Race Calendars: FIA WEC 2019/20

Race dates for FIA WEC 2019/20

FIA_WEC_logo    24_le_mans_logo_detail

2019 FIA WEC

*As at 26 August 2019*

1 Sep 4 Hours of Silverstone Silverstone with ELMS
6 Oct 6 Hours of Fuji Fuji Speedway
10 Nov 4 Hours of Shanghai Shanghai International
14 Dec 8 Hours of Bahrain Bahrain International
1 Feb 6 Hours of Sao Paulo Autodromo Carlos Pace
20 Mar (Friday) 1000 Miles of Sebring Sebring International with IMSA
25 Apr 6 Hours of Spa Spa-Francorchamps
13-14 Jun 24 Heures du Mans Circuit de la Sarthe

From Autumn to Summer & New Race Lengths

The FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) returns to an annual schedule again, after the transition of the long “Superseason” which included two editions of the Le Mans 24H, with every season now starting in the autumn.

The 2019/20 season will be the first in WEC to run through the Northern Hemisphere’s autumn/winter/spring, with summer being the new off-season.

The other change this season is to vary the race distances following fan survey feedback which asked the series to mix up the race lengths from race to race, rather than have every round being 6 Hours except for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The season opener (this week!) is the 4 Hours of Silverstone. On the one hand it seems a little harsh to chop two hours from one of the most popular rounds of the season and I am disappointed by it. On the other hand, this is the only routine WEC round to feature a further 4 hour race for the European Le Mans series on the Saturday. 8 hours of multi-class racing is quite a good deal. ELMS races are can be quite frantic, I wonder if we’ll see that intensity in WEC again?

Similarly, the other big sports car festival is the successful Sebring event. The WEC joins up for the second time with the popular IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship weekend. IMSA retains the prestigious, decades-old 12 Hours of Sebring, with the WEC running a separate 1000 Mile (8 Hour) race on the Friday evening. It works where COTA didn’t because it is simple: put the sports car racing in front of the sports car fans.

Fuji, Shanghai and Spa all continue on the calendar although Shanghai is reduced to a 4 hour race. Fuji is popular among Japanese fans. I really do think the Asian Le Mans Series should share a weekend with WEC either at Fuji or Shanghai. Then the WEC would pair with all the continental series at least once.

Bahrain returns after a year away and is extended to an 8-hour ‘into-the-night’ race. Interlagos is back after a few years away, this time the race will be on February 1st. These two rounds eliminate the massive gap between Shanghai and Sebring. Indeed Bahrain’s race is just 10 days before Christmas – there is no off-season these days!

And of course Le Mans is on the traditional 13th/14th June weekend.

End Of An Era

And this will be the final season with the current LMP1 cars. Quite what the “hypercar” era will bring us 12 months from now isn’t quite clear, at the moment it looks like two Toyotas, two Aston Martins and a whole lot of unknowns.

“Hypercar” is planned to be some 8-10 seconds slower around Le Mans than a current LMP1 car, a similar pace to a current LMP2 car. That’s probably 3-4 seconds slower at somewhere like Silverstone.

So you can expect both sets of existing prototypes to be slowed down to run behind the new ‘premier class’. GTE cars shouldn’t be affected. Therefore this is the final WEC season where you can watch this generation of LMP1 and LMP2 cars unrestricted.

And I’ve seen that Toyota TS050 live (and the Porsche 919 when it was there). You want to see that acceleration and direction change in person while you can.

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A Temporary Pause

Hello.

This blog is on hold for a couple of weeks.

Overnight on Saturday, into Sunday morning, my step-mum passed away. I won’t go into the details but it was a shock and we are taking time to be with each other.

In a bit of unfortunate timing, my sister is due to be married on Sunday. After taking advice from everyone she and her fiance have bravely decided to continue.

And the funeral will come in a couple of weeks, as the coroner may need to investigate.

After the wedding when a sense of routine returns and I go back to work, whenever that is, I will need my hobby to keep me occupied in the evenings. The blog posts will return when I’m ready. I was able to watch the Paris Formula E race, for example, but I won’t be watching Baku Formula 1 or anything else for a little while.

I will watch a lot less live in the near-to-medium future. We will probably be using weekends for other things. This means a significant reduction in live Twittering. For example, the timing of the funeral and other events means I will not be providing live Twitter coverage of Indy 500 qualifying, as had been planned. It doesn’t feel very important right now.

On the positive side this break may provide an opportunity to rethink how I use social media and this blog.

Take care of yourselves.

Pat.

