News and views on motorsports

Monday, May 30, 2005

Notes from Nurburgring

Absolute heartache if you're a Kimi fan but the result today quite possibly seals it for Fernando Alonso this year. The race today took on a strange amatuer hour look to it. It began with Jarno Trulli's Toyota crew failing to clear the grid in time for the warm up lap start. Then on the grid Giancarlo Fisichella's engine stalled and it got stuck in first gear and was left stranded.

At the start, we saw Juan Montoya turning into the path of a flying Mark Webber, who was again trying to defend yet another poor start. He may be Mr One Lap Specialist to some but his starts are atrocious. This incident sent Montoya spinning and triggering off massive confusion among the ranks with just about everyone behind Heidfeld affected by it. Even race winner Fernando Alonso was thumped in the back.

During the race, again Kimi Raikkonen looked to run away with it but this time he was shadowed by a lightly fueled Nick Heidfeld at the start of the race. Behind the leading duo, a Jarno Trulli was leading David Coulthard (surprise, surprise) and Fernando Alonso. Behind them was Barrichello. Now Barrichello may have qualified ahead of team mate Michael by a few tenths but that was really a poor performance by the Brazilian. His car lightly fueled came in after just 9 laps. I think Ferrari must have meant for him to qualify higher up the grid to spoil the guys in front.

In any case Trulli had to come in for a drive through penalty because of the antics of his mechanics. This promoted David Coulthard who made full use of the start incident with Montoya to leapfrog from 12th on the grid to third by this time ahead of Alonso. Fantastic stuff. But just like everyone else today, he suffered from amatuer hour as well. In his enthusiasm he forgot to switch on the rev limiter in the pitlane for his stop and had to suffer a drive through which probably cost him maybe second on the podium today. How fantastic would that have been?

Heidfeld pitted early. Kimi Raikkonen came in some time later. Both of them came out behind Alonso and Coulthard both having yet to pit. Coulthard for a while before that first stop was leading the race. Alonso, clearly fueled quite heavily was now low on fuel and demonstrating some excellent pace and using that to eat away at Raikkonen's lead. After Alonso made his first stop, it was clear that he'd gain plenty of time on Raikkonen's McLaren.

Now maybe its a combination of the slippery surface today and perhaps Kimi was simply jittered by Alonso's turn of speed, the Iceman started to lose his cool and made a number of mistakes. He ran off the road a couple of times into the scenery and that had probably damaged his bargeboards. Then lapping Villeneuve, he flat spotted his tyres under braking. That would prove his undoing.

Michael Schumacher meanwhile was caught out at the starting incident and was delayed. As usual when his car runs light, the man is nigh uncatchable. Banging in a number of fast laps. His race was dominated by a duel with Juan Montoya and Filipe Massa who successfully kept the both of them behind him for a long while during the race. Michael again running heavily was able to overtake the both of them after the second round of fuel stops. And he ended up in fifth. But what's significant is that while Michael was undoubtedly quick, this time his race pace was only on par with the others. Clearly he too was suffering a bit because he also had an amatuer hour moment in the grass. Still he won the duel with Montoya and left the Colombian for dead.

Meanwhile, Kimi's car was clearly suffering from the strain of damaged bargeboards and especially that flat spotted tyre. I'm sure the conditions had something to do with it but I felt that Kimi had just been a little too rough on his car. And he paid the price. He was still able to keep Alonso behind him but his pace was erratic.

Fernando Alonso meanwhile was setting fastest lap of the race trying to leapfrog into second ahead of Nick Heidfeld. This he managed to do. But after having done that, he managed to go amatuer just like a lot of people and had a moment in the sand at the hairpin. This was just getting ridiculous. But thankfully for him, he kept it together and the Renault team sensing that all was not well with Kimi's McLaren told him to push and go for it.

In truth, Kimi was doing a great job doing just enough so that by the end of the race, he would still have a margin over Fernando. But alas, 59 laps was just one lap too many for the McLaren's suspension. The vibration and wobble of the flat spotted left front tyre was just too much for the carbon fibre parts to handle. It broke spectacularly going into the first corner as Kimi was starting his last lap.

Game over. Fernando merely had to finish the race and collect maximum points for this race and extending his lead over Raikkonen to now 32 points in the championship. Kimi felt that his retirement at this very circuit two years ago cost him the 2003 world championship. It looks as if it will cost him this year's world title as well. But really he can blame no one else but himself for it.

Now Fernando had an off but really the conditions proved very hard for the Michelin runners today. The Bridgestones on the Ferraris look to be in better condition but even Michael Schumacher his the scenery as well. All in all, Fernando is proving that he deserves the world title more than anyone else. He's certainly driving like a world champion. He's now 32 points ahead of his deadliest rival and a massive 43 points ahead from the other danger man Michael Schumacher. Fernando can only lose the championship now. It really is there for the taking. One more race win like this will put the result beyond all doubt I believe.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

European GP: Thoughts On The Race

I think Ferrari will mount a strong challenge for today's Grand Prix Of Europe. Their Bridgestone tyres may have been identified as the culprit for their poor qualifying performance but in the race especially around half distance, those tyres start to give their best. This has been the case since Imola. Despite only having a single qualifying session from this race onwards, the status quo remains the same.

Nevertheless, given the space available to cars to overtake and given the Ferraris' stunning mid race pace, picking off slow cars would be child's play to the Ferrari duo. Its going to be interesting to see now that Barrichello has thrown the gauntlet to Michael, if the two Ferraris will have a no holds barred race against one another. Whatever it is, Ross Brawn seems very confident. I would be too if I were him. I think at least second on the podium is on the cards for at least one of the two Maranello machines, if things go their way.

The only people with any hope against the scarlet machines are the McLarens of Montoya and Raikkonen. Especially Raikkonen. If he doesn't get held up by Nick Heidfeld at the start of the race then I think this race can be his. Otherwise if he gets delayed, he'll have the Ferraris to contend with. Not to say that he couldn't fend off the attentions of any Ferrari challenge but he'll have a difficult time. Nevertheless the McLaren is also quick and Kimi has been in the habit of slowing down after pulling a huge lead in the last few races, we haven't really seen just how fast it can be. According to Kimi, he could go quicker. Maybe in today's race he'll have to prove it. As for tyres, I think McLaren can be comfortable that their cars will use the tyres very well once again and can withstand a race long punishment by the drivers.

What of early season favourite Renault? Now there's a mystery. We can be reasonably sure of the performance of the McLarens and the Ferraris but after seeing how the Renault devoured its tyres for Monaco, it remains to be seen whether the Renaults can sustain a race long flat out pace. They're going to need to. Barrichello qualified right behind Fernando Alonso, whilst Michael qualified right behind Fisichella. There are suspicions that the Renaults are also heavily fueled. I wonder if thats a good idea. I'm not sure why Renault's tyres went off so dramatically in Monaco and to a lesser extent in Spain but at least in Monaco I think heavy running probably had something to do with it. Michelin boss Pierre Duspasquier was very critical of the Enstone based team after Monaco but specific reasons for their incredible tyre wear rate has not been fully explained publicly.

As for pole man Nick Heidfeld and team mate Mark Webber, third on the grid, I think everyone suspects their running a light fuel load. If so, they'll really need to use their pace at the start of the race to pull away from everyone else. If qualifying is any guage then they'll be at least a second faster than the pack at the start. But thats just naive speculation on my part. But I suspect Kimi Raikkonen isn't running light at all but nevertheless he's showing very good pace, nearly taking pole yesterday. If the Williamses don't delay him then he's practically got the race in the bag.

The only spoilers in this whole bunch are the ever present Toyota team. Jarno Trulli qualified in fourth ahead of Montoya. Hard to tell these Toyotas. For most of the races this year, they've qualified reasonably well but often faded in the race. Despite Mike Gascoyne promising developments to take them up a higher gear it hasn't materialised. I would have thought they'd do better at the Nurburgring as they seem to do well on Tilke tracks like Malaysia and Bahrain.

This just in: Rain is expected for the race. This should play even further to Ferrari hands. Bugger. If it remains abnormally hot as it had in the last few days, we could have seen a meltdown in those Bridgestones per Bahrain. If its Imola like, then they'll really turn on the speed. Hopefully the rain gods will delay the downpour.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

European GP Qualifying

Stellar performance by Nick Heidfeld at the Nurburgring. The man dubbed Quick Nick takes his first ever pole position with a sublimely smooth lap, once again outstaging his much fancied team mate Mark Webber.

Kimi Raikkonen failed to make it four in a row but nevertheless starts on the front row alongside Heidfeld. I think he could probably have taken pole position had he not made a slight mistake going into turn 1 on his flying lap. But given the pace of the McLarens all weekend, I think Raikkonen once again is looking dangerous for a win.

Mark Webber initially took provisional pole with an aggressive lap that saw him 0.3 seconds inside early pace setter Jarno Trulli. The top three in qualifying a lot faster than Trulli's Toyota and head and shoulders above all the rest.

Could the others be carrying more fuel? Montoya and Alonso respectively fifth and sixth in qualifying, with times 0.8 and 1 second slower than pole position respectively could be showing signs of being heavily fueled.

This race marks the first time this season that we aren't seeing a Renault on the front row. Fisichella is ninth, some 1.5 seconds off the pole time. Rubens Barrichello again out qualifies Michael Schumacher in seventh. Michael qualified behind Fisichella in tenth, the last of the top runners. Brother Ralf qualifies in eighth.

The real shocker in qualifying is the BAR team's performance. Jenson Button is some 2.5 seconds off the pace with Takuma Sato a further 0.4 seconds further back. Banned for two races, the BAR team had talked about getting back into the fray with a bang. But such is the pace of Formula 1 development, that if you're not in the thick of things for even a couple of races, you get left behind big time. Button finds himself staring at the Sauber of Filipe Massa and the Red Bull of Coulthard in front of him. Bad, all bad for BAR.

