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