March 23, 2017

Well Played Ferrari, well played

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In the "good old days" Ferrari used to wield so much political power those on the receiving end renamed the FIA,  Ferrari International Assistance .

In recent years this has certainly not been the case, what with the sport bending over backwards to please Red Bull and Mercedes.

Don't have the player, hate the game right?

Well it looks like someone at Ferrari remembered to play the game again in a clever, rather than overt way.

What happened?  You can read all the fine details elsewhere but, in simplest form, Mercedes and Red Bull developed suspensions systems which they claimed were doing one thing while in fact were doing another, namely they influenced aerodynamics.

Ferrari had been aware of this since last season (see some of Sergio Marchionne's comments) and in the off season wrote to the governing body declaring their intention of utilizing a similar system in 2017.

"Just checking to see if it's legal..."

Right, on.   The FIA clarified suspensions are not to be designed so as to influence aero and now Mercedes and Red Bull who had set up cars around that concept are forced to a more conventional system.  Ferrari saves the development time and cost.

Don't hate the player...  Mercedes and Red Bull would/will do exactly the same.

March 21, 2017

Will you watch Formula One again?

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First off,  hello again,  thank you for coming back!

Truth is, a loved one has been facing a difficult medical situation this past year and commenting on things that go vroom had become quite difficult for me,  I burned out a bit.

But I was wrong, writing about things frivolous and wonderful I love so much will be the perfect distraction and ultimately, I hope, good for the soul.

Enough about me,   what about you,  will you give "the pinnacle of Motorsport" another chance?

2017 will arguably be the most important season for the sport since, well... almost ever.

New cars, new boss, new regulations, possibly a new balance of power bode well for excitement.  At the very least are an excuse to give F1 another chance after a dreadfully dull last couple of years.

Bernie's gone and already there is a breath of fresh air.  

Ecclestone proved himself world champion of cat herding over the years, he made a lot of money for himself and others.  He made F1 into a global phenomenon but, perhaps inevitably, ended up morphing it to a pyramid scheme  the sport will struggle fully divorce itself from.

There is not much point discussing his intentions, Ecclestone has been telling anyone who would listen he had to do things he did not want to do and he's now "envious of the new owners" who will be able to do all the fun things he could not, because of his obligations to investors and teams.  

To me, his biggest failure has been the pricing out of fans from live races.  You cannot have a new fan base unless parents can  their kids to races and experience these amazing machines, like my father did with me.    TV won't do it, Instagram and snapchat are not a valid substitute for seeing a Formula 1 at the Variante Ascari or anywhere at Silverstone or Suzuka or Spa.

But you know all that, and hopefully the new owners understand it too.

Ecclestone said they were running a five star Michelin restaurant but Liberty wants a burger joint?

Fine,  I love burgers.  Bye Bernie.

Will the new formula bring better racing?

On the face of it, nobody can see how wider faster cars with shorter braking distances can produce more action after lap one.   I would say, let's wait.   The saving grace is that by all accounts these cars will be more difficult to drive and that will produce more errors.  Fatigue might be a factor.

Then there is the unknown of who got the new formula right from the start.     Pre season testing was tantalizing but it means little until cars run in anger this week end.

What's interesting is that there are for the first time in years three distinct design philosophies at play.

Mercedes went with a long wheelbase car that is on the most in logical for the new regulations.   The W08 runs with no rake to take full advantage of the longer rear diffuser area.   The advantage will be stability and the ability to run less drag.  It will love, Monza, Spa, Canada.

Red Bull "invented" the big rake stance as a way to overcome limitations of the smaller diffuser/under tray.   It had a trick suspension that allowed the car to squat in the high speed sections cutting drag.  This year it's a "short" car with big rake once again but there are questions about the legality of their suspension systems.  Their not so spectacular showing in testing hint they may have had to revise it and might be suffering because of it.  

Or maybe they were sandbagging more than anyone else, Friday will tell.

Ferrari produced a car that is in between the Mercedes and the Red Bull, short wheelbase but with not as much rake as the Red Bull in testing.   For a car that was supposed to be a total disaster because of the absence of a "star" designer,  it showed well in the pre season, getting everyone excited.   Some are saying it's James Allison's car, some will point to Rory Byrne's role,  but I like to think that younger engineers at Maranello came up with some good ideas.  Refreshing.

Whatever the results will be in Melbourne,  the key to 2017 will be technical development.     For the past few years Ferrari has fallen behind  after good starts while Mercedes steamrolled everyone, always a step or two ahead.

As for the rest of the field,   good luck.   Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull all have the huge advantage of having tested the new 2017 tires early.   Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso can only hope to be spoilers, Sauber, Haas,  Renault  and McLaren will probably be moving chicanes.

Finally:   Will Lance Stroll be the new Pastor Maldonado?  Will Stoffel Vandoorne make Fernando look worse than the Honda has?   Will Valterri Bottas make it hard for Hamilton?

Yeah, I'll tune in this week end, will you?

