News and views on motorsports

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Racing Media

"They're Sheep. And sheep get slaughtered" -- Gordon Gekko

Excellent post found on Checkpoint10, one of the most spirited I've found on the racing blogsphere in a while. Checkpoint10 was responding to an article on, that takes potshots at "the ever-excitable Formula 1 Internet media - most of whom have never set foot in a Formula 1 paddock and make it up as they go along by putting their own spin on other people's stories." Now to be fair makes no specific mention as to who they mean by this. It could be (and probably) are fan sites for sure but internet media also include folks like PlanetF1 who by their own admission never get to step into the paddock having never been granted passes by the FIA (or is it the FOM?). However, Checkpoint10 do make some excellent points including the fact that "'s theory is that we should be excited enough by the dry news that is fed to us via the proper channels. No scandals, no intrigue, no speculation until the official press conference." I'd like to add to Checkpoint10's great article with a few points of my own about and the racing media in general.

First, I wonder who are GrandPrix referring to by "the ever-excitable Formula 1 internet media" who have "never set foot in a Formula 1 paddock." For it seemed to me that it was no less an esteemed and highly respected print publication than Autosport who got really excited about the prospect of a settlement between CVC and the manufacturers, led by the nose by the highly influential, highly political good friend of Max and Bernie E, Flavio Briatore. The fact that some of the internet media did get excited about this was no thanks to Autosport who as some of you may know gets priority over all other media in the Formula 1 paddock, thanks to their own close association with Max and Bernie stretching many many years. For my part, I never believed there was going to be any agreement between CVC and the GPMA until the 2008 rules have been agreed by all. (Sometimes, I think I read too much Racefax).

Secondly, I believe itself is part of the internet media and itself is no stranger to flaky reporting. In this article, fellow internet media publication and paddock pass holder Pitpass lambasts GrandPrix for some highly speculative reporting. Pitpass was referring to an article written by that it claims attempts to make much over the whole MF1 for sale issue and the presence of a prospective buyer near its motorhome. Perhaps is merely taking out its frustrations then on the "internet media." is a good website I must say but sometimes is given to moments of idiocy like all the rest of the media. Witness this recent article on GrandPrix entitled "Alpha, Beta, Gamma." The fact that there is no Gamma Prema or Gamma Topco registered at Companies House does not mean anything and certainly does not indicate CVC's state of mind which according to "would seem to suggest that CVC is not currently planning any more acquisitions for its investment in Formula 1." Thats just bullshit and seems to me that GrandPrix are simply plucking things out of the air. Thats fine for blogs but certainly for a publication that purports to be better than the rest of the internet media, its incredibly spurious reporting.

Third is the assertion by that most of the internet media have never set foot in a Formula 1 paddock. Fair enough but there are a few interesting points about this. As far as getting close to the action, I have it on good authority that in the media center, hacks are watching the exact same feed that we all receive on the telly and base their race reports on these. And as far as timing information is concerned you merely have to log on to's live timing and you'll get the same data as any of the hacks. So much for getting close to the action. But this is a small issue.

Those with their stylish media passes get closer to the teams, the bosses and the drivers, not to mention of course, Max and Bernie. But this is a double edged sword as all passes are controlled by the FIA. This comes at a price. You start losing your soul because of it.

Its rather like the motoring press in Malaysia. In Malaysia, the media is subject to strict government controls that govern content. Step out of line from the "official" government point of view and you're liable to lose your publication license and at worse be sent to prison under draconian colonial (i.e. British, thanks a lot Your Majesty!) enacted laws that have survived to this day. But automotive industry being what it is, the motoring media are unlikely to have much to say about politics. After all, they write about cars and bikes.

However, the motoring media in Malaysia are very much under the influence of the car manufacturers. Journalists I know would love to write as freely as they wish and call a bad car a lemon. Doing so however, would put them at severe risk of losing that car maker's advertising revenue and not being invited to press launches or being given cars for road tests, all considered vital by senior editors for the financial health of their rags. Thats why all the car magazines in Malaysia adopt that ubiquitous tone of arse licking flattery even when writing about that pointless god awful excuse for an automobile, the Proton Chancellor. Editors of local editions of foreign magazines are no better. Oops did I mention Evo's Donald Cheah? Sorry.

Anyway, back to the paddock media. That media pass places them under similar but albeit lesser restrictions. But they all have to be very careful about not biting the hand that feeds them, be it the FIA or the teams themselves. Anger the former and they'll quickly have their passes revoked. Irritate the latter and step out of line of the press releases and they'll find it hard to get close to the team members for that all important exclusive. Autosport and sister rag F1Racing, guilty as charged.

And it seems to me, that the paddock press acts sometimes as some sort of damage control spin doctoring for the FIA, under the auspices of "for the good of the sport," a phrase loves to use. Yes, I do realise that bad news damages the image of the sport but this a financial concern, to protect sponsors and to keep attracting new ones. The other concern is of course driving away the so called "casual viewers" (and readers of publications like of the sport.

But here I was thinking that the media was there to report the truth. Take this article by about the continuing debate on the rubber band Ferrari wings. The article concludes that "hopefully all of this jiggery-pokery will remain in the shadows as F1 can do without technical scandals this year." Scandals last year's BAR and Indianapolis and 2003's tyre rule change post Hungary? But what about the truth? Do we as fans not deserve to know the real story? Must it always be about projecting a good image? All those episodes I mentioned reeked of controversy, cover up and a complete lack of transparency and proper governance by the FIA. But how many publications out there dared mention it?

Take the BAR fuel tank scandal. I have to admit that I actually bought the "official" story created by the FIA, reaffirmed by their kangaroo court and flogged by the media. After reading Forrest Bond's article on Racefax on that matter, I'm now not so sure. If Mr Bond's allegations are true, then one can only conclude that the FIA downright lied to the public at large, aided and abetted by the paddock media in general and that it, not those poors sods at BAR, were the ones who committed fraud.

I cannot confirm the exact truth in the BAR matter for I have no inside source at the FIA or the teams. I have only my analysis of the general media's statements and that of Forrest Bond. However, I did know someone who was a scrutineer at the 1999 Malaysian Grand Prix who swears that the Ferrari barge boards were purely and simply illegal (and this from a Scuderia fan) and yet the FIA chose to let them off the hook on that one. For the sake of a big showdown in Japan no doubt but again, ask yourselves, how did the media react? A small racket for a short while then a quick sweep under the rug. The fans are left with just one version of the real story. That is the one authorised by the FIA. Looking around in forums all over the web, it would seem to me that a large number of fans actually buy into the crap as well.

