Tag Archive: Formula One 2010

Nov 14 2010

F1: Yas Marina

One and done.

An interesting feature of the Yas Marina race is that it takes place at dusk and will finish under the lights like Singapore.

All the Top Qualifiers used Softs and they start on the same rubber.  The Bridgestone guys still swear they’re only good for about 10 laps, so perhaps we’ll see some early pits that mix up the field.  Were I a back marker I’d at least consider giving the Prime tire tactic a shot.  They take 2 laps to warm up and then they’re just as good as the Softs.

Something that doesn’t often get mentioned is that now days Drivers, while they are paid by the Teams, are also expected to bring their own sponsorship money to the table, effectively buying their seat.  While I don’t think any Team would start a Driver they thought was slow just for the money, I can’t see how this situation is good for the sport.

For all it’s recent expansion Formula One is on the financial edge and a lot of the rule changes are compromises to make it cheaper to field a Team (not that this helped the US effort much because it’s still very expensive).  I think this is an unfortunate development.

One change in particular I disagree with is the restriction on track testing time.  While it makes it cheaper for new Teams, it also prevents them from learning the things they need to know to be competitive.  For instance the Virgin Cars still don’t have enough fuel on board to go the whole race at top speed.

If “cost cutting” rule changes continue Formula One will degenerate into the Open Wheel NASCAR Bumper Car sport that IndyCar and all the ‘strict’ formulas have become and while you may think it’s thrilling to have the cars all bunched up so there are lots of chunks of twisted flaming metal, I don’t really watch for the wrecks.

That’s what Monster Jam is for.

I promised I’d talk about Auto World and Ferrari World, but I think most of it is in the links.  I will say that I had a chance to go to Auto World twice and I found it kind of sad in the same way Lake Compounce is sad.  The second time was the revival and they were only running the ‘Historic Flint’ front end, not that the back was much of a much.  An up escalator past painted walls with a sound track about making cars.  A moving Airport slide walk past cam driven HMS Pinafore wave cut outs of engines and stuff with a sound track about making cars.  A down escalator past painted walls with a sound track about making cars.  No wonder my Grandma thought Michael Moore was a smart ass.  Ferrari World is said to have the world’s fastest roller coaster.  We’ll see how long it lasts.

I really, really, really encourage you to click through on Yas Marina Qualifying, it’s a much better piece.

Pretty tables below.

Repeat at 4:30 pm.

Nov 13 2010

F1: Yas Marina Qualifying

Well this is it, last race of the season.  I won’t kid you, my guy Lew needs to finish first and everyone else has to park.  To add insult Hamilton was under investigation for an incident with Senna during practice and could suffer a 5 grid penalty.

The Constructors’ Championship is already done- Red Bull, McLaren, Scuderia Marlboro.  Fair enough I suppose, the others were playing catchup to Red Bull all year.  It’s a big triumph for the former Jaguar/Ford team which knew nothing but futility in it’s previous incarnation.  They’re now the biggest in Formula One too, with 2 separate groups (Toro Rosso, running the Ferrari engine) and 4 cars on track.

Speaking of engines, the Top contenders are all on used engines and are using different ones today than they used yesterday in practice.  Both the Red Bull drivers have relatively low milage, ultra reliable Renaults, everyone else is running the best they have left.  Barrichello’s stopped during the first practice.

Yas Marina is about 3.4 miles and because of it’s long straight and a couple of other fast bits can put a lot of strain on brakes.  It’s a relatively new track and while it’s designed to resemble Monaco it’s really nothing like it at all.  Yeah, sure, there are high walls and stuff, but they’re mostly not as close as they look on TV.  Instead there are acres of smooth asphalt run off areas, no gravel traps at all.  This has the unintended(?) side effect of making drivers more aggressive since there is rarely a parking penalty for an off.

Now you’d naturally think that being in Abu Dhabi and all you wouldn’t have to worry about rain, but it did in fact, quite heavily, just before yesterday’s practice and at practice time it was 80 degrees with 60% humidity.  The drivers won’t have to worry about ‘rubbering in’ the track though since after almost 2 months of down time the support races in GP 3 and GP 2 will stage their season finales before the main event (Speed’s coverage of GP 2 starts at 6 am).

About that rubber, next year Pirelli is taking over from Bridgestone as the sole source supplier to Formula One and they’re already talking about deliberately putting out ‘risky’ tires to encourage ‘tire management strategies’.

Well, for one thing they’re tactics not strategies and were I a driver that would certainly give me a warm fuzzy feeling inside, especially after parking.

Branson’s toy Virgin team has sold off the Lloyd’s Bank stake to Russian Sports Car manufacturer Marussia who would dearly love to have Petrov on the team next year, but it would be a big step down from Renault for him.