I don't really like this qualifying format. Yes, I supposse for some its less confusing and what not but I'd have preferred a single qualifying session on low fuel, the better for us to guage the ultimate speed of the cars. Right now, with cars fueled for the race, we won't know until the race just how fast the cars really are.

Nurburgring is a circuit at which it is possible to overtake, in direct contrast to Monaco. As such, I think the Ferraris look dangerous here this weekend. It remains to be seen how their tyres respond to the heat. After Monaco, Barrichello is says the gloves are off and he'll be battling his team mate from now on. Lets see if Jean Todt will let him though.

But congratulations to Nick Heidfled for securing his pole position. Very much underrated by a lot of people, he's making use of this, his first opportunity is a top car, to the fullest. And he's making it a habit of outperforming Mark Webber.

On Tuesday, the board of BMW will meet to consider the purchase of the Sauber team. Perhaps Nick Heidfeld will be part of those plans. Whatever the case is and whilst I'm always behind the Iceman, I wish Heidfeld a win for tomorrow. He deserves it.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Formula 1 Business Attitudes

This article on is one of the more interesting ones I've read recently.

It begins by telling the tale of the recent purchase of the Long Beach Grand Prix by a Champcar subsidiary. It ends with a diatribe on the business of Formula 1. And it makes excellent reading. This concluding statement in the article sums of the nature of Formula 1 business: "Selling F1 is now a business where it seems the deal always goes to the highest bidder rather than to those who have the longer term development of the sport in mind." And this is exactly how Bernie Ecclestone has gone about things.

The article on GrandPrix laments on how Long Beach, a highly popular event every year, is a wasted opportunity for Formula 1. It would have raised Formula 1's profile in the States even higher. But you see, someone like Bernie would have had to buy the event. Whereas, the way Bernie operates is that he prefers to suck money out of circuits and venues for the privilege of running a race.

Governments are willing to splash tons for his races to raise their profiles, for whatever good (real or imagined) they think holding a race does for the countries. Lets face it, thats one of the main reasons why FOA/FIA wants to hold more races in places like Asia. Desperate governments in this region want raised international profile (and more opportunities for their cronies to make money.) They'll pay Bernie anything for it. Then they'll pay that stupid German architect to build the dumbest and most boring of racing circuits that'll have all of us fans yawning.

But as the article states, this is to the detriment of the long term development of the sport. The person benefitting the most is Bernie of course and via the terms of the Concorde agreement, Ferrari most of all before the other teams. The article points out that "in recent years the Formula One group seems to have become a machine for making money for trust funds and bankers rather than doing what is best for the sport."

Shouldn't there be some place in the FIA survey for us all to comment on these aspects of the sport?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Experts Agree: Tilke's Ring Sucks

The Nurburgring has come under some criticism from grand prix drivers in this story on Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve calling the first sector of the circuit "really annoyinng," adding that it was also "slow and boring."

Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli also having less than flattering words about this circuit.

If Villeneuve thinks the Nurburgring is slow and boring then I bet he'd lambast the Fuji circuit, recently modified by Tilke. The final sector on that track is excrutiatingly slow and absolutely frustrating. But this seems to be Tilke's favourite way of renovating otherwise fantastic old circuits.

Why do Max and Bernie persist in using this guy to do all the circuit work? Most people I should think, want to see cars go quickly in the corners. It really shows their speed. Yet he loves his slow, sickening hairpins. And it seems drivers themselves are sick of his stupidity.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Comments On the FIA Survey

My first comment on the survey is that they greatly underestimated the response from the public. It was only with some difficulty that I was able to complete the survey. There were server side errors aplenty. They ought to scale up the service to cope with the sheer amount of traffic.

The survey has obviously been conducted in conjunction with F1 Racing magazine. Respondents are given a multiple choice style questionnaire. Now obviously that makes it easier to tabulate and produce statistics but the questions I felt asks for comments on F1 Racing's views and topics. There may be other aspects and points of views not adequately reflected in the questions.

Question 9 in the survey is interesting. It asks: "How strongly do you agree or disagree that each of the following are essential aspects of F1?" Respondents indicate their agreement on a scale of 1-5. My response to this is that, it is essential Formula 1 remain the sport's pinnacle. The complexity of race strategy is not that essential. Though it can be fascinating, whats more important is that F1 must showcase the skills of the drivers.

Controversy gives people something to talk about but is it essential? Not really to the sport per se. Though makes great topics on forums and blogs and does build a sense of community as demonstrated by the recent BAR issue.

I'm probably in the minority here but to me, the presence of multi-national car manufacturers isn't that essential at all. In fact if specialist engine makers such as Mugen, Judd, Hart et al were to return and dominate, I'd quite like that.

Again, I think I'm in the minority but Formula 1 need not showcase the most advanced technology. I think its more important to crown the true world champion of motorracing. Now, to truly test pure skills, I think karts are probably the best vehicles to do it but that I guess just won't do. Still though, when talking about technology there should just be enough but not overblown.

Question 17 of the survey touches the subject of technology again. I a certain extent the sport is more about technology and less about driver skills. Michael Schumacher is a far superior driver but Damon Hill won the 1996 world championship in a vastly superior Williams Renault.

I'm not sure at all that Formula 1 technology makes any difference to our road cars in terms of safety and design. There's a huge difference between side impact systems and airbags and the Formula 1 safety cell, I should think. Perhaps touring car safety cells have more relevance but even then there's a huge difference between a touring car roll cage welded to the chassis and whatever protection afforded by road cars. And you'll probably never see nor will you ever need FIA approved racing seats and six point harnesses welded and attached directly into racing cars.

Is technology really the most exciting aspect of Formula 1? Most people I know simply don't care so long as those cars move really fast. The average layman isn't going to know much about the difference between a Champcar and a Formula 1 car. All they would probably know is that both of them go at some serious speeds, with some superbly skilled drivers behind the wheel. That's the exciting aspect really.

There are of course technically inclined fans like myself but I take the stand that the racing between drivers must be exciting and the cars must of course be fast, driven on superb circuits. But I look forward to technical innovations year on year. But these innovations I think make the championship less competitive.

On the subject of technology, we must ask the question, how much is enough? Personally, I love the mechanical technical innovations and this includes suspension and chassis design and aerodynamics. I'm far less interested in electronics, software development and the tons of computer equipment on circuits. Nowadays I feel a lot of cost needlessly goes into electronics and gizmos whereas there is a lot of scope left for mechanical innovations.

Take a look at the 1991 Williams Renault or 1992 McLaren Honda. I loved the detail on the front wings. Sliding skirts on them with tunnels that channeled the air underneath to the back of the rear wheels to create a vaccum effect under the front wings. These are mechanical innovations but are absolutely fascinating in the detail.

Electronic traction control is boring to me but an innovative differential design would be. So would some new wishbone and suspension geometry. On the subject of differentials, the en vogue electronic differential is great so long as its the driver that manages the settings. Seeing Schumacher adjusting the diff in mid corner is great and introduces a new required skill into the sport. But if the settings were completely managed by a computer ala a fully automatic gearbox, that would suck.

Fully automatic and even semi-automatic gearboxes should be dropped totally. It takes away from an essential skill that the driver should possess, that is to change gears in the fastest and most accurate way. Even sequential gearshifts with foot clutches would be preferable.

Active aerodynamics (and suspension systems) are quite rightly banned and should remain so. The driver should be the one adjusting the wings, not some computer. Ditto anti lock braking and continously variable transmissions. Electronic launch control is another innovation that I strongly disagree with.

In short, technology that places a higher skill demand on the driver is good but those that take away from the driver is bad.

Modern Formula 1 engines simply wouldn't be possible without the vast array of electronic sensor suites in them. Advanced metallurgy, production techniques and materials are also another big factor. Fascinating but incredibly costly stuff and does nothing for the actual "battle" between drivers. There needs to be engine technology innovation but lets drop the need for costly electronic innovation. There's plenty of scope in the mechanical, chemical and metallurgical department.

Lots of people complain that modern road cars such as BMWs and Mercedes are prohibitively expensive to repair thanks to the need to fiddle with electronics by specially trained mechanics. The entire car is governed by the black box. Most people would simply like to see a return to cheaper solutions such as mechanical linkages between throttle and engine. So why don't the FIA encourage engine manufacturers to dream about better mechanical solutions to such aspects via Formula 1 rather than encouraging further electronic gizmos? If you close off the electronic aspects, they'd be forced to innovate in different and potentially less costly directions.

I think they should formulate the rules to encourage more X-Prize like innovations rather than the building of space shuttle like machines. As you may know, the X-Prize was a contest to launch the first privately funded space flight. I found it absolutely amazing that at a fraction of a NASA space launch cost sans shuttle, Scaled Composites the winner was able to design a space vehicle, launch it into space and repeat the attempt inside a week.

Now I'm not suggesting excluding the manufacturers from Formula 1 but the rules should be encouraging this sort of X-Prize style innovation. This would in turn bring about specialists able to battle successfully against the big manufacturers.

Well, thats enough about technology. Some other questions in the FIA survey caught my interest. Qualifying format being one of them. The best choice available in the survey was "The best time from a specified number of flying laps." I would have preferred if they gave me a choice of best time from an unlimited number of laps in a one hour session.

Question 13 dealt with respondents' on aspects that would make Formula 1 more entertaining. Tyre change reintroduction is a difficult one to agree on. The current format is producing some good racing. But I think I'd like to see tyre changes. More overtaking is definitely needed. And definitely, an increase in the number of competing teams. Something they will not get unless rules are rewritten to reduce costs.

Question 10 deals with circuits. The question was : "Would the removal of any of these circuits decrease your interest in F1?" And we are given a list of circuits. My response is that the FIA removes Interlagos, Imola, Barcelona, Silverstone, Spa, Monte Carlo, Suzuka and Motreal to their peril. I wish the question was framed differently like perhaps, which circuits do you like and which ones do you loathe? Regular readers of this Blog would know my answer to that one. Simply remove all circuits designed by Hermann Tilke, with the exception of Barcelona.

