Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I'm not dead

It just seems that way.

Yes, I've finally got round to posting here again after an extraordinary long absence, caused by quite a few events in the recent months, some small and some much larger. I'm not going to go into detail about all these things, just to say that this blog was evidently forgotten about for quite a while.

Obviously I could have chosen a better time to return, what with the 2011 season ending this weekend in Brazil. But with the emphasis now shifting to the matters of pre-season, driver changes, car unveilings and the like, there should be plenty of news to go around between the end of the month and March when the whole circus starts again.

A few notes to do with writing: having made it to university, as a journalism student no less, the quality of writing should be substantially higher than it was before. You're probably aware by now of the changes to the template as well. I'm hoping that this is the first event in a major change to the site's layout, so please try and get used to objects moving around each other for no apparent reason.

Along with this, I will try and get a few articles together that aren't as much news or comment related (perhaps a few Top 10 lists, classic race reports, stuff with embedded video clips etc.) to try and diversify the blog a bit. For now, though, the aim is merely on getting this place alive again.

As always, if you want to contact me, feel free to leave a comment on one of the stories or contact me through my profile.

So yeah, that appears to be everything. Good day to you all :)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Liuzzi + Force India = good?

Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi has told Italian newspaper Autosprint he thinks his race seat for next year is 'safe', despite threats from both test driver Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenburg, who is looking for a seat after being dumped from the Williams team. Although he has a contract for next year, the pressure is on for him to show his worth after an ordinary 2010. The question is: would keeping Liuzzi be a good move?

His 2010 season was one which despite starting well, seemed to end up failing to fulfil many people's expectations, with good points finishes in Australia and Korea being devalued by some rather poor qualifying performances, with the Italian struggling to get the car out of the first qualifying session on some occasions, and crashing unnecessarily, such as in the last two races of the year in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. For a team that was supposed to be moving up into the midfield, it got somewhat stuck in a rut, with performances alternating between good and terrible. But the problems were mainly to do with the car's lack of development over the year, and as a result this meant both drivers ended up struggling, so it could be quite easy to let Liuzzi off for some of the poor performances.

Even so, with two young drivers on the way, it may well be a good idea to let Liuzzi go, particularly as his comparatively long career has not yielded as much success as could be provided by the other two choices. Di Resta in particular has proven to be a reliable and solid tester for the team this season, which could help him appear more favourable to boss Vijay Mallaya if Liuzzi were ever to go, and Hulkenburg's form this season was good even before his stunning pole position in Brazil, that certainly put him on the map for the first time. But with neither driver having had much experience of racing under the belt, and Hulkenburg making some rather amateurish mistakes this season, it may well be a step too far to allow them to compete fully with their team mates, something which may impact both of them greatly were they to get the drive. Liuzzi, on the other hand, has shown himself to be capable of dealing with team-mate Adrian Sutil this season- surely a plus point.

Overall, I think it would be worth Force India's while to keep Tonio Liuzzi for another season, as he's proven to be quite a capable driver for the team, if not entirely spectacular. For Liuzzi's sake, it would be the best move as well- with only one drive at a semi-good team left, there's no real option for Liuzzi to do anything but stay with the team and allow their relationship to grow, as this is a team and driver partnership that is certainly capable of doing good things if the car and the driver both work at their best.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Tom Walkinshaw: 1946-2010

Apologies for the delay in posting. The last month has began to fill with coursework and other college-related work, so I haven't been able to spend enough time here as I would ideally want to. What with the end of the F1 season and the crowning of Sebastian Vettel as World Champion, it wasn't the best of times for this to happen. Nevertheless, now everything's out of the way, I will make sure I get back to posting properly from now on in.

Today's news in motor sport as a whole was dominated by the sad death of TWR founder and sometime Benetton/Ligier/Arrows F1 boss Tom Walkinshaw yesterday from cancer at the age of 64.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Korean GP- the aftermath

Again, the computer has been bugged up over the last few days. It appears to be definitely fixed this time though, so hopefully this blog should be back to normal.

For those of you who missed the Korean GP, Fernando Alonso won the delayed and rain-hit race from Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa, allowing him to take the championship lead. Both Red Bulls failed to finish the race, with Mark Webber crashing out on the 17th lap and Sebastian Vettel retiring of engine failure ten laps from the end of the race. The other title contender, Jenson Button, finished a lowly 12th, out of the points and seemingly out of contention.

