News and views on motorsports

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.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Dismal Toyota

Three years into Formula 1. A huge budget. Lacklustre results. It seems this year, the team in fact has gone backwards. What exactly is going on?

I think the team was started upon very shaky foundations to begin with. The team was established by building upon Toyota Team Europe (TTE), the motorsport arm of Toyota based in Cologne, Germany. Infamous for being caught with cheating in the World Rally Championship, TTE also managed a somewhat successful foray in sports cars. Their fundamental problem is being based in Germany. It was very advantageous to have the rally operation, which uses Toyota road cars as a base. Formula 1 cars however are very specialized machines, having nothing to do with the road cars.

However, TTE originally starting in Cologne, decided that the Toyota F1 team should be based on the same premises. A huge mistake. In the first place, due to the specialized nature of Formula 1, rally and sports car mechanics and engineers simply have no clue on what to expect. (Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne aside of course). You need a pool of F1 experienced personnel to succeed really. And the vast majority of such engineers would be based in England not Germany. To get those engineers to relocate to Germany is somewhat more difficult. Cologne after all is not Maranello. Incidentally Maranello trains their own engineers fresh from University.

So, you've got a bunch of clueless engineers and a very difficult job of recruiting those engineers that really know what's going on. Recruiting Mike Gascoyne was of course a good move. Mike is a technical director. That means he decides the general technical direction of the team and he organizes the technical infrastructure of the team in such a way that maximizes and streamlines the work output of engineers. He of course is responsible for recruiting those engineers to fit them to the technical organization he requires. In Germany, this is a difficult thing to do. Whereas in England, he could simply dismiss redundant employees and hire those that he needs, in Germany this is more difficult to do. In that country, you simply do not have the flexibility to simply dismiss employees due to the labour laws.

This is a fundamental flaw of the team currently. That is to say, they are simply located in the wrong country. It lacks a pool of talented Formula 1 experienced engineers, there are difficulties in hiring those engineers you need and there are difficulties to get rid of useless engineers. Toyota's money is being spent inefficiently.

This could all have been avoided had they decided to base themselves in England. But that's what happens when you had a inexperienced team principal in Ove Andersson, their original team boss.

Though I currently drive a Toyota I find it hard to be passionate about this team. I simply think that this team is just too marketing driven. I get the impression that people like Honda for instance are there to give experience to their engineers in a pressure cooker situation requiring lots of innovation. Toyota to my mind, are in it simply to raise their profile even further, as if they need it, to sell yet more cars. This team reeks of corporate marketing crap. More so than even McLaren with Mercedes spewing out marketing exploitation with Mercedes.

Viewed in this light, Ferrari seems to be the most "pure" of racing teams. Yeah, I still dislike their politics with the FIA but they really don't need the Formula 1 team to sell more cars. Their cars are always sold out with demand far outstripping supply. So, really the Formula 1 team is purely a sporting effort.

It is interesting to note, that teams with the most marketing exploitation, read Toyota, BMW Williams and McLaren Mercedes are performing absolutely horridly. See the teams above them this year. BAR-Honda, Renault and of course Ferrari. Very little marketing exploitation. Their focus are concentrated mostly on the racing. Their fans are much happier. McLaren being my favourite team, mainly due to their history with some of my favourite drivers ever, have continually disappointed me over the last few seasons.

I don't see Toyota solving their problems any time soon. If this were 10 years ago, I think with the unlimited testing available, Toyota could get their programme back on track very quickly. With the testing limitations these days, it'll take them a long long time. And yes, that means that the current regulations are also part of the problem.

Marketing exploitation also means that their choice of drivers are indeed very very suspect. I mean choosing to run the hapless Cristiano de Matta for instance. A journeyman driver at best. Sure you can make it in America with that level of talent. And indeed his marketability in America was the main factor for his choice. But this is Formula 1 and you simply need the best.

It's all wrong at Toyota and its hard to get it right. Mike Gascoyne is in for a very very hard time I believe. If he really can turn it around then kudos to him. Ralf Schumacher in the form he's been lately could also turn out to be another factor to boost Toyota's fortunes. If he was his brother, I'd say Toyota have an excellent chance. Ralf doesn't have it. He couldn't get it right with BMW Williams, I wouldn't give him much of a chance with Toyota.

I hope I will eventually be proven wrong. And I will stand corrected if I am. But I prefer to sit down, thanks very much.

