Saturday, 25 August 2012

9 Formula One Drivers Lucky To Be Alive

By David Galton-Fenzi

Racing is dangerous. It’s been a long time since the great Ayrton Senna died and it’s still, thankfully, the last time a driver has died behind the wheel in Formula One, but that doesn’t mean the sport hasn’t come close since. You can’t relax, not even for a second, or racing will bite you and sometimes you don't wake up. Just last year in the space of a week, the racing community lost Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli in two separate freak accidents. The drivers on this list are the ones who all had their bell rung since that fateful day at Imola but can still talk about it today, even if some of them still don’t quite remember the fine details.

#9     Karl Wendlinger

Karl Wendlinger was a ferociously talented young Austrian driver who was making waves driving for Peter Sauber’s team. Still reeling from the deaths of both Wendlinger’s countryman Roland Ratzenberger and the great Ayrton Senna at the previous race, the Formula One circus had rocked up at Monaco in a state of shock where Karl came within a hairsbreadth of making it a terribly tragic trifecta.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Why Does Everyone Hate Maldonado?

By David Galton-Fenzi

It is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately. You don’t need to dig too deep on the internet to find message boards flooded with vitriol towards the Venezuelan, but why is it so raw, so passionate? Well I think I know the answer, because I feel it too.

Maldonado came into the league branded a pay-driver, yet many of us felt this was unfair. You don’t win GP2 by accident so everyone who knew something about racing knew this was a guy who had speed, someone who could do the job. Sure he came with a lot of money behind him, but so does Fernando Alonso, so we perhaps felt the need to defend him, to embrace him even and wait for him to prove himself, and us, right.

His rookie year was a bit of a disaster, but that was nothing to do with Pastor. The FW33 was a complete tractor, and Maldonado measured well against an experienced team mate like Barrichello. He definitely did enough to justify another year in the sport. Of course he had his run in with Lewis at Spa, but we all justified it by blaming it on his Latin temperament, and Pastor justified it by taking a points finish on a true drivers track the very next day. “See!” we all said, “He can drive, just give him time.”

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Hungary 2012 - What We Learnt

 By Jem Ruggera

When Lotus, When?

Oh Lotus. It's like you're playing with us. Tantalising us with these glimpses of pace, tempting us with the possibility that with the right strategy you can convert the inherent speed of the E20 into the race win we've been talking about since the start of the season.

At the Hungarian Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean was in scintillating form on Saturday afternoon. He completed the first lap in the same position that he started, which, for the Frenchman, was a pretty good effort, especially considering he was starting on the dusty side of the track. He had a few leery moments during the race, particularly accelerating out of the chicane, but he generally tracked winner Lewis Hamilton throughout the race.

The truly exciting one to watch was, of course, Kimi Raikkonen. His qualifying position of fifth was still a little disappointing, and one suspects that if he'd just qualified a little higher... No, let's not go there. His pace in the second stint was phenomenal, and it was around this time Kimi played himself into the battle for the lead. Exiting the pits after his second and final stop, the two Lotuses were side-by-side into Turn 1. Raikkonen had the inside line, and hung Grosjean out to dry. No team orders at Lotus then...

Raikkonen quickly hunted Hamilton down, and with fifteen laps to go he was within DRS range. From there however, he never really managed to get himself into a position to make a run, and he duly followed Lewis over the line.

A 2-3 finish for Lotus moves them to within a point of second-placed McLaren, and Kimi is now just six points behind second-placed Mark Webber in the drivers standings. There were rumours of Ferrari being interested in Kimi Raikkonen for 2013, but considering they paid close to $25 million just a few years ago for him not to drive for them, it all seems rather unlikely.


When Lotus team principal Eric Boullier was asked if he expected to keep both Kimi Raikkonen and team-mate Romain Grosjean next year, he said: "Definitely. There is no reason for them to leave." He has a point. The E20 is fundamentally a strong car, a car that is thick in the fight for second in the championship. Kimi is driving as well as he ever he has, and Romain Grosjean is truly the comeback king of 2012. Wins, and championships, beckon.


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Germany 2012 - What We Learnt

By Jem Ruggera and David Galton-Fenzi

McLaren are back...?

McLaren looked to have genuine dry weather pace in Germany, which must come as a mighty relief to everyone at Woking, let alone the drivers of the MP4/27. For Jenson Button, it meant he had the car beneath him to convert sixth on the grid to second by the end of the race. The major upgrade package the team brought to Hockenheim introduced modified side-pods and exhaust, and they demonstrated speed superior to that even of the Red Bull.