 

Races Watched (2019 Week 16): WEC COTA 2017

Week 16:  15-21 April 2019

A very quiet weekend in the racing world. The only active series were those I don’t follow closely, but that’s probably my fault for not following British GT as closely I should.

In the UK it was Easter Bank Holiday weekend with Good Friday and Easter Monday off work. The sun was out so I didn’t spend a lot of time indoors watching racing and I opted out of going to Oulton Park’s British GT due to other goings on.

It was a good opportunity to continue my endurance racing catch up which I did on Sunday evening. There’s little point blogging it for an audience because frankly none of you care about a race that happened 18 months ago but I did it anyway because I like the practice of writing weekly.

2017 FIA WEC – R6 – 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas
Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA
Took place 16th September 2017
Watched 21st April 2019

Qualifying:
LMP1:  Porsche, Porsche, Toyota, Toyota;
LMP2:  Signatech, Rebellion, Jackie Chan DC, Rebellion;
GTE Pro:  AF Corse, Ford Ganassi, Aston Martin, AF Corse;
GTE Am:  Aston Martin, Spirit of Race, Clearwater, Dempsey-Proton;

Just four cars in LMP1 for the last few races of the 2017 season and Porsche’s 919 was clearly faster than Toyota’s TS050, just as it was in Mexico. Yet the Toyotas had better low speed boost, the traction off the corner visibly better and they got past the no.2 Porsche in the early laps. Toyota then ran 1-2 by not taking tyres at the first pitstops when the Porsches did. That made a race of it for the next hour! They’d play strategy all race.

LMP2 teams were single-stinting drivers due to the high heat. Really close racing in the class. Signatech Alpine were the class of the field, though in the middle Alex Brundle’s Jackie Chan DC Racing car pulled a big lead for a while. This class was the one most affected by tyre regulations (just 4 sets for a 6 hour race) on a high degradation track, so the order changed a lot based on who was single-stinting and double-stinting tyres.

GTE Pro again had really good close, clean racing this time between the Aston of Nicki Thiim and the two AF Corse Ferraris in the first hour. Thiim had got the lead through the melee of turn one lap one when all the cars spread out wide. In the 2nd hour the Ferraris got clear. Despite qualifying last, the Porsche GTs had great race pace and caught the Ferraris.

GTE Am’s pole-sitting Aston Martin had Paul Dalla Lana driving first so we found him fall behind the Pro drivers early and the two Ferraris pull away. It turned around later when Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy raced through the pack.

A Safety Car just after halfway after the Gulf Porsche spun twice. That allowed the GT Porsche to catch and overtake the Ferraris for the Pro lead. But with 12 minutes to go the leading no. 51 Ferrari had a slow puncture, the pit stop put Ferrari and Porsche side by side for the lead! The Ferrari would just about come out on top.

And within 10 minutes to go the lead Porsche 919s swapped places, team orders, the No. 1 slowing to allow No. 2 to win. That gives the No.2 car its 4th consecutive win including Le Mans and a handy points lead, while No.1 failed to score back at the double-points Le Mans and so is the sacrificial lamb.

As ever in WEC the field spread out in the last couple of hours but there were stories all the way through. I was expecting to be able to F.Fwd through chunks and get the race done in 5 hours or less, I ended up not skipping any of it.

LMP1

  1. No. 2 Porsche 919 – Hartley, Bernhard, Bamber [4th win of the year];
  2. No. 1 Porsche 919 – Lotterer, Tandy, Jani;
  3. No. 8 Toyota TS050 – Buemi, Nakajima, Sarrazin;

LMP2

  1. No. 36 Signatech Alpine – Lapierre, Menezes, Negrao  [1st win of the year];
  2. No. 13 Rebellion – Piquet Jr, Beche, Heinemeier Hansson;
  3. No. 31 Rebellion – Senna, Prost, Canal  [5th podium of the year];

GTE Pro

  1. No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari – Calado, Pier Guidi  [2nd win of the year];
  2. No. 92 Porsche – Christensen, Estre;
  3. No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari – Rigon, Bird;

GTE Am

  1. No. 98 Aston Martin – Dalla Lana, Lamy, Lauda  [2nd win of the year];
  2. No. 61 Clearwater Ferrari – Sun Mok, Sawa, Griffin;
  3. No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari – Castellacci, Flohr, Molina;

The next WEC race was the 6 Hours of Fuji, though the ELMS 4 Hours of Spa is next on my list by calendar date.

Next Week

The weekend of 26th to 28th April, a fairly busy one depending on your interests. My pick of the week is Baku because that race is crazy fun.

