Brazilian Grand Prix


(Oops, this is a bit of a late post, sorry!) The final race to the season tidied things up nicely with Alonso taking his second championship and Renault also retaining the constructors. Race wise, there only seemed to one person out on track trying, Schumacher.

It looked like a stunning fight back was on the cards, but unfortunately ended early after Fisichella’s front wing nudged Schumacher’s back left tyre whilst he was overtaking. That caused a puncture that meant he had to pit and was then just too far back to make anything of it… although finishing 4th was impressive.

I felt though that Alonso didn’t really try. He was just happy to trundle along and make sure he finished in the top 8. Admittedly it’s easier said than done, but a bit of a tousle wouldn’t have gone a miss. However it did show that level of consistency that has enabled him to keep the championship again. I’m very dubious about Alonso’s move to McLaren given they’ve pretty much done nothing of note since Mikka Hakkinen left. Perhaps Alonso can help McLaren focus in a way that Kimi hasn’t?

Now I couldn’t finish off my last post of the season without some discussion about Schumacher. 200px-Schumihill1994It’s probably very obvious that I’m not fan and that I’ve always disliked him, however I do note that he is an incredibly skilled driver. As to my reason for disliking him, it stems back over 10 years ago to how he won his first world championship in 1994, which was about the time I first started properly taking an interest in Formula One.

Schumacher had made a mistake in the Adelaide Grand Prix which meant he was going to retire. All Damon Hill had to do was finish the race to take the championship, but Schumacher deliberately drove into him therefore taking it on points (see here). And it is also primarily why he was so disliked in this country. Add to that his other moments of unsporting behaviour (Monaco this year!) and you can see why he was a love him or hate him driver.

With that aside, it’s certainly been a riveting season with plenty of ups and downs. As to whether it’ll be the same next year without Schumacher and the numerous driver team changes remains to be seen!

Images from Wikipedia (here and here).

Japanese Grand Prix

1.  ALONSO        Renault      +1h23m53.413s
R.  M SCHUMACHER  Ferrari      +16 laps (DNF)

Whoop, whoop, whoop! What a grand prix! After Saturday’s utterly depressing qualifying I was expecting Schumacher to put the championship beyond the reach of Alonso. As it turns out it was a gripping race. Alonso had a level of pace that was totally unexpected due to what looked like Bridgestone getting the better of Michelin (the complete opposite of last weeks race in China).

The Toyota’s qualifying stunt didn’t help with their occupying of the second row which pushed Alonso back to fifth. But given their cars are lemons, Alonso dispatched them pretty sharpish. Massa chickened out on lap 3 and let Schumacher ahead into first. But Alonso was catching up quickly, with some hot laps when Massa pitted he leap frogged him into second. Schumacher upped his pace and and it was pretty much even at a gap of 4 to 5 seconds. A second place would have been a good result for Alonso but an amazing stroke of good luck crept in and Schumacher’s engine expired just after his second and final pit stop with just 17 laps to go.

And what a body blow that must have been to Schumacher. His last engine failure was at Indy in 2001. There is still a very slim chance that Schumacher can take the Championship but he’ll have to win the last race and Alonso will have to either retire or finish outside of the points. The end result would be an identical points score of 126 each with Schumacher taking it by number of race wins (Eight versus seven). But Schumacher has conceded that the title chase is over and he’ll be concentrating on the constructors championship. Like Damon Hill, I don’t believe that for a second. It’s just not how he works.

Race aside, one thing that knarked me was the awful coverage ITV had of the race. Part of it was out of there control since the actual direction of cameras is done by a Japanese race director (although I thought they now had a team that travelled around to each race to control the footage?) who kept tracking Toyota’s and Honda’s for obvious reasons, but ITV seem to have an amazing ability of going to a break when something crucial was about to happen. A prime example is that as Schumacher’s car grenaded itself, it went to break. I’d love to have Grand Prix coverage without adverts… although I did record it on Sky+ so was able to skip ’em.

Anyhoo, just less than two weeks until Brazil which is an unpredictable track both in layout and weather. Plus the fact that Alonso had a major crash there back in 2003 (see 3min 36sec on this vid, 1min 40sec is pretty good too :D). If it’s anything like the 2003 race it should be a cracking finish to the season.