This was amply demonstrated when we had the rather curious spectacle of a car unlapping himself. For Lewis Hamilton, the pace of his car meant nothing. He suffered a puncture after he, like most of the field, drove over the wreckage of a first-lap incident. Three-wheeling back to the pits Hamilton was talking retirement, but the team sent him out again just as the leaders passed the pit exit. On fresh tyres he was clearly faster than Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso who were running 1-2, and quickly caught the current world champion. At this stage many were wondering what the rules had to say on the subject of unlapping oneself. The rules said go for it, which the Briton duly did, cutting down the inside at the hairpin and grabbing the outside line into Turn 7. Vettel, clearly aggrieved that a lapped car was getting between him and Alonso, gesticulated wildly but conceded the corner.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Torque Points - Germany 2012

By Jem Ruggera     

The news of Mark Webber signing with Red Bull for another year fitted a crucial piece into the jigsaw puzzle that is the 2013 driver line-up. For the Milton Keynes based team, it was the obvious move. This is Webber's sixth year with the team, he's driving as well as he ever has, and currently sits second in the drivers standings. Together with Sebastian Vettel, they have driven to all 30 of Red Bull's wins, and with the RB9 looking increasingly impressive there is no reason to think they won't add plenty more to the tally.

As far as 2013 is concerned, the most interesting part of the puzzle now lies with Ferrari. Do they keep Felipe Massa? His struggles over the past few years have been well-documented, and he has found it increasingly difficult to match his team-mate. Things just haven't been the same for him since that nasty crash in Hungary, 2009. Whether that is part of the reason for his struggles is debatable. I think it is more down to the brilliance of a certain Spaniard on the other side of the garage. No, not Jorge Lorenzo...

Alonso leaving Massa behind….again.

Massa is likely to be gone at the end of this year, despite his relative improvement over the last few rounds. But when you consider that Fernando Alonso is leading the championship in the same car with 129 points, Massa’s paltry 23 points are just not contributing enough to the team total. Despite being a driver short, Ferrari still lie second on the table, but with quite a gap to leaders Red Bull and their two handy points-scoring pilots.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Britain 2012 - What We Learnt

By David Galton-Fenzi

Lotus Wins again....

For long periods of the race their cars were the fastest on the track, but yet again, it didn’t translate into the results they deserved (need). Grosjean (or as the Speed channel calls him - Ro Gro) was stunning. After pitting on lap 2 to have his nose replaced, he charged back through to finish in 6th place, effectively running the race distance on two sets of tyres. Admittedly, he got a bit lucky to get the slower softs out of the way quickly, but his pace was phenomenal despite nursing his tyres (once again) longer than everyone else. You can’t help but feel the big result is just around the corner, but how many times have we said that already?

Ro Gro aint slow

Maldonado Still Can’t Drive

That is all.

McLaren are Losing the Development Race

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Torque Points - Britain 2012

By David Galton-Fenzi and Jem Ruggera

Have Red Bull Found The Key?
Newey is obsessed over the idea of having a blown diffuser. (Almost as much as his other obsession - taking over the world!) Despite the FIA’s best efforts at discouraging them; changing the regulations regarding exhaust outlet positioning and outlawing trick engine ECU’s that hot-blew exhaust gasses off throttle, Newey was like a dog with a bone and wouldn’t give it up easily.
Newey deep in thought....Narf!
Red Bull arrived in Australia for round one with, what looked like, an ingenious floor at the rear of their machine. From the picture below you can clearly see the tunnel (starting just behind the ‘Bull’ lettering) that was meant to channel the air inwards to be abused by the diffuser at the rear. The drivers found the car very difficult to drive though and it wasn’t until practice in Bahrain, when they dolloped a bunch of flow-viz paint in the area and found the air-flow coming back out the front of the tunnel, that they realized their lack of rear grip was actually being caused by this tricky floor. Red Bull immediately blanked it off and Vettel then went on to win the race. Easy, except Newey didn’t just let the idea die...
Red Bull’s arse end in Melbourne

Monday, 2 July 2012

Modern Classics - Silverstone 2003

Modern Classics
The British Grand Prix - Silverstone 2003

By David Galton-Fenzi

In this column we’ll take a look at the epic races of the modern era. Races that were so unforgettable that they deserve to be retold and re-lived,  and to celebrate this week’s British Grand Prix we’re looking at a Silverstone classic, the day Rubens made them all look very ordinary.

