Must Comment Monday

Eagle-eyed readers visiting the site will have noticed a red logo appeared in the sidebar a couple of weeks ago: Must Comment Monday. You may have seen it elsewhere too.

The idea is this:

- Visit several blogs on a Monday and if there are any new entries that day, you must leave a comment.
- If there are several entries on a blog you only need comment on one.
- If the blog requires a password it is exempt, although if you already have a login you may as well use it!
- Do try and say something interesting or constructive rather than something just to say you commented. The ‘first comment!’ phenomenon is to be discouraged.

Of course, us bloggers have to keep up our side of the deal too and keep posting blog entries as well as commenting elsewhere. Let’s not have our blogs sleep through the off-season! This is a great way to keep comments flowing and every blogger knows comments are everything, the lifeblood of a blog.

This is another initiative from those fine folk of Sidepodcast, who seem to be good at prompting people to blog. You can read more on MCM in this post.

Thursday Thoughts: F1 Launches

This week’s Thursday Thoughts question from Sidepodcast:

Should F1 teams launch 2010 cars in a single launch event?

When I first read the question I thought I would be in favour, but after considering the pros and cons I’ve turned out to be against the idea. Let’s run through them.

In favour of a group launch:

- It cuts costs for everyone. Perhaps they would each pay a flat rate to FOTA who would hire a venue, perhaps they could even get a neutral company (say a series sponsor like LG) to sponsor the event and make it break even.

- All of the world’s F1 media would be in the same place at once. Not only would this cut their costs but it would mean not having to choose between competing events held the same day.

- It would create a huge pre-season buzz with all the new cars appearing before the world at once, or in reality probably in stages through the day. The publicity would be huge! You could even set up a dummy grid, though I’m sure you’d have to draw lots for the order.

In favour of individual launches:

- ‘Launches’ these days aren’t the frivolous affairs of the late 90s with the Spice Girls and the dry ice. The cost of plonking a tarpaulin-covered car in the pitlane in Jerez really isn’t that high when it is there for testing anyway.

- If there are launches held on the same day in different countries, the bigger players tend to have enough staff or freelancers to be able to send one or two to each.

- We already have a huge pre-season buzz, it just isn’t concentrated into a focal point, it is spread over many weeks or even months. This for me as a fan is the clincher. The anticipation builds from late January as car after car is steadily launched right up until we can visualise the full grid in early March, just days before the real thing. No other form of motorsport can or does do this.

- If they launched at the same time only the specialist motorsport press will cover every team. At the moment the general media might have a larger story for McLaren and a smaller one for Force India, but they’d pretty much all get something, at least in newspapers. If they launched all at once the editors would have the same space to cram in 13 or 14 teams and it just isn’t going to happen, they’d pick Brawn, McLaren, Ferrari and maybe one other. This should be the clincher for the teams but they seem to have missed it.

The group shot idea I had above – it would look cool to have the cars lined up together but the team sponsors would probably prefer the focus to be on their car on that day. With an individual launch you get the focus on your team and your sponsors. For this reason alone I am amazed a team like McLaren, with their focus on “corporate partners” (never “sponsors” for McLaren) is prepared to even entertain the idea let alone consider it seriously.

In other responses I have seen it said the new teams would prefer individual launches to get the focus but actually I disagree with that. I think they are pushing for a group launch. Why? Because it legitimises them to be seen alongside Ferrari and McLaren and so forth. At this stage that is worth a considerable amount more to them than a single-focus launch – but that isn’t enough of a reason to go for it.

Then you have other issues such as the invited guests. Would you have one conference room, wheeling in each set of sponsor’s bigwigs before wheeling in the car? Then getting them all to leave in a timely manner before the next group, bearing in mind you have essentially 8am to 8pm to launch 13 teams?

I think the cons outweigh the pros on this one, not just in number but in gravity. It was a good idea and let’s not fault them for coming up with radical ideas for they are needed, but the execution of it is a logistical nightmare and the media benefits – which after all is the point of holding a launch – are diminished in my view.

Weekend Preview: 21-22 November 2009

This is the final Weekend Preview of the season, thanks for reading and I hope these posts have been useful!

Windsor Arch 56th Macau Grand Prix

- Guia Circuit, Macau, PRC
- www.macau.grandprix.gov.mo/app/home/gp56/en
- Live Timing from MST (note this link is for all non-WTCC races at the circuit this week)
- with WTCC (see below), FBMW Pacific and a host of regional championships

The classic Formula 3 event attracts competitors from the Euroseries and the Japanese and British series, I am not sure if the Australians also attend? I am always surprised at how fast the F3 cars look at this course, the long straight sections mean the cars are in high gearing, low downforce trim which while fast on the open road, the drivers have to struggle with through the narrow twisty part of the track.

