Tag: Formula One 2015

Formula One 2015: Yas Marina

So, did you ever play with slot cars? Depending on when you may have had very different experiences. One thing that has not changed is that there is one track that is clearly superior because it’s an inside line (no matter your layout and because it’s electrically easier). Your gun controllers vary in quality a …

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Formula One 2015: Suzuka

So 1 year ago Jules Bianchi died on this track.

Not to bring you down and all, just that you’ll be hearing a lot about it.

Last week’s debacle (well, for Mercedes) at Marina Bay gave rise to some conspiracy theories (remember, it stands for completely true) about Pirelli messing with the silver ones’ tires.  Well, that wasn’t the problem at all.  Their engine management software was wonky which has happened to every team this year it seems.  Oh, and that guy on the track?  Just some dumb British fan, not a repeat of 2000 at all.

Or that’s what they would like you to believe.

This week Mercedes is back to form and it’s Verstappen with gremlins.  Kvyat parked hard at the end of Q3, is going to need a new chassis at least, and will start from the pit.  Rosberg was on the pole at the time with Hamilton beside him, otherwise it’s as you have come to expect.  Suzuka is one of the longer and faster tracks so the Mercedes power advantage should be decisive if the cars don’t break.  We’ll be going on Hards and Mediums.

In news of the ‘Hmm…’ Toro Rosso will probably go Honda next year, doubling the number of teams with that power plant.  The reason is that since Red Bull is determined to sever all ties with Renault and a set of Ferraris is committed to Haas, Maranello can’t meet the demand.  The only other game in town is Honda.

In sad news it looks like this may be Jenson Button’s last season.  His negotiations with McLaren are not going well, most of the top spots are locked up and the only team below McLaren is… well, Manor.  If you’re hopeful maybe Haas will decide they need an experienced driver, a former World Champion and marquee name on the team to get the first season sorted out, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.  Button is reportedly very unhappy and even the encouragement of his fellow drivers who like him a damn sight better than ‘Crash’ Maldonado has been insufficient.

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.

Formula One 2015: Monza

So it’s Italy and as close to Scuderia Marlboro as you get.  The speculation that Monza is done as a venue is a trifle premature as there is every indication that the local goverment is caving to Ecclstone’s every whim.

He’s muzzled the complaints about Pirelli who build the tires he wants anyway (ones that pop if you drive them too hard).  Mercedes is testing their 2016 engine with Hamilton on pole, Rosberg is 4th on the 2015 because his blew up.  The Scuderia is 2nd and 3rd to put the butts in the seats.

Formula One 2015: Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

ell, we’re back racing again. Here’s a piece at The Guardian evaluating the season so far by team from Mercedes to Manor.

Has Success Spoiled Formula One?

By BRAD SPURGEON, The New York Times

AUG. 21, 2015

“The words that I would use to describe it is that it is too perfect,” said Gil de Ferran, who worked at the Honda team a decade ago and who won the Indianapolis 500 as a driver. “People got too good at it. They are very, very good. So you don’t see anymore the imperfections, the human factor as clearly. The cars don’t break down, they don’t blow up. Nothing happens.”

Mercedes had only been guilty of achieving what every team and driver had always aimed to do.

“As a driver, think about this for a second, what is the perfect race?” de Ferran asked. “The perfect race is when I put the car on the pole, and I get the perfect start and each lap I pull away by a few tenths. Which is also possibly the most boring race you could think of.”

In a totally wrongheaded move Formula one is moving to further communications restrictions.  There is a new start rule that restricts communications between the car and pit about clutch settings.  Mark Webber for one worries this could lead to a rash of stalls and subsequent collisions.

Lotus in financial trouble.  Charles Pic is suing over their commitment to him as a driver (for which he paid, mind you) and he’s secured a court order impounding the cars after the race.  Gosjean qualified 4th but was dropped 5 grids for a gearbox replacement.  Alsonso and Button on the other hand will have to start from the back due to changes in their Honda power plant.

Renault evaluating F1 commitment.  Because of the poor performance of its engine and the dissatisfaction of Red Bull, their primary team, they are deciding whether to quit all together or buy a team.

The Guardian has a financial state of play article about the acquisition of Formula One by the Quatari Sovereign Wealth Fund and RSE Investments (owners of the Miami Dolphins).  The Russian GP could become a night race.