The Story So Far

I’m sure it doesn’t actually feel that long ago but we’re going back 9 years here. The Wachowskis (Don’t call them brothers any more...) were ruining everything in 2003 by releasing both Matrix sequels, and in sports a young Swiss player by the name of Roger Federer had only just won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. Seems like an age ago now doesn’t it!

Formula 1 was at war! Well, it was in the midst of a full blown tyre war anyway, waged between the French rubber of Michelin who supplied McLaren and Williams and the Japanese Bridgestone who supplied Ferrari. Since coming back into Formula 1 in 2001, Michelin had struggled to seriously challenge the might and experience of Bridgestone with any consistency. In 2003, for the first time, they had seriously raised their game and cars fitted with their rubber were legitimate contenders, and thank god, because I’d rather have injected the ebola virus straight into my eyeballs than sit through another whitewash championship like the previous one.

How bad was it? Well, after Michael Schumacher had finished shitting over the entire 2002 schedule, (He finished on the podium in every race. EVERY FUCKING RACE!) the FIA decided to change the scoring for all future Grands Prix, with the intention to keep the championship closer for longer. So instead of the top six drivers scoring, with 10 points for a win, then 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 for the lesser places, the points now went all the way to the eighth place finisher; 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

The scoring changes and Michelins improved tyres worked a treat, and by Silverstone in 2003 the championship had developed into a four horse race. Obviously Michael Schumacher was involved, gunning for his fourth straight title (and sixth overall - the greedy bastard!) but Kimi Raikkonen in his McLaren and the two Williams’ of Juan Montoya and Ralf Schumacher were pushing him hard, with the standings looking like this;

 Michael Schumacher
 Kimi Räikkönen
 Ralf Schumacher
 Juan Pablo Montoya
 Rubens Barrichello

Monday, 25 June 2012

Valencia 2012 - What We Learnt

By David Galton-Fenzi

We Told You So....

Halfway through the race it appeared as though everything was going exactly as DownUnderSteer had foretold, and I’d almost finished writing this article already. I had everything covered, from Vettels dominant victory, to McLaren finally getting on top of their pit stop errors with a couple very slick stops for Lewis and Jenson. Of course, Valencia was still proving difficult to pass at with minimal action on track which left Webber, after his DRS failed in qualifying, firmly mired at the rear of the field, a victim of Red Bulls straight-line speed deficit. But then the safety car came out and as it turns out, what the fuck do we know?!

Alonso - causing major rewrites since the birth of time

Alonso is THE Man!

After qualifying in 11th place, things were not looking good for Alonso at his second home race, but his lowly grid slot was very misleading. The field in Q2 was so closely bunched his best time was only 0.218 seconds slower than Grosjean's ultimate pace!! The gap between Alonso and a spot in the Q3 shootout; 4 thousandths! Thats almost a hundred times less than the blink of an eye!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Torque Points - Valencia 2012

By David Galton-Fenzi and Jem Ruggera

The Track is Rubbish

The Tilke designed Valencia circuit first burst onto the F1 calendar in 2008 amid much fanfare and expectation. Here was a street circuit that looked like an established track. The layout was nothing like existing street tracks, with a very long lap length and straights that would encourage overtaking. Proper straights!! On a street circuit... imagine that.

Fast forward four years and it’s become one of the most unloved circuits there is. Dire processional races abound with last year being a particular new low. Of the 24 cars that started the race, 24 finished which means that nothing happened. Nothing! (with apologies to Mr Vettel) DRS was meant to fix the inherent problems with the layout, but I fear this track is beyond saving, and why should we have to resort to fine tuning the artificial element of F1 just to have a decent watchable event?


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Canada 2012 - What We Learnt

By David Galton-Fenzi

2012 is Epic
7 winners in 7 races
6 championship lead changes so far
What more needs to be said?

Schumacher is Cursed
In this ultra-reliable era of modern F1 racing you just don’t expect a driver to have such cursed luck as Schumacher is having in 2012. His run continued in Canada, a track he’s won at before 7 times, with his DRS getting stuck in the open position forcing him to park it in the garage once again.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Torque Points - Canada 2012

By Jem Ruggera and David Galton-Fenzi

Canada has one of the most fascinating circuits on the calender at the moment – a lot of that is to do with the fact that it wasn't designed by Hermann Tilke. By fascinating, I mean it contains a very particular character. The bumpy surface (numerous sections of the track have been resurfaced), the narrow straights and the unforgiving walls mean that even slight mistakes can be punished severely (just ask anyone that has hit the 'Wall of Champions', the barrier on the outside of the final chicane). Turn 4 is another tricky corner where more than one driver has come to grief.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Monaco 2012 - What We Learnt

By David Galton-Fenzi

Maldonado has forgotten how to drive...