February 3, 2017

What does it feel like to drive Mount Panorama?

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Sadly, I can't tell you from personal experience but there is nothing like a properly mounted helmet camera to put you in the driver's seat.

You are riding with Christopher Mies in and Audi R8 LMS during the 2016 Liquid Moly Bathurst 12 Hour week end.  Turn up the volume.

The ideal placement for a POV camera is as close to eye level and as centered as possible but, unfortunately, there are no perfect mounting solutions out there at the moment.   There are accessories for other positions but, mounting the camera on the side of the helmet doesn't look right, on top is too high and on the chin bar,  too low.

The best spot for a POV camera is on top of the visor in the middle.    Marshall Pruett came up with this placement and method, aided by abundant gaffer's tape to produce the great POV videos that occasionally appear on Racer's web site.

Incredibly, nobody has yet stepped up with a proper mount for this location without having a big contraption sticking out from your helmet.  
I've used a modified version of Marshall's mounting technique involving 3M Dual Lock tape and the GoPro upside down to line up the lens  even more.   Obviously this is particular setup is adapter for a closed car where you might keep your visor open and not ideal if you need to close it.

Perhaps someone out there knows of a better way or might like to step up and design something that will work better because this IS the sweet spot for in car POV shots.

January 30, 2017

You be the steward: 2017 Rolex Daytona 24, Taylor vs Albuquerque

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The final hour of the 2017 Rolex 24 hours of Daytona was certainly exciting but controversial.

With about eight minutes to go, Ricky Taylor nerfed fellow Cadillac driver Felipe Albuquerque and took over the lead for the eventual win when race control declined to intervene.

Predictably, reactions were split between the "rubbings racing" group and the "rules say" crowd.

There are no perfect views of the incident but let's take a look at what we do have.

Here is the (partial) view from Ricky Taylor's car

Looks fairly clear cut from this view,  there was a tiny gap and Taylor dived in.

Now, let's look from the outside.

Less clear cut from here,  Albuquerque takes a more "normal" line and does leave a gap.

Clearly  Taylor is nowhere near being far enough along side to "own" the line and from the expression on Wayne Taylor's face I'm guessing he agreed.
On the other hand, the argument that Albuquerque did not realize Taylor was there is not that plausible either, not with the tracking radar rear view screens they all have onboard.
That you will be passed because someone is under you in turn one is not a given:

That the stewards did not want to be picking the winner is understandable:  final laps of a 24 hour race  plagued by long yellow flag periods but also marked by a "let them race" attitude from race control (an earlier almost identical contact between the leading Risi Ferrari and the winning Ford GT also went unchallenged,  as did a wonky restart by Albuquerque).    A penalty would have meant denying Wayne Taylor Racing yet another win, never mind keeping a Rolex from NASCAR's own Jeff Gordon.    Many will suspect it might have been a different decision had the roles been reversed of if different manufacturers had been involved.

But that's neither here nor there.   The last two hours of the race were a treat to watch,  GTLM had four of the five manufacturers, Ford, Ferrari, Corvette and Porsche all within 5 seconds on track.  It was anyone's race,  brilliant stuff.

Check out Patrick Pilet in the Porsche Cayman 911 RSR chasing Dirk Müller,  doing turn one defense  properly in the Ford GT

Great stuff

January 23, 2017

End of an era.

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It's not like you didn't know it was coming, sooner or later, but it's still a bit of a shock.

Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed his exit from an executive position in Formula 1.

Ecclestone has been blamed for pretty much everything wrong with F1 and people have been calling for his head for decades but will the sport automatically get better without him?

Herding cats is never easy.

Cheers Mr E. and thanks for the good bits.

A Distinguished Lecture.

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Do you think aerodynamics are not that important at a slow track like Monaco?
Even at 70 km/h (43 mph), an F1 car can corner 8% faster with aero than without.

Next time you hear an announcer telling you how teams are trying to eliminate drag from their car, consider that if you simulate a car with zero drag. the lap time gained would be only two seconds but an F1 car without downforce will be 21 seconds a lap slower at the Circuit de Catalunya than one with downforce and drag .... 21 seconds!
No wonder Red Bulls often had the slowest in top speed but the fastest lap time: being fast in the corners is much more of a factor to lap time than being fast on the straight on many circuits.

Willem Toet is a Dutch-Australian aerodynamicist with a past in Benetton and Ferrari in the Schumacher era and later BAR and BMW Sauber.

It's not often we get insight from engineers and insiders and Mr Toet is particularly generous with it.  His LinkedIn page is a bit of a treasure trove of technical insight which, like this lecture are a must for any racing fan who wants to go beyond the basic understanding of Formula 1.

Find the time to listen to this lecture he gave at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.    It focuses on past F1 seasons but there are concepts that apply to the coming championship and the effect rule changes might have.

I guarantee it will help you discuss the sport in a more informed way.

Bonus points, Mr Toet hillclimbs a formula car (with great aero presumably!).

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