Driver gossip- Raikkonen has a new contract with Ferrari.  Jenson Button’s house was broken in to, and there is some speculation he and his wife may have been gassed.  Hamilton was caught playing with fully automatic weapons (perfectly legal if the people you’re renting time from have the right paperwork and you can afford it).  Kvyat was fined for not paying attention and unsafe release from pit lane.

There were several shaky incidents in practice.  There were 4 penalties in Qualifying penalties, all due to engine woes.  Grosjean got 5 Grids for his gearbox (as previously mentioned ); Alonso, Button, and Verstappen got 30, 25, and 18 Grids for exceding Engine Allowance.  Grosjean will start 9th, Verstappen 18th, and Button and Alonso will start 19th and 20th.

On offer are Mediums and Softs.  Rosberg had a huge blowout in Practice.  Rain is expected, but it always is at Spa.

Mid-Season standings below (pretty tables).

Formula One 2015: Hungaroring

Formula One 2015: Silverstone

Yeah, text and stuff goes here when I wake up.

Formula One 2015: Monaco

You may ask me, ‘ek, why do you cover sports?’  There are two reasons.  The Meta one is that as a general interest topic it drives readership and the live blogging commentary creates activity.  Since the action unfolds in a semi-predictable fashion it’s not that that difficult to, with practice, establish a rhythm that does not strain my execrable typing skills (yes, despite years of training by the best teachers I can barely manage three fingers on a good day).  The volume of the commentary demonstrates that despite a lack of peeder type automatic Ajax updating, long, timely, and complicated discussions can be held using pacified’s Java recreation of Scoop (Soapblox).

The second is class warfare, this is why I’m drawn to those that are notoriously obscure and corrupt, like Formula One.

Monaco is the tightest, slowest track on the schedule, kept alive by tradition and the crass display of wealth and privilege.  It is no accident that Monaco is the site of the mid-season meeting of the Formula One executive committee.  You may have money, but do you have Monaco money?

We may look back on this year as the begining of the end.

First of all the positive outcome- they are bringing back refueling.  Why is refueling important?  It’s not just the amount of time a car spends in the pits, fuel is weight and lighter cars are faster and easier on tires.  You have to add this factor into your over all race strategy and complicated is good.  It creates opportunities for overtaking that don’t involve bumping tires in a corner (very dangerous) and instead take place while cars are stopped (somewhat more dangerous for the pit crew, but they do it in IndyCar and Turn Left so how difficult can it be?).

The bad news.

Formula One is hemmoraging interest and audience.  Sure Bernie can screw hundreds of Millions from despotic dictatorships for the right to have the Circus visit, but in Europe viewership and attendance is crashing.  No German Grand Prix this year and soon enough no Billion dollar TV contract from Sky and BBC.

Bernie’s solution?  ‘Customer Cars’.  What this means is that there will only be 4 teams on the track- Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, and McLaren.  If you’re a field filler (not one of the 10 works cars) you’ll pay through the nose for second rate cast offs to fund the development program of the favored four.

Hey, if I wanted to watch Turn Left racing I could.  You know  why I don’t?  It’s BORING!

You want to know what would make a difference?  Subsidized on track testing, looser engine rules, more equitable bonus payouts (teams that use ‘Customer Cars’ are not eligible for any Constructor’s bonuses at all).  Bernie thinks that somehow this all adds up to a new personality-centric, driver oriented system that eliminates paying for seats (hey, how about this radical idea- just ban it) and creates fan interest.

Just.  Like.  Turn Left.

I don’t root for Hamilton (this week Hamilton got the superstar contract, $50 Million a year for 3 years) except to the extent that I think he’s talented and exciting and it irks me to see a robotic asshole like Vettel (or Schumacher) fly off in clean air never to be seen again and have all the commentators proclaim what a great driver he is though his only talents are Qualifying and staying out of trouble in superior machinery.  I have much more respect for Alonso who can make a brick seem racy.

Bernie has picked the the wrong metaphor here.  Scuderia fans are Scuderia fans regardless of results just as in U.S. team sports it hardly matters who’s on the Mets or Green Bay or the Lady Huskies (Men’s Basketball is crap.  Pro Basketball is crap squared).  Drivers are mercenaries, they come and go.  Teams are the soul of the sport and we’re witnessing that soul being ripped out.

