Archive

Archive for March, 2010

The Australian Grand Prix and my disgust over F1 broadcasting

March 29, 2010 Leave a comment

The Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne was a fantastic race! Certainly the weather can be thanked for most of the action at the start, but as conditions were acceptable, there was still a lot going on and this proved that the boring procession of Bahrain did not present us with the standard racing we’ll see in 2010.

Australia gave us something completely different. Three world champions coming together at the first corner was really interesting to see, and this tussle was practically a gift from a higher being for Robert Kubica, who started towards the end of the top ten cars. By the end of the first lap, Robert was right at the sharp end of the grid. It was fantastic to see! You just can’t script stuff like that.

While Kubica had a positive “feel good” race, four men suffered dearly. Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, and Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher’s race went to hell at the first corner when he was involved in an accident with Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari and McLaren escaped cleanly, but Schumacher had to pit his Mercedes to repair a bit of damage. This dropped him to the back of the pack, and it would not be until almost the end of the race that he would turn things around by passing Jaime Alguersuari almost at the last minute to finish tenth and pick up one point for the team. To add insult to injury, Schumacher was beaten convincingly yet again by Rosberg. Ouch.

Vettel suffered an even worse fate in Melbourne than he did two weeks ago in the desert. At turn 13 (or so I think), Vettel went off track. The onboard camera shows him twitching his wheel in desperation moments before the car cruises off track and spinning in the gravel. Vettel told the Red Bull team over the radio that he seemed to suffer from some kind of brake failure. This put him out of the race.

Hamilton and Webber both suffered from the very same acccident. On lap 50, Hamilton (in fifth) and Webber (in sixth) were coming into turn 13 (is this corner cursed?) when Webber made a very bold move and tried to squeeze past Hamilton. Instead, he vaulted himself off the track, along with the McLaren. This was the second or third accident that Webber had been directly involved in throughout the race. As a result, Hamilton lost one position and Webber dropped to ninth place.

Prior to the accident, Hamilton had almost been guaranteed a podium finish until his team brought him in for an additional pit stop which dropped him from third and down to fifth. In the closing stages of the race (and before his collision with Webber), Hamilton was blasting his team over the radio about the decision to bring him in to change his tires. The stop was a logical thing to do, as it was said that Hamilton’s tires were suffering tremendously. I’m not sure if that is true, but if it is then it makes Hamilton look like a whiny boy.

Jenson Button ended up cruising to victory after Vettel retired. Now that he has won with three different teams, and doing it without the help of dominant Superman of a car this time, I’m starting to respect Jenson a more and I believe that his newfound mountain of confidence is probably playing a large part in his performances this year. He looked decent againt Hamilton in Bahrain, but in Melbourne he beat his fellow Brit, plain and simple. Good job, Jenson.

With the race out of the way, I want to bitch about broadcasters. The Australian Grand Prix was aired live here in Nova Scotia at 3:00 AM or some horrible hour. I tried very hard to stay up for both qualifying and the race each night over the weekend, but I couldn’t do it. After missing the race, I was livid when I discovered that the two channels that I receive which broadcast F1, SPEED and TSN, neglected to fit the Australian Grand Prix into their Sunday morning, afternoon, or evening schedules. They didn’t even put it onto their Monday schedules! What is this? Why would they only air the race at a terribly inconvenient time early Sunady morning?

I was not going to admit defeat though, and thankfully the internet pulled through when I found a torrent for the race early in the afternoon. I didn’t get to watch the race until 7:00 PM when I transferred it to my Playstation 3 and watched it on TV, but it was well worth it. The race was absolutely fantastic, and I’m just totally confused and lost that the broadcasters would neglect to air the race again at a more acceptable hour.

The Malaysian Grand Prix is this weekend and will air at 5:00 AM local time. I have no problem waking up at this hour since I do it all week long to get ready for work in the mornings, so I doubt that I’ll miss the race in Sepang.

I think that the fact that I had to “illegally” download the Australian Grand Prix to watch says something very clear. F1 should be more readily available on the internet to fans. formula.com for example should offer live streaming (for a fee, of course), and each race should be available for download for a reasonable price. FOM, please get out of the stone age and offer these services already! And please broadcast F1 in high definition as well. That would be superb, and F1 fans all over the world would thank you for making such a move.