I wish I could have included Hockenheim in the list of circuits I chose in Question 10. If it had been the Hockenheim of yesteryear I would have. But this Tilke monstrosity deserves to be replaced.

The survey keeps touching on the subject of the inclusion of new countries into Formula 1. My stance on that is it doesn't matter. What matters more is the circuits that are being used. For example, I wouldn't mind another race in England if it meant running at Brands Hatch. France has two races if you count Monaco. But in my view they can make three if it meant including the superb Circuit Paul Ricard. In fact, I'd say take away that horrible Shanghai circuit and do just that. I'd even suggest sacrificing Sepang for a return to Ricard.

And of course, the terrible Hungaroring should go as should the pointless Bahrain. Once upon a time I would have backed another grand prix in Japan but look what Hermann Tilke did to the once superb Fuji circuit. That imbecile.

If they want to hold more races in new countries, I'm all for that as long as the circuits in these new destinations are fast and flowing as epitomised by Spa Francorchamp.

Whatever the faults of the survey, we must applaud the FIA's attempts to gather public opinion. Whether or not they will act on it is quite another matter. Lastly, I think its unsurprising that respondents are not asked this question: "Is rule stability important to Formula 1?" I would say thats absolutely essential. Where there have been periods of stability, the racing quality is undeniably better. And it keeps the manufacturers and teams happy as well.

Mark Webber and Williams

Mark Webber, despite scoring his first ever podium and the best result of his career, didn't seem very pleased with it as he got out of the car and stepped up to the podium. story here. More team quotes here.

Of course, Mark had a very bad start to the race but given those circumstances you would have thought he'd be doubly pleased. I think the real problem was that he got beaten by his teammate. Especially since Nick managed to get by him with the aid of an earlier pitstop. I think Mark simply couldn't stand to be beaten by someone who could really be counted as Williams number two.

All credit to Nick Heidfeld. This is the second podium he's bagged for Williams BMW. He looked happier on the podium than Mark but only slightly mind you. Ever the cool understated chap.

Speaking of Williams, former BMW Motorsport director Gerhard Berger is predicting a split between the Grove team and its Munchen based engine partner. That's the feel he's getting apparently from meeting 'from time to time' with his former colleagues at BMW.

This adds to the numerous speculations in the past few weeks regarding this issue. Conflicting statements from the team, Sam Michael asserts that they will be continuing their relationship with BMW here. Frank Williams saying that he doesn't really know the full situation with Sauber here. Patrick Head refusing to comment in this story here.

To be fair, they aren't mentioning anything about a split between themselves and BMW but that the eventual outcome with Sauber is still unknown. Anything could happen though. There are many unhappy people in Munich as Gerhard suggests and I wouldn't bet against a split between these two parties. Mario Thiessen is said to be keeping a 'careful eye' on Grove.

But is buying up Sauber a good option? They do have good facilities but as we have found out from one of their drivers, they face a severe lack of funds. Something I would imagine, there is no shortage of at BMW. But there's no denying that BMW want to remain at the top flight of the sport. From an image standpoint, it would hurt them if they turned tail and ran away now. Especially since their deadly Stuttgart rivals are winning again and BMW have yet to win a single championship in the current era.

Keep watching this space.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

FIA Survey

Seems like the FIA survey is incredibly popular with the fans. I've been trying since yesterday and I still haven't been able to access the site. This error message seems to indicate an overloaded server. Yesterday's error message was different though and it seemed like a configuration error.

You may attempt to access the survey here.

Notes from Monaco

What? The race at Monte Carlo a procession you say? No overtaking what? Pah.This weekend's Monaco Grand Prix must have been the best in years. Incidents, accidents and wild overtaking manuvers.

The procession did happen at the first third of the race. Fernando Alonso keeping in touch with Raikkonen, not allowing the Finn to run away with it as he did at Barcelona. Giancarlo Fisichella made a great start to leapfrog ahead of the Williams of Mark Webber. Mark made an absolutely horrid start by contrast and found himself behind Jarno Trulli.

And situation remained until an incident with a spinning Freisacher at Mirabeau caused an accident involving Coulthard, Michael Schumacher which delayed the Saubers of Massa and Villeneuve, Barrichello and Montoya. In trying to avoid Freisacher, Michael ran into the back of a slowing Red Bull of Coulthard. Coulthard's machine damaged beyond repair and Michael into the pits for a new nose cone.

This brought out the safety car and thats when the fun started. The Renaults decided to pit for fuel. Both cars were fueled for the race. Fisichella pitting at the same time as Alonso and was therefore incredibly delayed in the pits losing loads of places. Furthermore, the safety car period lasted for a few laps starting on lap 25. In a 78 lap race, the Renaults were carrying lots and lots of fuel. This was probably to their detriment towards the end of the race.

Jarno Trulli got himself into second after the end of the safety car period. He was not really on the pace today and therefore once the safety car period came into the pits, Kimi in the lead simply drove away again. Trulli in the meantime helped the Finn by holding everyone else up. Behind Trulli, Alonso was being dropped. His car absolutely brimming with fuel.

The McLaren team suspected that the Renaults were fueled to the end and told Kimi to simply go for it. Which he did, pulling a thirty second lead over Alonso. Trulli was always going to come into the pits again, so they were not worried about him.

In came Trulli into the pits. And after that Kimi dropped in as well. Kimi left the pits still in the lead.

After all the pitstops were sorted out, Trulli found himself behind Fisichella. Montoya behind Trulli. His teammate Ralf behind the McLaren ahead of two Saubers ahead of two Ferraris in beautiful train of cars duking it out for 5th position.

A chain of events then started. Montoya, obviously in a very rapid McLaren was all over Trulli. Trulli, I suppose getting nervous what with the Renault getting ever slower launched himself directly into the apex of the Loews hairpin. This startled Fisichella and forced him to take avoiding action. Trulli went past. So did Montoya and the Saubers. In the following few corners so did the Ferraris.

In the words of Martin Brundle, the whole pack simply hung Fisichella out to dry. However, that move cost Trulli and Montoya was able to take him at the end of the tunnel. Trulli's tyre being damaged in his space shuttle launch.

That someone dared to overtake in Monte Carlo probably inspired one ex world champion Jacques Villeneuve. So, JV decided to take his teammate going into Sainte Devote. He left his braking to bloody late however and found himself locking up all the way into the tyre barrier at Sainte Devote. Massa with no room to turn had to turn into the escape road. This let the Ferraris through and they set about catching Ralf Schumacher, and had a good scrap with the Toyota.

Peter Sauber will no doubt once again be crossed with JV. His antic probably cost them some good valuable points.

In the meantime, up the road, Alonso, like his teammate was really struggling. I have a feeling the heavy fuel loads on the Renault must have led to both of them using up their tyres at an astronomical rate. At two thirds distance the tyres on the Renault had already lost two of its inside rear grooves. Not a good sign for the French team.

The two Williams behind Alonso were simply all over him. Alonso in fact made a mistake at the swimming pool complex and nearly lost it. But both the Willimas had pitstops to do. Nick Heidfeld came into the pits first. This worked to his advantage because it allowed him an extra clear lap. His teammate still stuck behind Alonso's Renault, came in a lap later and got out behind Nick. That must have been heartbreak for Webber but was great news for Nick who now was in a podium position, outshining his much fancied teammate yet again.

Both the Williams caught Alonso again in absolutely no time at all, the Renault's tyres deteriorating by the second. Some 15 laps remained by the time the two Williams got back behind Alonso's exhausts. Nick Heidfeld getting absolutely racy. In the end he took his chances. Up ahead of Alonso, Jarno Trulli in a damaged Toyota was still circulating and they all were coming up to lap him. Perhaps Alonso was watching the Toyota ahead of him too closely and coming out of the tunnel Nick Heidfeld simply nailed him under braking into the Nouvelle chicane.

The German now set off into the distance, with second surely in his grasp. Behind him, it was Mark Webber's turn. The Australian was in no mood to be outdone by his German teammate. A ding dong battle ensued. Now, we've seen this before this season, at Imola, when Alonso defended his lead against Michael Schumacher.

But where Michael failed, Mark Webber showed a fierce determination to get by. Webber, just like Heidfeld followed the Renault closely in the tunnel and planned to get him under braking. However, Alonso made life more difficult for Mark. He overshot and bounced on the kerbs on the Nouvelle chicane. Alonso meanwhile, decided to take advantage and just straight lined the chicane and retook his position in a move that was probably illegal.

Mark however, wasn't about to give up and went for it again at the same spot. Again, he missed the turning in point and bounced on the chicane. Now, Fernando, despite clearly being able to make the chicane, decided to straight line it. However, his rear tyres now shot suffered massive wheelspin and Mark Webber with BMW power and much superior traction, managed to outdrag the Spaniard into Tabac.

Alonso decided to let Mark go. Behind him, Montoya in clear air, closed in rapidly up behind the Renault. At the end of the race, the Colombian was simply right behind the Renault. One more lap and I have no doubt that Montoya would have been past.

Behind them, Michael Schumacher managed to get by Rubens Barrichello going into Nouvelle. It looked a little easy. Did Barrichello once again simply surrendered his dignity and race position?

Well, whatever it was, that gentlemen is how we do that. Kimi Raikkonen winning two on the trot after his third straight pole position. Alonso finished in fourth position, his worst finish yet this season. Nevertheless, Fernando still managed to get 3 points. But crucially, Kimi was able to close up 5 points to the Spaniard. The gap between the two men now 22 points in the championship. The Flying Finn can still win this year's title yet.

Both of them dropped the bookies third favourite championship contender Schumacher again this weekend, thus firmly further away from contention. Schumacher managed to collect just 2 points in this race. Kimi now moves up into second in the standings.

Next up is the Nurburgring, where Raikkonen has managed to do extremely well in the past. Recall year 2003 where he simply dominated before an accursed Mercedes engine gave up on him. Fast circuit or slow, this year's McLaren is simply in a class on its own. It uses its tyres well. Kimi's tyres on parc ferme looking good at the end of the race. I have no doubt that Kimi can go even faster than he did today and at Barcelona but he simply doesn't need to.

