Perhaps a little predicable this one, but here is Vitaly Petrov in the black and gold Renault.
In the last 12 months…
- 9 countries
- 28 cities I’ve overnighted in
- 3 people I played tennis with
- 0 people I’ve beaten playing tennis
- 43 flights
- 9 different airlines
- 12 upgrades on Delta
- 2 Upgrades on BA
- 17 nights in Guildford
- 2 Grand Prix
- 23 different airports
- 1 RCMP that I had dinner with
- 21 Sounders games
- 26 professional football games
- 2 wonderful Sunday afternoons eating BBQ on the deck I built
- 4932 photographs taken with my now beat up, but rugged and reliable Canon S90.
- 350 of those photos made it onto the blog
- 7 photos used on someone elses blog with permission
- 10 photos that were on someone elses blog without permission
- 2 days of rallying
- 3 Mariners games
- 1 wedding
- 1 funeral
- 7 really, really good, memorable restaurants I ate in
- 2 of those really, really good, memorable restaurants that were in London
- 1 new laptop
- 2 karaoke songs
- 9 Grand Prix won by Sebastian Vettel
- 0 times I saw Sebastian Vettel win a Grand Prix
- 3 Emergency Room visits
- 5 times someone tried to get me to go to yoga (really… Do I look like a yoga person?)
- 2 Conferences
- 4 visits to the Tate Modern
- 8,348,832 moments where I count my blessings for my wonderful family, incredible friends and the amazing things I have done in the last year.
We met for dinner in Vieux Montreal, the old part of town, before heading off to a quiet party. Montreal has a well-deserved reputation for being very “European”, and in large part that’s because of Vieux Montreal. It’s been maybe 15 years since I last spent a night out here it’s full of great restaurants and a party we had secured invites too.
There was no getting away from the master here, he won at Circuit Giles Villeneuve twice (88 and 90) and tonight there was a reception and a showing of the Senna movie for those who were interested. Lets face it, for this crowd it was an easy sell, there were not many who passed up the opportunity. To do the while “full circle” thing, it was a Lotus-Renault (in black and gold no less) that Ayrton Senna had his first win in.
Early in his career James Hunt called him a “staggering talent”. I was lucky enough to meet him briefly on a couple of occasions and was there to witness his incredible drive at the European GP in ‘93. The best drive certainly I’ve ever seen and I don’t think its hyperbole to call it one of the best drives in the history of the sport.
One of the quotes from the movie that stuck with me was: “The harder I push, the more I find within myself. I am always looking for the next step, a different world to go into, areas where I have not been before. It’s lonely driving a Grand Prix car, but very absorbing. I have experienced new sensations and I want more. That is my excitement, my motivation.”
I was not after a late night and once the movie was over took a short taxi ride back to the hotel and was in bed by 10 (almost an all-nighter for me). It was a great movie, very personal, very emotional and told the story through both archive interviews and talks with people who knew him and competed against him. The tribute from Alain Prost was very moving. The personal highlight was him winning in Brazil, it showed what sport can mean to people, the emotion was clear and overwhelming. It has to be seen, it was extraordinary. I feel very fortunate to have met Ayrton Senna, even if it was little more than shaking his hand. He really was one of the true greats of the sport.
So today was final practice followed a couple of hours later by qualifying. A very interesting day at the track. Vettel looked good, easily leading the practice session and took a fairly comfortable pole by almost two-tenths of a second.
Ferrari (and their thousands of supporters) must be content with their speed this weekend. A little distance behind Vettel, but clear of everyone else.
The practice session ended early when Sauber driver Pedro de la Rosa (who will be buying a lot of mechanics dinner tonight) brought out the red flag right at the end after damaging both the front and the back of his Sauber exiting Turn Four. It was clear early that the McLarens were off the pace this morning, taking fifth and sixth, and well over a second off the pace.
One note, Mark Webber never took part in the morning session after problems with the car.
Then to qualifying and times were not for credit. The Q1 session (to get the top 17) threw up a couple of surprises, the HRT have been (relatively) quick this weekend, both drivers qualified comfortably and for once was not bottom of the timesheets, that honour went to Jerome D’Ambrosio’s Virgin. Liuzzi had a big spin in Q1, but ended up 21st (out of 24) and the team seemed very happy with having both cars in the race.
