Monthly Archives: June 2014

Thoughts On The Safety Car Restart Rule

A recent meeting of the F1 Committee threw up some good rule changes for 2015: pre-season testing limited to Europe, two in-season tests instead of the four scheduled for this year, both to save money, and the proposed ban on tyre warmers has been temporarily thrown out. However, in keeping with Formula One tradition (see the double points rule for more), a completely silly idea was floated and then ratified.

Someone in the F1 Committee came up with the not-so-clever idea of changing the Safety Car restart from a rolling one into a grid start. So, instead of bunching up and shooting away when the Safety Car comes in after an incident, the grid will roll onto the start/finish straight and stop, wait for the five red lights to come on and go out, and then race away as if at the beginning of a race.

It’s a stupid rule.

First of all, it completely defeats the purpose of having a Safety Car. The idea of the Safety Car is to neutralise the race: to slow the drivers down and keep them bunched up so that the marshals can come on track and clear away cars, pick up debris, put down cement dust or whatever work needs  to be done, without having to interrupt the race. That sounds like a good idea. It’s both safe and practical.

Now, however, the plan is to have the drivers weave around for several laps while the marshals work only to then stop the race and restart it again. It seems like only in F1 can such idiotic ideas become a reality. Essentially, we’re going to waste time behind a Safety Car before adopting a restart you’d see after a red flag. Common sense? No, not here.

I can see why it would seem like a good idea: the race start can be the most exciting part of a Grand Prix (especially at Grands Prix like Korea and India, both of which were particularly stale, but have since been abandoned by F1). A bit like Christmas, standing starts are better when spread out – one per race will do just nicely.

Of course, Safety must also be considered. Admittedly, there have been some close calls behind the Safety Car (see Sebastian Vettel’s fake re-start behind the Safety Car in Singapore, 2012). On the other hand, the chance of a crash behind the Safety Car is infinitely less than the probability of a shunt on the first corner after a standing start. Think of Monaco, Monza or Spa – all tracks where it’s almost guaranteed that there’ll be a first corner crash. A Safety Car would only go to increase the chances of crashes, where Formula One has spent the last twenty years working incredibly hard to reduce that number.

Reportedly, though, in the interest of safety, the race director can pick and choose when he wishes to do a rolling restart or a standing restart. It’s getting sillier by the sentence, isn’t it?

If Formula One really needed this rule, it would be in place constantly. The fact of the matter is that Formula One does not need the rule. It seems to me that the F1 Committee are simply trying to flex their muscles: prove that they’re not a useless organisation, and be able to brag that they brought around this rule and that rule etc. It’s a power trip rather than a genuine effort to make F1 better.

So, for me, this is a rule which should not have been even considered, never mind ratified by the World Motorsport Council. Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo – race winners this season – have come out in criticism of the rule-to-be. The proposal adds nothing to the sport but only serves to agitate the fans and break up the racing. Scrap it, please.

Image courtesy of Pirelli/Andrew Hone.

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“My Best Race Of The Season” – Alonso

Fernando Alonso has labelled the Austrian Grand Prix as his “best race of the season”, due to the limited distance to race winners Mercedes in a Safety Car-free race.

The Spaniard was speaking a day after Qualifying fourth, the best Quali result for Ferrari so far this season. Starting fourth, Alonso lost the place to Hamilton on the first lap, but managed to maintain fifth to finish the best of the rest – behind the Mercedes and Williams drivers.

“I think that I can consider this to be my best race of the season,” Alonso said “Because finishing eighteen seconds off the Mercedes in a race without a Safety Car or any particular incidents, is a good result.

“It was impossible to keep Hamilton behind me and fifth place is really the best we could do today, because the first four cars were quicker and therefore deserved to finish ahead of us.

“We pushed hard all race without any problems, which means that little by little, we are improving. Sure, there’s still a long way to go but the aim is still to do well and score points. Each track is a different story and we will always try our best.”

