Archive — Motorsport

Note — 2019-07-15

I just watched the British Grand Prix. 😱 Sebastian Vettel needs to retire as soon as possible, before he does any further damage to his reputation. So sad to see a once great driver reduced to this.

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Why this is a bad time for Red Bull to drop their leading junior talentDieter RenckenRaceFans

It’s good to see this issue getting some more attention, from none other than Dieter Rencken. I’ve been saying this for years.

If the aim of the Junior programme is to develop F1 drivers such situations point to something seriously amiss with the selection process. In 20 years and over 350 grands prix, just three alumni – Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen – won grands prix. Of these only Ricciardo can be considered a fully ‘homegrown’ product of Red Bull’s system, the other two having been schooled elsewhere.

Dan Ticktum’s meltdown was seemingly brought about by the high-pressure environment of Red Bull’s driver programme. But this just the latest in a very long line of failures.

It’s easy to say this from the outside, but if I was a driver with some talent I would steer well clear of the Red Bull programme. The list of unnecessarily ruined careers is far, far longer than the successes.

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Horner wants kerb changes after ‘£250,000 damage’ in first practiceKeith CollantineRaceFans

Kerbs at Red Bull Ring

As usual, Christian Horner seems to be talking bull.

On the one hand, he’s bemoaning the damage being caused to cars by the kerbs. On the other hand, he’s saying they are “too inviting”. It can’t be both.

Horner believes they are “too inviting” for drivers. “They know they’re there, I just think the angle that they’re at, I think that’s what they really need to look at.”…

“It needs something either more substantial that is a real deterrent because the invitation is there for the drivers to try to use it.”

Damaging your front wing isn’t a deterrent enough?

Given this, and other recent events in Canada and France, I’m starting to wonder if F1’s biggest problem is that drivers have formed a sense of entitlement that they should be allowed to leave the circuit without consequence.

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Formula E set to become world championshipSam SmithE-racing365

Formula E cars

I’ll be honest — I thought Formula E already was a world championship. I’m a motorsport geek and I never even noticed Formula E didn’t have world championship status. Which makes me wonder what’s in it for Formula E.

Formula E seems to be doing well enough as it is without world championship status. It certainly seems to have a higher profile than, for instance, the World Rallycross Championship. And it’s definitely bigger than the FIA GT World Championship was, when that was a thing.

I’m no expert, but it seems to me as if there’s more in this for the FIA than for Formula E. I’m just surprised it hasn’t happened before.

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Note — 2019-03-14

I was sorry to hear about the death of Charlie Whiting, Formula 1’s race director, less than 24 hours before he was due to oversee the first session of the season.

Charlie Whiting has been one person in the FIA I have always respected. It was very difficult to question his judgement, and you rarely heard anyone ever seriously question it.

Charlie Whiting at the fanzone during the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix weekend

We saw Charlie Whiting addressing fans when we went to the Belgian Grand Prix last year, and he seemed happy to be speaking to fans and telling them more about the sport and his job.

It has seemed, from my distant vantage point, that the FIA have had trouble finding a successor to Charlie Whiting in the role of race director. He has held the job since 1997. I couldn’t tell you who was the race director before him, and it’s difficult to imagine who it will be after him. They are big shoes to fill.

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The game changed and they didn't: The true cause of Williams' declineDieter RenckenRaceFans

An excellent analysis setting the decline of Williams into a historical context. Dieter Rencken traces the decline back to 1998, the commencement of the first Concorde Agreement following Bernie Ecclestone’s acquisition of Formula 1’s commercial rights. This is when Bernie Ecclestone began acting in his own interests, and not that of the teams.

That certainly explains why the number of independent teams has decreased since then. The remaining teams, as Dieter Rencken notes, have changed their business models to adapt to the modern commercial realities of the sport.

Williams’s dogged determination to stick to the same business model it had in the 1980s and 1990s may be seen as noble by some. But increasingly it’s being shown to be foolhardy.

Claire Williams may refuse to allow Williams to be a B-team. But let’s not forget that Frank Williams first entered F1 with a customer chassis. Why should they continue to tie their own hands?

See also: Williams have hit a new Lowe

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Williams have hit a new Lowe

Robert Kubica testing for Williams

It would have been an embarrassing start to the year by anyone’s standards. But for a team like Williams, it has been utterly mortifying. Formerly known as Williams Grand Prix Engineering, this team has always taken a great pride in its engineering excellence. In the past couple of years, that reputation has been shattered. Read full article

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Sauber and Alfa Romeo to keep fighting for ambitious results as Alfa Romeo Racing

Alfa Romeo Sauber car

Sauber and Alfa Romeo to keep fighting for ambitious results as Alfa Romeo Racing

The 2019 Formula One World Championship will see two of the most historical brands in motorsport – Sauber and Alfa Romeo – return to circuits across the globe with 2007 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen and the young Italian Antonio Giovinazzi driving for Alfa Romeo Racing, formerly referred to as the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team.

It’s a bit of a shame to see the Sauber name disappear. Even when BMW owned the team they kept Sauber in the name.

