Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Masters Historic Festival at Brands Hatch

Yesterday I went and visited my local race track: Brands Hatch. I used to go there all the time with my Dad when I was little - rain, sun, snow, hail, nothing could stop us from watching the cars zoom around Druids! Visits to Brands are somewhat more infrequent now, largely due to the price of the events now that I don't get in for free, however we still go every couple of months if we can.

One event that is pretty awesome to watch is the Masters Historic festival. Dad and I went to this event in 2009, but missed it last year as we went to Crystal Palace instead. So, to make up for last years absence at Brands we decided to go along to the Masters, taking my Mum along too.

There were all sorts of cars there, from Minis to vintage F1 cars (definitely my favourite). The racing started early at 9:15 and finished at about 6 in the evening, so the day was well worth the £17 entry fee! The first two races were long races - almost two hours. Surprisingly, there were only a few retirements and the classic cars held out well.

I have to admit, I'm a sucker for a classic car. I drive an old Series 3 Land Rover myself - the lack of power steering and drum brakes build character (I have a sticker on the back of the car reading 'Disc Brakes Are For Cowards'), and I love the surprise on Transit Van Drivers' faces when they're being overtaken by a 19 year old girl in a classic Landy! I love the style of classic cars. I tend to find that most 'ordinary' cars today all look alike and are mass-produced things which lack in character. Classic cars are for life, not just for when you need to get from A to B. Plus, classic off-roaders like my Landy go for the 'you can go fast, I can go anywhere' factor. Yeah, journeys may be fraught with worrying about actually arriving at your destination, and may cost a fortune in petrol, but the fun you have with them more than makes up for that.

The fun you can have with a classic car was so well demonstrated yesterday at the Masters. The Mini race was by far the most entertaining race of the day. The lead car was in an epic battle with the second place car most of the way around, swapping positions on every lap. However, sadly the second place car broke down and finished the race well down the standings. This didn't lead to a boring race though - the first place man slowed up a little and allowed the next placed car to catch up for a battle to the finish. A battle which would have easily been won by the leading car until he slowed up too much and the following car took the lead by one thousandth of a second!

The Formula One cars were by far and away my favourites however. I fall in love with the sound that these cars make - even if I do have to put my hands over my ears because of the noise of them! Even though F1 cars have been so advanced since the time of the cars which were running yesterday, I was still thrilled with how fast the cars were. Seeing them come along Hawthorne Hill was amazing. Of course, I was armed with my camera and managed to put together a few clips that I took yesterday. There could only be one choice of backing track too:

I also have some more pictures from the races yesterday - including the orange Cobra which I would gladly buy if I had the money! Although come to that, if I had the money I'd probably take home the whole grid from every race...

So, if you're really a petrol head like me, you have to go to Brands! Seriously, they have events there for everyone - DTM, Bikes, Historic festivals... You name it! Here's a link to their website. Trust me, once you've been there once you'll be addicted. Although a word of advice: take suncream with you - as much as I loved the cars yesterday I'm regretting the sunburn!

The Ego of an F1 Driver

Well, let nobody say F1 isn't interesting. Today's Monaco Grand Prix proved that even without constant overtaking you can still have a thrilling race.

So far this year we haven't seen a single safety car - there haven't really been that many incidents. Monaco changed all that today, with several safety car incidents and the first red-flagged race of the year. The race was red-flagged after a big collision between Hamilton, Alguersuari and Petrov following Sutil losing a tyre (not that this hindered Sutil too much - the red flag meant that he could simply get his car repaired on the grid). The collision was tense for a few minutes as the medical crew turned up apparently without warning. It transpired that Vitaly Petrov was stuck in his car complaining of his legs hurting. He was taken to the medical centre where luckily he was found to be uninjured. The red flag ultimately helped Sebastian Vettel to his fifth win of six races. Before the red flag, Seb was apparently struggling on his 60-something old soft tyres and was being quickly caught by Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Luckily, the red flag allowed him to switch to the supersofts and he won the race in the final five laps.

Now, what I wanted to talk about was Lewis Hamilton's race. After the race the lovely people from the BBC interviewed Lewis in what proved to be quite an interesting chat. Listen to it first, then read my opinions.

Lewis seems to be very unhappy lately - criticising the team and race officials each time something goes wrong. I hate it when drivers do this. Come to that, I hate it when teams do this too. We saw it a lot when Red Bull were exceptionally fast - McLaren, Ferrari and friends would complain that something was illegal on the car or that they were hiding something. Nobody was prepared to admit that Red Bull simply had the better car, even when the FIA found the car legal (legal even after ramped-up tests might I add). I honestly think that the teams should focus on their performance, rather than questioning the legality of the other cars.

So, back to Lewis. In the interview, Hamilton argued that it's always him getting the penalties - "I was blocked by Massa, I got the penalty". Now, this is maybe bending the truth a little - Lewis got the penalty because he cut a chicane, not anything to do with Massa. Because Lewis cut the chicane, he would have gained an unfair advantage. Therefore, is it really unfair to give him a penalty? Hardly seems personal, Lewis. During the race, Lewis crashed into Maldonado and Massa - crashes which led to both retiring. The crash with Massa has divided opinion somewhat - was it a case of Lewis pushing his luck and hoping that Massa would simply move over or was it that Massa turned in too early? Personally, I think Lewis was pushing it just a little too much. Regardless of my view, there could be another element to Lewis's drive through penalty. Di Resta was involved in a similar incident earlier on and also got a drive through penalty, so if Lewis didn't receive the same penalty then presumably we would all have accused the stewards of inconsistency. Also, it's not necessarily a case of not being able to overtake at Lowes - or being given the threat of a penalty for overtaking there either - we saw Schumacher overtake Rosberg at the same corner without incident. Whether that was just because Nico moved out of the way or whether Michael was showing his old skill is another matter, however it goes to show that overtaking is possible if you have enough luck and skill - Lewis is simply down on his luck at the moment and that's been leading to visits to the stewards.

