Expect the unexpected! 2013 Apr 10 musings before the 2013 Formula One GP at Shanghai

I was writing this comment at James Allen on F1, in response to his excellent pre-race analysis; of course, it has little to do with the analysis, besides saying that pre-race analysis for this race is very difficult, and what you can actually understand from it should be, that it is very difficult for anyone to predict the results; so I’ll more appropriately put it down here:

Expect the unexpected!
Three weeks!?!
That is quite a while for several of the development departments of the top formula one teams.
However, we come from a base, three weeks ago, of:
a. Red Bull is the fastest car, can qualify at the top;
b. Ferrari is fast, can qualify good;
c. Lotus has had the lowest tire degradation over an entire race distance in the wet, probably won’t be able to qualify on the first two rows, and will be close on race pace;
d. Mercedes are fast, can qualify high (now), may be in the top two teams for tire management, and are the fastest improving team, just ahead of Red Bull, so far this season;
e. McLaren were trending positive from a poorly understood base machinery, and three weeks is long time for them to develop their car.

It looks wide open to me.
I still expect Red Bull to be the fastest.
I still expect Lotus and Mercedes to have the best tire management capability over dry race distance.
Everything else, to me, is open.
Which teams can out-drag their chief rivals, in the development game?
I anticipate warfare, impossible to hide, within at least one team.
When Alonso is out-qualified by Massa for five races in a row, I personally think, ‘way to go Massa!’ But that is irrelevant, because in the context of the environment of Formula One competition, right now, and in case you’ve not been paying attention, this really means that there is a problem with Alonso; and a problem with Alonso IS A PROBLEM AT FERRARI!  

So, that’s ‘kind of’ interesting; not that Ferrari hasn’t been in just about continual crisis mode since the beginning of last season.

I think McLaren could be closer this weekend; look for Perez in the top five, at the flag.

I’m looking forward to the intriguing battle between Sauber and Force India, and the intra-team intrigues there as well.  Some time, before the summer break, I expect Gutierrez to impress, and Bianchi to astound, any race now, for Bianchi; he should be on a top team.

We’ll also see how bad it is at Williams; hopefully not as bad as it was looking in the first two races.

For the cynics, who say/write something like: ‘blah, blah, blah, Vettel, Alonso, and/or Webber, and/or Lewis, boring, boring, boring, but maybe Alonso?’  I think you’re wrong.

Nobody really knows what the entire situation is at Red Bull, it wouldn’t surprise me if one or more of the key players in the drama were not entirely sure how they personally will react this weekend (but we can likely rest assured that Dr. Marko knows where he stands).

What is up at Alonso/Ferrari; couldn’t it only be something that we don’t know, or is it just that Alonso and Massa are comparable drivers?!?  Now, certainly, the Alonso Media Corporation would NOT be supporting that view of the universe, would they?  So, they would have to admit that something is WRONG!  Wouldn’t they?  Of course they won’t; this situation will be described as Massa at the top of his career, with indirect unspoken suggestions that ‘he’s on a streak (that can’t last).’  It certainly can’t last, one way or another.  All I can say is, ‘Go Filipe, go!’  and ‘Go for the world championship!’

Does anyone have credible information about any lasting affect of the Mercedes instructions?  (No need to answer, it’s totally rhetorical;) no one knows the fallout at Mercedes.

There’s tension at Force India.

Hulkenburg is on a mission to beat Force India, and anyone who gets in his way.  If Gutierrez is as good as I think he is, when he gets his F1 legs, he is going to be really good.

In summation, there are a lot of highly reactive ingredients in the recipe this weekend, and there could well be some explosive outcomes, and because of that, potentially drASTIC RESULTS.  iMAGINE bANCHI ON THE PODIUM!

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2013 March 14 22h24 EDT – Here we go! F1 2013 BEGINS!!!

The first practice session, in Melbourne, is now well underway. Kimi has five laps in.
The Lotus looks very good, but only Button, of the other top guns, has gone out.
Webber goes second.
Rosberg bumps him.
It could be even more than ten drivers have a good chance of winning. All drivers on top five teams are extremely good; the competition has reached a very high level.
Good for us!
Tire management will determine this race outcome.
Would have liked to see Bianchi racing DiResta in similar machinery.
Hoping for spectacle matching last year’s high level from Sauber team; if they maintain their 2012 tire management comparative to other teams, then those drivers will be outside shots to win!
Vettel now taking charge of the top spot on the timing board.
Go Filipe; trounce the Alonso Media Corporation; I would mind one bit if you won the championship; or Webber.
Enjoy.

