News and views on motorsports

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Formula 1 Rule Changes

At a meeting of the F1 Commission recently a number of technical and sporting rule changes were put forward and agreed.

First of is the proposal for yet another qualifying system. This one splits qualifying into three parts. This first two parts being two 15 minute sessions where the slowest five cars will be eliminated in each session. A total of 10 cars will therefore be eliminated from proceedings before a final part which is a 20 minute session where the remaining cars will fight for pole position.

According to this article on, as a result of this proposed qualifying session, tyres are no longer restricted to one set for the weekend. However a total of 28 identical tyres (7 sets?) will be allowed per driver per weekend. In addition, tyre changes will be allowed during the race.

Personally I've always preferred a single session where everyone just went for it running on vapour. There was a complaint from the smaller teams notably Jordan that a free sessions would lose them the exposure (air-time) from single lap qualy. However, I do confess to not watch the early part of qualifying because I know its full of slow runners. A lot of folks I know do the same. In fact, if it were a free session, I'd be more inclined to be glued to the telly because you never know when the leaders will be out. This means that I was more likely to watch a Minardi run in previous years than I do during single lap qualifying.

There are merits to this new system. You'll see the leaders in action throughout the session and thats a good thing. There will be battles all the way through the entire session and the brilliant thing is it'll be done on vapour and we'll really see the ultimate pace of the cars and drivers during qualifying as opposed to free practise that we don't get to watch anyway.

I somehow do not think this new system will be too confusing to viewers. Its a knock out system plain and simple. Some are worried about the casual viewer but if they're really interested they'd catch on quite quickly. Otherwise they aren't real motor racing fans and I think I've seen enough of racing diluted and corrupted to meet the expectations of those who have no real interest in this sport.

As for the revised tyre regulations, apparently many of the teams were against it. No prizes for guessing that it was probably the Michelin teams who disagreed. Arguably they're losing a huge advantage but I would agree that its going to raise costs once more.

The most radical of changes proposed by the FIA and one which everyone is talking about is this new Centreline Downwash Generating (CDG) wing. You can view the FIA press release here. The CDG wing is best explained visually as per these images.

My first reaction is that they'll lose a huge rear wing to fix sponsorships on to. But on the other hand I guess the marketing folks would probably charge more per square inch for each of the two wings behind the rear wheels.

Second, the rear profile of the car reminds me of old Can Am sports cars. However, the diagram doesn't seem to show any rear diffuser. Does this mean that they will be banned? I hope not. The aero profile in the diagram does suggest that cars following immediately behind will still feel turbulence but they'd have to be absolutely bumper to bumper. A car behind following a little further back will still have plenty of fresh air for their front wings to work.

It seems like a good idea and it would be interesting to see how it works in practise. I'd like to know what the aero profile would be when going through a long fast corner as opposed to merely going in a straight line. I'm hoping it will work out so that we get more 2005 vintage Suzuka races.

Back to tyres, the FIA will be reintroducing wider, fully slick tyres in the future. Finally, they've come to their bloody senses. This should make cars quicker in the turns but the increased drag should slow the cars on the straights. Of course the FIA are adamant that these new tyres will be supplied by a single official supplier. So there will be some cost control there as the FIA will be in a position to dictate compounds and construction.

All in all, some radical but on the face of it, good ideas. We'll probably be seeing them introduced around 2007. However, I would have liked to see the two race engine rule thrown out. And I would have liked to see Max Mosley get a vote of no confidence and thrown out in the forthcoming elections as well. But we can't have everything can we?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bernie Says Ferrari Will Win

Every time that Bernie E opens his mouth, everyone sits up and notice for his words usually have a habit of coming true. Almost without exception. He reminds me of Alan Greenspan. In this article on, he's confident that Ferrari will be back to their winning ways next year. Whilst there's a better than even chance of this happening on its own, I get worried when the Formula 1 boss makes the assertion.

For I am sure, everything will be done to help Maranello back on its feet. Including some smartly made rule alterations. Like bringing back tyre stops for instance. In an age where FIA incumbent president Max Mosley is apparently crusading for cost cutting, here they are wanting to make another major rule change once more.

Months ago when everyone was complaining about how dangerous the one tyre regulation was, the FIA and Max (in the aftermath of Indianapolis) was smartly proclaiming that it is the responsibility of the teams and tyre manufacturers to ensure that correct tyres are brought. So please don't tell us that bringing back tyre stops is a matter of safety. For not long ago, this matter was simply dismissed by the powers.

