News and views on motorsports

Monday, May 31, 2004

The Ultimate Circuit

The May 2004 issue of F1Racing magazine has a very interesting feature called "The Ultimate Circuit." What they have done is to take together all the greatest corners, curves and chicanes from circuits from around the world, combined them all into one single circuit.

The corners were selected by interviewing a selection of racing drivers, Formula 1 technical directors and engineers and even some journalists. Among them include Michael Schumacher, Niki Lauda, Gerhard Berger, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Webber, Patrick Head, Gary Anderson and a host of other people.

After selecting the corners for the ultimate circuit, F1 Racing magazine called upon Hermann Tilke, yes the same one lambasted on this blog for his atrocious circuit designs, to bring all the corners together to make the ultimate circuit. At first, when I read his name, my heart immediately sank. However, looking at the final circuit diagram, it was a releif because it was actually well done.

The only thing I have to say is that not one of the people interviewed gave a single corner from a circuit designed by Hermann Tilke, with the exception of Mark Webber who liked the Nuburgring chicane at Magny Cours. Magny Cours as you may know actually copies a lot of corners from other race tracks. I have no doubt the Nurburgring chicane actually comes from the Nurburgring circuit.

But Mark's choice is only one out of seventeen corners selected. Most of the corners were fast ones as you may have guessed. They come from mostly older circuits. Of course Eau Rouge was featured. The old Osterreichring's (now A1 ring) Boschkurve was another. Michael Schumacher loves the 130R at Suzuka. Brands Hatch sequence of fast corners starting from Hawthorn to Westfield to Dingle Dell was another popular choice. Now these are people who know what it's all about. As a long time spectator of the sport I really miss the old circuits that were super fast and far more spectacular than the bland varities on offer these days.

So you see Hermann Tilke, no one likes your slow hairpin infested circuits. You f***ing idiot!! Interestingly, Tilke estimates the ultimate circuit would cost something in the region of half a billion dollars to build. He is also quoted as saying "If I could build something like that, it would be even longer, with even more corners..." Yeah, no doubt you would infest it with hairpin upon hairpin just like the ones you build now.

Hermann Tilke is just another example of the FIAs and FOAs ludicrous running of the sport today. They've completely made it Mikey Mouse and its time fans spoke out against the stupidity. This Malaysian racing fan, fully condemns the design of Sepang with its drag race upon drag race. So good is it for a drag race that once every couple of months, a drag race event is held there in front of the pit straight. Best circuit in the world? Look again cronies.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Vitantonio Liuzzi is at it again

This Monaco weekend has been a good one for former World Karting Champions. As everyone knows of course, multiple world championship winner Jarno Trulli scored his first ever grand prix victory. Also winning for the third time this year in the F3000 support race was Vitantonia Liuzzi, World Kart Champion for year 2002.

In years past, Jarno's record in karting is absolutely unbelievable. He's won the world, European, Italian and North American Kart titles. In the world of karting, he's like the Michael Schumacher. It's great seeing someone who graduated from perhaps the very purest form of racing finally winning in Formula 1.

Liuzzi may not have had Jarno's past karting record but he graduated from straight into the German Formula 3 championship for year 2003. His maiden year saw him winning but once in the championship. I haven't actually watched this guy race so I can't comment on his driving style but from looking at his results, he's had quite a challenging first year in single seater Formula racing.

This year he's moved up a step and is now competing in the Formula 3000 championship, that last step of the ladder before Formula 1. In his second year racing single seaters, he has now won three out of three in that championship. His victories have not been perfect as they have not always been from pole but he's there when it counts, at the finish line.

Are we seeing another Kimi Raikkonen or Jarno Trulli in action here, I wonder. Well, we've seen some magnificent performers in junior formulae before that bombed out when taking that step into Formula 1. Anyone remember Jan Magnussen, winner of the British Formula 3 championship (along the way beating Aryton Senna's record for victories in a single season)? Or how about the perennial loser Jos Verstappen? Superb in karts, winner in the German Formula 3. Completely outclassed by Michael Schumacher at Benetton and a pretty average performer in all his teams?

