Brazil – update

Just a few notes on what’s going on down in Brazil at the moment.

Title Decider
F1′s points system runs 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 and Lewis Hamilton has a 7 point lead over Felipe Massa. They are tied on 5 wins apiece.

This is what LEWIS HAMILTON needs in order to win the title:

Finish in the top five (even if Massa wins).
Alternatively: Massa to finish 3rd or lower no matter where Hamilton places.

That’s it. Sounds easy, right? Last year proved it isn’t.

This is what FELIPE MASSA needs in order to win the title:

Finish 1st with Hamilton 6th or worse (tiebreaker on wins per below).
Finish 2nd with Hamilton 8th or worse.
Finishing 3rd will only give him 6 points so won’t cover the existing deficit.

If Hamilton finishes 6th and Massa wins the race it is a tie on points and the title would go to Massa based on number of wins.

It is worth remembering that if they are tied on points and tied on wins the title will be decided on the ‘quality of results’ system. That’s the number of 2nd-place finishes, if it is still a deadlock it goes to # of 3rds, and all the way down until a winner is found.

Ferrari have an 11 point lead over McLaren. For McLaren to win the Constructors’ title they need to outscore Ferrari by 12 points which just isn’t going to happen realistically is it? They do need to keep tabs on BMW who can take 2nd position from them – Kovalainen needs to be on his game as do the two BMW drivers.

My prediction: Massa to win the race, Hamilton to finish on the podium and take the title. It won’t ‘feel’ right if the title-winner isn’t on the podium, always a nice symmetry and he gets to celebrate with the crowd. Ferrari will get the Constructors’ title.

Weather
The forecast for the weekend is for showers, indeed FP2 was held in such conditions. It will rain tomorrow but maybe not during qualifying, though the track may already be wet. Showers are possible during the race on Sunday.

Hamilton is great in the wet and the Mclaren is more suited to it than the Ferrari. The outcome of the title could depend on which Felipe Massa turns up. There’s the guy who was quick in the wet in Monaco, and the guy who threw it away (5 times) at Silverstone. I think the former will appear with this being his home race.

Let’s hope this fight isn’t decided by a Safety Car or a stewards’ decision.

One thing to note if it does rain heavily is that last time it did, in 2003, a large river of water crossed the track after the Senna ‘S’, creating the most expensive parking area for damaged cars in the world. The track has been resurfaced since ’03 so hopefully that won’t happen again.

Check this for a review of ’03 (with crappy music), featuring lots of overtaking, Montoya’s great driving and the two huge crashes which ended the race:

If it rains on Sunday let’s hope we get the great racing without the big crashes!

David Coulthard
This will be David Coulthard’s last Formula 1 Grand Prix. To mark the occasion his car has been painted in the colours of Red Bull’s own charity, Wings For Life. F1 teams are not allowed to run cars in two colour schemes without unanimous agreement from the team bosses (you might remember BAR trying that in 1999 and having to run that ridiculous livery with 555 on one side and Lucky Strike on the other). This time it is all for a good cause as well as DC being a popular paddock figure, so they of course agreed.

David remains with Red Bull as chief test driver and consultant, and a strong persistent rumour since July has been that he’ll join the BBC’s broadcast team in one role or another and will attend each race in that capacity. I look forward to it – he can be funny and outspoken!

Helmet Cam
The Straw Poll column at Autosport.com reports that F1 will be trying out the Helmet Cam this weekend, similar to the one pioneered in Champ Car a few years ago. I remember seeing the view from Paul Tracy at Long Beach and being amazed at the acceleration of the car! I can’t wait to see the F1 version.
Read the whole of that column for Friday (it is daily during F1 weekends) for a brilliant story of the Canadian Formula Una girl’s application for a visa!

I’ll see you for the notes after the race on Sunday, which will be the last race I watch live this season (before I hit my big pile of recordings!).
I’d like to do notes on qualifying to mark the end of season but I’ll have been chasing a little white ball around a golf course. We’ll be rushing back to watch qualifying and it’ll be away from a PC.

Enjoy the race!

Preview: 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix

Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo, Brazil

The circuit is more widely known as Interlagos, which is the original name of the track and means ‘between the lakes’. It was renamed thirty years ago for a Brazilian driver killed in a plane crash – Pace scored his only F1 win at Interlagos.

Click the link above to see the track layout in the 1970s compared to the layout today. This week you’ll hear the drivers speak of the direction of travel being an issue on their neck muscles. It is rare in Formula 1 to have an anti-clockwise track which I’m sure your average NASCAR or IndyCar driver would find quite funny…
Normally the drivers train for lots of right-handers on a clockwise track, they have to train specifically for this track (and now these days Istanbul as well) which runs the other way, and particularly because of the long, steep uphill left-hander at the end of the circuit, beginning at Junção.

The track itself is notorious for being the bumpiest of the season, something which was largely cured last season after a complete relaying of the asphalt, though many bumps still remained. They may well appear again this year! The facilities in general are not up to scratch per F1 standards, however because it isn’t a European track nobody seems to mind so much. Under an agreement signed in March the GP will remain at Interlagos under the proviso that pit and paddock facilities are improved over the coming years.

There are also frequent crime problems with members of the Toyota team being mugged a few years ago and similar incidents reported from time to time.

The Brazilian GP was often held at the beginning of the year and was the season-opener until 1996 when Melbourne took over, relegating Sau Paulo to 2nd event. In 2004 Brazil was moved to the end of the year, being the season closer every year since except for 2005. In 2009 the new Abu Dhabi circuit is scheduled to be the finale with Interlagos being the preceding event.

Ferrari have walked the last two runnings of this event, however McLaren hold the most wins with 11 to Ferrari’s 9 and Williams’ 6. This is assuming Wikipedia is correct which isn’t guaranteed.

