2011 Vs 2012 Cars


by Jake McMillan

As we are now 6 races into the 2012 F1 season, we can start to make a comparison of the speed of 2012 cars compared to 2011. Rule changes, e.g. banning of engine-blown diffusers, led people to predict 2012 cars would be significantly slower, but no one was sure by how much? Some suggested blown diffusers gave an advantage of 1.5-2 seconds a lap. However, the relentless pace of technology and development in F1 means this would be recaptured to some degree through new innovation.

By comparing pole positions and fastest laps of races this year with those of last year we can begin to get an understanding of the relative pace of the cars. Of course, comparing times from one year to the next is not exactly comparing like for like as track temperatures, tyres and other variables will be different. However, we can analyse if any trends exist and make conclusions from that.

The first 4 races (ignoring Bahrain as there was no race there in 2011) in 2012 showed that pole position in each case was 1.3-1.4 seconds slower than the 2011 pole positions. The pole at Monaco this year was only 0.745 slower than in 2011 and this could reflect the improvements in the cars or perhaps the smaller gap is explained by Monaco relying more on mechanical grip than aerodynamic grip.

The fastest laps this year have been closer to 2011 times than pole position times. The fastest laps in Malaysia and Australia were only 0.15 and 0.24 secs, respectively, slower than the fastest laps set the previous year. However, at China it was almost a second slower, whereas in Spain the fastest lap was actually half a second quicker than the 2011 time. Monaco was slower than 2011 by just over a second, but this could partly be explained by most teams only one-stopping.

The trend seems to suggest that in qualifying mode, F1 cars are about 1.3secs a lap slower than last year but in race trim are only 0.2secs a lap slower. We shall monitor this as the season progresses.

2012 F1 – The Roulette Wheel Season


by Jake McMillan

The 6th race of the 2012 Formula 1 season gets under way at Monaco tomorrow and there is only one thing that we can predict, that the result will be unpredictable. Not only fans, but teams up and down the length of the paddock have been scratching their heads and sporting furrowed brows as they try to come to terms with the fact that there is no form book for 2012.

We’ve had 5 different winners for each of the 5 races, not just different drivers, but different constructors each time. Even if one of these wins again this weekend, it does not necessarily mean they are the in form team as there is no form. Some cars and drivers dial in their car to certain tracks on a certain day better than others.

With Button and McLaren winning the Australian Grand Prix with good qualifying and race performance, we thought we knew that they were the team to beat. But we were wrong. Malaysia tried to tell us, but we thought that unique track conditions upset the general pecking order. Then came China and we didn’t seem to learn as Mercedes seemed to be the “in form” team. Even after Bahrain we thought, well, that’s it, Red Bull have got it figured out and they are in control. Then finally at Spain, we realised, no one has got it figured out yet.

So, consistency is absolutely the name of the game for 2012. The driver who wins the World Championship may not be the driver who wins the most races, in fact, he may not win any of them?! Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen sit in third and fourth places respectively in the Championship, only 8 and 12 points off the lead. They’ve not won a race yet, but if they keep up their consistency it may not matter.

Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari that everyone, including Ferrari themselves, was not a good enough car to win races or the Championship is now jointly leading the Championship! Alonso, for me, has been the stand out driver so far.

I’m going to make a guess for this weekend’s race and say I think Mercedes are going to do well based on the good mechanical grip they displayed at Barcelona. But that was a different track on a different day. You may as well throw a ball into a roulette wheel of driver names.

2012 Malaysia GP Preview: McLaren Vs Red Bull?


The Australian GP a few days ago was a superb way to start the 2012 season as we finally got to see which teams have produced a competitive car. The Red Bull has been the clear dominant car of the past two seasons, but this year all indicators strongly suggest this is not the case. In fact, after Qualifying last Saturday, it seemed McLaren might be dominant, but Red Bull’s race pace showed they are very close to McLaren. So, will this continue at Sepang this weekend?

For the past two seasons, at least, Red Bull have performed well at circuits with high speed corners largely due to their exhaust-blown diffusers, so it will interesting to see if they are still best in class aerodynamically at these tracks, e.g. Sepang. The Barcelona track, where the F1 teams tested, is a much better indicator than Albert Park of performance at this type of track. If so, then Lotus could be much more in the mix than they were in Australia.

Mercedes look like they have a good qualifying car with their DRS system, but their race pace is not quite there. Williams looked refreshingly quick and that is great to see. Unfortunately, it is not good to see Ferrari struggling so much. I am sure they will bounce back, but it could take some time. Alonso’s drive in Australia was superb, all things considered, but what is going on with Massa?! He looked very ill at ease with the car, he was slow and was chewing up his tyres.

McLaren could perhaps be the dominant car this season as the close race in Australia masked them managing a fuel issue. So maybe this year’s championship will be Button Vs Hamilton? When they needed to up their pace, McLaren seemed to be able to do that easily in Australia, however, having said that, Hamilton struggled to have a go at passing Vettel after the safety car. If he was much quicker then he would have been a lot closer to Vettel’s rear wing. Perhaps the McLaren is quicker in the first few laps of a stint but once the tyres start to wear they are pretty close to the Red Bulls?