No, let's be realistic. Tyre stops are meant to get Ferrari and Bridgestone back into a competitive position. A situation that I'm sure, in the wake of falling attendances by Ferrari fans at Monza, Bernie would want. Can't afford to lose those tifosi. Even if they aren't as loyal to their team as they seem.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for tyre stops and tyre changes. Its just that I'm not sure that the powers are changing the rules for the right reasons. Had Ferrari and Bridgestone been competitive this year, I bet there wouldn't be any talk of it. But Luca complains, tifosi stay away from races and suddenly, tyre stops are all the rage again.

But having said that, Bridgestone will be supplying tyres to Williams and Toyota next season, so surely they cannot complain about the lack of top teams aiding in their development next year. And now that Bridgestone do have these two teams in their fold, will Ferrari now give up their relentless and unlimited testing? I very much doubt it but it would interesting to see what excuse they come up with.

Monday, October 17, 2005

How Does He Do It?

What a long Formula 1 season its been. I bet the teams are simply exhausted after that marathon. Don't know about you folks out there but even simply as a fan sitting on my couch for 18 races this year watching it on the telly, even I'm feeling a little jaded. Still a good end to the season especially that thriller in Japan. More importantly the scarlet forces of darkness have been vanquished. Well, for this year at least.

Anyway, with the season done, Kimi and Fernando are off on holiday. They won't be alone I bet. Still, plenty will be back at the factory working hard on next year's challenge.

Flavio Briatore in the meantime I bet is feeling rather good about himself. His client Fernando Alonso's won the championship and his team has won the constructor's title. In this article in he asserts that failure this year would have resulted in his resignation. So he's glad it worked out. But seriously speaking, if they hadn't won it, the Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn would I bet have sharpened the meat cleaver and taken down the entire Formula 1 operation. He's not a particularly big fan of the sport and would love to have used failure as half a reason to get rid of an operation that to him is merely a cost centre that needs the chop.

Well, here's hoping that Carlos will now decide to keep the Renault team around for a long time to come.

So I'll now turn to the happy Flavio. Professionally doing very well. Personally, he's now out with an absolute stunner of a model named Rachel Swaney. Miss Swaney was the 2004 Face of Fosters at the Austrlian Grand Prix. She's gorgeous needless to say. But how the f*** does he do it? He's out with babes that look tons better than most of the driver's partners for f***s sake.

Flavio you must agree is perhaps the ugliest celebrity around. He's butt ugly. Really. And I'm not saying that simply because I'm sour grapes. Jeez man. What the f*** does he say to these women? I mean this guy dates Heidi Klum, gets her knocked up and then dumps her in the middle of her pregnancy. Most blokes I know would hang on to her for dear life.

If Flavio were Malaysian, I'd say he's been visiting the witch doctor. I mean come on. He's not your average Malaysian politician out with the local stewardess turned celebrity here. The women he dates have their pick of the lads. And there are lots of other rich blokes out there who have far better physical appearances. So I simply refuse to believe its about the money.

Argh. I guess I'll just have to resign myself to the fact that life is simply unfair. Still if I ever get a chance to chat with Flavio then I'd say bollocks to talking about Formula 1. I wanna know how he gets supermodels. And just admit it folks. So do you.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Chinese Grand Prix

After the breathtaking action we got last weekend and the promise of a titanic battle between the McLarens and Renaults for the season finale, in the end the Chinese Grand Prix was a bit of a let down. And yet, despite the fact that the driver's title has been settled two grands prix ago, here was a race win by Alonso that showed just why he deserved his title. When it mattered in qualy and the race, he put in an absolutely faultless display of superiority beating Kimi fair and square. No engine blow outs, no broken front suspension.

TO be sure the race was quite a boring one. It was amusing to see a seven time world champion make a damned fool of himself even before the start of the race, colliding with Christian Albers in Minardi's last race. That meant Michael had to forfeit his sixth on the grid and start from the pitlane. Joining him from the pitlane was Albers and Karthikeyan who came in immediately before the start of the race to refuel.

Michael was perhaps the only person really on the move today having to fight his way from way back. Up front, Alonso romped away from pole and left teammate Fisichella, Raikkonen and Montoya for dead. Montoya managed to force his way past fourth place starter Button at the start. I'm sure it was a fair fight but I can't but help think if Button was asked by the powers to move aside so that the championship battle could be settled by the big boys up front. Of course, we'll never know but its happened before 12 seasons ago. Just ask Nigel Mansell.

