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Monday, 1 July 2013

Tyres Again

Indianapolis 2005.  Remember when only the Bridgestone runners entered the race?  It was reported that Michelin could not guarantee a tyre that would withstand the loads at turn 13.  14 of 20 cars missed the race after 8 pre-race failures and the crowd were not pleased.

Silverstone too was dominated by tyre talk.  Hamilton, Perez, Vergne and Massa all suffered tyre failure.

What was to blame?  Was it the sharp kerbs at the track?  During the race drivers were being advised to avoid the kerbs.  Will Pirelli produce a tyre that can withstand uneven surfaces and track debris for a two hour race before Nurburgring and Spa?

After Vettel's gearbox failure and Hamilton's puncture from the lead, Rosberg took the win.  He was also developing tyre issues but pitted in time.  Hamilton fought back from last to fourth ahead of Raikkonen but was not happy to race when he felt unsafe.

Webber battled up to second and Alonso turned a poor qualifying into third place.

Will a company with the fine history and reputation of Pirelli continue this exposure into 2014?  It remains to be seen.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Silver Stone | Red Arrows

Lewis Hamilton put his Silver Arrows on pole by almost half a second for the race at Silverstone today.
He was 0.452 seconds ahead of Rosberg for an all Mercedes front row.

Hamilton seemed very relaxed, waving to the crowd from the pit lane during qualifying and the result shows why.  He came in six tenths in front of Vettel who will be third on the grid alongside Mark Webber who is in his last F1 race at Silverstone.

Webber will be a Porsche Le Mans Series team driver next year.

Hamilton took part in a Red Arrows demonstration as a passenger before the race.  Although he said it made him feel sick, perhaps the G forces prepared him for the high speed ride on the Silverstone track.

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Or tyred for UK readers...

We live in an age of heath and safety and sustainablility targets as key performance indicators.

As Mercedes head to court this week to explain why they participated in a Pirelli tyre test, maybe it's time to wonder if pitstops are really that interesting.

Stops have been reduced to less than three seconds to change all four tyres.  All the fuss has originated from Pirelli being asked to design tyres that wear out more quickly to make racing 'more interesting'.  The new compounds were perceived by some to have gone too far and Mercedes in particular were considered a suitable team to evaluate if and why.  Many teams now feel tyres wear too quickly with Mercedes having a particular problem with their rear boots.

Next year we will have smaller, more fuel efficient engines in an attempt to make cars more closely aligned to the road car fuel efficiency drive.   Why then have tyres that are anything but sustainable, becoming next to useless after 50 miles or so.  Surely technology should be directed to designing tyres that will last for more than 1000 miles or all season?

Whether an F1 car will ever be sustainable is open to considerable doubt.  The sport is certainly a technology testbed but how long will it remain at the pinnacle of performance?

Should Bradley Wiggins be given a heavier bike with knobbly tyres so he goes more slowly and is more aligned to the struggling commuter on his hybrid?

I dont find watching the queue at the tyre store that interesting as I wait my turn for a new set of radials.  Even if it happened more quickly it would never be exciting.  Uninterrupted racing by cars on the limit of what the engineers can provide will always be however.

As for making cost savings by reducing testing.  Simulators are not cheap and real safety results from testing the final hardware of any product in controlled conditions for as long as necessary not just a 3D image of the same.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

No Bull in a China Shop

Fernando Alonso rode his prancing horse to win ahead of  Kimi Raikonnen's Lotus in China today.  Lewis Hamilton turned his pole position into a podium in third.

Vettel closed on fresh tyres at the end to within a car length of the Merc to take fourth.

Mark Webber was red faced as a wheel fell of his bull leading to his retirement. 

China Grand Prix

As we enter the Chinese Grand Prix today, Vettel and Webber are wearing number 1 and number 2 on their caps.  Let's see how they race each other.

Webber was placed at the back of the grid, being unable to provide a fuel sample after qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton is on his first pole for Mercedes pole with soft tyres ahead of Raikonnen and Alonso.

Vettel has chosen a harder compound and starts ninth on the grid behind Jenson Button.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Drivers Apologise for Beating Team Mates

It is a long while since this has happened but it did today

Race winner Sebastian Vettel apologised to his team mate Mark Webber and the press for overtaking him.

Lewis Hamilton in third said Nico Rosberg deserved to be on the podium not himself.

How does all this come about in competitive motorsport?

