Was Rosberg robbed of winning F1’s first night race?

25 09 2009

It seems Nico felt that he was the winner of the Formula 1’s first night race judging by a recent interview while visiting Peranakan Museum. Rosberg Junior’s exact words were…

“Actually, I won the race because the team who finished first cheated.”

“If we had protested, I could’ve won the race last year. But it’s too late now.”

He followed up with a definitely bitter tone…

“The only thing I don’t understand is that Piquet didn’t get anything. For me, he’s just as involved as the others because he is the one who actually did it and agreed to it.”

Nico is right, if the Renault cheating had been found out at the time he would have won his first GP and F1’s first night race. Does this actually make him the deserved winner of the inaugural night race?

Race Review

At the start of the race Nico was 10th and only just ahead of his team-mate Kazuki and by lap 5 was 31 seconds behind race leader Felipe Massa. This is despite being quite light with fuel. It was not an impressive start to the race. Alonso pitted early since he had caught Kazuki who was circulating fairly slowly and this would damage their early pitstop strategy.

After Alonso completed his pitstop Piquet was given the order to crash (push Nelson = crash Nelson). The two Red Bull drivers pitted just before the pitlane was closed and Nico and Robert pitted while the pitlane was closed. Nico emerged from the pits well ahead of Alonso, but more significantly he had F1’s two mobile chicanes of 2008 season Truli and Fisichella between him and the rest of the pack.

Nico only took his drive-through penalty on lap 29 – more than 10 laps after his breach of the pitlane. Due to particularly Fisichella the rest of the pack including Alonso was some 24 seconds behind Rosberg. So when Nico rejoined he was just behind Alonso the eventual winner and ahead of Hamilton. At that time every one was behind Truli who was yet to make any pitstop. When Truli pitted Alonso took the lead ahead of Nico and Lewis, a situation held to the end of the race.

What outcome given Renault fixed the race?

Nico could only have won as benefit of another team cheating and being caught out. His favourable position was contributed to by being able to building a 24 second lead over the pack caught up behind Fisichella. In reality, even lightly fuelled, Nico was not going to be in position to even win points, let alone final on the top spot.

Felipe and the Ferrari got to grips with the track best throughout qualifying and the first part of the race. Felipe looked so good that it almost seemed to be another Massatrack like Turkey and Interlagos. In the mayhem that followed Piquet’s shunt the Ferrari pit crew stuffed his pitstop together with an unsafe release. Felipe did have a spin towards the end of the race and reported a slow puncture. Even had there not been the bungled pitstop this could have harmed his chance for victory. Similarly Kimi was also in a strong position but crashed towards the end of the race. I am of the opinion that actually Lewis Hamilton was the most likely victor had there not been a safety car and Nico would have finished out of the points.


It is very unfortunate the results of 2008 cannot be revoked. Neither Alonso nor Renault deserved this win and should be disqualified from the results. This also impacted on the final standings and Alonso would not have finished ahead of Nick. In all honesty, even if the results could be changed, I do not think a winner should be awarded. I find it disappointing that Nico could consider this to be a REAL win. Although people thought he drove well his good position was really luck of the circumstances (the deliberate crash, the Truli-Fisichella dual-train, and being allowed 11 laps before taking the penalty). This was a solid but not stellar race for the young Williams driver.

source: http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/2008singaporegrandprixraceprogress_all.gif


Sorry guys. I had a little outing*

20 09 2009

First we had Spy-gate, then Spank-gate followed in quick succession by Lie-gate and Crash-gate. All of these incidents reflect astonishing collapses of professionalism that makes it difficult for F1 to be considered a “Sport”. I will analyse crash-gate with my own personal (and probably wrong) interpretations.

The first time I saw (on TV) Nelsinho Piquet was the inaugural AIGP at Brands Hatch with two wins and fastest lap. It was a magical moment, the kid looked seriously good and the female South African commentators were most complementary of his good looks and youthful charm on the victory podium. If I remember correctly Emerson Fittapaldi was the team Brazil manager, but also seemed the perfect mentor to the rising star.

Nelsinho’s Biography

Nelsinho Piquet was born in Germany, but until the age of 8 was raised by his Dutch mother in Monaco. He then was sent to live with his father in Brazil with the intention to learn the language and his mother felt to get a better quality of life. He certainly enjoyed access to huge opportunity to go motor-racing. At 16 he finished 5th in the Brazilian F3 championship have completed only half of the season and followed this up the next season with the championship and four race victories.

In 2003, with his father’s own team, he contested the British F3 championship and finished third despite five wins and three further podiums. That year he also tested in a Williams BMW F1 car.

In 2004 he won six F3 races and became the then youngest British F3 champion (at 19 years and 2 months). The next year he contested the GP2 championship (also in his father’s team), with one victory and three additional podiums. That year he tested the BAR Honda F1 car.

