Monthly Archives: March 2010

EXCLUSIVE! Sebastian Vettel’s true parents revealed!

It has been revealed today that Sebastian Vettel, 22, is in fact the secret love child of Jeremy Clarkson, 49, of BBC TV’s Top Gear fame AND fellow star from the same programme, The Stig (age unknown).

Mr Clarkson was unavailable for comment, but a close source explained that in the latter part of 1987, whilst Jeremy was a rising motoring journalist, he and the Stig met at a party in London and had a one night stand. They went their separate ways the following day, but when The Stig realised he was pregnant with Jeremy’s child he got back in touch.

The Stig did not want an abortion but they both realised it would be bad for their respective careers to have to raise a child at this time. They agreed that they would give him up for adoption in a place far away and found the Vettel family in Heppenheim, Germany who took in Sebastian when he was born in July 1987.

Sebastian and Jeremy shared genes: long face, nose and questionable hair

Clarkson would make his TV debut on Top Gear the following year hoping this scandal would never catch up with him. In 2002 the shocking truth almost came out as The Stig threatened to go to the papers as he had fallen on hard times, but Jeremy gave him a position on the show.

Jeremy and Sebastian both known for their eccentric behaviour - Last year Seb named his Red Bull F1 car 'Kate's Dirty Sister' and this year he's named it 'Luscious Liz'

When Sebastian Vettel made it into Formula 1 in 2007 they immediately realised what had happened to their long lost son. They were scared that people would recognise and notice Sebastian’s similar looks and eccentric habits to Jeremy’s and his inheritance of the great driving skills of The Stig.

Three years later and the truth is now finally out. Sebastian Vettel is so shocked by the news that he may not be able to race in Malaysia. Jeremy Clarkson has gone into hiding and The Stig is silent as always.

It's reported The Stig is secretly very proud of his boy


Button Versus Hamilton – The Battle of the Driving Styles

The Australian Grand Prix was, thankfully, a fantastic race full of incidents and great racing. Just one of the very many interesting things about it was the clear demonstration of the differing driving styles of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button that is very reminiscent of watching the legends Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna race together.

Both Hamilton and Button drove superbly in Melbourne but in very different ways. Hamilton felt he was having “the drive of his life” and was putting excellent moves on many different drivers, including Button, and his pass on Rosberg around the outside of turn 11 was simply stunning. His driving was quite similar to that of his idol, Ayrton Senna, aggressive and flamboyant.

Button on the other hand had a very different sort of race to Hamilton. After Alonso hit him at the first corner, he struggled on the intermediate tyres with excessive oversteer, particularly noticeable between turns 3 and 4, and after Hamilton passed him he made the decision (his call, not the team) to switch to slick tyres. This seemed like a rash and desperate decision but it proved to be inspired.

That decision helped him to win the race as when the rest of the field realised he was going faster on slicks, they all jumped into the pits to do the same. When the drivers came out on their first lap on the cold slick tyres Button was already used to the conditions and able to pass several drivers and caught right up with the leader Sebastian Vettel.

Not all these overtaking manoeuvres were shown on the TV coverage and although he was going faster than his rivals to make the passes stick he had to be aggressive and precise, especially when getting off the dry line and onto the wetter and greasier part of the track.

He then drove, as always, very smoothly to make his soft tyres work for the rest of the race. After Vettel retired he pulled out a gap on Kubica and was always in control, driving at a speed within himself and able to go quicker if he needed to. His driving in Melbourne was smooth, precise and intelligent, just like Alain Prost.

I was pleased to see Jenson win as many people have not given him much of a chance at McLaren and that Lewis would walk all over him. However, I think we will see, much like in the days of Senna and Prost, that some days Hamilton will be quicker and other times Button will be quicker.

From seeing comments already made by Hamilton and Button fans, I think we are going to have a very similar argument to the ‘who was better out of Senna and Prost?’ debate. That argument still rages on to this day and with Jenson and Lewis using such different driving styles to achieve their performances, their fans maybe starting a new argument that also has no clear resolution.

Hamilton fans will point to the fact that he passed Button in the race as well as several other drivers and before his second pit stop was showing a pace faster than Button.  Had he not changed his tyres that second time he would have got passed Kubica and caught Button and possibly have overtaken him again.

