World Cup over for England!

If I was religious, I’d say thank god for that, but I’m not, so will retort with about bloody time! I can’t stand football, it’s an utterly pointless and boring sport that unfortunately in this country is treated like (religious reference again) the second coming of Christ. Perhaps now we’re out the coverage won’t be so rampant. Whilst I’m ranting, I think it’s disgusting the amount of grief Sven is getting, but unfortunately that’s the way it goes with our wonderful media. Kick a man when he’s down.

In other sporting news (not that you’d think so), as expected Schumacher got pole at Indianapolis. Alonso was well off the pace in 5th. Tomorrow’s race will be a damage limitation exercise for Renault. Barrichello put in a good lap for Honda to get 4th, whilst Button was back in 7th. Not terrible, but not very promising.

Canadian Grand Prix

Another excellent weekend for Alonso from start to finish. Stunning really, which carries on his run of five consecutive poles and four consecutive race wins. It was a pretty eventful race with various crashes and the ice rink conditions off the racing line was certainly a new one on me. Typically going on the marbles just causes a drop off in speed, not a total lack of grip. I don’t recall a Canadian GP where it’s happened before.

I’d love to see some form of penalty for both Toyota and Ralf Schumacher for their gross incompetence in keeping Ralf out on track for so long when his car was clearly not up to it. With the best intentions in the world (i.e. pulling over to allow an overtake), he caused Villeneuve’s accident. I feel sorry for Villeneuve, I’m not his biggest fan, but this year has put in some excellent drives and looked on for a good finish.

Toyota also managed to successfully shaft any chance Kimi had of attacking Alonso in the closing laps after the safety car period caused by Villeneuve. Kimi was stuck behind Trulli, who was off in the land of fairies and let Alonso storm off on the restart. That ruined any chance of a scrap.

Realistically though Fissichella should have been in second place to safeguard Alonso and help him extend his points lead in the championship. Instead he had a terrible start and ended up with a drive through penalty for speeding in the pits. The discrepancy between Alonso and Fissichella is starling. I can’t fathom why Renault signed him up for next year, I can only assume it’s maintain some form of consistency in the team what with Alonso’s impending departure at the end of the season.

The scary thought here though is that if Schumacher had qualified better I think he’d have won the race, but Renault and Alonso have this level of consistency that is just easing them through. The run Michael had at the end was frighteningly fast though!

But the same applies to Kimi, if his luck was better he’d have been in with a chance. He was all over Alonso at the start of race and nearly got past at one point, but his problematic pit stop put pay to that.

As to whether Alonso can repeat this performance at Indianapolis next week remains to be seen. Ferrari are again meant to be strong there, and given McLaren’s pace of late, it should certainly be entertaining! I just hope that it isn’t like last years utter farce of a race (just 6 cars taking part due to Michelin tyre problems!).

Formula One Survey

If, like me, you enjoy a good whinge and complain about Formula One, then this survey should be of interest (from F1 ITV). It’s 41 riveting questions long and you get the chance to enter in a competition for a laptop:

In less than 50 words please explain why you think you deserve to win an Acer Ferrari laptop powered by AMD?

“Because my Dell Intel powered laptop is bloody awful”

I haven’t got a chance in hell, but it’s worth a go!

British Grand Prix

Let’s see if I can keep this relatively short. Bullet points to the rescue:

  • Alonso 1st, Schumacher 2nd, Raikkonen 3rd.
  • Alonso showed that he is currently the world’s best driver in Formula One. His qualifying lap on Saturday was stunning given out of the top three, he pitted last. A flawless performance from start to finish.
  • Schumacher’s car just wasn’t fast enough. Looks to be down to poor tyre choice. Excellent set of laps however around the 2nd pitstop put him ahead of Kimi.
  • Kimi (Raikkonen) needs smack round the lughole for letting Schumacher past. 2nd place was his if he’d been a bit more proactive after his 2nd pitstop.
  • Poor Jenson. Utter disaster of a weekend, especially so at his home race! I really hope he is changing teams next year, because it’s just not happening at BAR.
  • Scott Speed had a good attempt at car skittles by taking himself and two others (Ralf Schumacher and Mark Webber) out before the first corner. A little more angle next time?