The Macau Grand Prix format for F3 is for a 10-lap Qualification Race on Saturday at 1.45pm Macau time, followed by the 15-lap Grand Prix on Sunday at 3.30pm their time. That’s about 4.30am here… I think.

I can’t find any live UK TV coverage!
I can’t find any recorded coverage either.

FIA World Touring Car Championship

- Marriott Race of Macau
- Guia Circuit, Macau, PRC
- www.macau.grandprix.gov.mo/app/home/gp56/en
- and www.fiawtcc.com
- Live Timing from MST (WTCC only, for F3 use the link in the Macau GP section above)
- Final round

The usual format of two equal-length races on Sunday of just 9 laps each around this long circuit, that’s good for the normal race time of about 25 minutes. It might be short but there’s action all the way at Macau!

This is Tom Coronel in the 2007 race.

UK TV: There is continuous coverage encompassing both races from 4am UK time, with only a short break between races (which is utterly crazy with the damage this place can cause). It is repeated at 11.35am on Eurosport 2.

NASCAR Sprint Cup

- Ford 400
- Homestead Miami Speedway, Homestead, Florida, USA
- www.nascar.com
- UK TV: SKY SPORTS XTRA at 8pm Sunday
- US TV: LIVE on ABC at 2.30pm ET Sunday

Jimmie Johnson holds a large points lead going into the final round of the long, long NASCAR year. He’s pretty much guaranteed unless there’s one of those famous crashes all the “fans” apparently want to see, although since they pay points just for turning up perhaps they should give him the Cup now…

NASCAR Nationwide Series

- Ford 300
- Homestead Miami Speedway, Homestead, Florida, USA
- www.nascar.com
- US TV: LIVE on ESPN2 at 4pm ET Saturday (not covered in UK)

Speaking of just turning up, Kyle Busch only needs to start this race to secure the 2nd tier title.


NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

- Ford 200
- Homestead Miami Speedway, Homestead, Florida, USA
- www.nascar.com
- US TV: LIVE on SPEED at 7.30pm ET Friday (not covered in UK)

I know nothing of this series and I’m not sure I know anyone who does..

Intercontinental Rally Challenge

- Rally of Scotland
- Perth to Stirling, Scotland
- www.ircseries.com

This is the IRC’s maiden visit to the UK. There will be updates throughout the weekend on Eurosport including live stages! Tune at 8.45am and 4pm Friday, 9am and 1.45pm Saturday, and 6am and 7.15pm Sunday.


Australian V8 Supercars

- Barbagallo, Australia
- www.v8supercar.com.au
- Penultimate round

Weekend Preview 5-6 December 2009

Just for completeness, the final round of V8s is in two weeks’ time:

Australian V8 Supercars

- Oran Park, Australia
- www.v8supercar.com.au

That’s it! After these races the 2009 season is over. The first event of 2010 is the Dakar which is in South America again in early January, then the IRC opens the ‘regular’ season with the Monte Carlo Rally on the weekend of the 23rd. The first circuit race of note is the Daytona 24 Hours at the end of January, a mere two months away.

Thanks to the following sources this season:
FORIX;
Autosport magazine;
RadioTimes.com;
LiveSportOnTV.com;

Mercedes Grand Prix

Yet more big changes among the F1 teams for 2010! Not only do we get get a raft of new teams, the departure of BMW (who may yet come back in a new form) and Toyota, now we also have Mercedes completely restructuring their involvement after a long unbroken run with McLaren.

McLaren
Mercedes presently own 40% of the McLaren F1 team (not the group as a whole though). The problem Mercedes faced is that while they are the largest single shareholder, the others hold an agreement by which they vote as a single block, thus having the power to veto Mercedes. There is also the new supercar which is the first McLaren-built road car in years not to feature a Mercedes engine.

Plan: The 40% shareholding will be reduced gradually over the next 18 months or so and for the 2010 season (and beyond??) the team will still be called Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. The engine supply agreement remains and, for now, so does the colour scheme.

BrawnGP
After Honda departed F1 the team has had to cut back somewhat in personnel, and it still seemed to suffer the same problem as it always had under every incarnation, that of not being able to attract long-term sponsors. With benefactors like BAT and Honda it was never necessary only desired, indeed Honda effectively bankrolled the 2009 season. It was anyone’s guess what would happen in 2010 and beyond. Yet amazingly the came from nowhere to dominate the first half of the season, and while it went south after that they managed to battle on to secure both championships.