Button fans will retort by saying that he actually won the race and he did this through making the brave and intelligent decision to change to slicks and then by looking after his tyres better than anyone else he was able to keep comfortably ahead. Had Lewis not pitted and was able to overtake Kubica he would have not been able to catch Button without destroying his tyres and probably would have needed to pit again anyway.

This is shaping up to be a very interesting battle and it is doubtful there will be a clear winner either way. If Button can set up the car to his liking, just like with Prost, he will be the quickest. When the car is not perfect, then Hamilton will most likely be the quickest.

What changes to F1 could be made?

I will be very surprised if the teams are not closer in Australia. However, there’s no point them being closer if they can’t overtake and this seems to be the main concern at the moment (note: we should still give it a few races though).  Qualifying and the start of the race were just fine in Bahrain, so let’s leave that alone.

Introducing Mandatory 2 Stops – NO

I’m unconvinced by this and it’s not going to happen as not all the teams will agree to it. It will likely discourage overtaking as drivers will hope to pass in the pits rather than risk damaging tyres trying to overtake on the track. Introducing this rule will disadvantage the teams who have successfully developed a car that is quick but doesn’t suffer from too much tyre degradation.


Aerodynamic Changes – YES

Nothing can be done for this season, but for future seasons changes can and should definitely be made. Over the years, the aerodynamics on F1 cars have got very sophisticated in that they cause such significant disturbances in the air behind them (“dirty air”) that other cars find it difficult to follow closely.

The FIA set up a working group to improve overtaking, but they clearly did not do anywhere near enough and the introduction of double diffusers actually made it more difficult to overtake. The double diffusers will be banned in 2011, but this is too little too late.

The teams need to agree, and that is the difficult bit, to simplify the aerodynamics on Formula 1 cars so that they disrupt the air as little as possible allowing a faster car to run close enough to have a go at overtaking.

There are lots of technologies on F1 cars that filter down into road cars, but aerodynamics, particularly the wings, are not something that road cars or anyone else really benefits from so there is no real harm in making this area of the car more simple.


Amend Tyre Regulations – Probably

This year, it is definitely possible for the tyre regulations or tyre supply to be ‘tweaked’ to help improve the racing. McLaren Team Principal, Martin Whitmarsh, soon after the Bahrain race was advocating that Bridgestone bring racier tyres that don’t last as long.

Many have commented that Bridgestone will be reluctant to do that as it will damage their reputation. However, they too are learning these new regulations and will use the data they have collected from the teams during significantly cooler pre-season testing (with many wet days) and the much hotter Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Super Soft tyres (the softest type of tyre Bridgestone supply to F1) were used by the front-runners at the start in Bahrain and Button reported that he could have easily done 25 laps in the race (as well as his qualifying laps). I think this durability will have surprised many and Bridgestone will adjust and bring tyres that are a little bit raceier.

Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone Director of Motorsport Tyre Development, said after the race, “This was only the first of 19 races this season. I think we all have a lot to learn about this season’s best tyre strategies and it will be fascinating unlocking the secrets for the best performance in the races ahead.

Changes that could be made include:

  • forcing Bridgestone to bring only the softer compound tyres, or just one soft compound which would force more pits stops
  • increasing the number of different tyre options available from the current two (known as the Prime and Option tyres)  that Bridgestone decide upon to three or the maximum four (Super Soft, Soft, Medium & Hard) and let the teams decide which two they want to use in the race- Unlikely to happen in 2010, but possible
  • re-introduction of more than one F1 tyre supplier. This won’t happen in 2010 of course, but interestingly, Bridgestone has not confirmed if it will be in F1 next year?
  • Use harder tyres only (see below)


Introduce harder tyres and manual gearbox (The Dernie Argument) – Maybe and YES

Frank Dernie, a very experienced F1 aerodynamicist wrote an interesting note to journalist James Allen suggesting that aerodynamics are not really the issue but that using harder tyres and a manual gearbox will solve the problem.

Unfortunately he ignores the issue about turbulence caused by a F1 cars wake, but does make a good point about hard tyres and braking distances. “Braking distances into slow corners are far too short, caused by sticky tyres (too much mechanical grip). … When there was overtaking in the past it was mainly due to the low grip of the tyres leaving a wide racing line and long braking distances combined with cars much more difficult to drive due to low grip”.

He suggests harder tyres are 50% of the solution and that re-introducing manual gearboxes are the other 50%. “Most overtakes took place in the past when a driver made a mistake due to poor grip or missed a gear.”