In 2006 Nelsinho fought closely with Lewis Hamilton for the GP2 crown, but it was the British driver who won. In 2007 he was a test driver for the Renault F1 team and in December of that year announced to be the driver for 2008 alongside twice former world champion Fernando Alonso.

During most of 2008 the Renault R28 was not particularly competitive. In part this was that the team stuck to letter of the rule on engine development. Not withstanding the shortcomings of the car it was not a good season for the young driver with a high number of accidents and that he was the only driver out-qualified by his team mate throughout the season.

He did show maturity at the German GP to secure 2nd position, although a fortunate strategy and the safety car contributed to the result. His overtake of his teammate during the final stages of the earlier French GP was another highlight.

In 2009 his nightmare F1 career was terminated when he was sacked by the team in mid-season having not scored a single point all season. In summary a hugely talented youngster with plenty of opportunity rose very rapidly in the motor-racing fraternity only to be crushed in the ultimate test of Formula One.

Singapore 2008 – what happened?

This event was sponsored by IMG, the main sponsor of the Renault F1 team. It was the first night race and Renault F1 team had sorted out what they could do to their engine under the new “no change” rules ensuring their cars were more competitive. An unfamiliar circuit to every driver and the novel night race conditions seemed to suit Fernando Alonso and in practice he was showing that Renault R28 was a font runner.

Renault F1’s new found competitiveness was dashed during qualifying when Fernando had a fuel pump issue, which relegated him to 15th position just ahead of Nelsinho. At this point in the season, we had Renault in serious contention for success with a competitive car. The circuit is narrow with no real overtaking opportunity beyond the start. Thereafter, it would take a pit stop to overtake or a safety car to shuffle the results.

While Renault had in the past used a light fuel load in final qualifying to get a good grid position such as Spain for Alonso’s home GP, these should be considered as publicity stunts (showboating). Having not made the top 10 grid positions Renault were free to use whatever strategy they wanted, so a light-fuel strategy makes even less sense. If there had been a safety car just after the start – they could have saved fuel, but the so would everyone else and they would have had to pitted early and lost many track positions (and indeed after his fuel stop Alonso was last). Could Renault be gambling that a Safety car would be coming out somewhere between lap 12 and 17 as they appear to have fuelled Fernando for a maximum of 15 laps?

These circumstances get even more suspicious when Pat Symonds instructs Alonso to pit on lap 12. Was Fernando essentially losing too much time relative to the leaders that even with a safety car it could ruin their success? Leaked transcripts of the team-radio do suggest that Fernando was getting held up and losing time. Fernado’s race engineer appears to have questioned the premature pit stop but Fernando does stop on lap 12 while still fuelled for a couple more laps. They fuelled him for a long second stint and swap the super-soft tyres with longer running soft tyres.

On lap 14 Nelsinho crashes at turn 17 and a Safety Car is deployed. Other drivers who had used a light fuel to get good starting positions were forced to pit under the safety car and incurred a drive-through penalty. Once the pitlane is opened (lap 17) for refueling most of the pack pit. Race leader Felipe Massa had a disastrous pit stop ruining any prospects of points let alone a win.

Rosberg and Kubica served their penalty for violating the closed pit lane promoting Alonso into the lead. Alonso maintains his lead despite a late Safety Car incident following Adrian Sutil’s crash at the same spot as Nelsinho. Nelsinho’s accident happened in a window of opportunity of no more than two or three laps when it could be used to Alonso’s advantage. It was also on part of the circuit where there were no cranes so a Safety Car was assured.

Could a team ask a driver to deliberately change the results?

Deliberately crashing into another driver has been practiced by drivers in the past including Senna, Schumacher and Prost in attempting to secure a world championship, so it is not quite as preposterous as it might at first seem. Anyone who has watched NASCAR must realize some of the spins to bring out the safety car were pre-mediated and probably to impact on a competitor.

Causing an accident and curtailing a qualifying has occurred with Michael Schumacher “parking” his car in a feign accident when he had set a good qualifying time to prevent Fernando from setting a better time during the Monaco GP 2006.

Earlier this year the McLaren team deliberately lied about an incident which promoted Lewis Hamilton and got another team disqualified from the results. This is as much race-fixing as asking a driver to bin a car for the team.

So you might ask then ask is this not hugely unsafe to ask a driver to deliberately crash and bring a safety car out? Formula One is remarkable safe, drivers like Robert Kubica (Canada) and Timo Glock have had huge accidents with very little injury. To be honest Nelsinho had also had a lot of experience in testing the safety of the Renault F1 car with his record of crashes.

Consequently I think safety was not really a major concern to driver or team. Again leaked transcripts, suggest it was only the engineer that was having any real worries about Nelsinho immediately following the contact.