The title standings with two races to go:
1. Alonso, 231 points
2. Webber, 220 points
3. Hamilton, 210 points
4. Vettel, 206 points
5. Button, 189 points

And some personal points/observations:
  • In my last post, I mentioned how Fernando Alonso was beginning to look like a good bet for the title. Much as I hate to blow my own trumpet, it appears to be coming true. He's certainly got the form for it- three wins in the last four races, six podiums in the last seven. The Ferrari also looks to be a competitive force at Interlagos, the next race, so there's a good chance for Fernando to put his title rivals even more under pressure. At the same time, Felipe Massa's podium was a good way for him to bounce back from a nightmare weekend at Suzuka, and it will be him that will play the most critical role in his home race next Sunday.
  • Most of the predictions of  Red Bull's dominance failed to take into account the team's unreliability, particularly in the case of Vettel. After problems with the car cost him wins in Bahrain and Australia, the engine blowup in Korea made for a sorry hat-trick, and one which has probably cost him the title. Something to think about is: had he won all three races mentioned above, he would have had the chance to wrap up the title in Brazil next week. Instead he has to come from way behind, and with team-mate Webber also in the hunt, it'll be hard to see which driver they will favour.
  • As for Webber himself, his mistake was only the second retirement of the season, but simply could not have happened at a worse time. More importantly, the crash was a pretty amatuerish mistake to make, even in wet conditions, and is the sort of thing that may well knock the confidence of someone whose championship challenge has been the most based on reliability. At least he comes to Brazil knowing that he's got a good chance of winning, having done so last year.
  • It was a mixed weekend for McLaren, whose car seems the slowest of the three championship contenders,but who had a lot more luck than either of the others. Although Hamilton effectively threw away his chances of victory by going off and allowing Alonso to pass him, it was inevitable he would have got through anyway, so it didn't make too much difference. Either way, second is a great result to get him back into the thick of the fight. Button, on the other hand, completely chose the wrong tyres, but even without that struggled in conditions he normally excels in. It seems extremely likely now that Jenson will be handing his title over, perhaps even in Brazil, the venue he won the title last year.
  • Mercedes got the better of Renault in the battle for fourth in the constructors' championship, with Michael Schumacher again impressing in fourth- the Rainmaster loving both the Korean track and the adverse weather conditions. Team-mate Nico Rosberg was unlucky to be caught up in Webber's crash early on, as it seemed like he would be on for a decent finish as well. As for the Renaults, Kubica's fifth was somewhat disappointing after he was quick in practice, while another crash for Vitaly Petrov has marked his card even further as he goes for a race seat in 2011.
  • There were also good races for BMW Sauber (8th and 9th) and Williams (7th and 10th), and a great drive from Tonio Liuzzi for Force India to take 6th, his best result of the season. The form of the team has tailed off significantly after a promising start, so it was good to see them taking decent points for the first time in quite a while.
  • Finally, the first race at the Yeongnam track, still being finished as the race was being held, wasn't too bad. OK, so there may have been teething problems, like fans trying to get into the track an hour after the official race start (although the one-hour delay caused by the extremely wet conditions did aid them somewhat), but for a track that was reportedly very close to not being ready to host even a go-kart race, the organisation was good, as was the racing, although of course it may well have been different in the dry. The rain conditions, coupled with the already slippery track surface, brought good racing, but the driver's refusal to drive in the early, monsoon-like conditions may well have been right on balance, even if it did lead to questions about the finish of the race, which happened under darkening sunset conditions.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

A week is a long time in F1...

 Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates over the last week or so, been having some computer troubles which took quite a while to sort out. As there's been too much going on to go into in detail,  this post is basically to get back up to speed with everything. I'll post some more regular updates from tomorrow.

Basically, the biggest news is that Sebastian Vettel won the Japanese Grand Prix last Sunday, with team-mate Mark Webber second, Fernando Alonso third and the McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton fourth and fifth. 
Webber keeps the lead of the championship with 220 points, Vettel and Alonso are joint second on 206, Hamilton on 192 and Button on 189.