After emphatically winning in Spain, many were talking up Maldonado’s chances around the Principality, (cough) but he quickly silenced all his believers with a couple bonehead moves in the final practice session. First by swerving into Sergio Perez and then wiping off a couple corners from his car on his very next tour.

Whichever story you want to believe about Maldonado’s swiping story it doesn’t look good. He either threw his car at another driver out of frustration then blatantly lied about it, or he was telling the truth about his cold tyres and he’s proven himself unable to keep the thing pointing in a straight line as if he was a rank amateur, two weeks after displaying immaculate car control to win fantastically in Spain. The fact is Maldonado has form in this area before, taking a swipe at Lewis in Spa last year. The truth is out there, and I dare say the telemetry revealed it when the stewards decided on his 10 place penalty. I just wonder how many more times he is going to weaponize his car before they take a harder line?


Saturday, 26 May 2012

Torque Point Qualifying - Monaco 2012

By Jem Ruggera

Another qualifying session, another bunch of questions. Wasn’t Lotus supposed to be looking good around here? Wasn’t Hamilton the favourite for pole position? Wasn’t the Mercedes going to struggle around here with such limited chance to use the double-DRS?

Instead, like many Saturday afternoons, the expected form book has been shredded, set on fire and the ashes scattered into Monaco harbour. This is mainly a function of just how close the field is running these days. In Q2 the top sixteen were covered by just 0.9 of a second. This meant missing a braking point by a couple of metres, not quite clipping an apex you normally hit lap after lap, means the difference between eight and twelfth. Just ask Jenson Button.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Torque Points - Monaco 2012

By David Galton-Fenzi
If anyone says they have any idea who is going to win at Monaco they’re either a liar or a witch. For the first time since 1983 we’ve had five different winners from the first five races. There has never been a season that started with six, but when you think that this year’s victors do not include Hamilton, Webber or Raikkonen, all previous Monaco winners, then you realize there is every chance we could see history this weekend, and the most wide open championship in F1 history.
 Rosberg Snr making it five out of five at Monaco in ‘83

Monday, 14 May 2012

Barcelona 2012 - What We Learnt

By David Galton-Fenzi

McLaren need to have a word...

After costing Lewis a brace of points in Bahrain with two bodged pit stops, they were at it again in Spain. Firstly, not putting enough fuel in his car that meant he lost his amazing pole position, and then at his first stop the left rear crew, despite being overhauled from Bahrain, was at it again. How hard is it to move the tyre you’ve just removed from the car out of the way

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Torque Points - Barcelona 2012

Barcelona will be the first race this year with a double gap in Pirelli’s tyre compounds, with the hard and soft tyres allocated. The first four races of 2012 have all been run on adjoining compounds, contrasted against last years championship where we had the double gap in the first five races, but then only twice more throughout the season (British and Indian Grands Prix) as Pirelli adapted to their first year in the sport.

Despite the well reported recent criticism of the 2012 tyres by Michael Schumacher, Pirelli are confident their decision will result in another thrilling race, “There is a whole step in between our two nominations for the first time this year and this should allow the teams to come up with a number of different tyre strategies that could make a big difference to the final outcome.” Explained Pirelli’s motorsport director, Paul Hembery, “With many teams having expanded their knowledge of our tyre range and tested new components at Mugello, we’re expecting a closely-fought Spanish Grand Prix – and maybe even the fifth different winner in five races.”

Literally - black art

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Modern Classics - Belgium 1998

The Belgian Grand Prix - Spa-Francorchamps 1998

In this column we’ll take a look at the epic races of the modern era. Races that were so unforgettable that they deserve to be retold and re-lived,  and what better place to start than with the Granddaddy of them all.

The Story so Far

It’s August 1998. Armageddon is top of the box office and Steve Tyler’s band Aerosmith have a smash hit from the soundtrack with a love song about his own daughter. You know the one. The Formula One season is heading towards a thrilling conclusion with four races to go with Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher locked in a vicious battle for the ultimate prize.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Lotus in the Sixties - Triumph and Tragedy

Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean scored a double podium for Lotus at this year's Bahrain Grand Prix. It was the first podium for a car under that moniker since Nelson Piquet in Australia, 1988. In view of the resurgent form of Team Lotus, Jem Ruggera takes a look back at the early years of one of the greatest outfits ever to compete in F1.