In my mind, the compliance of the racing media and the ease in which they can be appeased and coerced allow the FIA and the FOM to carry on making apocryphal decisions in perpetuity. I am here to watch racing. More than that, I am here to watch sport refereed in a just, fair manner. If I wanted bullshit then I'll watch WWF Wrestling. The great thing about the "excitable internet media" is that unlike the submissive paddock media, they aren't afraid of raising hard questions. This is something the racing media should be doing but have consistently failed to do so. Publications like in fact actually think that sweeping things under the carpet is a "Good Thing."

I do not disagree with everything the racing media sells us. For instance, Pitpass likes to say that hardcore racers like Frank Williams are much preferred to big spending soulless, faceless corporations and I agree. However, I am much more against the FIA's atrocious governance of the sport and their questionable decisions. Because of that, a part of me actually wants The Big Split, however unpalatable that seems. I've always counted myself a die hard fan of grand prix racing especially and motorsport in general. I can live through the periods of McLaren, Williams and Ferrari dominance when others scream for variety. Because thats racing and I love it no matter what. But I simply cannot abide the way the FIA has run the sport and I can't stand the greed of the FOM (insofar as that greed takes away revenues that rightfully belong to the teams). And I simply hate the way the paddock media lets them get away with it time and time and time again, so obviously part of the conspiracy.

I wholeheartedly agree with Checkpoint10 that sometimes, the paddock media expects the rest of us to "be like sheep and accept the word of journalists like Alan Henry and Joe Saward as gospel, passively read the opinions from their more enlightened minds, and get on with our lives." Thats just bloody patronizing and very nearly causes me to use the four letter expletive. But the truth is sometimes, its the paddock media thats sheep, shepherd by the FIA and the rest of the Formula 1 circus.

Oh well, thats the opinion of this member of the "ever excitable internet media" anyway. Do bloggers count as media? I think not but who cares. Anyway, I look forward to Checkpoint10's next installment of "The fictional F1 media."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No Peace In Our Time

Ah, the murky world of Formula 1 politics. Rather than having a public display of the issues surrounding various commercial and governance issues, everything these days is kept behind closed doors. Many publications out there are actually in support of this. The usual suspects,, Pitpass, Autosport et al. But then a headline like this one comes along and the rest of us are left wondering what the hell is going on between these the teams, CVC/FOM and the FIA.

Apparently now, a major stumbling block is in the way preventing a commercial agreement between the GPMA teams and CVC/Bernie. But given how unhappy the GPMA are with the 2008 rules and rule making processes, was there really any chance of a peaceful accord between the warring parties?

The press is very much party to it all as well being led this way and that by the factions involved. Prior to Imola, Autosport was reporting Flavio Briatore's comments that a deal was seemingly on the verge of being signed by all parties. Flavio has been trumpeting peace ever since Bahrain but really it was never in any danger of coming true. Not until the GPMA members agree to the 2008 regulations and they are still very much against it.

Case in point was the Maranello meeting a few weeks ago attended by the FIA, Ferrari, Renault, Cosworth and others, where a 5 year homologation was discussed, put forward and attendees seemingly pleased by it. One could be forgiven into thinking (especially after reading comments in the media) that Renault were there as representatives of the GPMA but clearly this is not the case as reflected by Otmar Szafnauer of Honda during the Friday Imola press conference where he declared: "We didn't attend the meeting so we only know what was written in the press." Errmmm.... does that mean that the rest of the GPMA aren't speaking with Renault?

Furthermore, according to Szafnauer, Honda "believe an artificial engine freeze would not be beneficial to Formula One and to racing in general. We can appreciate the engine freeze and cost reductions, but how we do it though, we think there are ways alternative to an engine freeze." Honda, like Toyota three weeks ago aren't very happy with the way things are looking. One would also imagine the two German manufacturers are in agreement with their Japanese counterparts.

Now, even if the attendees of the Maranello meeting were in favour of the homologation rules, it was quite obvious that some, okay one of them, was not happy with the rule making process a.k.a. the governance of the sport. And it wasn't a manufacturer or a supposed "independent" engine maker who makes premium sports cars. It was Cosworth. As Bernard Ferguson remarked at Imola: "What I'm altogether unsure about is what the mechanism is now for discussing and modifying the 2008 regulations. Whilst they are a draft proposal, they are not a modification in the 2008 regulations." But he quickly added that "this doesn't really matter." Then why did you bring it up Bernard?

Governance is at the heart of the argument from the manufacturers' standpoint. Whilst Max is a busy little bee trying to win back rule making powers for the FIA, the GPMA members have long stated their desire for transparency in the sport's governance. A good reflection of that comes from this article in the New York Times.

The latest headlines on Pitpass brought to us by the UK's Sunday Express (the self styled World's Greatest Newspaper) is yet another twist in the tale of the sport's future. Bernie Ecclestone is insisting that the manufacturers themselves (the parent companies) and not their racing team subsidiaries sign the agreement with CVC. Failing which, Bernie would take back his offer of 60% revenue share to the GPMA teams and leave just 50%. That 10% difference means half a billion bucks over 5 years.

Pitpass notes that the manufacturers could, if they chose to, easily disolve their racing subsidiaries and leave CVC for dead. Then it really makes their statement in this article a couple of weeks ago about world championship entries being legally binding with "no excuses" totally redundant. As I said before, if the manufacturers want to leave there really is nothing the FIA or anyone else can do about it.

The latest threat from Bernie means a loss of about 20 million dollars per GPMA team per season. I don't know, perhaps that means a lot to Renault. But to the rest of them? I'm not so sure if they're not laughing about it. These stupid regulations that Max has been throwing at everyone for the last few years (last minute V8 and aero regs) have cost them a helluva lot more and all for very dubious reasons and made in a most dicatorial fashion.

Back to the headline at hand, apparently the manufacturers have apparently based their commitments and agreements on the 60% offer and this latest threat represents a major stumbling block to the deal with CVC. But hang on. If Bernie is offering the GPMA teams 60% of the revenues then how much will teams like Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and Midland receive? And how much is left for CVC itself? This doesn't make sense at all unless there's some mistake in the Pitpass and/or Sunday Express news article.

Nah, something's not right here. I think the real issue is still the 2008 rules and how those rules are made. But neither you nor I will know the true issue because most of it is behind closed doors. Before I leave, do you know how much revenue the teams receive at the moment? Just 23 percent. Yup, despite it being the teams that are throwing the most amount of money putting on the Formula 1 show they get a paltry twenty three. How little from the man originally charged back in the 1980s to ensure the teams get their fair share. Oh how he screwed them all over for his own personal gain. You suck Bernie.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

San Marino GP

He who blinks first loses. I would've thought that lesson would have been learnt time and again by the teams. Ferrari is back in the winner's circle once again but it was a close run thing. In fact, it was more of a case of Renault losing than Ferrari winning in this case.