Lewis's complaining about the stewards took a perhaps sinister turn when he stated that 'Maybe it's because I'm black'. Ok, now it's good that Lewis is being honest. He's clearly showing he's not happy, and not spouting off loads of PR stuff. However, it's not right to bring his race and colour into the sport. F1 is global - we have a range of nationalities from English to Venezuelan, German to Japanese. So, I hardly think that the stewards would discriminate against a driver because of his colour. The media so far have been kind to Lewis - it seems that it's only the F1 and motorsport media that have picked up on his comments, thankfully. Lewis has also since apologised to the stewards, which McLaren believe they have accepted.

While I can't criticise Lewis for speaking his mind, I am getting fed up of drivers complaining when things don't go their way. If you have a bad race then put your hands up and admit it. Various other drivers are perfectly fine with saying when something is their fault, and I respect them all the more for it - Sebastian Vettel is always quick to raise his hands and say "it was my mistake", as is Michael Schumacher. Similarly, I respect teams more when they look at their own performance, rather than saying that another team is illegal in some way. I think things will get better for Lewis, and his comments were obviously heat-of-the-moment, however all the while he keeps blaming the team or the officials for poor performances he will get stuck in this rut. Don't forget that Lewis is still second in the championship and it's a hell of a long season, so maybe things aren't as bad as he thinks they are.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Monaco Qualifying

Today saw the quali session for Monaco - one of the most exciting circuits on the calendar. The practice sessions showed several accidents - Nico Rosberg and Vitantonio Liuzzi today, Michael Schumacher yesterday to name a few. So, qualifying was always going to be a tense affair, what with the drivers pushing as hard as they could to get the pole and the circuit leaving no room should the drivers push it that little too far.

Neither of the Hispania cars took part in qualifying - Liuzzi because of his crash in FP3 and Karthikeyan because of an apparent wishbone failure on the car. The Hispanias will however be allowed to race tomorrow as their free practice times were all within the 107% time, Karthikeyan starting 23rd and Liuzzi 24th. Both Team Lotus cars (now officially known as Team Lotus following that court ruling) out-qualified Jaime Alguersuari's Toro Rosso who suffered front wing damage after a collision with Kamui Kobayashi (an incident which is under investigation). Kovalainen starts 18th, Truilli 19th and Alguersuari 20th. The two Virgin cars completed the seven eliminated from the second quali session, with Glock starting 21st and d'Ambrosio starting 22nd.

Quali two was a rather usual affair, with no real surprises being eliminated. Both Lotus Renaults were eliminated in Q2. Vitaly Petrov will start 11th and Nick Heidfeld will start 16th. The Williams of Rubens Barrichello starts from 12th and has been out-qualified by team mate Maldonado who starts from 9th. Kobayashi currently starts from 13th, despite Sergio Perez managing to get into Q3. Both Force India cars were eliminated in this session too, with di Resta starting 14th, out-qualifying Sutil who starts next down in 15th. Sebastian Buemi completed these 7, starting in 17th.

Qualifying 3 was perhaps the most dramatic of the year. Lewis Hamilton left his run until later on in the session - something which he would later regret. Button and Alonso were setting the early pace, however Sebastian Vettel once again pulled a magnificent lap out of the bag to eventually grab pole position. Sergio Perez did a fantastic job for Sauber getting into Q3, however he had a massive crash on coming out of the tunnel - in the same place as Nico Rosberg's earlier crash. In contrast to Rosberg's crash, Perez wasn't as lucky and crashed heavily into the tepco barriers. There were several tense minutes as Perez did not emerge from the car and was apparently motionless. The medical teams and marshalls attended the scene and raised barriers to prevent the cameras from seeing the scene. Luckily, Perez was extracted and taken to hospital. He was conscious and responding to the medical team, however remains in hospital overnight with concussion. His accident occurred so late in the session as to ruin Hamilton's one run. Cold tyres after sitting in the garage meant that he was unable to top Vettel's time and eventually came 7th in the standings. However, it later emerged that Lewis cut the chicane and was subsequently demoted to 9th (due to Perez being unlikely to race tomorrow).

So, the top nine are Vettel, Button, Webber, Alonso, Schumacher, Massa, Rosberg, Maldonado and Hamilton. Hopefully the race will be just as exciting as the qualifying was!

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Magic of Street Circuits

This weekend sees 2011's Monaco Grand Prix - perhaps one of the most prestigious races on the calendar. It's also one of the year's street races and my god, you know this one's a street circuit. Watching practice yesterday (no practice on a Friday as it's a local holiday) I was struck by just how wrong things could go should a driver get even slightly off line. Several crashes occurred, with bits of front wing flying off of the cars and no doubt straight onto eBay. Perhaps this is why winning a race like Monaco is so special - you have to win on driving ability more than how quick your car is or how much downforce you have (and trust me, downforce is vital here).

