July 31, 2014

2014 Hungarian GP Executive Summary

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(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) 

Not your typical F1 race because of rain and safety cars but it was very entertaining.

Want to have a go at rating the drivers this time?

July 29, 2014

BMW i8: a quick glimpse into the future

I was fortunate enough to get a test drive of the BMW i8 but I'll say right off the bat it was not anywhere near long or in conditions varied enough for me  to offer a complete opinion so I won't pretend to offer a review.   But I did get enough seat time for some initial impressions.

Earlier in the week, on the Axis Facebook page,  I had asked what readers were most interested in knowing about the new hybrid  BMW.   Most replied they were curious about sound and brake pedal feel.  Clearly our readers are as mental as we are but I can reassure them, the i8 brakes and makes noises!

But more on that later.

The first impression of the car is that it manages to be look concept car futuristic yet, somehow, perfectly plausible on the road.  Not Lambo crazy but people did stop and snap pictures.
Naturally, dropping  through the exposed carbon fiber that frames the gull wing doors gives a sense of occasion but once inside, you find the familiar layout of a BMW and are immediately at ease.

Driving position is very good, the interior wraps around you but you don't get a feeling of a small tight car.  Visibility is very good, controls where you expect them to be.

Press the start-stop button and  all you hear are some sci-fi electronic sounds.  Slip it into drive with the familiar BMW shifter and off you go in almost total silence.

Now, that may or may not appeal to you but there is no denying it's a pretty cool experience.

When you set off, the i8 behaves exactly like any auto transmission car:  ease off the brake and it starts rolling,  it's no golf cart.   When you're done being green, a push of the gear lever to the left into sport mode changes the dash from blue to red and snaps the little turbo 3 pot to life.

So,  how does it sound?   It sounds pretty cool.  There is a lot of spitting and popping and turbo snap on the off throttle and on shifts,  Sounds something like a slightly more polite Alfa Romeo 4c engine.

It's augmented you say?  OK,  so what,  you probably changed the exhaust to augment the sound of your car, I know I did.   It is just not an issue in real life.  It's not like you feel the sound is coming from the speakers, the source is from behind of your head, pretty much where you would expect it to be.

Does it go?  yeah, this is not a Prius,  it feels about like an M3 in pick up.   Dynamically I can't say much because of the nature of the test I got but in a straight line? Oh yeah, it's got a very satisfying push.    Geashifts are very quick both up and down.
You CAN disable DSC fully but I had no possibility to try any hooligan moves and can't confirm or deny the i8's  power slide credentials.

Steering is light but not as light as in the latest 3 series sedans.

No, in real life it doesn'tt really look like it ate a 911
The ride is calm in regular mode but stiffer than I imagined it would be in sport mode.   I was surprised you cannot choose, say, sport mode with a soft suspension setting but I may have lost that in translation with my BMW France hosts.

Brakes feel 95% like normal BMW brakes, they are a little more grabby than you might expect in the very first part of the travel but then felt just like on an M car.  An odd little wobble after initial application is the only clue something different is happening underfoot, with regeneration and all but I assure you, it's very subtle.

The best party trick the i8 pulls off is in how perfectly seamless the drivetrain is,  There are no jumps, no shudders when the car changes from one mode to the next, even between full electric to full IC.  The brakes and the throttle feel the same in full electric more as they do in all out sports mode.   That must have been incredibly difficult to achieve.

On a practical note, it has a trunk somewhere between a 911 and an Exige, but BMW teamed up with Louis Vuitton for a custom fitted set of luggage to fit in the rear "monkey seats".

So who would want this car?  That's a very interesting question.  For about the same price you could order a Carrera S with all the available performance options, including the $17k power kit.  Or a no option GT3.  Or a Vantage S. Or a Maserati Gran Turismo.
The i8 might be a better GT car than any of those, I'd love to try it on a long trip one day.  Cruise in near silence and then light it up when you feel the need.  Neat trick.

Even if the milage the i8 returns is spectacular, nobody will buy it to save on gas,  they will buy it for the idea of it, to be different and to be first on a road that, eventually, we will all have to travel.
With the i8, BMW has shown that it does not have to be a dull boring road at all.

July 27, 2014

2014 Hungarian GP: Does it really need fixing?

Mark Thompson/Getty Images/Infiniti Red Bull Racing

The Hungaroring used to be known for really dull races but that certainly was not the case Sunday.  What we ended up with was one of the most exciting races in years,  certainly the best this season so far.

So, is F1 all right or does Bernie really have to wrestle Flavio Briatore from the supple arms of his Elisabetta to come in and "fix" the sport....pardon me, "THE SHOW"?

Let's have a look at what made the Hungarian GP special.

Cars were especially difficult to drive,  sliding around a lot more than usual.

We need more of that, nothing is better than watching cars slide around, nothing is better than being able to see what drivers are doing, those who turn in early, those who turn in late and fighting for grip.     Part of that is the track of course, it's effectively a go kart track that, especially so in mixed conditions, really puts a premium on driver feel.

The Delta between prime and option seemed to have worked out especially well.

Pirelli should figure out why and repeat.

Banning FRIC made a difference.

Mercs advantage is still there but rather than being 1+ secs a lap it's now much less.  Combine with a short, twisty track and everyone was bunched up.

Rain at the start and cold temperatures

basically most of the work done the previous two days, dry and hot, went out the window.

To be fair, Mercedes were far from 100
Accidents and safety cars.