Best of the new boys was Lotus (as usual), but still a little space to make up with the rest. Jaime Alguersuari was the last driver not to make it to Q2, the team has looked good at times this year and this is about where he’s been all weekend (I love having the printouts, makes it easier to compare).
After Q2 it was the usual suspects, Red Bull, Renault (paint looks even better up close), Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes all made it through to the final qualifying session.
Vettel really did look in control and knew what he had to do, and did it. He does make it look effortless and that’s the sign of a great driver. And unlike that “other” German actually seems to have a personality.
Alonso won the battle between the two Ferraris, beating Massa by a tiny 18-hundreths of a second. Alonso’s final lap was on the monitors at the track and he looked like he gave it everything to claim P2. Great stuff to watch.
Mark Webber was fourth, while McLaren and Lewis Hamilton were disappointed with only fifth. Nico Rosberg was sixth, Button seventh ahead of Schumacher. There is a significant gap between these drivers and the top three.
I get the feeling McLaren fancied their chances this weekend; they are off the pace and seemed rather mystified as to why.
Qualifying behind both Red Bulls and Ferraris was unexpected. A lot of people felt this was the weekend they track were supposed to start to make up ground and the ultimate pace is not close. Tomorrow is race day, nothing counts for points yet, but there were a lot of worried looks on the faces of the McLaren engineers this evening as they try to work out a solution.
The biggest question is what’s the weather going to do. The forecast is for showers tonight and through out tomorrow. That will make for a very difficult and unpredictable day for all.
What ever happens it’s going to be fun tomorrow. All by itself the noise of 24 F1 cars live is earth shatteringly incredible. Tonight is a reception and once again I will use the trouser press for something other than making toasties…
Time to leave the track, back to the hotel and nap time!
Made it to the track for the afternoon practice session. It was stopped a couple of times for accidents, but it ended with Alonso fastest, almost 0.369 seconds ahead of Vettel. Massa was third, Ferrari must be happy with that, even if in reality it means very little. McLarens are fourth and fifth, while di Resta ends a creditable sixth.
Barcelona in the book and Vettel has made it four wins out of five this season, a dominance reminiscent of Schumacher at is best. Today he did not have it all his own way and worked hard to fight off a great effort by Lewis Hamilton.
Clearly the Red Bull is the class of the field, but McLaren can be encouraged by their showing and for a time Hamilton did something I don’t think anyone else has done this season and took the battle to Vettel. The Red Bull driver did what the greats do and responded with faster and faster laps in what turned out to be a great duel in an entertaining race.
The Red Bull car was at it’s best on the fast, sweeping parts of the track and able to pull out enough of a lead in the final corners of that Hamilton had no chance under braking into the first turn. It would seem that once we get past the lottery of Monaco the following two races in Montreal and Valencia could suit the Red Bulls very well.
Barcelona is not a track renown for it’s overtaking, and after the record number of on-track position changes in Turkey it was going to be interesting to see what the Drag-Reduction-System (DRS) did here.
DRS is complex, but essentially if the second driver is a second behind the leading driver at a certain point on the track (Activation Line) they are allowed to open up a rear flap, reduce their drag along a designated straight and gain a little speed to challenge for the corner.
In the second half of the race Hamilton was almost always within a second as they crossed the DRS activation line, by the time they went through the big sweeper onto the start-finish straight the gap was always too large for Hamilton to have a run on Vettel into the first corner.
While DRS was not as big a deal as it had been, the new Pirelli tyres were the dominant story and this led to a number of 3/4/5 pit stop strategies. As always this made for a very interesting race.
This is home turf for Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari. He was fourth on the grid and made a lightning start. Overtaking Hamilton with ease and taking a run down the inside at the two Red Bulls into the first turn. He gave absolutely everything on the start and it was fun to watch Alonso have a go at the Red Bull’s over the first 8 or 10 laps.
Alonso could not keep that sort of pace up for long and did not have a spare set of the faster soft Pirellis after being forced to use an extra set in qualifying. His tires were done by lap 10, the first of his four stops.
