested him during their time together. As for his former team BAR, David Richards has been heard to say that he prefers investing in youth than old timers. And why not? So long as there are talented youths out there, he may as well spend on them instead. They cost less and are more appreciative of what they get. Money saved can be spent developing the car instead of paying for superstar lifestyles.

Villeneuve may have at best three more years in Formula 1. After which, I doubt if any team would want their hands on him. Look at poor David Coulthard. Getting old with no where to go. Out of the three years left, Villeneuve will spend two at Sauber. Of course, he will just be making up the numbers. After all, there is no way Sauber will win a race let alone a championship, not with Ferrari supplying their engines. After these two years at Sauber, a permanent exit from Formula 1 I would say is definitely on the cards. No one is going to take him when he's 35.

So, forget your dreams dear Jacques. It is all over. Your loyalty to your friend Craig Pollock has been to your utter detriment, unfortunately. One that is not possible for you to recover from. Just enjoy your final two years at Sauber and watch while your once arch enemy, Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari team grind you to the dust for the next two seasons and thirty odd races. Observe how Ferrari will use their power and influence to extract every ounce from Sauber and watch while Michael just sucks away at your dignity. Your once feisty character will shrivel away until 1997 just becomes a faint and distant memory.

Now before anyone accuses me of having something against Villeneuve, I admire him. Or did once. He and Eddie Irvine were once the last two characters of Formula 1. Unafraid to speak their minds as compared to the corporate drones these days, both of them provided a refreshing relief to PR boredom. Plus, I rate Villeneuve as a good driver. After all, he did beat Michael Schumacher a long time ago. I remember in the 1996 Portugese Grand Prix, he managed to pass Michael on the outside on the final corner at Estoril. I had also watched how from being two laps down, he came back to win the Indianapolis 500 race back in the day when it was still raced on by Indycars.

Villeneuve is a real racer. In dreams, real racers like him would be in a McLaren battling with Schumacher still, and winning championships along the way. The reality is unfortunately vastly different. As an employee of Sauber, he will now have to defer as does the Sauber team, to Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. The ultimate humuiliation is at hand before finally he ends up a commodity nobody wants. Ugh. I can't bear to watch actually.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

4 More Years

The incumbent president of the world's most powerful nation has been re-elected. So you ask what effect has this on Formula 1? Well, if like me you believe that the incumbent has had a ruinous effect on the world's economy and security then Formula 1 would definitely be affected. OK so I don't really know what's going to happen in the next 4 years but if the past 4 is any indication, the world's economy will continue going downhill. It is ironic that people vote for the incumbent in the name of security, yet fear and uncertainty prevail around the world so long as the incumbent is in power. Who knows where the cowboy will ride to next on the advice of his scouts who tell him that injuns are right around that corner?

Formula 1 teams derive their income primarily through advertising from corporate sponsors. In recent years, advertising money is getting harder to find as corporations tighten their cash belts in the face of economic uncertainty. See mighty Ford who have recently pulled out of Formula 1 and have even decided to dispose of Cosworth in the process. It is tough for teams at the moment to survive in Formula 1. It must be even tougher for new teams to enter as well. Of course, by "enter" I mean being competitive not just doing a Minardi.

Should the current trend continue, I believe we could well see more teams being eliminated. Jordan and Minardi are obvious teams with pending exit visas. But let us not discount teams like Renault for instance, who have indicated that their involvement is subject to review beyond next year. Should the current economic siuation follow its current trend and cowboys roam the Earth picking fights, then who knows how long Formula 1 will survive as it is. Perhaps Mosley is right after all and cost cutting should be a huge issue. But it is a fine line to walk between making the sport more economically sound, improving the spectacle and not making the spot too artificial.

Economics aside, Michael Schumacher has been world champion with Ferrari ever since the incumbent took power. That is seasons 2000-2004. With the incumbent president around for another 4 more years, will we see Schumacher winning it for another 4 season? That I believe would really ruin Formula 1. I mean, even the most die hard Ferrari fan would be bored beyond belief.

Whatever it is, Formula 1 should brace itself for another 4 more years of hardship and uncertainty, as do us all. I am not sure what the people in the world's most powerful country are thinking about but the rest of the world are under no illusions. Its going to be tough when gun totting cowboys run around.

Sauber to use Michelins

It looks like what was discussed here has come to pass. Sauber have secured themselves a spot of Michelin tyres for the 2005 season. In fact, this is taking effect immediately. So the "winter world championships" will be run by Sauber with Michelins. This leaves only Ferrari as the most significant Michelin runner. However, I believe there is a rule somewhere that a tyre supplier has a maximum number of teams it can supply, which could mean that Bridgestone are looking for new teams. The grapevine points to Toyota as the most likely team. Perhaps BAR Honda too will be considering it as well.