Fisichella was keeping Raikkonen at bay. The Renaults running lower wings to maximise speeds down Shanghai's long main straight. This circuit is too bloody technical for its own good and despite its width, there's only one quick line into the twisty bits and if you're off line you're going to lose too much time. As I've so often said, the Shanghai circuit is absolutely bullshit. This and Bahrain being among the worse of Hermann Tilke's ghastly creations.

With no way to make it stick in the turns coupled with bullshit FIA aero rules, Fisichella's tinier wings meant he'd have an easy time keeping Kimi behind in the straights. In fact, Raikkonen's care looked for once, not quite as planted as it normally would be. Moreover, even Montoya was having a sniff at his teammate's position just ahead.

It looked bad for the McLarens. Any thought of the Renaults running light was completely rubbished. They were definitely running with the McLarens fair and square and they were ahead for once. In the end, we had a safety car period when Juan Pablo, unsighted, ran over a drain cover that had popped up on the exit kerb on turn 10.

And there's the thing isn't it? The FIA who purports to care so much about safety somehow had let this slip by. In fact the the Australian Touring Car Race that was held here prior to this weekend also experienced the same thing. And isn't it a well known fact that at least a couple of weeks prior to any race, the FIA would be sending delegates to check on the condition of the circuits? Seems like they didn't do a thorough job on it.

For here's the thing. Montoya was lucky that the loose manhole cover punctured a hole in the floor of the McLaren damaging the radiators and coolers in the process. Lucky for him, it didn't punch a hole right underneath his seat. The consequences could have been lethal. As I said, so much for the much vaunted FIA safety.

And whilst there are whole loads of run off areas in the right places in Bahrain and Turkey, nevertheless, on the sweeping right hander before the main straight, Narain Karthikeyan was left without any when his car understeered and slammed into the wall, prompting another lengthy safety car period. Oh yeah, I forgot, Max Mosley is too busy campaigning to keep his FIA presidency to care I suppose. Typical crony.

Okay thats a bit harsh I admit. Back to the race, Michael Schumacher made a really silly school boy error in the safety car period and somehow managed to lockup his car and spin into the kitty litter. I suppose when its not your year.... He must simply hate the Shanghai circuit. Well he's not alone, I absolutely detest it.

Teams used the second safety car periods to dive into the pits for their second stops of the day and during this time, McLaren managed to get Raikkonen ahead of Fisichella. Still, with Montoya out of the race by now, it really didn't matter. Ralf Schumacher and Christian Klein stayed out. At the restart, so quick was the Renault of Alonso that even brimming with fuel he managed to slowly pull ahead of the chasing Toyota and Red Bull behind him.

Eventually, Klein dived into the pits leaving Ralf alone in second. When the Toyota made his stop, he re-emerged ahead of Klein and Fisichella. Fisichella had been delayed for a stop go penalty for stacking up the field when he came in for his second stop. In fact, Mark Webber did the same thing to Button much to the chagrin of Nick Fry at BAR. Somehow, Mark escaped any penalties.

In fact Mark was locked in a battle with Barrichello in his ever fading Prancing Mule. Its a sad fact of this circuit that only if you're so much bloody faster than the person in front will you ever find a way past him. Luckily for Webber, Barrichello's car was deteriorating rapidly courtesy of ineffective Bridgestone tyres. Not only did Webber make it past but so did Button and eventually David Coulthard.

Coulthard was unlucky at various points of the race. He went into the pits just before the safety car and thus wasted time. Otherwise, he'd have been ahead of Klein.

At the finish, Kimi gave it one final push but everyone could tell that Alonso was just cruising home. Kimi did set the fastest lap although I would've thought Alonso could have easily beaten that if he were really trying. Alonso crossed the line in the lead muich to the delight of the entire Renault team. I think they deserved their title for they always pulled through went it really mattered this season. But as James Allen said at the end, Alonso ought not quit his day job for his rendition of Queen's classic victory tune was horrid! Perhaps the only thing he did wrong today.

So ends the 2005 season and whilst some (especially Ferrari fans) would say its been a boring season, I thought it was a good one, the best in many a year. 2003 could have been greater had Ferrari and Bridgestone not pulled their political muscle into play but c'est la vie. All hail King Alonso and long live The Regie!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Japanese Grand Prix Thriller

What a race! Perhaps the best in recent memory and dare I say it, one of the best I've ever seen. If you were a Kimi or Fernando Alonso fan, the weekend couldn't have started any worse. Kimi saddled with yet another penalty courtesy of sub standard Mercedes engines. But as Fernando said, he's lucky most of them happen during practise. Still, you really wonder what is with Norbert Haug's boys. In qualifying the rain heavily penalized Fernando and especially the McLaren of Juan Pablo Montoya.

