Monday, 22 February 2010

At the end of Jerez – Mileage and more.

75% of the pre-season on track testing is over. One would think that it would be possible to gauge the pulse of how quick individual teams are by now. Unsurprisingly though, no. Jenson Button ensured that he stole the headlines for the first time with his new team by posting the quickest time seen during 8 days at Jerez. He did it on a qualifying style 3-lap run, but he still did it. That one lap has probably ensured that he will sleep a lot better from now up until Barcelona comes along, hounded as he has been by the thoughts of his plucky teammate and all that is good and holy with Lewis Hamilton’s association with Mclaren.

Nico Rosberg seems to have found his feet at Mercedes as well. He will be feeling far more confident in the car and in his new team. A valid fear, since his teammate is MS, and things going his way inside a team have been known to happen. He has shown good pace in the car and driven a fair few number of laps.

One must spare a thought for the two new teams though - Virgin Racing and Lotus. They have had a torrid time at Jerez, what with it being their first ever test (things have changed far too drastically since Lotus were last in the sport) and the rain coming down in sheets on Day 1 and Day 2 of this third pre-season test. They’ve crashed their cars, not had spare parts on hand and generally been middling for pace. Jarno Trulli salvaged some pride for Lotus with a strong showing on Saturday by completing many many laps, but much more is needed from them to convince the Formula 1 world that it was not a mistake to allow them onto the grid this year.

The other two teams, Campos Meta F1 and USF1 are nowhere. Literally. News announced late last week seemed to suggest that Campos has been saved by Jose Maria Carabante who has then tried to seem and sound professional about the entire situation by appointing Collin Kolles as Team Principal. They might make the grid at Bahrain, but whether they will make the last test at Barcelona is a huge doubt. USF1 probably won’t. The American team with the Argentinean driver (who is backed by the Argentinean Government) were supposed to be at an advanced stage in their preparation a month or two ago. As of now though, there is no completed chassis, no second driver and no money. Stefan GP, the team that is not, must be licking their lips. They can now follow up their act of sending a crate of equipment to Bahrain by booking their flight tickets as well.

One of the startling aspects of this seasons testing has been mileage. The only reason why there is any focus on mileage is because after the fourth test at Barcelona, there is no more testing allowed. So the teams that have racked up the miles on a consistent basis over the past 11 days of testing have some solid data on hand which they can use back at base. Here is the mileage that different teams have done as of 22/2/2010 -

Williams – 3,176
Ferrari – 3,074
Torro Rosso – 2,689
Mercedes – 2,653
Mclaren – 2,539
BMW Sauber – 2,143
Red Bull – 1,838
Renault – 1,804
Force India – 1,624
Lotus - 867
Virgin – 636

I should also point out that amongst the 25 drivers that have logged testing mileage this year, it is Felipe Massa who has racked up the maximum number of miles – an astounding 1,659 of them. Kamui Kobayashi has looked very strong across all 3 pre-season tests considering he joined Toyota late last year. A good season ahead for him looks in the offing provided Sauber can keep themselves in a straight line through the year. Amongst the newbie’s, it is Nico Hulkenbeg in the Williams who has looked the strongest. I’m still not convinced with Vitaly Petrov. He has looked good, but there is just that feeling that he might crack under pressure. I hope he doesn’t.

As I’m about to post this I read that Kimi Raikkonen is almost a sure bet for Mark Webber’s Red Bull Racing seat for 2011. With Christian Horner refusing to categorically rule anything out and Mark Webber using expletives to describe what might have bbeen last year’s Red Bull, anything is possible.

Till Barcelona,


Thursday, 18 February 2010


4 days of testing - Two and a half of them in the wet. Red Bull, Force India and Virgin must be cussing to high heaven.

Times are inconclusive to say the least. Not only is the Valencia conundrum of Fuel loads still to be deciphered, this time around there were different tyres being used (due to the rain), and the rain itself.

Everyone is saying that Mclaren are looking the quickest. Are they the right kind of quick? Pundits are saying no. That honor, at this time, rests with Ferrari. Consistently quick times are being belted out lap after lap by the F10, with consolidated testing timing showing that Alonso is marginally quicker than Massa. And this time, when I mean marginally, I actually mean a tenth of a second or thereabouts.

Massa is looking quite strong after what is one of the freakiest accidents seen on track in a while. I’m sure his family is happy for him.

I have a feeling Mercedes is sandbagging. A little bit. Or could be a big bit depending on what they arm themselves with for the final test. Ross Brawn has already said that it is difficult to decipher anything until the final pre-season test is underway. He means to say that Mercedes (like many other teams) will use the first three tests to find out where the cars currently stand and then bring about a host of aero and mechanical updates to get the cars ready for Bahrain.

The other team also did ok. I mean Red Bull, for that’s what they were for much of the 2009 season. They didn’t storm the timesheets and racked up a fair few miles of valuable testing. The rain at Jerez may be far from ideal, but it gives the teams some valuable practice in the wet before the season starts. And since we’re bound to have at least 1 wet race in the calendar, the teams should focus on getting the small things down pat – like those much spoken about pit-stops.

Looks like more rain at Jerez for the third test. I wonder how many will crash trying to get some running in.

Till Wednesday,

Sunday, 7 February 2010


Right then. Most of the cars that matter have been launched. The driver market has almost gone cold. 2 of the new teams might not make the grid and Fernando Alonso is going to get a big wet kiss from Luca di Montezemolo.