Interestingly, the shape of the race today had very much to do with certain choices made yesterday during qualy. Michael Schumacher used up all his sets of tyres except the set he started the race on. By contrast, Fernando was saving a few sets of brand new tyres for the race. This was a risky strategy for qualifying but in the end starting from fifth wasn't all that bad. Plus, everyone suspected he was carrying a heavier fuel load than the rest. It was just a question of how much more.

I remarked yesterday that the drivers all covered a high number of laps during qualifying. The top ten drivers doing at least 20 laps or more and in the process using up their tyres for the race. Still, they have plenty of sets and the load I would have thought would be spread evenly through all of them. That means that each set would on average be doing 6 or 7 laps during qualy. Surely those extra laps would not mean so much in the race... but it turns out that having brand new rubber is crucial in the race. I'm not sure if its just for Imola or for other circuits as well. Fernando having brand new rubber after his stops meant an average of 1 to 2 seconds advantage over Michael with his qualy-worn tyres. Thats how he was able to close up to Michael in a flash after the first round of stops.

And after all that good strategy in qualifying, some twit, probably Pat Symonds, threw it all away by calling in Fernando before Michael had made his second stop. Could I have done better? Well, I think in this case, hell yeah. At a circuit thats impossible to overtake you've got to do it in the pits. The only way to ensure that would have been to keep Fernando out for much longer in a much quicker car and build the lead. Pat Symonds or whoever it was made a bad call. Fernando was fueled for a much longer stint and he had all the time in the world to put the hammer down once Michael made his final stop.

By contrast, the master Ross Brawn made an absolutely brilliant call. Perhaps sensing the activity in the Renault pit, he must have told Herr Schumacher to speed up as much as he could. In fact on the lap that Fernando came in, Michael did a high 1m 26s after lingering in the 1m 28s and 1m 27s in the previous laps. And he must have wrung that Ferrari all the way on the following lap before coming in as per Ross' orders. It was enough and kept him ahead of the Renault when he came back out. Game over despite Fernando's out lap being faster than Michael's by more than a second. Fernando must have lost some time in the pits as well.

Jenson Button was catching the leading pair prior to the final stops and some including the ITV commentators felt that he could have played a part in the battle for the lead had he not had that disastrous pitstop. That may have been so but its also telling that once again the Honda's pace in the race simply could not match their qualifying performances. In clear air for instance, Fernando Alonso was able to get down to the 1m 24s. After the second stop, Jenson Button could hardly break the 1m 26s barrier. In fact after the first round of stops had been done, Jenson found himself some 17 seconds behind Michael despite having been only a couple of seconds behind before his first stop. Teammate Rubens Barrichello fared even worse, managing to do only 1m 27s laps and ending up in tenth at the end. The only reason for Jenson being able to keep up with Michael early on was because the Honda was carrying a hell of a lot less fuel on board as evidenced by their earlier stop.

The McLarens simply couldn't live with the pace of the Renault and Ferrari up front but I thought both of them drove quite solidly. Juan Montoya was a little under pressure from Filipe towards the end but on this track it really didn't matter. There's just no way past. Still he managed a podium in a t-car ahead of his teammate. Thats got to count for something.

Speaking of Filipe Massa, we should now truly welcome him to the Scuderia or should I say, Team Schumacher. It was so obvious once Jenson Button had pit in for his first stop and Michael was clear, Filipe slowed down almost to a crawl. Where he once did 1m 25s lap he now did 1m 27s laps and clearly holding up Fernando Alonso behind him. I guess Ferrari were worried even at that stage that despite a heavily loaded Renault underneath the Spaniard Michael was not able to leave him as quickly as he would have liked. And so, they did what they've always done. Screw the second driver to let Schumacher ahead. Pants down Filipe and bend over please. We'll have none of the Malaysian GP shenanigans from you young man.

Still Michelin should be well satisfied. Their tyres were actually the ones to have on a circuit that traditionally favours the Bridgestone rubber. The Great Ferrari Fightback? On paper at least. But ominously, Fernando Alonso is proving quick and in terms of raw pace, nigh unbeatable at every venue so far this season. The rest have a lot to do. Including his teammate whose raw pace once again was nowhere near that of his own despite using a newer spec engine. Today perhaps we've seen two of the best Formula 1 drivers of the current crop battling it out in what was a great strategic battle.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

San Marino GP Qualy

After eighteen months and some false starts, at last we see The Great Ferrari Fightback in full swing. And in good time too. There have been some distressed and disillusioned tifosi around (no names mentioned) and this result should put the smile back on Ferrari fans worldwide. It is a crucial time for Ferrari despite what their management would have you believe but at least they are delivering.

Michael Schumacher put his scarlet machine on pole for the second time this year and finally taking Ayrton Senna's record of 65 pole positions. Took him long enough. 15 seasons more or less versus 10 for the Brazilian. Given that history books mostly focus on absolutes and the top performances, there goes statistical evidence of the great Brazilian's outright speed. Oh well, it had to go sometime and at least it goes to the man whom I believe emulates Senna more than any other in the current crop of grand prix drivers. Right down to the argy bargy when times call for it.

The Ferraris are looking very good here this weekend underlined by their pace in qualy and in free practise. Its a surprise for Renault though today. Fernando Alonso's best time was set in the first qualy session (on vapour) and its about a second slower than Michael's time. Funny given how competitive he looked in practise. Another bit of surprise was Jenson Button who set his quickest lap in qualifying in the third session where the cars have some semblance of race fuel on board. Same goes for his rejuvenated and much more competitive teammate Rubens Barrichello. Are the Hondas running light this weekend? Is Michael Schumacher doing the same?

Another thing to note about qualifying these days is the sheer number of laps the drivers put in. A look at the lap charts reveal that Michael put in a total of 22 laps in total over the three sessions. Mark Webber, who managed to qualify in 10th put in a massive 27 laps. All in the top 10 put in a total of at least 20 laps or more. No doubt of course this has a lot to do with the pointless third session where the cars run in fuel burn mode early on in the session. Still though, in the first two sessions drivers are still putting in a lot of laps.

Again, we have a disappointing Giancarlo Fisichella. Despite getting the B-spec Renault RS26 motor this weekend, he failed to make it into the top 10. This is bad for the Roman. All bad despite winning in Malaysia, I would be very surprised if he can retain his seat next year at Regie if keeps going on like this. His teammate, running the A-spec engine and into its second race now has been whipping him all weekend.

The wunderkind Nico Rosberg yet again fails to make the cut into the top 10 after being comprehensively beaten by teammate Mark Webber. Although having said that the quickest times in qualy are not that far apart between the two. Its just that the midfield are so damned close together that a 0.2 second gap can make all the difference. Its a pressure cooker in the midfield.