Linky links:

Monaco Grand Prix

The event was overshadowed by Schumacher’s ludicrous parking manoeuvre in qualifying. This completely blew any chance Alonso had of getting pole. He was 0.2 of a second up on Schumacher’s fastest time in the first sector alone but the yellow flags at the penultimate corner threw that out the window. Amazingly he only a few hundredths off Schumacher’s time.

The cynic in me thought straight away that Schumacher had done it on purpose and it turns out I wasn’t the only one who thought that! The stewards thought he’d deliberately caused yellow flags and calm was restored by scratching Schumacher’s time, sending him to the back of grid. This meant Alonso took pole, but not as he would have liked. James Allen has some interesting comments on the incident.

Given Monaco’s street circuit layout, which is notoriously difficult to overtake on (but not impossible), it essentially gifted Alonso the race. The only pressure he had was from Kimi, which amounted to nothing since McLaren’s winning reliability showed itself again, as Ted Kravitz notes:

…this time when the heat shield that slots between the engine and the rear bodywork caught fire.

This is embarrassing on two counts: Firstly because exactly the same thing happened in Thursday practice, and secondly, because IT’S A HEAT SHIELD! You’d think that perhaps it would be made from non-flammable material.

There were some nice overtaking manoeuvres, particularly by Fisichella on Coulthard, which at first glance looked like disaster, but he made it stick. Schumacher fought his way back to finish fifth, getting ahead of Fisichella (who slipped back due to pit stop problems), and he would have destroyed Alonso and the rest of the field had he started at that position or higher.

Montoya crept up to snag second and Coulthard took an impressive third for Red Bull. He looked a prize tw*t wearing a red cape on the podium, but we can thank their Superman (film) sponsors! I can’t see Red Bull being on the podium again this year though.

Next up is Silverstone, on the 11th June. Hopefully, it’ll be good weather and it should be a corker since Renault were good there last year, but then again, so were McLaren.

Spanish Grand Prix

Excellent result. Alonso’s Renault clearly had Schumacher’s Ferrari pegged. The laps he put in after his stops were astonishing frankly given he was heavy on fuel. Schumacher didn’t look too happy, but a second place finish isn’t too bad. Fisichella dropped from 2nd to 3rd.

Like most of the races so far this season, it was pretty dull and settled into a repetitive pattern. I was concerned that Schumacher would do what he did at San Marino and sneak past at the pit stops, but his car clearly wasn’t fast enough, regardless of the fuss made on Saturday about it being nearly 8 MPH faster back straight than anyone else.

Alonso’s consistent fast laps saw to that. Unfortunately Fisichella once again showed the opposite. He seemed to doze off in the middle part of the race when he should have been trying to keep Schumacher behind him.

There was an amazing atmosphere from the crowd. Alonso’s last lap with the crowd cheering was fantastic. I can’t remember hearing a crowd so loudly before! Great to have a Spaniard winning his home grand prix (and its the first time its happened).

You have to wonder though if Alonso’s move to McLaren next year is a good idea. Kimi finished nearly a minute behind him, which is a eternity in F1.

There was a bit of movement further up the grid with Kimi moving from 9th to 5th (down to an excellent start), just ahead of Button who started 8th and finished 6th. Barrichello lost out and went backwards from 5th to 7th, but his car was very slow and he didn’t help Button, by holding up for the first stint.

Montoya had a bizarre spin just over 10 laps in and ended up beaching his car on the kerbs of turn 2.

My least favourite track is up next, Monaco, in two weeks. Fantastic place to be, but a yawnfest to watch with single file racing and little chance of overtaking. That said, qualifying should be carnage because of that!

San Marino Grand Prix

I wasn’t surprised that Schumacher won. San Marino has always been a strong Ferrari circuit. As to whether this marks a Ferrari comeback, I somehow doubt it. Its Schumacher’s strong record here (now 7 times winner) and the combination of Bridgestone tyres and car setup that made it a foregone conclusion here. I can’t see their form continuing through the rest of the season.

However Schumacher’s terrible pace in the middle section of the race did give some hope that Alonso was in with a slight chance of coming through. Unfortunately the odd decision to pit him early scuppered his chances! It’s hard to say that if he had stayed out longer he would have got past Schumacher, but since it looks like Alonso had more fuel… well I guess we’ll never know since Renault has refused to comment.

I think Alonso did the best he could given the circuit and conditions. If he continues like this, as he did last season, I can see him winning another championship.