Unfortunately, nothing of the sort will ever happen until Bernie Ecclestone bites the dust. That little old gremlin’s days are almost numbered, so perhaps we’ll see change in a few years? One can hope.

My final word… Seeing John Travolta in Australia to wave the chequered flag and present the second place trophy to Robert Kubica made me chuckle. This makes me believe that Travolta is an F1 fan to some degree, and that’s pretty interesting!

2010 Grand Procession of Bahrain

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

With the first race of 2010 now completed, is it fair to say that the offseason rule changes damaged the sport? Yes, it is.

For an opening race, the Grand Prix of Bahrain was quite boring and lacking, and was one of the worst processions I’ve seen recent years as the top 10 hardly changed at all throughout the race, except when everyone needed to change their tires. The only excitement that came from the race would be the manner in which Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull encountered problems well into the race. It was very enjoyable watching him fight his car around the track, ending up a very well deserved and suprising fourth place after the troubles he had to endure.

The McLaren and Mercedes teams turned out to be slight duds, as both were clearly behind Ferrari and Red Bull. It was a little disheartening to see this, since I put a lot of my eggs in Mercedes’ basket prior to the start of the season. It was disappointing to see them finish fifth and sixth, but I am sure that these results will only fuel their hunger for success more. As an already loyal and staunch supporter of Mercedes who has already started ordering team merchandise, I’ll be cheering for them the whole way and hoping for the better results to show in the coming races.

Force India was quite a surprise. Adrian Sutil hoisted his car into Q3 on Saturday, but dropped back in the race. Vitantonio Liuzzi made up for this falter by picking up two points in the race for the team. Very impressive performance by Force India! They certainly are improving steadily, and it is a joy to see Vijay Mallya succeed with the former Jordan team while Midland (Alex Shnaider) and Spyker (car manufacturer) failed to amount to anything when they owned the team.

Williams was just a minor blip throughout the race. Rubens Barrichello managed to get into Q3, but if I remember correctly, he was the slowest in the third sesssion. The 2010 Williams car doesn’t appear that bad, but it’s just another typical Williams – and that says it all unfortunately. Nico Hulkenburg was predictably nowhere in qualifying or the race, even attempting a little offroad racing on Sunday. This was fine though, as it was his debut race.

Robert Kubica looked very handy and also reached Q3 in his Renault, but he had an accident early in the race and was never able to get back into the top ten. Vitaly Petrov didn’t look too bad as he kept his car where it should have been throughout the race. Overall, he had a decent F1 debut.

Toro Rosso never looked too brilliant. Like Williams, they appeared to be more of the same. Buemi did seem to have somewhat decent pace throughout the race though, and this may manifest itself better on circuits which encourage actual racing more. Jaime Alguersuari did not impress me much, as I predicted. In January, I stated that Toro Rosso would be smart not to retain Alguersuari for 2010, but they did. I fail to understand why Franz Tost thought that keeping Alguersuari instead of seeking out a decent pay driver was a good idea.

Sauber never really looked with it all weekend. It was rumoured in preseason testing that their car would be quite good, and Bridgestone said that the Sauber car probably looked after its tires better than any other car on the grid. Shame that De la Rosa and Kobayashi couldn’t step up and score a point or two in the opening race then. Sauber is one of my favourite teams of all time, so it stings a little to see them not living up to preseason expectations.

As for the new teams? Kudos to HRT for even getting to Bahrain. They didn’t do too bad considering that the weekend was mostly a test for them. During the race, they showed pretty decent pace. If things come together for HRT soon, they could be the best of the new teams. Nobody would have thought that a month ago!

Virgin failed to impress me. They mostly just putted around the back of the grid all weekend long and never looked very quick. Thankfully, their race pace was better than what we saw in testing and even practice. They should improve for sure, but I don’t think it will happen in the short term and Virgin will probably be the last of the new teams by the end of the year.

