And we’re back from our August vacation from Formula One and there are basically 4 stories cooking.
The one getting the most ink and commentary is the drive train penalties. Now most commentators are casting this as a Hamilton (Mercedes) problem. but the truth is that Alonso (Honda) and Ericsson (Ferrari) are effected also. The rule is that for the 21 race season you are given 5 complete drive trains and are pretty much free to mix and match components (there are about 6 of them) in order to put a car on track. Blown gearbox? Replace it out of your stash. KERS likewise. Should you run out of KERS or gearboxes you can replace them on an ad hoc basis at the cost of a Starting Grid penalty which varies based on the component. Penalties are cumulative but not transferable, replacing an entire drive train is a 25 Grid penalty but there are only 22 cars in the field. You don’t take the other 4 places and apply them in the next race, you just start last in this one. But a failed component is not usually a discrete unit, it is likely to cause cascading failures and render much of the system a pile of (very expensive) junk.
It’s been clear since a series of engine failures early in the season that at some point Hamilton would have to restock engines and accept the penalties. Mercedes has elected to do so all in a lump, providing him with 3 complete new drive trains and incurring a whopping 55 Grid penalty.
Wait, are they allowed to do that?
I’ve just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It’s going to go 100% failure in 72 hours.
Sure you have HAL. I guess we better replace it.
Well HAL, I’m damned if I can find anything wrong with it.
Yes, it’s puzzling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this before. I would recommend that we put the unit back in operation and let it fail. It should then be a simple matter to track down the cause.
Must be human error.
Of course they are and as punishment Hamilton will start behind Alonso (just the one for 35 Grids) who will start behind Ericsson (just the turbocharger for 10 Grids).
But if you’re going to take a hit like that Spa-Francorchamps is the perfect place to do it. The track is very fast and totally suited to show the advantage of Mercedes power. Also there are a myriad of places to pass for position.
Speaking of position, Hamilton could hardly be in a better one. He leads his team mate Rosberg by 19 points in the Driver’s Championship and need only finish 7th to be dead even. At worst he will be 6 down headed into Monza. He has a brand new drive train and saved all his rubber for the race by not contesting Qualifying (really, what’s the point?) and will be able to push the car very hard.
Does he pay any real penalty at all? Well, the engine builders keep making marginal improvements and if you’ve used all your allotment you can’t implement them without further penalties. Still, there’s a lot to be said for ‘new’ even if it’s not the latest and greatest. Soon enough development of this year’s car will cease entirely as teams concentrate on 2017 which has a lot of rule changes, almost all of them mistakes.
The second On Track story concerns the tires. Contrary to precedent it seems we will have a hot and dry race this year. This makes Pirelli’s choice of Mediums, Softs, and SuperSofts a ludicrous error. The SuperSofts are practically useless, they don’t even have a full lap in them. This is likely to make hometown favorite (he is Belgian/Dutch) Max Verstappen’s admirable Front Row start (Rosberg won the Pole naturally) a cruel joke as he will be on a used set and have to pit within a lap or two.
This poor selection is compounded (it’s a tired pun, but the most important thing is that I amuse me) by Pirelli mandating over pressuring the tires to 23 psi instead of the usual 18 psi. This is to prevent side wall stress and blow outs. The practical effect is to chew them up at an alarming rate. There will be a lot of pit stops.
Off track the silly season has begun. Phillipe Massa is almost certain to retire from Williams (not quite a top 3 contender but much improved since its recent bad streak) so the game of musical chairs has begun. World Champion) and his contract with Honda/McLaren is up this year. Moving to Mercedes/Williams would be a decided step up for him but Williams also want’s to nail down their drivers as soon as possible.
The other contender is Perez of Force India, also in a contract year. He brings the sponsorship of Carlos Slim with him, Button costs $12 Million a year. Depending which one gets the seat a range of possibilities open up, too many to keep track of and all highly speculative.
Finally, follow the money. John Malone and Liberty Media are the top contenders at the moment to buy out CVC’s stake in Formula One. They are part owners of Live Nation Entertainment, a concert promoter, the Atlanta Braves, Liberty Global, Virgin Media, and Discovery Communications. Other potential bidders are Sky Communications (Murdoch), the Qatari owners of football club Paris Saint-Germain, and Apple.
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is roughly triangle shaped and the longest track in Formula One. It’s also one of the fastest with many sweeping corners and a lot of elevation changes that don’t show up well on TV.
Pre-race at 7 am. Half hour of hype 7:30 am. Lights at 8 am. All on NBC Sports.