Formula 1 Staff Movements 2013 end to start 2014 (and some stats)

First off welcome back to my blog, and a new beginning in 2014. Hope all was well over the seasonal period. From the end of 2013 at Brazil to the start of the Pre Season Test season there has been many movements, many from the Lotus F1 team to other teams, but there has been many from Red Bull to other teams as well. Here is a summary of some of the environment switches in F1 in the past 6 or so months:

Red Bull Appointments

-       Richard Mead, Aerodynamics Engineer (former Electronics Engineer), from Mercedes HPP to RBR, Jul. 2013

-       Nick Gibbs, Trackside IT Support Engineer (former IT Analyst), from FI to RBR, Jul. 2013

Mercedes Appointments

-       Tito Amato, Senior Simulator Engineer (former Vehicle Dynamics Engineer), from Ferrari GeS to Mercedes, Oct. 2013

-       Craig Dear, Senior Aerodynamicist (former Aerodynamicist), from Williams to Mercedes, Jan. 2014

-       Enrico Balbo, Aerodynamics Group Leader, from Williams to Mercedes, Jan. 2014

-       Mark Ellis, will begin work at Mercedes in June 2014

-       Giles Wood, will begin work at Mercedes in June 2014

-       Mark Hudson, Pre Fir Engineer, Porsche AG

Ferrari Appointments

-       Florian Puget, ERS Hybrid Systems Engineer (former KERS Hybrid Systems Enginner), from Mercedes HPP to Ferrari, Nov. 2013

Lotus F1 Appointments

-       Riccardo Barri, Senior Composite Design Engineer, from Ferrari to Lotus, Sep. 2013

-       Gerson Brand, CFD Aerodynamicist (former Aerodynamicist), from Caterham to Lotus, Dec. 2013

McLaren Appointments

-       Adam Painter, Composite Design Engineer (former Junior Composite Design Engineer), from FI to McLaren, Jan. 2014

-       Andrew Jarvis, Vehicle Dynamics Engineer (Undisclosed)

-       Marieclaire Smid, Structural Design Engineer (Undisclosed)

-       Guillermo Vilaplana, Aerodynamicist (Undisclosed)

-       Andy Garratt, Spares Co-ordinator (Undisclosed)

-       Brian Gruncell, CFD Engineer (Undisclosed)

-       Ian Giles, Composite technician (Undisclosed)

-       Steven Reichard, Aerodynamic Design Engineer (Undisclosed)

-       Indi Kaur, Recruitment Assistant (Undisclosed)

-       Peter Prodromou (2015) From RBR

-       Dan Fallows (With Above) From RBR

-       Ciaron Pilbeam, Head Engineer, From Lotus

-       Eric Bullier, Team Pricniple, From Lotus (Highly Rumored)

Force India Appointments

-       Jonathan Marshall, Head of Vehicle Science (former Simulator Engineer), from Lotus to FI, Jan. 2014

-       James Knapton, Aero Data&Modelling Group Leader (former Head of Vehicle Dynamics), from Sauber to FI, Nov. 2013

-       Michael Tramonto, Design Engineer-Aerodynamics (former Aero Surface Designer), from STR to FI, Jan. 2014

-       Lawrence Wilkinson, Senior Control Systems Engineer (former Principal Control Engineer), from Mercedes to FI, Dec. 2013

Sauber Appointments

-       None

Toro Rosso Appointments

-       Frederic Launoy, Senior CFD Aerodynamicist, from Lotus to STR, Jan. 2014

-       Raffaele Boschetti, Technical Director Advisor (former ICT-A&IT Responsible), from Ferrari to STR, Jan. 2014

-       Davide Felappi, Aerodynamics Team Leader, from FI to STR, Oct. 2013

-       Paul Smart, Wind Tunnel R&D Engineer (former Aero Software Consultant), from Ferrari to STR, Jul. 2013

-       Charlie Constant, Simulation Engineer (former Tyre Performance Analysis Engineer), from Michelin to STR, Dec. 2013

-       Xevi Pujolar, Senior Race Engineer (former Chief Race Engineer), from Williams to STR, Jan. 2014

-       Steve Booth, Lotus Deputy Head of Mechanical Design to STR

-       Ricardo Penteado, Lotus to STR as Race Engine Support Leader

-       Ben Mallock Mercedes to STR as Deputy Head of Aero.