The McLarens have not been looking good all weekend during practise but in fact Kimi Raikkonen still managed third best time over all the three qualifying sessions, set in session 2. This is still 0.6s slower than Michael Schumacher's 1m 22.579s set in the same session. Funnily enough Juan Pablo Montoya managed to qualify ahead of the Finn for tomorrow's race although his best lap time of 1m 23.760s set in session 2 is 0.6 seconds slower than his teammate. All this despite the fact he's having to qualify in the t-car after a fuel feed problem with his regular mount.

I hate this current qualifying format because of the fuel factor you really can't tell the ultimate pace of the cars. I really wish they'd just go back to the old way of doing 12 banzai laps on low fuel so we'd all know whats going on in terms of pace.

I have a feeling there are vastly different strategies between the teams but I do know that Ferrari are definitely on form for a win this weekend. Their Melbourne weekend was hampered by tyre troubles no thanks to the bad weather in testing in the week prior to the Australian Grand Prix. The team were unable to test the latest Bridgestones and they paid for it. In Malaysia, they were hampered by engine troubles. Looks like in this weekend they've got everything down pat on a circuit where the Bridgestone tyres are the rubber to have.

With that I'll leave with the quickest times in qualy this weekend:

1. Michael Schumacher - 1m 22.579s (Session 2)
2. Jenson Button - 1m 22.988s (Session 3)
3. Kimi Raikkonen - 1m 23.190s (Session 2)
4. Rubens Barrichello - 1m 23.242s (Session 3)
5. Fernando Alonso - 1m 23.536s (Session 1)
6. Ralf Schumacher - 1m 23.565s (Session 2)
7. Filipe Massa - 1m 23.595s (Session 2)
8. Mark Webber - 1m 23.718s (Session 2)
9. Jarno Trulli - 1m 23.727s (Session 2)
10. Juan Pablo Montoya - 1m 23.760s (Session 2)
11. Giancarlo Fisichella - 1m 23.771s (Session 2)
12. Jacques Villeneuve - 1m 23.887s (Session 2)
13. Nico Rosberg - 1m 23.966s (Session 2)
14. David Coulthard - 1m 24.101s (Session 2)
15. Nick Heidfled - 1m 24.129s (Session 2)
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi - 1m 24.520 (Session 2)

And a big congrats to Herr Schumacher on setting yet another record in Formula 1

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Please Mr Michelin Man

"The Precious made me do it" -- Smeagol

Well, this is nice. First Red Bull voted for the 2006 regulation changes reintroducing tyre stops and then obliges Michelin to supply rubber to Toro Rosso, much to the chagrin of the French tyre company. That change voted in November last year threw all Michelin's advantages into the litter thanks to some spurious reasoning by the FIA. No, it cannot be said that it was done for safety since Max threw out that argument as long ago as Nurburgring last year. The real reason was of course to help red liveried friends of Max. Helped in no small part by Red Bull's vote.

Not that I support the one tyre per race, I think that was simply stupid in the first place. But the whole episode lends credence to the GPMA's arguments about the lack of transparency and proper governance of the sport.

However, it looks like Red Bull is trying to get on Michelin's good books once again. According to Frank Tost, "Michelin did an unbelievably good job.... one of the main reasons for Scuderia Toro Rosso's performances is the excellent tyre supply." Yeah, I'll bet it is Frank. On your knees boy!

Michelin should return the favour to Red Bull / Toro Rosso by supplying them Jenson Button's used race tyres from Melbourne in the forthcoming San Marino Grand Prix. Go on Bibendum, teach em a lesson.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lets Speculate

Since there aren't many juicy stories going around whilst waiting for the next grand prix, I'm going to start my own bit of speculation and wild rumour mongering. Some of you out there might have thought about this already.

In my last post, I examined what it would be like if Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen should be teammates at Ferrari. This of course was started by a story in PlanetF1. Not long after that another story appeared on PlanetF1 from the Blick newspaper in Switzerland, that reports that The Iceman will indeed cometh to the Scuderia. PlanetF1 wonders if these senior Ferrari people are talking a little too much.

Then of course, there are persistent rumours regarding multiple MotoGP world champion, the Michael Schumacher of 2 wheels, Valentino Rossi, is considering a move to Ferrari. The latest story to come out comes from the Italian Gazzetto dello Sport where Rossi exclaims that a move to Ferrari would be a huge gamble for him. More so than for Ferrari.

I'm not sure whether the rules allow a 3 car team in Formula 1 but surely from a practical standpoint, not all these drivers will be in the Scuderia at the same time. So which is which? Who or more to the point, which source is correct?

Then slow little me caught on a bit. I wonder if there is in fact no senior Ferrari official leaking out stories and speculation in the press. I wonder if this is all the work of one Bernard Charles Ecclestone, doing what Malaysians would call "test market." (Testing the market in proper English). A sort of market survey if you will.

The logic here being (and I'm not suggesting that it is correct since this is just a wild shot in the dark) that everyone knows most viewers are fans of the Scuderia. Its a valuable commodity where television ratings and revenues are concerned. Ferrari in the past have had very indifferent driver pairings such as Jean Alesi and Ivan Capelli in 1992. Not good. To generate excitement, Bernie needs superstars at Ferrari. But which ones?

Michael Schumacher is without doubt a mega star but perhaps his star is waning at the moment especially in these hard times for Maranello. Kimi Raikkonen seems to have lots of fans and very passionate ones they are. Valentino Rossi is a superstar himself and whilst lots of MotoGP fans also watch Formula 1, nevertheless his presence might bring about a whole new bunch of audiences into grand prix racing. Ah, decisions, decisions. How does the top dog of Formula 1 then decide who drives for the Scuderia? Well, he might throw in a bit of speculative stories in the media and guage the reaction of press and fans. I'm sure Bernie (or one of his disciples) troves the forums on the web.

The question of which superstar goes where is also important in the greater context of the sport's future. There just might be a split in a couple of years. There just might. Drivers are an important part of the attraction. People want to watch their drivers and will choose to view whichever series whether Formula 1 or an alternative depending on where these drivers end up. I'll go even further in my musings. Remember when Bernie got so upset by the Alonso move to McLaren? Oh sure Flav and him are buddies but more than that he's potentially lost a world championship winning superstar to another series come 2008. Thats the real reason why he's so livid. Both he and Flav scream about some sort of breach of ethics. Bah! Hi kettle I'm pot you're black.

As for Rossi, I'd wager that all this talk about risk is really about how fat his bank account will be if he signs for Ferrari. Its too risky? How about the real truth; you want me, you bloody well pay up, mate.