Lotus did well in the race, getting both cars to the finish line. That was a massive accomplishment for a new team, and the Lotus team was extremely pleased with their result, even if they were essentially last of the finishers. For now, they appear faster than HRT and Virgin, and they undoubtedly have the best driver pairing outside of the top four teams (Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull). I’ll also note that their car looks really beautiful in motion. Good luck to them in the coming races!

Now back to the procession aspect of the race. I won’t say much more on it, but I will note that when a few drivers, fans all over the internet, Nick Fry, and Martin Whitmarsh all express serious concern, then something is probably wrong. Bernie Ecclestone has already responded by telling the teams that they should get the message that they don’t make up the rules. Unfortunately for your senile old mind Bernie, the teams (FOTA) have far more knowledge of what would make the racing better than you. Please keep your mouth shut and let FOTA do the talking.

Oh, and I forgot one thing. Congratulations to Fernando Alonso for winning on your Ferrari debut!

Codemasters spills the beans on F1 2010 (Well, somewhat..)

March 11, 2010 3 comments

Ah, finally! Codemasters has finally shown off F1 2010 in some form. For those F1 fans who are also gamers and have been living in caves for the past year, Codemasters acquired the license for Formula One games and churned out F1 2009 last fall with a little help from Sumo Digital. I only played the PSP version of F1 2009, which was probably only average. I’m not really one hundred percent sure because the control scheme prevented me from playing the game as much I would have liked to. F1 2010 will instead be released in September on the PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360 as opposed to any handheld or underpowered Nintendo console.

F1 2010 will be, as far as I am aware, developed completely inhouse by Codemasters, and will use the same game engine (the EGO engine) that was used for GRID and DIRT 2. I actually quite like the physics in that engine, but I’m worried about the controls that we may end up with. GRID and DIRT 2 were very casual friendly racers with controls that could not decide whether they wanted to emulate an arcade or sim racer. An F1 game should feel one hundred percent sim, so I’ll be keeping an eye on that.

Anyway, here are a few scans and such. Click to enlarge.

Certainly sounds interesting, but I’m more anxious to hear about the actual racing and modes than features such as being able to talk to the media. Codemasters is quite well known for allowing players to have custom profiles and such, even allowing your name to be spoken to you in GRID, so I’m interested in seeing how they manage profiles in F1 2010. At the very least, I expect it to be as nice as it was in GRID, but we will probably also, hopefully, get a sort of appearance customization for our drivers so that we can see what they look like when they go to the podium and such. A helmet painter option also sounds like a handy idea.

More details are expected to be officially released on March 17, three days after the Bahrain Grand Prix. Hopefully Codemasters will show off some impressive gameplay videos!

How Schumacher could win in Bahrain

March 10, 2010 1 comment

It is widely known that Mercedes did not appear as quick as Ferrari, McLaren, or Red Bull in preseason testing, but a few things of interest may render everyone’s perceptions of the Mercedes pace completely irrelevant.

In testing, the Mercedes were an average of three tenths of a second off of the pace of the other top three teams. Thi isn’t a lot, but it would normally be enough to solidify Mercedes as fourth best if these times came from an actual race weekend. A lot of people said that Mercedes didn’t seem to have it, and that they just didn’t have the speed that the other teams had. I agreed with everyone, and I began to feel slightly worried for Rosberg and Schumacher. It was then that Ross Brawn said something very interesting.

“We were running heavier in testing than the other front runners.”

This, without question, means that the Mercedes should have a little more pace to it. Whether it’s a tenth of a second or just a couple hundredths, there’s definitely more to the car and it can go quicker. This was music to my ears because, during the final days of testing, Mercedes confirmed that they will be using their definitive 2010 diffuser in Bahrain, which is said to certainly bring a few more tenths of pace.

What I have gotten from all of this is that Mercedes ran a heavier and more incomplete car than that of their rivals during testing, and they still looked fairly decent. Certainly capable of fighting for podium finishes. Now we are aware that the car can go faster and that the 2010 diffuser has not even made an appearance yet. Many are predicting that the diffuser alone will bring three tenths of a second to the Mercedes car. If they had these three tenths during testing, their drivers would have finished 1-2 overall. Even if the diffuser only brings two tenths, they’ll still be right up into the thick of things, and two tenths is a very possible and realistic number.

