Tag Archives: Indy Car

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.

 

 

Why Britain Should (But Doesn’t) Adore Dario Franchitti

28 May

2012 Indy 500 Winner Dario Franchitti celebrating with his wife, Ashley Judd.

Sunday 27 May – a great day in Motor sport. The Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, right? Well yes, and it was quite a good race around the streets of Monte Carlo, but it was nothing compared to the excitement of the Indianapolis 500 and the brilliant 3rd win notched up by our very own Dario Franchitti…..

….Dario who? Yes, that’s right. Our most accomplished current racing driver in a major racing series (3 wins of the Indy 500 and 4 Indy Car Series titles)  and many Brits won’t recognise his accomplishments when they really, really should. If Lewis Hamilton had achieved the same levels  of accomplishment in Formula 1 yesterday (let’s substitute Monaco for the Indy 500) as Dario has in Indy Car it would be headline news on every news bulletin and newspaper. Instead, there are minor news stories and limited recognition.

As a passionate, British petrol head it makes me really sad that Dario doesn’t get the recognition he deserves here in Britain. This is my take on why we really should cherish this great racer, but we don’t.

Dario checks all the boxes when it comes to reasons why might love him: British, lots of prestigious wins, extremely good-looking, famous wife….all the things that Brits seem to look for in their sporting heroes (we’re a shallow bunch, aren’t we?).

The Indy Car driver fraternity always seems like more of a family than their equivalents in Formula 1, and Dario is clearly loved by his racing brothers. Their collective ongoing tributes to the brother they lost so tragically last year in Las Vegas, Dan Wheldon, have been incredibly moving. I follow Dario, his wife Ashley and Dan’s sister Holly on twitter, and the ongoing love and support between the Franchittis and the Wheldons is always so touching.

For a country so obsessed with WAGs, we ought to be in awe of Dario’s wife, actress Ashley Judd. As well as being a talented actress, Ashley is an activist, writer and feminist. Perhaps if she had a perma-tan, plastic boobs, and the ability to inspire young girls to want to marry a rich sportsman when they grow up so they can shop all day, we’d know more? I have very little time for the WAGs of most British sportsmen (let’s face it they’re not the most inspirational bunch) but have a total girl crush on Ashley.

So why doesn’t Dario grace our sporting headlines more?

The answer is, inevitably, the British media. Our national motor sport is Formula 1 and sports editors have very little time for other motor series both here in the UK and overseas. Finding stories about the Indy 500 takes some effort, let alone other race results during the Indy Car season. I looked across all the main UK newspaper websites today, and there were no major headlines in the sports sections about yesterday’s victory, just stories most of the way down the page or tucked away in the motor sport section. The Independent and The Daily Express had no story at all. The Daily Telegraph probably had the best story out of the broadsheets which included a video (woohoo!), while the Metro had a big spread on the story in their print edition.

As part of my research for this article I watched tonight’s Reporting Scotland (the BBC local news programme for Scotland) via Sky, and Dario’s win was covered there as the final sporting story. The sports reporter described it as a “Major Scottish Success”. Scotland are clearly proud of their man from West Lothian, but that pride really should extend to the rest of Britain.

Our media coverage of sport is incredibly insular, and it is ironic that our media here in Britain which normally sneers at their American counterparts for committing that very sin are guilty of not looking at the accomplishments of their fellow Brits racing across the pond.

Many British Indy Car fans were seething last year at the British media coverage of the tragic death of our other forgotten racing hero, Dan Wheldon. His Indy 500 glory earlier that year got the same limited media coverage as Dario’s did this year, and many Brits probably hadn’t even heard of Dan, but as soon as there was a tragedy to feast on, the press were all over it like a flock of vultures.

It is disgraceful that tragedy needs to strike in order for a British Indy Car driver to be headline news here.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year

If a British Formula 1 driver wins the Drivers Championship (or at least comes jolly close) it is almost automatic that they are on the nominee list for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell, Graham Hill, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark all either won the award or 2nd or 3rd place awards. The late rally driver, Colin McRae came 3rd a few years back. Other British motor sport drivers don’t stand a chance as the public never get to hear about them properly.

When the 2011 nominees were announced I remember Dario expressing his sadness that Dan wasn’t on the list, and his sad acceptance that he himself was always overlooked. I fear it is inevitable that the same will happen again in 2012, particularly with it being an Olympic year. Dario won the BBC Scotland Sports Personality of the Year award in 2007 but, again, he should be recognised across Britain.

Thankfully the community of racing fans I know through twitter do know and mostly love Dario Franchitti. We’re proud of our man, and so I can only conclude by thinking “quality not quantity” when it comes to the British contingent of “Team Franchitti”.

