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2012 in review

31 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The F1 Week That Was (24 June 2012)

25 Jun

It’s a good job I described this as a weekly-ish column. The last few weeks have been really busy! Anyway, here’s the latest instalment.

Valencia GP – Alonso Reigns in Spain

Despite the unpredictable nature of the season so far, F1 fans were bracing themselves for the annual ‘bore-fest’ of the Valencian Grand Prix. and I remember BBC F1 viewers at the start of the season had been really annoyed that it was one of the 10 live races they would see. Luckily for all it was an absolute cracker. It was a race of mixed emotions for me; in the middle of the race two of my three favourite drivers had their races wrecked and I was bracing myself for the prospect of another Hamilton victory (sorry McLaren fans but I really can’t stand the man). Little did I know that less than an hour later I would be screaming with excitement that Hamilton was out and that Michael Schumacher would be on the podium. The podium made up of Ferrari heroes with Alonso winning his home race was an incredibly poignant moment.

The notable development of the weekend was the heavily upgraded RB8. It  was an impressive step forward for the team and it will be interesting to see how the car performs in different conditions. The other leading teams will need to make similar steps forward in the next few races to prevent the Bulls charging away. Lewis Hamilton’s comments and body language in the drivers’ press conference on Thursday implied this wasn’t the case for McLaren, and Ferrari openly acknowledge they need to move forward. The results of the 3 remaining races before the summer break will be fascinating.

Third Drivers

Timo Glock’s unfortunate illness in Valencia, which led to him missing the race, raised the issue of reserve drivers. Marussia do not have a reserve driver, and the sudden onset of Timo’s illness made the team unable to draft in a temporary replacement (Jaime Alguersuari and Nick Heidfeld were both in the paddock, albeit with broadcasting commitments, and there may have been others). It is unusual for a team not to have a reserve driver, and Marussia’s test driver, Maria De Villota does not have a superlicence so is unable to participate in F1 races.

So why not have a reserve driver? Marussia are clearly short on funds this year – no KERS etc, and as a team at the back of the grid I think they have made the right call. Having a reserve driver is a big financial overhead for a team, and as they aren’t realistically going to be in with a chance of earning points, they are better off running with just one driver in circumstances like the ones that befell them in Valencia. If either Timo or Charles had a longer term problem then there is no shortage of drivers who they could draft in for multiple races.

A London Grand Prix?

News emerged during the week that Bernie has started talks about staging an F1 race at the London Olympic park. This news has been greeted with both cynicism and enthusiasm. I’d absolutely love to see a race in London, and when I go to the Olympics later in the summer I’ll definitely be envisaging an F1 circuit around the park. Bernie has tried for many years to get a race in London and this may be his best chance. The odds aren’t in his favour though.

Inevitably British fans love the idea of having two races. Silverstone has a long-term contract (not that those mean anything to Mr Ecclestone), and Britain is the base for the majority of the F1 teams. I’ve never been convinced, however, that it is a good thing to have two races in one country when there are so many other countries wanting to get a place on the calendar.

We’ll have to wait and see if the bid is successful.

The F1 Week That Was (27 May 2012)

27 May

This is the first of a new ‘column’ on my blog which will look back at what has happened in the previous week in the world of F1. In Monaco Grand Prix week there is always plenty to talk about and this week certainly hasn’t disappointed.

The Return of the King

(Well I have to start with my favourite driver, don’t I?)

Michael Schumacher probably got more criticism over the last fortnight (after his incident with Bruno Senna in Barcelona) than he has at any other point in his 2nd career, but he answered his critics in the way he knows best; a thumping performance out on the track. The race itself may not have gone his way, but he proved himself to still be more than worthy of his seat at the track which requires the ultimate skill from a racing driver. What matters most is that everyone has more confidence in Schuey going in to Canada where the Mercedes should perform well again.

Other Monaco thoughts

There were some great performances today, both on the track and on the pit wall. Red Bull’s strategy for Sebastian Vettel paid off and finishing fourth was a great achievement for the team alongside Mark Webber’s win. It’s unbelievable that we’ve had six different winners so far. Felipe Massa put in a great performance and taking home those 8 points will hopefully curry favour with Ferrari. Both Force India drivers finishing in the points was a brilliant achievement for the team and it was great to see Bruno Senna score a point while his team-mate went from hero to zero in just 24 hours. Seeing a Caterham race so well today was just wonderful, especially with it being Heikki. Jenson Button inevitably complained about being held up by the Finn, but Heikki had every right to defend his position and did so brilliantly. Caterham boss Tony Fernandes described it as his best F1 moment.