Williams Appointments

-       Jakob Andreasen, Head of Engineering Operations, from FI to Williams, Jan. 2014

-       Craig Wilson, Head of Vehicle Dynamics, from Mercedes to Williams, Jan. 2014

-       Rod Nelson, Chief Test & Support Engineer, from Lotus to Williams, Jan. 2014

-       Greame Hackland, IT Director, from Lotus to Williams, Jan. 2014

-       Shaun Whitehead left RBR June 2013, and joined Williams Jan. 2014

-       Rob Smedley, Felipe Massa Race Engineer, From Ferrari (Rumored), Mar-Jun 2014

Marussia Appointments

-       Rob van den Heijkant, Aerodynamics Team Leader (former Senior Aerodynamicist), from FI to Marussia, Jan. 2014

Caterham Appointments

-       Richard Messenger, from Lotus (Senior Aero Design Engineer) to become a Lead Surface Designer Dec 2013

Others Appointments

-       José Gallego Segura, Head of Aerodynamic Design (former Lead Design Engineer), from Lotus to Porsche, Jan. 2014

-       Martin Norek, Vehicle Performance Engineer-Simulation (former Vehicle Dynamics Engineer), from Sauber to Audi, Sep. 2013

-       Christopher Harley, Heaf of CFD-Aero (former Aerodynamicist), from FI to Wirth Research, Sep. 2013

As of November 2013 the figures at each team, excluding consultants is as follows:

Mercedes (Brackley, UK):          600 (Chassis Side)

Mercedes (Brixworth, UK):                  400 (Engine Side)

Lotus F1 (Einstone UK):            500

Caterham (Leafeld, UK):           260

Marussia (Banbury, UK):           220

Force India (Silverstone, UK):    300

Red Bull (Milton Keynes, UK):    690

McLaren (Woking UK):              600

Williams (Grove, UK):               520

Toro Rosso (Milton Keynes, UK) 90 (Wind Tunnel at Red Bull Technology)

Toro Rosso (Faenza, Italy):               300 (Chassis Side)

Ferrari (Maranello, Italy):          700 (Chassis side)

Sauber (Hinwil, Switzerland):     320

However, Honda will be setting up a site in Milton Keynes for maintaining the McLaren power units in 2015. As well as the numerous suppliers at the likes of Carbotech, EPM Technology, Brembo, Gill Sensors and McLaren Applied Technology not included, F1 as a whole will probably have a workforce combined of 10,000 people and a turnover of up to €4b every year. Renault and Ferrari will have a estimated 350 to 450 in their F1 engine plants, especially if they are to take on LMP1/LMP2 with their power units in 2014 for Renault under the Alpine banner and Ferrari looking at a probable 2016 or 2017 entry in LMP1 as a Manufacturer.

On top of this, I can confirm that the power unit costs will be for a season:

Renault ENERGY-F1:        €21M

Mercedes PU106A: €16.5M

Ferrari 059/3:                 €14.7M

However, this is without any other ancillary supply like Gearbox, witch for the most part will add an extra €5M to €7M a season. Costs will likely decrease over time, likely to decrease 12% year on year, with a figure of €17.5m being looked at for a whole rear end for 2016.

It seems that there has been a revolving door at Lotus, all going in one direction. However, the amount of brainpower at Mclaren will see them get a kick in the right direction and also the right impetus with the eye to 2015 and Honda power. However, I also am looking for great things from Toro Rosso in 2014 into 2015 as well as they seem to have strengthened lots more than what is needed from a Red Bull B team. Williams and Force India will be able to lay groundwork for the Williams team and also Force India will be able to punch above their weight again.

One thing is for sure, F1 is going through a period of upheaval and this can only be good for the sport and natural progression of the sport.

 

 

Formula One Regulation Changes

Today the FIA F1 Strategy group sat and the outcome of the meeting was as follows, with my reaction below it.

Paris – 9 December 2013

Following a meeting of the F1 Strategy Group and the Formula One Commission in Paris today, the following items have been unanimously approved:

•    Cost cap

The principle of a global cost cap has been adopted. The limit will be applied from January 2015.

A working group will be established within the coming days comprising the FIA, representatives of the Commercial Rights Holder and Team representatives.

The objective of the working group will be to have regulations approved by the end of June 2014.

•    Pirelli Tyre test – Bahrain, 17-19 December, 2013

The F1 Commission agreed to a change to the 2013 Sporting Regulations, on safety grounds, allowing the Formula One tyre supplier to carry out a three-day test in Bahrain from 17-19 December, 2013. All Formula One teams have been invited to take part in the test and six have accepted: Red Bull Racing, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren, Force India and Toro Rosso.

•    Driver numbers

Drivers will be asked to choose their race number, between 2 and 99, for the duration of their career in the FIA Formula One World Championship. Number 1 will be reserved for the current World Champion, should he choose to use it.