And not without consequence, Bernie’s business model can not work.  As interest drains from the sport so will the money until even the tyrants he gets along with so well have no use for this senile old dinosaur.

Oh, racing.  Tight and slow.  No place to pass.  Softs and Super Softs with just the one stop to get legal unless you care to get exotic to relieve the tedium.

The good news is no Chuck Todd.  Coverage on NBC starting at 7:30 am then Premier League Soccer (Another team driven sport, the richest in the world.  Are you listening Bernie?  Of course not.).

Formula One 2015: Circuit de Catalunya

And they’re off.

Wait, that was last week.  Today we are back in Europe at Circuit de Catalunya on Hards and Hediums of which Sebastian Vettel says we cannot expect the same miracle of failure that led to a surprise second for Kimi Räikkönen at the last race in Sakhir even though he and Mercedes have saved a fresh set of Mediums.

Rosberg has gotten the pole which acually means very little unless you were betting on it.  McLaren shows signs of improvement, making it into Q2, which is good news for Honda, Jensen Button, and Fernando Alonso.

The movement to race what we got is raising some steam which goes to what I’ve been saying for years now which is that rule changes backed by testing limitations is a false economy that saves pennies now to cost pounds later.  Sure test time is expensive, but without it you can hardly expect to win or even to contend.

In more signs of failure and desperation Formula One is talking about “condensing it’s season” which pushes it comfortably out of March Madness for me but truly reflects the greed of Bernie Ecclestone and his determination to wring every last dime out of the teams and tracks for the priviledge of participating in his private circus.

Sigh.  I should stress less about sporting events that are the mere play things and status symbols of Billionaire Plutocrats.

Formula One 2015: Bahrain

I could have written this today instead of 3 years ago.

There was no one moment when Jon Stewart knew it was time for him to leave what he describes as “the most perfect job in the world”; no epiphany, no flashpoint. “Life,” he says, in the lightly self-mocking tone he uses when talking about himself, “doesn’t really work that way, with a finger pointing at you out of the sky, saying, ‘Leave now!’ That only happens when you’re fired, and trust me, I know about that.”

Instead, he describes his decision to quit The Daily Show, the American satirical news programme he has hosted for 16 years, as something closer to the end of a long-term relationship. “It’s not like I thought the show wasn’t working any more, or that I didn’t know how to do it. It was more, ‘Yup, it’s working. But I’m not getting the same satisfaction.'” He slaps his hands on his desk, conclusively.

“These things are cyclical. You have moments of dissatisfaction, and then you come out of it and it’s OK. But the cycles become longer and maybe more entrenched, and that’s when you realise, ‘OK, I’m on the back side of it now.'”

If anything, it was the prospect of the upcoming US election that pushed him to leave the show. “I’d covered an election four times, and it didn’t appear that there was going to be anything wildly different about this one,” he says.

Ah, but who could have anticipated the excitement over Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails?

“Anyone could, because that story is absolutely everything that it’s supposed to be about,” he says, with a groan; as a revelation, it managed to be at once depressing and completely unsurprising.

As Philip J. Fry says, “It’s just a matter of knowing the secret of all television: at the end of the episode, everything is back to normal.”

When News Overtook the Bahrain Grand Prix

By BRAD SPURGEON, The New York Times

APRIL 17, 2015

By 2012, Formula One had long been selling its Grands Prix to governments throughout the world as a way to showcase the host country or city and receive an economic windfall from visiting spectators. It had been done in Abu Dhabi, China, South Korea and Turkey, but one of the first of this new wave of host countries had been Bahrain, in 2004.

The Bahrain Grand Prix had been a successful race from the start. It helped shed new light on the Gulf state, an island kingdom that was home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and known for its oil and financial industries.

Through the years, those who regularly attended the race knew that there were also social disturbances in Manama, the capital city, which is about a 30-minute drive from the Formula One circuit. Traffic was sometimes jammed by anti-government demonstrations. But only rarely were those events mentioned in coverage of the race. Until 2011.

In Manama that year, amid the wave of Arab Spring uprisings throughout the region, the mostly Shiite opposition protests grew and the Sunni government clamped down on them with force, leading to bloodshed.

