Archive for F1

Abu Dhabi F1 2010 – not so bad

Posted in Transport with tags , on November 14, 2010 by Apollo

I have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to the last F1 race of 2010 – most of the run up towards it had seemed to suggest that Fernando Alonso was going to be handed the driver’s championship because all the other contenders seemed to be having brain-failure, poor team management, or just down bad luck when they didn’t need it.

Somehow, Alonso seemed to have left all these negative aspects somewhere behind him in the latter part of the series.

However, the last race at Abu Dhabi turned out to be a joy to watch, as Alonso got what the deserved as payback for all the questionable things I think he has been involved in since he did for McLaren team and Lewis Hamilton in the past. I thought he was a creep then (as if any of the other teams etc weren’t doing similar, but there wasn’t action taken across the board), and although I’ve tried not to think the same ever since, his actions, and his team in support of him with various complaints and appeals against the competition, haven’t really done anything to make me think the best position to assume when near him is with my back safely jammed firmly against the nearest wall – harder to have a knife stuck in it.

Watching him stuck behind a yellow car (down in 11th, Alonso was leading Webber but could not get past Renault’s Vitaly Petrov) for a large part of the race, and unable to produce the performance or skill to pass it – or manufacture some scenario to justify ramming it off the road – made the race a damned good watch, and even his behaviour at the end, with session of fist-waving at Petrov, just confirmed my opinion of Alonso as a creep – probably even more so when he tried to laugh off his natural reaction when interviewed about his behaviour by the BBC just after the race.

Well, we can only hope 2011 goes as well for him as 2010 – and that he gets to think he has won all the way to the last race – only to have it snatched away again.

Maybe he’ll treat us to an on-screen implosion.


Hungary F1 2009 – Sweet and Sour

Posted in Transport with tags , on July 26, 2009 by Apollo

PheasantThis weekend’s Hungarian race proved to be something of a mixed bag, and disturbing coincidences.

Felipe Massa

The sour part is, of course, the unfortunate accident which Felipe Mass suffered during Saturday’s qualifying session, just six days after a fatal accident at Brands Hatch involving Henry Surtees, son of 1964 Formula One champion John Surtees, when he was struck on the head by a wheel which had come off another car.

Massa suffered a cut to his forehead, damage to the bone of his skull and concussion after being struck by a coil spring weighing about 1 kilogramme, part of the suspension which had broken off from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn car. Although Massa remained conscious and was able to apply his brakes, he ploughed straight through the next corner and into a tyre wall at high speed, where he remained motionless for a time. The accident occurred during second qualifying, and was the sort of incident that would be almost impossible to organise deliberately. Massa happened to come down the road at the exact moment a solid object was occupying the same piece of space as his head, and helmet. The blow was enough to destroy the visor and cause a deep gash above his left eyebrow, and later revealed to have caused two fractures to his skull.

As we write, we know that Felipe is in a serious but stable condition in hospital following an operation, and is being kept in an induced coma for the following 48 hours. He is woken at intervals to determine his condition, and CT scans are also being taken, with the doctors reporting that his condition is life-threatening, but that his progress is following surgery is satisfactory.

Understandably, there have been some calls to improve driver safety, and these two incidents indicate that there is never any case for complacency regarding this aspect, but as some of the drivers have already noted, the circumstances were extremely unusual, and some solutions could potentially introduce greater hazards than these events have highlighted. However, if nothing else, F1 always seems to be able to provide significant incremental improvements to just about anything that needs it, so there is bound to be scope for improving safety in this, and no doubt, other areas.

As a further coincidence, I happened to look in on one of those programmes that follows the various emergency services on the road, and reports on the various incidents they come across. This one included a third, very similar event. In this case, a motorcyclist was involved, and he had been unfortunate enough to try and occupy the same piece of space as a pheasant that flew across his path, on a 60 mph road – no-one else was involved, but nearby farm workers witnessed the incident as it happened. The rider had no chance as the bird arrived from the side and flew straight into his helmet, meaning the impact speed was at least 60 mph. Although not knocked unconscious, the rider was blinded as the bird virtually exploded as it hit the area of his visor. Unable to see for the remains, he deliberately steered to left – reasoning that meeting a car travelling at 60 mph the other way would not be a good idea – onto the grassy verge, and into a deep ditch, just missing the only tree for some distance around. In some ways he was fortunate, his injuries amounted to a broken nose and cheekbone, and could have been much more serious.



Turning to the race in Hungary itself, it was particularly sweet to watch, and more interesting than the past couple of meeting, which left me without anything to think about, and bother to write a few notes later.