But Fernando Alonso and Renault does have work to do. They are clearly on the back foot right now. Williams, in the race at least is showing signs of catching up. The BARs will return in the next race as well. And you can never discount the Ferraris, at least during the race.

Monaco GP Qualifying 2

Not quite as spectacular as yesterday's qualy 1 but nevertheless there were a few movers on the grid today. I completely missed it yesterday but the Minardis are actually ahead of the Jordans and thats brilliant. Patrick Freisacher the faster and definitely the better looking of the two Faenza based cars, outpacing his highly rated Ductch teammate Christian Albers by more than a second.

The Jordans with a race fuel loads looked absolutely evil. Both Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro busy fighting their cars rather than trying to set fiery laps. Narain having a huge oversteering slide into the Nouvelle chicane. Monteiro in fact running into trouble in the warm up lap outbraking himself and off into the escape road at Mirabeau.

Jacques Villeneuve wasn't quite able to reproduce yesterday's good form. In fact his lap time today was slower once more than Filipe Massa and crucially, the two Ferraris. But on aggregate he still lead his teammate and Barrichello. Michael Schumacher looked a lot better today and produced a quicker lap time than JV to lead him on aggregate and starts on eighth. Dammit.

David Coulthard maintains his good run was seventh fastest today, just slightly ahead of Michael Schumacher. On aggregate, he'll start in seventh and will share row 4 of the grid with Michael Schumacher.

The top runners basically taking it easy and consolidating yesterday's gains. Except of Fernando Alonso, who put the hammer down and tried his best to close the nearly half a second gap between himself and Kimi Raikkonen. He nearly made it. His lap was the fastest lap in today's session and significantly was nearly 0.4 seconds faster than next fastest Kimi Raikkonen.

Raikkonen was probably carrying a heavier load today but he looked a little cautious and certainly didn't seem as quick as Alonso today. Nevertheless he's still 0.4 seconds faster on aggregate and starts in pole position for the third successive race this season. We'll need to see if the McLaren can defend against a fast starting Renault.

Well, this looks like the last Sunday qualifying ever. Lots of complaints from viewers and television stations has led the FIA to call for a change as early as next week. I think I'm one of the few losers here. Star Sports do carry the Sunday qualifying live. So there's less action for Asian satellite viewers like me to watch.

But the new qualifying regime suggested will see cars fueled for the race during qualifying. To me that sucks. I'd much prefer seeing them with empty fuel tanks and then we're able to guage the absolute speed of the cars. But word has it that this form of qualifying will return in 2006. Here's hoping.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Monaco GP Qualifying 1

First free practise today saw Montoya once again heading the timesheets with Giancarlo Fisichella in second setting the standard for Renault. Ralf Schumacher setting third fastest time with Alonso trailing him in fourth. The Toyota certainly surprising me after their test drivers in testing were predicting a tough time for the Cologne squad.

In second free practise and with clearly less fuel in the car, it was Giancarlo Fisichella who took the top spot in the final moments of the practise session ahead of teammate Alonso. Fisichella, being the only man to go below the 1m 14s bracket. Kimi Raikkonen setting third fastest time at the end of a session after eclipsing his teammate down in seventh. Coulthard was a nice surprise in eighth ahead of Michael Schumacher who headed the timesheet for much of the session. The Ferraris clearly struggling in Monaco, again much to my surprise.

In qualifying, I think many would have expected Fisichella to take pole or at least be on the front row but yet again, a mistake by the Italian cost him to lose out to Mark Webber who ended up in third spot. Montoya, despite some excellent practise times ended up behind Mark and Giancarlo. Juan Pablo admitting after the Spanish Grand Prix, that the McLaren is not quite to his satisfaction.

Ralf Schumacher's run ended up in tears, the German clipping the barrier at the entry to the Tabac corner that broke the Toyota's steering column. Ralf ended up hard in the barrier at the exit. This delayed the runs of Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen who came after him.

This probably helped the last 3 men. The sun came out during the delay, whilst the Toyota was cleared from the racetrack and its fluids dusted off the road. The track tempratures rose and one would imagine the grip.

But Jarno Trulli was clearly experiencing understeer on his run and he ended up seventh. Then came Fernando Alonso. Aided by rising tempratures, the Spaniard was clearly fired up. What impressed me most was after the tension of sitting in his car waiting for Ralf's car to be cleared off, he simply got on with the job and stuck it on provisional pole with a superb lap of aggression. His lap nearly 0.5 seconds ahead of Webber. This has been Alonso's story this season. He simply gets on with it whilst his by no means untalented teammate, keeps making mistakes. If Alonso wins the championship this year, he thoroughly deserves it.

But then Kimi got on to the circuit. If Alonso was superb, Kimi was again in a class of his own. By the end of sector one, he was more than 0.2 seconds ahead of Alonso, in a car that is proving to be the one to beat. In the second sector, he was again ahead. By the end of his lap, he's nearly half a second ahead of the Spaniard and consequently, takes provisional pole position.

You can see why Kimi and McLaren must have been very frustrated at the start of the year. Had they displayed this sort of form at that stage, I have a feeling they would be way way ahead of everyone else by now and Kimi would be the one everyone speaks about being world champion. As it is, he's in a position similar to the one Nigel Mansell found himself in 1991. A man with a faster car but early season troubles meant that he was always going to play catch up with his rival Senna at that time.

And where were the Ferraris? Down in tenth and eleventh position for Barrichello and Schumacher respectively, some 2.5 seconds down on the pace. A nice surprise to see Jacques Villeneuve in ninth position ahead of the Ferraris and his own teammate Filipe Massa in twelfth. A Sauber ahead of the F2005s. Superb stuff. As Barrichello remarked, the Ferraris would be lucky not to be lapped in the race this weekend.

But to blame everything on Bridgestone, as di Montezemolo and many others have, I think is simply ignoring that Ferrari themselves have plenty of work to do this season. I can't believe its all down to the rubber. The car itself, despite its superb Imola showing is suffering and isn't up to pace. If you agree with di Montezemolo, then you're being led by Ferrari hype. They're slow at high speed Barcelona and they're slow here at Monaco. They have neither high speed performance nor low speed mechanical grip.

The Ferraris are fast only at one time during weekends. Mid race on light fuel. As soon as the fuel them again, their pace drops dramatically (again, with the exception of Imola). But god, I'm so enjoying this.

Tomorrow looks like a battle between Kimi and Fernando in both qualifying and the race. But in my estimation, Kimi looks too bloody good to be beaten.

Monday, May 16, 2005

WTCC: BMW Struggle At Silverstone

A certain pattern has emerged in the WTCC. In each round, it seems that the first race turns out to be fairly boring and somewhat processional. Things really spice up in race 2. This is exactly what happened at Silverstone.

The Alfa Romeos simply dominated practise and qualifying. The organisers decided to give front wheel drive cars a weight advantage of 20kg and additionally, the top BMW drivers received 50kg weight penalties forllowing their domination at Magny Cours. This weight handicaps were simply too much for the BMWs to overcome.

Three Alfa Romeos of Tarquini, Thompson and Giovanardi heading the grid in Race 1. Andy Priaulx, despite a hefty 50kg penalty, still managed a respectable fourth. SEAT did well in qualifying, ending up fifth, seventh, eighth and tenth place for Terting, Plato, Rydell and Gene respectively.

Jorg Muller previously dominant at Magny Cours could only manage 11th behind Gene and behind both Priaulx and fellow BMW driver Garcia. Still the top twelve in qualifying were separated by only a second.

Now I missed the start of the first race after some ADSL connection problems. But what I did catch turned out to be a runaway race for the Alfa Romeos. Gabriele Tarquini leading James Thompson, Fabrizio Giovanardi and Augusto Farfus Jr, maintaining their qualifying order. Again, Andy Priaulx gave a good chase and were able to keep up with the Alfas, to end up in fifth position at the flag. Had Priaulx not been saddled with weight penalties, he would have walked this race I believe. The SEATs ended up sixth, seventh and eighth in the hands of Terting, Rydell and Plato. Jason Plato in a guest starring role with SEAT for this round of the WTCC.

In race 2, where the top eight in race 1, starts in reverse order at the head of the grid, the three SEATs ended up in the top three positions on the grid. Andy Priaulx started fourth. At the start of the race, Andy made an absolutely fantastic start to the race, passing all three SEAT Toledos. Rikard Rydell passed Terting and shadowed Priaulx.

The safety car period came out on lap 2 after a tangle between Antonio Garcia and Robert Huff's Chevrolet. At the restart, Andy Priaulx and former Volvo BTCC driver, Rydell, simply pulled away from the rest leaving Plato and fast starting Jorg Muller to battle it out amongst the Alfas who didn't have the best of starts.

Rikard Rydell pressured Andy Priaulx all the way but was really unable to do anything about the BMW UK driver. In the end though, Priaulx had a puncture and was forced into the pits. That must have been some heartache for him. He had an absolutely fantastic race and deserved to win the race and take the lead of the world championship.

Behind the leading two, battle royal commenced between Plato, Muller, Tarquini and Giovanardi. This was simply classic touring car stuff. Muller faded in the end was dropped down the order.

At the chequered flag it was Rikard Rydell, Jason Plato and Gabriele Tarquini who crossed the line first. Great result for SEAT.

So front wheel drive cars victorious at Silverstone. It was great to see SEAT winning and this should spice up the championship a little. With Alfas good results in this race, they will be faced with additional weight handicaps for Imola in a couple of weeks. I think this time, it should pan out. We should see a more balanced race 1 at Imola. The weight penalties and advantages between the front drive Alfas and rear drive BMWs should equalize both these teams. But I wonder how the SEATs will fare with weights added to their cars. I somehow don't think they'll handle it very well.

In conclusion, Silverstone was always going to favour the front drivers with its fast corners and sweeps. But yet again you can see that as soon as slow sections like Luffield were taken, the BMWs were visibly quicker than the front wheel drive cars. Only their enormous weight penalties hampering them in midrange and straights. They simply look fabulous in the corners and traction still remains their advantage.