Bahrain had been run by the same ruling al-Khalifa family, of Sunni origin, since the 18th century. But in recent decades, the kingdom had invited foreigners to live and work there, and soon the Shiites grew to be a majority of the 1.2 million population. They wanted equal social treatment with the Sunnis.

The demonstrations in Manama had begun just a month before the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix was scheduled to run. The race organizers eventually decided to cancel the race.

In 2012, however, the Bahrain government planned to go ahead with the race. So the opposition groups decided that if for nearly a decade the government had hosted the race to promote its image of the country, they, too, could use the race to publicize their own cause.

In the preceding year, there had been a reported 70 deaths and many people imprisoned. With the expanded media coverage of the Grand Prix, the demonstrations picked up before and during the race weekend. Although the government was generally not allowing reporters into the country, visas had been granted to sports journalists who came to cover the race. But most of them had little or no experience covering geopolitical stories.

In the days before the race, while in central Manama there were no demonstrations, members of the opposition took journalists to areas where there were protests. Reports and images of dissent quickly went global.

A demonstrator was killed by security forces during the protests, but there was no violence at the race track or in central Manama, where most of the sports journalists were staying. Several members of the Force India team were caught in a hail of Molotov cocktails while driving back to the city from the track, but no one was injured.

Despite public calls from British politicians, human rights groups and other organizations around the world to cancel the race, Formula One remained adamant that the show would go on.

“I can’t call this race off,” said Bernie Ecclestone, the series’s promoter. “Nothing to do with us. We’ve an agreement to be here, and we’re here.”

The Formula One drivers either made no comment or, like Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, said that they could not understand what all the fuss was about.

“I haven’t seen anyone throwing bombs,” he said. “I don’t think it is that bad. There is a lot of hype, which is why I think it is good that we start our job here, which is the sport and nothing else.”

Nice guy that Sebastian.  Always a pleasure to see him get his ass kicked.

Formula One: Bahrain GP goes ahead but human rights concerns remain

by Giles Richards, The Guardian

Friday 17 April 2015 18.00 EDT

After less than 24 hours in the country, the Guardian was told by a number of sources this week that the anti-government protests, far from having gone away, continue on an almost daily basis and have increased in numbers and volume with the arrival of Formula One. They also attest that the Bahraini state’s response has been arrests and a crackdown on dissent.

In the paddock the racing weekend continues as normal, business as usual for F1, part and parcel of Bahrain’s attempt to convince the world that it is business as normal for the state as well. Yet away from the track such relatively simple tasks as meeting with fellow journalists are conducted with requests for discretion. “They monitor phones, they use it extensively to work out details of how and who we contact to prevent us from working with other journalists and human rights groups,” says Mazen Mahdi, a Bahraini journalist for the German Press Agency. “If you tried to cover a protest live and see what the police are doing, if they saw you they would stop us and take us. It’s dangerous. Technically, just talking to me is breaking your visa status.”

Dangerous it seems for others, too, with repeated attempts by the Guardian to talk to family members of those who have been recently arrested meeting with failure through fear that being seen to speak out to the media would result in harsher sentences for those already detained. None in the end were willing to put their heads above the parapet. Claims of the use of tear gas and birdshot at protests is mentioned repeatedly and, amid the fear, there is a sense of outrage that F1 arrives to make money and entertain but remains at the same time devoid of the responsibilities that its very presence demands. Some people may be afraid but they also really want Formula One to be a force for change.

The issues in Bahrain were returned to the spotlight earlier this week when Amnesty International published a report condemning the continuing human rights violations and a lack of reform that was supposed to have occurred after the 2011 uprising.

Formula One has long-insisted this is none of its business. “We’re not here, or we don’t go anywhere, to judge how a country is run,” Bernie Ecclestone pointed out two years ago. The damning Amnesty report, however, was preceded by another announcement with considerably less fanfare. In it the group Americans for Democracy on Human Rights in Bahrain said that it had concluded an agreement with F1 that the sport would begin a policy of analysing the human rights impact it might have on host nations. “Formula One Group has committed to taking a number of further steps to strengthen its processes in relation to human rights,” it read. So now it seems, to some extent, it is Formula One’s business.

John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation 17

No man is an island, entire of itself.  Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.  If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less; as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thine own or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind; therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls.

It tolls for thee.

Formula One Publishes Human Rights Commitment


APRIL 17, 2015, 4:25 P.M. E.D.T.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper saw the statement as a victory for campaigners and compared it to the words of 84-year-old Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone two years ago.