The freak accidents of Henry Surtees and Felipe Massa have at least resulted in safety being re-evaluated. Deliberately crashing is now more serious since any accident has a potential to trigger collateral damage to other drivers, marshals and even spectators.

How have (or should have) Renault F1 respond?

Slightly surprisingly ’s allegations have got leaked and widely circulated. On the surface the FIA have said it was unfortunate and FOTA has complained that this is unfair to the accused team. In honesty, I am really not sure it is such an issue. It makes it clear what the allegation is about.

I do, however, find the leaks around the interviews the FIA had with critical members of the Renault team appalling as this really can pre-judge the case.

In essence Flavio Briatore claimed there was no crash, no meeting and they have done nothing wrong. In contrast Pat would not answer difficult questions nor recall details. During the period of investigation into Renault F1’s possession of Intellectual Property of McLaren the entire Renault factory admitted guilt and suffered from an epidemic of the a highly infectious form of collective amnesia. Sadly for Pat this conditions has continued and he could well be in the terminal stages of the illness.

While Pat quietly suffers this malady, Flavio seems to have opted with fighting fire with fire and claims that he and Renault will pursue legal action for false accusation and blackmail. Of course this is not fully true since he can only report the incident, it is for authorities to actually proceed with a criminal  case based on evidence. He also went into personal details about Nelsinho’s lifestyle in an attempt to create a rift between Nelsinho and his father (another sort of outing?).

Interestingly, Renault announced it would not contest Nelsinho’s allegations and that both Flavio and Pat have now left the company. This has been interpreted as guilt of misconduct and I assume the team is wanting FIA to look on the incident with some leniency.

Many people have assumed that this means Renault F1 wish to continue in the sport. I rather see it as crisis management. Renault conducted their own investigation and concluded that they could not defend themselves.

With the resignations of Flavio and Pat they are not under FIA authority to be present at the meeting tomorrow. Clearly Renault want the two top guys to take full responsibility and don’t actually want them to testify. What this allows is for the FIA to punish the team without the severity that McLaren received when they deliberately lied to the FIA during spygate. This at least provides the most protection for the rest of the Renault F1 employees. More importantly it gives the parent company the option of selling or staying on.

How much guilt should Nelsinho shoulder?

People are over-reacting to the dangers of the situation and forgetting how Senna, Prost and Schumacher all crashed into competitors. That is not to say it was not serious nor cheating – it is. Formula 1 has always had large doses of cheating. Eddie Irvine concluded that…

“This is probably slightly on the wrong side of the cheating thing but in days past every team have done whatever they could to win – cheat, bend the rules, break the rules, sabotage opponents”


Briatore and Symonds sent Nelsinho out at the Monaco’s 2008 wet race deliberately on the wrong tyres to see if this could be a strategy for Alonso. Although it was admitted that it was a long shot and Nelsinho did have a crash was this not similarly dangerous? It also did not stop Flavio publicly humiliating Nelsinho in the press after the race.

Nelsinho has been seriously mismanaged, even, dare I say it been sacrificed on Alonso’s Altar. Those that say an F1 driver should be tough enough to cope – I think a similar situation occurred with Bourdais – he left the Toro Rosso team with little in the way of results and immediately won his first Superleague race in cars that are the most similar to current F1 cars. Formula 1 drivers are fragile as they need huge confidence to do what they do successfully. This is one of the reasons Lewis Hamilton is so successful, huge self-belief and rarely if ever admits to a racing fault (including last week’s Monza outing).

I believe Briatore destroyed Nelsinho’s self belief. He was vulnerable, since he had not delivered the goods on the track so the best he could offer was to help the team in other ways and specifically his team mate. Formula 1 team’s exercise huge influence on their drivers, hence Lewis Hamilton lied to get another team disqualified, Piquet crashing on team orders to gift the race to his team mate.

Ex F1 driver Johnny Herbert who has experienced Briatore first-hand has indicated in no uncertain terms his unpleasant character. If you think I exaggerate just read the interview with Johnny Herbert.


Herbert shares my view, what Piquet did was undeniably wrong but we need to understand what sort of pressure he was under. You have a driver more frightened of his manager/boss than of crashing a car – that says a lot. Since Nelsinho was asked to crash to bring the team a favourable result (and the parent company does not want to contest this allegation) it would be impossible for Renault to bring any charges against Nelsinho.

Could Nelsinho have said no?

I am fairly sure had he said so he would have been replaced in the next race or certainly in the next season. My own experience is that people do not put their jobs on-line. I have had two past incidents with my own employers practicing unethical standards. In both cases the great majority of my colleagues remained quiet.

While many people have questioned Nelsinho receiving immunity as a whistle-blower. I take it these people would rather that all the cheating remains undiscovered? Protection of whistle-blowers is necessary to keep the industry clean, since otherwise no-one would ever admit to the cheating that is  pandemic in the industry.