Friday, October 22, 2004

End Of Buttongate: Now call DC

David Coulthard may not be the most popular driver in the world. His reputation in fact has taken a severe beating in recent times. Outdriven first by one Mika Hakkinen and now by the mecurial Kimi Raikkonen. Unable to get to grips with the one lap qualifying. Though I sympathize with him on that. It's a stupid idiotic qualifying format. Give me the old 12 lap style. Or better yet give me the old days when you could run balls out for as many laps as you wished for one hour. Sometimes, it takes one lap for a driver to warm up before he can go flat out. I think DC is one of those drivers.

Nevertheless, given these less than flattering performances, I should think DC is still the best candidate for the Williams drive. Mark Webber is a superb driver. To me, he is the one who reminds me most of Michael Schumacher, in the sense that he is consistently quick and produces solid performances, one after another. In this his third season in Formula 1, he has gained lots of experience and is ready for an assault on the driver's title.

DC on the other hand, has not been consistent at all in the McLaren. Regularly blown away by Kimi and often seen languishing in the most unflattering of spots figthing for eigth or ninth for the scraps of points. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that he knows he is in a team that no longer wants him in the long term. This would have a great psychological impact on him. Look at Montoya, the man who is replacing him. He knew way back in 2003 that this season would be his last at Williams. And just like DC, his performance has been completely rubbish. Both these men just don't have the motivation, that extra 50% required.

By his own admission, DC does not want to quit. I mean, who does? I remember Gerhard Berger's final season in 1997. It was heartache to be in a position where no team would hire him once Benetton (now Renault) decided to let him go. However, Gerhard I felt, no longer had that determination to keep on staying. He certainly gave up quite easily in the end. Certainly, his attempts to stay in Formula 1 are no where near as intense as DC, who's lobbying left right and center for a place in an outfit.

That determination is proof I believe, that given the right circumstances, he has at least one world title in him. Just as Mansell was rubbish in the Lotus before moving to Williams in 1985, so I think DC would excel in the same situation. Perhaps not with the same flair but certainly enough I believe to go head to head and keep Mr Webber honest. Frank Williams and Patrick Head are enough of the old school I believe to want two equally quick and determined drivers in the team. Their priority of course is the constructor's title, drivers championship be damned. For that they need two drivers who will push each other, but hopefully not to bits. Incidentally, I don't think Mark Webber has had any team mate his equal. It would be interesting to see how he fares with a team mate equally good (if DC turns out to be that).

Williams' other candidates such as Antonio Pizzonia I don't think would succeed. He's good in testing but come the race, Pizzonia completely fails to impress me. He got beat by Mark Webber in the Jaguar and he got beat by Mark Webber in a Williams. Somehow, I think he wouldn't be able to live with Mark given the same machinery. Frank Williams does not want that I should think. I believe Frank wants someone to challenge Mark all the way. After all, if Frank really were the type to pamper the needs of just one driver ala Michael Schumacher, he wouldn't have tried to sign Button.

DC is his best choice. I would certainly like to see him in Williams next year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Fuck Bernie Ecclestone

I promised never to put the four letter word on a headline on this Blog. Unfortunately, that greedy little shite Bernie Ecclestone has been so determined over the last few months, he's managed to do exactly that.

Ths issue at hand is of course the British Grand Prix. Todays headlines on simply states that the race is dead. You can read that headline here. What is more infuriating is that he's had the temerity and the audacity to state here, that the BRDC doesn't want the British Grand Prix. A longer take on the story can be found on Planet F1 here.

To quote Das Greedy Bernie: "You cannot keep trying to sell something to people who don't want to buy - it is a fact of business." Fuck you Bernie. It is you who doesn't want a British Grand Prix. It is you who so wish to take out classic events one by one, all in the name of your goddamned bank account. As you put it: "I have a country knocking down my door for a race who are prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build a state-of-the-art circuit for F1 in the 21st century, and make a guaranteed commitment to pay substantially more that we have agreed to accept from the BRDC."

So it's come down to this hasn't it? Governments desparate for attention with blank cheques to you get to run events on dreadfully bland circuits designed by your cohorts. All paid for by the taxpayers of those countires. The world championship is not all about money you fucking moron. It is at heart a sport. Something you obviously completely lost touch with. It is about testing the best drivers on the best DRIVERS circuits in the world. It is about entertaining spectators on both television and trackside with the true abilities of the Formula 1 cars and their drivers. It is something which your much vaunted "modern" circuits, those dogs called Sepang, Shanghai and Bahrain have consistently failed to do.

You have completely lost touch with those people who have actually supported and MADE the world championship to what it is today. The true racing fans who appreciate good RACING and not necessarily "modern" or "comfortable" circuits. All this in addition to provoking the anger of the other major part of the championship, that is the teams themselves. Their numbers grow smaller as years go by and as your pocket grows fatter with fans', taxpayers' and advertisers' cash.