Interesting to see what happens at Imola. The BMWs I believe ride the kerbs extremely well, if Magny Cours is anything to go buy. With lots of chicanes and tight turns, I think we should be able to see the BMWs back in form.

Despite the obvious advantage to the front wheel drive Alfas at Silverstone, it was a great pity about Andy Priaulx. His puncture cost him a certain victory and I should think he'll be back at Imola fighting for the lead once again. As it is, he should be heading to his Williams test on a high.

DTM: Hakkinen Is Back

Great news today from one of the greatest drivers' circuit, Spa Francorchamp. Mika Hakkinen, in only his third race in the DTM, takes victory from Mattias Abt and Tom Kristensen both in Abt Sportsline Audis.

Remarkable result given that he fared so poorly (or at best was only average) in pre season testing at this very circuit. And of course, historically, Formula 1 drivers find it extremely tough to cope with the additional weight, decreased agility and sheer competitiveness of touring cars. Furthermore, Mika hasn't been racing seriously since 2001. That's a seriously long time in racing.

But Mika Hakkinen is no ordinary Formula 1 driver. He's a double world champion. Of course there are others who've won more world championships than the Flying Finn, but he remains one of the true greats of grand prix racing. A real hero, he's perhaps the only driver who earned the real respect of Michael Schumacher. Perhaps because Michael knows that in a straight fight Mika has the capability to best him.

Of course we in Malaysia do not get live broadcasts of the DTM, but it would have been nice to watch. Here is a race incident report from the DTM website.

Good job to Mercedes too, who in the preseason, didn't look like they'd amount to much. Now their drivers are first and second in the championship. Gary Paffet leading for Mercedes. Mika Hakkinen moves joint second.

Bravo! Looks like the two famous Finnish racing drivers are beginning their championship campaigns in earnest. Kimi Raikkonen being the other bloke.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

News Roundup

The BAR ban has largely dominated the headlines over the last few weeks. This has probably been one of the most hotly debated topics in quite a while, with advocates on both sides of the fence. Michel of DSM2005 putting up some good arguments on the issue. BAR Honda in the meantime has backed down from its initial defiant stance and have now admitted they were wrong after all. Additionally, they express regrets over the whole thing. To which plenty of people have expressed surprise over their complete U-turn.

I think everyone agrees that BAR had infringed the rules. However, what seems to be the residual discussion point is whether or not they did it deliberately and it amounted to fraudulent behaviour. There are many who argue that Sporting Codes existed since 1994 when refuelling was reintroduced, that state that the weight of the car in scutineering is the weight less all fuel, whether usable or not. Further, a team like BAR would have known this since its common knowledge. Hence, it is not mere negilgence as the FIA court of appeal ruled but pure fraud.

As to the Court Of Appeal judges, the FIA insist that they are indeed independent parties and take serious issue to anyone doubting their independence. Whilst they did not directly state that the judges are not independent, nevertheless, the manufacturers in this statement, seem to imply that they do have their doubts. And again, they challenge the integrity and governance of the sport by the FIA. Between the lines, everyone knows its Max Mosley that they have an issue with.

This prompted the FIA, or should I say Max, to issue a counter statement, one that I thought was very emotionally charged and sounded as if it came out of Max Mosley's mouth directly. The FIA statement also threatened BAR with more investigations and charges on the pretext that BAR were failing in their obligations to do "nothing prejudicial to the image and integrity of Formula One racing" or "prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motorsport generally."

Translation: BAR should do nothing prejudicial to the FIA and more importantly Max Mosley.

The next bit in the FIA statement really echoed the words of Bernie Ecclestone in his Independent newspaper interview and this I believe came out of Mosley's mouth. And that the manufacturers were not invited into the sport. They invited themselves, according to the FIA statement. And it cotinued, they chose to accept the rules and regulations as it was.

Translation: This is OUR championship. You guys are guests. If you don't like it you can just sod off.

Well, they are planning to, dear Max. Because its obvious that your running of the sport is complete and utter crap. But really, you're the one who should sod off. And for good this time.

As for the independence of the judges, here's an interesting point. 94 out of 100 people in F1 think the judges are not independent. Surprise, surprise? Well, its a bit like military court isn't it? Can you honestly be sure of their independence? Just ask the Italians if they were happy with some US military judges recently.

OK that's a bit sensitive. But just sticking to the FIA, I sincerely doubt if there can be total independence in the FIA court of appeal. They're all chums and friends after all. Come on. Total independence is required and that means the judges cannot have any affiliation with the powers at all. But even the name of the court beggars belief. It is after all named the FIA court of appeal. Lets face it they're all CRONIES in there. And cronies must be stopped! Especially scarlet affiliated ones.

But here is the judges' response to the manufacturers. Its quite lengthy but I'll surmarise with these words: "blah, blah, blah."

In other news, there have been speculation in the media regarding BMWs commitment to Formula 1. This after some statements made by certain BMW board members who understandably cannot bear the failure of Williams to give them a championship contender. Yet again, the BMW Williams F1 team are starting off at the wrong foot. Again, they have to play catch up, whereas rivals like Renault and McLaren have obviously made fantastic strides in competitiveness and are in the position to battle for the crown. Reminds me of the time when the 4.0 litre BMW V8 was installed in the Morgan Aero 8. The BMW engineer who designed the V8 was heard saying, "At last someone has made a car worthy of my engine." And I'll bet the Motorsports Division are surely wishing someone made a chassis worthy of the undeniably superb BMW V10. In fact, it is reported that the BMW employees are the ones who are most dissatisfied with the current situation.

But in a recent statement, BMW affirms their commitment to the sport. But talks with Sauber still continue and speculation is still rife that they will takeover the Hinwil based team entirely. This especially since BMW are not denying the rumours. There are also rumours that Williams are in talks with Cosworth for a supply of V8s next year.

Talking about next year's V8s, Cosworth's engine is well into development now as was told elsewhere in this Blog. But recently Honda have begun testing their V8 engine. The prototype engine was run in a test at Mugello recently in the back of a specially modified BAR. Geoff Willis commenting that the V8 feels more like a MotoGP engine than a proper Formula 1 unit.

Mercedes is another manufacturer who has previously fired up its V8 prototype. Now its scheduled to run in a modified McLaren at Elvington, near York. The residents around the circuit will no doubt be up in arms again at the prospect.

The GPWC looks to be left for dead. The five manufacturers apparently teaming up to produce a new association to create a better Grand Prix championship. Apparently, the goals and framework of the GPWC will be adopted by this new association.

After the San Marino Grand Prix, Toyota's Ralf Schumacher was sanctioned for an apparently dangerous move in the pits on Nick Heidfeld. The Toyota team had planned an appeal but subsequently they dropped it. Now a potential reason for that has emerged. The Toyota team apparently made some sort of clerical error and the team have not been racing with a superlicense up until San Marino.

Its quite unbelievable. In the first place, why were they allowed to race by the FIA if the paperwork was not in order. And of course, Toyota, with facilities costing well into the hundreds of millions can't even invest in something like Microsoft Outlook, never mind the hundreds of available ERP solutions, to remind them to do their paperwork?

The consequence of this is that Toyota stand to lose their points from early on in the season. And that includes their superb second place at Sepang. C'est bullshit man!

Luca di Cronie slammed Bridgestone and blamed them for Ferrari's poor performance in Spain. To which Bridgestone responded back with this statement. Now Bridgestone have concluded their investigations into the Michael Schumacher's tyre failure in Spain. Apparently, the relatively short safety car period caused a loss of tyre pressure in the right rear tyre that was never recovered. This placed great stress on the tyre under the constant G forces of Catalunya and due to construction weakness, collapsed. The front tyre failed apparently due to a puncture. Whatever, it resulted in Ferrari eating sand and I'm sure made a lot of people happy.

Speaking about happy news, the Australian Grand Prix may soon return to Adelaide, which I'm sure makes a lot of the teams happy. Hopefully, the filthy hands of Hermann Tilke will not spoil the layout but being a street track I think it will remains the same as before.

Friday, May 13, 2005

WTCC: FWD Cars Lose Kilos

Round 3 of the FIA WTCC this weekend at Silverstone. The good news for fans is that we'll see a lot more competitive front wheel drive cars this weekend. That is to say, all the rest of the grid not running a BMW. The organisers have decided that from this round onwards the front wheelers will enjoy a 20 kg weight advantage to the rear drive cars.

Added to this fact is that all the top BMW drivers are facing some massive weight handicaps as a result of their previous domination of Magny Cours. Andy Priaulx, Jorg Muller and Dirk Muller all facing 50kg weight handicaps on top of the new 20 kg disadvantage. Antonio Garcia of Team BMW Italy Spain will carry 35kg of additional weight.

James Thompson in the Alfa carries only 15kg, Augusto Farfus Jr and Gabriele Tarquini both with 5kg handicaps. This means that James Thompson will enjoy a net 55 kg advantage over the likes of Andy Priaulx, Jorg Muller and Dirk Muller. Farfus and Tarquini get an even bigger advantage of about 65 kg over the mighty BMWs.

The weight advantages are absolutely massive and will likely cause discomfort with Herr Thiessen and co. But remember of course that the BMWs with rear drive layouts have a huge handling and grip advantage over the front drivers. It'll be interesting to see how it all works out.

The cars will be running on the Silverstone South circuit and not the full grand prix circuit. But the WTCC should be more competitive than ever this weekend. Catch it on Eurosport if you get the coverage. Else like me, you'd have to catch the live webcast on Eurosport's website. But it should be good.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


I can't believe Luca di Montezemolo sometimes. In this article in the formidable head of the albeit crumbling Fiat empire lambasts the current rules of Formula 1. But really its not for the right reason. More can be found in this article on ITV-F1.

According to di Montezemolo, "We have arrived now at a championship that is more for tyres than for cars". Furthermore he says, "But now rules have been made which I don't consider suitable for F1 and which have turned out to be efficient in limiting the excessive power of Ferrari."