I’m not 100% convinced by the harder tyres argument, but would be interested to see it tried.

I was initially not keen at all on the idea of returning to manual gearboxes as it seems it would make F1 cars less technologically advanced and F1 is meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport. However, after mulling it over there is no real good reason that we have to have “flappy-paddle”style semi-automatic gearboxes.

We all (well, most of us) use a manual gearbox in our road cars and they are also used in the majority of lower racing formulas, so would it really be a big deal for F1 cars to have them again? It would add another dimension, with drivers possibly making a mistake when under pressure.


Reduce Braking Performances – NO

Braking distances in F1 have got smaller and smaller over the years due to brakes getting better and better. By reducing the performance of brakes, some have suggested using steel brakes, the braking distances would increase significantly and this would increase overtaking.

I’m not convinced by this as fundamentally drivers have to learn their braking points and whether it is 100m from the corner or 150m with worse brakes, they all find the last possible point to brake and so it makes no improvement. In fact, it could make it worse as longer braking distances mean a shorter amount of accelerating time beforehand and less chance to catch up and get alongside the car in front.

Shorter braking distances increase the chance of mistakes as if a driver brakes 2m late on a 100m braking  distance with top performing brakes, this will create a bigger problem for him than if he braked 2m late with a 150m braking distance.


Introduce Shortcuts (Bernie Ecclestone’s idea) – NO

No, no, no! It pains even to discuss it, but I hate any idea that encourages overtaking without ‘actually’ doing the overtaking. They can experiment it with other other racing formulas if they like, but this is not a proper solution for F1.

It makes it less of a sport and more of an entertainment event. F1 should be a careful balance between the two, but this is too far. What next? The F1 Factor, with the races decided by phone votes?!

Everybody just calm down!

Since the rather dull Bahrain Grand Prix, people have been going literally mental about who is to blame and  what should be done to fix Formula 1: Softer tyres, harder tyres, less downforce, more downforce, more pits stops, no pits stops, remove double-diffusers, remove all wings, make qualifying a lottery, etc.

Stop! Stop! Stop! Everybody just calm down. Breathe deeply … in … and then out.

In life, things are never as bad as you first think they are.

Our expectations have been far too high. We have all been saying and hoping that this is going to be the best F1 season ever and it was bound not to live up to our expectations. It’s like when you go and see a new movie you are really looking forward to, it often disappoints.

Does F1 need changes? Yes, of course. However, the boring truth is that we are going to have to wait a few races to really figure out what changes are really needed. Any changes for this year need unanimous agreement from the teams and so that means only minor rule changes, if anything at all, could occur this year.

The other reality check is that any changes to next year should and will only be small. There is no point making lots of radical changes to discover all new issues that affect the racing.

This is only race one out of nineteen this season. We HAVE to wait and see what happens over the next few races as the teams and drivers get used to the new regulations.

Pre-season testing suggested strongly the teams would be a lot closer in qualifying and in the race, but this did not pan out in Bahrain. The teams and drivers are still trying to understand how to reach their maximum potential under the new rules whilst still developing the car. For example, a lot of drivers admitted to taking it very easy, too easy perhaps, when on the softer tyre compound.

So let’s be calm and see what happens in Australia and Malaysia before we push the panic button and start suggesting that drivers should stop using their engines and use their feet to propel their car around the track like Fred Flintstone!

Actually I think I would probably want to watch that!

Jake McMillan

Senna Vs Prost: Statistics show you would rather have Prost in your car if you were a F1 team principal

In Formula 1, pole positions are vanity, wins are sanity and points are king

In the history of Formula 1, Brazilian Ayrton Senna and Frenchman Alain Prost are two of the greatest drivers the sport has ever seen. They also participated in one of the most intense and acrimonious rivalries that became life-threateningly dangerous on the track. Their rivalry ended when Prost retired in 1993 and since then their reputations have travelled in different directions.

Their rivalry, particularly from 1988-1990, is infamous in F1 folklore and if you want to learn more about their rivalry then I can fully recommend Malcolm Folley’s excellent book ‘Senna versus Prost’ which includes detailed information of their backgrounds, careers and personalities which are essential to fully understand the reason, nature and intensity of their duel.