Button on the other hand did a great job with preserving his tires and stopped only three times. After a bad start Button was 10th at the end of the first lap. His fight to get back to 3rd was a great drive and his run at Alonso down the outside of turn ten to take third was just superb. Today a three-stop strategy looked like the right call, but such was the speed of the Red Bulls and McLarens that they were the only four cars not to be lapped.
In the standings Vettel has a 41-point lead over Hamilton, that’s a big lead, but there is a lot of racing still to go this year.
And as good as Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Buttons drives were (and they really were) I think the best performance came from Nick Heidfeld in the Renault. He had a big fire early on Saturday and never completed a flying lap in qualifying so was last on the grid. He finished a superb eighth, behind the two Mercedes’s drivers.
It was a fascinating race, next weekend is the race everyone should visit once, Monaco. It’s a special place and a total lottery. It seems the McLarens are good on the slow, more technical sections, could it be their turn? It’s a place that occasionally throws form out the window and as ever it will be fascinating and qualifying could be an exceptional battle around the streets of the principality as everyone looks for a clear track.
There was a lot of change over the F1 off-season. New tires, rear wings, aero regulations, more power for the stewards and of course politics by the truckload. However last night all that mattered for nothing and the cars ran in anger for the first time.
Discovery-one, not much changed. Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull is the class of the field. If his maturity can match the speed of the car then he looks like he will be hard to beat. Not only did he win, he won in style. Vettel took pole by a huge margin, led from green light to checker flag.
Discovery-two, the new regs made a difference. The Drag Reduction System (RDS, or the “flappy rear wing”) is interesting and seemed to allow cars to have a decent run at each other under braking. The purist in me has issues with this, I think you need to earn the place and this aids the overtaking driver. However, in reality, it was awfully fun to watch cars overtake each other.
Hamilton had a great race; he had some undertray problems at the end, but was quick enough to hold a relatively untroubled second place. After the really poor showing in testing over the last 6 weeks McLaren have put in a huge amount of work, simplified a few things and found a lot of time.
Clearly this weekend Vettel was the class of the field.
Third place and maybe the best performance of the weekend was Vitaly Petrov in the very, very sexy looking Lotus-Renault. Kept away from the drama and stayed in front of Alonso’s Ferrari.
Ferrari looked to be close to Red Bull in testing and have to come away from the weekend disappointed with their performance with Massa unable to do better than eighth. However it was nothing compared to Mercedes race, Schumacher could not even make the final qualifying session and was out qualified by Rosberg. Neither car finished, Schumacher got a puncture early on and eventually retired, while Barrichello’s Williams took out Nico Rosberg.
Another team that looked good on the track was Sauber. New driver Sergio Perez made it a one-stop race, the only driver to do so. The tactic paid off when he finished seventh, one place in front of Japanese driver Kobayashi. Unfortunately the Saubers were later disqualified for technical infringements over the wings.
Lots of overtaking, clearly Vettel was the class of the field, and by some margin too. The circus arrives in Malaysia in a couple of weeks, a very different style of track. Some teams obviously have catching up to do; it’s going to be a busy two weeks for the teams.
The F1 silly season seems to be over earlier and earlier every year, seats are sorted and out of work drivers need to find somewhere else to race. Over the weekend one of the mid-field drivers was involved in a rally accident and unfortunately a seat at Lotus-Renault is available.
The casual fan may have heard of Robert Kubica, Over the last couple of years with Renault he has made many people take a little notice of his speed. Despite his relative anonymity when compares to Lewis Hamilton and Seb Vettel he’s thought of one as one of the faster drivers out there. A few months ago I said “Kubica has shown he belongs at the sharp end of the grid with some great drives in mid-table machinery”.
He got his break in 2006 when Jacques Villeneuve left Sauber and Kubica stepped in. He turned out to be substantially quicker than the former world Champion, being a lot cheaper probably helped him stick with Sauber too.
Despite being new at this level he was far quicker than his teammate, the experienced and highly regarded Nick Heidfeld. He finished on the podium in only his third GP. It’s wrong to say that he’s been “discovered” over the last couple of years, since that first half-season with Sauber he’s been touted as a future world champions, with the huge caveat – if only he could get the right equipment.