Look here Monty. There are those like Paul Stoddart who would argue that it was Ferrari who wrote or at least wanted these rules in the first place. It was Ferrari after all whom the FIA invited to evaluate the rules first hand. Remember that test at Monza last year? But really that's a highly contentious allegation. So we'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

But frankly, the regulations have up until now been to Ferrari's benefit. Take the current points system for instance. The gap between the winner and second is only two points, when in previous years it was ten points to the winner and six for second place. If you win, you only pull out the tiniest of gaps to your rival who came in second. But if your car goes bust in a cloud of engine smoke, then your rival will pull this enormous gap that's next to impossible to catch at times. Its easier to lose ground to your rival than to gain up on them. But it has always been to Ferrari's benefit what with their rock solid reliability.

If your car was a Ferrari of previous years, your reliability would be almost unquestionable. You could almost rely on the fact that you can pull out a great championship lead simply because people like McLaren and Williams can be relied upon to be unreliable.

And what about the two race engine rule or even the previous one engine per weekend. It penalizes those with poor reliability. If you need to switch engines, you simply get penalized. People like Mercedes for instance have been punished time and again because of it. Who does it benefit? A team with almost unbreakable reliability. A team like Ferrari. Many people have commented on this, even former Ferrari pilot Nigel Mansell.

But you know what? The great thing is Mercedes just got on with it anyhow. So does BMW, Renault, Honda and Toyota.

In previous years, Bridgestone could always be relied upon to produce a better product than its rival Michelin. This benefits Ferrari enormously since Bridgestone favours the Maranello team and basically designs the tyres for them. A lot of Ferrari's victories are down to Bridgestone. In fact one could imagine last year that the one tyre per race rule would have given Bridgestone an even greater advantage.

But Bridgestone got it wrong. Michelin got it right. And di Montezemolo instead of graciously taking defeat and fighting back instead blames the rules for it. Rules that in the past benefitted his team. But of course now that they are back to their rightful place, that is losing all the bloody time, the rules are suddenly no good for di Montezemolo. Yeah he's probably pissed off because despite all the obvious schmoozing with the FIA to get special privileges, they're now in a losing position.

At least Jean Todt in this interview has the decency to admit that the Bridgestone situation was of Ferrari's own making. They wanted it that way. And in doing so, forced the other teams to switch to Michelin leaving them to take the full burden of testing.

And even so, so what? The Bridgestones are designed for Ferrari anyway. So all that testing really is for Ferrari's benefit. And you just know that Ferrari will not stop testing. Ross Brawn recently admitting that they are prepared to go beyond even their 30000km mileage limit if needs be. And Ferrari says their cost cutting proposals actually save money. All jolly well since Bridgestone pays them to test their products.

But this is really Ferrari's behaviour since the days of Enzo himself. If you can't beat the opposition, get the rules changed. These cronies are such pricks. And that is why its so good seeing them eating dirt right now. Long may it be so.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The BAR Verdict

Read the official decision of the FIA Court Of Appeal here.
Now the appelate court has mentioned a number of articles in the FIA Formula 1 technical regulations relevant to the FIA's appeal. Let's have a look at some of them.

The first is Article 1.9. This provides the definition of "Weight". It says that this "Is the weight of the car with the driver, wearing his complete racing apparel, at all times during the event."

Furthermore Article 1.10 provides us with the definition of "Racing Weight" and this "Is the weight of the car in running order with with the driver on board and all fuel tanks full." In the appelate court's ruling they use the term 'running order' to refer to the Article 1.10 racing weight.

When talking about the BAR situation, it is the Article 1.9 "Weight" of the car that is under consideration, not the Article 1.10 "Racing Weight."

Now furthermore, there is Article 4.1 of the technical regulations that provide: "The weight of the car must not be less than 605kg during the qualifying practice session and no less than 600kg at all other times during the Event."

In addition, Article 4.2 provides: "Ballast can be used provided it is secured in such a way that tools are required for its removal. It must be possible to fix seals if deemed necessary by the FIA technical delegate."

There is no mention of fuel in Article 4.1. Neither is there any mention of it in the definition of "Weight" in Article 1.10. And this, according to the FIA appelate court's ruling, is what the BAR team tried to argue. That the weight of the car is really its weight plus whatever remains in the tanks.

But according to the appeals court the only way to guarantee compliance to Article 4.1, is to weigh a car completely drained of its fuel tanks. And after doing so, the BAR-Honda was found wanting and tipped the scales at 594.6 kg.

Another interesting point in the ruling points to BAR's defence strategy. BAR apparently provided them with fuel consumption data, which the court appeals ruled: "the presentation of the team of fuel consumption data cannot guarantee that the vehicle complied at all times with the minimum weight requirements of Article 4.1"

According to the ruling 8.2 kg of fuel remained in a "special compartment within the fuel tank" and "a further 2.46 kg remained in the bottom of the fuel tank" after BAR confirmed that the draining process had been completed.

BAR I think sought to use the argument that this remaining fuel ensured the car complied with Article 4.1. But the Court Of Appeal ruled that if the fuel is likened to ballast then it contravenes Article 4.2 that states that any ballast must be "secured in such a way that tools are required for its removal. It must be possible to fix seals if deemed necessary by the FIA technical delegate."

Now you could be cheeky by saying that well, to drain the fuel you need tools or pumps but I think that hugely goes against the spirit of that regulation. And of course you can't fix seals on to petrol.

But as I said previously, for BAR to be thrown out, the court must find that BAR has knowingly committed fraud. But in light of Article 4.1 that makes no mention at all about fuel in the car, its hard to prove BAR's intentions. The ruling implied that BAR should have sought clarification of the rules but states that they did not do so as per the rights. The court therefore ruled that BAR "show at the least a highly regrettable negligence and lack of transparency."

But of course in court, its what you can prove that counts and the FIA cannot prove that BAR had malicious intent. But the real world outside court is different. Many have branded the BAR team as deliberately cheating, including Spanish GP runner up Fernando Alonso. And many, many more on various websites and forums.

Me, I think they should have worded Articles 1.9, 1.10, 4.1 and 4.2 better. At least specifically mention fuel in those Articles to avoid ambiguity.

Others allege that the FIA appeals court ruled according to the wishes of Bernie Ecclestone who condemned them as cheats but thought that a couple of race bans would provide sufficient punishment. Well, he would wouldn't he? He needs 20 cars on the grid.

At the end of the day, a highly contentious decision but I think I'd side with the Court of Appeals on this one.

Monday, May 09, 2005

After Spain The Bookies Say.....

Kimi Raikkonen is now second favourite in the bookies eyes ahead of Michael Schumacher to take this year's title. William Hill placing him at 7/2 and Ladbrokes at 4/1. Michael Schumacher drops to third favourite at 9/2 at William Hill and the same at Ladbrokes.

Alonso's prices have become even more expensive with both William Hill and Ladbrokes placing him at 2/5. After another good points haul last weekend, they do have a point. Especially with Michael retiring.

With BAR's disqualification, Jenson Button joins David Coulthard at the bottom of the Loch at 200/1. And so does Nick Heidfeld.

Spanish GP Notes

Five races down and still we see no Ferrari victory. And thank god for that. What we did see at Barcelona was a totally dominant display from a team that was a couple of months ago written off as rubbish. At last, McLaren showed a performance worthy of their winter testing form.

Kimi Raikkonen started from the front row after a better second qualifying performance making up for his mistake in qualifying one. Joining him on the front row was a lighly fueled Mark Webber in the Williams. Alonso and Ralf Schumacher completed the second row and their teammates Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella made up row three. Michael Schumacher started eighth behind Juan Pablo Montoya.

It seems to me that Michael Schumacher and Ferrari suffers the same problem as Raikkonen and McLaren did prior to San Marino. That is, poor qualifying performance. This can be put down to tyres. The Bridgestone doesn't seem to have that initial bite when fresh. This compromises Schumacher's race quite badly. They fuel him up very heavily as a result and if Barcelona is any evidence, that hurts the Ferrari badly.

At the start of the race, Kimi simply walked away from everyone else. Alonso, making a good start settling in to second place and simply unable to do anything about the Iceman in the McLaren. Kimi put in lap after devastating lap breaking lap records along the way. It was as if he sought to underline the fact that it should have been his victory in the last race at San Marino. At the same time, proving to us all, just why he is so highly rated. It was simply a tremendous display of superiority we haven't seen from McLaren for a very long time. And from the point of view of this McLaren fan, truly superb.

Kimi built up such a lead that when he pitted, he came back out still in the lead. Although Fernando Alonso was right behind him. But Alonso himself, like Kimi in the end, was suffering from tyre degradation and in fact, before long slipped back into the clutches of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli who were running behind him before the first stops.

After that first round of stops in fact, Giancarlo Fisichella who also put in a superb drive, emerged ahead of Alonso his teammate. After the first round of stops, the Toyotas suffered badly and completely lost to the two Renaults and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari.

Juan Pablo Montoya was leading Michael Schumacher and pulling away at the start of the race before he made a mistake and lost about 4 seconds with a half spin. Still the pace of the McLaren told, and he managed to pull away from the Ferrari again.

As in in Imola, Schumacher was fueled heavily. He didn't stop until half distance and once those Bridgestones had been run in, and his fuel loads getting lighter, he was in the hunt again. Whilst everyone else pitted, he kept going. And like Imola, he set fastest lap along the way.

The difference was that in Imola, he was held up by traffic. No such thing happened here and indeed at first JPM was simply leaving him for dead. In fact, David Coulthard was shadowing him all the way. It was only when the Ferrari ran light closer to half distance did we see the Ferrari pushing on with speed.

And also unlike in Imola, once the Ferrari pitted, his pace immediately slowed again. Whatever it was after that first round of stops, Michael emerged ahead of the two Toyotas in fourth behind the Renaults and Kimi Raikkonen.