The real villain is Flavio and this guy should be banned from F1 and not be allowed to managed any current or future racing driver. Being a team boss and at the same time a manager of a driver provides too much hold over the driver.

Finally if you think Alonso is completely innocent in all of this contrast the following quotes from the guy…

“Alonso explained that his early pitstop was his idea” “I did think about running a one-stop strategy,”

“but all that fuel weight would have been too punishing for the brakes because there are no long straights here to keep them cool. Instead I chose a short, aggressive first stint and just waited to see what would happen.”


Now compare what he said to the FIA during their interviews at Spa this year knowing there was controversial issues surrounding his race win.

“Alonso also said that he left strategy decisions to his engineers and that running a short first stint from outside the top ten was merely an attempt to do something different from the cars around him, which is consistent with Pat Symonds’ attitude to race strategy as he’s articulated it to me in the past.”


So immediately after winning the Singapore GP he credited himself with the clever short first-stint fuel stop but when there is controversy he changes his tune to it being his engineers decisions. While Fernando has been summoned to the FIA meeting (as has Briatore) it is unlikely this inconsistency will be picked up but it is revealing.


Nelsinho’s “little outing” is set to reshape Formula 1. Not only has he outed Flavio Briatore, one of the biggest guys from F1 but it is likely the FIA will re-examine much of the structure of the Formula 1’s team management. Possibly this is a “good” outcome of the unhappy event. Personally, though Fernando should as a minimum have one less victory to his credit. I hope that the Renault F1 team do continue in the sport and are able to withstand whatever punishment is imposed by the FIA, since their problem was probably no more than a couple of bad apples which they have got rid of.

Nelsinho’s Formula 1 career is over, no matter what happens tomorrow, and I believe that much, but not all, of guilt lies with his team manager. While Nelsinho has called Briatore his “executioner” the little guy has done his share in the execution of his boss and for which the Formula 1 fraternity should be eternally grateful.

*These were the first words spoken by Nelsinho following his crash at Singapore GP 2008.

Teenage F1 stars: Will Jaime be one?

21 07 2009

It is now old news that teenager Jaime Alguersuari this weekend is set to become the youngest ever driver to compete in an F1 race at the age of 19 years and 125 day. He is not the youngest ever driver of an F1 car, that honour belongs to Nico Rosberg who drove a Williams-BMW F1 for 38 laps at sweet seventeen. He is also not the youngest driver to participate in an F1 weekend, Sebastian Vettel when he drove in the Friday practice for the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix was just 19 years and 53 days. Currently the youngest driver to start in an F1 is New Zealander Mike Thackwell at 19 years and 182 days at the 1980 Canadian Grand Prix.

Other drivers who have driven in F1 when they were less than twenty include Ricardo Rodriguez (19 years, 208 days) at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso (19 years, 218 days) at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix, Esteban Tuero (19 years, 320 days) at the 1998 Australian Grand Prix, Chris Amon (19 years, 324 days) at the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix and Sebastian Vettel (19 years, 349 days) at the 2007 United States Grand Prix. Jenson Button started his F1 career at a relatively old 20 years and 53 days at the 2000 Australian Grand Prix.

For some starting so early was clearly not the right decision. Mike Thackwell in his first race was involved in an accident on the very first lap and the race was stopped as a consequence. Since he was not in a situation to restart the race he in the eyes of F1 regulations had not started the race. In this case Mexican Ricardo Rodriguez would be the youngest F1 driver to start a race. Sadly Mike Thackwell only attempted five F1 races and only qualified to start in two.

Argentinian Esteban Tuero’s career although stretching a full season was not much more successful. His entry was controversial since he did not fully qualify for a FIA super-licence. The F1 driver Martin Brundle said

As for Tuero, it would have been scary. I don’t like to see these guys out there with so little experience. Imagine it: even if he didn’t qualify, he’d be getting in the way during qualifying. And if he did qualify, then he’d definitely be being lapped plenty. He’d have really needed to have his wits about him. To be honest, it annoys me, people like that, with zilch credibility.

Nevertheless he was allowed to enter and qualified second last in his début race and during the season only made the top ten once at Imola. In the last race of the season (Japanese) he had an accident injuring a vertebra in his neck. He retired from F1 citing personal issues which probably reflected the extent of the injury to his neck.

Ricardo Rodriguez qualified second in his first F1 race driving a Ferrari. During the race he battled for the lead with the likes of Phil Hill and Richie Ginther, but a fuel pump failure sidelined his incredible F1 début. Ferrari did not give him a seat every race that year, but when they did he produced the results taking second at the Pau Grand Prix, fourth at the Belgian Grand Prix and sixth at the German Grand Prix. In the same year he also won the legendary Targa Florio. Ferrari elected not to enter the non-Championship 1962 Mexican Grand Prix so Ricardo signed to drive Rob Walker’s Lotus, but was tragically killed on the first day of practice. In his short career of six F1 starts no other teenage F1 driver has been more successful.

