October 24, 2016

2016 US GP: Exciting track but yet another snooze fest

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(Mark Thompson/Getty/RedBull Content Pool)

You could not watch Lewis Hamilton's pole lap on Saturday and not felt amazement at what F1 cars are capable of on a spectacular track like Circuit of the Americas in Austin.

The change of direction in the "esses",  the speed through that long right hans turn towards the end of the lap.

Incredible stuff.

And then there was the race.

A vague promise of Red Bull taking it to Mercedes evaporated fairly quickly.  And let's get real, the Germans are still just toying with the rest of the field,  anyone knocking at the door and they turn the PU up to 11.

Bye bye.

Hamilton did what he had to do, Rosberg did the least he had to do.   A hint at how safe Nico played it came lap one, turn one:  had he been interested in attacking, he would have pointed to the inside, like his teammate did to him in 2015.   He instead chose not to tangle with Hamilton and Ricciardo and went for the outside line.  It was the smart thing to do.

For his part, Hamilton drove, shall we say, a very Rosberg like race:  precise and error free, leading start to finish.
Interesting who Lewis "threw a Pirelli hat" at his teammate in pre race interviews when he happily told anyone who would listen (many) Rosberg had a lot of easy wins this season.
After this easy win, Lewis went on about how hard it was and how nervous he wasthat his engine might blow.


Despite his refusal to listen to team strategists and his ridiculous error of coming into the pits without the team telling him to, there was not much criticism for Verstappen. Shocking, right?    Later, Max blamed the team for telling him to stop the car in a place where it caused the Virtual Safety Car that destroyed the race and gave Hamilton certain victory.
It's not all bad for Max though,  he was voted "Driver of the Day" in an internet clicker poll...


Speaking of drivers of the day,  many chose Carlos Sainz but I would have to go with Fernando "Yee Haw"  Alonso.   When a two time world champion, who has not won a race in years and is racing with that dog of a team that is current day Mclaren Honda gets that excited about making a last lap pass for P5, he's the man.

That being said,  how he escaped any sanction for causing a collision (with Massa) and track limits, given recent decisions by the FIA Stewards is...inscrutable.

Can we not talk about Ferrari?   Thank you.

Now the gap is 26 points with 75 still to be awarded.  Mexico is this coming week end and the first "match point" for Rosberg: if Nico wins and Lewis does not score, there will not be enough points for the Briton to make up in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

If the reverse happened, Rosberg would go into the final two only one point ahead and then it would most likely be advantage Lewis.

Barring a DNF it's unlikely Rosberg will score less than two seconds and third place in the last three races. But not impossible, maybe Lewis is wishing his old friend Timo Glock were still racing!

I kid, I kid.

October 2, 2016

Hamilton denied in Malaysia.

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Hamilton was cocky about his chances but his lump blows early in Malaysia.

Hamilton, confident before
the race.
There is this mock religion whose main belief is in a "Luck Plane", which can tilt your way or not.  

The Luck Plane definitively tilted both for and against Lewis Hamilton in Malaysia.

"Someone does not want me to win"

Lewis' fans do not believe in luck of course.  Aided by an off the cuff comment by their idol, the fires of conspiracy have been stoked on the internet.   Because, after all,  it makes perfect sense Mercedes would diabolically arrange for Hamilton's engine to let go, insuring they would not clinch the constructor title in front of all their title sponsor's brass, at their home race.  

Makes perfect sense.

Thank god for engine failures,  frankly if engines were slightly less reliable we might have had a more exciting championship.    "Stuff happens" has a place in racing,  it should not be completely regulated out.

But the Luck Plane had been tilted in Hamilton's favor on lap one, Vettel managed to pull a Verstappen and spun Rosberg.   Vettel had the position but not the traction to make the low percentage move stick.

His error, no doubt.   Curiously, the FIA stewards decided to apply a different standard then they applied to Verstappen's almost identical incident in Spa: 3 grid spot penalty in Japan and 2 points on license for the German.