Alonso’s words come as Ferrari have reportedly offered him an extension to his contract which expires at the end of 2016. Since Alonso joined the team, they have won no titles due to the dominance of Red Bull and then Mercedes, but Alonso was a close challenger in both 2010 and 2012.

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari. 

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First Podium For Bottas

Valtteri Bottas was at a loss to express his emotions after taking his first Formula One podium in the Austrian Grand Prix this afternoon.

The Finn started behind team-mate Felipe Massa on the front row of the grid, but used a pit strategy to pass Massa after the two Mercedes men got past him.

It’s difficult to explain how I feel right now. That was the best champagne I’ve ever tasted,” The Finn said when reflecting on the Grand Prix.

“All the hard work that the team puts in shows in moments like this. I had one pitstop that really put me in the fight and that changed my race, so well done to the boys for that. I had put in a good lap before that and so I got in front of Felipe and from there I could manage my pace with the cars in front.

Although they failed to convert a 1-2 in Qualifying into a 1-2 in the race, Bottas saw the positives from the race and sees it as a “great result” as the team scored a lot of points: “Having both cars score good points is what we wanted and so third and fourth for the team is a great result. There are still two places to go up the podium, but for now we will enjoy this moment.”

Felipe Massa shared Bottas’ view, agreeing that it was a good result for the team but saying that they were never realistically going to beat Mercedes, and that there remains work to do to close the gap to the Championship leaders.

Image courtesy of Williams F1 Team. 

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Rosberg Thanks Team For A “Great Car And A Perfect Strategy”

Nico Rosberg has thanked his team for providing him with a “great car and a perfect strategy”, after taking victory at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The German started third behind the Williams duo – who took the first Williams front row lockout since 2003 – but although poleman Felipe Massa and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas initially held control of the Grand Prix, an “aggressive” strategy saw Rosberg get the undercut on the two.

“I have to thank the team for a great car and a perfect strategy,” Rosberg said after the race. “We chose the aggressive way to pit earlier and to overtake the Williams that way and that worked out quite well.

“That was an amazing weekend for us here. It was so great to be back again in Austria – for me, it felt almost like being at my home race in Germany! This is a great track, with amazing fans and at the end also with a great result for us.”

It was not as smooth a task as it appeared to have been however, and Rosberg admitted that he struggled to look after his brake temperatures: “We had to look after our brakes, which was a big job for the whole race. Also this worked out perfectly for me.

“Before the weekend, my target was to extend the lead in the championship, which I achieved. So I can be quite confident before the next home race for our team in Silverstone.”

Rosberg also congratulated Williams who finished third and fourth, and celebrated Valtteri Bottas’ first podium: “A great job also from Williams, they were the second force today. Congratulations to them.”

Rosberg’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton recovered from two mistakes in Qualifying, which saw him start the race in ninth, to finish second. Although he finished painstakingly close behind Rosberg and the chance to reel in Rosberg’s lead in the Driver’s Championship, Hamilton said he was happy with the result in a race which he labelled as “damage limitation”.

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team. 

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Contrasting Attitudes At Force India

Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg leave Austria with different outlooks after their respective result in this afternoon’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez had an uphill battle to get to the front following a five-place grid penalty for his part in a crash with Felipe Massa at the Canadian Grand Prix, which meant he started the race from sixteenth.

“Today we got a very positive result for the team, especially considering where we started the afternoon,” Perez said after the race. “When you start in 16th it is always going to be difficult to make up ground, but I had a very strong start and made up a good few positions.

“It was especially important to pass Jenson [Button] because he was on a similar strategy to mine: it was a key moment for my race. The strategy worked; we showed once more that we can manage the tyres well, and we had a very strong race pace, as we have had all year.”

Perez also led the race for several laps after the Mercedes and Williams drivers made their first pit stops, but he was eventually passed by Rosberg, Bottas and Hamilton before making his pit stop.

It was nice to be in the lead for a while, although we obviously knew that the cars behind us were on a different strategy. The only regret is that without the grid penalty I would have been further up the grid, which would have made a big difference because we had the pace to fight for a podium today.