I just can’t get over my loathing of Alonso. Ever since he resorted to whatever dirty tricks he could think of to ensure that he could get any advantage he could over Hamilton a few years ago – regardless of who he took down and ruined along the way – I just can’t stop thinking of him as nothing more than a creep, and someone I’d never want as a team mate, or dare to turn my back on.

The high point of the Hungarian race had to be the coming together of Hamilton’s team, and the achievement of what seemed to be a return to form and an easy win, but one win could still just be a fluke, and we’ll have to wait for the end of the forthcoming four week break before we see if this is a definite change.

The higher point was the sabotage of Alonso’s car by the wheelman during a pit stop, when he failed to locate the brake duct spinner correctly, leading to it flapping loose as Alonso tried to make his way around the track after the stop, but unable to return to the pits before the spinner took its name literally, and spun in the wind. This led to firstly to the loss of the wheel nut, to be followed shortly by the loss of wheel, and Alonso’s limp back to the pits with only “three wheels on his waggon”. Although the crew stuck another wheel on the limping car, Alonso got his dues, and had to retire after completing  only a few more laps.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

This was made all the sweeter by the fact that he had been chasing Hamilton prior to his crews’ sabotage, and got to watch his former team mate and rival speed off into the distance ahead of him – and he couldn’t do a thing about it as both Hamilton, and his points for second place disappeared.

Given the other events of the weekend, and the fact that a loose wheel is no longer connected to the car by the restraining straps that keep the wheel on the car as long as it is still on the hub, it is also fortunate that the loose wheel bounced and rolled away harmlessly into the distance.

British F1

Posted in Transport with tags , on June 21, 2009 by Apollo

Not really much happening at the British F1 meeting at Silverstone, especially if you wanted to cheer on the British drivers at home.

Maybe the hiccup I suggested, back at the start, that might arise after the circus moved to Europe is actually arriving.

Notably, there was the announcement that it could host next year’s event if Donnington is not ready, so removing a possibility of no meeting at all in Britain had the latter not been ready.

The capping story rumbles on, with some of those involved saying all is more or less ok, the dust had settled somewhat, and that things were advancing, also pointing out that there is no limit imposed on any teams committing to the next five years – I hadn’t picked up that point in the earlier announcements. However, there is still the breakaway group, and it seems to be saying that things are not settled, and they are pushing ahead with the new event.

Well. I’m staying as a casual, but interested observer, and not digging into these claims. If it sounds like nonsense, then maybe it all is, and Max Mosley is maybe not too far off the mark when he makes the observation that some of those involved in the opposition are loonies, or appear to have a desire to do what it takes to make power plays.

Politics – don’t you love them?

Monaco F1

Posted in Transport with tags , on May 24, 2009 by Apollo

Monaco’s always a tough race to watch – there’s so much rubbish scattered around the track!

One such example could be see as Martin Brundle walked the grid and Geri Halliwell was found sticking to Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone like a piece of dirty old chewing gum sticks to the sole of your shoe, and did the same to Brundle as she hijacked his questions to Ecclestone, who barely got a word in.

The smallest grid in the world, and they don’t have people in place to keep it clear of rubbish.

There was another disappointing story that the commentators had to keep mentioning for some reason (backhander from someone perhaps) and that was the repeated mention of Lewis Hamilton’s helmet, which apparently sports a diamond encrusted feature – nothing like a bit of excess to let the world know that even if you are at the back of the grid, your paypacket is still that of the Formula 1 World Champion driver.

Remarkably, some relevant info was dispersed before the race started, as Max Mosley was interviewed and indicated that talks with the teams had reached a stage whereby the proposed £40 million cap on spending was no longer as big a point of contention as it had been in the preceding days, and that a method of implementing this was now being discussed, and the suggestion of F1 teams withdrawing, or even setting up a breakaway event, had receded.

Maybe there will be a Formula 2…

Oops, that already re-appeared this week!

We’ll see – the amount is maybe still too low to keep some happy, and the different rules for those that do, or do not, work to them will not win any friends, effectively resulting in two different forms of car running in competition, a bit like creating Formula 1A and Formula 1B. Even if they were genuinely equivalent, people/teams would still perceive one as better than the other, one as the elite, and the other as the also-rans. I suspect there is still much to be discussed, but the main thing is that they do still seem to be discussing, rather then breaking up.

They did still manage to have a race at Monaco, in between the fashion shows and posing.

Jenson Button won.


So much for my suggestion at the start of the season, when I suggested there would be no sign of any patterns appearing before the teams began to race in Europe.