If more than one driver choses the same number, priority will be given to the driver who finished highest in the previous year’s championship.

•    New penalties

The principle of a five-second penalty for minor infringements was agreed. In what form such a penalty will be applied will be discussed with Formula One’s teams in order that a new regulation be introduced for 2014 season.

•    Points for the last race

Double drivers’ and constructors’ points will be awarded at the final race of the Formula One season in order to maximise focus on the Championship until the end of the campaign.

These changes are immediately applicable, given the mandate assigned to the FIA President at the last World Motor Sport Council meeting, held on 4 December in Paris.

FIA Formula One Press Office

My view is that these are some interesting changes. The cost cap is the most interesting one, I think F1 as a whole can be done for €150m a season, but I also think that there needs to be look at the F1 prize structure and fund raising means from FOM to make this happen. It will have to be a large number to start with, but is part of the overall narrative of cost control in F1 that ranges with ideas from banning wind tunnels and going totally CFD, trackside telemetry and if a standard telemetry system is needed, Parc Ferme that starts at 00:01AM on the Friday morning and the final one of more standardized parts where each F1 team makes something that everyone has to use, thus minimizing performance gains.

The Pirelli Test in Bahrain I needed as it will give the teams attending a slight advantage over their competition, but it is yet unclear how the cars will be tested, I think it should be done with the teams using cars with tyre data and sensors omitted and also the strict usage of aero sensors banned and Test & reserve guys going in the cars. Also each team having 6 sets of unmarked tyres each day where Pirelli only knows what’s going on.

Driver numbers are a good idea, I think there’s a bit of business that has been missed, where the drivers and or teams choose the numbers on a franchise basis. Teams can pay the FIA & FOM €8m a season for their numbers, meaning Ferrari can get the historical 27/28 if they want to, and drivers who haven’t scored a point the previous season can rent their number for a year for €1m, drivers who scored a point can do so for €2m and top 10 drivers the previous year have to pay €3m, changing a number should cost €5m to change. This would allow the FIA and FOM to do something positive, and it would also make the teams and drivers to work hard for their merchandise money and this is what some of the teams don’t do enough of, work hard for their merchandise money. However in return, each team should have two merchandise stands at every grand prix, as only the top 5 teams and Toro Rosso are at every GP with about 4 other F1 general merchandise stands. F1 should take a leaf out of a merch stand at a music show, where each stand has limited edition stuff and signed stuff there. The recent Alter Bridge/Shinedown/Halestor show I attended at The Hydro in Glasgow had this, signed BluRays and CDs from all bands and T-Shirts and beer openers. F1 needs to have every driver have 300 signed Minischamps or Spark models of that years car, or even a year old model for sale for €199 each would be nice as I think fans would buy them for the top drivers and the drivers in the mid pack would sell as well. Just my thoughts, but I think F1 needs to do more to sell its merchandise and get the brand awareness of teams out there.

The penalties I think will be good, especially the 5 second one, as it will allow stewards to alter the result enough but in a fair manner. However the stewards are what I think needs to be looked at, where there are 9 professional stewards and at each GP there are 4 at each GP with the assistance of a driver steward who has been in F1 in the past 5 years. The 9 professional stewards can only do two GP in a row and the Driver Steward can only do two GP that season. I also think each professional steward should take the position of chief steward as well in order to make sure that they get a better handle on stewarding. This should mean that the stewarding could be a lot more consistent. That is the real problem I think F1 has with the penalties. Also stewards should do no more than 2 consecutive seasons in F1 and also be no older than 50 years old as to make sure that like Football referees that the stewarding is mentally and physically fit to do so and call it right.

Finally, points. The points system needs overhauled as I think its not fit for purpose for F1 and isn’t a proper barometer for team and driver performance. I have said for the past two years on a internet forum that the points system needs to be overhauled. I propose this;

P01: 100pts

P02: 89pts

P03: 79pts

P04: 72pts

P05: 65pts

P06: 59pts

P07: 55pts

P08: 50pts

P09: 46pts

P10: 42pts

P11: 35pts

P12: 29pts

P13: 23pts

P14: 20pts

P15: 16pts

P16: 11pts

P17: 8pts

P18: 5pts

P19: 3pts

P20: 1pt

However, id also make the rule for the lapped cars as this, if you get lapped 2 times, you have to pull in to the pits and not score a point as all finishers will get points. Meaning a reliance on speed with reliability and make sure there are no cruisers out the back. However that with two small rule changes, the lapped car rule on the Safety Car restart must take to the pits and go thru them and be held at the end and let the pack shake itself out and then be released into their proper positions, thus quickening the SC restarts. And finally, faster cars must overtake a slower car without the use of DRS. And one final thing, the double points thing would be a play where each driver nominated his double point race for the season before the first race, and the double point race will exclude Monaco as well. This would spice the action up lots, and one final twist would be the final race of the year being a twin race weekend, one race on the Saturday and one on the Sunday, the Sunday race being a complete grid reversal on the result of the Saturday race.