I do love street circuits. I think you get much more of an element of excitement at a street circuit than you do anywhere else. Drivers have to be brave to overtake. They also have to have massive amounts of talent, and street circuits are places where you can really judge the talent of a driver. Of course, if someone makes a mistake you can hardly call them untalented - as far as I'm concerned, driving somewhere round Monaco at that high speed instantly makes you talented regardless of where you finish.

There's some interest surrounding the tyres this weekend too. Pirelli have brought their soft and super-soft tyres, a combination which we haven't seen yet. It's not exactly clear how the super-softs are going to react, and the lack of space on the circuit could mean that getting off line onto the marbles wouldn't be forgiven as much as at other tracks. A comment was also made yesterday about the surface of the circuit itself. Obviously, a street circuit isn't going to be as well kept as a permanent track - the surface of the track isn't designed for racing cars, but rather for ordinary traffic. At the moment, it's not clear whether this will mean that the track is harder or easier on the tyres. No doubt I'll update you when I've worked it out!

So, as it's the local holiday in Monaco there's no F1 action today. Qualifying is tomorrow, as is the final practice, so I will be glued to the screen all weekend as ever!

Monday, 23 May 2011

On a Personal Note

Watching the F1 is always a good thing in my eyes. The spectacle and drama of the race coupled with the intellect and strategic calculations of the sport make it so well rounded that it's hard not to find something to enjoy. What I also love is the drivers congratulating each other at the end of the race. Now, this seems like a fairly random point, but bear with me.

As you might have gathered from my 'About Me' description, I'm a bit of a nerd academically. I perform very well at anything academic, but I tend to suffer for it by being a little bit of a geek. Well, a lot of a geek actually but never mind. While getting good results for my degree and previous qualifications is a great boon for me, I do find that it brings with it a whole lot of hostility from my peers. Whenever I do well I don't tend to brag, or even tell anyone to be honest. However, people still ask me how I did and they hate me for doing well.

This is where F1 comes in. Formula 1 racing is incredibly competitive. People from other series of racing compete to get a drive in F1, however only 24 drivers at a time ever make it. When those 24 do make it into the series, they are then fighting to keep their seat, as well as fighting for championship places and the glory of winning. However, you rarely see any genuine hostility. Yes, the media will publish stories of how Alonso hates Hamilton, Webber hates Vettel and Sutil's had a punch up in a nightclub, however at the end of every race the drivers congratulate each other. There doesn't seem to be any animosity between anyone really. The drivers tend to focus on their own performance during a race, and aim for their best result - which is what I do in my academic life. Sadly, not everyone in my life behaves in this way and competitiveness seems to overrule respect for each other.

I would dearly love it if more of my peers got into F1. I feel that them witnessing the respect between the drivers in such a highly charged environment would make them stop and think about their own behaviour towards each other in the academic world. What I guess I'm trying to say is that I view the F1 drivers as role models for my own life. If I can behave with mutual respect for my peers and do well myself then my life is on track (no pun intended). If this is achieved through basing my behaviour on that of Vettel et al. then there's another boon for F1, and another reason to love it all the more.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sunday Evening Update

In my post earlier today I mentioned a few things which were unresolved and promised an update, so here goes:

Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Jaime Alguersuari were all under investigation because of failing to slow under yellow flag conditions when Heikki Kovalainen crashed in the race earlier. Any potential time penalties could have potentially led to Alonso and Schumacher gaining an advantage in the standings. The update since has stated that all four have received reprimands, but no further action is to be taken.

Other news includes the fact that Colin Kolles, team principal for Hispania Racing, has written to FIA chief Jean Todt arguing against the engine mapping used by the teams. The FIA had previously investigated the engine mapping used and argued that the extra downforce generated could potentially represent an unfair advantage, however as so many teams used similar systems the general consensus was that it would be impossible to police and as such most teams continued to use it. For those who have no clue what I'm talking about, the engine mapping is used to push exhaust gases over the rear diffuser of the car when the driver lifts off of the throttle. This generates extra downforce, pushing the car into the ground and giving it more grip in the corners. The argument was that the engine mapping could be equated to movable aero devices, as by lifting off of the throttle components are actually moving. Whether the FIA will actually try to ban this remains to be seen. However, Colin Kolles's argument might well lead to his team protesting in Monaco should other teams use this engine mapping.

Another piece of news which has just emerged relates to the BBC's coverage of the F1. The BAFTAs are currently underway, and BBC Sport received a nomination for their coverage of last years climax to the F1 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. News has just broken (literally in the past 15 minutes of me writing this post) that the BBC Sport team have won! Congratulations to them!

A final update is that my article on Michael Schumacher has seemingly reached a wider audience, as the views have shot up on the page! I'm very pleased about this, so thanks to whoever is reading. Whether people have found this because of my mention on the practice or not is unclear, but I'm grateful anyway.

That's about it! Oh, I still have epic hat hair...

A Report from Spain!

I sit here straight after the Spanish Grand Prix with mega hat hair from my Red Bull team wear after making the decision to write an F1 weekend report!