Tyres

The tyres have been such a major talking point this season and have divided fans on the effect they’ve had on the racing. Michael Schumacher’s recent complaints have made headlines in the last week, but was he right? I can understand that everyone (except Vettel fans) was bored in 2011 and wanted something to change to prevent an era of Vettel/RBR dominance. The blown diffuser ban has clearly had quite an effect on the team and I suspect this on its own would’ve levelled the field out quite well. When it comes to the tyres I’m definitely old school: I want to see drivers racing and pushing themselves and their cars to the limit of skill and engineering, not driving to the limit of their tyre strategies. Pirelli’s Paul Hembery doggedly maintains their position on twitter: they were asked to mix things up and they have done so. Martin Brundle made an interesting referral earlier today to a briefing at McLaren where Martin Whitmarsh admitted they simply don’t know what is going on with the tyres. I can’t help but wonder if teams will ask for a regression back towards last year’s tyres for 2013. If they do, it may well diminish the victory of whoever wins the title in 2012 if it isn’t Sebastian Vettel.

The start of silly season

The rumours about race seats for the following season always start fairly early, but I think this week saw the start of silly season where rumours really start to fly. Some may be silly, some may not. The endless speculation certainly is and right now I don’t think anything is certain. It is anticipated that Ferrari will decide soon about Massa but it is possible they won’t name any replacement straight away. Here’s what we’ve seen so far:

– Massa to leave Ferrari (probably the only rumour with any serious credibility)

– Hamilton to Ferrari (now him and Alonso are being all chummy). I just don’t see this working.

– Hamilton to stay at McLaren with one of two outcomes 1) his salary halved, or 2) a 5 year £20 million a year contract.

– Webber to Ferrari for one year

– Vettel to Ferrari in 2014 if the car is up to it

– Schumacher to retire again (possible but hopefully unlikely)

– Di Resta to Mercedes if Schumi retires (possible when Schumi does go as he is a Mercedes boy and it would be a great move – I’d love to see him trump Rosberg).

– Di Resta to Ferrari

– Alguersuari to Force India

– Perez to Ferrari (either mid-season 2012 or 2o13)

Who knows what else will emerge in the coming weeks and months, but a shake up at the front next season would definitely be interesting and I would love it if Jaime Alguersuari came back.

Rush wraps filming

The much-anticipated film Rush, about the epic battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, wrapped filming this week and its director, Ron Howard, celebrated by attending the Monaco Grand Prix. Having been following Ron on twitter for some time it has been wonderful to see the photos he’s posted throughout filming and I can’t wait to see the film when it is released in Spring 2013. I know there’s some reluctance amongst some F1 fans about having actors playing F1 drivers but I think this is silly. The film is incredibly safe hands with Ron at the helm and he has clearly been aware that F1 fans area very tough crowd to please. It is really great to see a film being made about such an epic story in our beloved sport.

Williams Take Gold at Chelsea

You may have seen on twitter and amongst the F1 coverage that Williams F1 had an

The Williams Display at The Chelsea Flower Show

entry at the Chelsea Flower Show which won a gold medal. Their creation was some topiary shaped in to an F1 car with a pit crew around it. As you can see from the picture here it really was a great piece, and King & Co who created the piece for Williams should be congratulated on their work. It is really nice to see F1 being promoted in different ways and this is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

Record Deal for Griffin

Alistair Griffin, he behind the F1 anthem and Sky Sports F1 theme ‘Just Drive’, has got a new record contract. He has been signed by the Dramatico label and his new album, ‘Albion Sky’ will be released on 2 July.

Chinese TWhispers

25 Jan

Every now and then something happens which sets F1 twitterers all aflurry. Rumour and speculation swirl round timelines with retweets and misquoted comments galore. The original event that sparked this activity often ends up sounding completely different a few hours or even minutes later. It’s like chinese whispers on twitter – what I’ve started thinking of as “chinese twhispers”.

Today was a classic example. Pirelli unveiled their tyres for the 2012 season at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Tyre unveiling events wouldn’t normally get me excited, but I’ve got such severe F1 withdrawal symptoms that even I was looking forward to hearing about them. However, it wasn’t the tyres that got everyone in aflutter this morning; it was the presence of a currently unsigned Russian F1 driver at the event.

Vitaly Petrov’s future has been a significant talking point in recent weeks due to speculation about him signing for Caterham F1. Nobody was expecting him to pop up at this event. An unemployed driver at a press conference…..oooooh that must mean he’s signed to be a test driver for Pirelli!!!!!!!!!!! Wait no….not a dickie bird was announced about that in the press conference… so is he or isn’t he??????? He’s there so it’s got to be true, right????