This is the last blog entry I have for 2013, and intend to make the best of the holiday season; I wish all my readers a warm Christmas and a good New Year. See you all in 2014.

Valsecchi to Replace Raikkonen

It has been reported that Kimi Raikkonen will have back surgery to alleviate his long term back injury sustained in a 2001 test accident at Magney Cours.

The Lotus F1 Team has yet to confirm anything for certain, but it is widely accepted that 2012 GP2 Drivers Champion Davide Valsecchi will replace Raikkonen for the last two races in Austin and Interlagos.

It’s a outside bet that Nico Hulkenberg will replace Raikkonen as the deal would have to be completed quickly. Then the technical challenges of getting him a seat made (3 days) and him pedal positions and getting to know his steering wheel. All that is about a week or so. So all in, I doubt Hulkenberg will take the seat, hence why Valsecchi will take the seat if car 7.

Valsecchi will become the first Italian in F1 since Jarno Trulli left in 2011 at the end of the pre season test at Jerez. He was replaced at Team Lotus (Caterham) by Vitaly Petrov then.

Latest Item On The F1 Teams Cheat Sheet

There is a rumour floating around that teams have now found a way to pre heat the Pirellis more than permitted allowances, and such cheats were discovered post Monza and Singapore with the introduction of the Thermal Imaging Camera. The rumour is that teams are heating tyres to in excess of 110C where Pirelli have a guidance of 90C.

If you take what Paul Hembry said at Monza:

At a track like Monza the temperature range will be from 80-90 deg C at the start, when tyres come out of their blankets. The surface temperature can then go up to around 130 deg C, in particular at the end of La Roggia.

Teams can buy tyre warmers that can get up to the 110C range, that is no secret. Could the teams be using this as a way of pre curing the tyres before putting them on the car, its plausible. However tyres post Silverstone blow ups have been looking to try and gain extra back from what has been clawed back from the tyre restrictions applied in Germany from FIA Communication Document 8:

Tyre Operating Procedures

For safety reasons, we have been asked by Pirelli to ensure that the tyres on all cars are run under the conditions listed below. It will be the responsibility of each team to satisfy the FIA technical delegate that their cars comply with the following requirements at all times :

1) Minimum starting pressure front and rear : 16psi.

2) Minimum stabilised running pressure front : 20psi.

3) Minimum stabilised running pressure rear : 19psi.

4) Maximum negative EOS camber front : 4.0°.

5) Maximum negative EOS camber rear : 2.5°.

6) Front and rear tyres must be used on the side of the car for which they were originally designated (no swapping from side-to-side).

7) The blankets strategies set out in 13R09NUR Preview V3 must be observed.

I think Teams have been secretly boosting their blankets to temperatures outside the agreed limits as they are computer controlled to heat up in a certain order at certain times. I find it interesting that Pirelli have started to note the tyre temps as a car leaves the garage now in order to try and police a gate that has been opened and where the horse has bolted from.

How would I police the tyres better in  the future, id have a few simple rule changes to the above:

1) Minimum starting pressure front and rear: 19psi

2) Stabilised Running Front Pressure: 24psi

3) Stabilised Running Rear Pressure: 23psi

4) Maximum Negative Camber Front Starting: 2.5°

5) Maximum Negative Camber Rear Starting: 1.5°

6) Front and rear tyres must be used on the side of the car for which they were originally designated (no swapping from side-to-side).

7) Teams shall not be allowed to run tyre warmers at all, drivers must start with cold tyres in pit stops, start of the race drivers have to warm their own tyres in parade lap.

The reason for increased PSIs is that would make F1 rubber be closer to what is acceptable on the road as some cars have a PSI as high as 42. Cambers as this would narrow the cars in and leave the cars a bit less pointy for some drivers and keep tyre temps down quite a bit. 6 would remain the same, as i think its a good rule. As for 7, id ban tyre warmers as they are clearly able to be over-ridden to gain an advantage and no record is kept of them on a 15 min basis on both team and Pirelli side. And it would make the teams would then have to balance how quickly they tyre came in to wear rate, too quickly and you loose a lap on them, too late and you loose the undercut. Tyres should be a double edged sword that way, meaning the team that designs a tyre that can come in progressively but keep the undercut will gain more. Lets face it, GP2 and GP3 who also run Pirelli don’t have a problem with getting a tyre in its temp range as they take about two to two and a half laps, my guess is that a F1 car can gain temp in them in just over a full lap, maybes a lap and a sector.