Basically due to tyre degradation. The new compounds mean that to win a  Grand Prix, a leader has to slow down. To a following driver this appears like an easy target, an adversary in trouble. Hence the messages to the pit wall by Vettel and Rosberg that their team mates should move out of the way as they were too slow.  Both Vettel and Rosberg were told their team mates were conserving tyres and could go faster and  that therefore they should hold station. Only Rosberg listened.

So Vettel passed Webber and won.  Rosberg held station leaving Hamilton to take third.

The direction to Pirelli to produce higher wear compounds was intended to introduce an element that would result in closer racing.  Perhaps the drivers will catch up with the actual effect next race. 

Vettel Pole Malaysia

Sometimes a pole position is a matter not of outright pace but of timing.

Vettel's pole was a great example of this. His pole time was some ten seconds slower than practice times.  Practice was relatively dry on the track. However as a wet final qualifying drew to a close and the track dried off, each car that went out eclipsed the previous one where the provisional pole sitter had completed his final lap. Hence Raikkonen's pole time was bettered by Rosberg, Rosberg's by Webber, Webber's by Hamilton. Then Hamilton was displaced by Alonso, Alonso by Massa and Massa by Vettel.  Exactly so they finished on the grid, in that reverse order.

So as in Australia, albeit for reasons of weather rather than degradation, mechanical grip and tyre wear are and will be the key issues in the outcome of the race itself.

Two or three stops will be computed by the teams as race strategy is determined.  Will Raikkonen succeed, again from seventh position on the grid, in managing his tyres to win with a two stop strategy?  Or will Vettel or Alonso or Hamilton succeed this time by better preservation of their tyres? 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Gloomy Brits

Toward the end of last season both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were very upbeat about how competitive their McLaren cars had become.

Now in separate teams, Button was very downside about how far the team had to go to catch up after a disappointing Australian Grand Prix.

Having started his contract with Mercedes, Hamilton was immediately very cautious in lowering expectations for 2013.  He appeared to change his view however after surprisingly good results in testing in Barcelona.  Now after Australia, his disappointment was evident as although 5th place was not a bad showing, there seemed to be more potential after qualifying and he slipped behind Raikonnen, Alonso, Vettel and Massa in the race.

Kimi Post Australia

Kimi Raikkonen is feeling confident in his new car after winning the Australian GP.

He told his engineers as he crossed the line - "I told you the car was good".  This is may be less newsworthy than "leave me alone I know what I am doing" but signifies an even more confident driver for the season ahead.

He added later that maintaining the pace and managing the tyres was easy, giving him opportunity to lower lap times whenever he needed to, even putting in a fastest lap as the race drew to a close.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Kimi Wins Race One!

Kimi Raikonnen brought his Lotus home  for victory in  Australia.   He managed his tyres to complete the race with only two pit stops.

Fernando Alonso took second ahead ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

Massa, Hamilton and Webber made up the top six.

Adrian Sutil led the race for several laps in the Force India and was very happy with his seventh place ahead of Di Resta and Button. 

Red Bull Can the Front Row

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber closed out the front row for the Australian Grand Prix.

Qualifying was delayed to race day today due to heavy rain.   Lewis Hamilton came in third to sit behind Vettel on the grid.

Felipe Massa outqualified his team mate Fernando Alonso by 3 thousandths of a second and Nico Rosberg completed the top three rows in sixth.   The two Lotus cars of Kimi Raikonnen and Romain Grosjean took row four. 

The margin between Webber and Hamilton was 0.26 seconds. Vettel was 0.42 seconds clear of Webber. 

Raikonnen was 0.215 behind Rosberg but 1.331 behind the pole position time of Vettel. 

So at last we have an indication of pace for 2013, in qualifying trim at least.  The McLaren of Perez did not make Q3, ending up 15th and  Jenson Button came in 10th ahead of Hulkenberg in the Sauber - the car driven last year by Perez. 

The smartest move turns out to be Hamilton going to Mercedes.  Red Bull appear dominant for the fourth year running. 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

OZ No Wheels

The 2013 F1 season starts off with only Q1 completed as Saturday draws to a close

Already the Red Bulls have been showing their pace but it was Mercedes and Nico Rosberg who topped what qualifying there was in torrential weather.

Alonso, Grosjean, Perez, Webber and Massa complete the front three rows as it stands

Australian GP qualifying Q2 and Q3 will take place tomorrow followed by the Grand Prix itself.

Hamilton and Vettel would appear to be the most likely front row with McLaren admitting their car has a long way to go to be on the pace.

How ironic it is that Hamilton and Button have swapped places in Brawn's Mercedes team. Button won the world championship before promptly leaving and now Hamilton has his seat and appears to have the quicker car.