Ah FIA, don't ever change...

For all the online hate he receives, Rosberg drove a hell of a race, from last after turn one to an eventual third.  Nico now finds himself with a more than twenty point lead in the championship despite being handed a penalty for contact with Raikkonen.

It's funny, how may times have you heard people cite the Villeneuve-Arnoux battle at Dijon as one of the greatest things ever?  Rosberg hip checks Kimi to, finally,  make a non DRS pass, there is no damage to either car and he gets slapped with a penalty.  

Ah FIA,  don't ever change...

Is this the end for Hamilton's championship?  Hardly.  Rosberg did go from a 19 point deficit to a 23 point lead since the summer break, erasing Lewis' surge, but that's just one DNF in the remaining five races.  What remains uncertain at this time is if Hamilton will need to take additional engine penalties as a result of this rather massive looking blow up.

Very happy for Ricciardo,  he had a great moment with Verstappen,  they both went at it hard but, it must be said, 100% fair,  well done the both of them.

Finally, can we have a slow clap for Fernando Alonso dragging that path negra pig of a McLaren from last to seventh.   He is still the man,  and he deserves a better ride before he retires.

The internets were busy after the race!

September 16, 2016

Le FRIC, C'est Chic

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Funny how the newest things in F1 really have roots that go back ages.   Take the latest Mercedes nomination "secret",  a trick front suspension that has roots back to the Citroen DS?


OK,  that's a bombastic statement but we are talking about a clever "analog" hydraulic suspension developed by Frenchmen.

You can read about the particulars of what the Brackley Silver Arrows  have done with their front suspension elsewhere,   I will try to distill it.

look at where the pushrod is attached
Mercedes have figured out a loophole in the regulations that allows them to fit a front suspension system that gives them the competitive advantage over Red Bull and Ferrari in terms of aero efficiency and tire management.

Red Bull has something similar but not quite
You remember FRIC (Front to rear interlinked Suspension) introduced by Mercedes in 2011 and banned in mid 2014.  Turns out the re-written rules forbid front to rear and diagonal linkage but there is nothing preventing left to right connections (think sway bar in normal car terms) so teams have been taking advantage of this and have continued to develop suspension that take advantage of this system.    The key has been packaging, most team use a version of a "hydraulic computer" suspension in the rear where space is not at a premium but only Mercedes has figured out how to fit the system on the front axle.

Ferrari is sticking by the letter of the rules... and suffering.
And this is where the clever exploitation of a rule loophole comes in.  Mercedes took advantage of an allowance which had been made for Manor where they were permitted to add a chassis "spacer" to adapt their 2014 car to fit 2015 regulation,  Taking advantage of this gray area allowed the German team to create the space needed  to fit the intricate components needed and to use the vanity panel, an esthetic part for most other teams, as a structural piece.

It's borderline legal and brilliant.

Why go through all this effort? Because the system gives you the ultimate in suspension, soft over fast bumps and stiff over sustained corners,  allowing the car to float over kerbs while maintaining the optimal ride height and aero efficiency in the fast bits while utilizing tires most efficiently.

It's not a new concept,  think Renault mass damper and of course the original FRIC.    Ferrari and Red Bulls chassis are not made in a way this can be easily retrofitted but more crucially, Mercedes have the expertise in tuning what is a very complicated system.

The brains behind this system is said to be French engineer Loic Serra, McLaren tried unsuccessfully to poach him away from Brackley.   Red Bull however was successful in tempting a Mercedes hydraulic engineer over to their side for next season.   At RBR, this yet unnamed tech will work with Pierre Wache another highly touted suspension specialist who,  like Serra, came through Sauber from Michelin, where they both were tire interaction engineers in the early 2000s.

You can read more tech details at Auto Motor und Sport and at Motorsport but score one for engineers and zero for the rule makers.