Sometime after, Giancarlo suffered a front wing failure of some sorts and had to call into the pits for a rather long stop to get a replacement. This let Michael through into third. But again, he made no impression on Alonso and was lapping a second slower than the Spaniard. A pity for Giancarlo. This was one of his better drives and to me it proves that he can compete against Alonso in a straight fight. Once his front wing was replaced, his pace was tremendous and he ended up with the fastest lap of the race.

JPM also suffered some ill fortune. His fuel stop had to be repeated when a problem with the fuel hose meant that he received no fuel in his car. He was indeed going well and should have placed higher than he did. Whatever it was though, clearly his pace was no match for his teammate who in a master class of his own.

In the end, Michael Schumacher's Bridgestones gave up the ghost. First his left rear tyre punctured and luckily this happened before the pit entrance and he was able to dive into the pits for a fresh left rear. On his next lap, his front left gave way at the end of the long start finish straight. Michael ended up in the sand trap but managed to nurse the car back into the pits. His front left tyre failed.

I have a feeling it wasn't really a puncture but just a tyre failure. The weather in Spain was warm and sunny. And those Bridgestones simply hate that sort of weather. In Imola, it was gloomy and cold and the Japanese rubber seems to revel in those conditions. Well, summer is almost here and they better have an answer soon. Michael Schumacher suffered a broken front suspension as a result and retired.

Perhaps Michael's pace was simply too much for his tyres. All the runners suffered some form of degradation or another. Even race winner Kimi suffered blisters. The Toyotas were eating their front tyres away and it was clear at the second stops that the front tyres were almost bald at that point. Alonso in the end was also conserving his tyres.

Michael's teammate Rubens Barrichello, displayed no pace whatsoever and was lapped by Kimi during the race. But of course Rubens thought he was leading the McLaren and gave Kimi a rather hard time of it, the bastard.

All in all, quite a nice race. Great fun watching the McLaren on form again. Finally, McLaren decides to give a car worthy of Kimi's talents. But not without some blue smoke dramas in the pits. Whatever it was, give the Finn a good car and he'll go out and win. McLaren ought to be doing this more regularly.

As for the championship, I think Michael can really kiss it goodbye. Alonso has been so consistent this year. And with Michael not finishing, is now 34 points ahead of the German.

On average I think, unless Alonso has some really bad luck later on in the season, the title is his. But the man still capable of hunting him down I think is Kimi Raikkonen. His car is tremendously quick everywhere. It was fast in the cold of San Marino. It was fast in Spain. It was fast on a Tilke circuit. And fast at one of the classics. He should be favourite for Monaco as well.

Another man who is quietly scoring points is Jarno Trulli. The Toyotas faded badly in the end but he still made it to the podium. Well, you could argue for luck. Had Schumacher still be in the race or even Fisichella for that matter, he wouldn't have been spraying champagne.

But what if Toyota makes some drastic turnaround in speed? Trulli after all, is closer to Alonso than anyone else. A very long shot but who knows what magic Mike Gascoyne can conjure from the wind tunnel. Whatever it is, Toyota should be able to win at least one race this year. And isn't it absolutely great to see them competitive at last? We talk often about the top 3 or top 4. But now with Toyota in the fray and BAR there are 6 top teams this year.

But one team who doesn't seem to do anything good is Williams. After starting from second, they faded away and it was a rather uneventful race for them as well. In fact Heidfeld managed to get himself lapped by Raikkonen. I bet Mario Thiessen can't wait to get his hands on Sauber. And I bet he's more looking forward to the WTCC race at Silverstone this weekend. At least his touring cars are looking absolutely magnificent.

This season is turning out to be a classic. I'm sure Ferrari will solve their current woes (I hope not but I have to be realistic). Kimi is at the moment looking unbeatable. Alonso still scoring as regularly as ever. We're in for a long and exciting summer.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The BAR Situation

Things are getting mighty serious. The latest headlines tells us that the FIA are out for blood. BAR blood. More headlines over here.

Not only are they calling for the complete exclusion of the BAR team from this year's championship but they want to slap a million euro fine.

The FIA were apparently tipped off by former employees of BAR.

My thoughts are the stewards of the San Marino Grand Prix made a mistake. If the car was found underweight when emptied of fuel, then I believe that no matter what explanations the BAR team may come up with, it should have been rejected. The car was underweight full stop.

Now it could have been an honest mistake in which case a disqualification should suffice. It would not have been the first time. But if the BAR team knowingly ran the car below the minimum weight then it is intentional and therefore cannot be tolerated.

So was it intentional? The fact that BAR offered up explanations to convince the stewards, I think goes to show it was. They knew there was something amiss already.

God how I wish it were Ferrari on the line. But you just know the would get away with it. So if BAR is excluded who's going to field third cars?

Monday, May 02, 2005

WTCC Technical Regulations

The technical and sporting regulations of the FIA World Touring Car Championship were formulated to promote close racing and excitement for the spectators. This is in the spirit of the old Super Touring regulations that were a spectacular success in the 90s. After watching the Magny Cours round of the WTCC, I do notice a few flaws that otherwise would produce the best racing in the world.

Article 5 of the FIA Super 2000 regulations state that:

The minimum weight of the car.... is:

(1) 1110 kg for front wheel drive car the gearbox of which is original and homologated in Group N. (That's standard production H pattern gearboxes to you and me)
(2) 1140 kg for front wheel drive car the gearbox of which is homologated in Variation Kit (VK) Super 2000.
(3) 1140 kg for rear wheel drive car the gearbox of which is original and homologated in Group N.
(4) 1170 kg for rear wheel drive car the gearbox of which is homologated in VK Super 2000.

A gearbox homologated in VK Super 2000 means sequential 6 speed racing gearboxes to the layman. These are of course non standard. The Alfa Romeos use 6 speed sequential boxes. Being front wheel drive as well, this places their minimum weight at 1140kg.

The BMWs however, are rear wheel drive. They have opted to use standard Group N homologated gearboxes. This means they are using the 5 speed gearboxes of the 320i as found on the E46 BMWs you can buy at your dealer. Because of that, the BMWs also run at 1140kg, similar to the Alfa Romeos.

Now, I'm not a fan of Alfas for various reasons. I just don't like them and I dislike Alfa owners as well. Not all of them mind you. Some of these are friends of mine and they're nice chaps. On the other hand, I love Bimmers. OK, so they have an image problem the world over. In Malaysia in particular, its associated with cronies' mistresses. In the UK, they're slobbered upon by yardies and the like. But make no mistake, they're excellent cars and are great to drive.

Be that as it may, I think the regulations are skewed towards BMW in the WTCC and that simply isn't very sporting. Here's why.

Watching the performance of the BMWs in Magny Cours and if you have watched them in Macau, you would quickly ascertain that the rear wheel drive layout is absolutely unbeatable. Especially in this day and age of the ever tighter racing circuit. In the twisty bits a rear wheel drive car has much greater agility.

The rear wheel drive layout means that all the grip of the front tyres goes to steering and all the grip of the rears provide drive. Whereas in a front driver, the front wheels must do both steering and provide forward motion. Because of this traction advantage, the rear drive cars can brake later and use their agility to make sharp turn ins especially in the slow corners.

Even in the fast corners like the Estoril bend in Magny Cours, the rear wheel drive cars have the advantage. Its all about balance and traction. The rear wheel drive cars can simply power down earlier and carry much more speed round the bend. The Alfa suffers badly in the same situation. They simply understeer in a cloud of smoke through Estoril.

All you Gran Turismo 4 players can try it out. I'm sure you've noticed that front wheel drive completely sucks. Just compare a BMW 320i touring car to a SEAT Touring car. The BMW simply blows em away in the corners.

In places like Monza and Silverstone, the front wheel drivers can catch up. Their front drive is not such a penalty. Especially if they enjoy a weight advantage. In the 90s BTCC Super Touring, the front wheel drive Vauxhalls could simply drive away in places like Silverstone.

In short, at the circuit, a front wheel drive vehicle is at an inherent disadvantage. That is why the Super Touring regulations in the past penalized rear wheel drive by up to 50 kg. The front wheelers simply need it.

Oh yes, of course the sequential gearboxes in the Alfas makes a difference in the time saved on gearshifts. But really, that advantage isn't as great as a difference in weight. Standard H gearboxes can be modified for short shifts and throws, which saves some time anyway. I cannot believe that the sequential shifts are such a huge advantage. Give me a weight advantage any day. (In fact, thats what BMW did.)

If you compare and front wheel drive vehicle to a rear driver, all other things being equal, the rear driver will murder a front wheel driver.

And so it is in the WTCC today. Even in Monza where the long straights and fast corners should favour the Alfas, the BMWs were super quick and very nearly took both races. In Magny Cours, the BMWs were simply the class of the field. I have no doubt they will simply dominate Macau as they have for years now.

In Monza, James Thompson won the second race for Alfa Romeo. This earned him a 35 kg penalty for Magny Cours. Dirk Muller was slapped a 45 kg penalty in France for his win in race 1 at Monza. But here's the thing. Whilst Dirk still managed to be competitive at Magny Cours, James Thompson was simply nowhere. 13th in race 1 and 9th in race 2. A 35kg weight penalty on the Alfa coupled with front wheel drive disadvantage clearly too much for him to overcome. Dirk Muller by contrast had a fighting chance.

To redress the balance, the front wheel drive cars need to be given a weight advantage to offset the clear traction advantage of the rear drive BMWs. There is simply no contest at the moment.

So, in summary, I think the Alfas should simply abandon the sequential gearboxes and fit in standard ones to gain back the weight advantage. Or else, the FIA should mandate either standard gearboxes or sequential ones for all the runners together with weight advantages.

But having said that, Jorg Muller faces a 60kg weight penalty for his double win at Magny Cours. So lets see how the Alfas fare at Silverstone in two weeks time. At the end of the day, yes I like BMWs to win but I also want to see close, hard battles in touring cars. A SEAT or a Honda win would surely spice up the WTCC even more. And thats good for spectators and ultimately good for sponsors and ogranisers as well.