Chinese Grand Prix

1.  M SCHUMACHER  Ferrari      1h37m32.747s
2.  ALONSO        Renault      +3.1s

Oh cock. Hardly the race result I wanted. I think we can safely say Alonso blew it last weekend. Given how strong the Michelin runners were and how off the pace Bridgestone was, it’s an astounding result for Schumacher and a show of utter incompetence from the other teams. Even if Alonso wasn’t going to win you’d have thought Fisichella, Button, De La Rosa or even Barrichello would have done before Schumacher.

All the Bridgestone shod cars were well off the pace due to the cool conditions not suiting them, but, as you’d expect from Schumacher, he was able to put in a stunning lap to start sixth. Regardless of that though, it was expected to be a cake walk for Alonso, who had qualified first.

It looked promising from the off and he was able to open up a lead of 25 seconds but it was wiped out by changing just his front (intermediate) tyres in the first pit stop, since they thought they were wearing out too quickly. This proved to be a bad move as he was completely off the pace and both Fisichella and Schumacher were able to reel him in on the second stint. Fisichella got past (well he had to, to limit the damage done) but Schumacher got past Fisi anyway due to some clever pit stop strategy.

It was still recoverable for Alonso but in his second pit stop it took two attempts to attach his rear right tyre, which added at least another 10 seconds to his pit stop. He was able to put up a brave fight to get within 4 seconds of Schumacher but there just weren’t enough laps left to make it past. Without the second pit stop incident Alonso would have won the race and had a 4 point lead. As it now stands, he’s on the bad foot and even though the points are identical on 116, Schumacher leads by virtue of the fact he more race wins.

Championship fight aside, the changeable conditions were interesting. The track was initially damp and it seemed to take the majority of the race before it started to dry out. Kubica tried an early switch to slicks but that proved unwise with him going off track several times. It was particularly weird on the last lap of the race when it started to rain and Button came into his own, actually finding grip in the wet (on slicks), which enabled him to overtake Barrichello (with a bit of luck and positioning) to take fourth.

Japan is next up and it’s hard to say how it’ll go. I can only hope Alonso claws something back!

Yeah I know this is a really late update given the Japanese Grand Prix was on this morning… oh well.

Italian Grand Prix

Ah crap, Schumacher 10 points, Alonso 0. What an utterly depressing weekend for anyone who isn’t a Ferrari or Schumacher fan. Was Alonso’s 5 place penalty a fix? Hard to say. I just think the run of bad luck has now switched in Renaults favour instead of Ferrari.

You have to hand it to Alonso though, he pushed really hard to get up to third, but that extra effort helped nuked his engine. Schumacher put in a pretty flawless weekend from start to finish. He might not have qualified on pole (Kimi did), but he was odds on favourite to take the win.

The next three races, China, Japan and Brazil, now make up a mini World Championship. Alonso’s lead in the drivers championship is down to 2 points, just in front of Michael on 106. Whilst in the constructors, Ferrari are now on 168 points, 3 ahead of Renault. It’s certainly all to play for.

Also on the plus side, Schumacher retires in 3 races time. Homer, if you please…

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Perhaps it wasn’t such a bad weekend after all?!

Turkish Grand Prix

I appear to have missed this one. I was only able to watch bits of it since we had family round and I’ve still got a copy of it on the Sky+ box but I doubt, given the way things have been going of late, I’ll get to watch it.

My vague recollection is that Massa got his maiden win (from qualifying on Pole) and Alonso came second, ahead of Schumacher in third. Reading up on the F1 ITV site it looks like a mistake from Ferrari during the safety car period when they brought both cars in for a pit stop at the same time (?!) lost second for Schumacher. What a pity…

Championship wise (for Alonso), a good result!

Wasn’t much fun trying to find the race result on F1 ITV, they have no link to an archive of articles. I have to use trial and error to guess the url. Useless gits.

Hungarian Grand Prix

What an eventful race, easily one of the best for a long time, full of ups and downs from start to finish. The two second qualifying penalty Alonso incurred didn’t seem to count for much and he put in a stunning opening stint to go from 15th to eventually fighting Jenson Button for 1st. Especially so given the wet conditions and his overtaking move on Schumacher was cracking.

Unfortunately Alonso suffered a broken drive shaft (sounds painful), although initially it looked like one of his rear tyres hadn’t been attached properly after a pitstop. Things looked down as Schumacher was on for finishing in the top three, but hesitation on Ferrari’s part as to whether or not to change from intermediates to slicks cost him. Pedro de la Rosa snook past him and a shunt with Heidfeld attempting the same move saw him retiring with deranged steering… again painful sounding.

