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Sep 20 2015

Formula One 2015: Marina Bay

Well, we’ll start off with the shortest and stupidest news which is that Alexander Rossi will be the first U.S. driver to compete in many years.  He’s in a Manor however and can’t be expected to do much with that.

More involved is the story about Lotus and Renault.  Lotus has barely been rescued from bankruptcy due to the fact they’ve not been paying their taxes, about $4.25 million in the last 3 months.  Renault has offered around $150 million for a 65% share of the team.

What makes it especially interesting is that Red Bull has dropped their engine contract with Renault and inked a deal with Ferrari.  Renault has threatened all year to either buy their own team or quit entirely, this could work out for them if their pockets are deep enough since Lotus is a mid-tier team and the Renault power plant is finally showing some competitiveness.

Fans of Scuderia Marlboro, at least those who root for the marque and not just the paint job, will be happy with the extra cash.  It may hurt the factory team in terms of elevating the competition but I’m not convinced of that.

You see the thing is that Red Bull has been running Ferrari for several years on the Toro Rosso squad.  Toro Rosso means “Red Bull” in Italian and the distinguishing feature between them and the trademark team is their Maranello engine and their generally less talented drivers.  Is it really reasonable to expect the Red Bull design group, which they share, has some magic go wizardry they’ve been holding back?

And of course Red Bull (which is sponsoring 20% of the field) has equally been threatening to quit if they don’t get suddenly competitive and that kind of ruins the deal Ecclestone has crafted for Formula One to put at least 16 cars on the grid for race day.  Do you really want to be relying on Manor to keep two cars on the track?

Of course next year we have the much anticipated Haas team which would give bad Bernie (I like Sanders) some wiggle room if Christian Horner decides to pack it in, but not much.

Against that backdrop is the fact that Mercedes has had unexpected struggles in Singapore.

It’s a street track, run at night, very hot, and hard on tires.  Since August most teams have used up their yearly engine allotments (which is supposed to save them money).  Mercedes has decided to eat any penalties and ramp up their 2016 plant that did well enough at Monza.  At Marina Bay however they’ve been consistently slower than their rivals and the chassis is causing a spectacular drop in the performance of the Super Softs (Softs are the others available) when they are worn out, much more than other teams.

Hamilton and Rosberg did not qualify well and the track does not promote passing so while the media anticipated a record breaking performance Ferrari and Red Bull are in as good a position as they’ve been all season.

Not that it probably matters much in the long run.  Mercedes and Hamilton are fairly likely to keep their prospective championships provided they can keep cars on the track, everyone else is an also ran including Rosberg who is in some danger of losing #2 to Vettel.

Now on to Climate Change.

For the last week Singapore has been suffering a choking haze fueled in part by wild fires in Malaysia.  In an effort to clear the air the government has seeded the clouds in the hope that rain would reduce some of the smoke, dust, and pollution.  It’s been somewhat successful bringing Peking levels of unhealthiness down to a more tolerable Los Angeles level.

Hurray us I guess.  Makes me wonder what the heck is going to happen in Rio.

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