Category Archives: F1

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!


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!

What Needs to be Done to Beat Vettel?

by Jake McMillan

The 2011 Belgian Grand Prix yesterday was a very entertaining race, but another sight of the Vettel victory finger means that is now extremely difficult for anyone to stop him achieving another F1 Championship.

Yesterday’s result means that Massa (on 74 points) cannot win the Championship now, but there is still a mathematical chance for Webber (167 points), Alonso (157 points), Button (149 points) and Hamilton (146 points). A closer look at the mathematical position reveals the following:

  • The earliest Vettel could potentially win the Championship is in Singapore (2 races time)
  • If second placed Webber won ALL the remaining races, Vettel would need to average 4th place (12 pts) to still win Championship
  • If Alonso, Button or Hamilton won ALL the remaining races, Vettel would need to average 5th place (10 pts) to still win Championship (note: 10.4pts in case of Alonso)
The likelihood of one of these 4 drivers winning ALL the remaining 7 races is extremely unlikely and it is more probable that these will be split between them making it is very easy for Vettel to win the Championship. If he took a a very cautious approach and finished in 6th place at each remaining race, he would still be world champion even if Webber won 3 races and finished 2nd in the other four! 
Even if he has one retirement (DNF), he can still average 6th place and will still likely be World Champion if the wins are shared between the other four drivers.
Conclusion: For Vettel to be beaten to the 2011 F1 World Championship crown, the following has to happen at the very minimum:
– Vettel needs at least one DNF
– Webber needs to win at least 3 of remaining 7 races
– Alonso needs to win at least 4 of remaining 7 races
– Button & Hamilton need to win at least 5 of remaining 7 races
– A miracle

F1 Team Orders

There’s been a lot said on team orders in Formula 1 since the German Grand Prix last week.

All I have to say is this: Drivers are not more important than the team, but the teams are not more important than the sport.

Tension inside the F1 Safety Car?

I think maybe there is a major rift between Peter Tibbetts and Bernd Maylander? The four deployments of the safety car at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix meant we got to see inside the FIA Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG F1 Safety Car much more than we usually do.

They are doing a serious job, but it was clear that there was not a lot of love between FIA medical delegate Peter Tibbetts (on the left) and former DTM racer Bernd Maylander (on the right). The two have been in the safety car together since 2000, but they were not talking to each other and there were no smiles.

In fact, the way Peter was looking away from Bernd made it seem like something serious had gone on between them. The tension was palpable. Perhaps Bernd has been using his semi-automatic gear shift with Mrs Tibbetts?! Peter’s demeanour was very much like ‘I have to work with you, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to talk or be friendly to you.’

Next time there is a Safety Car on the track look out for Peter and Bernd, let’s hope they can be friends again.

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