From news report at PlanetF1, it seems that Sauber are unhappy with the way Bridgestone tyres perform in single lap qualifying. This is as far as I know, the only official reason given for the switch. It seems like a very silly reason to switch. After all, qualifying is one thing but the race is quite another thing altogether. Bridgestone as far as the 2004 season is concerned has performed magnificently during race conditions. In fact, Bridgestone was clearly the tyre to have. Ferrari used it to devastating effect. Look at the performance in Monza for an indication.

I suppose we should look at why Michelin would want to supply Sauber having so many good teams in their books already. No news reports have given any indication for this reason. I think perhaps this gives Michelin more revenues? I suppose a greater number of teams will also look good when the results come in. If every car finished 70% of them will be on Michelins. In fact the top ten would probably be Michelin runners in most races. After all, only Jordan and Minardi remain as the other Bridgestone runners. From a testing standpoint, this is probably a chance for Michelin to get even more feedback and data for development.

The conspiracy theorist in me however, thinks that Ferrari will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of their Swiss servants feeding them Michelin performance data. I mean, come on. Why else would their servants be switching to an inferior tyre? It just boggles the mind. During his press conferences next year, Michael Schumacher should not only thank the Ferrari team and the test drivers but also Sauber for pulling their pants down and bending over.

Jokes aside though, Bridgestone must also be reeling from this. After all, they can only rely on Ferrari for development. PlanetF1 suggests that this dissuade Ferrari to agree to testing cuts. After all, with so many Michelin runners they would be at a real disadvantage if testing were to go unchecked. Bridgestone will need all the running they can get for their tyre development. Its one thing to run simulations on a computer but real world running is still indispensible. In fact, if at the mid season, Bridgestone are not doing well, there will be enormous frustration of the fact that they can't test their new tyre developments. Look back at 1998. With unlimited testing, Ferrari were able to work with Goodyear to produce a new front tyre that helped counter the McLaren domination. With reduced testing, I don't think Bridgestone will be able to do the same, if that situation comes about.

BAR made a successful switch to Michelin in 2004. However, I believe their progress had a lot to do with the aero, chassis and engine improvements. It will be interesting to see how Sauber progress with Michelin come 2005.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Alternative Formula

The new rules will make things interesting and we all have to get used to them. However, the years of experience have proved that the rules are irrelevant; the best team always wins. -- Michael Schumacher

Rule changes seem imminent for 2005 and 2006. Max Mosley's stated aims for these new rules are to slow the cars down and more intriguingly to reduce the cost of competing in Formula 1. His target is to reduce the budget required to run a winning team from USD 400 million as in the case of Ferrari to just USD 20 million. Twenty million??? That's a very tall order. I would suppose some touring car teams in the DTM are approaching that sort of money.

These new proposals have stirred up quite a controversy as usual when rules are changed. There are also many political reasons behind the rule changes and behind all the opposition to those rule changes. I suppose, you, dear reader would have read about these elsewhere. So I shan't be discussing it here save to say that Ferrari of course had full consultation before all the other teams. Oh heck, I can't help it. I'll just say a little more. Part of the reason why this is the case is that the FIA are desperate not to lose Ferrari to a rival GPWC run championship. So of course, Ferrari gets their ass licked. Ferrari must have the cleanest ass in the paddock what with all the saliva polish going on their bottoms.

Anyway, enough about that. Some of the rules have met with unanimous approval. Mostly the aero ones at any rate. The engine regs though have stirred some fierce opposition from the likes of BMW, Renault and Honda among others. You know it already. The changes require a 2.4 litre V8 engine to reduce horsepower. In addition, the engines must last 2 weekends. Banning testing of course has always been in the picture. The engine makers are quite reluctant to build 2.4 V8s that may only last for a couple of years. Why a couple of years? Well, come 2008, those same manufacturers might themselves be switching to the GPWC championship instead of Formula 1.

The politics behind this all is staggering. A friend once said to me that motorsports politics are worse than real politics and the evidence of it all can be seen right here right now in this era of Formula 1. The root cause of it all? Marketing and Money. Formula 1 is so screwed up because of all the corporate wrangling that goes on. This is definitely more so now that the major car manufacturers are all involved very closely with this sport. When those baboons come in inevitably their corporate manueverings will also corrupt the sport. The sport of course is already corrupt due to that other greedy fellow Bernie Ecclestone.

