September 18, 2017

Allow me to explain why most comments you read about the Singapore start are wrong...

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Hi, I'm back.

I had to jump in, for what it's worth, to explain why the response to the first lap crash at the Singapore GP was an even bigger clusterfuck than the clusterfuck itself.

I think peak bullshit came when the collective British and Dutch twitter contingent clutched their pearls after Ferrari put out a tweet containing a simple, if not fully grammatical, statement of fact:

Yup, Max did bump into Kimi who then hit Vettel.   That is how the incident played out, mechanically.   Heavens forbid anyone describe the sequence of events.

What's more interesting is the WHY it happened.   And here, the Spanish fans, pining for Alonso blamed Vettel,  Italian Kimi haters blamed the Finn, the British mostly remarked on Hamilton's skill at being on the other side of the track while tisking at Vettel's "Schumi chop",  a move Lewis successfully pulled off at Monza two weeks ago.  The Dutch? They mostly showed class by blaming Italians for having better food that they ever will.  And Vettel fans, they pretty much blamed Max.

In short,  everyone just saw their bias. Is it worth it to assign blame?  Sure, but it was a racing incident firmly in the "shit happens when you point a bunch of cars into a corner you all have to get to first to win" bucket.

Two points, before we start

1) on a wet track, the "dirty" side has more grip.
2) Singapore, like Monaco, is a track you where, to win,  you have to lead out of the first corner.   Even more so in the rain.

OK so, to the start.  Vettel on the "clean" side has a poorer start than Verstappen and Raikkonen on the "dirty" side.  In fact everyone but Bottas has a great start on track left. Look at Alonso, Wow!

Verstappen, at the start, is pointing towards the right, hoping no doubt to cut off the Ferrari.

Vettel, for his part does what any driver in his situation would have done and is, by the rules, allowed to do, move to cover.

At this point Max realizes Kimi smoked him and and turns left to block him.   Notice how much room there is between Max and Seb,  the notion the Dutchman changed direction because of Vettel is not very likely.

Vettel cannot see the other Ferrari so it's plausible he though Max was going for the inside and increases the angle to cover more.

A-HA! you say...  Wrong.

That Vettel actually timed the "chop" on Max to perfection is demonstrated by him not hitting the Red Bull at any time.   By millimeters, yes but fully ahead of the blue car when Kimi bangs into him.

Of all three, the one who is certainly blameless is Raikkonen, you can look at the clip and you can plainly see he is 100% straight up until the contact.

Vettel played a legal. but risky game and paid for it, no doubt. But you don't win a championship against Lewis and Mercedes by playing it safe,  Not in F1 and not on a track where you have to lead from the start to win. (unless you have Nelson Piquet jr.)

Max, as he has been known to do in the past, changed plans in the middle of something and shifted his attention from Vettel to Raikkonen.    He's aggressive and he has a lot to prove after the terrible season he's had so far.  That is part of his attraction but also something he has not quite worked out (see Hungary).

More interesting might be speculating if Vettel would have run into Raikkonen, had the contact not happened.   That might have been a possibility but, that's also science fiction and in the end, the stewards made the only possible call:

"Shit happens".

April 18, 2017

2017 Bahrain GP: Two out or three ain't bad...

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....especially with a car that is not quite the best of the bunch.

Ferrari still lacks the outright pace to dominate F1 but, with the SF70h, they have managed to put enough pressure on Mercedes to knock Lewis and company out of their comfort zone.

Did Ferrari win or did Mercedes lose in Bahrain?  Depends on who you ask,  does it matter?
One thing is for sure,  Hamilton was beaten off the line by Vettel and later managed a very silly penalty when he blocked Ricciardo into the pits.  Not the best of week ends for the World Champion whorls missed out on pole.

Ferrari gambled on an early stop and it paid off perfectly despite the safety car caused by the Sainz-Stroll, get together at turn one.

Vettel executed the race perfectly, great first lap, great fight with Bottas on the re-start.   Towards the end he was in the position to control the race and pace himself in front of a charging Hamilton.

Would have Hamilton have caught him without the five second penalty? Probably not but it would have been a different race.

The wheel to wheel moment between Vettel and Hamilton is brewing,  when it finally happens it could be a heck of a lot more exciting than Alonso driving at Indy.

March 31, 2017

Put your headphones on

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No, seriously, put your headphones on...

Holy crap, this is beyond awesome,  Bravo Bozzy!

What makes it so awesome is the 3d binaural sound,  you will feel like you spent 20 minutes walking around Monza's Parco Reale during the recent ELMS testing.

How does 2017 F1 compare?   Well,  for sure the engines sound bizarre but in no way could you say they are not loud!

March 27, 2017

The Australian GP was everything some hoped for and everything some feared.

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If the new owners of Formula One could have scripted their first race it probably would have ended with redemption for the once great team, recently crushed by the might of the Mercedes behemoth.

The first Australian GP win in 10 years for Ferrari, the return of "the Finger" for Vettel,  everyone's happy,  even the vanquished Hamilton seemed chill  on the podium.

And that's not all, the new cars are beasts to drive,  they move around much more that you would think given bigger tires and added downforce, they even sound pretty decent.

The new Pirellis are good for more than three laps, people had been wondering what that would look like in F1, they got their answer:  Drivers can push, Vettel was a hammer as he steadily pulled away from Hamilton.

But,   and of course there is a but...

People did not get to see a real battle for the lead....again.

Before people start to pull their hair out and tell everyone who would listen how WEC and MotoGP are way better than this horrible corrupt F1, yadda yadda.  let's add some perspective,  Melbourne has never been a track where there is a lot of passing.

But Vettel never tried to attack Hamilton you say?

Well, to be clear, Vettel is there to win and he's a professional,  the right call in the first part of the race was to sit just outside Hamilton's wake and wait to see who would blink first.

Hopefully Hamilton will have a better sense for designing sneakers or writing songs than he seems to have for calling tire strategies.   On Sunday ha once again bullied his team into stopping earlier than the pit wall wanted and this gave Ferrari the opening it needed. No wonder Toto Wolff was punching tables, Lewis gave up track position on a track where passing is hard, passing Max Verstappen, impossible.

The next few races will show if it's like everyone, logically thinks, wider cars with bigger tires and more downforce just make it harder to see any wheel to wheel action past lap one.

There is a saving grace,  these care are absolutely harder to drive and that will produce fatigue and errors.   In other words, the human element is more important than ever.

To that end, one would hope moving forwards F1 will work to keep that human element alive.
Hamilton lost the race because he made a wrong call?  Great,  make it so making call on tires, is up to the drivers, not 100 computer banks a half a world away.   Eliminate some of the sensors that feed every little detail back to the pits,  enhance the role of the sensor implanted in the driver's seat!

Naturally, manufacturers would like to eliminate every surprise. F1 should make it harder for them.

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?

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