Felipe Massa these days is largely untouchable at his home track so I would expect him to dominate this weekend, however it depends on how his head holds. Lewis Hamilton faces the same problem but more so, since he threw it away last year with a mistake before a gearbox problem ended his race anyway. That sort of thing has got to mess with your head even if only a little bit.
I also expect Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso to play a large part in this race, with Robert Kubica and maybe Nick Heidfeld also getting amongst it. The rest won’t be able to live with the pace.

I’ll be back in a day or two with the points break-down and what Lewis and Felipe have to do to win the World Championship.

I think this race is pretty favourable to most people around the world, though maybe not the Antipodeans. That means there’s no excuses, you have to watch this race live alongside f1.com live timing!
(you do need to register for free and have Java installed, I suggest doing so before the weekend)

Qualifying is at 2pm local, 11am US EST, 4pm UK, 5pm CET.

Racing begins at 3pm local, Midday US EST, 5pm UK, 6pm CET. Check your listings because you want to watch the pre-race show, right?

NOTE FOR UK VIEWERS: THIS IS ITV’S LAST F1 BROADCAST
(Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks and Springboks who take James & Martin’s coverage note that you’ll probably get the BBC feed next season)

Race Notes: 2008 Gold Coast Indy 300

Nikon Indy 300
Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia
(non-championship event)

Coverage: Channel Seven or Seven Network, I’m not sure of the actual name.
Commentary: Aaron Noonan & Scott Pruett
Pitlane: Brianne Pedigo

Sorry for the delay in posting these notes, I had to wait for the downl my friend to lend it to me. This is the local Australian coverage, just for a change of scenery. Memo to Sky Sports in the UK: WTF are you doing with not showing this race until Tuesday?!? Are you serious??
(Not that I have Sky but the point stands.)

This is a strange weekend of things appearing where you might not necessarily expect them. IndyCars are in Australia, and the NFL is in London! I love crossover stuff like this as long as it isn’t like F1 in Bahrain where nobody shows up. Taking American sports abroad is the Next Big Thing.

I watched most of the NFL game on the BBC and it was interesting, I thought it was a lot like rugby, despite my not really understanding what was going on most of the time (something I also find with rugby..). The Americans do like to put on a show don’t they? European sports can still learn a lot from those guys, in some respects at least.

This race will be 60 laps or 1hr50mins, no idea why they picked that time.
Lap record: 1m30.054s by Will Power in 2007 with the DP01-Cosworth.

Wow it looks strange seeing Dario’s blue-and-white helmet in the red Target car!

Aaron, who’s last name I’ve already forgotten, says they should go 22 laps on a tank of fuel, I learn that it stores 83 litres which is 22 US gallons. We use different gallons here in the UK but I’m under 30 so use metric measures (apart from miles for some reason). It’s nice to get a litre figure on that.

Emma Snowsill, Australian Olympic triathlete medal winner gives the order to start engines and actually seems excited about it! All year we’ve watched people who don’t seem to care. Then again they never tell us who these people are, usually, so maybe that’s their revenge.

Aaron says it’s an ANZAC 1-2-3 on the grid. There are 10 nationalities in the field including 8 Americans.

Cars are rolling out of pitlane as Aaron says more than half the races run here over the years have had problems into the turn 1 chicane.

Starting Order:

Power, Dixon, Briscoe, Franchitti, RHR, Helio, Tags, Kanaan, Wilson, Viso, Meira, Moraes, Rahal, Andretti, Servia, Mutoh, Bruno, Wheldon, Mr Ed, Camara, Bell, Rice, Patrick, Foyt

24 cars made the journey. GREAT skyline on this glorious sunny day. Track is actually quite narrow. I’m sure I watched the Champ Car race last year but I don’t remember it this narrow..

One more warm-up lap. Oh no – Wilson pits before the start! He’s rolling again but he’s last, from 9th. Not good.

Brianne Pedigo’s voice tells us Justin was stuck in 3rd gear, team not sure if it is fixed. Nice to hear Brie is there this weekend, I was expecting to hear Jon Beekhuis talking to ESPN. Usually on an international IRL feed we get the usual pit reporters saying stuff like “yeah Marty that’s right” which makes no sense when we have Gary & Larry instead of Marty & Scott.

Almost to the end of the lap, tension building!
Trying to get two-wide, quite difficult for them in that narrow twisty section at the end.

GREEN FLAG!

They get through turn 1 okay, a couple miss it, contact in 2! Meira? Tags passes Franchitti who fell back. Helio passes him now.

Dixon cut the chicane and has to give up the position he gained. He lets Briscoe go at the line.

Power is checking out, he’s gone. RHR 4th and pushing hard.

Replays – Dixon clearly cuts it, Moraes got into Vitor.

L2 – Ooh we get a nice clean position tracker at the bottom of the screen, small, tidy, not in the way of seeing where we’re going on the onboards – brilliant. Someone show this feed to Versus so we don’t have the Mega Big ESPN-style Graphics blocking half the screen next year.

L3 – Dario dropped to 7th earlier, I’m not sure how, I might have missed the replay while I was typing about the other replays.

L4 – Power leads by 4 seconds already! Wilson’s problems seem to have been fixed, he’s passed a LOT of people already.

Brie in the pits talking about fuel strategy – Oriol Servia will do the opposite of the leaders.
New fastest lap by Briscoe in 1m37s. Commentator doesn’t mention how that’s SEVEN seconds slower than the record set last year by the then-new Champ Car. Did the circuit change or are these cars really that bad?

L6 – As I type that we cut to an onboard with Briscoe and SHIT that’s fast along the main straight, they aren’t giving much away there to the C-Cars. Must be on the brakes and lacking the turbo acceleration. I’m sure they’ll pick up some of that difference as the fuel loads come down. TV coverage isn’t mentioning any of this of course, lest they get in trouble…

L7 – Wilson takes another one, he’s got Wheldon for 14th. 10 down in 7 laps which isn’t too shabby… He has circuit advantage on a lot of these guys though. It’ll be harder when he reaches the guys he raced here last year.
L8 – Wilson slices by Marco as if this is easy. Basically makes his own gap, “yeah I’ll have that, thank you”.