F1 journalists at the event were tweeting that he was there, speculating what that might mean. This was like lighting a touch paper – my timeline went crazy with speculative comments about Petrov being signed by Pirelli. Pretty impressive activity for 7am on a weekday! At that precise moment I had to leave the house and walk for a mere 8 minutes to catch my train to work.

By the time I’d sat down on the train & pulled up twitter on my phone my timeline was filling with some stating that Petrov had indeed been signed by Pirelli, yet there was still no official confirmation by the end of the press conference. Pictures of him at that press conference showed him wearing mufti rather than an official Pirelli uniform. I’m no expert on press conferences, but the absence of an announcement that he’d been signed & his choice of attire left me extremely dubious about such a signing.

It’s (sadly) an all-too-common part of our lives for someone to hear a rumour and pass it on to someone else with a more factual tone. It doesn’t take many people before that rumour is being reported as 100% fact. This pattern happens so many times on twitter when it comes to F1 rumour-mongering and it is a real shame that nobody seems to learn from it.

No driver signing in the F1 world is truth until it has come from the official source. I want to see that driver in official team clothes in a picture on that team or company’s website, or being tweeted from their official account before I’ll consider it to be fact. For me, rumours have no credibility until they’ve been tweeted by a credible source like Jon Noble (Autosport), Andrew Benson (BBC) or Kevin Eason (The Times). A journalist’s professional reputation is at stake if they report things inaccurately, so they pick their words carefully and don’t comment on speculation until it’s looking extremely likely to be true.

We’re still in the dark about Petrov’s future, but we do at least know now that he is doing some informal work with Pirelli in Abu Dhabi this week, as well as further work in St. Petersburg. His comments today indicated that nothing is finalised for him yet, even though the jungle drums are beating ever louder about a signing with Caterham F1.

As much as I want that to be true for Vitaly, I still won’t believe it until I’ve seen him in that lovely ‘racing green’.

Race Calendar Evolution

14 Jan

The French newspaper ‘Le Figaro’ reported last week that the Paul Ricard circuit in France is set to alternate F1 race-hosting with the Belgian Spa circuit from 2013 onwards.

This latest report has fanned the flames of ongoing concerns that the historic European race tracks are under threat on the F1 calendar. The 2012 calendar features 8 European races (Barcelona, Valencia, Monaco, Silverstone, Spa, Monza, Hungary and Germany, which already alternates its races between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring). Bernie Ecclestone has said himself that he would like to reduce the number of European races to 5 or 6 in order to accommodate more races elsewhere round the globe (Russia, South Africa and Mexico are all being mentioned as possible locations, as well as the already-fixed 2013 New Jersey race). Logistically it is not sensible to have more than 20 races on the calendar each year – something all parties seem to agree on – so something somewhere has got to give.

Eau Rouge - Spa.

If these reports are true, we will only see the much treasured Belgian Grand Prix every other year. When Sky Sports F1 reporter Natalie Pinkham canvassed opinion on twitter earlier in the week, the response was overwhelmingly negative. Mark Webber (he of the sweet move on Alonso through Eau Rouge in 2011) lead this response by describing it as a ‘shit idea’. Arguably France deserves its place back on the F1 calendar – it is after all the home of ‘Grand Prix’, and there are three new French drivers joining the grid in 2012 who should invigorate French interest in the sport once more. Personally I don’t have an issue with them alternating.

It is understandable why the F1 world is concerned about a reduction in European races – F1 is a sport which loves its history, and there is great sentiment about the twists and turns of the tracks which have seen so many incredible racing moments over the decades. Drivers, in particular, love the opportunity to add their names to the legends who have pulled off stunning manoeuvres at infamous corners.

However, as well as its serious nostalgia, F1 is also a sport that is constantly evolving – rules, regulations, races, teams and drivers change from one season to another. The calendar itself is currently evolving from a European focus to a worldwide one. Korea aside, the new races (Singapore and India) have been enthusiastically welcomed by all involved in the sport. Singapore is particularly treasured now as the only night race. While the Abu Dhabi circuit isn’t perfect, the atmosphere is unique and it currently serves as the sole active circuit in the Middle East (I am assuming Bahrain will not be going ahead again).

While the calendar continues to evolve, the key principle at the heart of evolution – ‘adapt or die’ – needs to be taken seriously by the European circuit owners when negotiating with Bernie in future. The best way for them to survive if under threat is to adapt by alternating with another circuit – better to be on the calendar every other year than not at all.