In contrast Fernando Alonso did not score any points in his first F1 season driving for Minardi, but in his first race he out-qualified teammate Tarso Marques by 2.6 seconds. In his fourth start he out-qualified both of the Benettons, he also repeated this achievement latter in the season. In his final race of that year he finished eleventh beating Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Prost-Ferrari, Olivier Panis in the BAR-Honda, both Arrows and team mate Alex Yoong. In his career he became, at the time, the youngest F1 driver to start from pole (2003 Malaysian Grand Prix) to win a race (2003 Hungarian Grand Prix) and become World championship (2005) which he repeated in the next season.

Chris Amon is considered to be one of the unluckiest of all F1 drivers that survived their racing careers. He did not even get to start his first F1 race he entered. His experienced teammate Maurice Trintignant had problems with his Climax V8 powered Lola and so took over Amon’s car to race. The Lola proved unreliable, and he just missed points with seventh position in the French and German Grand Prix. Despite a long career and close to 100 starts Chris never won an F1 championship race. Mario Andretti once joked of Amon that

if he became an undertaker, people would stop dying

Sebastian Vettel started his first F1 race after qualifying seventh in the BMW Sauber for the 2007 USA Grand Prix replacing the injured Robert Kubica. In the race he finished eighth and in the points. He went onto to beat both Fernando’s records for youngest pole-sitter and F1 winner at Monza 2008. He also is the youngest F1 driver to win a Grand Prix in two consecutive teams. Judging by this season he could even become the youngest-ever world champion which is currently held by Lewis Hamilton. The other record Sebastian has is for the quickest driver to receive a penalty fine ($1000) just nine seconds into his career for pitlane speeding.

So what is in store for young Jaime? Unlike Ricardo or even Sebastian he is not starting in a competitive car, let alone one that can win a race. In the last few races the Toro Rosso have been the slowest team and indeed Bourdais, who he replaces qualified last in the last the Grand Prix. Consequently neither the team nor Jaime are setting very high targets. To make matters worse this season there has been a ban on mid-season track testing. The only glimmer of hope is that there is a significant up-grade to the car for the forthcoming race which includes the introduction of a double rear diffuser.

While I trust that Jaime’s F1 career will start more successful that some of the other teenagers, most people are predicting it to be fairly anonymous. Indeed James Allen goes further to say…

F1 is so competitive now that young drivers have little choice but to take the offer when it comes. Sometimes drivers are ready, like Vettel or Jenson Button or Kimi Raikkonen. This one doesn’t seem ready to me, but I look forward to being proved wrong.

Few will expect Jaime to qualify anything other than last and it will be a good start if he can just keep the car on the track and finish his first Grand Prix. Given his racing history, no experience of an F1 car and an uncompetitive team the learning curve is going to be steep. One can only hope his character is as big as the sponsorships that promoted him to an F1 career so rapidly. Good Luck Jaime you are going to need a lot to survive your first F1 season.

Reverse Order for Red Bulls 1-2 Victory

14 07 2009

From never having won a GP until this year (excluding STR’s victory) Red Bull have scored a third 1-2 in a third of the races this season.  Well done Christian, Adrian and your team.  The only difference is the guy from down under came out on top this weekend. Only six months previously Webbo must have wonder what his chances were this season, in bed with a broken leg and not disclosing to the team he also had a broken shoulder.

This weekend Webber eventually got his first GP win and did so in a fairly commanding style despite being over-aggressive and hitting both Rubens and Lewis in his  “Demolitian Derby” start. His team mate Vettel never looked as “dialed in” this weekend but the Red Bull advantage over every other team today was very evident and he finished second.  Red Bull are in the hunt to chase down Brawn, and I for one think they can do it (I will make a blog on my reasons for this sometime)

Brawn must be worried, in practice they got their grid positions by being lighter on fuel than everyone else. This ultimately hampered their race and the strategy would only have worked if interrupted by rain or a safety car.  The problems though, were deeper the Brawns simply could not make the intermediate tyres work so most of the race had to be run on the softs which probably could not last the distance required of a two stop strategy.  More bad luck in the first pitstop for Rubens with a fuel rig problem saw him lose any chance of victory despite a stellar start to lead off the line.  Bringing Rubens in early for his last pit stop saw Jenson yet again beat him on the track if not on racing merit.  I did noticed the skilled way the Brawn team got Jenson ahead or Rubens.  That extra point could help win the championship.