Friday saw the start of the grand prix weekend with the traditional practice sessions. As usual, the staus quo remained with Mark Webber setting the pace in both sessions. To my immense joy, I got a mention on the practice!! The mention stemmed from my views on Michael Schumacher, which you can read on this blog. As ever, David Croft and Maurice Hamilton were talking in FP1 about Schumacher's performance, stating that this was his worst start in 17 seasons. The reasons for this were the usual that he was too old. Now, I've got fed up of hearing about this and sent messages to 5 Live F1, Crofty and Maurice Hamilton basically arguing to leave Schumi alone. David Croft sent me a message back asking whether they were too hard on Schumi and whether it was worth discussing. I responded by arguing that yes, it's worth discussing his performance but no, it's not worth it if all that is questioned is Schumi's age as Barichello isn't that much younger and has had a similarly dismal start. In FP2, this debate was brought up and the general consensus was that yes, Schumacher has had a bad start to this year, but no, it's not that disastrous and that age shouldn't really come into it. My Twitter username (MooEvilBoffin) was then read out - to my immense joy! As soon as the video is uploaded to Youtube it'll get posted here. You can also check out the practice session on the iPlayer.

Saturday's practice session saw Sebastian Vettel only completing six laps - only one of which was timed. However, did that stop Seb? Nope! Fastest on just one lap for another Red Bull result. Of course, the practice sessions don't count for all that much - we don't know fuel loads etc., so we can't judge what the real pace is until qualifying. The big news in qualifying was that Team Lotus managed to get through to quali two. When this happened, people questioned whether Heikki Kovalainen would bother to actually run in the second session, but rather save a set of tyres. This argument was put forth as it was unlikely that Heikki would get higher than 17th. Nevertheless, Lotus decided to have a go - and it paid off with Heikki qualifying 15th! As for the rest of the field, Mark Webber managed to break Sebastian Vettel's pole position streak and beat Seb by two-tenths. You have to wonder, however, how much faster Seb would be if his KERS had been working - yet again Red Bull have struggled with this power boost system.

Anyway, again there are no points to be won on a Saturday and race day is where it counts. The start of the race saw Fernando Alonso make a phenomenal start, coming from fourth to first! That pleased the home fans but I was pleased when Sebastian managed to get back up into second behind Alsonso. The race continued with much chasing by Red Bull, but the only real changes of order started during the pit stops. Vettel eventually got into the lead, with Lewis Hamilton coming up close behind. Despite a dismal start for Jenson Button, he eventually managed to get up to the top of the field. Mark Webber was stuck behind Alonso for most of the race - eventually leading to him losing out on a podium spot. Alonso himself lost out in the race, eventually finishing behind Mark Webber. The end of the race was perhaps the most tense ten minutes of my life. Lewis was chasing down Seb at an incredible pace. Given Seb's issues with KERS this was perhaps unsurprising. However, Sebastian managed to claw back a few tenths in the middle sector, leading to his fourth victory of the season. Another mention has to go to Nick Heidfeld, who managed to finish 8th after starting 24th on the grid following a fire in FP3 which prevented his qualifying - definitely one of my drivers of the day!

Now as it stands the result is Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Webber, Alonso, Schumacher, Rosberg. However, Lewis, Jenson, Mark and Jaime Alguersuari are under investigation by the stewards for not slowing under yellow flags when Heikki Kovalainen crashed. Whether they will incur a penalty remains to be seen, however I will update you as soon as I know. What a race! If you haven't seen it, I suggest you watch it on the BBC website - you won't regret it I assure you!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Contracts, Contracts and more Contracts

This month seems to be all about contracts - both within F1 and personally I must say. Recently, Fernando Alonso announced that he will be staying with Ferrari until at least 2016 - an extension of 5 years. Quite some time really, considering how changeable F1 can be. With this announcement, speculation that Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel could move to Ferrari has been ceased. This got me wondering how much of a balance there is between a driver signing a contract to secure their future and simply to stop the speculation.

A while ago Sebastian Vettel confirmed that he would be staying at Red Bull until the end of 2014 (much to my joy as that means I will graduate from university while Sebastian is still racing for my favourite team - just a fun fact for you there!). Christian Horner announced that he was pleased with this outcome, again as it stopped speculation that Sebastian would be leaving Red Bull.

The amount of stories in the media which revolve around who is going to which team is insane. Every year there are debates about who will go to Ferrari, whose career is coming to an end, who will be replacing whom and so on. Why is there such speculation? Simply because it's interesting. However, very few people actually cite the younger drivers who could come into F1 - the interest lies in working out which of the renowned drivers will be moving.

Keeping up with the debate is often tricky. Last year I believe that people were saying that Kubica could swap with Massa and go to Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel was interested in going to Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton also wanted to go to Ferrari and I remember a story which said Schumacher could return to Ferrari too. If you believed all of this then Ferrari would have at least five drivers. There seems to be very little logic in deciding who is moving where - often stories are based on heresay and who we would like to see in a team. More often than not, the teams simply renew contracts with their current drivers however this is rarely presented as an option. Also, stories tend to be based around something that a specific driver said once upon a time. Sebastian Vettel argued that one day it might be nice to drive for Ferrari - just after this he renewed his contract with Red Bull and put a stop to the stories starting 'Vettel May Move to Ferrari'.

So, returning to my original point of whether renewing contracts was for the driver's benefit or for the cessation of speculation, I can't really blame the teams. Hearing stories of who will be moving to your team must be stressful. Perhaps it's even more stressful for the poor drivers who might be 'replaced' by another driver. Maybe the contracts do serve the function of ending the media speculation - perhaps we can refer to them as F1's super injunctions!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

New Rules, New Spectacle

With the global economic crisis (or whatever you want to call it now) and global warming (climate change, whatever) surrounding us in the news it's easy to forget that sports are affected by such matters and to consider them exempt from the real world. Nevertheless, F1 and other sports are just as subject to money worries and green ethics as the rest of us. Formula 1 is perhaps the most expensive motorsport out there, and the sophistication of the cars doesn't necessarily mean that they are environmentally friendly. In order to try and combat this, the FIA proposed a number of rule changes for 2013 which would aim at making F1 more sustainable, both economically and environmentally.

