July 28, 2015

2015 Hungarian GP Executive Summary

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Watching the race again after a couple of days, a few things become apparent:

1. Mercedes does not know how to win from behind.

Occupational hazard for those with such a dominant car,   faced with something not going to plan, Mercedes has, if not panicked, at least not shown the type of strategic flexibility that, say a Ross Brawn brought to Ferrari in their dominating period.

2.  You can't win by defending.

You had the feeling that Nico Rosberg was battling some sort of issue with his W06 all week end but he spent the whole race worrying about his teammate Hamilton rather than winning the race.  Again, perhaps to point one he and the team just could not believe they were not winning.   He and the team played it safe not going onto the softer option tires for the final stint.   It would have been a risky call but he was certainly not making any impression on Vettel or Raikkonen  on equal tires.  Rosberg was the real loser in Hungary.

3. The right tire makes a big difference.

One of the keys to Vettel's victory was that he was able to run the softer option tires longer than the Mercedes.   This year's Ferrari wants soft tires while the Mercedes likes harder tires.   Perhaps there is something to the proposal of having each team choose their compound next year.

4. Clean air makes a big difference.

Vettel pulled out a crazy lead in the first two laps, it almost looked like his days at Red Bull.    The Hungaroring puts a premium on handling over power yes, but let's not forget that extra power allows teams to crank on more downforce.    Did Mercedes set up their cars to lead from the front, privileging top speed over handling?  Again, force of habit?
Also, all these years of committees and studies and F1 still has not figured out how to minimize the wake effect to the point that cars need to be 2 seconds clear?  Seriously?

5. The importance of being Hammy

Hamilton's race had tinges of early Grosjean with a touch of Maldonado.   His move on Bottas after his first pit stop was at the limit of nasty.    Not a fan of driving your opponent off the track like that, I'm sure that move compounded the lated hip check of Ricciardo which resulted in the penalty.
Since the race, I've read a number articles excusing Hamilton as having had a bad day.   Yes it was a bad day and to his credit he did admit so (partly anyway).
In the last couple of weeks Lewis said how he does not need to test, how he only likes showing up for the race, how he was not worried about the start  yada yada.    Every driver has got to psych himself up their own way:  Hamilton likes to go to fashion shows and concerts on his time off,  fine.  

Vettel is different,  he is not often photographed in his underwear but on the same afternoon  he carried Jules Bianchi's casket into the church, Sebastian flew to Maranello to test new procedures and solutions on the simulator.   In Hungary, he stayed late into the evening with his mechanics working on his car.

Different strokes for different folks.

6. For a track everyone has shit on for years, the Hungaroring rocks.

Two years in a row, a track with a reputation for epic snoozers has produced classics.   Perhaps it's the relentlessness of the layout, perhaps it's the because it's a track where you can really see the drivers work and understand what they are doing.
A good example is watching how drivers attack turn 2,  you can really see how a modern F1 driver brakes right into the apex.  The first lap is a good example, look at where Rosberg locks up and think about how you brake.  

Great Stuff.

July 26, 2015

2015 Hungarian GP: Red Win, Blue Mercs.


Remember everyone, F1 is really boring and nothing ever happens, especially in Hungary.


For the second year in a row the Hungaroring serves up an exciting race.

(Photos: Ferrari)

Brilliant start from both Ferraris,   the Scuderia is crazy to think they can have a better pair next year than one racing today.

But, Kimi's bad luck has been remarkable this season.   It likely he and Nico are out drinking together tonight.

This was Sebastian Vettel's week end:

A lousy Friday he stays until late working with his mechanics,
Turns it around in qualifying,
Against all odds, wins the race,
Ties Ayrton Senna  at 41 GP wins but does so with 13 less starts.
After the checkered flag, radios team in 3 languages dedicating the win to Jules Bianchi.

That's why he gets paid the big bucks.

Ferrari's hopes were almost shattered when Hunkenberg's front wing exploded on the front straight bringing out the Safety Car.  Second structural failure for that team over one week end.

Photo Flickr

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the luckiest driver of the day:  Lewis Hamilton.