Fernando was simply flying off into the distance at the start of the race. Juan Pablo also making a good getaway ahead of his teammate. But as ever this season Juan seems to have problems keeping away from the slower traffic. This time, it was in the shape of former world champion Jacques Villeneuve. Having made a hash of the last chicane, Jacques was slow getting away. Montoya seizing the opportunity tried to around the outside of the hapless Villeneuve. I suppose he was blind sided or his awareness perhaps just isn't what it used to be, he simply drove into Juan Pablo's path forcing him into the grass and into the barrier.

The safety car deployed, it didn't look very good for McLaren at this point. It looked great from Renault's standpoint. Fisico lying in second from the lightly fueled Toyota of Ralf Schumacher. Alonso was eighth and looking incredibly quick today. Kimi was further behind stuck behind Villeneuve and didn't look at that stage too quick.

Fernando now behind the increasingly impressive Christian Klein went side by side with the Austrian into the final chicane, leaving his braking too late with no room to turn in, straightlined the (in)famous right left into the grass. With the presence of mind befitting a world champion he let Klein through but immediately was on the gas and slipstreamed the Austrian going into the start finish straight.

He took Klein then immediately setting off for Michael Schumacher's Ferrari which he caught in a flash. Apparently Michael being in a high downforce wet setup simply didn't have straight line speed. Good reason and also a good excuse I think. For it is no bad thing being in high downforce trim at the constantly turning Suzuka.

Then the FIA struck with their ineptness. Charlie Whiting wasn't satisfied that Alonso had let Klein through in the previous incident ordered that the Spaniard slow down and let the Austrian through once again. By then he was seven seconds up the road right on Michael's tail. Being the professional, this he did and duly overtook Klein with ease again. But by this time he was joined by Kimi. The both of them then simply driving up behind Michael.

Superb stuff at this point. Up front Fisichella was pulling away from Button and Webber but the battle royale was between these three. Two world champions and one mighty fast Finn. What came next must go down as one of the classiest overtaking moves ever. Despite having a good drive out of Spoon curve thanks to his greater downforce Michael could see that Fernando was catching him on the straight. So he decided to defend going into 130R. Fernando was by now side by side. Anyone who plays Suzuka on the Playstation knows 130R is damned tricky especially if, like Fernando you're trying it on the outside. At that point, there's only room for one. Lo and behold it was Michael who blinked. Brilliant! Now that's why Flavio chose Fernando to replace Button at Renault.

Having cleared the Ferrari, Fernando now went off into the distance but soon after was in the pits for his first stop. Kimi was now stuck behind Michael but it was clear that the German was slowing him down. Any thoughts of Kimi running longer was dashed when he they both dived into the pits together. When both of them emerged, Fernando was behind them again. The extra laps in low fuel benefitting both Michael and Kimi.

The three best drivers in Formula 1 running together is a sight to behold. Alas, I never got to see how Kimi went past Michael but this he did going into the inside of turn 2. Any chance of the great Ferrari fightback was completely gone in the race having promised so much in the practise session. Now Fernando was back behind Michael and once again, he found a way past. Michael this time, leaving his braking too late going into the chicane. This put him off line for the right which led him into a tight turn to the left in the chicane. This meant a slow getaway and a tighter line in the final sweep. All Fernando had to do was slipstream the German. Both these pros don't brake for turn 1 and by that time Fernando was ahead and all he had to do was simply chop in front of Michael before braking for turn 2. Classic.

Soon enough Kimi was behind Webber who in turn was right behind Button. Between Kimi and Fernando, I thought Kimi was a little less decisive with his overtaking. His problem was a top gear that was too short, so he kept banging on the rev limiter on the straights. This meant that Webber and Button were both slowing him down. Fernando managed to catch up to the trio once he dispatched Michael. At which point, he dived into the pits again.

Soon, the Williams and the BAR made their second and final stops leaving Kimi to build up a cushion with his additional fuel. In the pits, the Williams pit crew were just slightly quicker with their stop and this allowed Webber to nip ahead of Jenson. They were literally side by side in the pits but Webber gained the upper hand and that was all she wrote. The Grove squad must have been immensely pleased by that. I knew I was. I mean all this fuss about Jenson when the man hasn't even won a single bloody race? I'm glad Frank decided to let him go.