We yearn for a good championship every year. And every year you do something to take that championship away from us. This is exactly what happens when greed and corruption persists. You love dealing with corrupt governments and greedy corporations. And it is their people and the fans of Formula 1 that pay the price.

Formula 1 would simply not be Formula 1 without the "core" races like the British, French, Italian, San Marino, Belgian, Japanese and Spanish Grands Prix. These are the birth events of the championship, the heart of the motor racing world. All the great world champions cut their teeth in the junior formulae in these countries. And it is in these countries that future world champions are made, no matter where they come from. It is in these countries that the teams come from and where competitors from around the world want to succeed in.

Just who gives a fuck about a stupid Turkish Grand Prix or an Indian or Pakistani Grand Prix? Just what is Bahrain's claim on the motorsport industry as a whole let alone the automotive industry? Just a sand dune full of people with too much money driving posh cars. Nothing more. For that matter, why persist with the Hungarian Grand Prix on that mickey mouse circuit?

The pinnacle of motorsport should be about the RACING. Not about country promotion or greedy businessmen chasing the money. The money people in countries like Malaysia, Turkey, Bahrain just don't have a clue about racing. Nor do any of the corporate people you like to hang out with. The fans know. You just won't listen to us.

The Formula 1 world championship has become increasingly a boring corporate driven market place. The fans are simply sick and tired of you Bernie. I for one, hope you will die soon enough, you short old greedy fart; Since it doesn't look like you will step aside, what with your 100 year contract to run Formula 1.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Sauber on Michelins

Well the latest on the F1 grapevine is that either BAR or Toyota will switch to Bridgestones next year. I can't say I'm too surprised. BAR is practically the Honda team and will probably officially so sometime in the future. Both Honda and Toyota are of course Japanese. More importantly, given how Sauber has performed on the Bridgestones this year I'd say that both the Japanese teams will be giving this some deep consideration.

After last years performance dip, Bridgestone have recovered this year and by the record have murdered the Michelin teams once again. Of course, they do hide the fact that this year they have pretty muched aped the Michelins by going for a wider construction tyre, sacrificing some aerodynamic drag efficiency for more grip. So much for Ross Brawn telling us last year that Bridgestones have narrower constructions more in line with the spirit of the rules.

However, Sauber are rumoured to be switching to Michelins which makes make some sense. Not for them but for Ferrari. Sauber have long been Ferrari's bitch. Of course, Sauber will unzip their collective pants, bend over and supply all the Michelin data to their sugar mum.

Okay, that was a bit crass. But really, am I the only one who is sick to death of Ferrari's machinations? And really, it may be crass but its also going to be true. With all their monetary resources and facilities, do Ferrari really need to go stoop so low. I know the name of the game is to win. But as usual, this is about sport. There should be some modicum of fair play.

Peter Sauber should really have more sense of pride in him. After all, he began well in Formula 1. The first Sauber in 1994 was quite a quick little number. In those days of course they were powered by Ilmor and sporting the "Concept by Mercedes" legend on their airbox fairings. Now, he's resorted to merely surviving. Eddie Jordan stated that he could never be in nor understand Peter Sauber's position. That is to say, to be in a position where he has no chance of winning because their engines are second hand inferior Ferrari units.

Look elsewhere Peter. And I really hope Michelin does not give him their tyres no matter how inferior those tyres may be. Sigh. I guess my next set of tyres just might be Bridgestones.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Round Ups

Been a while since I posted. Partly due to work. Partly just plain laziness and partly because I was just absolutely turned off with Blogger for all the errors that have come up whenever I try to create a new post. Not very good lads.

Anyway, since the last time, Barrichello won at Monza and the horrible Shanghai circuit. Mind you, not horrible in terms of the facilities or infrastructure but the circuit layout is a standard Hermann Tilke affair. I really hate this guy. The Shanghai circuit is a lot like Sepang. The first turn is the a ridiculous 270 degree hairpin that just goes on frustratingly forever, which leads off to another slow corner before a straight. Much like Sepang's first and second corner. In the second sector of Shanghai we are treated to perhaps its fastest series of turns which is a "stupendously" fast 4th gear corner. Fourth? When a modern car has seven gears!! Sure, there's always that long-ish straight but really, unless your car is massively quicker and I mean Schumacher Ferrari quick then you're not going to see much overtaking.

If you examine Tilke's circuits they are pretty much the same. Very artificial and have none of the charm of the great road circuits in Europe. But they just keep building more of these dogfests. Next year of course, we'll see another one in Turkey. I mean, goddamn, Turkey?? And for this they want to axe the British Grand Prix at Silverstone?