Wait you say. How can Bernie be the one who decides Ferrari's drivers or that of any other team for that matter? Hmmm.... how about Jacques Villeneuve and Nigel Mansell (post Senna) at Williams? Or Nigel Mansell shoved into McLaren when we all know Ron can't stand the sight of Our Nige. Or the countless times he's moved heaven and earth behind the scenes to make the show happen. Ferrari got a fat bonus for signing up to the new Concorde so early on last year. You don't really believe it was all for free do you? After all, Bernie isn't suggesting putting Ide in a Ferrari. Raikkonen, Rossi, Schumi, all superstars who would do proud the Ferrari tradition.

So back to the media speculation. First we had all these stories of Kimi to Ferrari. Good, good, it provokes massive reaction. Some positive noises there. How about Rossi? Mmmmm..... much ado about it. Excellent. Wait. What about Michael? Do people still want to see him around or is everyone expecting or wanting him to go? Lets put a story about him. Okay, now back to Kimi.....

Some of you might be thinking. Why the hell would Kimi want to get out of a quick McLaren and into a troubled Ferrari? Well, in truth, I don't think with Jean and Ross at the helm its going to stay that way forever. Besides, if all goes pear shaped, Max'll just tweak the regs some more. Darn it! They spotted that flexi wing, bah! Howzabout some extra special Bridgestone tyres then come 2007 made with tender loving care especially for the Scuderia? That'll do nicely. But might go too far. Pesky Pat Symonds or Haug will notice. No, just optimizing them for the Ferrari aero and mechanicals will do. Well, if we're going to have a Ferrari walkover in the future, lets at least hope that they'll have two drivers going at it with all they've got.

Perhaps if the manufacturers leave it will be a Ferrari walkover. Or at least a constant Williams v. Ferrari battle for honours. In which case, having drivers at it no holds barred would be extremely important for the show. A thought I'm sure Bernie and Max would not have missed.

But wait again you say. Aren't the GPMA members legally bound to compete in the FIA Formula 1 come 2008 now that their applications have been submitted? Well, have the FIA accepted the applications yet? Absolutely not. An announcement will be made at the end of this month as to who made applications. Of course, Autosport and Pitpass are at pains to note that a contract is in place by these applications and that all teams are contractually bound to turn up in 2008. Har har har. If all these "major manufacturers" want to leave, just what the hell can the FIA do to them? There are lots of ways I can think of for them to squirm their way out. Lots. Think of very high powered, highly expensive legal representation in a civilian court. I'm sure Max will not be stopping them. In fact, he'll probably throw a sendoff bash. But nice one Autosport and Pitpass. I'm sure Max will be granting you guys the paddock passes in 2008. Good boys. Deutschland, deutschland uber alles.....

Monday, April 10, 2006

Kimi And Schumi

According to this article on PlanetF1, Michael Schumacher is expected to continue racing for Ferrari in 2007. This in turn is according to some German daily. First of all, I really hope Michael does continue and if he does its most likely with Maranello for I can't see him in any other team. Michael and Ferrari are synonymous and really has come as a package. Despite whatever trouble in recent times, I think he's still quick enough to do the job. In addition, key personnel such as Jean Todt and Ross Brawn have signed extensions already. The only one who's missing is of course Rory Byrne who hasn't been involved in the design of the cars lately but is still a consultant to the Scuderia.

If its true that Michael will remain at Ferrari for some time to come, what will happen to young Kimi Raikkonen? Its no secret that McLaren still want him in their cars. However, you sense that he's a little fed up by the constant unreliability each season that forces the young Finn to have to work harder than he should have to, through no fault of his own. Although, he's been known to make mistakes. But everyone does. Even Michael himself and Fernando Alonso. Lots of speculation surrounds these Kimi and Michael over the last year. Some have said that Kimi has in fact signed up for Ferrari although this has been denied many times by Kimi himself.

If Michael stays on, would Kimi join Ferrari? Michael himself has said that he would welcome the young Finn into the team. Obviously, he is still confident that he'll be able to show the young pup a thing or two. And why not? He's vastly experience and has moulded the team around himself for the last ten years. They know him inside out and vice versa.

Some might call it suicide for Kimi then to join Maranello whilst the former weltmeister is still present. But is it really? Recall 1988 when Ayrton Senna joined Alain Prost at McLaren. One could argue quite rightly that at that time, McLaren was very much the Frenchman's personal fief. He joined the team in 1984 and quickly became Ron Dennis' favourite driver. In effect, marginalising Niki Lauda and later on, Keke Rosberg from the team and winning the 1985 and 1986 titles. The latter year being his best ever. I thought The Professor was highly political and was very much able to bend the will of the team to his needs in preference to his teammates.

But then in comes Aryton Senna after 3 seasons at Lotus. Even back then, he was my favourite driver but I just couldn't see him breaking Prost's stranglehold on McLaren. I mean, two world champions fell aside trying but it remained Prost's team essentially. But the fact is, despite a brand new car and team to get used to, Ayrton Senna did manage to take the 88 world title. Alain Prost could not have been very happy with that and indeed towards the end of 1988 and especially in 1989, relations between the two deteriorated to an all out war.

Granted, that Honda looked on favourably on Senna having worked with him at Lotus in 1987. In fact, Senna joining the team was probably a condition of Honda for supplying Woking with engines. Would Kimi enjoy such favour at Ferrari? Well, he might. Both Jean Todt and Ross Brawn have admitted to being fans of the young Finn.

Would Kimi be able to rally the team (or at least half of it) to his cause? Well, there's the big question isn't it? Michael has had such a rapport with the team members that its hard to believe that Kimi could do such a thing. And of course, the Finn does strike one as being a little cold. But teams love quick drivers and winners.

Kimi would not come cheap to Ferrari and therein lies another problem. How are the supposedly cash strapped Scuderia able to pay both their considerable retainers? It doesn't seem possible. However, if they really wanted the Finn that badly and fork out his asking price then one would imagine they'd want to maximise their returns and give equal treatment to both. Why pay a gazillion bucks to someone who's just going to pay second fiddle to Michael?

A Kimi / Michael squad would probably be a most exciting prospect, one that hasn't been seen since the days of Senna and Prost. They would push each other over the limit just as the legendary pairing had done. To many observers, one of the ingredients of McLaren's domination in the late eighties was because of the rivalry between the drivers pushing each other to greater and greater heights.

The safe bet would be on Michael to win the confrontation but if Kimi manages to beat him, it would mean a whole lot more. And if not, Michael would further seal his title as perhaps the greatest ever. But the risk Kimi would take is that if Michael did beat him, it would probably destroy himself psychologically and he perhaps may never be able to recover from it. My take is that in equal cars, the battle could go either way. Perhaps not five years ago but now it could.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Toyota To Leave?