Of all the evocative sights and sounds that constituted Formula 1 racing in the 1960's, there are few that spring more quickly to mind than the sight of a young Scottish driver named Jim Clark silkily threading an elegant green Lotus 25 along the wet, foggy straights and bends of the epic Spa-Francorchamps circuit, or racing from a lap down at flat-out Monza in 1967 to come within a corner of the greatest comeback drive in history, or winning the German Grand Prix at the deadly Nordschleife from pole, while setting the fastest lap of the race, and leading every lap – to win the championship by early August, a record that wouldn't be broken for another 37 years.

Friday, 27 April 2012

5 Reasons Why I Love Formula One (Part 2)

David Galton-Fenzi finishes explaining what makes F1 so damn good.

#2. Innovation

I’ve already banged on about the earth shattering performance that these prototype racing machines are capable of, but where do you think that all comes from? I’ll tell you where!

Big, fat, ultra intelligent, uber geeky, rainman-esque, nerd organs! aka - Brains.

Formula One teams employ some of the brightest engineers currently walking the Earth and these ingenious poindexters are employed for one reason and one reason only - make the car faster.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

DownUnderSteer F1: Episode 11 - Bahrain Race Review.
Franky and Jem take you on an unforgettable journey through the Bahrain Grand Prix and melt your soul with flawless technical observations and race analysis. Is there anything they cant do??
Don't forget to guess the corner, Join us on Facebook or Subscribe to our channel. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

5 Reasons Why I Love Formula One (Part 1)

He's been following Formula One since 1997 (that's Jacques Villeneuve winning the championship up there), when on the advice of a good friend he tuned into the last couple races of the year. It was the finale at Jerez that properly sucked him in though. After the astonishing qualifying session and everything that played out during the race, the deal was sealed and he's been hooked ever since. But why does he love this sport so much? 

David Galton-Fenzi explains

#5. Performance

Lets get this one out of the way early. They’re called cars, but they’re not cars as we know them.  A modern family saloon will have somewhere between 150 to 200 bhp. (thats Brake Horsepower, though if you’re lost already perhaps you should stop reading now) A current 2.4 litre V8 F1 engine puts out up to 750bhp! Now I hear what you’re saying. Its a 2.4L V8, it’s bound to have that much power..... but you would be wrong! Just plain wrong. 

Caterham build a high performance engine called the RST-V8. Coincidentally enough, it also happens to be a 2.4L V8 and you know how powerful that is?.....550bhp. Oh, did i mention it's also supercharged? An F1 engine is only normally aspirated and STILL demolishes that output. At 18000rpm an F1 engine revs so fast that the pistons are subjected to over 8000g with every ignition (Thats 8000 times the force of gravity for those still struggling to keep up), and for those of you not keeping count that happens 150 times per second per cylinder! Just look what that does to the exhaust! Thats 1500 degrees celsius, more than hot enough to melt solid chunks of aluminium! 
Pictured - Surface temperature of a freaking star 

Formula One gearboxes blatantly ignore the laws of physics. They can change gear in 50 milliseconds. Like everything on these cars, that’s quick. For reference, a fast blink of your eyes takes 300 milliseconds, so these Newton-defying marvels of engineering could change up from first gear to their top gear, seventh, in the time it takes you to moisten your corneas! Oh, and they also have seamless shift, which means as one gear is being used, the next is spooled up ready to go so when the driver selects it they suffer no power loss in the transition. Boom! 

Which would come in handy if you were trying to drive upside down, as an F1 car can. Everyone has heard it before but it's actually true. All those wings and that sexy sculpted bodywork grab the air passing over it by the scruff of its neck.....or whatever air has, and they have their wicked way with it. They cane that air. They torture that air, and when its not being sucked into the screaming banshee engine at a rate of 450 litres a second, it's prodded and poked exactly where the car wants it to go to provide, literally, tons of downforce. 

The end result is a car that can generate 3.5 times it own weight in downforce out of thin air! So, build a track with a corkscrew and see what happens. Basic physics (which I admit these cars only adhere to when it suits them) states that when the downforce generated equals the weight of the car, bingo! You can invert it. 

You’re doing it wrong!