The Instagram fashionista was maybe overconfident after his dominating qualifying session.  Sunday, he literally drove like an ass, starting from whining about Rosberg taking away his line all the way to his using Ricciardo as a bumper.   He can thank his lucky stars and others bad luck for a rather undeserved P6 finish.

Perhaps Lewis should stop having his picture taken in his underwear,  skip tests for Pharrell concerts  and do a bit more work over the break,  if he wants to make sure to seal the deal.

After the race Adrian Newey and Christian Horner were taking his all the credit for Red Bull's double podium giving Renault zero credit.   It's getting harder and harder to see those two sharing a car next year.

Ricciardo must have gotten coached by Kamui Kobayashi with that dive bomb into turn 1 on Rosberg.   He was behind at the exit so it was probably up to him to lift.   Again, Nico must be getting drunk with Kimi.

Mclaren with two cars in the points?  A miracle on the Danube!

July 24, 2015

Perez flips in Hungary,.

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Checo Perez had a big scare this morning at the Hungaroring when the rear suspension of his Force India collapsed sending him spinning into the barriers.

After the first hit, one of the now loose front tires got under the car and flipped it. Perez was unharmed but Force India withdrew from the second practice session as it analyzed the causes of the failure.

Both session saw Lewis Hamilton on top and a resurgent Renault with Kvyat and Ricciardo's Red Bull's behind the Brit. Renault turned up the power and it worked... until Ricciardo's engine let go anyway.

Raikkonen was faster than Vettel who had a fairly lurid FP2.

Honda took full advantage of the extra engine they were allowed to use and Alonso was close behind Vettel' Ferrari in FP2.

July 23, 2015

Would Mercedes really give Red Bull a competitive engine?

via Autosprint

That was the first thing that came to mind when the rumor of a deal that would have brought Mercedes power to Red Bull Racing.

However, a recent issue of Autosprint lays out a scenario that is, at the very least, intriguing to follow.

Let me summarize:

Next year Red Bull Racing would run a Mercedes Power Unit while junior team Toro Rosso would continue to use Renault.

The deal was started at the Monaco GP and would see Aston Martin come in as a sponsor on the RBR cars,  taking the place of Infiniti.    The engines would not be re-badged as Astons.

When Sergio Marchionne, in Montreal, declared he would be happy to provide Ferrari power to Red Bull, he was trying to derail a deal which had yet to be finalized because for Ferrari a Mercedes powered Red Bull is a problem, on track but also commercially.  There is the missed opportunity to sell €22Mllion worth of engines (yeah, that's for two engine supplies to one team!) and the added exposure F1 would provide Aston Martin, a direct competitor in road cars.

A deal between RBR and Mercedes, Autosprint continues, had been in the works years ago but had been blocked by McLaren.

The final turning point came at the Austrian GP with Dietrich Mateschitz  threatening to leave F1 because of Renault.  This shook not just Ecclestone who desperately needs a rival to the Silver Arrows for 2016 but also Mercedes who have interest in seeing the series thrive (as long as they are on top anyway).

Enter Aston Martin. In late 2013, AMG Mercedes signed a deal to supply engines for Aston Martin road cars and Mercedes has promised to acquire a 5% stake in the British car maker which is currently devided between an Italian private equity firm, Investindustrial, at 37.5%, The Kuwaiti Sovereign fund and David Richards among others.

Adrian Newey and Red Bull Technologies will, as part of the deal,. to be collaborating with Aston Martin on a future top of the line car..

Niki Lauda had dismissed the notion at Silverstone but Toto Wolff was quiet.  Rumors have Lauda vehemently against furnishing a team with financial and technical capabilities to be a direct competitor with Wolff taking a longer term view with the welfare of the series in mind.

The deal became possible, always according to Autosprint, because Renault has finalized the purchase of 51% of Lotus (We have only been able to independently confirm top level talks have been taking place but nothing has been finalized yet).

The stake in Lotus would eventually increase but Renault is said to have asked Ecclestone for a dispensation so that the team may officially enter the 2016 season as Renault without the economic (revenue share) penalties of entering as a new team.    2016 cars would sport the traditional yellow and black of the Regie.