Gradual improvement is the best way to describe team Ferrari.   Felipe having made a good start brought the Ferrari home to his first podium of the year. Kimi was again outclassed by his teammate and again seemed to have a magnetic attraction to Adrian’s car while the latter was in a strong position. Fortunately Kimi did not get a penalty, but why leave it until after the race to make the decision? Adrian was remarkably resigned to the situation and very professional in not putting any blame on Kimi.  To me it was a genuine racing incident and it might have been possible for Kimi to have avoided it but this is racing.

For Force India it is a case of so close and yet so far to scoring points – the cars are now genuinely in the mid-field and should be scoring points. I wonder if FIF1 should not do an STR trick and draft Luizzi rather than Fisi – Adrian is getting the better of his veteran team mate.

McLaren are improving especially with the new specs of the car Lewis drove.  Lewis and Kovy both made good starts (Lewis’ was superb), but for the incident on the first corner Lewis would probably have been on the podium. The light fuel load of Lewis’ car would have prevented victory today but the team should be encouraged by the HUGE progress. Kovy for me, yet again disappoints, a good start but seems to go backwards during the race – still one is one point (but if I were Macca I would be looking for another driver next season – particularly Timo).

Williams were rather anonymous in the race.  I did not see much of Nico but another very solid drive ensured more points for the team and more chance he wil stay with them. Kaz had problems at the start with an encounter of the Trulli kind and that finished his race.

I am perplexed by Fernando, spins on the warm-up and yet gets fastest lap of the race and scores some points – what are Renault’s problems?  PK having out-qualified his team mate for the first time ever had a rather poor race and is yet to bother the score board.  While there has been recent improvement in the young Brazilian, is it enough?  Will Renault decide to replace him for the next race or could they in a patriotic spirit grab the soon to be released LeSeb?  I think very unlikely but in the strange world of F1 I guess anything is possible.

I am biased, but I think Timo impressed starting last from the pitlane and finishing 9th in the Toyota (which generally struggled with low temperatures at a circuit not suited to their aerodynamics). Were it not for the KERS in the Macca I wonder if he would not have got past Kovy. His team mate had trouble at the start that finished any chances in the race and Toyota had a miserable day at their home circuit.

The other home team of BMW Saubers were again terrible – they should put Nick on a one-stop strategy like Timo to stand any chances of getting points. Kubica had a good start but otherwise a dreadful race with tyre issues.  Nick still beat his teamate in qualifying and in the race and yet the rumours still insist that he is for the chop.  If realised I say stupid team – Nick is a great driver but he needs a winning car.  If I had a wish I would put him in a Brawn with Jenson and design a car for their smooth driving styles.  Incidentally it seems he was close to moving to Honda last year – Nick Fry is apparently a bit of a fan of the quiet German.

Toro Rosso are the only team not to have a rear double diffuser.  If that was their only problem a cure is in sight with its introduction at Hungary.  It seems the stream of technical emails from the Red Bull factory has run out and the team is floundering.  Buemi is over-driving and making mistakes but still impresses more than his experienced team mate.  Surely there is nothing to lose now for Toro Rosso to put Jaime Alguersuari in the seat to get experience for next year. They are the slowest on the grid and my prediction is they will remain so for the rest of the season.

Finally my driver of the day (and indeed the weekend) had to be Webbo. Losers of the day (and weekend) were Brawn GP who are now not longer even second best – arguably Ferrari and Macca were equal and even Williams are close. The factory teams of BMW-Sauber, Renault and Toyota will have some more explaining to their board members. At least Renault customer engines are now winning which is some consolation.

So Long SeaBass, and Thanks for All the Fish

14 07 2009

Over this last weekend rumours  did the rounds that it would be SeaBass’ (Sebastien Bourdais) last race this season for Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR).  The BBC commentary discussed this during the German GP was as if it was a  fait accompli.  LeSeb is not saying anything other than he has a contract and the Team Boss Franz Tost has not denied the rumours.  Poor Sebastien had a miserable weekend and qualified in last place.  This year he has been out-qualified by his young team mate Sebastien Buemi in his first season seven times and has scored fewer points.  During the race he retired and body language as he hugged team members said it all.  Even his wife is reported to have said it was his last race with the team.

So what went wrong for the four-times USA CART Champion?  During 2007 there was much fanfair when STR announced their signing of LeSeb to replace the Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi.  The team also had Sebastian Vettel who had more lucky breaks in the season over the Italian but was not really much, if any faster.  During 2008 the young German wonderkid scored the teams first pole and GP win and he become the youngest ever driver to achieve these.  At the end of the season Vettel had 35 points to Bourdais’ 4.   Poor LeSeb had all the technical gremlins and a very harsh penalty by the FIA marshals at Japanese GP.  Yet in his very first race he got up to fourth before the car retired right at the end of the race but still was awarded seventh and two race points.