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Michael Schumacher’s son progresses to bring hope in tragic F1 tale — Richard Williams, the Guardian

Mick Schumacher

Michael Schumacher’s son progresses to bring hope in tragic F1 tale — Richard Williams, the Guardian

As always, Richard Williams is well worth reading. This time, a sensitive piece on the mixed feelings some people have about Michael Schumacher, five years on from his skiing accident, as his son Mick prepares to make the step up to Formula 2.

The centrepiece of this article is an interview with Damon Hill, one of Schumacher’s fiercest rivals. As usual, Hill is thoughtful when reflecting back.

Today, everyone with any direct relationship to Michael Schumacher, past or present, chooses their words with extreme care when discussing his life since the accident. “To even contemplate it is frightening,” Hill says. “Whatever my feeling was about Michael and the way he went about his career became irrelevant. From a human point of view, it was so upsetting.”

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Slow LMP1s: you asked for it

Slow LMP1s: you asked for it

Hazel Southwell explains why hybrid technology is the future, and why reverting back to old-fashioned V8s wouldn’t solve anything, by looking at how the current LMP1 regulations are panning out.

…the privateer P1s do not go as fast because they are not as good [as the hybrids]…

When a combustion-only car storms up the Le Mans pit straight and then brakes into the curve of turn one, all the energy and fuel burnt through to accelerate turns to heat in the brakes – and is gone. When it gears up the torque to get up the hill to Dunlop, the heat the engine fires up disappears into the night as nothing, fumes out of the exhaust that don’t move the car forwards.

👏

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F1 season ends and building of the broadcasting paywall begins

David Coulthard interviewing Pierre Gasly

F1 season ends and building of the broadcasting paywall begins

Channel 4’s Formula 1 commentator Ben Edwards began his broadcast yesterday saying, “For many of us, it’s an end of an era.” He talked about it being Fernando Alonso’s final race, and Kimi Räikkönen’s swansong at Ferrari. Not directly mentioned, but telegraphed, was the fact that this was also the last F1 race to be shown on free-to-air TV in the UK, with the exception of next year’s British Grand Prix.

Channel 4 have done an exceptional job of covering the sport over the past three years. I share Richard Williams’s weary assessment of the Sky coverage we must pay through the nose for:

There are aspects that stretch the patience, like the rushed and inane encounters of the grid walk and the plethora of pensioned-off drivers saying nothing very much.

When Sky first shared the rights with the BBC in 2012, the big names went to Sky — but the good names stayed with the BBC. Channel 4 have continued in that vein, if anything improving on the BBC. Their diverse range of pundits are sharper, wittier, more perceptive, more insightful, with more recent race experience.

From now, British viewers are left worse off — and so is F1 itself.

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Robert Kubica will return to Williams F1 in 2019…

Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica will return to Williams F1 in 2019…

Analysis from Mark Hughes.

I was always a huge fan of Robert Kubica. So on the one hand it is delightful that he will return to race in F1, eight years on from his horrific rally accident.

But I really hope Williams are doing this for the right reasons. Knowing Williams’s history with drivers, they are probably not doing it for the right reasons.

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Fernando Alonso: the F1 great who couldn’t catch a break

Fernando Alonso on his deckchair

Fernando Alonso: the F1 great who couldn’t catch a break

On the eve of Fernando Alonso’s final Formula 1 race, Andrew Benson has written a brilliant five-part article on the key moments in his career. This series is full of fascinating anecdotes and new details about the breakdown of his relationship with McLaren in 2007, what he was really like with Ferrari, and what drove him to move back to McLaren.

More than ever, it’s clear that those who have worked most closely with Fernando Alonso regard him as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time. It’s all the more shocking that his career has delivered so little in terms of silverware. This series helps explain exactly why that is.

This is probably one of the best articles about Formula 1 I have read for several years.

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A farewell from BadgerGP.com

A farewell from BadgerGP.com

After a decade (yes, a decade!) of BadgerGP.com we’re closing down after the 2018 season.

One of the first — and best — Formula 1 blogs is closing its doors.

In 2010, I was honoured to be asked if I would like to contribute an article to BadgerGP. The outcome was, The Vettel-Webber backlash: Are Red Bull losing their Fizz?

As noted by the F1 Broadcasting Blog on Twitter, it’s a shame to see another independent motorsport website close.

Thanks to Adam Le Feuvre, and everyone involved with F1 Badger and BadgerGP over the years.

See also: The survival of independent motorsport websites

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Re-live the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix

Re-live the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix

Today it is ten years since the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, the most extraordinary championship decider since I started watching Formula 1 in the mid-1990s. Formula 1 have made the full race available on YouTube today.

The race was gripping. The Ferrari team believed they’d won the championship as Felipe Massa crossed the finish line to take race victory in front of his home crowd. Soon after, two corners further back, Lewis Hamilton made a vital pass for 5th, to clinch his first title.