After this racing starts again on March 12th, 2011 with Qualifying in Bahrain and they’ll be adding a 20th race in India.  If you want to see some of the other changes click the link.

I think I’ll spare you my comparison of Auto World and Ferrari World until tomorrow.  Pre-race coverage starts at 7:30 am.  Qualifying will repeat at 4:30 pm.  Surprising developments (if any) below.

Nov 07 2010

F1: Interlagos

Surprise, surprise, surprise, Nico Hulkenberg gets Williams it’s first pole in over 5 years.  His team mate Rubens Barrichello qualifies a  modestly surprising 6th too.  The drivers they displaced from the usual suspects were Button and Rosberg.  Sutil and Buemi are staring with 5 place grid penalties, both for Turn 3 collisions at Yeongam.  Buemi piled into Glock on Lap 31, Sutil collected Kobayashi on Lap 47.  These are reflected in the pretty tables below.

The Telegraph article I cited does a pretty good job of summarizing the horse race, my McLaren boys need some timely DNFs, but, as I mentioned yesterday, Interlagos is a track that can provide them.  Alonso is running a used engine (of course there’s Webber and Vettel too).

Tactically it’s important to remember that while it rained yesterday it’s expected to be dry today.  This means a couple of things, first of all it means the track won’t be ‘rubbered in’ so it won’t particularly sticky at the start of the race.

The second thing is tire strategy.  Since it dried out at the end of Qualifying all (or mostly all) of the top 10 Qualifiers were running on Softs and they’ll have to start the race on them.  The fly in the ointment is that we saw in Friday practice that the Softs are only lasting a Lap or two, especially under heavy fuel and an abrasive track which are exactly the conditions we will have at the start of the race.

So, I would expect early pit stops from them.

But wait, it gets better!  Qualifiers 11 – 24 are always allowed to choose the tires they start on and particularly in this case because they parked them with Intermediate wets which you’re allowed to change for race conditions (they don’t even last as long as the Softs when it’s dry and were noticably deteriorating at the end of Q2).

It seems to me that the situation developing is this- all the backbenchers will come out on Primes and when the top Qualifiers are forced to pit without having had enough track time to build up time gaps, we’re going to see a lot of position changes.  It could be the case where if you want to win or even finish well you’ll have to do a lot of passing.  This might be a more interesting race than some.

Anyway, pretty tables (and they are pretty) and race updates below.

If you miss the race there will be a repeat on Speed at noon on Tuesday.

Nov 06 2010

F1: Interlagos Qualifying

Like any political pundit, sports commentators can hardy talk about anything except the horse race, but it’s really not as complicated as they make it seem- everyone needs an “unexpected” Did Not Finish from 1 or more of their major competitors like we saw last time in Yeongam.

At the end of the season here the chances for that are substantially enhanced as Teams are collectively starting to run out of their rationed parts (Engines, Transmissions) and replacing them results in difficult to overcome grid penalties.

Two examples from Scuderia Marlboro UPC.  Alonso is running a used engine this race because of a rule that doesn’t allow him to run his last unused one.  Massa is running a new engine (his last), but parked during practice because of a transmission failure.  I have no idea whether Massa will get a penalty for that but I expect he might.

Xtrac Transmissions are falling into the same suspect category as Ferrari Powerplants and I suppose were I a better and more engaged reporter I’d bore you with the details of all the most recent technology and driver deals.  You’ll hear enough about them from the commentators because for the most part nothing has changed.  The Red Bulls are fastest with McLaren and Scuedria Marlboro evenly matched.  I will mention that it is uniformly reported that Vettel and Webber are hardly on speaking terms despite Red Bull’s assertions to the contrary.

Interlagos is hard on engines because of the many changes in elevation, especially from Turn 13 to Turn 1 which is fast, up hill, and presents one of the few overtaking opportunities.

Petrov had a crash during the 1st Practice because of a stuck F-Duct.  F-Duct enabled cars have a distinct advantage because of numerous fast sections where you want less downforce.  Softs are extremely short lived under dry track conditions, lasting only 1 or 2 laps with full fuel.  The expectation is that because of a tiny speed advantage teams that are in final Qualifying will start on Softs because they can’t change tires after the Qualifying session, but we may see some strategizing around that if someone posts a particularly fast lap.

But we could do this on Wets as rain was expected after the Practice and forecast during today’s Qualifying.

Race coverage starts tomorrow at 10:30 am.  I’ll have my race diary up at 10:15.

Oct 24 2010

F1: Yeongam

There’s no sugar coating it.  Mclaren needs some Red Bull DNFs and especially Hamilton needs some Webber DNFs.

There are only 3 races left (including this one).