The sports rules I believe have a part to play in this. To compete in an unrestricted Formula that is Formula 1 requires an ever increasing amount of investment. One that can only be afforded by the likes of Toyota, Ferrari et al. Does anyone remember any of the specialist engine makers? People like Hart, Mugen, Mechachrome and Judd? These blokes are completely priced out of Formula 1. They can no longer afford it.

But why should Formula 1 be the domain of manufacturers alone? In the 60s and 70s we had even more participation from specialist makers like Cooper Climax for instance. We had Cosworth who supplied engines to nearly everyone instead of just a chosen few these days. This is crap. I want to see a Formula where the specialists and manufacturers can both compete. It should just be a corporate battleground.

Remember, when Formula One was invented it was a championship for drivers. Not constructors. When people go to watch Formula One they are really cheering on their drivers first, and their favourite team second. If the racing is good who cares what car Schumacher drives in. So long as the racing be good.

So with the above in mind, I would like to propose a new set of rules for Formula 1. One that reduces costs and puts the excitement back into Formula 1 just like in the good old days. Formula One today was built on the excitement of those days. And though that excitement is now diluted in a pool of corporate games, the real fans would like to see a return to the days when we had 4 or 5 people in with a shot at the championship. Remember the early 80s?

I am no engineer but here are some suggestions:

1. Rev limiters.

Worked in touring cars and I don't see why it wouldn't work in Formula 1. Contrived? Well, one engine every two weekends and testing bans are pretty much contrived as well. Aerodynamic limitations as it stands basically contrives to produce freaks of nature that are the current Formula 1 cars. Think about it. Engines achieve greater and greater horsepower mainly because engineers find a way to make them rev ever higher. To rev ever higher requires major investment in engine development and metallurgy. So, cap the revs and you immediately cap that sort of unlimited investment. Toyota cries foul and do not accept such attempts to limit innovation. That's just crap. Road cars for decades pretty much have a maximum limit of roughly 6000 - 6500 RPMs due to a variety of factors such as refinement and economy. Yet road car engineers have found ways for producing ever more horsepower from those same RPMs. Not in leaps and bounds but still there are horsepower increases. As an example a 2.0 litre BMW engine revving to about 6000 RPM produced about 129bhp in the 80s. The same capacity engine with roughly the same maximum RPM is producing 150 bhp these days. There is an increase in horsepower but its taken many years to achieve a 20bhp increment with the attendant refinement and economy. Likewise if you cap the revs in a Formula 1 engine, there will still be horsepower increases year on year but the numbers would be too small. Lets say we cap the engines to I don't know, maybe, 15000 - 16000 RPM? In essence you could take a 10 year old engine it would probably still be competitive. It would severly reduce costs I have no doubt and therefore, "private" engine makers like Judd, Mugen, Hart and Mechachrome could re-enter the sport. Cosworth would also suddenly find that their units would be pretty competitive and I am certain they would find more customers. New teams can enter with older engines and still be competitive. Unlike the situation now where among the greatest challenge for new entrants would be to find a source of engines.

2. Reduce wing size, allow sliding side skirts and ground effect aerodynamics.

Yes, this sounds mighty crazy. But is it really? They banned ground effects in 1982 because they thought cornering speeds were getting too high. But you know what, with flat bottomed cars and now stepped bottom ones, engineers still managed to claw back the deficit and today, the cornering limits of the cars are far higher than in 1982. In fact, whatever the FIA thinks of, engineers would probably find a way round it. The effect of flat bottomed cars meant that aerodynamically the cars are very dependant on their wings. Whereas with ground effects the entire car itself is aerodynamically shaped liek a wing. Hence wings attached to the front and rear of the car, whilst still having a significant effect on total downforce, would not be as important as they are now. Thus the cars will be less aerodynamically sensitive to turbulence thrown by cars in front of them. This would promote greater slipstreaming battles on the straights and most importantly in the corners. In fact, with that ability cars would be able to slingshot their opposition quite regularly, thus producing that rare spectacle, the overtaking manuver. Again, look at touring cars. The cars aren't so dependant on having clean air for aerodynamic efficiency and hence, overtaking is the norm in touring cars. Now wouldn't that be far more intresting to spectators?