How many times has Nico Rosberg been updated on his tyre temps in a race just to keep them in their operating window, which seems to be the thing thats most critical now,  operating window. If you have a car that can keep their tyres in that 10-15C operating window on both sets you are destined for a good weekend.

Also the teams would save €80,000 a month on shipping costs as tyre blankets are heavy and costly items to ship, HRT once spent €80,000 on 25 sets of them from the dissolved Epic World Series team for their operation. With them saving almost €1m in shipping costs, as most of the tyre blankets are sent as part of the teams equipment they use all the time, of which the teams have 8 aircraft containers to fill for transportation from race to race for the fly away races.

I think there will be more to come on this, but the theory in the paddock is that teams are boosting their tyre warmers to gain an extra advantage out of the pits.

2014 F1 Calendar, WMSC decisions & General Musings

So, the 2014 calendar has been announced, 22 races, 6 engines per driver. That will mean a distance of 350,000 for the season, the most ever to my estimation. And if there is zero engine failures (unlikely in my opinion) each engines useable life will be at about 2,700km, a rise on the present 2,100 at present. Id recon that some engines will do about 3,000km in the V6T era. The Calendar will include the returning Austrian GP at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, the Mexican GP in Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez and the new American GP in New Jersey and new Russian GP in Sochi.

The Red Bull Ring is presently undergoing construction works in order to have a new grandstand across from the pit lane and other construction works around the track in order to raise the track capacity from 40,000 to a estimated 85,000. The Red Bull Ring track has just undergone a massive improvement plan in the last 4 years and is up to spec, only minimal improvements will be needed. However a hard Austrian Winter will halt the works for 3 months at least, but the track will be completed once a good bundle of money and man power is thrown at it.

The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez has undergone its pre construction and planning walk by Charlie Whiting and Herman Tilke, the works are quite extensive, a new pit lane for one, and a lot of track modifications in order to get the track ready, the estimated budget is €100m+, €35m of which will be in a pit building alone. They have around 14 months, I think this can be done in this time.

As for New Jersey, this track has the most work to do, the pit lane is half built, and can be completed quite quickly, however there is a lot of permits and warrants that are needed from land owners that the track will pass over. There are some key services that need shifting as well in a few areas. The grandstands will always be temporary. This race could happen, its just how much money and manpower that is thrown at it, and how disruptive a North Eastern Seaboard winter can be to the works that need completed. This may be tough to call, a bit of a close call like Korea 2010 where it was right to the last minute, as the paving of the track with new asphalt is needed.

The Russian track at Sochi is coming along really well, the Pit facilities are almost complete and also the track is coming along to a decent standard. However, the 2014 winter Olympics still need to take place in order for the final detail pieces to be put into place. This race will happen, and the track will be completed. There’s more than money riding on this race.

If I was to say there may be one race that is omitted from the event list it will be Korea, as the customs to the country is a killer, taking up to 3 days to clear for some teams and also the 6 hour drive from Soul to Yeongam is a bit of a passion killer for the teams and media, especially when the nearest towns are an hours drive away from the track.

More interestingly in the FIA press release, there is provision that the FIA could set up single suppliers in more than the present of tyres. This may mean a standardised and homologated fuel for all. In 2010 there was supposed to be a new ‘high density’ fuel that has more energy and make the engines more fuel efficient, Virgin was caught out and Nick Wirth had to manufacture 3 new chassis for the team. I think this is a threat across the teams that costs need to be reduced now. Pirelli have all but been confirmed by the FIA to continue into 2014.

There has also been a confirmation from FOM that GP2 team Russian Time are going to run a GP3 programme replacing GP3 team Bamboo engineering in 2014. This is great news as the team are expanding on where iSport left off, and the fact they can make the team run on a €5m budget for 2013 and run for both Teams and drivers title with Sam Bird is encouraging. This will mean that Russian Time will need a budget of about €12m for all GP2 and GP3 running in 2014 to my estimates. There is musings that Russian Time are looking at a F1 entry in 2015 or more probably 2016. I find this highly doubtful, as the teams Modus Operandi has always been about providing drivers a way into F1. Time (or is that Russian Time) will tell.