“It’s nice to be back in the points after two disappointing races: the car is improving and we are in good shape,” Perez concluded.

In contrast to his team-mate, Nico Hulkenberg was less upbeat about his race result as he crossed the line ninth, having been overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo in a ballsy manoeuvre on the last lap.

“It was quite a tough afternoon and more difficult than I was expecting,” Hulkenberg admitted as he reflected on the Grand Prix. “Inside the car I was struggling with the balance quite a lot, which hurt our pace and also had an impact on the tyre wear. 

“So I think it was just a general lack of pace which stopped me from being able to get a better result. Checo [Perez] obviously had better race pace, even though he was on a different strategy, so we need to understand why that was the case.

“It’s good to continue picking up points and I had some good battles this afternoon, especially with Ricciardo on the final lap. I was fighting hard to keep him behind but he had a tyre advantage and I could not hold him off.”

Team owner Vijay Mallya had a more upbeat attitude and said that it was encouraging to see both cars finish the race in the points, and that the team have maintained their fourth place in the Championship. He praised Perez’s “mature” drive today and pointed out how consistent Hulkenberg has been, scoring points in all races this season so far.

The next Grand Prix is the British Grand Prix in Silverstone where the team are based.

Image courtesy of Sahara Force India.

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Rosberg Increases Championship Lead With Victory In Austria

Nico Rosberg stormed to victory at the Red Bull Ring, narrowly fending off team-mate Lewis Hamilton who was keen to reel in Rosberg’s lead in the Driver’s Championship. Williams, who locked out the front row after Mercedes’ misfortune in Qualifying, were demoted to third and fourth – Bottas taking his first Formula One podium and poleman Felipe Massa finishing fourth after a battle with Sergio Perez.

Felipe Massa continued his string of strong starts and shot away off the line, leaving team-mate Valtteri Bottas fighting Nico Rosberg into turn 1. The Finn dropped behind the German but Bottas made good use of Williams’ superior straight line speed to get back past the Mercedes into turn 2. Lewis Hamilton also had a good start and jumped from ninth to fifth where he met some temporary resistance from Fernando Alonso. He finally dived down the inside of his 2007 team-mate and moved himself up to fourth.

While Hamilton progressed, Sebastian Vettel was falling behind the grid as he reported a loss of power. His team was at a loss to explain the issue and told him to retire the car – but after the reigning World Champion ignored the order, he found himself back to full power. He was now lapped, however, and facing a long afternoon of fighting his way through the grid.

At the other end of the grid, the Williams duo seemed safely in control while the two Mercedes drivers battled each other for third. Rosberg pitted from the final podium position and had a 2.6s stop before rejoining and pushing to use the undercut. Hamilton pitted on the next lap but was a second slower than his team-mate. Massa was called in from the lead on the following lap but the Williams pit crew could not get him out fast enough and he dropped behind both Mercedes drivers who had successfully used the undercut. Rosberg would also get the jump on Valtteri Bottas whose 2.1s pit stop kept him ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

In the pitlane, Daniel Ricciardo had to jump on the brakes to avoid Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso who was released into the path of the Red Bull. The Toro Rosso was not penalised but Esteban Gutierrez was brought to the attention of the stewards when his team released him without his right rear properly attached. He was handed a ten-second stop/go penalty for the unsafe release and will take a ten place grid penalty for the British Grand Prix, as per the regulations.

Lewis Hamilton was prowling behind Valtteri Bottas and was looking to pass the Finn to secure yet another Mercedes 1-2. Up the front, Sergio Perez was much slower on worn tyres but managed to hold the two Mercedes and two Williams drivers behind him. Several laps later Nico Rosberg finally pushed past the Mexican into turn 2 and Bottas followed the German through. Hamilton also moved past the Force India but Massa, who controversially came to blows with Perez in Canada, could not overtake him.

Meanwhile, Daniil Kvyat became the race’s first retirement when his rear suspension buckled suddenly and without warning – sending the Russian bouncing across the gravel and out of the race. He was soon joined on the sidelines by Sebastian Vettel whose team decided it was pointless to keep him in the race.