In any case, I will be at the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend, sitting in the stand at the first corner and will be able to report back. Here’s hoping for another exciting race!

Interview with Fernando Alonso


by Jake McMillan

I visited Maranello yesterday and caught up with Ferrari F1 driver Fernando Alonso in a quiet cafe to chat to him about the upcoming 2012 F1 season and life in general.

JM: Mr Alonso, always good to see you. How are you feeling about the upcoming season?

FA: Jake, you can call me Ferdie, you know this [touches my leg]

JM: I told you! [removes hand] Not whilst we are working.

FA: But Jake baby, you know you make my inner bull crazy [tries to touch leg again but JM smacks it] okay, I am looking forward to this season as much as I am looking to forward to our sexy time.

JM: Fernando!!

FA: I love it when my little torito gets all angry … okay, Jake baby, I tell you, then we do boom boom. I was pleased how things went at the test in Jerez, we got through all our testing programme and understand better how to set up the car.

JM: A lot of people say the stepped platypus nose of this year’s Ferrari is rather unnattractive.

FA: Well, some say this, but then my nose is not that pretty and I am super quick and I know you think I am beautiful, don’t you? My little torito baby.

JM: Fernando! Do you think this year’s championship will be closer than last year’s?

FA: Absolutely. Red Bull will be quick of course, but because we don’t have blown diffusers I expect McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes all to be very close. Even some other teams may be up there. Lotus looked quick straight out of the box.

JM: With the return of Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus, there will be 6 World Champions on the grid. Does this make it more exciting?

FA: Not quite as exciting as your cheeky face, my little torito, but yes very much. We are in a golden era of Formula 1 with many top level drivers. It will make it difficult to win, but then you get the greatest satisfaction from achieving a great result against the greatest competition.

JM: Will Ferrari win at the first Grand Prix at Australia?

FA: I hope so, we will try very hard. … Can we finish now? Me have horn of giant bull.

JM: Sure, get your pants off.

Mercedes GP 2012 Radical ‘New’ Nose


Today at Jerez, the first day of testing for the 2012 F1 Season, Mercedes GP revealed it’s new ‘nose’ (see exclusive photo below). Ross Brawn said it had significant aerodynamic advantages and that air would literally ‘pass over like water off a duck’s back’. Rosberg was first to drive it and Schumacher is looking forward to testing it shortly. An unnamed source in the pitlane said this was a stupid idea and that Mercedes engineers were clearly quacking up.

I don’t know if it is quick, but it sure looks cute to me.

2012 F1 Testing Begins!


by Jake McMillan


Hoorah, with the 2012 Formula 1 testing beginning at Jerez tomorrow we will finally get a little bit of F1 action! However, as I have warned before, we all need to be very careful about over-analysing the relative performance of the teams. Testing is exactly what it says with teams testing and fine-tuning the performance of the cars. Some things will work and some won’t.

Unless one team is significantly much faster throughout a test session, or is significantly off the pace, we will not know which team is really quickest until we get to Melbourne next month. Despite knowing this, we all get sucked in every year, trying to guess which team will be the fastest. This is okay as long as we  remember that it is just a guess:

  • Teams will be running different fuel loads from each other
  • Teams seeking sponsorship will inevitably want to appear quick by doing more low fuel runs
  • The cars will be developed further between the tests and the first race so until we get to Melbourne we really don’t know
  • All teams ‘sandbag’ to varying degrees

F1 2012 – Time to Start Getting Excited


by Jake McMillan

It seems like it’s been forever since we had the last F1 race, but with the first F1 Pre-Season Test only two weeks away, it is time to start getting excited. In fact, there are a number of reasons to get excited about the upcoming 2012 Formula 1 Season:

  • Teams more closely matched: As the rules have not changed massively for 2012 everyone expects the teams, especially at the top, to be more closely matched than in 2011. It’s very unlikely we will see the dominance of one driver or one team like we did with Vettel and Red Bull last year. Ferrari and Mercedes are both expected to do better this year. But will they?
  • The return of Kimi Raikkonen: He’s unlikely to be quick from the get go, but it will be fascinating to see how he gets on in his first season back in F1. Will he have the hunger? Will he smile?
  • A Senna back in a Williams: Although it is a time for rebuilding at Williams, it will be great to see Bruno Senna in a more competitive car and with a very professional team to see what kind of potential he really has?
  • Rivalries: So many of them up and down the pack – Can Webber be more on pace with Vettel this year? If Massa doesn’t run Alonso closer this year then he will likely be out of Ferrari at the end of the year; Will Massa and Hamilton manage to avoid touching each other? Button Vs Hamilton, who will come out on top this year? Schumacher Vs Rosberg; Paul di Resta Vs Hulkenberg … the list goes on.
  • How will Caterham do? Caterham (formerly Team Lotus) were floating between the teams at the back and the mid-runners last year. They expect, as do most of us, that they will be closer to, if not part of, the middle of the pack in 2012. Would be good to see.

Plus there is the Malaysian Grand Prix to be excited about. Well, for me, anyway, as I am going to Malaysia to watch it for the first time and I cannot wait!