The respective fans of these two very different drivers, of course, argue and debate as to who was actually the best. Senna fans, like the great man himself, refuse to accept that Prost, or anyone else, could have been better. Whereas Prost fans take a quieter and more analytical approach, just like Prost did as a driver, and state he was the best overall.

There is no clear cut conclusion and they both were extraordinary drivers in different ways and both had their weaker points. Senna’s driving style and personality was far more vivacious than that of Prost and this drew in more fans. When Senna tragically died at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, his already exceptional reputation rose even further into truly legendary proportions. Prost’s reputation, on the other hand, seemed to diminish after he retired as a F1 driver and dropped even further after his unsuccessful turn at running an all-French F1 Team (Prost Grand Prix).

These two great titans of F1 had such different approaches to driving, such different personalities and cultural backgrounds, but yet were evenly matched; it seems wrong and unfair somehow that their reputations in history are not evenly matched? Senna fans must at least accept that Prost was by far his greatest rival and pushed him harder and closer than any other driver.

Beating Prost became an obsession to Senna and their rivalry was so important to him that after Prost retired in 1993, he actually called Prost several times (to Alain’s great surprise) during late 1993 and early 1994 to try and persuade him not to retire and race again! You cannot be a true fan of Senna or Prost without recognising the brilliance of both drivers.

‘There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics’. In the Prost versus Senna debate, statistics have been used in different ways to support the belief of the respective fan. For example, Senna fans point to his 3 World Championships, 65 pole positions, 80 podiums and 41 wins from 161 starts to demonstrate his greatness and superiority. Prost fans state his 4 world championships (3rd highest in F1 history), his 51 wins, 106 podiums and a career total of 798.5pts (all 2nd highest in history) from 199 starts.

Rather than trying to find statistics that support either group of fans, I thought it would be interesting to take the view of a team principal and coldly analyse their relative performances to see which driver you would want to have in your car.

To make the analysis as fair as possible I used the two year period where they both drove for McLaren (1988 and 1989) as this is perhaps the best and only opportunity to really assess their relative performances:

Pole Positions Wins Fastest Laps Championships
Senna Prost Senna Prost Senna Prost Senna Prost
1988 13 2 8 7 3 6 1 0
1989 13 2 6 4 2 4 0 1
Total 26 4 14 11 5 10 1 1

The above statistics appear to be very interesting. Senna was clearly the better qualifier and won more races than Prost over the two year period. However, Prost produced double the number of fastest laps than Senna which suggests he had quicker race pace. They both won the world championship, but on the above information alone you would pick Senna over Prost to drive on your team.

However, if you were a team principal, the only statistic that really matters in the above table is the number of championships. Here are the statistics that are more telling:

Av. Qual Pos. Av. Finish Pos. Av. Pts Total Points
Senna Prost Senna Prost Senna Prost Senna Prost
1988 1.25 2.50 2.43 1.50 5.88 6.56 94 105
1989 1.19 2.56 2.89 2.15 3.75 5.06 60 81
Overall 1.22 2.53 2.61 1.81 4.81 5.81 154 186

(Averages are per race averages)

This table tells a different story doesn’t it? This does confirm Senna was a better qualifier (qualifying on average over a position higher than Prost) but it demonstrates that Prost on average per race finished over a position higher than Senna and scored, on average over the 2 years, a point per race more than Ayrton Senna did.  Not only that it shows that on average per race, Senna lost a position from his average starting position by the end of the race, whereas Prost gained a position from his average grid position.

Prost outscored Senna in both seasons. Ayrton Senna won the championship in 1988 as the rules stated then that only the best 11 finishes counted towards the championship. This was the first and only year that the championship winner had not scored the most points overall (counting all 16 finishes). They removed this rule from the 1991 season onwards.

Senna won the championship on the best 11 races rule, but otherwise Prost scored more points overall  for the season and was ahead of him for almost all of the season.

Text Not Needed

Prost won the championship in 1989 and was ahead of Senna on points for nearly the entire season

In Formula 1, pole positions are vanity, wins are sanity and points are king. If you were a team principal with the pressure it brings from sponsors and partners, you would pick Alain Prost over Ayrton Senna using the data above. If you expand the analysis to the whole careers then the critical statistics show Prost would be the best guy to drive your car as he would be more likely to help you win the drivers and constructors world title.