He often beat Lewis Hamilton when they were both racing carts. Hamilton has consistently been very complementary about Kubica and once called him a future World Champion.
In the sport there are dozens of drivers that were good enough to have been world champion, except they were missing the right car/engine/team/luck and so on. There are lots of little indicators that indicate someone might be a little special, and most of them are present for Kubica.
Top three qualifying performances at the three best drivers circuits last year (Spa, Monaco and Suzuka) show that maybe the machinery was slower than he was. His reputation is as a fast driver, I found a quote from the technical director of Renault (or Lotus-Renault now) “You know that if the car is not running at the front, it’s because of the car, not him.”
A lot of speculation surrounds who is going to replace him at Lotus-Renault. Indications are he will be out for the year, F1 drivers are motivated men and history says he could be back sooner than that. The reserve drivers are Bruno Senna and Roman Grosjean, both would see out of their depth in the car, especially with Petrov only in his second year of racing.
Nico Hulkenberg seems the obvious candidate to me, he is Force India’s reserve driver, but I imagine they could find a way to get him in the car. He had an impressive year with Williams and I believe he only lost the drive because he could not match the millions brought in by Pastor Maldonado.
Pedro De La Rosa seems another solid choice, he’s been testing for Pirelli for the last year and has plenty of miles under his belt as a driver and test driver for teams like McLaren. Plus he’s probably got more miles on the new tyres than every other driver combined.
Who else is there? There are plenty of experienced hands out there. Nick Heidfeld seems to be the most often mentioned, Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi had some good moments for Force India last year and is without a drive. Kimi Raikkonen, Christian Klein, Jacques Villeneuve and (this has to be a joke answer) Piquet Jr have all been linked to the drive somewhere on the rumour friendly internet.
A massive blow to Kubica, a huge loss for Lotus-Renault, here is hoping he will be back with his old speed sooner rather than later. However, I bet Renault will not let him go rallying again any time soon.
I got a question about what’s changing in the rules for the 2011 season. I’ve said before that I believe F1 is first and foremost an engineering exercise (actually first and foremost it’s about money, but I choose to ignore that for now), but no one buys Ross Brawn or Adrian Newey T–shirts and baseball caps.
The rules are broken down into two sections, Sporting and Technical. If you are interested in some bedtime reading they are available on the FIA website, but are certainly rather dry.
Sporting governs the rules around the races and the championship, while the Technical regulations dictate the rules that the cars will be built too. I may have missed detail in this post, but think I’ve hit the bigger points OK.
Return of the 107% rule – This is to get rid of the no hopers that just get in the way of the front runners. Every car must qualify within 107% of the pole sitter. So if pole was set in 1:15, any driver slower than 1:20.25 does not take the start. It should not affect too many cars, but anyone can have a bad Q1 session and not make the grid now.
Team orders are permitted, but it has to be explicit, no coded message to let drivers know now is the time to put their car into the wall. Not sure how this is enforceable, but the idea to make things clear to everyone, including the spectators and stewards.
The maximum fine that stewards can impose on the teams has gone from a slap on the wrist $100,000 to a still not exactly eye watering to the big boys $250,000.
No all-nighters by the mechanics anymore. Garages are closed to everyone between midnight and 6am.
F-Duct is gone, McLarens rather inventive system for reducing drag is banned.
Diffuser height is cut by 50mm to 125mm. Will reduce rear end downforce somewhat, and only single plane diffusers allowed, the double plane units pioneered by Brawn in 2009 are gone.
Rear wing is now adjustable. The lower drag setting can only be used for a few seconds when a car is trying to overtake another in certain parts of the circuit. F1 Tech director Charlie Whiting will get to specify the where at each race.
Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) is being used again. While not really a rule change, the teams have agreed that it can be fitted after the gentleman’s agreement in 2010 about not using it. Combine the few second long power-boost of KERS wit the momentary use of the lower drag setting of the rear wing and overtaking should be easier than it has up until now.
It will be interesting to see if the wing and KERS together really makes a difference.
Lots of little changes that tighten up on the aerodynamics that are allowed to be used. Nothing connecting the bodywork to the rear wing, some of the little dive planes have been removed and the underside of the forward chassis needs to be flat.
Gear boxes now have to last 5 races instead of the 4 from last year.