3. Allow any engine configuration

Yes, that's right. Allow V8, V10 or V12 engines to be used. In fact, if the teams wanted V16s or V6s then go on ahead. Variety is the spice of life I'd say. It's not really a cost cutting measure but consider this. Engine makers have decided that V10s are the way to go for some time now. Technically speaking its the best compromise between a V8 and V12. The V8 configuration has advantages in light weight and torque. Whereas a V12 of the same capacity as it has greater power due to the ability to run higher revs. However, the V12 is more thirsty and heavier than the V8. So in comes the V10, a compromise between the two. It can still rev higher than a V8, and yet its lighter than a V12 whilst still producing excellent torque characteristics and fuel consumption. But what happens when you put rev limiters on the engine? I would imagine, a V12 and V10 configuration would not be any more advantageous to a V8. If they all rev at similar RPMs and produce roughly the same amount of power, engine makers would immediately make a choice of V8 engines because of its lower weight. A V8 engine is also less complex and contains fewer moving parts than a similar V10 or V12. Its much like the situation with touring cars. A good touring car would optimally have 4 cylinders in preference to a V6 or straight 6 engine. The advantages are mainly due to having a lighter engine and better weight distribution characteristics. Thus, instead of forcing manufacturers to adopt a V8 design by introducing rev limits, engine makers would simply do it willingly. However, they should really allow any engine configuration. This leaves the possibility of innovation on the part of the engine designer. Perhaps some brilliant mind somewhere would think of a new way to produce more power from a V6 or a V10 despite rev limiters.

4. Standard Computer Boxes

This is one FIA proposal that I support. Electronics is an increasingly important part of a racing car and the proportion of electronic costs to total costs are increasing. Car development depends upon data acquisition and analysis. Power outputs are increased due to better engine management systems. Electronics however, cannot improve further without better and more sophisticated sensors for data acquisition. Traction control for instance depends on wheel speed sensors among others. If you ban wheel speed sensors, you basically will ban traction control. The engine management system does not have any method of ascertaining wheel slip. So, the objective should be to have a standard engine management system and sensor suite for all teams. Of course there would still be a chance for the teams to revise and customize the fuel mappings to their particular engine choice. But this is all they would be able to do. It is sort of like tweaking computer chips in road cars. But you can't add more sensors to your road car, wiring it up to new computer boxes for even more added power. The number of electronics and computer experts in the pit lane would be far reduced. Electronic technology goes obsolete very quickly and new and improved systems are introduced regularly. Therefore substantial investment is required to keep up. By limiting the role of electronics, the FIA would be placing a limit on this major cost factor. Plus, a ban of traction control, electronic differentials et al would ultimately place control back to the driver. This reduces the "battle of the black boxes" and produce better racing on the track.

5. Bring back full slick tyres

The FIA decided to introduce grooved tyres as a way of limiting grip and slowing the cars down. Again, the cars are now faster than ever anyway, so why make the tyre manufacturer go through the additional expense of researching grooved tyres anyway? From a safety standpoint, I would have thought that tyres with more grip are safer than that which has little grip. As I said, if Toyota thinks rev limiters are contrived introducing artificial grooves are even more so. I should also think that a full slick tyre would cost less to manufacture and research. With more additional grip, drivers can perform better overtaking manuvers under braking and into the corners.

6. Unlimited Testing

Back at the start of the 1998 season, McLaren was clearly dominant. However, with increased development and the ability to test, Ferrari were able to claw back the deficit towards the mid and tail end of the season. These days, its hard to do such things. Take the 2003 season. Clearly, Ferrari were in trouble. The Williams cars and even the McLaren on occassion were blowing their doors off. Ross Brawn lamented that the testing ban in the summer clearly hampered their development and ability to catch up to their rivals. Williams have also expressed the same this season when it was clear that their technical direction this year had gone astray. These days, once a car has taken the wrong turn at the start of the year, it is extremely difficult to catch up. Hence, the complete and utter Ferrari domination this year. They started on the right foot whereas their main rivals had clearly made the wrong choices. Only towards the end of the season did we see McLaren and Williams back on the podium and fighting for victory. And really, that was only because Ferrari had ceased to develop their cars after winning both titles. This made this season and I would imagine future seasons very boring unless all teams make the right choices at the start. This is not good for the spectacle and not good for the fans. Bring back unlimited testing.

If one thinks about it, even if testing bans apply, it still would not stop Ferrari from spending their USD 400 million budget. If they don't test, the budget is reapplied to other areas such as wind tunnel and simulation systems. And one must remember that despite the little teams protests, they too have significantly increased speed from last year. This years Minardi qualified in Brazil with a time that would have taken pole last year. So even they progress. Limiting testing I think has very little effect.

Another thing I suspect is that the main costs involved are still research and systems costs. These costs are then amortised over each lap of testing to produce a cost per lap. In management accounting circles, this is known as average costing. This I believe is errorneous and misleading. The marginal cost of testing cannot be as high as some of the teams have mentioned. Besides I think teams like Minardi and Jordan without the superb wind tunnels and systems of teams like Ferrari would benefit more from real world development on the track in testing.