Here are some tables to show how things will be if the diffuser brings one tenth, two tenths, or three tenths. I won’t bother going higher, because three tenths alone is enough to put them on top. I used the best times set by each driver during testing in Barcelona to calcualte this.

And so that’s how it looks. With however many tenths the diffuser brings, on top of having lower fuel loads late in the race, Mercedes will be right up there and should be very competitive.

As for the title, I do believe that Schumacher can win the opening race. Unless his three year hiatus from Formula One has weakened his abilities, he should be able to beat Nico Rosberg. It is true that Rosberg is a bit of an unknown quantity even after four years in Formula One and could very well be a great driver, but this is Michael Schumacher we are talking about. He will be no pushover for Rosberg or the competition, and if the Mercedes is half as competitive this weekend as I think it will be, then we may very well see silver on the top step of the podium.

Hispania Launches 2010 HRT Car

March 5, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s amazing what one week can do. Seven days ago, people were wondering when the Campos Meta team would launch. Here we are, a week later, and the team has a new name, new team principal (Colin Kolles, the renegade dentist) and a second driver.

Here is the 2010 HRT, which will be driven by Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna.

What do I think of it? Personally, I think that it has the strangest front end out of all of the 2010 entries. The front wing looks simplistic and the bizarre crook in the nose cone mystifies me. I’m not sure what kind of advantage that crook will give the car, but I cannot imagine it being anything revolutionary since no established teams have tried such a design. Dallara, who designed the car for HRT, seem to know their stuff though, judging by the half-fin on the rear of the car. Most established teams have opted for a full shark fin while the new teams (and Williams) do not have any fin at all. This makes the HRT interesting to me, as it’s physical design rests between the established and rookie teams.

I’m not feeling the livery. The green is pretty ghastly, as it looks like nothing more than spray paint from Walmart, especially near the barge boards. However, this is still better than Sauber’s shockingly bare and bland livery. While Sauber kept livery detail to an absolute minimum, a terrible mistake to make with a sponsorless car from an aesthetic standpoint, HRT at least had the sense to add a few patterns to the livery, such as the white stripe on the sidepods and running along the front of the car. I do believe that the HRT car does have a few sponsors on it, though.

How do I rate them? Well, the car doesn’t look god awful and the driver line up isn’t too bad. Overall, I like this car more than the Virgin, but I don’t think that they’ll be able to catch Lotus. HRT will suffer tremendously from their lack of preseason testing, but I believe that after they run a few races and work out the kinks of their car, and with Dallara and Bruno Senna involved, this car should end the season ahead of the Virgins. But, of course, this is all opinion.

2010 Formula 1 Constructors Entry List

March 4, 2010 1 comment

Well, last night the FIA posted the full 2010 entry list and it’s pretty much exactly what everybody expected, though there’s one disappointment that I’ll get to after the entry list.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
1 Jenson Button
2 Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team
3 Michael Schumacher
4 Nico Rosberg

Red Bull Racing
5 Sebastian Vettel
6 Mark Webber

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
7 Felipe Massa
8 Fernando Alonso

AT&T Williams
9 Rubens Barrichello
10 Nico Hulkenburg

Renault F1 Team
11 Robert Kubica
12 Vitaly Petrov

Force India F1 Team
14 Adrian Sutil
15 Vitantonio Liuzzi

Scuderia Toro Rosso
16 Sebastien Buemi
17 Jaime Alguersuari

Lotus Racing
18 Jarno Trulli
19 Heikki Kovalainen

HRT F1 Team
20 TBA (Karun Chandhok?)
21 Bruno Senna

BMW Sauber F1 Team
22 Pedro de la Rosa
23 Kamui Kobayashi

Virgin Racing
24 Timo Glock
25 Lucas di Grassi

Now, there are just a few things that I’d like to point out or mention..

1. Mercedes’ team name is too long! I abbreviated the name and it’s still gargantuan. If I were to write out the full name, it would be Mercedes Grand Prix Petronas Formula One Team… Wow. Isn’t that a little bit too long? I’ll bet anything that it will just be shortened to Mercedes Petronas F1 on television broadcasts.