YELLOW FLAG

Moraes has spun into the wall. Left rear failure on the replay, was that from earlier contact or just a failure?

Replay: Moraes made contact with the chicane wall on the left side of the car. Pruett calls it: ‘driver error, that fine line between pleasure and pain.’ Gives a shout out to the TV guys for a great job on the slowmo replay.

Brianne: Power’s team will spin an umbrella to let him know where to stop.

Pit stops have begun. Power and Wilson are in. Servia, Wheldon and Helio also in. Several stayed out.
It wasn’t Power! He stayed out. Brianne says they switched the teams at the last minute, pitted Servia and not Power. I thought it was Will but Oriol is running Team Australia colours as well this weekend.

I’m not sure if Brianne is talking to ESPN as well as Seven, she’s talking to someone but the Seven guys aren’t responding to her as ESPN would… I thought Jon Beekhuis was supposed to be here too but no sign of him so far. Last minute switch or is he on ESPN? Not that I’m complaining, Brie is doing an excellent job today. Major improvement from her in the space of a year.

Nice clean screen is great but they’ve taken the lap counter and the score ticker away during the yellow, don’t know where we are. Townsend Bell has pitted to retire from the race.

L11 – GREEN FLAG!

Power just drives away from them. This is his 3rd year starting from pole at this race, but the last two times he didn’t win, he wants this one.

L12 – Power is 2.3s up on Briscoe already.
Damage on Danica’s car, front wing damage. Pits along with Helio. They must have collided.
Brianne with Bell: Collided with Moraes, left him room but he turned in then 3 corners later he’s out anyway.
Replays of Danica and Helio, he went inside to pass and she turned in before he was clearly through.

L15 – Great onboard view from Briscoe, he’s on fire, inch perfect all the way around.

Rahal and Servia both pass Wheldon who is in Manning’s former ride, the ABC Supply Foyt car.

Brie with Tim Cindric: Helio got a flat tyre, Danica’s wing cut the tyre. He’s lost a lot of positions, Tim says maybe it’s his (Tim’s) fault for putting Helio back in the pack with that stop under yellow.
We had video of the interview this time, Brie is in 7 Sport gear so maybe the Aussies have Brianne exclusively for this event. Dedicated Indy Car Pit Hotty, as Pressdog might say. I wouldn’t mind a dedicated Brianne for myself from time to time, but I digress, slightly inappropriately.

L17 – Power is in the wall!! He clipped the wall and damaged the wing, maybe the suspension? Yeah the suspension is damaged.
Both the commentary guys are absolutely gutted for him. Will pulls the car in as he can’t get around a left-hand corner, has to park it. Day over.
Replay: He just slightly clipped the inside wall which sent him into the chicane wall. The initial contact broke the wheel.

L18 – The lead switches to Ryan Briscoe ahead of Scott Dixon, RHR, Tags, Franchitti, Viso, Bruno, Kanaan, Bruno, Andretti, Mutoh.
Lots of guys still to pit of course.

Brianne with Mark Johnson of KVRT: He tapped the wall and that was the end of that. I feel bad for the entire crew, but that’s part of motor racing.

L20 – Briscoe is about to lap Danica. ‘Normal’ pit sequence is now starting, the guys who didn’t pit under yellow. Servia pits. Penske are asking Briscoe if Patrick is holding him up, commentary says he isn’t responding so maybe his radio is one-way only. They tell him to pit if she’s holding him up, so he does. RHR also in.

L21 – RHR emerges behind Marco. Dixon has swiftly caught Danica, we’re onboard with him and this is painful, you can literally see the time slipping away. Dixon pits.

L22 – Pruett says he WILL get out ahead of Briscoe.
YELLOW! The safety car blocks Dixon exiting pitlane after Briscoe has already passed the pit exit. If the SC hadn’t have been there it would have been very close between Dixon and Briscoe. Dixon had to get on the anchors pretty quickly there.

Chaos as the safety car doesn’t know where to go! It pulls over to wait for the leader.

Carpenter, Foyt and Rahal are together. Rahal clipped Viso and spun him around, almost blocked the track completely, only a narrow gap to get through.

We come back from ads to find Patrick and someone have come together under yellow, she’s stalled the car. She’s waving at the safety crew. Scott Pruett says “that’s no way to treat the safety workers, if you were a safety worker and a driver was shouting at you, would you be in a hurry?”

Franchitti leads. We’re not getting enough replays here, no idea how Patrick got into that situation. The track had been blocked out of sight of drivers around a blind corner, so I’m assuming during our break she came around and had nowhere to go.

Yellow flag pitstops begin with Dario in. Several cars in, Andretti, Wheldon, Meira, Danica.

Ryan Briscoe now leads after the latest pit sequence.

GREEN FLAG

L25 – field nicely spread out, shouldn’t have any incidents on the restart.

Briscoe, Dixon, Tagliani, RHR, TK. We have no ticker and can’t see anyone else on screen. I hope Tags and RHR get a good finish here.

Brianne: “Ryan Hunter-Reay is putting in a good effort. He knows this course, he knows how to give information to his team. He gives exact corrections to his crew.”
(I’m paraphrasing as it’s faster)

L27 – Wilson finished 2nd here last year, he’s up to 9th here now.
Dario was screwed by the last yellow, he had to stop else he’d run dry, he’s back in 11th now.

L28 – Brie with Will Power: “I just got the inside of the wall, very bad mistake. I had such a quick car, saving a bit of fuel but pushing too hard. A part of that wall sticks out a little bit, caught the inside front wheel.”
Look at his face, this one hurts. He knows it was his error. He can’t believe it.

L29 or just under an hour if we go to a timed race. I have no idea which hat they pulled 1h50m from since they can’t have a tight TV window in the States at the hour it was broadcast there. Maybe the Aussies needed one or someone doesn’t have the money for the satellite time?

