News and views on motorsports

Sunday, June 13, 2004

End of an Era

I've been reading Autosport almost as long as I've followed motor racing. That is to say a long time. It's becoming a habit to browse their headlines first before any other activity when I'm on the net.

Alas, this is all coming to a sad ending. They are going the way of my other favourite F1 site, Atlas F1, by going to a subscription only model. This truly sucks. Perhaps, magazine subscriptions have decreased or perhaps they're just being greedy but surely, they can make the news free. Lots of other websites still do it. I don't understand why they need to make us pay for the news.

All in all, I absolutely refuse to pay to read F1 news, so unfortunately I will no longer be recommending Autosport as an excellent source of F1 news. I guess I will be frequenting more often from now on. And it's time to trove other news sources as well.

Its really very sad. I was going to subscribe to Autosport online anyways to read their technical articles but now, forget it. Well, I'm sure Autosport are driving away thousands of people from their website with the latest move. I guess they still have old school mentalities over there.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Sign of the times

Revealed on Autosport:

Mercedes-Benz chairman J├╝rgen Hubbert has launched a scathing attack on his own West McLaren Mercedes F1 programme. He told German newspaper Bild: "We went to extremes regarding the chassis and engine. That was a mistake. The current engine is a huge problem. It is not powerful enough and, as we went for more power, the reliability went down." He also suggested that Ilmor chief Mario Illien used pistons in the recent European GP which "were not proven enough".

After all the PR junk spewed out by McLaren, finally a guy who's talking tough. I'd hate to see what it's like in Woking now. The pressure must be enormous. If I were Mercedes, I'd be pretty disgusted with things myself. Their last world title is now 5 years ago. Five long, dreadful and hard years. At the end of the 2000 championship Norbert Haug was saying that he hoped that they could make it another 20 years before Ferrari won their next drivers title. Well, disappointingly this hasn't happened. Ferrari's dominance continues to set unprecedented records. There has never been a run of wins like this ever.

Here we have the Mercedes and McLaren guys making promises they just haven't been keeping. Its inevitable when a manufacturer gets tied up in this the highest levels of motorsports, that all its mistakes are made glaringly obvious. Its a high pressure cooker environment. Reputations are very much at stake. The Mercedes reputation is taking a nose dive for the worse.

I have mentioned before that McLaren's focus on its team is wavering. The move to the new Technical Centre, building silly Mercedes road cars, even building the excellent F1 road car and constructing lavishly overblown motorhomes are all signs of drawing their focus away from the most important activity of all, the Formula 1 team itself. Furthermore, this headline does not inspire confidence at all.

It's all getting really silly. Perhaps at the end of the day, Ron Dennis wants out of Formula 1 altogether?

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Ominous Signs

In this headline, Jenson Button is once again aiming for a victory at Montreal. He goes on in this headline that he a maiden victory at Silverstone "would be the most amazing thing." More PR work at play here? Or are BAR once again exuding over-confidence.

In light of this revelation by Michelin Boss and this warning by Michael Schumacher, I think Button will have to wait till next season to score his maiden grand prix victory.

The McLaren MP4/19B that made its testing debut recently looks promising but its just way too new. With the upcoming testing ban, I simply doubt McLaren have the time to make its new charge reach its ultimate potential. McLaren are in danger of looking really stupid. In days past, McLaren were simply the most organised Formula 1 team of all. Now it seems that it is in complete shambles. I suspect this business with the new tech centre to be a major culprit. Playing catch up in the middle of the season has never worked. It didn't work for Ferrari in 97, 98 and it won't work for McLaren now no matter what they do. And what of next year's car? That still needs to be developed unless the 19B takes up all of their focus. In which case, they'll be catching up again next year. Ron, Ron, Ron. What the hell are you doing? Perhaps its best they just quit the season now. Simply stop developing the MP4/19 and give all resources to developing a MP4/20 instead. What's the worst that could happen? After all they are qualifying in the midddle of Saubers and Jordans now anyway.

The Ferrari in Michael Schumacher's hands is just way too fast for anyone to cope. Perhaps the only place where anyone has a fighting chance is the "Monaco of the East" Hungaroring track later in the year. OK, so Shanghai is a big unknown. Still, given that it's a Hermann Tilke designed dog and that Ferrari have always done well on his tracks, I'd say it's advantage Schumacher all the way.

I think it's probably in everyone's mind at the moment that should Michael Schumacher retire from Formula 1, the championship would once again be a very interesting event to watch. Barrichello is not infalliable and simply cannot drive the scarlet car as well as Schumacher. My guess is Schumacher will not retire until his contract with Ferrari runs out in 2006. I would also guess he is going for the century mark in terms of race victories. Yes, that means 100 grand prix victories. A tally unheard of, unless perhaps you're in American NASCAR racing I believe. This would establish Michael firmly as the all time great, the Michael Jordan of Formula 1. I still say, a lot of those victories have been fortuitous and won in the face of spineless teammates, but I cannot deny the victory tally. The last important record still to be beaten is Ayrton Senna's pole position record but that soon will fall.

Michael has always maintained that records do not interest him. I beg to differ. I believe it is foremost in his mind. Get ready for a long a dreary few years ahead.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Same Old Same Old

Have a look at or Autosport's headlines these days and you will inevitably find drivers comments about their preparations for the next race or next few races. Invariably you find the same headlines being repeated: "Montoya looking forward to Canada," or "Sato looking forward to Canada." You also find similar quotes like "we have been working very hard to find a right set up for the next race."

It seems there is a standard party line from teams' PR department to their drivers, who simply parrot these same quotes again and again before each race. It is becoming quite stale and yawningly boring. I wish these guys had something to SAY everytime they speak. What comes out of their mouths these days are just pure PR talk.

I hate to say it again, but this is just another sign of the corporate takeover of Formula 1. And I hate to say it again, that I wish for times past when drivers were more free to say what the hell they wanted. And they usually did.

Ralf Schumacher's quote here, JPM's quote here are just sooo upbeat and touchy feely aren't they? I suppose they have corporate sponsors HP to appease but I sure wish they'd just call it like it really is. The Williams FW26 is a dog. Fighting for scraps are all that they can really hope to achieve.

This headline is the same as Ralf's Schumacher's. Both him and Heidfeld are "looking forward to Canada." Please Nick. What do you really have to look forward to? Positive preparations? You've been kicked out of a middle rate team into a bottom feeder, and if someone else comes along with a bucket load of cash you're gonna be kicked out of that too.

I think the sport could really use Jacques Villeneuve here. Even Juan Pablo Montoya it seems is towing the corporate line. Perhaps I think he's just tired and quite fed up of waiting for a chance of having a good car from the start of the season.

At least Martin Witmarsh has the guts to admit here that McLaren are really in shambles. Tell us something we don't already know Martin. Like has Adrian Newey really lost it now? Like when are you going to get fired? Or when Mercedes will actually do something about their damned engines. Why don't you come out and tell us that all this corporate pampering is really damaging the focus of your team. Like that new tech centre seems a waste of cash.