"Go ahead. Make my day" -- Famous San Francisco policeman

Fresh from sacking their technical director, Toyota have warned that a withdrawal from Formula 1 is a distinct possibility in the near future. President John Howett believes that the FIA are not making the manufacturers feel welcome and yet are asked to commit to 2012. Well, first of all, if Toyota leave I doubt if many fans will miss them as they've not contributed much to the sport. Secondly, the fact is many view their participation as more of a marketing or corporate flagship exercise than a sporting one. So, if some faceless corporation wants to leave all the better right?

When Toyota first announced their participation in Formula 1, it was greeted as very much a "good thing." Together with Honda, here were a team with the potential to break the stranglehold of Formula 1's "usual suspects," McLaren, Williams and Ferrari (at that time before the Renault juggernaut). Things did not go so well and I think many people were simply disappointed. Their corporate ethos did not win many fans either. The team being best described as lacking in soul.

Whether you love or loathe them, whats important here is the underlying message of Toyota's warnings. According to them, the manufacturers are not being made to feel welcome. Two things spring to mind.

First, the money. Now Max Mosley has admitted that in his mind the manufacturers should receive nothing at all for their participation. I'm sure thats an annoyance to the manufacturers and the CVC at this stage of the commercial negotiations. However, I think the manufacturers aren't really concerned about money at all but it just shows Max's hosility towards the manufacturers. And CVC would not be very happy chappies about his attitude. Those investors are out to make money. That means growth in viewership. The manufacturers do a lot for the promotion of the sport by publicising their participation (all free to CVC). Word has it that they're even prepared to pour actual and real resources into direcly promoting the sport. Do you really think the independents would do that? Or Bernie for that matter?

Second. The manufacturer's grievances are really about the 2008 rules and how they are made. Transparency has always been a key issue with the manufacturers. (Some say its the only issue). In addition, they want rules that will allow them to differentiate themselves and rivals and be able to showcase their expertise. According to Howett : "We're prepared to commit to F1, but we need certain core values to remain. That means for example that it has to remain the pinnacle of motorsport. If F1 can't remain the pinnacle, the board will have to decide on the company's participation."

Honda's Nick Fry has also expressed similar (but not necessarily identical) concerns from Honda as early as last Friday's press conference in Melbourne. To quote Nick Fry: "We do, as you know, believe in a more liberal approach on development because it is very much an engineering project for Honda. Its developing the engineers and the technology that feeds into the road cars and that is important...." Hmmm.... somehow I do not think the 2008 regulations contribute very much to the development of road cars at all. Lots of technologies you'd find in road cars these days are banned.

There are some in the media who still assert that Max Mosley's plan is ultimately to rid these pesky manufacturers from the sport altogether and if its true I'm sure Max will be pointing his metaphorical .44 Magnum at them. No, you people bloody well cannot supply engines to more than a couple of teams. Don't like it? Tough shite.

Prima facie, the threat of a rival series seems dead. After all, the manufacturers have entered or applied to enter the 2008 championships. And yet, if you look at the first few questions in last Friday's press conference, you will note that none of the manufacturer's representatives, Nick Fry, Norbert Haug and Pat Symonds, actually confirmed the death of a rival series. They blurted out something to the effect that the GPMA has been a positive thing but none of them actually said that a rival series has been given the last rites. As Pat Symonds says: " entering the 2008 championship, as we all have done now, we inherit the right to discuss these regulations...." That's all they done for now. They've neither confirmed nor denied their participation and really nothing's stopping them from leaving.

Take that together with John Howett's statement that the Toyota "board will have to decide on the company's participation." Participation in Formula 1 perhaps. But what about participation in a rival series? After all, do you really believe that Toyota will simply lay waste to nigh a billion dollars worth of high tech investments?

But is Max worried about this? Really worried? After all, Ferrari, the jewel in the crown as far as fan following is concerned, have signed up and confirmed to 2008 and beyond. So has Williams. And don't forget he's got 22 teams applying for entry. Granted if the manufacturers leave the championship would lose some of its lustre. But at least the grids will be full and he can count on the adoring tifosi to fill the stands and watch the telly. With draconian regulations, perhaps some indies might give Maranello a good surprise. Williams certainly would. The manufacturers would have an even tougher time setting up their own series and attracting the audiences. Tough but not impossible. All told the A1GP has managed it quite well.

I don't discount this being an isolated case. Perhaps its only Toyota thats feeling this way. Looking at last Friday, the other manufacturers still seem to be making positive noises about "constructive" meetings and discussions with the FIA taking place. But then, they would, wouldn't they?

I'll leave with one point. The manufacturers aren't standing alone. They have friends. CVC for instance. Birds of a feather....

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Another Look at 2008

Reading Geoff Collins' latest posting on Zurich Gnome, I wondered how on earth would people like BCN Competicion and Racing Engineering can afford and have enough expertise to engineer Formula 1 cars if their entries were accepted for 2008. As quickly as I thought about it, I realised the answer. They don't have to. The 2008 rules allow for the purchase of complete chassis from other teams and manufacturers. They'd need race engineers and mechanics of course but they wouldn't need so much engineering depth as the teams do at the moment.

I wonder why the rules forbidding the purchase of cars was brought about in this first place. Its quite silly and probably is the single largest reason for the demise of a number of old teams. With the current rules, teams spend a fortune on manufacturing facilities with attendant production engineers, material handlers and engineers, aero technicians and a whole host of other personnel. With teams allowed to purchase cars, all these personnel would be surplus to the requirements of the smaller teams. And then they can concentrate on where it matters most that is running the cars in testing and race weekends.

Alright, some might aruge the situation becomes like Champcars in the 90s and sportscars. But really, what is so wrong with that? After all, those series were lots of fun and excitement. Plus, if the cars are still high tech then it'll still be Formula 1. IF they were still high tech. Max however wants to severely limit the tech.

I think, going for spec ECUs and restricting materials should have been enough. The secret of such high specific outputs of Formula 1 engines depend a lot on these factors. Special alloys are required for minimal weight and maximum strength but they in turn need special production processes to forge and manipulate.

Spec ECUs are a favourite target of the critics but with almost everything in the engine tied to the electronics and further development depends on these what better to restrict engine development than this? Also, how can one guarantee that gizmos like traction control, electronic diffs, launch control, all expensive stuf, can be eliminated. Tie in spec ECUs with rev limiters and I should think that you could really limit the pace of engine development.

Lets face it, that pace of development needs to be limited else you end up with a safety factor and then more rules are introduced to slow the cars down which leads to more expensive development. However, I firmly disagree with severely restricting mechanical developments by way of spec centre of gravity, v-angles, cylinder limits and others. There has got to be a way for the engineers to play.

