Monthly Archives: September 2013

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

 

 

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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.

Engine supply in F1 present and future

BMW, if they were to return, would have to do so in 2017. Mercedes have 4 teams in 2014 with Mercedes AMG, Force India, McLaren and new addition Williams. McLaren will leave at the end of 2014 for Honda. Ferrari have their Factory Scuderia team, but will keep Sauber if they sort their financial problems and add Marussia, both teams taking the whole Scuderia transmission as well as Energy Recovery System. Renault will have Red Bull and for the first time sister team Toro Rosso, Renault will likely pick up Lotus as well.

As for the contracts, Force India and Williams are a 3 year contract, McLaren a single year one with Mercedes before Honda join on a probable 8+ year contract. Red Bull are the “works” Renault team and Toro Rosso in for the same time as their sister team. Lotus look to be taking Renault on for a 3 year deal, but probably offset on a reduction in price in order for Renault to take out a key sponsorship area on the cars as Red Bull will have Infiniti plastered across their cars and to the man on the street makes Red Bull a Infiniti powered car. Ferrari have a 3 year deal with Marussia, Sauber will have a probable deal of same or similar terms. Both Ferrari customer teams will have to take a Ferrari Academy Driver if Ferrari want them to, this means Bianchi progressing through the field at Ferraris beck and call.

As for a BMW return, a Toyota return even. All highly doubtful, the regulations are in place to entice manufacturers back in as a engine supplier yes. However I think it is all a lot of ifs and buts. If anything, Honda are likely to pick up a second customer in 2016 by either a 12th team or another team of the other 10 excluding Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari breaching their contract and gaining Honda. If BMW are to return they will have to buy a team and breach a contract to put their product in the back of their car. When new engine suppliers are looking to spend €120m a year on the V6T engines, with as much as half of that coming back in engine supply contracts, I doubt BMW will come back to spend €200+m a year in a Team and Engine side of things, even if they get €30m back in engine supply contracts.

BMW are happy at present with their DTM and ALMS program’s, and rumours persist they are looking at the viability of a MotoGP campaign in 2015 as well. 3 areas of the economy where BMW are doing well, showing off their engines in what is effectively 2 spec series in DTM and ALMS as the DTM chassis is developed by Dallara with a body shell developed by the manufacturer. Motorbikes are doing good for BMW, not Ducatti, Honda or Yamaha well, but are doing well enough for them to look at breaking into MotoGP.

As with the recent Vodaphone/Verizon deal in the USA, monopolies ebb and flow in business, engine suppliers do the same in F1. When the time is right, and when the economy is viable, BMW and Toyota will return.

Stewarding in F1

Stewarding in F1 has always been a tricky thing to get right. They never get it right, always get it wrong! Recently they have had lots of problems with exploiting track limits. I’ve had the pleasure of re watching the 2008 Spa and Monza races, with drivers exploring the limits of chichane cutting. Hamilton was the persecuted in 08 with his incident in a wet final few laps. At Monza, drivers were a bit castrated, many limits being exploited, lots not actually being penalized due to drivers using their brain.

At present, there is lots to do with drivers exploring the limits of the track in overtaking moves and also time advantage. With Monza quick approaching, the most blatant and consistently cut corner will be cut. That corner is actually on exit of Variante Ascari, it actually increases track length by 8 meters! For years Charlie Whiting and his team have always turned a blind eye due to the fact they are going further and not actually gaining a advantage in lap length, however gaining an advantage in lap time in one and a half tenths of a second as it allows drivers to get on power earlier and gain the advantage down to Paribolica.

I was looking at the 2008 cars be almost nailed to the track following the same line. I also thought back to the incident with Button and Vettel in 2012 at the German GP at the hairpin in the final laps. Vettel took advantage on the exit to take the place, he was third at the finish but given a time penalty to take him back to 4th.

At Hungary this year we saw Vettel take position via a similar way at turn 4 or 5 (depending on what chart you look at) over Button, yet in the same race Grosjean did same with Massa. Vettel gained zero penalty and Grosjean a drive through. Grosjean I seldom support in such situations, but I do in this. Vettel I am not the greatest of fans or greatest of haters to.

In this situation of corner cutting the driver should give back the position before the next corner and not attack at the preceding one either. Such was the rule in 2008. As for gaining an advantage time wise or holding position such as Button/Vettel this should have same rule applied. However I would like to see a situation at the tracks that have those new modern wide and long run off areas to do something more. To my eye there is two options, first one is 1 meter off the white line just add a 1 meter strip of grass-concrete or similar, something that will spin the car wheels up and give zero advantage to the driver. The second way is to put some sort of tar or surface that gives so much traction that it damages the tyres, actually rips them apart over a certain speed. Thus giving a race wrecking penalty. Drivers would then have to think about whole overtake and not go for the half overtake and get the thing wrong.

Spa this year brought two other items to the stewards addenda, the car width rule on the Perez/Grosjean and Vergne/Hulkenberg incidents at Les Coumbs. The other thing was the pit entry incident with Maldanado/Di Resta. Ill start with the Maldanado/Di Resta one first, this one is simple to me, you have to be on the side of the defining line after the safety car line in order to pit. If you don’t, you have to go around for another lap, the driver behind will always should have the benefit of the doubt in that matter. As for the incidents at Les Coumbs, Perez was in the right I feel with a good hard pass, what driver hasn’t squeezed another to gain position. The fact that Vergne passed on the outside and squeezed Hulkenberg on the exit of the right hander of Les Coumbs adds weight to my argument. Hulkenberg had to take to the escape Tarmac as to not collide with Vergne. However Grosjean I feel collided with Perez in order to try and gain a penalty over Perez. Yes the rules state you need to leave a car width, but if you take your car off the track on entry to a corner, I feel the rule should be voided.

Stewards have a thankless job, however I think they should have a better set of definitions in front of them, definitions that will make racing safer and also clearer. How to do this, I don’t know. However I am a fan of 9 professional stewards with 3 being at every GP with each doing at least 2 GP as head steward every season. Each steward can’t do more than 2 consecutive GP as well. I’d have two driver steward as well per GP, each out of F1 for at least 10 years. Driver Stewards will only do two GP a year in order to apply diversity. As for penalties, Stewards have 90 seconds to say if it’s being investigated or not, and 3 laps to dish out a penalty. The head steward gives an incident to a steward/driver to acquit guilt, the head steward dishes out a penalty or penalties. It means two incidents can be investigated at once as well. Drivers have two laps to take their penalty, with no right of appeal. This no right of appeal clause will make drivers think about their actions and overtakes the whole way through.

I am a fan of reprimands being used like the yellow/red card system in football. First yellow a 5 place grid drop, second a 10 place grid drop, third and your out for a race. Further more, a 4th reprimand and you take another 10 place drop, a fifth and you spend 3 races out. Red reprimands carry a instant 3 race ban, with a second one carrying 5 out.

Dans Your Man

Red Bull have just signed Daniel Riccardo on a 3 year deal. He won’t trouble Vettel, but will get points for the team and secure the Constructors Title. I’m sure he will be on a fraction of Vettels salary, however will have massive performances, and a nice Constructors Title based payment as it will be his job to be a good rear gunner.

Now all the Dominoes look at Toro Rosso and the likely replacement with Felix Antonio Da Costa.

Then all eyes to Ferrari and Lotus. McLaren and Mercedes are locked out with Red Bull now so all pressure is on Massa, Alonso and Raikkonen.

Things will now get very interesting very quickly I feel.

Monza is a-calling, I can’t wait as it will be my first GP!