September 25, 2014

That 136 mph crash at COTA, in first person.

Tim Bell/Facebook

Pay close attention at how cool Tim Bell stays in the 10 seconds between the time he first realizes he has a problem with the brakes and the impact.

The description in the video says the car hit at 136 mph and if Tim was not hurt it's thanks to the TecPro barriers installed at the Circuit of the Americas.  Notice how, despite the speed, there relatively little visible damage to the Nissan 370Z.

TecPro is a french company which has developed a system of foam filled plastic barriers joined by nylon straps that first originated in karting.  The barriers are more expensive than tires but require much less maintenance than a homologated tire wall where tires have to be bolted together and contained by as conveyor belt.   Tim will attest to their effectiveness.

September 24, 2014

What Fernando Alonso and Kim Kardshian's butt have in common


"Views are down Smithers,!  Quick, produce me three new listicles on the many sides of Kim Kardashian's butt, or you're fired!"

F1, in recent weeks has had it's own version of surefire click bait with innumerable articles about Fernando Alonso's future plans.  We might have reached "peak Nando" today with the publication on Sport Bild of an article claiming that it's  pretty much a done deal next year: Alonso will be at Lotus, the team revamped with Mercedes engines and bought out by (noted Ferrari collector and past team sponsor) Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll.   

Of course, always according to SportBild, Stroll's son and current Ferrari Academy driver Lance would drive as Fernando's teammate.


OK, so that's just the business of journalism these days, and yes, it's amusing to speculate.  You might agree with us that the least of Ferrari's problems is their driver line up.   Even if you believe those who say the new "Agnelli/Marchionne" regime is tight with the pursestrings, even if you believe Honda would be willing to cover Ferrari in gold to have Alonso,  I'm not sure I see an obvious solution here.

The two big "market forces",  if you can call them such, are Vettel's supposed need to prove himself somewhere other than at Red Bull and Fernando's biological ticking championship clock.   There had been  a third one, Hamilton's escape from a Mercedes led by world champion Rosberg but that now seems less and less likely.  Plus, only a fool would jump off the Silberpfeil juggernaut at this point.

Back to Vettel and Alonso.   Just a bunch of questions, really.  

Of Vettel at Ferrari there has been talk of since, at least, early last season.  For many that he will be in Red from 2016 is a given.   But would Alonso and Vettel coexist at Ferrari?  Could Alonso and Vettel coexist at Ferrari?  Could Ferrari, or anyone, pay that bill?

Ferrari is going through a rebuilding cycle,  why would Alonso accept to stay during this period and leave right when it might be time to pick the fruits?   Or, why would he want to stay at all if he know Ferrari would dump him for Vettel after next season? 

In any case, Vettel is confirmed at Red Bull for 2015 so that talked about swap is (and my many years following F1 always advise me to hedge) ...unlikely.

Does Fernando  have that many attractive options?   Mclaren?  It's a lot of money potentially but Honda power is an unknown and in any case, exclusive to Mclaren for only one season.   What is know is that Ron Dennis hates his guts and that he is the polar opposite of a "Mclaren" driver.     That would be a big risk for him.

Red Bull won't have him, doesn't need him.  Hell, Red Bull does not even need Vettel at this point and Helmut Marko has already declared Max Verstappen "just like Senna".  That must cheese Hamilton to no end by the way.

Mercedes is not a realistic option either.

So, barring a Copersucar-esque move to a revamped Lotus or retirement, I don't see too many good options outside of Maranello for Alonso.

For Ferrari, there is no option of rebuilding the team with Raikkonen, a driver who has said he would retire come 2015 and a second tier driver.   The Scuderia's biggest error over the past five seasons was in staying loyal to Massa.   Had they hired a driver capable of taking more points away from the competition it's likely  the 2010 and 2012 championship trophies would be on Alonso's mantelpiece and we would not be having this discussion now.

September 21, 2014

Hamilton takes advantage of Rosberg's car failure, it's hammer time in Singapore.


Lewis Hamilton scored maximum points at Singapore with a victory that once again highlighted the crushing advantage Mercedes have over the competition this year.

Hamilton did not put a foot wrong and now leads the Championship going into the Japanese GP,  Rosberg scored no points and is now 3 behind.

There was a race in Singapore but it was all behind Lewis.  Vettel, Ricciardo and Alonso had a decent scrap for the remaining podium spots which was decided when Ferrari got slightly caught out by the Safety Car, He had been ahead of the two Red Bulls but emerged behind on the same tires after the stop.