Kimi had an additional 5 laps of fuel in his McLaren. Fisichella though had been some 20 seconds up the road before his stop. At that point, you would've guessed that Fisico would be scoring another victory. But no one told Kimi this. When the Finn emerged from his pitstop he was only 5 seconds behind with 8 laps remaining. No doubt he could catch the Italian but surely passing him would be impossible.

Behind them, Fernando was a little frustrated with his fuel strategy. His early stop meant that he'd have to hunt down Button and Webber. This he did. Button was clearly no match and was dismissed with ease. Webber was a little more feisty. However, Fernando seems to have that final chicane down pat. Webber slow getting out of the chicane has Fernando tailing him going into the start finish line. Webber defends and makes it hard for him but Fernando displaying fearlessness and commitment has his right wheels on the grass going into turn 1. That Mr Button is how you do that.

Up front, Kimi is still driving the wheels off his McLaren and taking enormous chunks out of the Italian's lead. Three laps from the end they both catch a Minardi and at 130R, the Minardi suddenly takes the inside line which I thought must have surprised Giancarlo and slowed him down some. This is playing right into Kimi hands. Going into the chicane, Giancarlo is a little to apprehensive and in the words of Martin Brundle, "defends airspace." Kimi was nowhere near at the point but he still went to the right hoping to dissuade the Finn was wasn't there at the time. This slowed him tremendously and Kimi was soon on his tail.

Clearly Kimi was quick but the Renault does have some good straight line speed and with some expert defending Giancarlo had a reasonable chance of keeping him behind. At the end of the penultimate lap, Giancarlo again for some strange reason keeps to the right hand side going into the chicane. Having to take a tighter line into the chicane, he didn't have good drive into the straight. Kimi slipstreamed him and by then end of the straight was just ahead of him. He chopped right across the Italian going into turn 1 without braking. They almost touched. But it was enough. Kimi was into the lead on that most important lap, the final one.

It was a superb race by any standard. Though I felt that Fernando had a chance of winning as well had he not been delayed by those FIA morons. He clearly had the car underneath him. His fastest lap of 1m 31.599 was just 0.059s slower than Kimi's lap record (1m 31.540s). Thats an outright lap record by the way. So much for slowing the cars down huh Max? Idiot.

The surprising thing about Suzuka is that it was possible for cars to follow one another through the endless twists and turns of the figure of eight circuit. Not only was it possible for Kimi and Alonso to follow cars around, they found a way to overtake as well. Somehow the aero turbulences affect the cars less over here. I have a feeling those constantly fast curves and sweeps had something to do with it.

The losers of this race? Giancarlo Fisichella is definitely one that comes to mind. He had the race in his hands. Kimi did great but it was also a case of Giancarlo losing it. Not impressive at all. Flavio was absolutely livid and stormed off from the pitwall straight after the chequered flag. Understandably. By contrast Ron Dennis could hardly contain himself and I'm sure insisted he was going to be on the podium to collect the constructor's cup. He was almost dancing up there. Careful Ron, you'll spoil that glossy corporate image of yours with such displays.

And what about that Takuma Sato? Now everyone thinks he's a menace. Certainly Jarno Trulli thinks so. I simply think the best therapy for him is a visit to one of the many Zen buddhist temples in Japan. He has a terribly hard time controlling himself. The occassion simply overwhelms him and he loses all awareness. It was plain to see at Suzuka where I'm sure he was out to impress his home crowd and Honda. He's got speed and talent but he just gets too excited. Oi mate. World War 2's been over for ages. The emperor is not asking you to fly kamikaze missions anymore. Relax. Alas, it just might be too late for him now. Quite deservedly, he got disqualified from the race.

His teammate at least completed the race but many I think loved seeing him get beaten by Webber who came in fourth. A good result at last for the embattled and bitter Grove/Munchen squad. David Coulthard I thought drove a good solid race to finish ahead of Michael Schumacher. Klein might outqualify him quite often but at the end of a race, its usually David up front and bringing the points home.

And Michael? Still the great man but for his car. And make no mistkae, it isn't just the tyres, that car is below par. The sight of these whipper snappers going past him must be demoralising to someone used to winning world championships. I mean, he did blink at 130R. That's the key point.

Don't you just love it when the gloves are off and everyone is just battling. Yesterday's race showed quite clearly, that the future of Formula 1 is already here. Spare a thought for Juan Pablo though. I thought he had a great chance of winning this race but for that has-been, I-have-a-BMW-contract (but no one believes him) ex world champion. What a battle it would have been had Juan Pablo been running with Kimi, Fernando and Michael.