App Review – Part 5

29 Apr

It has been a while since I last did an app review, but here’s another collection of apps covering not only Formula 1, but other four-wheeled racing formulas as well. I hope you find it a useful resource.

Red Bull Racing Spy
(Free on iPhone, iPad)

After a slightly delayed launch, the Red Bull Racing Spy app is finally here. The app serves as an inside look at the team, and serves as a companion to one of the team’s official twitter accounts – @redbullf1spy.

The app features updates from the team at each race, including photos, a team diary which pulls together various feeds including twitter, facebook, the news section of their website, and some facts and figures about each race.

It is a nice little app, but if you already follow the team on twitter and facebook then it doesn’t add a massive amount.

DHL Fastest Lap
(Free on iPhone)

This app supports the DHL Fastest Lap award and allows F1 fans to participate in a season-long competition to win a 3 day pass to a race of your choice, or for individual race prizes of a DHL F1 package (the F1 2011 game for PC, a baseball cap, rucksack and a DVD). Before each race, fans need to predict what the fastest lap time will be, and which driver will record it.

The app also features information about the F1 season – standings, drivers, a calendar, and best of all, a photo gallery.

The only drawback to this app is that it requires users to have a Facebook account which, as you may have seen in one of my previous reviews, is something I’m not keen on.

DTM
(£1.49 on iPhone and iPad)

Today is an appropriate day to be reviewing this app, as the DTM 2012 season finally gets underway at Hockenheim.

The app features standard information about DTM – the calendar, driver profiles, tables and statistics.

Also included is a series of video clips about DTM – interviews, previews and features, as well as summaries of action on the track.

The other ‘media’ inclusion is photo galleries – there are photos of the track action from last year’s season which is the positive inclusion. Not so positive though is the Grid Girl photo gallery. I can appreciate that some blokes will like this feature but as a woman I don’t like it.

Overall it is a useful app. I’m not entirely sure that its features warrant a £1.49 price, but I may reconsider that during the season.

Team Ganassi
(Free on iPhone)

This is the official team app of Chip Ganassi and features information about each of the teams and drivers that they sponsor across American motor racing. In Indy Car this includes Target Chip Ganassi (Scott Power and Dario Franchitti), Service Central Chip Ganassi (Graham Rahal) and Novo Nordisk (Charlie Kimball). In NASCAR it covers Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya, and in Rolex Grand-AM Sports Car Series, Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett.

As well as information about the drivers and series, there is Ganassi TV which includes a series of video interviews and features. There is also a trivia quiz about motor racing and the people involved in the teams.

The most fun feature of all though is the Fan Cam. This allows users to include their photo on a series of templates from Indy 500 winner to a team mascot.

V8 Timing 2012
(Basic app free, in app purchase £9.99 on iPhone, iPad, Android)

This app covers the V8 Supercars Australian race series (featured on Motors TV for non-antipodeans), and was built by the same software company who did the official F1 2012 live timing app (Soft Pauer).

The features are almost identical to the F1 2012 app – live timing and track positioning can be obtained through an in-app purchase, and there are the same basic free features containing news and information about the series.

I won’t go over the ins and outs again as I’ve already covered that in the F1 2012 app review, and I have to confess that the reason I’m including this in my review is that it highlights the premium that F1 fans are paying for the live data on their app.

The V8 Supercars series includes 15 races with 28 drivers, and the live feed data is £9.99. That works out at 67 pence per race, whereas Formula 1 fans are paying £1 per race for the data through their app which is priced £19.99.  FOM have defended the price of their app citing £1 per race as very good value. They might want to take another look at that…

Storm Clouds Are Gathering

22 Mar

The Formula 1 season has barely begun, but it already feels like it’s never been away. As race 2, Malaysia, rapidly approaches, tensions appear to be increasing, and I’m not just talking about the stormy weather forecast for the weekend. Here’s my look at what has been bubbling up over the last few days, as well as a look ahead to the weekend.

Inter-team bickering

A new season always brings new technical developments, and an inevitable knock-on effect of that is disputes between teams about who may be breaking FIA rules or breaching informal agreements between teams. Red Bull and Mercedes are currently engaged in a spat about the respective legality of their Renault engine behaviour and the  Mercedes ‘Super F-Duct’. The FIA has ruled that both are legal, and since Ferrari aren’t involved in the dispute those rulings are likely to stay in place (ooo handbag!). I hope this dispute doesn’t rumble on all season as it can get incredibly tedious.