The 2014 F1 calendar:

16 March Grand Prix of Australia
30 March Grand Prix of Malaysia
06 April Grand Prix of Bahrain
20 April Grand Prix of China
27 April Grand Prix of Korea (provisional)
11 May Grand Prix of Spain
25 May Grand Prix of Monaco
01 June Grand Prix of America, New Jersey (provisional*)
08 June Grand Prix of Canada
22 June Grand Prix of Austria
06 July Grand Prix of Great Britain
20 July Grand Prix of Germany (Hockenheim)
27 July Grand Prix of Hungary
24 August Grand Prix of Belgium
07 September Grand Prix of Italy
21 September Grand Prix of Singapore
05 October Grand Prix of Russia (Sochi)
12 October Grand Prix of Japan
26 October Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
09 November Grand Prix of USA (Austin)
16 November Grand Prix of Mexico (provisional*)
30 November Grand Prix of Brazil

* Subject to the circuit approval

 

 

Monza From a Fans Perspective Part 2

Now come race day, we all get to the track early enough, our tour rep and driver make sure of this, on this overcast day. We scarper quickly, getting to our postos as quickly as we can, I drop by the Lotus stand for a T Shirt and a Pirelli 1st hat this time, and then a quick look at some of GP3 paddock move to their pit posistions with their quad bikes and such.

Getting into my posto for the GP3 race, the humidity increases, the temps drop, the chance of rain increases. GP3 passes without too much incident, just a turn 1 nutcase and a great crash in the last few laps that happened in front of my very eyes, a almost WWE sort of racing with lots of half chances then one massive crash bang and wallop and the manoeuvre ends in tears. GP2 sees the sun come out a bit, and the place feels warmer now, however the race is almost all but decided in the early stages, with little incidents from where I stand, those cars need DRS on them, but id have the GP2 guys have 10 DRS usages per race, otherwise you would have too much of a Destruction Darby. By then id had two British Winners, belting out god Save the Queen to Stand 6A on my own.

Lunch to a un inspiring chicken burger, that has been heated up with a George Forman on steroids. However I had a good breakfast and I don’t care, as long as I have a good meal at the Ristorante around the corner from my hotel Im happy. At a track it is important to keep hydrated, so I had 3.5 litres of water on Saturday, in really warm conditions, however it was cooler, today i found 1.5L to be about right, and i really didn’t want to spend too much time in a Toilet.

Porsche Supercup race 2 was a good race, the cars are surprisingly loud, in the middle between F1 and GP2 for sound, Nicki Thiim was unstoppable all race keeping up a title battle with Sean Edwards till the next round in Abu Dhabi.

Now comes the Drivers Parade, of witch the drivers fly past really all too quickly, and that dammed F1 flag on the back of the truck spoils a good view, saw more or less all the drivers, with Webber, Button and Hamilton all as thick as thieves, Raikkonen a recluse at the rear next to the flag and Vettel trying to look as if he has friends. Alonso and Massa looking the most at ease, however all give the ora they don’t want to be on a truck travelling at 40kmph past every grandstand, except maybe Riccardo who will smile at everything and anything.

As the race approaches, the temperature drops further to about 20C and the wind starts coming from the south, drops fall, the atmosphere becomes tangible, jackets are reached for, the 3rd time by now. Cameras put away, the pit lane opens, intermediates… Intermediates… This could be good. I am thinking inters for first 3-5 laps, enough to mix up the start and also enough to have a good old pile up at Variante Retifillo. Drivers are doing 4 or 5 reconnaissance laps, then out comes Hulkenberg on the Orange marked mediums, its dry out back sadly.

As all this is happening, all the General Admission people hanging around are starting to be hoarded into stands, not as much in my stand, but you can see it lots more in stand 8 where even the stairs are standing room only.

The cars go on their warm up lap, the track is a dull grey, not a dark grey or a light grey. The lighter the grey the drier the track. Some cars look to be having a look at conditions and what could be achieved in turn 1.

As the cars line up on the Giant TV screen I have watched all the races on, you hear the revs rise half a kilometre away, 5 red out… You don’t have much time to see the 17,000 horse power fly past, its over in an instant. However you do see Kimi hit Sergio up the rear and Vettel lock up, the stand moves under the amount of people moving at the same time to see Turn 1.

The Tifossi goes wild when Alonso passes Webber at Della Roggia and then Massa at my turn, then as he takes a chunk out of Vettel, optimism rises. However when Vettel pits you feel as if something could, just could happen, and for two laps I believed it. Alonso went too long, Vettel was noticeably faster, you can see it on the track, Alonso needed to pit shortly after Vettel, the race has now played out.