This is perhaps the most devastating news in the last couple of months in Grand Prix Racing. What is seems to me is just plain greed which happens when you have businessmen running sport. No Mr Ecclestone, sport should not be run like a business. It should be sport. Sure cronie laden countries in the Middle and Far East would pay any amount of money to Bernie to get noticed. But just how does it benefit the fans?

Bernie says that fans visiting circuits like Sepang and Shanghai get superb facilities blah blah blah. Yeah, and he and Tilke get money from the governments financing the construction of those circuits. Then to run the Grand Prix those same circuits pay a TON of money to him for the privilege every year. Again, financed by the government who of course uses taxpayers money for it.

Look I'm all for spectator comfort. And Bernie can really make all the money in the world I don't care. But I just want to see good racing. On great circuits like Spa for instance. Besides I just see 1 race in a year on location. I sit on the hills doing it. It is the TV audience that counts. From TV, watching a Shanghai or Sepang procession is absolutely boring. The Spa spectator may not see much of the Spa circuit. But from TV, the circuit is absolutely spectacular. Besides, with modern big screen TVs most spectators these days can just watch that. Why would I need to see the whole view from the circuit?

Of course what Bernie means by spectator comfort is much to do with corporate spectator comfort. Yes, those frequented by politicians, their cronies, corporate fat cats. I mean hell, are these people real Formula 1 fans? I very very much doubt it. I've followed the world championship for 20 years. After a few years these so called fans these days will probably stop watching.

And yes, at the heart of it, it's people like me who keep the world championship alive. When all the other casual fans have stopped watching, it's the hard core fans that make up the numbers. Hard core fans like me though are pretty fed up with this intense profiteering at the expense of good racing circuits and good racing.

If Bernie loses us, in the long run there will be no world championship. But really what does he care. In the long run that old man will be dead and I guess he knows this.

I'm all for a new world championship. Run by sports people instead of businessmen. A new world championship that doesn't give a goddamn to bloody politicians and cronies and fat cats. One that for once, decides to give the fans a real treat. Think BTCC in the 1990s. But on a global scale. OK, so the money would be so huge without fat cats but it will be enjoyable. And if the fans come so will the fat cats. Except that they would have to dance to the fans' tune not the other way around.

Heaven Is A Place Called Nordschleife

I just picked up the August 2004 issue of the world famous video magazine, Best Motoring. What a bumper issue it turned out to be. I suggest you pick it up. Viewers are entertained by a group test / race of so-called "Super Sports" sports cars including the Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale, Lamborghini Gallardo, Porsche 911 GT3 CS and BMW M3 CSL. The issue also include an "impression" test of the Porsche Carrera GT conducted of course by the infamous Mr. Gan at the Suzuka racetrack. Where else?

Additionally, we are treated to a few laps of the Nurburgring cicuit in the latest Spec C Subaru Impreza WRX STi. No I am not talking about the dumbed down Hermann Tilke dogfest plaguing the Formula 1 Grand Prix schedule. I am talking about the original bad ass Nordschleife. Truth be told, I have only known this circuit by reputation. Journalists, racing drivers and motoring enthusiasts cannot seem to get enough of this track. A test driver was once quoted by a journalist to have said the following as he was taking a drive on the hallowed circuit with said journalist: "I want to die here."

Having seen Mr Gan in action in the Scooby, I finally know what he means. In my version of heaven, I would have the Nordschleife in my backyard. Over 20, yes twenty, kilometers in length or call it near 13 miles long. It consists mainly of those fast stretches and sweeping bends that I just love so very much.

Gan has obviously driven the track many a time. Memorizing all the corners must be quite a feat on its own. Lefts, rights, ups and downs with all sorts of camber changes mid corner and on the exits. And fast. Really, really fast. Even a road car like the Spec C Impreza will be taking certain stretches in sixth gear!! Incredible, given that your normal run of the mill grand prix circuit will only produce a fourth gear straight in a road car. At the Nordschleife some corners are taken in fifth and twice I saw Mr Gan at it in sixth!!!

Absolutely incredible. The track just goes on and on and on. Sweep after sweep after sweep. I could imagine a drive in a car like a Honda NSX Type R or a McLaren F1 with Mozart's Duetta Sull'aria blasting in the background. When you look at it, you wonder why Grand Prix circuits cannot be more like this or Spa Francorchamp. Circuits built in recent times by the FIA and their moronic Hermann Tilke seems absolutely bland. Stale even. Epitomised by the ungainly Sepang circuit.

Well, I am glad I've finally seen the real Nurburgring. Along with Spa, it's definitely on the list of tracks I absolutely have to drive on.