But it’s the post-race events that live strongly in my memory. That year, ITV streamed F1 sessions online. There you could continue watching the raw FOM world feed after ITV’s transmission had finished. This was a novelty, before the days of the BBC’s extended Red Button forum, or the umpteen-hour-long post-race breakdown we now get as routine on Sky.

Felipe Massa’s dignity in defeat was deeply impressive. His conflicted face as the Brazilian national anthem played out on the podium said it all.

Despair at having lost his best chance to become champion. Pride at having done the best job he could.

Up to that year, Massa was a bit of a joke driver. Not since then.

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“He cheated!” How Pérez mugged Grosjean at the virtual safety car restart

“He cheated!” How Pérez mugged Grosjean at the virtual safety car restart

I’d read about concerns that some drivers were somehow exploiting some kind of loophole in the rules surrounding the virtual safety car (VSC), but I never understood what that loophole was. But this from Keith Collantine and Dieter Rencken is a crystal-clear explanation of what was going on when Sergio Pérez gained two seconds on Romain Grosjean during a virtual safety car period.

It seems far from ideal that this is able to happen. Especially if drivers are beginning to focus on pre-empting when the VSC period might end, rather than on driving safely, at a time when the racetrack is meant to be neutralised.

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McLaren admits its Suzuka tyre selection was “wrong”

McLaren admits its Suzuka tyre selection was “wrong”

Despite the many management changes over recent years, this might be peak McLaren. Rumour has it that McLaren’s odd allocation of tyres for the Japanese Grand Prix is down to the fact that it forgot to submit its choice to Pirelli in time. Gil de Ferran insists that it was a deliberate decision, even though it’s clearly wrong. Wut? 🤔

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Formula 1’s first, and chaotic, use of the safety car

Formula 1’s first, and chaotic, use of the safety car

I had no idea that this was the first time a safety car was used during a Formula 1 race. It puts some modern controversies around race results into perspective!

When did Formula 1 first use the safety car? If your answer revolves around an introduction during the middle of the 1992 season, and first used in the Brazilian round early in ’93, then you’re wrong.

And we’re not even referring to the F1 statisticians’ favourite anomaly that the Indianapolis 500 was – for a time – part of the world championship. There was one occasion before its modern-day introduction that the safety car, or pace car as it was known, was employed. The 1973 Canadian Grand Prix, 45 years ago. And given the experience, it’s little wonder the concept was then dropped for near enough two decades.

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Another burned bridge could drive Alonso to Nascar

Another burned bridge could drive Alonso to Nascar

This opinion piece from Dieter Rencken on how Fernando Alonso has destroyed his own F1 career contains an insight on the fate of his team bosses that I wasn’t aware of before.

Every F1 team boss Alonso has driven for save Paul Stoddart (who owned Minardi, and thus could not be fired), lost his job during Alonso’s tenure with that team: Renault’s Flavio Briatore (also his manager), Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali and Marco Mattiacci, McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh, Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier. One could also add the names of more than a few senior engineers to this roll call.

It’s quite extraordinary that even Alonso’s heavily-hyped potential move to IndyCar could be thwarted by his own past behaviour.

From me: Fernando Alonso’s failed F1 career presents him with the chance to become a legend

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Photo — 2018-09-15

Trying to use the new F1 timing app

The new Formula 1 timing app is comically bad. Even on quite a large screen, it only shows 10 drivers — at a gigantic font size. Meanwhile, the live driver tracker is juddery and completely unusable.

But hey, I guess it uses Sean Bratches’ new fonts.

The old app wasn’t perfect, but at least it gave you all the information you needed to follow a session, and the driver tracker was usable.

It’s difficult to believe Liberty Media did any usability testing with any F1 fans before unleashing this style-over-substance atrocity.

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Wolff says rivals ‘didn’t have the balls’ to commit to Ocon deals

Wolff says rivals ‘didn’t have the balls’ to commit to Ocon deals

I am as upset as anyone else that Esteban Ocon probably won’t be racing in F1 next year. But this is not a good look for Toto Wolff. The other teams are perfectly entitled to hire whoever they want (particularly if a top-notch driver like Daniel Ricciardo becomes available).

If Toto Wolff thinks Esteban Ocon should be racing next year, he could always have given him a Mercedes drive. Notably, he hasn’t.

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“Stay on this! Stay. On. This.” — The split second decisions behind Formula 1’s television direction

“Stay on this! Stay. On. This.” — The split second decisions behind Formula 1’s television direction

One for the geeks. Formula 1 have released a fascinating video of the moment Sebastian Vettel crashed out of the German Grand Prix, including talkback from the FOM production team responsible for the main TV world feed.

This is a brilliant insight into the amount of work and split-second decision making that goes behind telling the story of a complex race while dramatic events are unfolding live. I generally admire the high quality standard of the FOM world feed. But this video shows that there is a even more going on behind the scenes than I imagined.

It is particularly interesting to see how aware the team are of relatively minor incidents like Carlos Sainz changing to intermediate tyres, but they opt not to reflect this on the broadcast for fear of distracting from the bigger picture: “This is the story.”

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