Only time will tell and I watch Liuzzi's performances with great interest. I am certain he's also catching the eye of some of the managers, though there doesn't seem to be any Formula 1 tests in the horizon. I surely hope he does well. I'd think he deserves a shot at the top flight more than Verstappen at any rate.

In the meantime, I'm suddenly interested in buying a Trulli kart, built by the company run by Jarno's dad. Now if only the Euro would depreciate slightly to make it more affordable.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Ralf Schumacher: You're a lemon

I am watching the Monaco Grand Prix as we watch this and they're still under a safety car period after Fernando Alonso's accident in the tunnel. Oh and by the way, at this time Michael Schumacher has just been bumped by Juan Pablo Montoya into the tunnel wall. He's broken his car's nose and his wishbone is broken. He's out. Hooray! He's pretty mad though. He's just slammed something in the Ferrari pits.

Anyways, Ralf was the cause of Alonso's accident. By the looks of things he must have been super slow in the tunnel and caught Alonso by surprise. Alonso, albeit foolishly tried to pass him on the outside in the tunnel, ran into the marbles and slammed on the outside of the tunnel. Really, if he was going to be slow then Ralf Schumacher should have been the one letting Alonso through by staying on the outside himself. He's been such a nuisance this whole race this Ralf Schumacher has been.

Thankfully, Montoya took Michael out but otherwise that could have been a major decisive factor against a Renault win, possibly. But this isn't the point of this post. I just have to speak out against Ralf. Yes, he's been criticized quite heavily already during this Monaco weekend. But this is justified I think.

Let's look at his early career in Formula 1. Totally outclassed by Giancarlo Fisichella in the Jordan team in 1997. He was then picked up by Williams in 1999. He's never really impressed the way his brother has and in fact has proven to be absolutely beatable. Yet, here he is now demanding an exorbitant salary from Frank Williams with the aid of his glutton manager, Willi Webber.

Ralf Schumacher is not his brother. Not by a long shot. And I do not give much regarding his technical abilities neither, also unlike his brother. Really the only thing he's got that's better than Michael Schumacher is his porn star looking wife. His performances this season has not impressed at all although to his credit the 2004 Williams looks like and probably is a dog.

Overall, he's a lemon demanding a world champion's salary. And if he doesn't get it at Williams, word has it that he'll move to Toyota. I should think Toyota would probably be better off spending that money on the car and recruiting a driver who's better value for money. David Coulthard for instance is one man who could really spearhead the development of the Toyota. Jacques Villeneuve is another.

Incidents like this at Monaco does his reputation little good and really, I have to say that I've always had reservations about Ralf and he should not be in Formula 1 at all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Luca and the NSX

In previous posts, I have lambasted the Ferrari team for being a political cronie type organisation. However, I am not blind to the fact that they have won 5 consecutive world drivers titles and 6 constructors' titles. Whilst much of this unprecedented upturn in Ferrari form in recent years is due in no small part to Michael Schumacher, nevertheless, one cannot deny the fact that the chief architect to Ferrari's grand plans is Luca di Montezemolo.

Yes, I hate the crap he dishes out at times. Heck, I hate the crap that the entire Ferrari team dishes out. But I have to admit, this guy is a man who has the right stuff. For he not only made the Formula 1 operation the class of the field, he has also managed to revitalise the Ferrari automobile division as well.

In the 80s and early 90s, Ferrari was producing really horrible cars. The Testarossa was quite a nice thing to look at, however, side by side with a Porsche or Lamborghini, it would be beatean sight unseen. The Ferrari 328s may be a classic but cars like the Lotus Esprit Turbo and the Honda NSX would simply leave it eating exhaust fumes. Even its replacement the Ferrari 348, would have its face stuffed in the mud.