The rules (which are fairly technical and so not for me to explain in too much detail - however you can read them here) basically hinted towards a move away from the 150kg-per-race 2.4 litre V8s which are currently in the cars to smaller turbo engines in a bid to reduce fuel consumption. In doing this, various other aspects related to the cars' aerodynamics would also be changed in order to reduce drag and gain more downforce from the floor of the cars, rather than the wings. As such, the cars would look radically different and, perhaps less important to F1 chiefs but something important to me, the sounds of the cars would change.

Is this a good thing or not? Well the sustainability factor is important, obviously. However, I don't want to see boring F1 cars. Formula 1 is about technical innovation and spectacle. Speaking on behalf of F1 fans everywhere I'd rather have an un-environmentally friendly sport which looks good than a boring sport which is kind to the planet. Selfish, I know, but I feel that there are changes that can be made elsewhere to reduce the environmental impact of F1 without losing the sound of those screaming V8s.

News from the BBC website today stated that FOTA (the Formula One Teams Association) have rejected the FIA's rules and proposed their own version - a version which wouldn't see us losing the spectacle and shouty cars but would still make the sport a bit more sustainable. While the sport wouldn't be as sustainable as perhaps chiefs would like, the sport would still see a bit more efficiency without losing the cars as they are now. While FOTA's proposed technical regulations have been approved, there's no guarantee that they will be accepted by the FIA, with Jean Todt arguing that F1 needs the new green turbo engines. What actually happens remains to be seen, but with such opposition from teams and engine manufacturers I'd be surprised if a compromise wasn't reached somewhere.

A new feature on the official F1 website asks drivers about their 'Formula 1 Fantasies', including what they would change on the cars. I loved this example of the differences between honest drivers and drivers who are perhaps saying what people (i.e., teams) want to hear. Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg have both taken part in the F1 Fantasy interview, and the differences in what each driver would change to the cars are hilarious. Nico Rosberg proposed that he would like to see F1 cars with electric engines in order to make the cars more sustainable. Sebastian Vettel's suggestion? V12 engines. There's a reason why he's my hero!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Do We Have a Right to Know About the Driver's Life Outside of Racing?

So the news today is of another lawsuit related to F1. Adrian Sutil is reported to have injured Eric Lux in a nightclub following the Chinese Grand Prix - see this article by Autosport. Serious allegations indeed - we've seen what happens when F1 officials are reported to have brought the sport's integrity into dispute. It doesn't usually end well for a career. Intriguingly, Lewis Hamilton is also reported to be at the scene too, but whether the incident involves him or not remains to be seen.

I must admit, I'm not that interested on whether Sutil and Hamilton did injure anyone, accidentally or otherwise. To me, the drivers are drivers and it's nothing to do with me what happens in a nightclub after a race. Similarly, I don't care who the drivers are going out with, where they live or what they drive (although I was impressed when Vettel announced he drove a classic Fiat 500 - I am slightly biased towards Sebastian anyway). Surely as F1 fans we should be concerned about the driving alone?

Now, if Sutil or Hamilton's careers are affected by the lawsuit then yes, I think we need to know why their careers have taken a turn in either direction. However, I kind of disagree with this news being posted when it has no bearing on a race. What the drivers get up to off track is their business. I don't particularly want to see Sutil racing and think "Oh look, that guy has been charged for assault". I want to see Sutil racing and think "Wow, Force India are doing well!".

The news has been unavoidable if you're a Twitter fan such as myself - loads of journalists have posted the story and I must admit that my curiosity led me to it. Reading the article has, obviously, made me look at Sutil in a new light. I'm human, my psychology dictates that this information affects my attributions to a person (trust me, I'm an undergrad psychology student). Although, while one part of me is surprised, the other part is just thinking "Ah well, it's his business" and "Bring on the Grand Prix". Overall, while the news has surprised me I ultimately think that it's none of my business and I just want to watch the racing. I can't criticise the journalists who have reported the story - it's their business afterall - however I just wish that we were able to focus on the racing and not get the 'celebrity effect' of wanting to know every detail of a driver's life!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A Breakaway Championship?

There has been a lot of speculation surrounding what will happen to F1 when the Concorde Agreement runs out in 2012. The Concorde Agreement is basically a contract between the FIA, current partners CVC and the F1 teams (represented by FOTA - the Formula One Teams Association) which states how the revenue from television showings and prize money should be divided. It also contains specific details of the terms for how the teams compete in the races. There have been a number of Concorde Agreements over the life of F1, but the details have all remained secret. Each time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal there is speculation of what effect the new agreement will have for the fans. From what I can gather, not a huge amount has changed for the fans for each agreement, however personally I still find it a tense time - for reasons I shall explain below.