It might have been a closer race had the drivers been able actually race with each other rather than just try to save tires and get to the end.    Mark Webber, racing at Circuit of the Americas in the WEC,  was quoted yesterday:

“There’s no contest there, Michelin is a real racing tire, Pirelli was for show business in Formula one.  These are real racing tires so it’s a tire which all the drivers can enjoy...”

But it is what it is, I guess.

As predicted, the FIA's ban, half ban, on radio communications was made a joke today with all sorts of messages being sent back and forth from all teams.  More confusion.

Of note, Maldonado did not crash though he did drive off with a wheel gun still attached once.

Also, Jean Eric Vergne finished 6th despite being given not one but two 5 second penalties!   Perhaps Toro Rosso needs to arrange to have the FIA penalize JEV every race!

Now on to Suzuka and the momentum is all in Hamilton's corner again.   If we're lucky we'll finally see a straight up,  on track battle between the two Mercedes.

 It's been a while now.

September 20, 2014

Don't miss the Singapore GP!

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What 0.007/sec looks like (via SkySportsF1)

Singapore qualifying was the closest so far this season, not just for the 7/1000th of a second between Hamilton and Rosberg but the top 5 are all in the same 2.5/10th, the top 9 in the same 6/10th.

Has the competition caught up to Mercedes?    It's more likely the very specific characteristics of the Singapore circuit played a role.    If you accept Mercedes' big engine advantage is due to their superior MGU-H (turbo) component then it might be that all those short segments make it less of a factor.

In any case, today's  exciting qualifying hint at a very interesting race tomorrow.   The only shame that Kimi Raikkonen did not get a chance to show his speed in Q3 because of yet another problem on his Ferrari.

144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:46.9211:46.2871:45.68117
26Nico RosbergMercedes1:47.2441:45.8251:45.68819
33Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing-Renault1:47.4881:46.4931:45.85412
41Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault1:47.4761:46.5861:45.90215
514Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:46.8891:46.3281:45.90716
619Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes1:47.6151:46.4721:46.00020
77Kimi RäikkönenFerrari1:46.6851:46.3591:46.17014
877Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes1:47.1961:46.6221:46.18718
920Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes1:47.9761:46.7001:46.25018
1026Daniil KvyatSTR-Renault1:47.6561:46.9261:47.36221
1122Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1:47.1611:46.94312
1225Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Renault1:47.4071:46.98914
1327Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1:47.3701:47.30813
1421Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari1:47.9701:47.3339
1511Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1:48.1431:47.57513
168Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1:47.8621:47.81214
1799Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari1:48.3246
1813Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Renault1:49.0638
1917Jules BianchiMarussia-Ferrari1:49.4407
2010Kamui KobayashiCaterham-Renault1:50.4058
214Max ChiltonMarussia-Ferrari1:50.4737
229Marcus EricssonCaterham-Renault1:52.2875

September 19, 2014

The importance of proper barriers.


The team behind Circuit of the Americas did a stellar job building a world class facility, the only FIA F1 Certified track in the United States.

FIA certification means a very high level of safety incorporating all the latest advances in the field But, to all those who still insist safety equates to less excitement, let me show you how all that work paid off today.  

I would bet you Tim Bell, the Nissan 370Z driver racing in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series,  did not find it boring at all.

In this case,  the paved runoff made things worse but the FIA barriers did a superb job absorbing the impact. Contrast this to the recent crash at Watkins Glen.

A stack of tires, bare armco, just don't not cut it anymore and it's really up to all of us racers and enthusiasts to demand every track make the effort to upgrade.   This is why Axis is fully behind efforts of the Motorsport-Safety Foundation and the Sean Edwards Foundation.

We're guessing Tim Bell will be too.

September 18, 2014

Engine change, you're doing it wrong

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Australians may be a pragmatic bunch but this is not the preferred way to do an engine swap

The Aussie Porsche Carrera Cup was at Sandown last week.  Start of race 2 did not go quite as planned for Nick McBride when he was spun by his teammate and collected by two other competitors.    McBride was taken to the track's medical center for evaluation but was able to eventually limp out the car mostly on his own. Thank you Porsche build quality.

The 991GT3 lumpectomy resulted in so much debris,  the race was just cancelled.

(thanks Sergini!)

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