Scuderia Marlboro UPC I expect will blow up, their ’10 powerplants have proven entirely unreliable at least for the non-factory customers.  Renault on the other hand has proven exceptionally durable and also highly successful with the right chassis (that last R in RBR stands for Renault) and the factory team has been competitive.  Webber is using a brand new engine, his last.

A Fail Team is Mercedes.  They’re blaming it on the Brawn chassis (which *ahem* won last year) and Michael Schumacher who may or may not be back, but they also power Mclaren so the engine is good enough.  Not that I have any complaints about the times they’ve parked, things happen.  Mechanical failures are part of the game.

At least they’re not Marlboro.

If Webber parks, and that’s not the evil eye, and Vettel wins you’ll have some chat about team orders.  I don’t think Alonso can hang but he’s pretty fast in the short run.

Otherwise you might just start developing your 2011 car to the extent you can.  I think a big problem with Formula One today is the lack of development time, which I think penalizes the less experienced teams.  If you had track time and data to measure you’d be able to make your car competitive more quickly.

Petrov has a 5 position Grid penalty for booting Hulkenberg on the first lap at Suzuka.  It’s reflected below in the pretty tables.

Repeat @ 4:30 pm on Speed

Oct 23 2010

F1: Yeongam Qualifying

I’ll admit that 2 weeks ago I didn’t think they’d run this.  As it is, the place is raw.

That green stuff?  Spray painted dirt.

It’s marshland they’re building an industrial/residential development on around the racetrack (like condos around a golf course) which is eventually going to integrate with the street grid so it becomes a true street circuit like Monaco.  Artifacts of this include the non-existent elevation change and the high walls at 16 & 17.

They literally laid down the surface 2 weeks ago and had to use a fast curing asphalt.  The track is really bumpy, especially in Turn 16 and in some sections they have *ahem* “low curbs”, which are essentially paved ditches where you can drop straight off the road.

Some fun eh?

There may be some logic to it that escapes the analysts, it’s 3.5 miles with just 3 straights none of which seems long.  The rest is twisty bits.  It’s very tight without a lot of obvious passing opportunities.  Some drivers are complaining about the tightness of the pit entrance and pit lane.  F-Ducts are reported to confer an advantage, but it’s not clear which teams will be running them.

In competitive news Mercedes is blaming its non-competitiveness on the inherited Brawn chassis and McLaren is not giving up and came with all kinds of fiddly new aero bits that all had to be replaced on Button’s car when it caught fire near the end of practice.

There’s a chance of rain which would wipe away all the rubbering in they’ve done.  The track seems to be hard on tires, particularly the right front, so people won’t want to be out on Softs for long.

Observations and surprises below.

Oct 10 2010

F1: Suzuka

Well, you see normally I’d have some pretty tables below the fold laying out the Starting Grid and Standings, but it’s not like that today.  Everything got washed out and for all I know it’s still raining and the crews are still sending paper boats floating down the gutters of pit lane (which is not nearly as original as the commentators are trying to make it appear since it’s happened at least twice this season already).

There was some talk about sending them off in numerical order which would be a big advantage for Hamilton, Button, and McLaren, but I doubt the rules are really that stupid and I expect that there’s some fallback based on Practice times (again, this is not the first race where Qualifying has been threatened by inclemency and you’d think people being paid for their purported “expertise” would be a trifle less ignorant and hide their Ferrari Fanboy worship just a little better).

I expect whatever the conditions and starting order that we’ll have some racing today because Formula One doesn’t have graceful Monday fallback plans like the PGA does (not that the plans are all that graceful, you lose most of your volunteers, audience, and TV time).  Indeed it’s even more unlikely that they’ll simply scrub it because the next race in Korea is problematic too.  They just laid down the track asphalt (or McAdam as they call it in Old Blighty) and 2 weeks is about the minimum curing time for a new surface unless you wish to court Daytona Debacles (remember the 2 hour Red Flag?).

All in all this is shaping up to be the Commonwealth Games period of the Formula One season and makes me wonder just a bit if they aren’t trying to expand their franchise a little too far, too fast.  Lack of testing time has definitely hurt the quality of the cars and hasn’t introduced any competitive balance at all.  Formula One Racing is the most boring racing to watch except for the Turn Left Bumper Cars that Inbred Brain Dead Bumpkin America calls Football.

Now with Starting Grid.

Not sure where these disappeared-

Oct 09 2010

F1: Suzuka Qualifying

Well, it’s no secret I think Webber should have been black flagged at Singapore.  I haven’t seen a clearer violation since Piquet drove into the wall.  Even the talking heads are having a hard time excusing it.

McLaren has a bunch of fiddly new aero bits that kept Hamilton off the track during much of practice (well, and parking it so they all had to be replaced).  Even with only 3 races left (they’re highly uncertain about Korea) Lew has a chance to get back into it being a mere 20 points behind and all.  All you fucking Ferrari fanatics talking about Alonso’s 50 point surge should remember it only took 2 races to do. so shut your chain smoking Marlboro UPC yaps you losers.