Button’s run of bad luck continued when he tried to wipe out half his pit crew with a disastrous second pit stop. The lollypop was lifted too early before the fuel pump was disengaged and Button took off. The mechanism was still connected to his car and the piping knocked everyone for six and then tore off.

To the lollypop mans credit he did realise his error and put the lollypop back down, but for some reason Button ignored it. Button was sat stranded in the pit lane whilst the crew woke up from their concussion and went to his aid to remove the broken fuel nozzle. A very unusual incident.

Without that mishap, he’d have probably finished 3rd, instead Montoya yawned himself in there instead. The McLaren’s were woefully slow this weekend and their strategy of heavy fuelling means they’re missing for half of the race until their fuel loads equal out. Why? Its clear they have fast cars.

Fisichella had a terrible qualifying session which, even with qualifying 11th (which gives the advantage of allowing whatever strategy / fuel they want), meant he was never going to fight for a podium. Plus the fact San Marino has isn’t a good circuit for overtaking. He is pretty much showing what I’ve said previously, that he is just an inconsistent driver.

I can’t say I was that impressed with the change to Variante Alta chicane at the top of the course. It was great in previous years watching cars fly across it. As Mark Brundell commented, it’s been sanitised. Another victory for safety but a loss for entertainment.

Worth nothing was the excellent engine reliability. We’re 4 races into the session with all new V8 engine designs and, if I remember correctly, there wasn’t a single blow up! Thats impressive.

I had to chuckle at the back markers, Yuji Ide made the Red Bull of Christijan Albers slightly more interesting by nerfed it into a barrel roll and off the track on the first lap.

Next up is the Nurburgring in two weeks, which I have to agree with James Allen, is one of my least favourites (along with Monaco). Hopefully there’ll be a bit more overtaking.

Links / previous coverage:

Australian Grand Prix

Chaotic I think would be the best way to describe todays race! Alonso cruised to at easy win (he said as much) after dispatching a poor performing Button on lap four. His problem, like others, was down to not getting enough heat into his tyres.

As an aside there was an interesting quote from Sterling Moss in Friday’s Daily Mail.

“There’s racing drivers and there’s racers,” said Moss. “It’s the racers that become world champions. I don’t see Jenson as a racer”.

I know the argument that whilst Button has 100+ starts without a win, so did Nigel Mansell, but I’ll errr… just ignore that. Point is I can never see Button winning a championship, he doesn’t seem to have that desire when out on the track. As an English man I shouldn’t say that, but I just can’t see him doing it. Moss goes on to say that even when he wasn’t in an F1 car, he was out racing in other events because he loved racing. As an example former British Touring Car driver Yvan Muller drives in all sorts of events and is an excellent driver. Perhaps Button should do the same?

Anyway, I have to admit he was very unfortunate to have his engine grenade itself on the last corner of the last lap and it was clever thinking to retire him so he doesn’t lose 10 places at the next race. It was impressive to watch from Fisichella’s car as Button’s engine blew up. He must have shat himself! (I know I would have).

Alonso drove a superb race and did well to pull out strong leads after each safety car period, of which there were four! For a change they were caused by crashes of one kind or another instead of engine failures, which didn’t seem to be that big a problem. Well, except for Buttons!

Fisichella showed his inconsistency again and was publicly berated by his engineer to get a shift on since he was 4 seconds off the pace and given that his car was identical to Alonso’s, he shouldn’t have been.

Kimi didn’t have the greatest of races getting held up by the Midlands on a couple of restarts, which as Martin Brundle would put it were mobile chicanes today! Finishing second isn’t a bad result though. Montoya didn’t have much luck with his electrics cutting out after narrowly missing the wall and then hitting a small rise in the run off area. I have to say I like how he took it all in his stride, joking and smiling away.

Michael Schumacher crashed heavily on the start of the pit straight, but that was hardly surprising given he was pushing incredibly hard. Wrong tyre compound was the reason. I was amazed to see Ralf Schumacher on the podium in 3rd, especially after his drive through penalty. I suspect that if more of the top teams had finished he’d have been in 6th or above.

It was certainly the most gripping of race of the season so far. Imola is next up in three weeks time and all the big teams have planned upgrades, so it should just get better and better!

Previous coverage:

Malaysian Grand Prix

I didn’t manage to get myself out of bed at 6am to watch it live so had to wait for the replay in the afternoon. I’m glad I didn’t because I found it a particularly frustrating race. The race was pretty repetitive after the start. Fishyfella (Fisichella) always looked like he was going to win. The cock up in qualifying with refuelling limited Alonso’s chances. The final result was Fishyfella, Alonso and Button. 