September 14, 2016

Alex Zanardi defends his gold medal onboard a Dallara

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In an age when athletes and personalities are so often controversial, Alex Zanardi stand above as one that is truly inspirational.

The 49 year old Italian successfully defended his 2012 London time trial gold medal today at the Rio Paralympics.  Zanardi came from behind with an exciting last lap push, the power of his "engine" transmitted to the ground via a super sleek and futuristic hand bike designed by Italian race car shop Dallara.

"Dallara produced the chassis of a handbike in its Varano headquarters. The design process was similar to that of a racecar. Bologna athlete Alessandro Zanardi raced with this bike, winning three medals for time and road trials (two gold and one silver) in the London 2012 Paralympics.

Once Zanardi’s body surface and that of his bike had been scanned, an in-depth study of the CFD aerodynamics (Computational Fluid Dynamics) took place in order to fine-tune the shape of the handbike. Once the shape was defined, Dallara completed the FEM structural analysis (Finite Element Methods) and then carried out laboratory tests.

During the design process, Dallara built a mannequin to assess the comfort and the driving position. Finally, the first prototype was designed and created. All of this was completed within the limits of technical regulations that imposed dimensional and functional constraints, similar to racecar regulations.

These efforts cumulated in an ad hoc prototype for Alex. Different configurations are available to disabled athletes who request them."

Zanardi,  1997 and 1998 Indycar champion before his 2001 career ending accident at the Lausitzring,  thanked Gianpaolo Dallara.

"Dallara does not get enough credit in Italy,  it took more work to develop my bike than Indy cars."

But beyond technology and sport, Zanardi remains an inspiration.

"It's not about strength, anyone can find strength.  Ambition will make you  push but sooner or later you will tire.  Passion, not ambition, is the key to success, being a good person is the goal.

I would like to thank my sponsors for allowing an old man like me to compete and I would like to point out that we too are tempted by doping but the vast majority stay clean.  
If you dope you are the first to lose"

Life lessons.

(H/t Marco Belloro)

September 10, 2016

Private Equity invests in the Classics

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How hot are classic cars? Surely, you read about the $2.4 million Porsche 993 GT2 .   The classic car market shows no signs of slowing,  despite bubble busting predictions of doom it is now estimated to be a $5.3 billion business worldwide and growing.

This seemingly insatiable thirst for classics is best expressed every September over on Lord March's back yard,  where literally billions of dollars worth of technically obsolete but endlessly fascinating machines are flogged within an inch of their life... and sometimes beyond.

All these wonderful lunatics have to be catered to and classic car preparation has become a huge business.   The leading player in the field is J.D. Classics, based in Maldon ( Essex),  twenty five years in the business offering everything from full restoration to custom builds to race prep and support.  In 2015 it reported sales for over $130M with ebitda of $24.5M for a profit of $18M.

Numbers that attract the interest of Private Equity and this past week it was announced that controlling interest in J.D. Classics was acquired by Charme Capital Partners.  Charme is an Italian based fund led by Matteo di Montezemolo.

Sound familiar? Yes, he's Luca di Montezemolo's son.

Investing along with Charme is a NY based, art and collectibles fund deCar Partners and FiveW Capital.  J.D.'s founder Derek Hood will maintain a significant minority share and the company will have funds needed for expansion and to acquire the inventory of cars needed to keep the whole thing going.

Of course, there is a finite supply of special cars so perhaps that's where the Revival comes in:  if they bend them, or blow them up,  companies like J.D. Classics will be there with the knowledge and expertise to rebuild anything.

Don't lift!

September 9, 2016

Temple of Oversteer: 2016 Goodwood Revival Live Stream:

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Simply the best historic racing and possibly some of the best racing you will see all year.

Schedule, all times GMT:

Friday 9th September 08.30 - 18.00
Saturday 10th September 08.30 – 18.00
Sunday 11th September 08.30 – 18.00.

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