The result of which was almost a status quo in the championship with just 10 points in it (Kubica in the BMW was disqualified for his car being under weight, so that meant Schumacher finished 8th, gaining a point). With just five races left and Renault’s return to form it’s going to an exciting finish to the season.

Oh, I suppose being English I should be over the moon that Button won his first Grand Prix, but to be honest, I’m not that bothered. It’s good news, but it was helped along with some good luck. Hungary is an odd circuit so it’s doubtful that there will be a repeat performance elsewhere. Will it mean a Mansell like career take off? Wait and see me thinks.

Turkey is next in three weeks time.

Mass dampers eh?

A quick search on Google Groups told me what they are:

It’s basically a weight about the size and shape of a hockey puck of just a few grams suspended inside a cylinder full of fluid, such as hydraulic fluid. When the nose bounces up and down, the weight slides up and down opposite of the nose in the cylinder creating a harmonic counter frequency to the nose bounce.

Apparently they’re similar to the tuned mass dampers that you have in skyscrapers that when hit by strong winds or other forces (like earthquakes) move in the opposite direction to help counter balance the affect. Clever stuff.

German Grand Prix

I was in Whitby visiting relatives last weekend so didn’t get chance to watch it properly. It’s been interesting to read that Renault’s sudden decline is down to them being unable to use mass dampers at Hockenheim (however that’s been overturned for the next race).

Not that it’ll matter since Alonso has a two second qualifying penalty. It’s certainly not going well for Renault and Ferrari are capitalising on that. The driver championship lead is now down to just 11 and I reckon that’ll disappear completely within the next couple of races. The qualifying penalty will basically ruin Alonso’s weekend since the Hungaroring is not an overtaking track.

It’s not making for good viewing at the moment!

French Grand Prix

Oh bugger. Looks like I was wrong about the strong Ferrari performance at Indy being a blip. It looks like they’re well and truly back. Schumacher looked to coasting out front with plenty in reserve. It’s ominous for the rest of the season, but equally it’ll make for an exciting championship.

Alonso, made a good save in taking second place after a bad start. Massa did a good job in keeping him back in the opening laps but the switch over in strategy to get Alonso ahead, by changing from a three to two stop run, was an excellent move.

Overall though, it was a pretty boring race. Button had a terrible weekend just like in Silverstone, starting from 19th. To then have his engine go, as it did for Barrichello, put to rest a terrible weekend. You’ve got to hand to Jenson though, he is remaining upbeat and shrugging off, what is now getting to be annoying, the media’s questions of if he is looking at leaving Honda. He seems determined to continue on at Honda, and rightly so. With the investment Honda is making it’s hard not to see them succeeding.

Williams poor run continued. The back left tyres on both Webber and Rosberg’s cars were delaminating due a problem with excess load and overheating. Impressive to watch, but dangerous to drive with hence them both retiring.

As to Montoya’s sudden move to Nascar? Oh. To me it always seemed that he was never fully committed to Formula One. Obviously he deserved to be there, his previous track record in CART proved that, but a serious of odd incidents (like his “tennis” injury) and the uptight culture of Formula One didn’t really help.

Next up is Hockenheim in Germany. Renault have some upgrades due then so should make for an interesting race.

American Grand Prix

A bit of carnage got things off to a good start on the opening lap. Klein, Coulthard (who was able to carry on), Webber and Montagny went off at the first corner whilst Montoya collected Raikkonen, Button, Speed and Heidfeld on the second. Unfortunately after that it turned into utterly predictable yawnfest of a race.

Indianapolis is a terrible F1 track and the only reason it’s on the calendar is to get interest for the sport in the US. The banked corner and long pit straight aren’t in slightest bit interesting to watch and the contrived in field section does little to revive it. It’s a circuit not worthy of F1. Part of me was hoping last year would be the last race there!

But anyway, ranty ranty over and back to the race! Schumacher and Massa annihilated everyone. They were cruising round with their engine revs dropped to conserve their engines. It was pretty effortless really, but as to whether this constitutes a comeback for Ferrari, I’ll repeat what I said for the San Marino Grand Prix, I doubt it.

Indy is another one of those odd Ferrari stronghold circuits where the car in combination with Bridgestone tyres gives them a massive advantage. And that is also the reason the Toyotas did so uncharacteristically well. There can’t be any other reason why they did so well, can there?

Tyres aside, that can’t all be to blame because Alonso was well off the pace. Stunningly so and surprising given Fisichella qualified and finished third. Alonso did the same of finishing in the same position he qualified, but fifth is poor by his standards. The French GP should be far more entertaining in two weeks time.