However the rest of the race, you see things, patterns that TV neglects to show, like the chaos the Marussias cause to themselves in their intra team battle that then play into the P6 to P12 battle as they almost smashed both McLarens and Hulkenberg coming out of the pits, and to be honest when Van Der Garde came out of the pits at one point, there was 10 cars or so into 1 corner. Madness.

However you then get to analyse driver styles and preferences, especially Vettel and Webber, who seems to loose 0.030 of a second at each corner due to Vettel being more aggressive on change downs. Most other team mates are pretty equal, with only Hulkenberg and Guiteriez having a noticeable difference.

At the end of the race, there is a massive ammount of Tifosi trying to get onto the track when the last car goes past, its more manic than Oxford Street at the post Christmas sales at Selfridges’.  They are taking anything they can get their hands on, the polystyrene 50 board and replacement 100 board that got taken out in the incident in the GP3 race final laps got taken away.

I decide its time to make my move to the track, its the easiest way to get out my Austrian friend told me. I make it to the hallowed asphalt that my heroes past, present and lost have been over, you feel their presence. You hear the driver interviews, and the Champagne thing. Alessi asks the most stupid questions, that are thankfully inaudible. I get up to the Podum after taking pics of about 20 different things, and then look at the fact there probably 55,000+ Tifosi and me on the track, I now figure that after walking from about 400m from Turn 1 to the podium that i need off the track. I get a couple bits of Pirelli rubber as a momento.

As I always do in life, I find the tightest bottle neck I can, a gate that takes 1 person at a time, and threes about 20% of the Tifosi wanting off the track at that same spot. I feel as if in no longer the person I usually am, I feel those heroes from the past take my soul and sprit to a place that isn’t where i am usually. I am streamlined, my camera gear is away, my bag full of goodies and jacket is somewhere. I force my way to the front, the Athletico Bilbao Ultras who left 5 minutes before me are now about 2 minutes behind me in the queue getting off the track at this point. HOW DID I DO THAT???

Im off the track, and back to the bus. One of my reps asks me if Im okay, I am, I am just saying my goodbyes to F1 heroes of past. Goodbyes that wont be forever, as I will do another Grand Prix in the next couple of years, and I will return to Monza. When, Im not sure, but Monza has a bit of me now, and I am certain that I have a bit of Monza as well. Arrivederci!

Monza From a Fans Perspective Part 1

As I type this I am over the alps somewhere in a British Airways flight from Milan Linate to London Heathrow T5, the same plane that has one star  of F1, the preceding one has a star of a different elk in it. Fist star is a man who was pretty animated in the F1 grid to Bernie Ecclestone in David Hasselhoff, the Hoff is a giant, easily 6ft 4in and every bit the character he is in real life. As for the second star, he is Eric Bullier the Lotus F1 team boss, a genial and gentle frame of a man, I really should ask him about those Kimi/Fernando rumours shouldn’t I???

Monza was a terrific atmosphere, passion beyond belief, a great racing track and facilities for the drivers and invited guests, maybes not so much for the media pack on the exterior of the track as they have to dodge many a fan and also the comms box area isn’t too great to be honest. As for fans, the place is a derelict park, toilets that are the old squat style and very few chances for hygiene. The food is as bad as it could be, pizza about acceptable but the rest ain’t even worth it.

As a return, the atmosphere has to make up for it, Monza needs to make up for its many shortfalls wit the atmosphere, and boy it does. Stand 6A may not be that great as you are in the final area before the cars brake at the 120m board. However you do have the pleasure of seeing and hearing the cars at full throttle for that micro cosm of a instant at 345kmh.

As I was feeling unwell I then decided to save this and type the rest from now on later.

With reflection, in the air, the atmosphere with Athletico Bilbao ultras to the right of me and German Vettelites to the left, there i was all alone in the middle with my Mclaren gear on as a neutral meat in the sandwich. There was one Austrian guy in-front of me, who was a Scuderia fan, whom this was his 28th or 38th (I forgot the number he said) Grand Prix since 2004 when Monza was his first, this year he has seen all the European rounds, and he says they are all much the same at the end with fans desperate to get onto the track. He was the most helpful fan of a non English speaking fan I came across, he was helpful on how to get a handle on the strategy at at track as its much harder there than on TV. He was also helpful on what i should do and shouldn’t. If your out there mate, thanks.