A ruling in the long-running intellectual property theft case between Sahara Force India and Caterham F1 and Aerolab has also emerged today. If you’re not familiar with the case, Force India accused Aerolab, a wind tunnel supplier, of copying the F1 team’s design in the development of the Team Lotus T127. Legal proceedings were also launched against Mike Gascoyne (Caterham F1’s then-Chief Technical Officer) and the team. The ruling conceded some intellectual property ‘theft’ on the part of Aerolab and awarded Force India 25,000 Euros in damages. However, much more significantly, the High Court ruled in favour of Aerolab with regards to £4 million of unpaid legal costs; a bill which Force India really could do without right now with the near-collapse of Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines.

Drivers

After their performances in Melbourne, all eyes are on Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa and for once this is due to unrelated events.

Lewis Hamilton’s disappointment at coming third in Melbourne was plain to see last Sunday as he stood stony-faced on the podium and then spoke through gritted teeth during the post-race official press conference. After such a tumultuous season in 2011, the media are desperately looking for any sign that Lewis hasn’t got over all of his ‘issues’ from last year. Whether he has or not, Lewis really needs to learn some good sportsmanship and appear graceful in defeat. In his Telegraph column this week, David Coulthard pondered whether Jenson Button’s seemingly easy success in Melbourne has knocked Lewis’s confidence. I think there is little doubt that it has knocked him, and if Lewis can’t strike back with a strong victory in the first few races then his frustrations may re-emerge on the track.

Felipe Massa did not fare well in Melbourne, and an unusually worded press release from the Ferrari team about his new chassis has ignited speculation about whether he will still be driving for them all season: “Felipe knows he can count on the team to do everything, both from the technical and the operational point of view, to put him in a better state to show off his talents – even at the cost of extra work in these few days that separate the Australian race from the one in Malaysia. For example work has already begun in the Sepang pits to prepare chassis number 294, which replaces the number 293 and will be used by the Brazilian in the second race of the season. This choice was taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park” (from http://www.ferrari.com). A number of drivers have been linked with Massa’s seat, including Sauber driver Sergio Perez and currently unemployed Jarno Trulli. Ferrari and Massa have been quick to dismiss these rumours but they have a habit of not going away. If Massa doesn’t improve his performance on track then this will only continue to distract all parties.

F1 this weekend

Melbourne saw all cards get thrown up in the air, and it still isn’t clear exactly how things compare between some of the teams. Mercedes and Lotus both clearly have very strong cars, but they were hindered by problems over the weekend. Hopefully the race at Sepang will bring both teams more luck and we’ll see what they’re really capable of.

The mid-field appears to be a tightly bunched pack and we should see some fierce battles for points.  Williams, in particular, appear to have turned themselves around, and I really hope to see them do well and score the points they so narrowly missed out on in Melbourne.

At the back of the pack, Caterham will be seeking to show what they can really do after some bad luck in Australia. Heikki Kovalainen will be hindered by a 5 place grid penalty, but he should be able to push forward through the field. Whether he will need to negotiate the mobile chicanes of the HRT cars won’t be known until after qualifying – will they be able to pass the 107% rule?

The greatest unknown in all of this though is the weather. Stormy weather is forecast which would inevitably complicate things further. If the race is wet I’d expect Button and Schumacher to do well, given their particular skills in the rain.

Other action this weekend

The GP2 season kicks off in Malaysia, and after only occasionally dipping in to coverage in previous years, I’m looking forward to getting to know this formula a lot better in the coming year. Coverage on Sky will, of course, help this rather than somewhat erratic coverage on Eurosport last year.

Also starting this weekend is the Indy Car season. The first race from St Pete’s is being broadcast on Sky Sports F1, and I’m looking forward to getting in to it again. I’m sure interest will be higher amongst F1 fans this year, with Rubens Barrichello competing, and it’ll be great to see him getting his teeth in to the races. I also can’t wait to see Dario Franchitti back in action.

Some Reflective Moments

There’ll also be a real sense of poignancy races on both sides of the globe this weekend.

It is the first Indy Car race since the tragic loss of Dan Wheldon, and this street circuit takes place in his adopted home town. Dan’s sister Holly will be waving the green flag, as well as presenting the winner’s trophy. A street on the track has also recently been dedicated as ‘Dan Wheldon Way’.

Back in Malaysia, the scene of the equally tragic loss of Moto GP rider Marco Simoncelli, drivers and teams have been visiting T11 where Marco lost his life, and pausing to remember their friend. Fernando Alonso’s comments about being in Sepang this weekend and remembering Marco have been particularly touching.

 

This will be a weekend packed full of racing action; bring it on.