I think the new rules can potentially be made right but it'll really be up to the parties involved to come to their senses. And of course, Max needs to give up trying to be the fuhrer. There's really no need for that. And remember, whatever happens it is the teams and manufacturers who end up spending billions to compete. They ought to have a say and a right to decide on the new rules as well.

Exit Gascoyne broke the story last night that Mike Gascoyne may be leaving Toyota and indeed it has been confirmed today that the Englishman is leaving the Cologne based team. The reasons for his departure haven't been confirmed and neither party is making any comment at this time. Whatever the reason, I hope this has nothing to do with the legal case pending former Toyota boss Ove Andersson, designer Gustav Brunner and others who stand accused by the authorities for stealing software and intellectual property belonging to Ferrari. Certainly this silence raises such suspicions.

Yet again, Mike is leaving without having completed his work and winning a world championship. The closest he's been was still in 1999 with Jordan when Heinz Harald Frentzen came in third in the championship after a very good season winning a couple of grand prix. He was also involved with turning around Renault resulting in Alonso's first victory in 2003. Although a senior Renault person I spoke to said downplayed his contributions to Renault's fortunes last year.

Well, all I can say is good luck to Toyota after this for I think they are going to have an even tougher time unless they can find someone of Gascoyne's caliber to replace him. In fact I think its downright stupid at this point. Perhaps Toyota simply wanted a high profile scapegoat to take the blame for essentially going backwards this season. They needed to target for wins this year and at this point that looks a tough proposition.

But as this article on Motorsports Ramblings highlights, Toyota's troubles also stem from trying to run a racing team as if it was simply another corporate division and also an exercise in marketing and branding (which they really do not need). Racing teams are meant to be organized like a crack SAS regiment rather than a regular army division. But thats what you get when "suits" are in charge.

Then again, perhaps Mike Gascoyne's temprement, that earned him the nickname "bulldog" rubbed a few people the wrong way. Unless of course this is a legal matter, Toyota's decision is questionable and comes at a highly critical time for the team when their season is just on its way to being turned around.

With Mike's departure, I think this also signals Jarno Trulli's exit from Cologne. Jarno was Mike's choice and Toyota hired him. I doubt if Toyota will be renewing that contract.

Perhaps now that he's available, McLaren would do well to hire Mike Gascoyne to replace the departed Newey. Then again, McLaren are increasingly becoming more corporate and more process oriented and that may not be what he wants.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Spirit Vs Letter Of The Law

It seems that some teams at the back of the grid aren't happy at all about Toro Rosso's performance this season. According to the news, Midland and Super Aguri wrote to the FIA demanding that Toro Rosso be made ineligible for constructors points this season. They propose however, that the their drivers be still eligible for points scoring in the drivers champsionship.

As we all know, special dispensation was given to Minardi last year to use a rev limited V10 engine for this season due to the Faenza team's extreme financial constraints. However, when Red Bull took over the little team, along with the right to compete in Formula 1, they inherited that dispensation from the FIA. Now we all know that Red Bull is not exactly in financial difficulty. In fact, one could argue that a so called "independent" that can afford to effectively field 4 cars, two of which have the latest Ferrari powerplants, have very little constraints at all.

It is controversial. The letter of the law states that the FIA have the right to allow the use of a V10 engine. Herein lies the controversy. Its up to the FIA to make such allowances. However, in the spirit of things one could argue that the FIA should not have allowed that in the case of Toro Rosso.

One comment that I have over this is that, the backmarker teams are implying that Toro Rosso's performance is solely due to the engine and nothing else. This overlooks the fact that Toro Rosso are using what is effectively a Red Bull RB1 chassis. This in itself is another source of discontent. For if I'm not mistaken, Super Aguri was prevented from using ex-BAR chassis or even designs but Dietrich Mateschitz being a buddy of Max is allowed to do whatever he damned well please. However, the main point here is, the performance is also due to the chassis and not solely where their fingers are pointing, that is to the engines. I'm saying this based solely on the news stories which do not make any mention of protest over the chassis.

Super Aguri and Midland should be reminded that their respective Honda and Toyota engines work fine when fitted to the works cars. In fact, I'd venture they'd do well anywher else except on the woefully obsolete Super Aguri and the simply woeful Midland.

Of course if the Toro Rossos didn't do so well in Melbourne, when they made the "mistake" of overtaking Michael Schumacher, this issue would probably not have arisen. (Incidentally, Michael Schumacher himself did not attribute getting passed to some V10 performance advantage. Unless he's trying to help a Ferrari ally.) Still, it does not mean that Toro Rossos have no right at all to do well, which what the backmarker alliance seem to imply. Of course, they deserve whatever they get and hell, its a joy to see them actually doing so good. After all, it is a V10 thats limited to 16000 RPM which is well away from the stratospheric 19000 RPM it did last year.

I'd guess that either Max will do nothing because he needs friend Mateschitz on his side or the rev limits will come down. 15000 RPM? That sounds a bit much given that a 1989 Honda V10 revs to that limit. Surely their not suggesting that sort of performance level? That would be unfair to Toro Rosso.

Its hard to make a judgement here. Whatever decision is probably the right one. But in closing I have to reiterate my point about Red Bull. Now Max makes such a big issue about protecting the "independents." But really, a company that can buy out two teams, run four cars a weekend, afford to steal the top engineers from the manufacturers and in the process drive up salaries all round not to mention spending more money than the so called "manufacturers" in the last 12 months. Is this Mosley's definition of an independent? Oh thats right according to him Ferrari aren't a manufacturer.

Red coloured crap.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Way To Go Alex!

"Now thats the way you supposed to drive. From now on, thats how you drive " -- Will Smith as Mike Lowry, Bad Boys

In all the excitement this weekend in Austrlia its easy to overlook a great result from Alex Yoong at the A1GP in China. First a pole position, then a win in the sprint race and second in the feature race today.

Alex in truth has been threatening to do well ever since he got the backing from Proton. In a series that supposedly equal, financial backing is still an important element it seems. And Alex has made full use of it. Today's results adds to some good performances in Indonesia and the States before he had that spin after the infamous Corkscrew.

Like a lot of Malaysians, I have been incredibly hard on Alex largely because I didn't think he deserve his shot in Formula 1 and when given the opportunity didn't have the skill to make full use of it against his illustrious teammates. I think now in A1GP, with the nation's attention firmly off him, the pressure is far less and he can just concentrate on the business of driving. Clearly, he's enjoying himself a lot more and I fully applaud his result. Truly well done Alex and you deserve praise for this. Hopefully, when you're out and about town, people won't be trying so hard to avoid you. Maybe you'll even get fans asking for autographs!