Seabass is set to be replaced by the Spanish teenager  Jaime Alguersuari, the youngest-ever British F3 champion.  He apparently brings a healthy dose of Repsol sponsorship.    Jaime has only recently replaced the androgenous-looking Brendan Hartley (a.k.a Goldilocks) as the reserve driver for both Red Bull teams.  One wonders if the decission to relieve Seabass from his contract pre-empted replacing Goldilocks.

Given that this years STR is fairly rubbish and most certainly the slowest car on grid, I wonder if it is not best for Seabass to bid farewell.  He was spectacular at this year’s Le Mans and finished second.  Hopefully a gap in Le Mans Series or a return to USA open Wheel series is possible so he can regain his reputation.  Of course with three new F1 teams set to compete in 2010 there is still the chance of seat in the F1 series come the new year.

So why did Red Bull replace their reserve driver just before announcing the replacement of one of their drivers?  It is fairly clear that they did not want poor Goldilocks as their driver.  I can only speculate that it revolves around image since Brendan is no slouch in a racing car and was on occasions faster than Jaime but ultimately not as as consistent.  Should Jaime find himself  at the wheel of the STR for the Hungary GP he will be the youngest ever F1 driver at 19 years and 125 days.  I wonder if this is more of a marketing tactic than anything else, and coincidentally it will be the first outing that the team will deploy their rear double diffuser.  I am not sure if Jaime will sink or swim, but he is certain to grab headlines for his first few races based on his youth and presentable good looks.

PS I guess I need to learn  to pronounce his last name.

Storm in a tea-cup: Will it break-up Mad Max and Mr Eccles Tea Party?

17 06 2009

A friend of mine has asked what the storm in the teacup that Formula One is in? So I attempted to say it was a dispute between the teams and their drivers on the one side and the administration of FIA on the other. I then went onto to say it was mostly one person’s inability to compromise or listen, that person being Max Mosley.

So my friend immediately said I have heard of him, he was the guy with all the hookers doing German-theme SM sex! Then he said he did not know he was president of the FIA, just some important guy. Finally he said well if ain’t got Ferrari or Monaco in it it ain’t Formula 1.

Here I have attempted to provide a back ground to this dispute to others like my friend who are confused. In the one corner of the ring we have Mad Max, president of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile). He is fresh with three recent victories. In 2007 as punishment for “spying” and he gave McLaren otherwise known as Team Pinocchio a $100 million fine and they lost all of their constructors points. Fortunately their drivers were allowed to contest the championship, though neither was successful. In truth the two-team mates seemed more concerned with taking each other than actually winning.

In 2008 Mad Max scored scored an even more sensation victory. Having being video-taped in somewhat compromising circumstances. This incident is best described by F1 Rejects as the “Alleged Nazi-themed Sado-masochistic sex with 5 prostitutes gate”.  Incidentally this popular site still has available Max and I survived ANTSMSW5PG T-shirts in a variety of colours and sizes should you be interested.

While virtually every important motoring club and big knob in the motor industry condemned such behaviour Max survived by gaining support from lots of little clubs representing little countries (sadly a lot of them from Africa). In 2009 when McLaren (team Pinocchio) again got caught again telling little white lies (which conveniently would have lost another team quite a few points), Max was able to use this to good effect. Without going into full disclosure Team Pinocchio lost their points for the race and got a suspended sentence.  Tonka Toy Toyota fortunately got their points re-instated. If Team Pinocchio were good through the rest of the year their three-race sentence would be suspended. Part of the deal though was that their chief puppeteer, Uncle Ron, would be banished to Outer Mordor.

In so doing Mad Max finally won over his nemesis of many years. With such victories Mad Max now thought himself so invincible he could win any battle and push through any regulations he wished. A few discussions with his old mate Virtual Nick on virtual engineering (with whom he was co-owner of the F1 reject team and more recently was part of the team FIA commissioned to examine the split rear-aerofoil), Mad Max got a brilliant idea. Virtual engineering of an F1 car would cut costs and so he thought up the budget cap idea. In his discussion with his other crony Mr Eccles, who following a divorce had fallen on hard times financially, they worked out that a budget cap would help Eccles to restore some of his former wealth.

Since the FIA had saved the teams so much money with the introduction of the budget caps they would not need as much of the proceeds from the commercial rights (broadcasting revenues). Obviously this would give Mr Eccles a bigger still slice of the money tart. Now I want to introduce the other contestant – FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) which only mid last year had formed at meeting at Maranello (home of Ferrari). The big cheese  at Ferrari Luca de Mozzarella was to Chair FOTA.