7. Allow teams to purchase cars

In Indycars, teams are allowed to build their own chassis or purchase them from a manufacturer. By constrast, in Formula 1 all teams must build their own chassis. Building your own chassis implies design, research and development costs. Why not allow teams to purchase their cars from other teams or specialist manufacturers? In this way, a company like Dallara or Lola for instance can design and build Formula 1 chassis for supply to teams like Minardi and Jordan. The research and development costs of the cars can be spread over a larger volume of cars and thus reduce the unit costs of the cars. Some people argue that teams like Ferrari and McLaren want the exclusivity of their cars. Well, no one is forcing them to supply cars to other teams. But at least allow for the smaller teams the option to buy their cars elsewhere. I do not see how this would make Formula 1 any less prestigious. After all, if Dallara can produce cars for sale that are faster than Ferraris then let Ferrari try to challenge them. Dallara in that case would still be making the best chassis with all the accompanying high tech.

If this were allowed, then teams like Jordan and Minardi would simply need to find the budget to run the cars and not having to spend so much on research. By doing this, wouldn't this be a better way to cut costs for teams rather than some of the more contrived and artificial measures dreamed by the FIA? Measures that in the end will not work because a team like Ferrari would still be spending all their money in different areas to work around the rules.

Imagine a Formula 1 where a Dallara-Mugen operated by Minardi for instance, challenges the might of the manufactuer teams like Ferrari and Renault. Wouldn't that add some spice and variety to Formula 1? At the end of the day, are we all not tired of seeing the same bloody bunch of people winning all the time?

8. Drop Singe Lap Qualifying, Bring Back Unlimited Laps

Let's face it. One lap qualifying is a complete joke. It is utterly boring. The little teams especially Jordan love to complain that single lap qualifying gives his cars a chance at guranteed television exposure. Well, guess what? When I know its teams like Jordan and Minardi on a hot lap, I stop watching and do other stuff anyway. I would guess that its the same with a lot of people. I would go further to state that since single lap qualifying was introduced a lot of people have simply stopped watching qualifying altogether. Teams like Minardi and Jordan should realise that during the old 12 lap and unlimted lap hour format, you had a full television audience who usually watched the entire qualifying session. I know I watched countless Minardi qualifying runs in the past because of this. Hence, I would imagine that teams like Minardi actually got more exposure from qualifying then the case today. I know that the teams that go first are usually the minnows and I simply don't bother. In the old days, I'd watch the whole of qualifying because sometimes you got one or two of the faster cars doing their first few runs at the start of qualifying. What a lot of fans miss including myself, is the qualifying battles that raged on. The sight of Senna duelling with Prost time and again over one hour to see who could set the fastest lap was absolutely enthralling. They simply went faster and faster. The thrill and anticipation of seeing the lap time was thus repeated again and again over that one hour. Who can forget the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying session when Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher were involved in a mega battle for the front row in that deciding round of the championship? We are no longer treated to such spectacles. Lets face another thing. Michael Schumacher qualifying in 18th and making his way up no longer holds much thrills since you know that his car is so fast, it really is a piece of cake for him. Even when he spins as in China, you couldn't care less. So in the interest of the spectators, why not simply give up the current stupidity and just give us more good battles we can watch. I am sure there are many who would agree with me that in the old days, the qualifying sessions were as good as if not better than the race proper. Nowadays, more often than not, I'd rather watch reruns of Dark Angel on Star Sports.

In conclusion, I believe somewhere along the lines the FIA have got things dreadfully wrong. They are concentrating on reducing costs. I argue that costs cannot be reduced. In motor racing teams will spend any amount they can in order to win. That is the nature of the sport. That is the nature of any sport for that matter. The measures to reduce costs by the FIA will fail and fail miserably. Instead of reducing costs, they should concentrate on measures that will improve the competitiveness of all teams and improve the spectacle of Formula 1. It is the same with speed reduction measures that are being implemented. These are very much highly artificial in nature and will be clawed back very shortly. The one engine rule this year was meant to reduce power outputs, costs and speed. It failed. Engines are ever more powerful with people like Honda whispering 1000 bhp. Cars go ever more quicker, in some cases 5 seconds a lap quicker. Ferrari continues to dominate. Fans continue to be bored. The FIA should look into the real fundamentals of the sport and look at working around the true nature of racing. Also, increasing the revenues from the sport to the teams will also relieve the pressures of competing in Formula 1.

I doubt if these things are going to happen what with rule changes imminent. However, I urge fans to voice their opinions. Without us, there would be no Formula 1 after all. It is the advertising dollars from sponsors wanting to reach us that are paying for the sport. So, really, we should have a say in this.