2013 March 02 – Good old Ross Brawn sandbagging?

I admit it here, to all that read these posts, none but myself probably, that when Lewis Hamilton decided to make the move to Mercedes, to elevate the team like his idol, a German with the initials MS, I thought it was laughable.  Lewis is just not that kind of guy!

Well, I’m not backing off that thought, though I thought he move was bad for Lewis, and good for Mercedes.  Now, there has been quite a bit of shit happening at Mercedes F1 these days, and it looked like they were ‘in the weeds’; but now I’m not so sure.

Besides by differentiating itself as the ugliest car on the grid, second year running (though I think the Caterham is challenging this year), I thought they had gone down a dead end route.  I thought, incredulously, Ross Brawn had finally lost the Midas touch.

Since Lewis is the racing pride of most among the POM, we, the Formula One fans, have been inundated with the most minute reports of how Lewis and Mercedes are doing, one minute, very poorly, then the next, inspiring.  Well, we’re at a inspired moment, in the long stream of uni-directional time flow.  Could it be that the old limey has one more sandbag up his sleeves.

Obviously, I’m a big believer.  Mercedes have gone to the bank to ‘get serious’ about improving their standing in F1, hiring a raft of top F1 cronies, in an attempt to redress the unbalance Adrian Newey makes to all other teams.  I have thought this approach inefficient, if not ineffective, and with the seemingly almost self-appointment of the perpetually criticizing Austrian, non-executive chairman (I wonder how much money they spent on the consultants coming up with that title – lol?), I really thought Mercedes was completely losing their marbles.

But as the great Murray Walker is reportedly to have said, “I’m applying intelligence and observation to the situation…”, and I am realizing the truth in his saying, “Anything happens in Grand Prix racing and it usually does”.

It will be interesting if one or more of the Mercedes drivers can haul it up on to the podium.

I still think that Red Bull are quietly, and assuredly constructing a right bower, left bower, (they definitely have an) Ace (up their sleeve), king and queen (the personages of which I leave to your discretion; though one might keep in mind a board game, in which the queen is the most powerful player).

In other words, though I hope for a very interesting season, with closely fought battles, butteri with proper mounts, fast and crashing flowers, winning Spanish-speaking silver arrows, and coloured three point stars, the bulls will gore.

Vettel World Champion – 2012 Brasil Formula One GP Interlagos – Button 1st, Alonso 2nd, Massa 3rd

Vettel collects 6th; since Alonso got only 2nd, Vettel takes the championship!

Vettel recovers from a mugging on the first lap, by Bruno Senna, with a damaged car, steams through the field, makes a mistaken tire change, survives several additional intertwinings, gets a break from the marshals, in my opinion, for both a yellow flag pass, and squeezing another car with inadequate room left on the track, I think it was Kobayashi, for the pass, but in the end, he deserves the title, and there is no foreseeable end to the potential streak of victories for the Vettel-Red Bull package!

The race did in fact end up being the most exciting race of all time, including the Kimi 2007 win!

Incredible.

Perfect timing after picking up all of those American fans after the fantastic inaugural Circuit of the Americas American F1 Grand Prix.

2012 November 13 before the American Grand Prix

Just a few tidbits that have crossed my mind.

Oh yeah, back to the U.S.A!  “Eh, right on”, as we say here.  Yeah, they are next door, but it is all the way on the other side of the country, for us, and it’s a big country.  Plus… the other stuff.

It could be interesting.

My early call: The McLaren should still be good on every circuit, including this one.  I do also think Red Bull will continue to be strong.  If Ferrari are going to challenge, they have to at least start, for this, as they so fondly like to say, on the British Formula One television coverage, the ‘penultimate’ race of the championship. We call that, ‘the second last race’, or, in a race, ‘the second last lap’; it’s easier to say, and at least as descriptive.  I also think Lotus will be strong, perhaps yet a little bit stronger than in Abu Dhabi.

So, it could be interesting.

I haven’t really been too down on Martin Whitmarsh, but he’s really, REALLY losing the plot, here:  in the same week as he is getting headlines, that read, “Lewis doubting move to Mercedes”, or something like that, it SHOULD DEFINITELY BE, IN THE TITLE OF THE ARTICLE, “Whitmarsh says Lewis doubting…”, he says something like, “… oh yeah, I’m doubting my decision on my driver next year, oh yeah, that’s how confident I am… …about MY driver selection for next year… Oh yeah… I did that, didn’t I?”  Trouble at McLaren; say it ain’t so!?!  That’s pretty bad.  Pull it together, man!  When confused, just keep quiet and see if you can’t find a bit focus again, before opening it, and subsequently, losing it.  Poor Lewy, damned if he do, and damned if he don’t.  Stick to your guns, man; you made the decision, and now go and do it, (after your car breaks down for two more races you are leading – oh well, you’re going.)