Pirelli has taken over as the tyre supplier. At the moment all the teams are sharing tyre data so no one gets an advantage through testing. To make Pirelli’s life easier the cars have a mandated 46:54 Front-to-rear weight bias.
I think the rear wing is probably the biggest deal, it will be interesting to see how it gets used and if it gives the 12-15KMH advantage down the straight that’s been claimed. Interestingly it’s only the overtaking driver that’s allowed to lower drag, not sure that’s going to be popular with everyone and has the potential to be difficult to police. Along with KERS it gives the teams a little more help in getting past cars, that tactics that develop around these two things will be interesting.
As for the other aero changes, I’m sure the teams have been working hard over the winter and have already found every gram of lost downforce and probably a little extra besides.
Tyres are the big unknown, build a chassis that does not work well with the Pirellis and it could be a long season playing catch up while trying to get the car to work.
Working in the ever diminishing grey area in the rules separates the average from the great engineers. The F-duct is a great example, the theory of stalling airflow to reduce drag is well known and has been used in aero for a long time. But it’s the discovery of a way to make it work on the car in a way that meets the letter of the rules (no movable aero devices) that’s the tough part.
As I said F1 is really an engineering exercise and that requires huge resources and a lot of smart people happy to work in the unknown. It is absolutely fascinating.
As a side note In Valencia today Alonso was fastest, by a significant margin over Vettel. De Reesta in the Force India was third and almost half a second faster than Hamilton in the 2010 spec McLaren. Based on the 107% rule, only Kovalainen in the Lotus would have missed out.
It’s only day one of the first test of the year and really means nothing, but Vettel is top of the timesheets in the new Red Bull and by a little distance. Force India had a good showing, Ferrari were not much off the pace (but was reliable, Alonso did 98 laps today, but Ferraris Twitter feed is so boring) and Mercedes had issues and were a little off the pace.
To be clear, the times from Valencia are pretty meaningless, but there was some interesting stuff on show today. First day of pre-season testing is typically interesting, there was always something new to look at, drivers getting back into the groove and the glorious sound of more than one car running at any time.
When there were fewer rules on testing the bigger teams would test throughout the winter. There were plenty of freezing winter mornings in Silverstone, warmer winter days in Barcelona and shorts and the occasional t-shirt weather in Kyalami. But almost always there would only be one or two cars at a time on track, this would change at the first “official” test where there would be a handful of cars out at anyone time and it sounded absolutely glorious. While mechanics rarely enjoy testing, the noise did let us know the season was getting closer.
Other than the massive surprise that Vettel and the new Red Bull were quick, what else did we learn?
Ferrari are a little down, with Alonso behind the two Force India cars. I’m a big fan of Hulkenberg and his times were not only quicker than Alonso, but also very consistent. Last year I thought Force India may have a good year and net a few podiums, it’s way too early to say, but perhaps it will be this year?
The new Mercedes was unveiled today and from the pictures looks very sexy. While racing has disproven the “if it looks right it is right” saying more than once, it did look very nice. Niko Rosberg said the cars is a huge advance from last year, again the noises being made by the drivers are exactly what you’d expect.
The tech story of last year was McLarens F-duct that was used to stall the wing at high speed, very innovative and by the time mid season had rolled around the principals were worked out and copied by everyone else on the grid.
This year it seems Renault/Lotus has the first of the tech stories. I have to say the Renault looks spectacular in its black and gold. Last year a lot of teams were using their exhausts to make the diffusers more effective by directing the exhaust gasses under the car. Now this is banned and Renault now route the exhausts forward and vents it under the car. I think this must increase the downforce created by the floor/diffuser by accelerating the air traveling under the car and according the Bernoulli this would increase down force. First thought is the downside is the hot exhausts are now forward and next to the driver and could produce cooling issues with the exhaust gasses being pulled through the sidepod.
I wonder how many computers and wind tunnels are running hurriedly cobbled together simulations tonight to work out exactly what Renault are up to. It will be fascinating to see if this is the new must-have like last years F-ducts.
McLaren have yet to release the new car, they will be running it in a couple of weeks at Barcelona. That test will give a better comparison between the top teams and perhaps the times will be worth looking at.