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Kovalainen gives Webber’s Red Bull wings

June 28th, 2010 No comments

The European Grand Prix produced the most entertaining race yet seen on the relatively new circuit as Sebastian Vettel drove practically unchallenged to his second victory of the season.

On a track where we have come to expect a procession, Sunday’s race provided plenty of dramatic moments. None more so than when Mark Webber’s Red Bull was launched into the air after ploughing into the back of Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus.

It is testament to the safety of modern Formula One that Webber (and Kovalainen) were able to walk away unhurt from such a massive shunt but after the incident many seemed to hold Heikki responsible; they felt he should have moved over to let Mark through.

Webber later wrote on his website:

I understand as well as anyone that F1 isn’t a charity event; you have to fight for every position – but not when you’re five seconds off the pace and you have one of the quickest cars in the pack behind you.  I mean, how long was Heikki going to stay ahead of me? Another 15 seconds? He must be asking himself whether it was worth it.

Webber’s boss, Christian Horner, also held Mark completely blameless, as did David Coulthard. However, I agree with Eddie Jordan and Lotus technical chief Mike Gascoyne. The only time a car should move over and allow another car to pass is when they are being lapped. It doesn’t matter if a car is 5 or 10 seconds slower, it is up to the attacking driver to pass safely.

Kovalainen was not being lapped, and while there are rules about how you can defend your position there are no rules saying you should pull over whenever a faster car is behind you. It seems like Webber was just caught by surprise at how early the Lotus had to brake for the corner.

As Gascoyne said:

Should a Force India be letting a McLaren past simple because its faster? Where do you draw the line? It is a motor race, isn’t it?

Categories: 2010 Season Tags: ,

Adjustable rear wings and a new tyre supplier for 2011

June 23rd, 2010 No comments

In a meeting today, the FIA World Motor Sport Council made a number of decision that will affect the Formula One Championship in 2011.

Pirelli was announced as the single tyre supplier for three years starting in 2011. This won’t be the Italian company’s first time in Formula One, having last competed in 1991. Pirelli are also the official supplier for the World Rally Championship.

The minimum car weight has been raised from 620kg to 640kg. Perhaps to allow for the use of KERS.

A number of clarifications have also been added that are clearly targeted at recent events.

For Lewis Hamilton’s memorable qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix:

With immediate effect, if a sample of fuel is required after a practice session the car concerned must have first been driven back to the pits under its own power.

And for Michael Schumacher’s creative overtaking of Fernando Alonso at Monaco:

With immediate effect, no car may overtake until it has passed the first safety car line for the first time when the safety car is returning to the pits. However, if the safety car is still deployed at the beginning of the last lap, or is deployed during the last lap, it will enter the pit lane at the end of the lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.

And for Lewis Hamilton’s “over-exuberant” off-track driving in Australia:

Competitors at FIA events must act as ambassadors for the sport, be aware their conduct on the road must be exemplary and respect road safety rules. The World Council agreed that the International Sporting Code be examined to ensure the Federation’s overall objectives and, in particular, its commitment to road safety, are upheld.

The F-ducts, first introduced and used to great effect this year by McLaren will be banned from 2011:

With the exception of the parts necessary for the driver adjustable bodywork, any car system, device or procedure which uses driver movement as a means of altering the aerodynamic characteristics of the car is prohibited from 2011.

Note, however, that this last point refers to an interesting new provision for adjustable bodywork:

From 2011, adjustable bodywork may be activated by the driver at any time prior to the start of the race and, for the sole purpose of improving overtaking opportunities during the race, after the driver has completed two laps. The driver may only activate the adjustable bodywork in the race when he has been notified via the control electronics that it is enabled. It will only be enabled if the driver is less than one second behind another at any of the pre-determined positions around each circuit. The system will be disabled the first time the driver uses the brakes after the system has been activated.

This is clearly an attempt to improve the ability of a car running close behind another to overtake. It sounds like a workable and interesting solution although we must remember the adjustable front wing was also designed for this and had little to no effect.

While I have greater hope for this new rule  I think we need to be careful about placing too much emphasis on aerodynamics and look at what made Canada such a thrilling race – tyres. It will be up to Pirelli to prove they can not only supply tyres that are workable but can also add to the spectacle of the race itself.