WTCC Magny Cours Race 2

If race one was a bit of a bore, race 2 produced some great racing. Full results can be found here. There is something to be said about the WTCC race formats. In race 2, the top 8 finishers of race 1 start at the head of the grid, in reverse order. So, for race 2, Augusto Farfus Jr started on pole in his Alfa Romeo 156 after finishing eigth in race 1. Jordi Gene, elder brother of Ferrari tester Marc Gene, started in second after finishing seventh in race 1. And so on and so forth.

Farfus managed a brilliant start to race 2, immediately pulling away from Jordi in the SEAT Toledo Cupra. Jordi's start wasn't quite as good and was soon swamped by the BMWs of Dirk Muller, Antonio Garcia and Jorg Muller and the Alfa of Gabriele Tarquini. Completely overwhelmed, the SEAT had to give way to these much faster cars.

In the lead, Farfus broke away for a while. Behind him Jorg Muller continues his sparkling pace this weekend to take Tarquini. In the twisty bits of Magny Cours, the BMWs clearly had a handling advantage afforded by their rear drive chassis. You could tell that they can brake later and then turn in sharper than the front drive SEATs and Alfas.

Not long after, Dirk Muller begins to reel in Farfus. Two corners before the start finish Dirk mounts a spectacular but unsuccessful attack on Farfus. Behind, Jorg Muller is on the move. Clearly unhampered by weight penalties after Monza, he takes Antonio Garcia who had 20kg added to his car.

The action at the front was mightily close. Farfus' Alfa clearly slowing down the BMW train behind him. In the long Estoril bend, you can tell that the front drive Alfas clearly did not have traction, their front wheels spinning in a cloud of smoke, leading to mass understeer. Easy meat for the BMW.

Nevertheless, Farfus mounted a good rearguard action. Rushing down to the Adelaide hairpin, the BMWs of Dirk Muller and Jorg Muller were three abreast alongside Farfus. The Alfas are clearly weak under braking. They simply must brake earlier than the BMWs. Farfus tries his best and locks up under braking and misses the Adelaide hairpin. Three BMWs flash past him.

Once Farfus was dispatched, Jorg Muller set his sights on Dirk Muller. After winning in Monza and finishing second in race 2 in Italy, Dirk was carrying a hefty 45kg of weight penalty. There was just no way he could defend against the lightweight BMW of Jorg Muller. After some half hearted resistance, Jorg passes Dirk and simply drives off into the distance.

The SEATs and Alfas behind were still engaged in battle. Andy Priaulx who didn't manage Jorg Muller's excellent start from eighth was now making up the field. Again, the BMW's rear drive advantage tells. He passes Tarquini and sets his sights on third place Garcia, whom he passes without much ado. Priaulx carrying a 10kg weight penalty.

Priaulx then goes after Dirk, who has a 35kg disadvantage to his chaser. But against Priaulx, Dirk defends excellently, Alonso style. Andy Priaulx in the end settling for third, making Race 2 a BMW 1-2-3-4. Behind Jorg Muller's peerless BMW, the others finishing in close order in a classic touring car race.

Just after taking the flag though, Dirk Muller experiences some sort of terminal problem on his car, causing him to do a 180 degree spin and then slamming into a bemused Augusto Farfus' Alfa.

Jorg Muller then, making into two out of two at Magny Cours this weekend. His weight penalty for the next round is going to be enormous. This is going to be especially damaging since the WTCC moves to Silverstone next, a circuit traditionally kinder to front wheel drive machinery.

All in all, I was quite pleased with the Eurosport internet live feed. There was no commentary though, but you could hear all the engine and background noise. The SEATs in particular sounding absolutely fantastic. Riceboys would appreciate their engine. It sounds like a Honda VTEC.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


The Sachsenring must be the only decent Hermann Tilke circuit in existence. Its host to the German round of the MotoGP. The race will be held there in July this year.

Now, a Brands Hatch or Spa it most certainly is not. But nevertheless, it is quite interesting. The Sachsenring circuit website has some video downloads showing a lap of the circuit on board a MotoGP bike. Check it out.

Of course no Tilke circuit would be complete without the tight messy bits but this circuit actually features (gasp!!) a 5th gear corner! So what? I've never seen one on a Tilke designed dog that's what. It has an interesting section that somewhat looks like the back bits of the Brands Hatch GP circuit. It isn't quite as fast as that but nevertheless, it combines some 4th gear corners on a MotoGP bike.

Given that a Formula 1 car would murder a MotoGP bike in the turns, I bet a Formula 1 car would be absolutely thrilling to watch over there. Where a MotoGP bike takes it in second I bet an F1 car can do it in third. Likewise those MotoGP fourth gear bends sure look like fifth gear ones on a Formula 1 car. Brilliant!

What can I say? A decent Tilke circuit. If only the German GP would run there but there's just no way because at 3.67 km it doesn't meet FIA Formula 1 specs. God forbid, they should extend it. Herr Tilke would probably read this article and introduce all manner of ugly chicanery and hairpins to make it as superslow as that dog of a Shanghai circuit.

Speaking of which, I watched a MotoGP race on the telly earlier today. The Chinese MotoGP Grand Prix to be precise. Now, bikes are infinitely narrower than cars, so you'd expect a circuit as wide as the Atlantic Ocean would be exploited by those MotoGP guys for more speeds on the corners. No such luck. Even on the MotoGP bike the corners look super slow and super tight.

Can't wait to watch the MotoGP at the Sachsenring though. Wish the FIA WTCC would hold a round there as well.

But say, how about that Valentino Rossi huh? The Michael Schumacher of the MotoGP world. His Yamaha may be crap but the boy just keeps on winning.

What The Bookies Say

Not a betting man myself but its interesting to note what prices the bookmakers set for the Formula 1 World Championship. I looked at two bookmakers from the UK, William Hill and Ladbrokes. As of today with 4 races gone here are the odds:

William Hill

Drivers Championship

F Alonso 8/15
Michael Schumacher 6/4
K Raikkonen 14/1
G Fisichella 25/1
J Trulli 33/1
R Barrichello 33/1
J P Montoya 50/1
J Button 50/1
Ralf Schumacher 100/1
M Webber 100/1
N Heidfeld 150/1
D Coulthard 200/1


Renault 4/9
Ferrari 7/4
McLaren 12/1
Toyota 25/1
Williams 100/1
B A R 100/1


Drivers Championship

F Alonso 4/9
M Schumacher 7/4
K Raikkonen 16/1
J P Montoya 25/1
R Barrichello 33/1
G Fisichella 40/1
J Button 66/1
J Trulli 66/1
M Webber 100/1
N Heidfeld 100/1
R Schumacher 100/1


Renault 8/15
Ferrari 15/8
McLaren 7/1
Toyota 40/1
BAR 66/1
Williams 66/1

Can't say that I agree with Renault winning the constructor's world championship what with Fisichella's problems but certainly Alonso is looking good for the title. Michael Schumacher of course, cannot be discounted now that the Ferrari is back on track. But spare a thought for young Raikkonen. He's practically in the same boat as Michael. I believe his car is just as quick if not as reliable. If I were a betting person, I'd place some cash on him. Don't know why JPM is 25/1 according to Ladbrokes. With all the races he's missed and possibly missing Spain as well, I'd say Fisichella has better chances than he does.

No Minardi drivers on the list, but what are the odds huh? Nevertheless, Coulthard's odds at 200 to 1 is quite insulting. Someone once told me that the bookies give odds of 180 to 1 for the discovery of the Loch Ness monster and the same if aliens landed on the white house lawn to shake the president's hand.

Even so, BMW-Williams at 100/1 for the constructor's title looks overly long.

Secret Testing

This article on Pitpass suggests that a number of teams are currently engaged in covert development programmes in Elvington Park in Yorkshire, to the annoyance of the residents nearby the circuit. A follow up article is here.

Now back in the day, it was pretty common for Formula 1 teams to test on some way out circuit somewhere to shakedown the cars. Oulton Park and Snetterton for instance isn't well known to many outside the UK, but Formula 1 teams have used these facilities in the 80s for development.

But this Elvington Park is a bit of a mystery to me because I have to admit, I've never heard of it before. But then there are lots of circuits in the UK, befitting its title of the home of motor racing. Looking around on the internet, its a tiny little circuit with a grand total length of exactly 1 mile. That'll be 1.6 kilometers to the metrically inclined.

According to the Pitpass report, Jaguar (?), McLaren and Jordan were present for the tests. Also, according to their sources, McLaren will be returning this coming Thursday for more tests.

I say. What exactly is going on here? McLaren and Jaguar (Red Bull?) have been seen testing in Jerez and simultaneously they are also in this Elvington Park. And if it is true that McLaren will return on Thursday, then the Suzuka accords shall be broken as well.

Quite recently, Ralf Schumacher has been heard lambasting his brother's team for their extensive testing. Mike Gascoyne in this interview on PlanetF1 have said that Toyota have put off running in bad weather at Silverstone to save up on their 30 day limit. But here, we have three teams apparently throwing testing limits out the door. Now, Jordan and in particular, Red Bull aren't exactly the hottest supporters of the Group Of Nine and chances are they'll be going Bernie's way but what is McLaren doing in their company?

Perhaps, commercial pressures are beginning to show. After all, its all about winning. If Ferrari wins, you can bet that the vast majority don't know and even wouldn't care that they've essentially cheated. The television would simply show them winning. End of story. And perhaps big guns like Mercedes have had enough of being thrashed on telly by the likes of Maranello. So, can't beat em, join em.

Another interesting thing is that with Jordan running at Elvington, you can bet there would have been some Toyota engineers in attendance as well. Gaining some mileage for the works team perhaps?

This is sad in a way. Costs will skyrocket for sure. The top teams will extend their gap even further from the minnows behind. But more importantly, if McLaren are doing it, chances are Williams, Toyota and Renault will not be sitting still. Especially Toyota, since more than most they can afford a no holds barred testing programme. And you can bet if they do it, then Honda are coming along. Secret fuel tank and all.