By the way, Perez is still looking great, as far as I’m concerned.  What’s happening now, at Sauber, is everybody getting their money’s worth.  Perez is pushing the boundaries, learning everything he can, especially since he is leading the charge in a constructor’s battle for Sauber, and they are willing to support alternative strategies, to just maybe get one of their guys further up the pecking order by the flag.  It’s been a bit rough over there, and this strategy may not always work, but maybe their due, either one of them; I’m still a big Kobyashi fan, and I’d love to see him at Williams with one of them Finns; they seem to make good race car drivers, there.  I think it’s a bit like Canada there; they have great hockey players; they’re doing something right; I hear they have a good education system, short hours, and much of it spent outside, even in the winter.  That makes healthy people, not just physically.  We should have shorter hours in grade school, and mostly teaching outside, here, too.  Then maybe we’d get a few more race car drivers who could win in formula one; you never know.

The “warned over language…” thing is a bit much.  I admit that it did seem a little bit like Sebastian was, kind of, sort of, emulating Kimi!?!  Now that is a bit weird!  Let’s just think about this for a second, the reigning champion, a two-time-in-a-row, double world champion, likely, shortly to be, three-time-in-a-row, world champion, is out of character, a bit anyways, sort of… kind of… being like Kimi?!?  Well, I don’t blame him; there’s no doubt about who the coolest driver.  The one who likes to drive, and doesn’t like the corporate types; who could blame him on that one?  But being… something… that you are not?  That’s just not cool; it’s the opposite of cool.  Anyways, he sure a great race car driver, though.  What a bunk of uptight gunk!  The language police!  If Vettel hadn’t made such a mess of it, it probably would have just cruised under the radar, with Kimi’s quite appropriate usage.  Oh well, it was it is.  NBD.

Slightly off, but really not that much: I am happy that Lorenzo, already having won this year’s MotoGP championship, the approximate equivalent in the motorcycle racing world, is seemingly in good health following his BIG HIGHSIDE, (WAY!)  at the last race in Valencia, won by Dani Pedrosa, who is runner-up in this year’s championship.  VERY SAD, that Casey Stoner, the best motorcycle racer of all time, is retired.  He’s a young guy.  I think he should get a Formula One test with the smartest team, why not straight to Ferrari.  He could win a world championship in F1; he might as well go right to the top; or maybe… Williams!?!  (So far, I must have about ten people driving for Williams next year!)

BACK TO THE RACE…

Yeah, I think it’s going to be good; I got at least six guys who I think could win this one; and I still think (and like the idea of) a Sauber victory, in the last two races, either one of them; so really, I’m looking at eight guys who I think can win this one; unknown to everybody.  How often do we get that, unknown to everyone, therefore everyone of similar experience, still a hot fight in the drivers’ championship, and potentially, closely matched machinery, for FOUR TEAMS!  I hope the machinery is evenly matched, and I think it’s going to be interesting.

First thing I’m looking at:

Tire wear, and tire wear across varying conditions, warmer and cooler.

Kimi! Victory! Yes! 2012 F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!

Kimi Raikkonen back on the top step, winning the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix 2012!

Webber’s slightly off-kilter start, in front of Kimi, Kimi not hesitating, got him into position to fight for victory.

Not much needs to be said about Lewis’ machinery failure, yet again in 2012.  Lewis, having a great, and dominant weekend, leads from pole, looks comfortable, after a minor cold-tire lockup, and edges a comfortable gap over the fast and steady Kimi, only to have his McLaren whoof, and lose power.  Race over!

Kimi establishes dominance on the soft tires, takes a good cushion and winds out fastest laps, edging forward.  He stays out a bit longer on the Lotus-favoured softer tires, returning from the pit stop in good position to continue to the flag.  Alonso charging hard in the last five laps, but Kimi responded trading fastest laps to the flag to take his first victory: this season, since his return, and for Lotus since Aryton Senna.

A morose Alonso takes second.