Plan: Mercedes have bought 75.1% of the team in an agreement with a Middle Eastern investment company. The team will henceforth be known as Mercedes GP and the cars branded as ‘Silver Arrows’, harking back to the famous cars of the 1930s and 1950s. Ross Brawn remains in charge but will liaise with Norbert Haug.

Drivers:
Rubens Barrichello left Brawn last month and had already signed for Williams to replace Nico Rosberg, who was looking to leave that team. Nico had therefore been linked with the vacant Brawn seat in a straight swap and now Mercedes have a greater involvement the deal appears as good as done.

The big question is over the future of Jenson Button. There are strong reports placing him at McLaren with a pay rise, doing nothing to quell his reputation as a money-chaser. At least this time he’s earned it. I am not sure what placing himself in what is Lewis Hamilton’s personal team is going to acheive for Button other than damaging his career, he must be confident in his ablility to beat him. It will be interesting to see him try!
At this stage it could still be an elaborate bluff and Kimi Raikkonen could still get that seat, though you have to say that possibility is shrinking daily. In fact just this evening Kimi’s manager has stated any chance with McLaren has now disappeared.

That leaves a space at MercGP. Will Kimi end up there? Are the Heidfeld rumours a ploy by the Kimi or Jenson to get more money (either take us for mega $$ or end up with Nick), and is that how he gets himself hired? What is the fate of Heikki Kovalainen?

Lots of questions still need answering. One thing’s for sure, this is a much bigger deal for the ex-Brawn team than the Virgin deal suggested a while back and perhaps that’s why Virgin are now hooking up with Manor.

One final point I saw mentioned:
Among entrants this makes BrawnGP the most successful team in history, in terms of strike rate.
Years entered: 1
Drivers titles: 1
Constructors titles: 1
Maximum score.

Standards

There is a lot of rumour and speculation in the motorsport world. There isn’t anything wrong with a good bit of rumour on fan sites, blogs and discussion groups. It helps keep us all interested and we all like a good “what if” scenario over a pint.

Problems occur when these rumours are presented as hard news and people start believing them to be true. Us hardcore fans can often see through it but I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation where a casual fan, or just someone who knows we are fans, strikes up a conversation based on a falsehood and you have to patiently explain to them why they are wrong.

The respected F1 journalist Joe Saward has written on his blog about this problem and a fascinating discussion broke out in the comments. It is very long but it is worth reading every comment. This is about the future of web journalism.

http://joesaward.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/thieving-from-the-thieves/

For a while now a certain agency has presented rumour as news. I will never write an article based on the output of this agency. People like that give the web a bad name among traditional media and among the people being written about.

2nd F1 Bloggers and Friends Karting Competition

Anyone for karting?

Alianora from La Canta Magnifica Blog is arranging the 2nd F1 Bloggers and Friends Karting Competition, to be held on Saturday 16th January 2010 in Birmingham, and I am going to be there.

This is just around the corner from the NEC where the Autosport International show is being held and the karting is planned to start as the show closes so that we can enjoy as much of the show as possible.

Here are the details:

Event: 2nd F1 Bloggers and Friends Karting Competition
Date: 16 January 2010 at 6pm (arrive by 5.45pm)
Location: Birmingham – that’s England, not Alabama
Booking deadline: 30 November 2009
Booking and contact details here
Cost: £50

I’ve not driven a kart for about five years so I’m really looking forward to this! There are several confirmed attendees already so we should get some good racing, and if we don’t we’ll at least have a good time trying.

If you can make it, contact Alianora to find out if places are still available.

I’m almost certainly going to the Autosport show on the same day so if I don’t see you at the karting, perhaps I’ll see you there?

Weekend Preview: 14-15 November 2009

There is only one major race meeting this weekend, with each of NASCAR’s three main divisions holding their penultimate races of the season at Phoenix this weekend. The season will end at Homestead next week.

NASCAR Sprint Cup

- Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil
- Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
- 1-mile oval
- www.nascar.com
- UK TV: SKY SPORTS XTRA at 8pm Sunday
- US TV: LIVE on ABC at 2.30pm ET Sunday

NASCAR Nationwide Series

- Able Body Labor 200
- Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
- www.nascar.com
- US TV: LIVE on ESPN2 at 4pm ET Saturday (not covered in UK)


NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

- Lucas Oil 150
- Phoenix International Raceway, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
- www.nascar.com
- US TV: LIVE on SPEED at 7.30pm ET Friday (not covered in UK)

That’s it! Nothing else. There is more happening next week when I will post the final Weekend Preview of 2009.