Barcelona F1

Posted in Tagged with tags , on May 10, 2009 by Apollo

First race in Europe, and Brawn, together with Jenson Button, seems to have carried on with the performance shown in the opening oddball rounds to the east.

For whatever reason, be it Button’s abilities at the moment, Brawn’s design and build abilities as a brand new team just cobbled together before the start of the season and not being tainted by bringing all sorts of old, established luggage with them, or the changes made to the F1 rules for this year, Brawn’s 1/2 win this weekend suggests the Brawn and Button may be at the top by the end of the season.

By no means a certainty in any way, Brawn still has to respond to the others during the rest of season, and their greater experience may still mean they can draw on their past, and still design and develop their way past Brawn, whose lack of that very luggage may become a disadvantage.

Still nothing certain.

While I was never a Lewis Hamilton fan, I always thought he was never given a fair deal with all the nonsense of the courts etc that followed him with McLaren, and his open dejection and lack of any attempt to cover up his disappointment in the the performance of his car reflect the past. Usually, even when the world can clearly see a car is little more than pile of parts dragging themselves around a track, the driver will still smile and say that everything is fine, and it’s a one race slip. No such mock enthusiasm from Hamilton at the moment – his car’s a piece of junk, and he just says so, without as much of a smile or hint that it will be better next race.

I think the return to Europe sees some improvement in the performance of those red cars, but we’ll need to wait and see.

I don’t know if the £40 million budget cap on F1 teams for participating team in 2010 makes sense, engines will be excluded from the limit in 2010, and signing up for the cap means having some rule restrictions removed.

Someone suggested that means this is no longer F1, and my own impression is that if there are teams running to different rules, then this true, and you have a mixed formula with cars designed to different rules on the track at the same time.

This happened in British Touring Cars, and we had two races on track at the same time, with the expensive winged team cars sharing the track and having to weave their way through and around the private, non-winged and slower cars. It was all too confusing for me, and I was fed up having to work out what I was looking at. The faster cars could have their day ruined by the slower cars having their own race ahead of them, and albeit unintentionally, blocking the track and preventing them from passing. If they moved over for the faster cars, then the leading slower car  might have been passed by the car it was actually racing with, so they quite legitimately blocked the faster cars, meaning the two classes had to fight on track. A bit silly, since the faster cars could easily pass if they had the space, it wasn’t really a race between, just frustration.

We’ll see.

The silliest thing about the £40 million cap is that it’s a trivial amount for the teams, they spend more on hospitality, motor homes, and frivolity. They won’t spend any less, just more on rubbish around the event, or put the savings in their already overstacked paypackets.

If they really wanted to save money and cut spending, maybe the simplest thing they could do is ban the use of wind tunnels, or slash the size of the wings, and get things down to plain old mechanical grip.

Bahrain F1

Posted in Transport with tags , on April 26, 2009 by Apollo

In some respects, as a simple watcher, I sometimes wonder about the reasons for the races that have been grafted onto the traditional races in Europe that used to form the F1 world tour. That’s not a hint that they shouldn’t be there, more that their effect seems to be something of a lottery, as their weather and climatic conditions are so different from the rest of the season that the rules of F1 mean that there must be design compromises – and that seems a bit odd for something that calls itself Formula 1. Having the opening races there means that the upgrades for the new season don’t reach the cars until they return to Europe, and this means we see even less clues as to how the season will develop.

I’m not a Ferrari fan, but it was disappointing to hear the various commentators dismiss the team at this stage. The team has lost or changed many key staff, and it is the start of the season. My vision isn’t blurred by red, but I see no reason whatsoever to make disparaging remarks about the team, write them off, or suggest they will be nowhere to be seen at the end of the season. At this stage, a complete reversal of form is by no means off the cards.

Brawn’s performance was possibly the most interesting of the weekend. I didn’t hear anyone else mention sandbagging or misdirection, but the result and performance of the cars and drivers suggests some intriguing tactics played over the weekend. Despite reports of chassis changes which were said to cut away all the advantageous diffuser bits from below the cars, and precise temperature figures being quoted for maximum air temperatures that would mean the engine cooling  – and therefore power – would be compromised, that temperature was exceeded, and the car carried on to a comfortable win.

Much as the opening races in faraway countries are fun, I look forward to the relatively stable period in Europe, where it’s possible to get a more balanced view of just how each team performs over an extended period.

