Tag Archives: Ferrari

Penalty Fair?

2 Sep

The annual Grand Prix at Spa rarely disappoints when it comes to providing drama. Despite an amazing pole to flag drive from Jenson Button, this year’s race will be remembered for the dramatic first race crash and other controversies which resulted in penalties being handed out.

Cars fly at Turn 1 in Spa.

 

Penalties are always a massive talking point throughout an F1 season, particularly when one driver is making regular visits to the FIA stewards, or when a series of similar incidents occur and the punishments handed out are inconsistent.

Cause and Effect

Today’s incident at the start of the race which caused a terrifying crash resulted in Romain Grosjean being handed a 1 race ban by the FIA and a 50,000 Euro fine. This was not Grosjean’s first incident at the start of a race (for example, he was involved in a dramatic start to this year’s Monaco Grand Prix) and it resulted in the scariest incident we’ve seen in a while.

The replay of the start showed Grosjean making a quick start and then moving over to the right, which squeezed Hamilton who did not veer outside of the white line to avoid contact. If you take this part of the incident in isolation then it is quite similar to other incidents we have seen this year, but the impact was so much greater because the whole of the pack were bunched together so closely at the start, while also braking to go round turn 1. If the two had come together like this later in the race and nobody else had been affected, chances are it would’ve just resulted in a grid-drop for Grosjean.  It can be difficult to differentiate between the two scenarios, but ultimately drivers need to take extra care at the start of the race.  Grosjean described the incident as a “small mistake with big consequences” and has apologised to the other drivers involved (and their fans). I’ve seen some emotional comments on twitter attacking Grosjean’s words, but I suspect he would have learned from this incident with or without the ban for the next race. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t receive it, but I’d be gob-smacked if the gravity of the situation and good fortune that nobody was seriously hurt  doesn’t have a deeper impact on him than a race ban. We saw in October 2011 the devastating consequences that a small coming together between two cars can have on a race track when there is traffic ahead. Wade Cunningham and JR Hildebrand came together at the Las Vegas Speedway which sent cars in front airborne, resulting in the tragic loss of Dan Wheldon.

The role of the FIA

The inconsistency of penalties from the FIA is one of the most controversial issues in motor racing. The inconsistency applies not only within Formula 1, but also across the feeder series of GP2, GP3 and World Series Renault where young drivers (like Grosjean) usually graduate from prior to their F1 careers. Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari’s team boss called for a higher standard of driving to be required in these lower series: “In my view, the most important thing is looking at the behaviour of drivers. It has to start in the championships before Formula 1. You see it too often in the other series that drivers are very aggressive and try to do something almost over what it is possible to do, so it is important to be very strict since they start racing and then they will arrive in F1 in a better condition for that”. Others, including GP2 and GP3 world commentator Will Buxton have supported this view. We shall have to see if Jean Todt pays attention to this call for action from his former team.

The most irritating thing from the FIA today was one of the reasons given on their official notice confirming Grosjean’s penalty: “It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race”.

The FIA official notice confirming Grosjean’s penalty

This sentence is simply infuriating. It shouldn’t matter who is affected by the incident or their position in the championship standings. All drivers must have an equal standing in such incidents whether they drive a Ferrari or an HRT.

What next?

F1 moves to Monza in just a few days, and it is not yet known who will drive the second Lotus car. In theory it should be Jerome D’Ambrosio, the team’s official reserve driver, but there is already speculation that Jaime Alguersuari could be called upon given his experience this year as Pirelli’s test driver. I would be delighted to see either driver race next weekend. This is likely to be the main talking point for the next few days until Lotus confirm the driver line-up.

Will the FIA act on Domenicali’s call for new standards? The organisation has a reputation for changing regulations on a whim to hush the cries of teams crying foul about technical details, or to stall the progress of an exceptional team/driver. They are not so smart at responding to lucky escapes. I hope the F1 paddock will not let them ignore the issues which emerged today, and that we will see a sensible, FAIR, crack down on dangerous driving throughout all the racing formula which they control.

 

 

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Every Underdog Shall Have His Day

25 Mar

The Malaysian Grand Prix rarely disappoints when it comes to on-track action, and the 2012 race was certainly no exception. The weather played a predictable hand which helped bring great, potentially unpredictable achievements for many drivers/teams who could be considered to be underdogs, while those who were predicted to excel struggled.

The Underdogs

Alonso & Ferrari – the F2012 has been one of the most highly criticised cars at the start of this season, and nobody expected a victory for them. I’m not really a fan of either Alonso or Ferrari, but I was genuinely touched by their emotion after the win, and their determination to improve.

Perez & Sauber – we’ve seen flashes of brilliance from Checo in previous races, but today was the start of something new for the young Mexican. Had he not made that one mistake he may have won, but second place is still an incredible achievement and his delight at his first podium was truly infectious. His achievement today will only further fuel rumours about his future, particularly given Felipe Massa’s performance.

Image via Sauber F1 Team

Image via Sauber F1 Team

Senna & Williams – after a disappointing first race in Australia, Bruno Senna gave the best performance of his F1 career today by finishing sixth, showing both what he can do and what the FW34 can deliver. It was a real shame that Maldonado’s engine failed, as he is starting to really show his skill. If both of them can keep this up then Bruno should be able to step out from the shadow of his uncle’s legacy and build his own reputation, while Maldonado starts to shake off his reputation of just being a pay driver.