2. HRT is what became of the Campos Meta team. Unlike USF1, Campos has managed to crawl through and should definitely be on the grid next week. They still only have one announced driver, but the second is expected to be revealed within the next few days. Karun Chandhok is expected to drive for HRT alongside Bruno Senna, who it feels was announced as a Campos driver ages ago now. USF1 refugee Jose Maria Lopez is expected to be the teams reserve and test driver.

3. The Sauber team is still being called “BMW Sauber” despite BMW not being involved in Formula One at all. Since Peter Sauber obtained Ferrari engines for 2010, this technically makes the team BMW Sauber Ferrari. Hmm, two rival European manufacturers appearing to be running a joint team? I don’t think that BMW or Ferrari will like this very much, and I would not be surprised if BMW, Ferrari, and/or Sauber appeal to have the name changed before next weekend in Bahrain.

4. No Stefan GP. This also means no Kazuki Nakajima or Jacques Villeneuve. I don’t care about Nakajima because he’s slower than molasses on a cold day, but I really wished that Jacques Villeneuve would have taken to the grid. He is the only man fit to represent my country in F1 for at least a few more years (until someone such as Red Bull takes a good look at Robert Wickens from F2), so it was disheartening to see Stefan denied USF1’s grid spot yesterday. I can’t mourn about this for too long though, since favourite drivers come and go all the time. Other favourites of mine have departed, such as Olivier Panis who is certainly well out of F1 and Kimi Raikkonen will probably want to stay in the WRC indefinitely, so there’s no use crying over spilled milk. Jacques may not be on the 2010 grid yet, but he’s like a bad cold – you think that he’s starting to leave but then he comes back when you least expect, over and over again.

And with that, there are only ten days left until Bahrain. I don’t imagine anything else newsworthy will happen before then, except for HRT announcing Karun Chandhok. Ferrari and Red Bull are also appealing to the FIA to investigate McLaren’s rear wing, because they want to know if it is legal or not, though even the teams pointing their fingers believe it will be, so there’s not a whole lot to discuss there.

For now, I will just kick back and wait for the lights in Bahrain. 2010 is going to be an amazing show, the most exciting season since I have followed Formula One. I can hardly wait!

USF1 Out

March 3, 2010 Leave a comment

The title is self-explanatory, and it is exactly what I predicted I would write about next. It was plain as day that USF1 would not be reacing this year. Comments from the team have progessively gotten more worrying over time. I will paraphrase what they’ve said each month this year.

Pre-2010: “Everything is going according to plan. There is no need for concern.”

January: “We will be on the grid in Bahrain. We won’t be pretty, but we’ll be there.”

February: “We will not be ready in time and would like to miss the first four races of the season.”

March: “We would now prefer to have the entire year off.”

The above comment came at the same time as employees at the USF1 factory were informed that they were being put on unpaid leave. It was just yesterday afternoon that USF1 officially pulled the plug. I do not get any joy from the team not being able to make the grid, but I am certainly relieved as are many other fans I would imagine. I am just glad that the USF1 situation has finally been laid to rest.

However, I do not feel sorry for the USF1 boss Ken Anderson. He submitted USF1’s entry long ago and it was believed that the team had a good number of resources and would be on the grid come 2010. Teams such as Lotus, who only got the go ahead from the FIA at the end of last year, accomplished far more in less time than USF1 and will be on the grid next weekend in Bahrain. USF1 produced nothing in over a year to show the public except a picture of Peter Windsor standing with driver Jose Maria Lopez and President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Bravo, guys.

With USF1 now officially out, the Serbian squad Stefan Grand Prix (abbreviated SGP) looks set to take USF1’s spot on the grid as FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA conduct a business review of Stefan. If everything checks out, Stefan will line up on the grid next weekend with the rebranded 2010 Toyota car, represented by Kazuki Nakajima and Jacques Villeneuve. Stefan has a car and two drivers, and they supposedly have backing from the Serbian government. They are still hellbent on racing in 2010 and I say, hey, give them the vacant spot left by USF1. They are better equipped and better prepared, plus having Villeneuve back would give us FIVE world champions on the grid as he would line up with Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, and Michael Schumacher.

USF1, exit stage right. Stefan, you’re up!