Tag Archives: Ferrari

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.


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.

The Barcelona car updates, have the cars really improved?

After the first 4 ‘fly away races’ (Bahrain, Australia, Malaysia & China), the teams have been adding new bits and pieces to their cars to improve performance for the 2010 Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona (circuit de catalunya). But how much have they improved, if at all?

This is rather hard to judge as there is no real baseline to compare. However, the teams all visited the Barcelona track at the final pre-season test at the end of February.

Comparing the fastest lap times from that 4-day test with their qualifying lap times at the Grand Prix shows some rather interesting results. Obviously the track conditions were not exactly the same in February, but their relative performance differences between the two times are somewhat revealing and also quite confusing.

You would expect that the times at the Grand Prix with dry and warm conditions when the drivers are really pushing it as much as they can in the new improved cars that their times would be a lot faster?

Driver Team Spanish GP Qualifying Time Pre-Season Best Time Change
Mark Webber Red Bull 1m19.995s 1m20.479s -0.484s
Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m20.101s 1m20.667s -0.566s
Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m20.829s 1m20.472s +0.357s
Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m20.937s 1m20.637s +0.300s
Jenson Button McLaren 1m20.991s 1m21.450s -0.459s
Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m21.294s 1m20.745s +0.549s
Robert Kubica Renault 1m21.353s 1m23.175s -1.822s
Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m21.408s 1m20.686s +0.722s
Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m21.585s 1m20.539s +1.046s
Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m21.725s 1m20.911s +0.814s
Adrian Sutil Force India 1m21.985s 1m20.611s +1.374s
Pedro de la Rosa Sauber 1m22.026s 1m20.973s +1.053s
Nico Hulkenberg Williams 1m22.131s 1m20.614s +1.517s
Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m22.139s 1m22.523s -0.384s
Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m22.191s 1m21.413s +0.778s
Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m22.207s 1m21.571s +0.636s
Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India 1m22.854s 1m21.056s +1.798s
Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m23.125s 1m20.870s +2.255s
Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m24.674s 1m25.059s -0.385s
Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m24.748s 1m25.251s -0.503s
Timo Glock Virgin 1m25.475s 1m25.942s -0.467s
Lucas di Grassi Virgin 1m25.556s 1m26.160s -0.604s
Karun Chandhok Hispania 1m26.750s DNA N/A
Bruno Senna Hispania 1m27.122s DNA N/A

Surprisingly only 4 teams (Redbull, Renault, Lotus and Virgin) had improved times at Barcelona this weekend. All other teams had slower times (Jenson Button being the only exception).

Redbull’s improvement is very impressive, with both drivers able to deliver times half a second quicker than they went at the end of February. Lotus and Virgin both show half a second improvement which suggests that Lotus’s new changes are not as advanced as they hoped for.

The biggest change is Robert Kubica’s Renualt with a nearly 2 second improvement, whereas his teammate Petrov was only able to achieve a 0.4secs improvement.

Williams have a lot to be concerned about as Hulkenberg was a massive 1.5secs slower and Barrichello a horrendous 2.255secs slower. The Force India cars were 1.5secs slower on average, Sauber about one second slower , Toro Rosso 0.7secs slower and Mercedes just over half a second slower. The Ferrari of Alonso and Hamilton’s McLaren were at least three tenths slower.

So does this mean the team’s improvements have actually made their cars worse? Well, track conditions have to be factored in, but certainly don’t explain all the difference. It could also be speculated that during the pre-season test some teams ran low fuel using a lower ride height (i.e. not also being set up for a full tank of fuel as they do in qualifying).

Whatever the reason, one thing is very clear, Red Bull are simply doing a better job at developing their car than anyone else.

Who YOU think will be leading the Championship after 5 races?

An interesting statistic was raised by the BBC Formula 1 coverage earlier today that whoever has been leading the Championship after only 4 races has gone on to be Champion in 15 out of the last 20 years.

From just before the start of the first Grand Prix in Bahrain until just before this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix I ran a poll on this blog asking who you think will be leading the championship after 5 races.

The voting was reasonably close, but Alonso emerged as a winner with 30% of you predicting him to be leading after the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Jeremy Clarkson’s son, Sebastian Vettel, came second with 22% of the votes and Lewis Hamilton third with 17%.

Although Massa is currently leading the championship (after 3 races) by 2 points, only 13% of you think he will still be leading in 2 races time. Michael Schumacher received a few votes, but his teammate Nico Rosberg, who has been outperforming him, received no votes at all. Neither did Mark Webber?

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?