The only people who seemed to defend the scarlet cars were the motoring hacks at the time. Pitted against that paragon of engineering, the Honda NSX, they would applaud the Ferrari 348 and its "soul." Never mind that it handled like crap. The Japanese they reckoned could never produce a car to truly challenge the cars from Maranello.

And yet, the people who knew better knew that these journalists were talking complete rubbish. I suspect these motoring hacks (especially European ones) were trying to defend their territory and not let the sports car industry in Europe fall victim as had the motorcycle industry, to Japanese supremacy.

McLaren engineer Gordon Murray who designed the McLaren F1 owned an NSX, for instance. And this was a man who really knew cars. Luca loved it as well. He had one shipped to Maranello and told the Ferrari engineers to drive it and build a car that was as usable and better. The result of course, was the Ferrari F355.

What did Luca think of the Ferrari Testarossa? A "show off." The 348 he deemed "the worst Ferrari I've ever driven." So much for the emotional sentiments of motoring journalists. Ultimately then it was victory for the Honda NSX that proved a point that supercars need not be a dog to be a challenge. Driving a wonderfully balanced and sorted car was more satisfying than trying to tame a terminally oversteering or understeering bitch.

However, the motoring hacks did get their way in a sense. Honda thereafter altered the handling characteristics of the NSX to make it more of a "challenge" to inject more "soul." The Honda NSX Type S Zero was proudly introduced by Honda as being a car that was "difficult to drive." How did these motoring journalists respond to that? They called it a dog. Honda just couldn't win.

But Luca was smart enough to see that Honda had got it right the first time. And he envisioned future Ferrari models that were easier to live with and produced more satisfaction derived from a well balanced machine.

I must salute him for that. For he has proven himself a man not only of vision but of the correct vision to move that most emotional icon of motoring into the 21st century.

And of course, at the same time he totally revamped the Ferrari Formula 1 team or the squadra from a bunch of losers to the current standard setter. Hail Luca!

Thursday, May 13, 2004

McLaren's new base opened

This story by Autosport today tells of the official launch of McLaren's new Technology Centre. It reminded me about a comment Niki Lauda made some years ago regarding Ron Dennis and McLaren. If I remember correctly it had something to do with the fact that Ron is now very busy trying to build empires rather than focusing on the racing team.

I couldn't agree more. Building the albeit superb F1 supercar, building enormous motor homes, constructing a shiny new Tech Centre, assembling the new SLR Mercedes. I mean that has got to take his focus on the most important matter of all. The Formula 1 operation.

I hope this nonsense will stop soon. Look at the diabolical start to the season so far. McLarens used to battle for the wins. Now they are making hard work of finishing in 10th when they do finish. Something is dreadfully wrong with this team. It cannot be due to a lack of funds what with Mercedes pouring enormous resources into the team.

At least Toyota is doing something about its current problems. Race after race, fans are promised by the drivers, Ron Dennis, Norbert Haug and all the rest that "hard work" will continue and improvements will come and B spec machines constructed. It's starting to get very stale. McLaren have been failing their drivers for years now. And that's very sad to see. Yeah, hard work. They certainly seem to be making hard work out of things.

I think a new technical director could be the answer. Clearly, Adrian Newey is running out of ideas. His reputation as the best technical director in the business is fast becoming history. The Brawn - Byrne combo is certainly proving time and again that there are better solutions out there. To be fair, Adrian had in the past indicated that he would retire from Formula 1 soon. After being retained by McLaren after the Jaguar affair some years ago, he indicated that he would be retiring in a few years. That few years has already come. Exit visas and permanent gardening leave are imminent. Or should be at any rate.

In conclusion, I just say again to Ron Dennis. Stop all these big grandiose plans that have nothing to do with Formula 1. Cut back the marketing crap. Concentrate on the team. You are seriously disappointing all your fans.