Both Luca de Mozzarella and his side kick Little John Howett and their merry men were mightily upset by Max with his budget cap ideas. They especially did not like a two-tier system where cars running within the budget cap would have more technical freedoms. However, in truth it was more than just budget caps it was the whole way Mad Max was running the circus that bothered them. Before that Mad Max had wanted all the teams to run a single engine designed by Cosworth. Even now Max was  still wanting the new teams to use the Cosworth, which unlike all other engines, would not be rev-limitted.  This should be told in another story since one team that did not get selected is taking the FIA to court and even the European Union may look into the issue.

Just before the start of the 2009 season Mad Max at the instigation of Mr Eccles attempted to change how the world champion would be awarded. This was to be awarded to the driver with the most wins. Of course at the time no-one expected a run-away sting of victories  by Brawn and their number one driver Jenson (who in the entire 2008 season only bothered to scored 3 points). Secretly, I suspect that Jenson was not just a little sad Mad Max had not got his way with this winner takes all system.

FOTA did land some blow to Mad Max and this suggestion was thrown out, but it was enough for Mad Max to feel threatened.

At Monaco or Circuit du Casino, FOTA met on the boat owned by Flab Brieatori, the big cheese at Team Renault. All the FOTA teams agreed not to submit their entries in 2010 all the while there was a budget cap. Of course Mad Max was not concerned because a shoal of minion teams were due to enter so he would fill the grid. He used this as a deterrent and just before the deadline Team Wee Willy Williams lost their nerve and submitted an unconditional entry (rumour has it that they were loaned FIA money) .

The rest of the FOTA merry men decided to submit a conditional block entry. Now Mad Max was not amused, not even slightly, his resolved was now to fully break FOTA’s solidarity. The cracks in FOTA became more visible when Team India  decided it had not entered under the FOTA block entry but rather as an unconditional entrant. Force India  pleaded with the now not-so-merry men of FOTA  but still got expelled like Team Wee Willy Williams.

The Merry Men of FOTA were now really determined to stand up to MAD Max. The factory guys even agreed to a 50 Million Euro fine if any one of them were to break ranks. Despite FOTA’s stated solidarity there was rumours that both Racing Holy Cow teams (Red Bull) Teams had done a deal similar to Team India since their  big cheese Herr Mousetrap was known to be a friend of Mad Max.  In fact the Racing Holy Cow teams had done no such deal and continue to the sing the FOTA song. Mad Max, being a sly one, decided to release the list of 2010 participants, with three of the FOTA members being unconditional (Ferrari and both Racing Cow teams). The other FOTA teams were listed , but they were subject to accepting the budget cap. Max gave them until Friday 19 June to comply.

Now here is the sneaky bit , he had space for three new teams, so instead of taking the three strongest teams (Prodive, Lola and N.Technology) he gave these to USF1, Campos and Manor. While the first is a completely new team from the land of MacDonald Burger the other two teams were rather small operators.

The reason Mad Max did not selected the strongest was to cause a bit of pressure on the FOTA teams to comply since there were three strong new entrants to fill any defaulting FOTA member. He also thought this type of competition should break ranks within FOTA. Mad Max’s clever plan backfired as Prodive, Lola and N.Technology did not want to be associated with a whole lot of farmyard outfits and so withdrew their entries. In the meantime Mad Max said that the 19 June was the final date for the other FOTA teams to drop their conditions as it was only fair to the reserve teams to finalise their entry into 2010.

As the clock stuck 12am of 19 June FOTA launched it’s most aggressive salvo. Rather than agreeing to drop their conditional entrance, they announced they would form a break-away series and will have nothing more to do with Max. Mad Max’s first response was to nonchalantly say he expected this and anyway they had a few more hours to re-consider their position and that he was definitely going to finalise the 2010 entrant list by the next day.

As the hours drew out on of that fateful 19 June, Max realized that no-one else was coming to his party. His nonchalance now turned to anger, so he decided he would release a statement to say they he would the sue the FOTA teams. While most of the Merry Men of FOTA seem not to either know or care about this, Luca de Mozzarella decided to fight fire with fire and launched their own legal proceedings against the FIA over breach of contract.

The next battle between FOTA and FIA was on the eve of the last race at the great British track – Silverstone (which Mr Eccles had axed for 2010), a track which had launched Formula 1 sixty years ealier. Over the race weekend Mad Max ranted at FOTA and described them as ‘loonies’ which hardly helped defuse the situation. Having realized his mistake Mad Max was quoted on Monday as this being no more than him being “jokey” and has also dropped his threat to take legal action against FOTA.

Mad Max has also relinquished on his promise to provide a list of 2010 entrants. Possibly without FOTA he has not got a convincing list, now that three other teams have dropped their applications.

So how will this storm in a tea cup conclude? It really depends on whether Luca succeeds in getting Mad Max out as President. Next week is the World Motorsport Council Meeting, could it be the chance to finally get rid of this senile individual?