First, the cars. Before I pronounce any kind of judgment, I would like to place on record my opinion that Ferrari and Mercedes GP have gone overboard to appease their newest sponsors. Ferrari has decided to go Bi-finish and throw in more white than they ever have thereby making Santander smile, while Mercedes GP has dipped their car in metallic green slime to please Petronas. The Sauber looks matte. That is to be expected without any sponsors, but I’m not saying it’s bad. The hooter of this year is Renault. What were they thinking? The R30 is the ugliest car on the grid since 2007 when Honda thought it was doing the world a favour by letting a 12 year old paint their car with what he/she thought would be a green Earth theme and then going on to mount those 2 elephant ears onto their car in order to make it go a little quicker. I really hope the R30 meets a different result at the end of the year. The Ferrari F10 looks beautiful and the Mclaren MP4-25 looks like every other Mclaren.

The Red Bull RB6 however, is what everybody is waiting for. Christian Horner sounds happy that most other teams’ 2010 cars bear a resemblance to the 2009 RB5. This could mean one of two things. 1, that Adrian Newey has outthought everyone with the RB6. Again. Or 2, that Red Bull is on the same page as everyone else for 2010. I have a feeling that it’s the former. As for whether they will be quick or not, we’ll have to wait for Jerez.

With the cars that have released though, there are many things to talk about. All of them look pregnant, but in a good way. Think 12-14 weeks. Their noses are higher than earlier and those smaller tyres look quite, odd, after so many years of equal sized tyres. Every team that experimented with KERS last year has thrown it out the window even though officially, its still allowed this year (KERS is banned from the 2011 season onwards, along with the double diffusers).

Testing got underway at Valencia and on the face of it; all is well with the big red machine. Ferrari were understandably happy that Felipe Massa was able to get through two full days of testing and top the timesheets as well. Jenson Button showed up in the MP4-25 and had problems with his seat. Observers have already started writing him off for this year and on the basis of comparative times with his team mate Lewis Hamilton, apparently he’s going to be playing second fiddle as well.

Sauber had a fantastic test coming in 2nd on all 3 days of testing. This is probably because they ran super light in order to attract sponsors. If that is what they were trying to do, they should (on the basis of Valencia), certainly be able to attract a few. Mercedes GP couldn’t repeat last year’s fantastical tale of Brawn, with the man himself saying that they have some catching up to do. But then he also shot a warning to everyone listening. That Merc. know what they’re problem was and that they knew how to fix it. Come the first test at Jerez, things should get a little clearer.

However it was a man from Spain wearing Red overalls who stole every headline. Fernando Alonso showed up to drive a Ferrari for the first time. Ever. And after 25 odd laps, promptly showed everyone why Ferrari wanted him so desperately by topping the times. Taking into account that fact that Massa did a lot of setup work and the fact that the rack was much quicker on Day 3, it has still been pointed out (by Ferrari themselves) that Alonso was marginally quicker than Massa. If he marginally quicker after his first day, Alonso fans must be licking they’re lips at the prospect of what he will be able to achieve after slightly longer in the car.

Now all eyes will turn to Jerez. Will Alonso dominate again? Will Massa keep the Ferrari flag prancing high? Will the wily Ross Brawn manage to swing it the way of the silver (green) cars? And what of Red Bull? They’ve take a week longer in the wind tunnel, choosing that over the track. It’s all go from Monday including the welcome to Force India.

It’s going to be a cracker of a test. Weather permitting.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Formula 1 in 2010 - 1.000

The FIA Formula 1 World Championships – 2010 are just over a month away from us. It promises to be a cracker of a season, one which I aim to (for the first time) write about. I will skip analyzing the launches, but aim to write about testing and then the season as it unfolds.

As someone who has been watching F1 for over 10 years now, I know that I have several opinions – on cars, designs, tracks, team bosses and above all, drivers. Yes many of those opinions are very strong, and there are a few things I will never accept (though I may privately feel). Like Michael Schumacher being the greatest driver of all time. No, he isn’t and no I do not privately feel that he is either. Ayrton Senna is. Michael Schumacher is statistically the greatest Formula 1 racer of all time. I know this is one of those opinions that everyone will land up having a problem with. I have heard almost every argument there is for MS. That he does what it takes to win, that he’s won more than anyone else, that he is a genius in the car, that technically he is the strongest driver ever with the ability to tell his race engineers exactly what is wrong with the car and how to fix it yada yada yada. I still do not buy it. My friends know me to be a Hakkinen-man. Principally, he is my favorite racer. He did not act like an asshole, he did not cheat, he showed he was human (1999 Italian GP) and when he did cry, it was because he crashed while leading comfortably.

The point is that I am aware that I have many opinions. I will however, try and be neutral while I write. I believe I can do so. I know you will catch me out if I do err.

I would like to start off by saying that I welcome the return of several big names. Michael Schumacher is undoubtedly one of them. Lotus is another. Not too many people remember Lotus. Certainly no one in my age group (me included) can claim any knowledge on Lotus from first hand viewing experience. As I read up more about them though, it becomes plainly obvious that they are a constructor worthy of a place on the 2010 grid with 7 constructor’s championships to their name. I wish them the best, and hope that they can get through the season financially and otherwise.

I am thrilled with the return of a track as well. The Canadian GP at Montreal is held at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. I love the track and the sight of the cars as they round the famous Turn 10 hairpin and barrel down the back straight. It truly is worthy of a place on the calendar. Long do I hope it stays there. I would like to place on record the fact that Formula 1 will miss Kimi Raikkonen. He was a supremely fast racer, one who I believe deserved a place on the 2010 grid.

New rules, New teams, New races (Korean GP) and New Drivers. This season is going to be a stormer. Life will still be lived in intervals of 0.001 seconds and everyone will still be under the gun, especially pit crews who will, with the refueling ban now in effect, aim to break the 3-second barrier for a pitstop. But if not here then where else? After all, this is Formula 1.