Perhaps taking onboard Luca di Montezemolo’s complaining about the new teams, there will also be a new 107% qualifying rule:

From 2011, any driver whose best qualifying lap exceeds 107% of the fastest Q1 qualifying time will not be allowed to take part in the race. Under exceptional circumstances, however, which may include setting a suitable lap time in a free practice session, the stewards may permit the car to start the race. Should there be more than one driver accepted in this manner, the grid order will be determined by the stewards.

Image: Pirelli

Categories: 2011 Season Tags:

BBC F1 video montages

June 22nd, 2010 No comments

Since taking over from ITV last year, the BBC’s Formula One coverage has just gotten better and better.

I love the fact that every practice, qualifying and race session is available on the web and the red button. I do miss James Allen’s commentary, but on the whole, the BBC team is first rate. The 5 Live commentary for the practice sessions is also really good, especially Anthony Davidson (although I’d rather see him back on the track).

One of the things I look forward to each race weekend is the little video montages that the BBC put together. They are pure, bite-sized pieces of F1 goodness.

Just take a look at this one from Turkey commemorating 800 races for the Scuderia.

Categories: Opinion Tags: ,

Happy birthday Monaco

May 21st, 2010 No comments

Sixty years ago today was the first Monaco Grand Prix of the new Formula One World Championship.

It wasn’t actually the first Monaco Grand Prix ever. That was in 1929 and it was won by British spy/racing driver William Grover-Williams but in 1950 Juan Manuel Fangio won his first race of his career in Monte Carlo.

As he tells Jake Humphrey in this great BBC interview, Sir Stirling Moss, the first British winner of the Monaco Grand Prix, considers Fangio the greatest ever Formula One driver. It’s easy to see why. Fangio would later go on to win 5 world championships, a record only surpassed by Michael Schumacher 46 years later.

This picture of Fangio racing his Maserati 250F around the streets of Monte Carlo is not a photograph. It is an airbrush painting by Italian artist Alberto Ponno. Ponno’s incredibly details paintings are the result of months of work all done freehand and without any masking.

Here are a few more Monaco examples of  of his amazing work. Visit his website to see the rest of his paintings.

Categories: Circuits Tags: , , ,

Mercedes drop their Monaco appeal

May 18th, 2010 No comments

In a statement released today, Mercedes have announced that “in the best interests of the sport” they will not be appealing the decision of the stewards at the Monaco Grand Prix to hand Michael Schumacher a 20 second penalty.

On Sunday, the stewards declared that Schumcher’s opportunistic pass of Fernando Alonso after the safety car had pulled into the pits on the final lap was in breach of article 40.13 of the sporting regulations.

Section 40 deals with the rules for safety cars and here is what that particular rule says:

If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.

The confusion over the interpretation of that single sentence seems to come from the opening words: “If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed”.

Here is what Mercedes felt happened:

MERCEDES GP PETRONAS were fully aware of article 40.13 which states that no overtaking is permitted if the race finishes under safety car conditions. However we believed that the combination of the race control messages ‘Safety Car in this lap’ and ‘Track Clear’ and the green flags and lights shown by the marshals after safety car line one indicated that the race was not finishing under the safety car and all drivers were free to race.

I can see how both sides could have come to different conclusions about this (although the ‘safety car in’ message and the green flags are pretty persuasive) but I’m a little disappointed Schumacher was penalised. I thought it was a gutsy move and a flash of the old Schumacher cunning that some have started to think has vanished.

I would also have hoped that Damon Hill’s influence might have swayed the decision in Michael’s favour. I don’t seriously think Hill would maliciously penalise Michael as some have stupidly suggested and I would have hoped the racer in Damon would have appreciated the move.

In fact Hill has voiced concern that the role of the driver on the stewards panel should not be to interpret the rules but merely to offer a driver’s opinion of any racing incident.

Mercedes seem to have accepted that Formula One can do without results being changed by a court after the race but they have scheduled it for discussion at the next Sporting Working Group and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the rule clarified to support the stewards decision.

My own view is this: unless a move is blatantly unsafe or against the rules then drivers should be given the benefit of the doubt and any overtaking should be encouraged.

Categories: Opinion Tags: , ,