Some personal points and observations from the race:

  • It was a pretty darn boring affair, and one which really wasn't worth getting up for (it started at 7am British time, which will be the same for the now confirmed Korean race next week). This pretty much suited the Red Bulls down to the ground, as it was clear Webber would not attack Vettel for fear of losing his championship lead. The Red Bulls were fastest all weekend, so it was clear when the delayed qualifying was on a completely dry track that they would dominate. As for both drivers, although Webber played it safe this time, he may well have to go for broke a lot more in the last few races- even if he were to finish second to Vettel in both Korea and Brazil, the pair would be on equal points heading into the last round, something Webber might not be able to handle.
  • Fernando Alonso is beginning to look like a good bet for the title, particularly as it seems his car is looking a lot better than the McLarens at the moment and can hold up well with the Red Bulls. Massa, on the other hand, despite apparently having full support from the team, will have to provide a much better service if Alonso is going to win the title- his first lap crash with Tonio Liuzzi's Force India shows how much he has gone off the boil since the German race.
  • Both McLarens are effectively out of the title hunt, as the remaining tracks suit Red Bull more, particularly in Brazil. It means Hamilton would have to hope for some reliability problems from Vettel and Webber to have a chance of the championship, something Button seems to be ruling himelf out of, and the team are not concerned about.
  • Robert Kubica's early retirement robbed us of a good race in Suzuka, as it seemed the Polish driver was the only one to come close to the two up front. It also throws into sharp relief the distance between Kubica and Vitaly Petrov, another driver whose early retirement, coupled with a grid penalty for the next race, would not have endeared him to his already impatient bosses. There is still a chance that somebody else will come into the team, but with the options already thin on the ground, it will be hard to see Renault getting rid of him.
  • There were two standout drives on Sunday, both from drivers with rather mixed seasons. Michael Schumacher in sixth drove probably his best race of the season, easily keeping in touch with team-mate Nico Rosberg and proving to be at least consistent, if not particularly fast towards the end of the year. Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber was the other one- whether it was being in front of a home crowd, or something the team put in his cereal, he was definitely the most entertaining driver of the race, with some fantastic overtaking manouevres making up for the timidness of the other drivers.
  • Finally, the battle of the last three teams seems to have ended in Lotus' favour after Kovalainen's 12th place, while Virgin finally moved ahead of Hispania after Glock finished 14th. As for Lucas Di Grassi, the less said about his weekend, the better...
 The rest of the news this week concerned the Korean GP, which will definitely go ahead next Sunday after the FIA approved the track for racing. As well as this a race has been announced for Russia in 2014, in the Winter Olympic city of Sochi, proving once and for all that Bernie Ecclestone doesn't read my posts, and that F1 testing will take place at Portimao in Portugal from next season, which sounds good.

Right, that's your lot. As mentioned above, normal service resumes tomorrow. Hopefully.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Japanese GP Predictions

Some notes from the two practice sessions:

  • Red Bull are looking like the team to beat at Suzuka; not suprising really, given that the track's fast blasts really suit the car. 
  • Vettel looks the faster of the pair, it seems he's able to get a lot more out of the car through the turns. Could lead to some problems through the first corner if he's partnered up with Webber at the front.
  • Hamilton's crash in practice is a sign of recklessness, but it should hopefully wake him up a lot more for this weekend. This is the race where he has to win, and moreover beat all other title rivals into a cocked hat. Any mistakes this weekend would be fatal, but I doubt even Lewis can make it three in a row...
  • Degner is obviously the danger spot, but then it's always been, so no real problems there.
  • Everything I've said above is pretty much irrelevent, as monsoon-like rain is being reported as being present during qualifying and maybe into race day as well.
The final factor throws up some particularly interesting scenarios. Red Bull have not been particularly impressive in the wet this year, but given the dominance of the car in the dry conditions this may not have as much of an impact as it would normally. The conditions will definitely suit the McLaren drivers more, so both  Button and Hamilton have to use the conditions to their advantage. Alonso may have to throttle back somewhat, which could give a couple of other drivers a chance to get into the mix: mainly Robert Kubica, whose Renault was 3rd fastest in both practice sessions and could provide a real threat in rainy conditions.

On this basis, my predictions for qualifying are these:

1.Vettel (Red Bull)
2. Hamilton (McLaren) (7th after penalty)
3. Webber (Red Bull) (up to 2nd after Hamilton penalty)
4. Kubica (Renault) (up to 3rd)
5. Button (McLaren) (up to 4th)
6. Alonso (Ferrari) (up to 5th)
7. Massa (Ferrari) (up to 6th)
8. Sutil (Force India)
9. Petrov (Renault)
10. Rosberg (Mercedes)

EDIT: Qualifying has been postponed until 12pm Japanese time on Sunday (2am BST, 10pm Saturday EST), because of torrential rain. Lewis Hamilton has also been docked 5 places on the grid due to a change of gearbox. I have therefore changed my predictions accordingly.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Keeping a distance: Raikkonen rules out Renault

 Former F1 Champion Kimi Raikkonen's decision not to return to F1 with Renault for next season can be seen in quite a few different ways: a driver too big for his boots, or a team fabricating lies and rumours for publicity's sake, whatever floats your boat.