Well done and respect!

Australian Grand Prix

An incident packed race brought about in no small part by the cool tempratures in Albert Park. I noticed prior to the race that the track surface seemed very slippery. And so it proved even at the start of the race on the warm up.

There's no doubting the world champion's pace this weekend. But perhaps, he should thank the Midland drivers for the victory. Kimi Raikkonen's race was hampered by a vibration from a flat spotted tyre that led to him losing his front end plates. Once replaced, Kimi set a blistering pace towards the end. At the final safety car period, he lost 5 seconds getting stuck behind the Midland of Monteiro. Had he been right behind Alonso, I would have thought he would be battling the world champion right till the end.

Still, props to Alonso for realising that the Midlands would delay the pursuit behind him and duly got the drop on them the moment the safety car dived into the pits. And of course you can't fault him for superb pace throughout the race. In fact, had there been no safety car period his margin of victory over Kimi might have been considerably larger than what it was at the end.

Perhaps it would have been wiser for Kimi to have saved his engine towards the end instead of attempting a futile attempt to catch Fernando. Or perhaps he was just trying to keep the Spaniard honest.

And how about that Taku? He did a great job at the start of the race making 12th and holding up Rubens Barrichello in the works Honda behind him. I'd say that deserves a mention here. Barrichello is having a torrid time here but its all rather mysterious. Just how can he be so slow in relation to his teammate. Even the infamous Taku was a lot closer than this.

Mysterious indeed was Ferrari's pace this weekend. At the early stage, Michael couldn't even resist the Toro Rossos. Vitantonio Liuzzi managing to find a way past the 7 time world champion. At that stage Alonso was happily lapping in the 1m 27s bracket whereas Michael was plodding on in the 1m 29s. Prior to his stop, he was then down into the 1m 27s and was up to fourth at one stage. After his stop, he was definitely catching Kimi at a tremendous rate of knots. However, you could tell that Michael was on the ragged edge. If I had to guess, I'd say that he was pushing the car way beyond its capabilities and he got caught out, slamming into the wall on lap 33.

Speaking of the Toro Rossos it was fantastic to seem them ahead of the "main" team. Scott Speed managing a points placing ahead of David Coulthard. I say, David, perhaps you should be worried about being replaced by Juan Pablo Montoya next year. Still, as Martin Brundle was saying, the Toro Rossos were so good at trying to appear to be slower than the rest that they ran into problems which only just have been sorted out. Today was the pace you would expect from them.

Giancarlo Fisichella got a very public and humiliating earful from his race engineer this weekend. Same car, same tyres, same strategy and he's more than a second slower. Of course the team would be irritated. In the end even Flavio had to get on the horn to tell him to just get on with the driving. I have a suspicion that despite the win last weekend, Renault is fast losing patience with Fisi. Its very surprising because here's the man who has destroyed his previous teammates and that list includes Heidfeld, Button and Ralf Schumacher.

Speaking of Ralf, it was a job well done by him and Toyota to get onto the podium ahead of the much fancied Jenson Button in the Honda. The folks in Japan must have been pleased. All this despite having to come into the pits for a penalty due to speeding in the pitlane. Of course, fortuitously, they were aided by the safety car periods.

Moving on to Jenson, his lack of pace is also surprising. It seems that he just didn't have the confidence to push his car. The low tempratures meant that everyone was having trouble with getting enough heat into the tyres. Nick Heidfeld noticeably having to weave on the straights after each restart to get the tyres up to temprature again.

Clearly though, the Honda team have a lot of work to do on the car. The race pace simply isn't there. So too, do Ferrari if they are to have any hope of seriously challenging for the world title. Irritatingly though, Ferrari are still third in the constructors and Michael still third in the driver's chase. All this despite both cars crashing out today.

It looks very much a Kimi vs Alonso battle for the championship at this stage. However, Alonso is having a great start to the season as he did last year. Whats more his driving and the car underneath him of course is an absolutely robust, dependable and solid performer. Not to mention, incredible consistent in its pace. It will be a hard pursuit.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Australian GP Qualifying

Once again, the qualy results this year have pretty much followed the script set in winter testing. Jenson Button is on pole and one wonders whether this is finally his time to take the top step of the podium. Friday practice saw Anthony Davidson set the pace but these Hondas are usually quick in practice but are unable to keep pace with Regie in the race. Still, Jenson's pole is some 0.4 seconds quicker than Fisichella's time.

Giancarlo Fisichella is looking fresh from his Malaysian GP win will start alongside Button on the front row. Surprisingly this is Fernando Alonso's best qualifying result this year. This time though, he wasn't hampered by fuelling problems. It should be interesting to see if Alonso will be given the "overtake" signal in the race.

Ron Dennis is convinced that his cars are fueled longer than the folks in front of Kimi and Montoya. We'll see about that. I think only strategy will be able to win it for McLaren. However, the folks at Renault are no fools. Somehow I think they'll struggle to live with the folks in front. A repeat of Malaysia is at hand, though I admit the McLarens are much closer to the Renaults this time. Its going to be tough.

Nice to see both Toyotas in the top ten. Ralf Schumacher leading Trulli although the Italian's machine has some gremlins in the electrical bits.

But what about those Ferraris? As you know, I loathe these guys but I am very surprised to see Michael Schumacher being unable to make the cut. His best lap is some 1.5 seconds out from Jenson Button's time. Now that is a big surprise given that Albert Park has always been kind to the team. Michael Schumacher admits to being rather mystified by all this although I was quite amused to hear that he drove off with the cooling fan still attached in the radiators in the second session which was rather hectic after Filipe's off.

Best Bridgestone runner? That'll be the Toyota. Mark Webber being the next best runner. I really wonder what the problem is with the Ferrari now. I suspect they'll do well to catch the Toyotas in front this weekend. Whatever it is, it could be back to the drawing board.

Nico Rosberg also failed to make the final cut. Perhaps his young age is showing but he was evidently overdriving his Williams. He's been off the pace all weekend. I was very surprised indeed to see him staying in the pits on Friday's first practice. One would have thought he'd be out pounding the car and learning the circuit.

Poor Rubens. Now back in a team where he can get equal treatment but he's not making the best of it. Blocked by the hapless Yuji Ide during his run, he failed to make it to the second session. Thats three races now he's been absolutely annihiliated by his teammate. Its not going to do his morale any good. Still, its a new environment and a new car. One would have thought though that he'd fit in a lot better than this.

Should be a good race tomorrow though I'm not sure if we'll see much overtaking on the road. We didn't see much of that last year I think. Jenson Button described the track as a point and squirt sort of deal. Lots of braking in a straight line with no trail braking opportunities around the circuit. Well, he clearly enjoys it.