Suzuka is considered a high downforce track so grip will be critical.  Qualifying will be replayed on Speed starting with Formula One Debrief (which I’m watching right now) at 11 pm and the race at 1 am, followed by the debrief again at 4 am and a race repeat at 2:30 pm Saturday.

If I seem a little crankier than usual it’s the lack of sleep.

Sep 26 2010

F1: Singapore

Scuderia Marlboro UPC has an interesing grid, first and last.  This is unlikely to move them in the Constructors Championship, but then again both Red Bull and McLaren would have to DNF both their cars for about 3 races to move Marlboro into contention anyway.  I’m sure Alonso sees this as an opportunity and Massa is sorely disappointed, it’s been a very bad year for him.

Not as bad as Schumacher’s mind you, though he starts in the top 10 for the first time in what seems like… ever.  Lots of speculation that at 41 he’s just too damn old, but I don’t blame the man, it’s his equipment.  Brawn/Mercedes has never contended.

Anyway this is the kind of commentary that takes up the boring parts of the race (which is most of it quite frankly) during the silly season as we wind down the races and everyone’s position gets set further in stone.  I don’t really find the debates about who’s the best of the worst (none of the new teams has shown much this year) all that fascinating.  What I did find a little interesting was talk about rule changes that would allow turbo charging and fatter front tires.  The concept is that would eliminate some of the passing problem which is ‘supposedly’ due to spoiled air and lack of boost.  I look at Turn Left racing and its emphasis on drafting and say- maybe.  Many of the drivers of the not so rich teams are unhappy with the idea and contend instead that it’s the constant rule changes and lack of development time that keep them down.

The track will be damp and stay that way since it’s hot and humid and there’s no sun to dry it out.  All the edges are sharp so there will be no recovering, just broken suspensions and flying body parts.  Hamilton really, really hates the adjusments they’ve made to the main chicane, but he can’t afford another DNF.  Vettel qualified well (again) but the Championship action is all with Webber.  Alonso and Scuderia Marlboro UPC think they were born to the throne but truth is without winning out and some mistakes from everyone else it ain’t happening.

The big puzzle is all the electronics failures.  Most teams are reporting at least brown outs in telemetry (not so difficult to imagine given the interference from buildings and grand stands), but losing your engine control computer is a race ender.

Nick Heidfeld has replaced Pedro de la Rosa on Sauber, Christian Klien has succeeded Sakon Yamamoto and Karun Chandhok on Hispania.  Hulkenberg has a 5 position penalty for replacing his transmission.  Race 15 of 19.

My Qualifying Commentary, Speed Channel Racecast, Formula One Official Website.

Starting Grid and Standings below.

Sep 25 2010

F1: Singapore Qualifying

What makes the Singapore race unique is that it’s the only F1 race run under the lights.  This is actually a nice fit for the island nation since most drivers don’t use their headlights because the streets are so well lit.  I have this bit of information from Richard who had a conference there many years ago.  The reason they’re an island nation is that the socially dominant Chinese are so fucking racist against native Malay that Malaysia won’t have them.

With 4 races (5 including this one) left to go the commentators are obsessing about engines with teams using Ferrari powerplants in the worst shape (most on their last one already) and those with Renaults in the best (Mark Webber for instance has 2 left).

Since Singapore is a street circuit most teams are re-using their Monte Carlo aero packages.  The course is a little over 3 miles and while there are at least 3 areas that are generally considered available for passing it’s not a particularly fast track with lots of turns and short straights, which will save the engines somewhat.  The curbs are high and the boundaries concrete Jersey barriers so there isn’t a lot of room to recover from a mistake.  Expect many flaming chunks of twisted metal.  Indeed the most notable thing about practice was Sutil launching his Force India off a curb in a chicane and wacking his front end clean off (no O’Donnell jokes, please).  Monster Jam RULZ!

You might be thinking that the last race at Monza’s surprising results with Hamilton geting punted on the first lap and Alonso going on for the win might have shaken things up a bit in the standings.  Not as much as the commentators would have you believe.  Lewis is only 5 points behind Webber.  Alonso did leap frog Button and Vettel for 3rd, but he’s a dismal 21 points out of the lead and without a few more unexpected DNFs can hardly be considered a contender.  In the Constructors Championship Red Bull leads McLaren by a mere 3 points with Scuderia Marlboro UPC huffing and puffing 60 points down.

The weather pattern seems to be heavy rains in the afternoon with the track damp and clean at race time.  This will affect grip until the racing line wears in, I would expect Softs to be the tire of choice.

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