The KERS system is something of an anomaly, even a disappointment, possibly a handicap rather than a potential advantage. If you use it, you have to carry the weight for the whole race, but can only use the recovered energy for a few seconds. This makes it artificial, as the rules can make the period so short that it is next to useless, or so long that anyone who doesn’t have it fitted has no chance of winning. In effect, the rulebook could define the winner.

I can’t help feeling that it should be ditched, or made a compulsory part of every F1 car, and rather than being time-limited, it should perhaps be given a maximum weight.


This would allow the teams to choose how they balanced the mix of generation versus storage. Their design problem would them be similar to that of their current refuelling strategy choices where they have to balance fuel/weight versus number of pit stops and lap times.

Their KERS weight limit would then force them to decide whether they wanted a big generator (and less battery storage), which would charge the batteries quickly, but they would have little duration, or to have a small generator (and more battery storage), which would take longer to charge the batteries, but they would then have greater duration.

Flywheel systems are inherently weight dependent, but could have further rules determining their dimensions and how that weight was distributed on the flywheel, since a given mass distributed further from the centre of rotation stores more energy than it would at a lesser radius.

And you can complicate things further by mounting the flywheel in a vacuum, and spinning it at tens of thousands of rpm – really dangerous in a crash, so demanding a heavy safety enclosure.

This could keep the F1 rulebook writers busy for years – maybe we should ban them now, and just go for electrical systems.

GT racing still to be found

Posted in Transport with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2009 by Apollo

The return of GT racing (on Channel 4) this morning was a refreshing change to the current Formula 1 and the British Touring Car Championship coverage – in a way, it was almost reminiscent of the lesser coverage the big two used to receive before they were ruined by the rulebook, the attractions of the advertisers and sponsors, and the celebrity status the drivers now enjoy.

F1 is hung up on the rulebook, lawyers, and courts, probably sparked off by Alonso the Rat’s activities a few yers back, when he was ready to use any means available to get Hamilton out of his way. The money side remains silly, as Renault Team principal Flavio Briatore said he and technical director Bob Bell, plus engineering chief Pat Symonds, would take a 20% reduction in salary, while the second level of staff will enjoy a 10% cut, and everybody else gets a 5% cut. I might not have found this laughable if Briatore wasn’t a multi-millionaire that need not take any money out of the team at all. Now, the news that the millionaires of F1 were not goig to take money out of their expensive Scalextric sets they bought, and leave the workers with their full paypackets would be something noteworthy – but I won’t hold my breath waiting for that one.

The BTCC has gone from events of decent duration that used to let proper races develop between the drivers, and has become three short sprints that are good for the advertisers and TV coverage, and has allow the drivers to be shoved on camera more often, but always reach the chequered flag just as they begin to get interesting. I was once able to wander the length of the track while a race was on, and stop at interesting corners, now I would have to run just to get halfway around before any race was over.

Both F1 and the BTCC seem to suffer from a common malaise, namely that the outcome can more likely be determined not by the racing, the car, or the driver, but by somebody tripping.

I used to dismiss GT racing because it had the appearance of being the plaything of the rich, with Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Ascari, Viper, Ferrari, etc on the track, but have come to appreciate the longer races and tactics that come into play.

The GT cars are no strangers to technical specifactions and endurance, but suffer none of the F1 problems of mechanical hiatus or rulebook hysteria – not to say it doesn’t happen, just that it’s not the norm. Nor do they have the short race option of crashing and bashing one another off the track, and giving the TV cameras something to focus on endlessly and even produce special programmes of nothing but crashes – not to say it doesn’t happen, just that it’s not the norm.

Best of all possibly, is that the drivers are generally not well known celebrities, and there’s none of the embarrassing grovelling by the cameras and commentators. While the driver pool contains many well known names, they tend to be professional who are not completely devoted only to the one class of racing. The commentary is also devoid of the hysteria that seems to accompany the interesting bits of the other TV races, especially the BTCC.

The downside of the GT coverage is that you have to get up early on a Saturday morning to watch it as you have your breakfast, and that it has only a half hour slot, which means something in the order of less than 20 minutes’ coverage of the racing on track by the time you deduct the start and finish of the programme, the ad-break halfway through, and any news to be reported from the preceding week. If they run any special coverage of the cars, track, or drivers, then even that 20 minutes can be substantially reduced and become little more than footage of racing incidents, rather than racing.

I better shut up, or someone might see the comment and decide that those few minutes are not worth televising, and we’ll lose them too as the coverage is dropped – or some sponsor will “discover” GT racing and it will be chopped into sprints for the ad-breaks, and the drivers will be promoted to screen idols, and any over twenty-somethings will be forced into retiral as grey-haired old wrinklies, not welcome on camera.