Speculation has been further promoted this time around because of the rumours that News Corp (Rupert Murdoch's company) are interested in purchasing F1 from current owners CVC. The take over of F1 isn't in itself any cause for worry - largely because of the Concorde Agreement maintaining the status quo for fans of the sport. However, the fact that the terms of the new contract are being re-negotiated becomes a cause for concern should News Corp choose to buy the rights to the sport. It's thought that if News Corp did acquire F1 from CVC there is a chance that F1 would be shown on pay-per-view television, rather than its current free-to-air status. If News Corp acquire F1 before the terms of the Concorde Agreement are renewed then there is a likelihood that they may place a term that F1 can only be shown on the pay-per-view channels of Murdoch's company.

Despite the speculation, various F1 officials have argued that the idea of News Corp acquiring F1 is simply posturing at the moment and CVC have no interest in selling the sport. Bernie Ecclestone has been one of the most outspoken on this issue, as has Eddie Jordan, whose views can be read here. However, even though the F1 officials have been dismissing the speculation, nobody has denied that News Corp wouldn't be able to purchase the sport if they offered the right price. Without a definite 'no' from CVC, there's simply no way that a fan such as myself can understand whether the sport will be sold or not.

So, if News Corp did buy F1, would F1 be shown on pay-per-view TV only? At the moment, the BBC have the rights to show F1, but this agreement runs out itself very soon - adding to my worry that F1 could move from the accessible free-to-air television to pay-per-view. Bernie Ecclestone has branded this 'suicidal'. The teams have also spoken against this idea arguing that moving F1 from free-to-air TV would be madness - and they're right in this respect. Formula 1 teams rely on sponsorship for money and to keep the teams going generally. If F1 moved away from free-to-air TV then suddenly the audience decreases massively. I love F1, however I simply cannot afford to watch nearly 20 races on pay-per-view television. Should the audience decrease, then sponsors would lose interest in teams as they get little return on their investment - investments of millions of pounds. This reason alone is weighty enough to mean that the teams are opposed to F1 being shown on pay-per-view TV. It is likely then that teams would fight any bid by News Corp to change the Concorde Agreement's clause of showing F1 on free-to-air television.

The negotiations of the Concorde Agreement themselves appear to be somewhat fraught, with Jean Todt (president of Ferrari) arguing that there are three options for the sport prior to the negotiation of the agreement - article here. First, the teams could go for the easy life and simply renew the Concorde Agreement as it stands with CVC - the option which seems most likely for the moment. Second, they could seek out a new partner to replace CVC; the likely choice being News Corp providing that F1 stays on free-to-air TV, or a partnership between News Corp and Exor. The final option which Todt rose was to form a breakaway championship - similar to the NBA in Basketball (apparently... I'm no expert on basketball!).

Now, I doubt that F1 will form a breakaway championship - it just seems like F1 is too expensive to be run without the support of a large company like CVC. That, and this isn't the first time that teams have threatened a breakaway series. When the points system was being overhauled there were similar threats of forming a breakaway championship - this never happened and the points system which we have currently was used as an alternative to the proposed medals system. To me, it just seems like the threat of a breakaway championship is used by the teams as a negotiating tool.

Personally, as a fan I am very happy with how the sport is run at the moment. Despite the criticisms of the rules, argument that overtaking is artificial because of DRS and KERSwatch F1 on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday and I get the opportunity to save up my money and attend races in person. Hopefully the Concorde Agreement terms will be sorted in time and once again the fans will come out on top - in a choice between business and sport I so hope that sport comes out on top!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Random News and Updates

So Blogger was down yesterday meaning I couldn't catch up with my posts (what with missing Thursday's posting because of university business). Anyway, here's a quick round up of what I was going to post...

News of late has reminded us of Robert Kubica's absence from F1. Kubica was involved in an accident during a rally pre-season. He suffered extensive damage to his arm, meaning he is likely to be absent for most of the F1 season - a huge blow considering Lotus Renault's excellent form so far. We recently heard the news that Kubica is entering the next phase of his recovery and is so far recuperating according to plan. While it's still too early to speculate whether he will ever return to F1, he does seem to be progressing well and he seems determined to return as soon as possible. You can read the article about Kubica's recovery here, and an interview with Eric Boullier here.

My last post considered why the media were so obsessed with Michael Schumacher's form. I came to the conclusion that it was far too early to speculate whether Schumacher is still capable of racing in F1 and that the media seem to be questioning something which is irrelevant. The media jumped all over Schumacher's comment that he was not enjoying racing and took it to be a sign that he was due to retire. Schumacher has since come back at these comments, arguing that he is still motivated and that his Mercedes car should be gaining some more performance at the next Grand Prix in Spain. You can read the article here.

A final quick point that I'd like to talk about is motorsport's relationship with the social networking site Twitter. I have been a bit cheeky and have been sending the link to this blog to various drivers, journalists, teams and motorsport magazines asking them to look at it. I have received a positive response from everyone who has looked at it and I am incredibly grateful to those who have taken time to read what I have written. So if you're here from a link I have sent you then sorry for being so cheeky but thank you for reading! If you don't follow me on Twitter and you'd like to see my inane ramblings in 140 character form, then follow the link to my profile.

I love Twitter's links with motorsport, largely because it enables ordinary fans (like me) a bit more of an insight behind the scenes as it were. I find it fascinating to see what drivers get up to in their spare time, as well as hearing what goes on at a race weekend. The pictures and things that people post up on Twitter let us all see things that the regular media wouldn't be able to/want to show us (such as Heikki Kovalinen's paper boat at a particularly rainy Grand Prix weekend). I also like the fact that drivers will take the time to answer questions that fans pose - it's more of a direct response than a journalist would write up in an article and so the answers seem somehow more genuine. In general I just think that Twitter enables fans to "connect" more with their heroes - look at the drivers who responded to reading my blog, I was smiling for hours!

