Tag Archives: motorsport

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!

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!

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.

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

Bahrain, only a week and a half to go!

It’s only a week and a half to go until the Bahrain Grand Prix and if you aren’t already, it’s time to get excited.

The teams have completed their 4 pre-season tests and the gloves are now well and truly off, it’s all systems go and we will finally see the drivers go head to head at the Bahrain International Circuit. The 2010 season opener will be very exciting as it will be the first time we will see the true performance of the teams and drivers and find out who is quickest.

It will be a tough race for everyone as not only is the track very demanding on brakes it will also be a critical test of tyre wear as it will be 20 degrees hotter in the Sakhir desert than it was in Spain during testing. Not only that, the circuit has also been extended and so all drivers will need to get used to the new layout.

The change is not significantly different, but the organisers believe it will ‘bring fresh challenges and exciting overtaking opportunities’.

The new layout is show below and you can see that the ‘new loop will sweep left as the cars accelerate out of the existing Turn 4 and then into a fast flowing right-hander before a complex sequence of five bends brings them back towards the original circuit. They will then ‘accelerate through a left-right kink before a tight and challenging hairpin brings them back on to the existing circuit’, adding a total of eight new corners and 0.887km to the track.

Turns 9 and 10 (now turns 18 and 19) have always been tricky for the drivers as they brake, go downhill and turn left all at the same time causing frequent lock ups and flat-spotting of tyres. This year with full fuel tanks, it will be even tougher and drivers will need to be very careful in the first part of the race to manage their tyres.

If you still need any help getting excited, then watch the opening lap and a bit onboard with Red Bull’s Mark Webber at last year’s Grand Prix.

Jake McMillan

McLaren caught watching Ferrari at Barcelona

The teams like to keep close tabs on each other and employ people to monitor developments in their rivals car. Here is an overt example, and quite funny too, of McLaren watching Ferrari doing their pits stop practice in Barcelona.

This has been going on for years and here is an example of Ferrari watching the McLaren of David Coulthard at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2002 I believe.

I think Lotus and Virgin can only dream that McLaren or Ferrari would give them such attention.

Jake McMillan