I’m not a fan of Fishyfella. He’s a bit too wishy washy and inconsistent for my liking, lacking in character. I’ll give him his due though, he didn’t really put a foot wrong the entire weekend. Alonso got off to a cracking start to go from 7th to 3rd. Kimi was tagged by the incompetent Klien before the end of the first lap. The result of which caused Kimi’s rear suspension to fail and he flew off the track backwards. Montoya just didn’t have the pace for various reasons and ended up nearly 40 seconds adrift of Fishyfella.

Rosberg’s initial promise from qualifying 3rd was unfortunately short lived. He hesitated at the start and lost several places. Then the Cosworth engine in his Williams let go just 6 laps later. Webber met the same fate on lap 15. Button had a lacklustre race with his Honda just not up to the pace of the Renaults. I think he was lucky to finish 3rd. I was impressed though with Massa finishing 5th after starting 21st. He even did a good job at keeping Michael at bay on the closing laps.

I did however, find Saturday qualifying entertaining. I managed to watch it properly this time. Overall conclusion, I like it, the new format works for the most part. What I felt didn’t work was the final 20 minute session. Filling the cars up with race fuel and then watching them drive round for 15 minutes before putting in fast laps seemed a little pointless. As was suggested in the commentary it would be better as another 15 minute shoot out. 

I’m also not keen on the engine penalties. I can understand the idea of making an engine last so many races but I think it would be better to fine the teams instead. Putting drivers back 10 places makes it confusing and difficult to work out the final grid.

I read quite a few blogs last week and talk of Toyota seemed popular. At first I couldn’t see why, but I suspect its down to their popularity in Champ Cars. They have the biggest budget in F1 but they’re just no where (well ok, 8th and 9th isn’t too shabby but 8 cars retired!). The two drivers they have are a yawn fest. I don’t much like Ralph Schumacher. I feel it got into F1 because of his brother and Trulli isn’t worth his salt either. As Martin Brundle aptly pointed out Michael Schumacher, Villeneuve and Massa overtook him easily. Quite what he’s up to, I don’t know.

So whilst it wasn’t that entertaining, the end result was good for Honda and Renault. Onwards and upwards to the next race in Australia in two weeks time.

Bahrain Coverage here.

Bahrain Grand Prix

The Formula One season has started back up and what a gripping start it was too! Due to one thing and another I didn’t get to watch as much I would have liked (Kate and I were away visiting relatives).

The new qualifying format is much better. Two 15 minute knockout sessions where each time the six slowest cars get kicked out. Then there was a 20 minute session where the remaining 10 cars compete for pole position. The first two sessions were great, but I didn’t quite get the logic of the final session. The cars were fuelled with race fuel levels and seemed to lap round for 18 minutes until they decided to get their arse’s into gear and put in a flying lap. Perhaps it’ll become clear in time?

It was a pity that Michael Schumacher was on pole but it just goes to show he hasn’t lost his edge. What really amazed me was that Massa was second! Given his lack of experience I suspect its the car and setup that helped him get there. It looks like Ferrari have put 2005 behind them and worryingly (for non-Ferrari fans, i.e. me!) built a good car. Jenson was a sound third and I was happy to see Alonso fourth. I was curious to see how he’d do given he’s already announced his switch to McLaren in 2007 (which can’t be good for morale at Renault) and whether he’d have the motivation.

My worries were misplaced. Alonso put up a good fight and due to some slick timing managed to snick past Schumacher after his final pit stop. He then easily kept Schumacher at bay to finish the race 1st. Jenson had a terrible start and wasn’t able to get 3rd place back. He really needs to work on his starts. Kimi had an excellent race to finish 3rd considering his awful starting position (22nd).

Steve Ryder was OK presenting ITV’s coverage. He fluffed and looked at the wrong camera a few times, but I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it. The fact that he loves motorsport goes in his favour.

The final podium looks like a good indication of the season to come. The top teams seem to be on form from the beginning and the change from V10 to V8 engines hasn’t phased them. I had to laugh at Gerhard Berger saying that BMW Sauber would be very reliable in the race because they were still using V10’s. I therefore took great joy in watching Villeneuve’s Sauber grenade itself down the back straight!

Can’t wait for the Malaysian GP next weekend :)