Tag Archives: sport

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.

What was Webber supposed to have done?


The coming together of the Red Bull’s of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at the Turkish Grand Prix last weekend has become a massive talking point, a somewhat controversial incident that has multiplied in size due to the poor handling of the situation by Red Bull management.

Today Vettel and Webber met with each other and senior Red Bull Racing management to talk through what happened and ‘draw a line under the incident’. Both drivers made positive comments and talked about moving on. Webber stated ‘Seb and I will make sure it doesn’t happen again’. However, for this to realistically happen, they must have agreed on how and why the incident happened.

Like many other F1 fans, I watched the incident live on TV and then have seen it again and again on replay from every angle (UK users only) and I keep coming back to the same conclusion: Mark Webber did nothing wrong. I really find it hard to understand any criticism of his part in the incident.

I must also stress that I am not a particular Mark Webber fan and admire both him and Vettel equally. In fact, ignoring my tongue-in-cheek post about Vettel’s heritage, I really quite like Sebastian Vettel, both his driving and the way he conducts himself as a person. He seems like a really nice and uber-talented guy. However, last Sunday he got it wrong.

There are two ways of looking at the incident, firstly, you can analyse what did happen and secondly, you can make the assumption that Webber was at fault and then assess what he should have done instead.

As we all have seen now too many times, Vettel made a pass to Webber’s left as they came towards turn 12 on lap 40 of the Turkish Grand Prix. Webber had spotted Vettel’s run at him and had stayed to the left, giving him just enough room on the left to make a pass but left lots of room to the right. Basically he was covering the inside line and if Vettel was going to pass, he wanted him to do it from the outside.

Once it was clear to Webber that Vettel was trying to pass on the left he stayed straight, his car did not deviate. Watch the footage and see how twitchy Vettel is in his car compared to Webber who maintains his line. Before they get to the 150m marker Vettel , who is not yet passed Webber completely, moves sharply to the right and they collide and have their accident.

Some have been critical that Webber was at fault because he ‘squeezed’ Vettel on the left hand side. Vettel chose the tight left hand side to pass Webber (he could have gone right where there was lots of space) and Mark simply held his course.

In Webber’s mind, if Vettel had to take the corner on a tighter line then he had a chance of braking later than him and overtaking him back. It is important to remember, the accident occurred because Vettel turned right quickly and Webber had no time to react to that. They had not yet reached their braking points so Vettel could have waited a little longer, until he was fully passed Webber, before moving over to the right to take a better line through turn 12.

So, from analysing what happened, it is clear to me that Vettel was at fault for the accident. Webber was hard but fair; something a racing driver should be with his teammate.

If we make the assumption that Webber was to blame, then we must have an answer as to what he was supposed to have done instead. It is argued he should have given Vettel more room. As soon as Vettel came up the inside he should have moved over to the right. This would have absolutely gifted the corner to Vettel as he could also move right and take a more normal line into turn 12. If Webber had done this, he would have been severely criticised for being a weak racing driver. He is leading the Championship and there is no reason why he should make it easy for his closest rival to overtake him.

Some have said that when Vettel moved right he should moved right too. However, Vettel moves across so quickly he did not have time to react and you can see him tying to move right when he realises Vettel is going to hit him.

Sebastian had made a good pass on Mark Webber, but he hadn’t actually finished the pass when he moved to the right, that’s why the accident happened. Mark Webber did not do anything wrong and if I was him I would be quite angry that he has been given any blame whatsoever for the incident. What else was he supposed to have done?

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.

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.

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