Career Achievements Ayrton Senna Alain Prost
Total Points 614 798.5
Championships 3 4
Win Percentage 25.47% 25.63%
Av. Pts per Race 3.81 4.01

From the statistics and analysing their careers, Senna would much rather go flat out to win the race whereas Prost thought more of the championship and points. Obviously it is not quite as black and white as that, but the distinction between the two drivers in this area is clear.

Senna fans often mention in this debate that Senna would have won the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix if they had not stopped this extremely wet race. Senna, in the Toleman, was catching Prost in the McLaren hand over fist but the officials stopped the race before Senna had a chance to challenge for the lead. It is argued that Senna could have had another race victory, but actually it would have been better for Prost if the race continued and to have let Senna by. If he scored 6pts for second place in a full race rather than the 4.5pts for winning a stopped race halfway through he would have won the championship that year rather losing it to Niki Lauda by half a point!

The statistics show you would definitely have Prost driving your car, but they also show you would want to have Senna driving your other car! These two drivers were so closely matched, so exceptional but unfortunately so different in so many ways.

Motorsport fans were very lucky to see these two legendary drivers go head to head as that does not happen very often. If Prost had not been around, just imagine how many race victories and championships Senna might have had? And if Senna had not been around, then Prost would have easily had another two world championships to his name (1988 and 1990).

The above statistics help to show that Prost’s achievements and reputation should be remembered in a way equal, if not perhaps greater, than that of the great Ayrton Senna.

Jake McMillan

Related Posts:
Button & Hamilton, the New Prost & Senna?
Button Vs Hamilton – the Battle of the Driving Styles
Button and Hamilton, McLaren’s Dream Team?

Did you notice in Bahrain Q3?

Following the form displayed at the four pre-season testing events, qualifying at Bahrain threw up a few surprises that we are all now talking about: Vettel and Red Bull on pole; the poor one lap pace of McLaren; Schumacher consistently slower than Rosberg; the great pace of Kubica in the Renault and the poor speed of Sauber and Toro Rosso. However, did you notice the difference between the times of Q2 and Q3?

Unlike last year, the teams qualify in low fuel for all three sessions and the entire top ten used the ‘option’ tyre (super softs) for both Q2 and Q3. You would expect drivers to get quicker or at least produce very similar times in these two sessions, especially with no change in track conditions.

This did not happen. With the sole exception of Massa in the Ferrari, every driver was significantly slower in Q3 compared to Q2 with most doing times half a second off their previous pace.

Pos Driver Team Q3 Time Diff. To Q2 time
1 Vettel Red Bull 1:54.101 + 0.218s
2 Massa Ferrari 1:54.242 – 0.089s
3 Alonso Ferrari 1:54.608 + 0.436s
4 Hamilton McLaren 1:55.217 + 0.510s
5 Rosberg Mercedes 1:55.241 + 0.559s
6 Webber Red Bull 1:55.284 + 0.966s
7 Schumacher Mercedes 1:55.524 + 0.419s
8 Button McLaren 1:55.672 + 0.504s
9 Kubica Renault 1:55.885 + 0.922s
10 Sutil Force India 1:56.309 + 1.313s

As the track conditions had not changed, the difference can only be put down to drivers trying too hard to get that perfect lap for the first pole of the new season. Rosberg said that he really thought he could get pole but struggled with his tyres and said that if he got too much oversteer in one corner and overheated the tyres, the next few corners would be ruined.

Therefore, Massa’s performance is all the more impressive as he was the only driver to keep his cool and go quicker in Q3 than he had in Q2.

Vettel was quickest in both Q2 and Q3, but if you believe pre-season testing then the Ferraris will definitely beat the Red Bull tomorrow in the race. However, it just goes to show, don’t be fooled by what happens in pre-season testing!

Jake McMillan

Poll Result: The F1 rivalry we are most looking forward to in 2010

2010 is a year of fantastic rivalries and a recent poll on this site has revealed that the F1 rivalry we are most looking forward to, far beyond any other, is seeing back from retirement Michael Schumacher compete against all the current top F1 elite of Massa, Button, Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and Webber.  Two-thirds of the poll (67%) stated they were most looking forward to seeing this battle.

Next highest vote (19%) was the battle between the two McLaren drivers of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Popular opinion seems to be that Hamilton will come out on top for 2010, but we are all wondering just how close or far away Button will be.

A small percentage of people are looking forward to the Vettel Vs Webber fight. Interestingly, no one voted for Alonso Vs Massa?