YELLOW - Franchitti has spun!

He spun it on the chicane, took it a bit too tightly and it sent him around. He’s waiting to be fired up again, hoping the crew gets there before he goes down a lap. We go to a break.

Ultra slowmo replays! Aerial view of the Gold Coast!

Dario did drop a lap and he’s 18th. He pits as do Danica and Rahal.

Brie confirms there is no damage to Dario’s car. She also says Roger Penske is not here to call Briscoe’s race, the engineer (I forgot his name already) says Briscoe will stay out and only needs one stop.

L32 – GREEN FLAG!

Aaron says there has been contact between Wilson and Bruno and their teams are ready (contact unseen by us).
Replay: Wilson touched Bruno’s wheel, it broke the endplate on Justin’s car, it also meant Helio got by him.

L34 – Helio dive bombs by Kanaan who is very slow. TK is crawling around with damaged suspension. He should park it rather than drag it to the pits, they won’t be able to fix that in the time. Get the thing out of everybody else’s way if you’re that much slower.

L35 – Why is Scott pronouncing Castroneves first name as ‘Heelio’? Scott races in America he has no excuse!
Brie says TK is mystified as to how the suspension broke. Commentators both say it is down to the chicanes, kerbs, nature of the track.

L36 – Servia tries a move on Viso, we see it from Helio’s onboard. Can’t do it.

L37 – There was a call earlier about a lap ago: ‘Don’t worry about Tagliani’. Brie tells us that was Mike Hull telling Dixon to stop looking in his mirrors!

Just noticed that only the top 11 are on the lead lap. I don’t recall so many guys being lapped, was it when they all came together at that yellow?

L40 – Briscoe pits from 2.6s ahead of Dixon. Dixon went a lap longer last time but he also pits now. Briscoe is still ahead. Servia also pitted.
Tagliani now leads from Hunter-Reay, these have been fighting all race long. Team tells Alex to push as if he is qualifying the car!

Replay: RHR sideways at the chicane! He’s on it too.

L42 – Alex Tagliani pits, Ryan follows him in, oh they touched! Light touch I think.
Ryan beats him out of the pits, they both beat Graham Rahal who is 6th! Viso leads.

The two touched under braking for the speed limiter.
L43 – We’re told Rahal has to pit again. Viso now pits and he beats Tagliani, but not Hunter-Reay.
Tags and Viso fighting! Side by side, Viso ends up cutting the chicane and has to give up the position.

Briscoe leads now, 1.2 up on Dixon.

Brie: Hunter-Reay believed Tagliani passed him under yellow much earlier in the race so perhaps the bump on pit entry was payback?

Scott Pruett, who won this race in 1997, says the IndyCar guys are always on it and if Tags had passed under yellow he would have been moved back by now.

L46 – Briscoe, Dixon, RHR, Tags, Viso, Servia, Helio, Meira, Rahal, Mutoh, Rice, Wheldon, Andretti, Wilson, Bruno, Camara. The top 15 are all on the lead lap now so some got a lap back under the pit sequence. Commentary has mentioned everyone in that list except Rice and Camara I think, even if only briefly. In fact I don’t think I’ve seen a shot of Rice all race.

Tagliani can’t live with Hunter-Reay in this stint, 6 seconds apart now. I think maybe RHR was sort of stuck behind Tags from the way they were together all the way until those stops.

L48 – Camara has spun and stalled so he can get a mention (I swear I wrote the above before he did that!). He’s asking for a restart, he’s in a runoff area so no yellow needed. He overshot, and stalled it trying to spin it in the right direction.

Viso cuts another chicane! Oriol tries to pass him, can’t do it though.

L49 – Viso has to give the place to Servia because he kept the position by cutting the chicane.

L51 – Brianne in the pits: Briscoe is on fuel setting 2, Dixon will soon go full rich.

L52 – Meira pits from 9th.
Briscoe is 2.3s up on Dixon, 7.7s on RHR and 18.1s on Tags.

L54 – Dixon is catching… he’s getting a couple of tenths per lap.

L56 – Dixon has got it down to 0.7s seconds! They are both scything through traffic, most of which is jumping out of the way on the straights.

L57 – We’re going to the full distance, not a timed event.
Aaron: “You couldn’t write this script, the two biggest teams in America with the two locally affliated drivers.”
Scott: “Is there some sort of rivalry between Australia and New Zealand?”
Aaron: “You pick this up quickly! It’s as much as Penske vs Ganassi.”

L58 – A tyre bundle has come loose at turn one, could cause trouble. Replay: It was Dixon’s left rear on the previous lap which caught the bundle and threw it into the track.

L60 – One lap to go, these guys have killed the field stone dead, as did Power when he was out there.
Local yellow for Carpenter in the wall at turn 3. Leaders already at turn 8.

RYAN BRISCOE WINS!!

The first Australian to win the Gold Coast Indy! Penske hasn’t won here since 1992.

Donuts at the chicane ‘in the best traditions of Alex Zanardi’ as the commentary says.

Ryan brings the car back to pitlane. We see an ESPN mike go to him but cut away to the throng surrounding the car. Shots of Dixon with Mrs D. He doesn’t look hugely impressed that he lost out.
Brie is with Ryan with her 7 Sport mike: “It’s pretty cool, such a tough track, so many fans out here! It means so much to win here, I really hope we can come back next year.” This race is no points, how does it set you up next year? “It’s worth triple points to me! It sets us up really well as a good springboard for next season.”

Brie has already found Dixon: “The traffic at the end made it exciting, we lost a our first position with the call from race control with the pace car. Maybe if he’d made a mistake we could have done it.” He says Dario works differently to teammates he’s had before, he’s a good teammate.

Hunter-Reay: “We started P14 in practice. I love this racetrack, I haven’t been out of the top five in any of the races. I’m hoping it was fun for the fans, it was tough for us, this track beats you up and eats equipment.” Brianne says he hasn’t got a deal for next season. Ryan says he’s hoping he’s showed what he can do.