Hopefully now Blogger is back I will be posting more interesting content next week, for now thanks for having a look at my quick post! Have a comment on my articles if you like and if you're here from Twitter let me know! Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

What is it with the Media and Michael Schumacher?

Today I was browsing the BBC website and came across this article in which Schumacher states that the joy is missing from racing. This is a sad thing to hear as I would like to think that all F1 drivers (and indeed, all drivers in general) had some sort of joy from racing. Now, it could be that Schumi simply feels the joy is missing because he's not performing so well - however this doesn't necessarily mean that he is incapable of driving as the media seem to be implying.

Every time I watch a practice session, qualifying session and race at least one person comments on Schumacher's age. By the way that people were talking about him you'd have thought that he was over retirement age, claiming a bus pass and pension and had some sort of dementia. Schumi is 42 - not much older than Rubens Barrichello, yet nobody is questioning Barrichello's ability to race. Fair enough, Barrichello is in a Williams and Schumi is in a Mercedes, however why should Schumacher be considered too old to race and Barrichello not?

What I find astounding is that nobody has questioned whether the three year gap that Schumacher has taken could have impacted his performance. Consider all the training that F1 drivers do - their fitness regimes are intensive to say the least. Three years away from this must have taken its toll, and so we can't expect Schumacher to suddenly come good again. It takes time to get back up to previous standards, so even with one season in F1 back under Schumi's belt I don't think we're going to see him back to his winning ways immediately this year.

Looking at Schumacher's results this season I don't think we can be too critical either. Turkey was a poor race for Michael, however all drivers have their off days and people aren't so quick to judge when it's Vettel, Webber, Hamilton or Button falling down the standings. Look at China - Webber qualified 18th but nobody argued that he was incapable of driving! In China, Schumacher finished two places down on Rosberg - not exactly terrible considering the cars in between Rosberg and Schumacher were Alonso and Massa. In Malaysia, Schumacher beat his team mate by two places. In Australia, both Mercedes finished way down the standings - if it were a case of Schumacher being too old, why would Rosberg be finishing so close to Schumi in most races?

I do honestly think that Schumacher will get back to a good form later on in the year - one bad race doesn't mean that he is too old or not as good. It does annoy me that the media constantly drone on about Schumacher's age too... It's not as if he's not winning because he needs a nap or has forgotten what he's meant to be doing because of his age! We need to look beyond these four races this season and see what happens by the end of the year when Mercedes have their car up to par. If Schumi's still not enjoying the racing, then perhaps he'd consider his life in F1. However, this isn't something that the media can anticipate and only the man himself can take that decision. I commend Schumacher's return to F1 - as my Dad says, it's given us all hope of racing competitively...

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

My Own Motorsport

So you all know that I'm an F1 geek, but I haven't actually spoken about my own personal involvement in motorsport. Since the age of 12 I have been driving my Range Rover:

From the age of 13 I have been driving that magnificent car in junior off road trials. On my very first trial I came third in the national competition. I continued with my junior trials (Tyro trials) until I turned 17. Once I was old enough to have a provisional license, I started driving in RTV trials - and came third in class in my first ever trial! I enjoy these trials immensely and have a go whenever I can!
Aside from the trials I also drive about in my Land Rover:

I passed my driving test first time, and the car above is my road car - a 1962 Series Landy. It is amazing!!

On my 18th birthday, rather than go out drinking like most people my age, I went on a rally driving course. I was born at 3:45 in the afternoon and at 3:45 on the 8th of May I was performing a handbrake turn in a Subaru WRC car - what a way to start adulthood!

Just 70 Days of Waiting Patiently...

Even though I am an F1 geek, I have never actually been to see a race. However, all this is going to change in 70 days when I go to the Nurburgring with my Dad to watch the German Grand Prix! I am, needless to say, incredibly excited.

Now the reasons for why I haven't been to see a race before are quite simple: one, I didn't have a passport and two, the races are soooo expensive! When watching the Turkish Grand Prix practice the 5Live commentators (who you can follow here and here) were asking why more people didn't come to the newer races. The general view was that there wasn't a tradition of motorsport in these countries. The countries which have the larger audiences, like Britain and Germany, do have a tradition of hosting races and people are more interested in motorsport. In contrast, Turkey, Korea and India (which will be hosting its first race this year - see this article) don't have traditions of motorsport and so aren't as aware that the races are being held, as well as having little interest.

I agree with this argument, however I also believe that fewer people attend these races because of the price of the tickets. I am incredibly fortunate that this year my Dad and I can afford the tickets - however they're still setting us back over £150. In the countries which haven't hosted as many races, it's quite likely that the tickets are simply out of the residents' price range. We can't expect people from poorer countries and areas to pay for tickets which are at least £80. Maybe a better solution would be to perhaps charge less for practice sessions so more people develop an interest for racing to try and establish a tradition of motorsport. That way, more people get involved and are more likely to save money for races in the future. Just my opinions anyway...

In other news, I spoke yesterday of overtaking being too easy. Fernando Alonso has countered these claims himself. You can read the article here.

So, just a quick post today, but I felt I should mark the 70 day countdown to my first F1 race!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Oh You Fickle F1 Fans...