“We don’t go anywhere to judge how a country is run. I keep asking people, ‘What human rights?’. I don’t know what they are,” he said then.

Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights

1. The Formula One Group is committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally.

2. Whilst respecting human rights in all of our activities, we focus our efforts in relation to those areas which are within our own direct influence. We do so by taking proportionate steps to:

  (a) understand and monitor through our due diligence processes the potential human rights impacts of our activities;

  (b) identify and assess, by conducting due diligence where appropriate, any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which we may be involved either through our own activities or as a result of our business relationships, including but not limited to our suppliers and promoters;

  (c) consider practical responses to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, within the relevant context;

  (d) engage in meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders in relation to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, where appropriate; and

  (e) respect the human rights of our employees, in particular the prohibitions against forced and child labour, the freedom to associate and organise, the right to engage in collective bargaining, and the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation.

3. Where domestic laws and regulations conflict with internationally recognised human rights, the Formula One Group will seek ways to honour them to the fullest extent which does not place them in violation of domestic law.

You have to scroll way down past all that copyright stuff to find it.  Larry, get me some weak tea.

Mediums and Softs.  Hamilton thinks Rosberg is not trying hard enough to beat him.  Rosberg thinks Hamilton is an asshole (probably true that).  Mercedes is still making race management mistakes.

Here’s an interesting “I told you so!”

F1 Engine Allowance to Be Discussed After Spain


APRIL 18, 2015, 8:32 A.M. E.D.T.

A proposal to increase Formula One’s power unit allowance from four to five per driver this season will be discussed at a meeting next month, leaving some in danger of being penalised before change is agreed.

“The proposal is with the (governing) FIA and I guess it’s going to be discussed the next time around in a strategy meeting,” Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff said at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

After three races, Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo has used three Renault internal combustion engines, one of six elements making up the V6 turbo hybrid power unit, while seven others are on two.

Drivers were allowed five units last season but that was tightened for 2015. Grid penalties will be applied if allowances are exceeded.

Have I mentioned yet that Bernie Ecclestone is a senile jerk?

All’s Not Quiet on Formula One’s Clean-Engine Front

By BRAD SPURGEON, The New York Times

APRIL 17, 2015

The new 1.6-liter, hybrid turbo engines use a third less fuel than their V-8, 2.4-liter, normally aspirated predecessors and produce at least double the hybrid energy – as well as far less noise. But whether a team, engine provider or other interested party considers the project a success or a failure depends on the results on the track.

For the Mercedes car manufacturer and its team, which won the titles last year and is leading the series heading into the fourth race of the current season, the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, the program is not only an astounding success, but an essential factor in the German company wanting to continue in Formula One.

“For us, the current technology is an important part of our involvement,” said Toto Wolff, the head of the Mercedes racing program. “Our marketing strategy focuses on the hybrid technology of Formula One.”

But for Bernie Ecclestone, the promoter of the series, who has complained that the loss of the old engine roar has reduced the excitement for track-side spectators, the program is a sign that the series is in its death throes.

“The fans want the volume, the teams want the low cost – and even the racing was better,” Ecclestone recently told Sport Bild, a weekly German sports magazine. “Toto can have a lovely inscription on his gravestone that says ‘I helped to kill Formula One.”‘

Ecclestone was referring specifically to the refusal by Mercedes to agree to a vote to change the rules in the immediate future to revert to the louder, gas-guzzling engines.

Ferrari, the most vocal complainer about the engines last year, made huge progress with its engine technology over the winter. It won the second race this season and has finished with a driver on the podium in each of the first three races. Ferrari has for now ceased to complain about the new engine formula.

The Renault engine manufacturer and the Red Bull team, by contrast, have picked up where Ferrari left off last year. Having taken a step backward in engine power, both the team and the manufacturer have threatened to withdraw from the series if something is not done.

Yet it was Renault that several years ago asked Formula One to create a new, environmentally friendly engine, seeking to make the series more relevant to its effort to sell hybrid road cars.

Bernie, buy yourself a Walkman and crank the volume to eleven you deaf old bastard.

Jensen Button may or may not race due to electric problems on his McLaren Honda.  He could barely practice and was unable to complete a lap in Qualifying.

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