Podium. First a quick speech from the Queensland “Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Sport”. Hell of a portfolio there, I’m amazed a nation like Australia just tacks sport on the end to the police job. She promises that this will not be the last Indy, it’ll be back next year and for many years to come. Nikon spokesman says a few words about how great they are.

RHR gets a trophy and says a few words to the crowd, hopes to be back next year.
Dixon gets a trophy and says he feels bad for Power.
Briscoe gets a big trophy and says it doesn’t get any better than this. Special to win here.

Interesting format to make them talk to the crowd during the podium ceremony. More series should do that. Not sure it would work in F1 but certainly it would in a lot of other championships.

No champagne, no winner’s anthem. What a strange ceremony.

Race Results

01. Briscoe 60 laps
02. Dixon +0.502s
03. Hunter-Reay +9.118s
04. Tagliani +19.984s
05. Servia +20.438s
06. Viso +33.725s
07. Castroneves +34.493s
08. Mutoh +55.747s
09. Rahal +1:20.059
10. Wheldon +1:31.900
11. Wilson +1:31.935
12. Rice +1:33.907
13. Andretti +1:38.397
14. Meira + 1 lap
15. Junquiera + 1 lap
16. Franchiiti + 1 lap
17. Foyt IV + 2 laps
18. Patrick + 2 laps
19. Camara + 2 laps
20. Carpenter + 3 laps
21. Kanaan DNF
22. Power DNF
23. Bell DNF
24. Moraes DNF

This was a non-championship event so no points were awarded.

Okay that’s me done here. Congratulations to Ryan Briscoe and Team Penske. I’m off to read everybody else’s notes as I’ve been starved of blogs and motorsport news sites since Saturday.

I’ll see you again later in the week no doubt, look out for my Brazilian GP preview and race notes. If you are in the UK make sure to switch to BBC2 after the race for the first in the series of the new Top Gear!

EDIT – it has come to my attention that I’ve been misspelling Miss Pedigo’s first name incorrectly. It should be ‘Brienne’ not ‘Brianne’. It was the way they were pronouncing it – sorry BP!

Too Much Racing

I started this blog under the name of ‘Too Much Racing’ because that’s what I was doing – watching too much motorsport every week. It soon came to take on another meaning: there is Too Much for one blogger to cover! There’s also Too Much for one person to watch even if they aren’t writing about it. I am not complaining – believe me this is a nice problem to have! I never want to have to change the name of this blog to ‘Not Enough Racing’.

In an average week I would read Autosport magazine, Autosport.com, GrandPrix.com and a few other news sites before hitting the (many) blogs, and of course the F1NGers group. I would watch at least one ‘big’ event per weekend (an F1 or IndyCar race usually) along with a ‘smaller’ event after work one evening (say a touring car meeting of 2 or 3 x 25 minutes).

Since the summer the real world has intervened and I’ve struggled to keep up with anything other than F1 and IndyCar, and I’m 6 weeks behind on Autosport magazines, though I always keep up-to-date with their website.
On the other hand I feel more integrated with the world rather than being sat in front of the TV and PC all the time!

Want I want to know from you all is this: How you do it? I’m sure you all have busy lives to lead, how do you follow so much in so little time?

Are podcasts the answer? So far I listen to FastMachines.com Radio (which is very good). I’d like to listen to others such as Live Fast Radio and Midweek Motorsport but at 2 hours apiece they are just too long for me personally at the moment (sorry guys).. though I will try a bit harder. I like FastMachines because they do a wrapup of the weekend in about 45 minutes to an hour.

I know in the US you have Wind Tunnel. I know that because I find my own way to watch it and it is a good programme. I think MotorsTV should start a European edition and have it link up with the Speed show from time to time.

Perhaps if I spent less time reading and writing blogs I might have more time to watch the racing, but I don’t see myself changing. Then again a year ago I didn’t even consider writing a blog.

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I caught up with some World Touring Car action this week, albeit from June! It was from Brno in the Czech Republic, where Alex Zanardi won the first race and finished 2nd in the second race! Brilliant performance achieved on merit, great to see it. I missed his first win since ‘The Crash’ so I’m very pleased to have seen the second. The gap between the two wins was too long and there was a LOT of emotion from the team, and frankly everyone no matter what shirt they wore, as he got out of the car after both races.
They were good races too, WTCC’s best of the year up to that point. The boys are in Japan this weekend before heading to Macau, while I’m four months behind them.. Let’s get Surfers Paradise (IRL) and Interlagos (F1) out of the way and then I can do a mega catch-up of everything I’ve stored up to watch over the winter.

—-
Another way to occupy my time is to play prediction games, an interest of mine since about 15 years ago playing F1 games in newspapers. I don’t do that any more, having switched to internet games a long while ago.

I currently play two of them. One is F1Tipping and the other is an interesting new game set up by Andy from The SpeedGeek’s Motorsport Blog, called ARFL. Check out his blog for full details about the game which covers F1, IndyCar, ALMS and NASCAR. I only joined a couple of weeks ago and already I’m familiar with how it all works, it may seem complex on the surface but it really isn’t, just play for one week and you’ve got it. Then the fun starts!

I did used to help run a prediction game on the F1NGers group until I ran out of time for it, so I can appreciate how difficult and time-consuming it can be to run something like this. I can also see that Andy puts a lot of work into this one. He’s looking for new teams, make sure you sign up for ’09.

—-
Okay, long post today. I’m aware that complaining of a long podcast and then writing a long blog post is probably not the best idea but I don’t really care.

I’m gonna disappear until Monday because I don’t want to know the result of the IndyCar race until I see the race myself. If the IRL online feed was good I’d consider getting up at 4am, but not for the Leader Cam. It drove me nuts at Homestead not seeing the rest of the field, so I’ve not used it since.

Enjoy Surfers, and the Valencia MotoGP!