So, did we all enjoy the F1 yesterday? Lots of overtaking, exciting stuff and my favourite team and driver winning! Fantastic!

What do you mean "too much overtaking"??

Whilst on Twitter this morning I saw a posting by Jon Noble (a reporter for Autosport) which suggested that overtaking has become too easy in F1. You can read the article here. I find it hilarious that apparently F1 fans have gone from brandishing pitchforks and torches shouting "There's not enough overtaking, Bernie!" to apparently shouting "The overtaking's too easy, Bernie!". You'd have though that we're all a fickle lot, but I want to examine what all the fuss is about.

Now, the overtaking debate has been going on for some time now. Last year we had very few overtakes, perhaps even less than the year before, and people as a result began to complain that racing was 'boring' or 'processional' with only pit stops providing the bulk of the passing opportunities. Why is this? Rather than the typical view that 'drivers can't be bothered', the answer is probably a matter of physics. You see, the cars now have such sophisticated aerodynamics packages that they create a wake of turbulent air, meaning that cars behind initially get into the slipstream when 1 second behind, but then are met by turbulent air which pushes them all over the place. As a result, it is very hard to get any close and get past. In order to combat this, the bizarre aero pieces which were stuck here, there and everywhere on the cars in 2009 were banned, leading to a more simple looking car. In 2010 we still faced similar issues, largely due to the downforce being produced by the cars (more turbulent air you see). So, in 2011 Bernie and the gang brought back KERS (the Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and introduced the DRS (Drag Reduction System) to aid drivers behind in overtaking.

In order to understand this a little bit more, let me explain what exactly KERS and DRS are. KERS is a system whereby energy from braking is stored as electricity and is then converted into extra horsepower. The drivers charge their KERS unit over a lap, and have the energy available to them on the following lap. This leads to a system whereby the drivers constantly charge and use the energy available. There is no set place where drivers can use KERS, rather they press one of many buttons on the steering wheel to activate it. Generally, KERS is vital at starts where there is a long run to the first corner and in places where there are long straights generally. This season, Red Bull have been having issues with KERS, having not run it in 2009 like many other teams. KERS is meant to aid overtaking by providing an extra boost to the drivers when they are close to a car in front - or indeed to try and escape the car behind!

Now, the DRS is new. The drivers are able to press a button to open a flap on the rear wing, which reduces the drag caused by being in the turbulent air of the car in front. In contrast to KERS, the DRS is only available at a set point on the track (as decided by Charlie Whiting), and then only when a driver is within one second of the car in front - so no using DRS to escape from an oncoming driver. Turkey showed us just how well the DRS and KERS can be in conjunction with each other - there were loads of battles between drivers, even between team mates (though not Red Bull, much to Christian Horner's relief following on from 2010).

Despite these systems of KERS and DRS giving us exciting racing, people have been debating whether they are such a good thing. People have been arguing that overtaking is now artificial, and not down to driver skill. Rather than drivers having to negotiate their overtaking maneuvers on other drivers, they can simply press two buttons and go past.

However, I don't see it like this. If you get a driver who guards the necessary lines into corners, no amount of speed or drag reduction will allow them past. Drivers must therefore negotiate which line to take, as well as how to defend. Not forgetting that drivers don't automatically pull away from another when they have overtaken (unless they're one of the elite teams), and so the driver who has just overtaken another could find themselves being retaken! Just look as the battle between Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton - because the drivers were equally matched in terms of car, several overtakes took place which made for exciting racing.

So if we take this into account I don't think we can complain about the overtaking being too easy - any overtaking is good, regardless of how it comes about. If a driver has the presence of mind to use his KERS and DRS and is able to overtake another, that is down to the driver. We shouldn't see KERS and DRS as some sort of 'push to pass' system, but rather tools which help the drivers to battle with others and give us more of a show. So to all you F1 fans out there who aren't so happy with the new systems - just get over it and enjoy the racing!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

My Birthday and Sebastian Vettel


As you may be able to tell from the little 'about me' box, my name is Maria and I am an epic F1 fan! Today is my 19th birthday so I'm officially into my final year as a teenager - scary stuff! Still, I've received lots of birthday messages and my parents have fully equipped me with merchandise to support my favourite F1 driver; Sebastian Vettel. In keeping with this, today's post is about why I support Vettel (and why I should be the obvious choice of partner for him ;-P).

I first noticed Vettel when he was racing for Toro Rosso and scored the team's first ever win (and only win to date). He was an absolutely phenomenal driver back then - and has only got better ever since. I've been an avid Vettel supporter since 2009. Last year he won the driver's championship with Red Bull, much to my absolute delight! Now, we all know that that's pretty damn good, but what astonishes me with Vettel is his skill in qualifying.

This weekend sees the Turkish Grand Prix of 2011. I watch all practice sessions, and so was utterly horrified when this happened in the first practice. Vettel's crash was a somewhat odd mistake, however he was honest enough to admit that the crash was down to driver error, rather than a mechanical failure of some sort. The car had to be completely rebuilt and Seb missed the second practice - sparking fears that his qualifying record would be broken.

However, qualifying happened and this happened. Yep. Seb got a fifth pole position in a row. He managed to go faster by four-tenths - despite not having much running on Friday, losing his updates on the car and only doing one run in qualifying. Phenomenal.

Anyway, here's hoping I add to my Red Bull Birthday by celebrating a win from Sebastian - Good luck to him, it's going to be an awesome race!