For their second stop, Hamilton was the first driver called in before Rosberg on the following lap. Hamilton’s four second stop was slower than Rosberg’s three-second stop and Rosberg maintained the lead over his team-mate, although he had Alonso ahead of him until he too stopped for fresh tyres.

After Alonso stopped, Rosberg took the lead and Hamilton inherited second. Valtteri Bottas moved up to third and Perez took provisional fourth, although he was holding off Felipe Massa and still had to pit for the super soft compound. Meanwhile, Jean-Eric Vergne joined his team-mate in the pits with a brakes failure, and Adrian Sutil had a nasty lock up which left him slowing.

The race settled down in the final laps, except for the battle between Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen, the Mexican passing the Finn out of turn 1, and Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg fighting until the last lap where Daniel Ricciardo pulled a ballsy move around the outside for eighth.

Although Lewis Hamilton pushed hard towards the end, and Nico Rosberg struggled to get the car around, no one could stand in Rosberg’s way as he crossed the line to take the victory and increase his lead in the Driver’s Championship.

Race Results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Valtteri Bottas
  4. Felipe Massa
  5. Fernando Alonso
  6. Sergio Perez
  7. Kevin Magnussen
  8. Daniel Ricciardo
  9. Nico Hulkenberg
  10. Kimi Raikkonen
  11. Jenson Button
  12. Pastor Maldonado
  13. Adrian Sutil
  14. Romain Grosjean
  15. Jules Bianchi
  16. Kamui Kobayashi
  17. Max Chilton
  18. Marcus Ericsson
  19. Esteban Gutierrez
  • Jean-Eric Vergne
  • Sebastian Vettel
  • Daniil Kvyat

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

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Massa Leads Surprise Williams Front Row Lock-Out

Felipe Massa took surprise pole at the Austrian Grand Prix and will have his Finnish team-mate beside him after the resurgent Williams outfit locked out the front row following misfortune for Mercedes.

Already the only team who can get within firing range of an on-form Mercedes, Williams benefited from a lot of Mercedes bad luck, particularly in the all-important Q3 session. Nico Rosberg was bettered by Bottas on his first attempt while Hamilton’s first lap time was deleted after he ran wide at turn 8. The Briton’s second lap was none better when he spun out under braking into turn 2. The subsequent yellow flags impeded his team-mate who settled for third. With no time set, Hamilton was left down in ninth – ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who also had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits.

Nonetheless, the Williams boys were in fine form. Although he took pole, Massa’s lap was far from perfect, and with two lock ups on his lap, it’s clear that there is more yet to come from the incredibly popular Williams team.

Fernando Alonso congratulated his former team-mate in the paddock and thought about how his fortunes are faring in comparison: with fourth on the grid, he set his best Qualifying result so far this season. Race winner last-time-out, Daniel Ricciardo, took his Red Bull to fifth on the grid – certainly a much better result than Sebastian Vettel who failed to progress from the Q2 session.

Kevin Magnussen in sixth and Daniil Kvyat in seventh also made it into the top ten while their team-mates did not, with impressive performances from both rookies. Kimi Raikkonen was the last man inside the top ten to record a lap time, but as he had to slow down for the yellow flag of Hamilton’s spin, he failed to set a competitive time and qualified eighth.

Sergio Perez qualified eleventh but due to the five-place grid penalty for his crash with Massa at the Canadian Grand Prix, which he unsuccessfully appealed on Friday, he will start from sixteenth. This in turn promotes Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Pastor Maldonado, Jean-Eric Vergne and Romain Grosjean.

Adrian Sutil and his Sauber team-mate Esteban Gutierrez both failed to make it past the first hurdle and dropped from Q1, joining Jules Bianchi, Kamui Kobayashi, Max Chilton (who has a three-place penalty for crashing with Bianchi in Canada) and Marcus Ericsson.

Image courtesy of Williams F1 Team.

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