IndyCar driver changes for Oz

Here is the entry list for Surfers Paradise this weekend, the non-championship status of the event means some teams are plugging in their ’09 drivers a little early. I’ve marked the changes in italic.

Ganassi……Dixon & Franchitti
Penske…….Castroneves & Briscoe
Andretti Green…Kanaan, Andretti, Patrick, Mutoh
KVRT………Power & Servia
Panther……Wheldon
Foyt……..Meira
Newman/Haas/Lanigan…Wilson & Rahal
Dreyer & Reinbold…Rice & Bell
Coyne……..Junqueira & Moraes
Vision…….Foyt IV & Carpenter
Conquest…..Tagliani & Camara
HVM……….Viso
Rahal-Letterman…Hunter-Reay

Was it just the three? I thought there were more.

Still no love for Danger Mouse Darren Manning – good grief!

Best. Cartoon. Ever.

Racenotes: 2008 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix

2008 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix
Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China

Coverage from ITV1, their penultimate event before the rights switch to the BBC.
Paddock anchors: Steve Rider & Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Ted Kravitz & Louise Goodman

Coverage started at 7am, I’m coming in at 7.30am although I wasn’t really paying attention for five minutes or so while I was starting Notepad and FIA live timing. I did mean to get up at 7am but I don’t do mornings very well.

I think Sinopec is a fuel company. Yesterday we were told the circuit is 40 minutes to 2 hours from central Shanghai depending on time of day and levels of traffic.

7.45am, Martin is on the grid, this is he:
“Hamilton can secure the driver’s title and Ferrari the constructor’s.
There’s a stadium effect here, between the grandstands and the buildings over the track, one is hospitality and the other is the media centre.
We’ve seen in the support races the drivers who can hang on around the outside of turn one are in the ideal position for turn 2.”

I’ve woken up now I’ve started typing.

Martin talks to Norbert Haug of Mercedes before heading down the grid – but he says not a single driver is near their cars at the moment. Finds Pat Symonds (Renault): “There’s going to be some shenanigans going into the first corner. Let’s keep out of trouble and have a good race.”
Martin throws to Louise with Mark Webber.

Webber: “My fuel load is probably a little lighter than the guys around here because of Q3. Taking a penalty 5 rows back and you’re gone basically.”

Now she’s with Kovalainen: “All we can do is aim to take maximum points. We’re going to be positive, let’s not worry about what might happen.”
Louise: “Enjoy the rest of your birthday.”

The gridwalk is a bit early today so maybe that’s why nobody is around. They go back to Steve & Mark for a bit.

STARTING ORDER
Q3 Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Kovalainen, Vettel, Trulli, Bourdais, Heidfeld *
Q2 Piquet (9th), Kubica, Glock, Barrichello, Rosberg
Q3 Coulthard, Webber**, Nakajima, Button, Sutil, Fisichella

* Heidfeld was P7 but penalised 3 places for holding up DC in qualifying.
** Webber was P6 but penalised 10 places for an engine change.

5 minutes to go, FIA graphics, we go to James Allen and Martin Brundle and at *precisely* this moment the live timing updates – it was showing qualifying results, now it has cleared the timing data and shows the starting order.

Formation lap – this will be a 56 lap race and there is a chance of rain towards the end.
As I write that BMW get on Kubica’s radio to say there could be rain in 20 minutes.

Martin – it’s a longer lap than Fuji, more chance to get the brakes up to temperature, they need to be 700 degrees to work effectively.

Hamilton is on hard tyres, the two Ferraris are on soft tyres. Alonso in 4th on hard tyres.
Cars arrive on the grid, lots of tension..

5.4.3.2.1.GO!

Hamilton takes the lead, Kova around the outside, crash at the back.
Kovalainen is still alongside Alonso. Heikki bags him. Top 3 are as they were on the grid.
On to the back straight and Alonso goes alongside Heikki, and outbrakes him at the end of it. Important move, and interesting that he could pass with horsepower.

Lap 2 – not seen a replay of the start crash yet. On timing it looks like Trulli is the only car damaged and he pits now.
Alonso is pulling away from Heikki.
Ted is at Toyota – the whole right-hand sidepod is flapping everywhere, completely destroyed, it’ll lose him a load of downforce. James suggests he may have hit Bourdais who is now 18th after starting further up.
Replay – Heidfeld drivers around a few cars. Trulli turns in on Bourdais (not again Sebastien!).
Replay of Alonso passing Heikki who got it slightly wrong leading on to the straight, thus losing speed.

L3 – Trulli pulls the car in after letting the leaders through. The car must be too damaged.

L4 – Hamilton pulling away. Webber vs Barrichello, Rubens covers the inside.

L5 – first ad break
Timing shows Webber has taken Rubens for 10th. Hamilton is still faster than everybody, Ferrari next up with Alonso, these are in a race of their own. Kovalainen can’t stay with them and leads Heidfeld and Vettel.

L8 – back from ads
Heikki is 1.2 seconds per lap slower than Lewis and we saw Heikki’s brakes smoking on the grid, Martin says too much temperature in them. It could be hurting him now.

Louise is with Trulli, ‘not the first time you’ve had contact with Bourdais at the start’: “I mean this guy has to cool down a little bit. I had a hit on the rear right and my car was damaged.”

L9 – Webber is all over Piquet, takes him up the inside but too fast, Piquet comes back and they stay together – Piquet has to back out. Radio: “You know he’s light Nelson so don’t worry.”

L10 – Kimi now sets fastest lap. Ted tells us Vettel (P7) will stop a lot shorter than Kubica (P8) but Robert needs to stay within 7 seconds of him.

L13 – Rosberg passes Glock at the hairpin. Webber pits from 10th, James says the leaders are due in shortly. Rosberg’s radio says ‘qualifying laps until you stop’.