HRT – a mixed bag for who many see as the joker in the pack today. First achievement was meeting the 107% requirement, and despite an issue for De La Rosa at the start and drive-through penalty caused by a team member being on the track at the wrong moment, a clever early tyre strategy saw Karthikeyan up in tenth before the race was red flagged, the team’s best ever position. Sadly for them it inevitably wasn’t to last, and at different stages Karthikeyan got hit by both Button and Vettel. Button conceded responsibility for his incident, but Vettel harshly blamed Karthikeyan, who ended up with a 20 second penalty being applied to his race time.

Webber and Red Bull – the Bulls are struggling at the moment, but Mark Webber is quietly getting on with racing and gathering points while his team-mate struggles. He has out-qualified him in both races so far, and is currently ahead of Vettel in the tables.

Marussia – this back marker team had another strong race, with Pic up in 7th position at one point during a pit-stop phase. Both cars finished the race despite the tricky conditions and the team appear really pleased with their performance.

Caterham – both cars finished their home race, despite a minor incident for Heikki. Petrov finished ahead of his team-mate, while for one brief moment Kovalainen set the fastest lap of the race. The pace of the car was good and it will be great to see how they perform in a normal dry race.

Vergne & Toro Rosso – the young French rookie climbed ten places up the grid and scored his first points in Formula 1; quite an achievement in what would have been incredibly difficult race conditions. It’s early days for him at Toro Rosso, but these early points will certainly please his lords and masters.

How the Mighty Fall…

The two most obvious casualties of the race were Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel. As noted above, JB showed his maturity and admitted he’d made a mistake while the current world champion was particularly ungracious in defeat. As a Vettel fan I was really disappointed in how he conducted himself on and off the track, and felt Karthikeyan’s penalty was unfair.

JB should be able to put this behind him quickly and focus on China whereas Vettel, who is already unhappy about the performance of the RB8, will have a greater mental hurdle to overcome in the next three weeks. I’m sure there’ll be some serious head-scratching going on in Milton Keynes over the next couple of weeks.

It was also disappointing to see the Mercedes perform poorly after such an excellent qualifying effort from Michael Schumacher. I hope they can turn this around and deliver some strong results.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Nose?

4 Feb

It has been a long old winter break for us F1 fans, and although there’s snow falling outside for many of us today, it feels like the F1 Spring has finally sprung. Car launch season is here! So far we’ve seen 4 of the 12 cars for the coming season, with unveilings from Caterham F1, McLaren Mercedes, Ferrari and Sahara Force India. In this post I’m going to be looking at some of what we’ve learned so far.

The Noses

The main talking point for everyone has been the nose of the 2012 car. The stepped ‘platypus’ nose which we’ve seen on the Caterham, Force India and Ferrari isn’t exactly stunning to look at, but if it is good from an aerodynamics perspective then that is all that counts.

The three

When asked about the appearance of the Caterham CT01, Tony Fernandes said “Personally I love this car, and it’s very flattering that people want to talk about our car and our team, but the main consideration is that it is quick. As long as it is quicker than last year’s car I don’t think the looks matter, and I am sure that when all the other cars are unveiled we will see a pretty common thread running through all of them. I actually think it’s beautiful. It’s different, and different does not equal ugly – in fact I think its difference is what makes it beautiful, but then I am probably a bit biased.” (Caterham F1 Website).

McLaren have opted for a ‘traditional’ nose which is sweeps down gradually. Their nose has inevitably gone down better with the team’s fans, who have been quick to gloat about how ‘nice’ it is in comparison to the other teams. We shall have to see who in fact, has the last laugh when it comes to noses. It will be interesting to see which route the other teams have opted for as the other cars are unveiled, and whether teams will opt for some “in-season rhinoplasty” if they feel the other style is more effective. Which is the most effective? Who nose?

With two different styles out there, attention is inevitably turning to the Red Bull Racing RB8 launch on Monday. Which style will the master of aerodynamics have chosen? The picture that Red Bull have posted on their website to promote the launch shows a style of nose that is almost a hybrid of the two – a gentle lip at the top which then appears to curve down slightly. This may, of course, not be the actual nose, but if it is then Adrian Newey appears to have opted to go for the best of both worlds.

The RB8 promotional image

The Teams and Drivers

Car launches also give us the opportunity to see the new team congregated together, (race) suited and booted….well, most of them do.

Caterham F1 opted to just release images of the car in the F1 Racing magazine and on their website, and have so far only released interviews with Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne. This is undoubtedly down to ongoing uncertainty about whether Vitaly Petrov will secure the second race seat alongside Heikki Kovalainen.

After last year’s drama, all eyes were on Lewis Hamilton at the McLaren launch. Hamilton didn’t appear as relaxed as his team-mate, but then he has more to prove. The McLaren launch was definitely the glitziest, but it struck me as being a tad too glitzy in order to compensate for a current lack of certainty. They have a major upgrade coming for the third pre-season test, and a cunningly disguised exhaust. Some are readying to question the legality of that exhaust after some leaked comments from a McLaren staff member.

Sadly Ferrari’s first run of the F2012 was disrupted by an exceptional amount of snow in Maranello, which resulted in an online launch. Despite the disruption of the weather, the message coming out of Maranello was loud and clear with regards to Felipe Massa – “buck up or you’re out”.

The Force India unveiling was quite traditional, and it was good to see all three drivers smiling and ready to go. Force India have a great driver line up and the battle between Paul and Nico will be great to watch this season.

Looking forward to the next few launches in the coming days, as well as the start of testing on Tuesday.