Safety cars worked out for those further back: Hamilton and Ricciardo and that mixed it up even more, much to our delight.

Amazing driving from the top drivers.

Vergne in the first part of the race,  Hamilton's pass on Vergne and his defense against Rosberg at the end.  Ricciardo's super late pass on Alonso,  yes he had much better tires but that move, very reminiscent of the one he pulled in Canada for the win, was spectacular.
And what to say about Alonso, 30 plus laps on a set of tires nobody thought would last more than 27... brilliant.

To be fair, Mercedes were off this week end

Between Hamilton's fire, too much tape on the brake ducts and that botched team order moment, the Silver arrows were a bit less sharp than usual.  Had they been on their regular footing we might be having a different discussion.

Se yes, there were a lot of special circumstances conspiring to make the Hungarian GP a classic but, all and all,  does F1 really need Flav to come in and add rewards weight, machine gun turrets and Super Mario points and whatever else they can think of?

I'd say no.  Nominally this is still a sport, concentrate on keeping the cars close and let them at it.  The racing will sort itself.

July 26, 2014

Hamilton's bad luck could be great for us...

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...the spectators.

It's almost like Bernie has perfected his remote engine detonation device and has plotted to repeat Hamilton's exciting climb from the back in Germany.

Hungary historically produces major snoozers come race day but having Hamilton obliged to make one of his charges from the back might make it exciting.    It would have been perfect had both Mercedes had to start from the rear and cut though the field.
Seb got his mojo back (Dan Istitene/Getty/RBR)

Red Bulls are fast and Vettel seems to have his mojo back.  In practice Red Bull better tire wear on long runs than Mercedes, so that might be a factor.  But in outright pace, Rosberg was able to give Vettel a half second without much apparent effort.

Pat Fry
Once again Bottas drove like he belongs with world champions, Massa was a second behind in the same car, he blamed traffic this time.

As for Ferrari,  what can you say?   Not sending Kimi out "to save tires" was a mistake the like of which I cannot remember.     Alonso, once again ahead of the curve when he called Ferrari's brain trust on pit wall idiots last year in Monza.

Heads got to roll Marco or you'll end up losing Alonso too!.

os  Driver             Team/Car              Time       Gap
 1.  Nico Rosberg       Mercedes              1m22.715s
 2.  Sebastian Vettel   Red Bull-Renault      1m23.201s  +0.486s
 3.  Valtteri Bottas    Williams-Mercedes     1m23.354s  +0.639s
 4.  Daniel Ricciardo   Red Bull-Renault      1m23.391s  +0.676s
 5.  Fernando Alonso    Ferrari               1m23.909s  +1.194s
 6.  Felipe Massa       Williams-Mercedes     1m24.223s  +1.508s
 7.  Jenson Button      McLaren-Mercedes      1m24.294s  +1.579s
 8.  Jean-Eric Vergne   Toro Rosso-Renault    1m24.720s  +2.005s
 9.  Nico Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes  1m24.775s  +2.060s
10.  Kevin Magnussen    McLaren-Mercedes
Q3 cut-off time:                       1m24.647s
11.  Daniil Kvyat       Toro Rosso-Renault    1m24.706s  +1.396s**
12.  Adrian Sutil       Sauber-Ferrari        1m25.136s  +1.826s
13.  Sergio Perez       Force India-Mercedes  1m25.211s  +1.901s
14.  Esteban Gutierrez  Sauber-Ferrari        1m25.260s  +1.950s
15.  Romain Grosjean    Lotus-Renault         1m25.337s  +2.027s
16.  Jules Bianchi      Marussia-Ferrari      1m27.419s  +4.109s
Q2 cut-off time:                       1m26.728s
17.  Kimi Raikkonen     Ferrari               1m26.792s  +1.851s***
18.  Kamui Kobayashi    Caterham-Renault      1m27.139s  +2.198s
19.  Max Chilton        Marussia-Ferrari      1m27.819s  +2.878s
20.  Marcus Ericsson    Caterham-Renault      1m28.643s  +3.702s
21.  Lewis Hamilton     Mercedes
22.  Pastor Maldonado   Lotus-Renault

July 25, 2014

Michael Schumacher's private jet is for sale

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It was reported on Germany's Bild that Corinna Schumacher, Michael's wife, has put his Falcon 2000EX up for sale.

Schumacher had used the plane to fly himself and his family,  well... wherever he wanted.  Sadly though  things will never be the same for the champion and Mrs.Schumacher's fiscally sensible move is a measure of that.

The plane, tail number M-IKEL, is said to worth about $27 million.

July 24, 2014

2014 Spa 24 Hours Live Stream

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If the sounds of F1 have got you down, this week end you might check in with 66th running of the Blancpain Endurance Series Total 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

The race proper will start Saturday at 4:30 PM CET  10:30AM ET.   It will be streamed live HERE.

Kevin Estre was fastest in pre-qualifying

Parades, support races  and qualifying have already started.   Quickest in pre-Qualifying was the ART Grand Prix Mclaren  driven by Kevin Estre with a time of 2:20.944.    ART was not so happy about its other car which was destroyed by Alvaro Parente at Pouhon.  The team have said they will rebuild a car for the race.

Right behind the Mclaren was Italy's ROAL Motorsport BMW Z4 driven by Stefano Colombo, running in the Pro/Am class.

Top eight drivers were within 2/10ths thanks in part  to adjustments in the BoP index for this race which hopes to keep, Mclaren, Bentley, Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes Porsche Larborghini, Astons and Nissans all playing nice together.

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