L14 – Piquet ran a little wide at the last corner. Webber is now running 18th and has to pass all those guys again, though he’s hoping most of that will come when they pit.
L15 – Massa and Alonso pit. Massa stays on soft tyres, Alonso stays on hards. Massa is 8th behind Kubica, Alonso is 10th behind Piquet.
Adrian Sutil has parked in a little run-off at the last corner.
L16 – Hamilton and Raikkonen pit. Both are on the hard tyres. Hamilton gets out ahead of Vettel with Raikkonen just behind Vettel. Kovalainen leads.
Replay of Sutil’s engine smoking as he pulls over.

L18 – Heidfeld is in.
L19 – Kovalainen and Vettel pit. Hamilton is now in the lead again. We go to an ad break.

Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kubica (not stopped), Massa, Piquet (not stopped), Alonso, Kovalainen, Heidfeld

L21 – Back from break.
L22 – Alonso radio: “Heikki is 6 laps longer than us.”
Lots of marbles on the side of the long straight.

L23 – Ted at McLaren: “Lewis says the car is a lot better and more stable after a half a turn of front wing at the stop.”

Everything is pretty stable right now on the timing screens, they are all matching each other up front.

L25 – Piquet comes in. He beats Vettel and Nakajima. Martin says he tried to pick up a fuel hose the other day and it was very heavy, he struggled with it and that was with no fuel, says it is a very hard job!
L26 – Kubica pits from 3rd. He’s out in 8th behind Coulthard who hasn’t stopped yet.
Replay of Kubica’s stop – they left the tyres on, added fuel and adjusted the front wing. Not often you see tyres left on in F1.

L28 – another ad break, return on L30.
Raikkonen lost 1.4 seconds trying to lap Fisichella.

Hamilton, Raikkonen +7.5, Massa +14.6 from Hamilton, Alonso +21.7, Kovalainen +29.7

L32 – Coulthard and Bourdais having a fight, Sebastien takes the place. Nakajima and Webber pit.
L33 – Glock is in. Massa lost a second passing Fisichella.

L36 – Kovalainen has a puncture! McLaren had been getting ready for him, we saw the mechanics already in the pitlane. They pushed it a little too far. Now he has to run the length of the long straight with it.
Ted: “This is brake-related. We saw them smoking on the grid. Then at the stop there was a lot of black dust, all the team breathed it in.”
Heikki pits and comes back out in 17th. Big news in the Constructors’ championship, McLaren needed him to score.

L37 – Alonso pits.
L38 – Massa is in, he switches to hard tyres. Webber gets on the marbles and runs through the car park.
L39 – Hamilton pits and switches to the soft tyres. Raikkonen is right behind him taking . He’s out just ahead of Massa. Hmmm I wonder if he’ll mysteriously begin to slow down soon and let Massa through..

L40 – Heidfeld is in, he’s out in 6th.
L41 – Kubica pits from 4th, he’s now behind Vettel again. There’s talk of McLaren turning the revs back a bit on Hamilton’s car, they need to take this engine to Brazil whereas Ferrari will have two new engines.

L42 – another ad break. Timing shows Vettel pitting.
L43 – back from ads, James says “this has not been a vintage grand prix”. No kidding. They are all driving away from each other.

L45 – 12 laps to go and I can’t believe Kimi won’t let Massa through. He’s letting him gain a couple of tenths each lap.
L46 – wow we’re going to another ad break already. Rumours on forums say they have to take 5 breaks per race.. Won’t miss this next year on the Beeb!
L48 – back again.
L49 – Kimi completely backs off into the hairpin, Massa is now 2nd. Sensible move given the title situation.

L50 – Kovalainen pits! Did he not take enough fuel when he had the puncture? Maybe not, he parks it in the garage. James and Martin speculate they may have decided to save the engine for Brazil. Ted gets on the phone and says “no, its definitely the brakes, it became undriveable. The man from the brake supplier is here looking very worried.”
Martin – when they get too hot the wear rate goes up exponentially.

L52 – Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso, Heidfeld, Kubica, Glock, Piquet
Alonso is catching Raikkonen. Kubica and Glock are catching Heidfeld. The gaps seem to have come down a little everywhere but nobody is close enough to do any racing.

L55 – Martin: “Interesting isn’t it, 33 starts but only 2 fastest laps for Hamilton.”
L56 – Good drive from Barrichello in 11th in that shitbox of a Honda. Martin suggests Bruno Senna will be testing for Honda soon, maybe he’ll be racing the car next year.

L57 – Hamilton Wins!

Massa 2nd, Raikkonen 3rd, Alonso 4th, Heidfeld 5th, Kubica 6th

Martin: “We’ve had some thrilling races this year, this wasn’t one of them, Hamilton won’t care will he?” He gives ‘driver of the day’ to Hamilton.

Congratulatory radio calls.

ITV sells us some more products as the cars head to parc ferme.

Drivers are in the little waiting room now having a bit of a chill out.
To the podium!
British anthem for Hamilton and McLaren. Dreary little ditty not suited to a celebration at all.

Trophy-giving, a bit fell off Hamilton’s trophy! Massa does not look happy, he’s very down. Martin: “Lovely man is Felipe Massa, a man you’d sit beside on an aeroplane or have around for dinner.”

Champagne!

Steve and Mark are in pitlane, behind Mark a throng of people pack out the start/finish straight.

After more adverts and a results review we go to the press conf.

Lewis: “Team have done a phenomenal job. I owe so much to the guys, the car is a dream to drive.” Peter Windsor suggests it was an easy win. “It was quite straightforward actually, made a great start, one of the best we had this year. Fortunately we were very consistent therefore I was able to create a gap. After my second stop we were just trying to look after the engine and tyres.”
Lewis seems quite quiet and understated today as well.

Felipe: “For us the hard tyre was not quick, difficult to drive, the soft was the only option. At the start I had a bit of wheelspin, then we just stayed in the same positions. Lewis was pulling away 3 tenths per lap, we were on the limit. Lewis had the better car. I think for the drivers championship it was not fantastic but for the constructors it was very good.”