Winners and losers?  Red Bull gains the best engine available, Mercedes gains the best available client team, gets to monetize engines it was uncertain Lotus would fully pay for and gets to look magnanimous in front of the sport,
Renault would be largely free of the now damaged relationship with Red Bull and with Lotus gain a team which has good infrastructure and is free of much of the debt that saddles other available teams.   Renault would also be in the position to take better advantage of the exposure or running their own team.

Loser?  Certainly Ferrari who in 2016 will have Sauber, Manor and Haas as clients.

Will it happen?  Would Mercedes take the risk?  Would Red Bull accept the possibility of getting  a B-Spec unit?

Stay tuned, meanwhile here is Rosberg's pole position lap in Hungary last season.

July 22, 2015

Endurance Racing: From Lemons to Le Mans

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You know driver coach.Ross Bentley from his Speed Secrets series of books, perhaps you subscribe to his great Speed Secrets Weekly newsletter or shared his Instructor Manifesto.   

Maybe you've read the many How to Drive Faster  articles he has written for Axis,  Ross always has thought provoking tips on practicing the sport we love, better.

Ross' latest is about the ever more popular endurance format.   "Endurance Racing: from Lemons to Le Mans" is a downloadable e-book available free of charge. 

Below is the introduction.  to download the complete book, follow this link

There’s something magical about endurance racing... driving long stints and the rhythm you get into, passing and being passed, night driving, adapting to changing conditions, dealing with problems, strategy and teamwork, and finding the perfect compromise of seating and handling setups between drivers.

Watch Steve McQueen’s classic movie, Le Mans, or Audi’s documentary, Truth in 24, and you can’t help but get caught up in the romanticism of the marathon struggles at the legendary French race. But what about the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Sebring 12-Hour, or Petite Le Mans? Chumpcar World Series and LeMons? Thunderhill 25-Hour? Club enduros? All classics from the day they were born because of what they are, and the tremendous effort individuals and teams put into them.

Endurance racing is challenging, fun, physically and mentally demanding, and... well, sometimes frustrating!

Why frustrating? Because endurance racing can be painful. But like running a marathon, every little bit of pain is worth it. Of course, that’s what you often say about a month after an endurance race.

Sometimes, you finish an endurance race, and immediately promise yourself (and anyone else who will listen) that you’ll never do it again because it was painful, challenging, tiring, and frustrating! And it’s because the reward doesn’t always seem to equal the demands. Often, the second an endurance race has been run, you can hear dozens of people swearing they’ll never do it again.

So, why does that decision change so often? Why do we go back to doing another endurance race, and then another, and then another? Mostly because our memories are flawed. It seems that about three weeks after you swear on a stack of bibles that you’ll never do another enduro again, you think to yourself, “Well, I probably will never do another one again. Okay, it could happen, but it’s unlikely.”
Then, a couple of weeks later, when the pain and difficulty of your previous endurance race has faded from your memory, you publicly announce that you’re going to do that race again – and win it! It’s drawn you back into its web.
And that’s how so many drivers and teams feel about endurance races. They’re addictive. They’re the ultimate motorsport challenge. It’s a love/hate relationship.

Endurance races can be just about any length, from a couple of hours to twenty- four and beyond. One way to define an endurance race is the requirement of more than one driver. I’ve written this guide with that definition in mind.

This eBook started life as a simple bullet-pointed document full of thoughts, tips, and ideas about endurance racing for a team that I was coaching at the Daytona 24-Hour race. Since then, I’ve
expanded it. While endurance races are long, my goal for this eBook is to make it short and to the point, kind of a sprint race format of information for endurance racers - just enough information to make you think, and to give you the key guidelines to improve your chances of being successful.
Along with my tips and advice, I’ve added some personal stories, so you can learn from my experiences.

I realize that not everyone reading this will drive at Daytona or Le Mans. Many will be competing in club events or one of the “low-cost endurance” races (LeMons, Chumpcar, American Endurance Racing, World Racing League, etc.). I’ve competed in almost all levels and types of endurance races, and I’ve noticed that the approach, the preparation, and how you actually drive in them is very similar. I think you’ll find most of what I’ve written will apply to whatever form of endurance race you’re competing in.

Photos: BMW AG, Porsche, Audi, Bentley, Nissan and Aston Martin Press.

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