Vettel: I suggested the potential for an amazing drive, before the race, and yet was surprised as it was even more interesting than I had warned.  Starting from the pit, Vettel shortly gets wing damage advancing through the field, then during the safety car, for the Rosberg/Karthikeyan, Vettel gets squeeze by a brake-warming Ricciardo, as he is accelerating to take out a brake-zone market and effectively finish off his front wing!  So he pits and takes on new tires, possibly planning to run the remaining 42 laps on the soft tires!  With new wing and new tires, he carves his way through the field, and advances as other teams begin to change tires for this one-stop race.  Then the Di Resta, Perez, Grosjean, and Webber (more on him in a moment) coming together safetycar launch, lap 39/55; Vettel takes his chance and dives in for a new set of softs, again lunching upwards through the ranks.  In the final few laps Vettel fights Button, in a slower car, but defending valiantly.  Button deserves driver of the race, for what he didn’t do, that is, take Vettel out on a gutsy passing move, Button drove with the utmost respect and integrity, giving the minimum, but enough room for Vettel to make the move stick and up into third, which he held until the flag.  Astonishing race from Vettel.  Unfortunately for the race winner, by gaining third, Vettel mathematically eliminates Kimi from the 2012 World Championship.

Webber drove a feral race, but was always behind the eight ball from his  (slightly) compromised start off the line.  Webber drove like a man possessed, or as the say down under, ‘totally feral, mate.’  He mixed it up with Maldonado around turn eleven, spinning out and losing places.  he then fought his way back after a seemingly ill-timed for him, (but not Vettel who was immediately behind him), pit stop, through dense and competitive traffic, to mix it up again at turn eleven, this time wiping out Fillipe, who spun his Ferrari after an awkward bounce off a curb.  Finally, Webber was in the wrong place, at the wrong time to get clipped by Grosjean (also not at fault), getting popped by Perez rejoining the track in an ill-advised manner after swinging wide following very aggressive double overtaking attempt.  Webber provided about 50% of the excitement and spectacle of the race!

Kudos to the stewards who did not give Webber a penalty for either his Maldonado nor Massa contacts; the Maldonado contact being the more grievous of the two.

Maldonado 5th, his first top six, aside from his Barcelona win, this season, and Bruno Senna 8th means a good day fro Williams.

Kobayashi 6th, a good drive from him.

But the man of the hour, a crowd-pleaser with his no-nonsense approach (especially to the strained contrivances of the media interviewers), wins (FINALLY!) this season, and many of us could only be happier if he was still in contention for the 2012 World Drivers’ championship.

2012 Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Friday Analysis

There is not much changed, from a week ago, except the track, and some updates.

Red Bull are still there, especially with the Vettel package.  Apparently, according to James Allen, Webber has never done well at the Yas Marina circuit, perhaps that is why he is dropped back compared to Vettel in single lap practice times.

McLaren are back, at least with the Hamilton package, and he sits a meagre  0.168 back, still almost 2 tenths, but the next fastest, Jenson Button is another 4 tenths back, a whopping 0.661 off Vettel’s pace.

Hmm….

But from Button, in 3rd (0.661 back) to Alonso in 7th (0.836) is a mere 0.175, similar but less than the difference between the top two!  Anything may happen in this bunch, and as the famous Murray Walker refrain would say, “… and it usually does.”

So while in single lap pace, one might think it a bit gloomy for Alonso, he is closer to third than Hamilton is to pole.

If I were Alonso, I wouldn’t mind being third, with Vettel on the front row against Hamilton, who has nothing to lose in going all out for the win, and on this track, of at least average difficulty to pass, a tussle between the top two, into the first corner could work extremely well for Alonso, as long as he is on the third row of better.

But things are gloomy in race pace for the Alonso-Ferrari championship drive, where according to Vettel, McLaren are on top in Abu Dhabi.  He has reportedly called on Red Bull to up their game, to get onto better race pace terms with McLaren.

Lotus was quiet except for Grosjean’s ability to make the soft tires work better.  Kimi was again sporting the ‘device’ intake scoops on the air dam; but there has been a distinct ‘talking-down’ of ‘the device’ of late, and it may well go the way of the dodo.

I have a feeling about Grosjean, and there has been a icy restraint from Eric Bouiller since Kimi’s surge and self-styled media stunts, and Grosjean’s ongoing crash habit, concerning Grosjean’s standing with the team.  All season long Grosjean was the darling of Boullier, now there are headlines, like, “Lotus still evaluating Grosjean before finalizing new contract” (www.autosport.com), and “Boullier in no rush for Grosjean” (www.planetF1.com); and the Lotus F1 web site, now plastered with images of Kimi?!?

Still, Grosjean has already shown flashes of brilliance, out-qualifying Kimi regularly before his latest and twitter-inducing first lap wipe-outs.

I have a feeling that he could go large on qualifying at Abu Dhabi; we shall see; it’s just a feeling.

But the straight money is on Vettel and Hamilton for the first row, and the rest of Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Ferrari to scrap it out behind.