Kimi: “We won as a team, its normal in these situations. The car was handling quite nicely but it wasn’t fast enough. Every time when I was faster it was too late. I got traffic three times and it cost me a lot of time. 2nd and 3rd was the best we could do but hopefully next race we can challenge a bit more.” Pete asks the inevitible team order question. “I know what the team expects, I have nothing to lose I’m driving for the team.”

Lewis again. Peter says: “7 points was your lead last year, 7 points is your lead this year into the last race in 2008*”
Lewis: “I know going to Brazil will be much different to last year, we know we’ve got to do a good job, these two will be pushing hard.”

Long conference today, longer than I’ve written down, thanks to ITV for sticking with it.

Steve & Mark briefly review the race with replays. A crowd has gathered to watch them! That’s funny!

Results
01. Hamilton 56 laps in 1h31m57.403s [10 pts]
02. Massa +14.925s [8]
03. Raikkonen +16.445s [6]
04. Alonso +18.370s [5]
05. Heidfeld +28.923s [4]
06. Kubica +33.219s [3]
07. Glock +41.722s [2]
08. Piquet +56.645s [1]
09. Vettel +64.339s
10. Coulthard +74.842s
11. Barrichello +85.061s
12. Nakajima +90.847s
13. Bourdais +91.457s
14. Webber +92.422s
15. Rosberg + 1 lap
16. Button + 1 lap
17. Fisichella + 1 lap
DNF Kovalainen (brakes)
DNF Sutil (engine?)
DNF Trulli (crash damage)

Fastest Lap: Hamilton 1m36.325

(results from Autosport.com who had them online unbelievably quickly)

World Drivers’ Championship
01. Hamilton 94
02. Massa 87
03. Kubica 75 (eliminated from title race)
04. Raikkonen 69
05. Heidfeld 60
06. Alonso 53 [+1]
07. Kovalainen 51 [-1]
08. Vettel 30
09. Trulli 30
10. Glock 22 [+1]
11. Webber 21 [-1]
12. Piquet 19

Hamilton extends the gap by 2 points and now leads by 7. All of the top six scored today. That top six now includes Alonso who has passed Kovalainen.

World Constructors’ Championship
01. Ferrari 156
02. McLaren 145
03. BMW 135
04. Renault 72
05. Toyota 52
06. Toro Rosso 34
07. Red Bull 29
08. Williams 26
09. Honda 14

Ferrari have a 9 point lead with 16 available in Brazil. McLaren will need Kovalainen to bring a better game to that race to pick up as many points as possible on a track were Ferrari are always strong.
Red Bull will need to score well to avoid the embarrasment of being beaten by the B-team!

The title-deciding race will be at Interlagos, Sau Paulo, Brazil on November 2nd. Not only is a Brit in the running, this will be ITV’s last race for the forseeable future so their coverage may be a little emotionally charged.

Bernie and ITV will be happy that it has gone to Brazil because that race gets away at 6pm here – prime time Sunday ratings!

Preview: 2008 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix

To the 4th Chinese GP, and the Space Station Shanghai for the penultimate race of the 2008 season. Following some strange calls from officials last week in Japan let’s hope this week’s on-track action doesn’t end up in front of the stewards.

If you’ve seen this race before you’ll know why I refer to it as a space station. The media centre and offices are HUGE and straddle the track like some alien ship has landed at the circuit for a day at the races. Or it could be in orbit somewhere. You can imagine smaller craft docking with it – or maybe I need to get out more.

This is another of those tracks designed by the ubiquitous Herman Tilke, who says he modelled the layout on the Chinese character ‘shang’ (from Shanghai). I guess he ran out of ideas that week so copied the promoter’s letterhead.

Obviously the teams don’t fly the trucks halfway around the world so at the ‘flyaways’ the circuit owners lay on special facilities. This week the teams are based in tranquil-looking huts at the back of the pits, set among waterways and plants and stuff. It looks nice. No such luxury in Brazil in a couple of weeks.

One year ago Lewis Hamilton and McLaren blew his first shot at the World Championship by destroying his tyres and not calling him in for new ones, respectively. When he eventually pitted, he threw it into a little gravel trap set just off the pitlane entry. Okay you can argue they were waiting to see which way the weather would go, it had been raining on and off for a while and they needed to know whether to go for dry or intermediate tyres. Hindsight is a wonderful thing yet I remember thinking they should at least pit him for something. The tyres were delaminating. Raikkonen was 17 points back before China ’07 and 7 behind after it. Kimi then won the title.

This year Hamilton can confirm himself as Champion by scoring 5 points more than Massa. Massa can take the fight to Brazil by closing that gap, and ideally needs to beat his opponent by a couple of positions. Both men are under tremendous pressure to perform well and you can easily argue both cracked in Japan. Can they regroup in China? How effective will their team-mates be in helping take points from the other team’s contender?

Both Alonso and Kubica are on form at the moment – can they steal a win? Alonso especially is on a roll at the moment and has made public comments that he is in it to support Massa. After his year alongside Hamilton I would expect nothing else…

Kubica is an interesting one. Aside from Hamilton and Massa, Robert is the only other driver not mathematically eliminated from the title fight. He’s still some way back and will have to score well with the others (esp. Hamilton) having problems – yet Lewis and Felipe have both struggled to score decent points lately while Robert has been notching up the points finishes. Don’t count him out just yet.

We may also hear news of Sebastien Bourdais’ movements – if any – for 2009. I hope STR see sense and keep him around.

Event Times
Qualifying is on Saturday at 2pm local / 7am UK / 2am US EST.
Racing starts on Sunday at 3pm local / 8am UK / 3am US EST. Check your listings for TV coverage start times.

If you are watching live remember to make use of the live timing at http://www.formula1.com, a link is on the main page (remember to ‘load in big window’).

F1 News – Update
Further to my post yesterday, Formula1.com now has official video from multiple positions on each of the three contentious decisions from the Japanese GP. See my previous post for the video link and my comments.