When you walk into Monza from the bus park on Saturday for the first time, on your first GP, its awe inspiring, you instantly feel the likes of Ascari, Von Trips, Clark and Farina as ghosts amongst mortals, you feel them lift your soul and your spirit to be taken to your seat, or posto as it is on your ticket. The first thing as a Brit at a sports venue you expect to be hit with is a pre-match programme, this isn’t the case at Monza, you are hit firstly with the fast food area that is there to serve the guys at the exit of the Paribolica, then you are hit with the 18 or so merchandise stands. Theese merchandise stands are there for the top 5 teams and Toro Rosso (Red bull/Toro Rosso share the two largest stands roughly 85%/15%) in F1 at present, they each have 2 stands, F1 Merchandise has about another 4, with Michael Schumacher having one more. There is a stand for a local band to play a set twice a day and a large games stand running the Codemasters 2012 or 2013 game with a full motion simulator and plenty static simulators inside.

Then you take the walk towards the second underpass at Monza, this one is just after the main grandstands across from the pit lane. Before you get there, you pass the media paddock, in witch i saw Lee McKenzie, Ben Edwards, Rachael Brooks and David Croft over the weekend. Sky Sports F1 UK have their own catering paddock!

As you pass under the underpass, you feel the history creep further, the more saucer eyed you become, then you are hit with a opportunity, a Race Programme, €15, hefty I know, but its something I collect as I have a few football ones from Champions League and UEFA Cup finals in Glasgow and one in Manchester.

The next decision you are met with is left or right, I chose left towards my Posto in my grandstand 6A. Its just like a walk in a nice park now, half way you however see what is passed for toilet facilities, just a hut with a few normal toilets and a derelict concrete building with two squat holes in it and a tap and a old ceramic basin outside with a tap attached to the walk above it. Sadly i have no option but to use the hut and the tap.

Then you walk about another half a kilometre, and are met with a sign, that directs you up to the Della Roggia Variante or the Lesmo turns just beyond. The other direction on the sign is for Stand 6 A, B or C and the two smaller general admission stands at the first Variante. Another slightly more country park style walk comes, and another half a kilometre, then you have more fast food and your Controlo guards, who take your ticket stub and let you into your stand. Or for Race Day give you your wrist ticket.

Choose your stair, and thankfully, I chose the first one as that one was the closest to my posto. My posto was right up the back row, which was a bloody brilliant thing as the view was great and you could hold on to the back of the stand to get a better view as the cars went past. First noise i heard was the GP3 guys, they are the best sounding cars for your money, and the cars really are proper racers, their drivers i am not so sure of, as when racing they seem to take leave of their senses. Then i am met with my first ever sound of a modern V8 F1 sound and car, a Marussia with a Cosworth engine, the driver was fellow Brit Max Chilton. By this time, i was already on the FOM broadcast as I started to receive text messages by this point from back home all saying I saw you.

FP3 passes by and then its into Porsche Super Cup and the 2 hour break to F1 Quali. I decide to go and get something to eat, a Pizza that is about acceptable and a walk around the place. I decide to take the walk back the way i came in the morning and go back to get a hat as i forgot mine in the morning, i get a McLaren one as they are the only decent ones there. Then as i go back under the underpass again i decide to go right this time, and god its congested with people, quad bikes and mopeds. As things get less congested, i pass more of a limited merchandise stand and then i see the Magnetti Maranelli hospitality building and look over the fence to see a Lotus E20 show car, Ferrari 458 chassis and Red Bull RB6 show car, i cant get in as its for hospitality only at this time. The entrance has a Ferrari 312 T as driven by Nikki Lauda in a Grand Prix that year, and the car used in the recent movie Rush for some parts. Next I pass the Beta tools stand with a old F1 car in their livery and a old Ford DFV engine.

Then I decide to visit the permanent shops at the back end of the paddock in Monza, there is a race wear shop, a Model shop a memorabilia shop and rather sizeable bar. I decide not to buy anything from any of them as the prices are massively inflated, and a Spark 1:43 model will cost me 20% more than from Amazon at home. Then I see that something has happened to me, I have lost my Hoya ND8 filter for my camera, which puts a downer on my day, but then makes me more wary and more careful with my camera gear. Makes me glad I have streamlined my photo operation as much as I physically can.

I then went back to my posto for Qualifying and the GP2 race, leaving the GP3 race as I wanted to go a-wandering again. This time i went back to the Magnetti stand, just to see if i could get any more pics of the diffusers of the E20, 458 and RB6. I Did, and I even got a bit brave, i decided to see if i could follow the queue that was now waiting to get into the Magnetti area to get some close up photos of the cars, and guess what, i did. I got about 50 or 60 photos of all 3 cars in total and about 3 of the Laudi Ferrari as well. The new cars are a tech marvel ill agree, but the Laudi Ferrari is a small but impressive car, how could they drive in something that small and fragile is beyond me.

I then decided to go back to my bus and review the days spoils of war on my camera. I was really glad of what i achieved in what little time I had.