  • F1 Azerbaijan GP at Baku (with F2 support);
  • Formula E in Paris;
  • VLN 3 at the Nordschleife;
  • GT Open at Paul Ricard;
  • Blancpain America at VIR;
  • WTCR at Hungaroring;
  • BTCC at Donington Park;
  • WRC in Argentina;
  • NASCAR at Talledega;

I will watch F1 and Formula E. If the weather is terrible Saturday I may stay home and watch VLN. I plan to catch up on BTCC and WTCR at the end of the year as, guess what, I’m two years behind!

Oh and it’s the London Marathon on Sunday morning and that’s often a good watch if you like endurance racing of any type.

Races Watched (2019 Week 15): F1 Shanghai, IndyCar Long Beach, FE Rome

Week 15:  8-14 April 2019

In what was a busy weekend both in racing and personally, I found time to watch two live races and one recorded race (OK, so this was after the weekend). I also got one done before the weekend started.

It was annoying that my live picks were the most boring races I’ve seen in ages. I hope you fared better.

Formula 1 – R4 – Chinese Grand Prix
Shanghai International Circuit, Jiading, Shanghai, China
Seen live, 14th April

Bottas pole, Hamilton, Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen, Gasly, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg.

This race sums up the worst tropes of F1:  lots of hype, not a lot of action.

The PR machine has been in overdrive about “the 1000th race” for a year. Yet when it came to it there seemed little happening at the track, a small handful of old F1 cars and very few dignitaries. They didn’t even get Bernie. What a waste.

The 1000th? Add the “World Championship for Drivers” since 1950, including those championship-counting Indy 500s and those races run to F2 rules, to the successor “Formula 1 World Championship” from 1981 onwards, then it is the 1000th race. This is not the same as the “1000th F1 race”, which doesn’t include Indy or those F2 races but does include all the non-championship F1 races back to 1948.

The Chinese GP is actually pretty good on a regular basis, Tilkedromes have this reputation of being terrible but Shanghai has been a great track over the years with overtaking and strategy. But not this year. This year was tedious.

Very little happened after lap one. I’ve seen many F1 GPs like this and I thought its type had been banished.

Hamilton passed Bottas at the first corner and ran off to win. To his credit, Bottas stayed within 7 or 8 seconds, the Mercedes pair basically cruising in team formation for the entire race. They even pitted together at the 2nd stops, choreographed beautifully, Bottas arrived just after Hamilton left and didn’t have to wait. This was done to protect against a Safety Car, with Ferrari and Verstappen having stopped already.

Ferrari played the strategy call. Vettel and Leclerc were switched but Leclerc was no faster, so he was put on the long game strategy and Vettel mirrored Mercedes. Running Leclerc long had put him behind Verstappen, he was able to close down the gap but not overtake, so this strategy was a net loss of 1 place. Gasly had a better day, close to Leclerc, the results sheet shows he was miles behind but he pitted near the end to successfully go for the fastest lap bonus point.

Renault won ‘best of the rest’ with Ricciardo. Alexander Albon had a fantastic run from a pitlane start to finish 10th. Kvyat and the two McLarens collided on lap one, two of the three retiring 40 laps later from the damage. I’ve no idea what happened elsewhere. TV direction seemed off par.

The Mercedes pair already have a significant points advantage over the field having finished 1st & 2nd in the first 3 GPs, the first time this has happened since Williams in 1992. This is starting to look a lot less close than pre-season testing suggested.

Next up is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in a couple of weeks.

  1. Hamilton (Mercedes)
  2. Bottas (Mercedes)
  3. Vettel (Ferrari)
  4. Verstappen (Red Bull)
  5. Leclerc (Ferrari)
Driver Team CHI TOTAL
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 25 68
Valterri Bottas Mercedes 18 62
Max Verstappen Red Bull 12 39
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 15 37
Charles Leclerc Ferrari 10 36
Pierre Gasly Red Bull 9 13
Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 2 12
Kevin Magnussen Haas 8
Lando Norris McLaren 8
Nico Hulkenberg Renault 6
Constructor PU CHI TOTAL
Mercedes Mercedes 43 130
Ferrari Ferrari 25 73
Red Bull Honda 21 52
Alfa Romeo Ferrari 2 12
Renault Renault 6 12
Haas Ferrari 8
McLaren Renault 8
Racing Point Mercedes 4 7
Toro Rosso Honda 1 4

NTT IndyCar – R4 – Grand Prix of Long Beach
Long Beach, California, USA
Seen live, 14th April

Rossi, Dixon, Power, Newgarden, Pagenaud, Rahal, Hunter-Reay, Sato.

This one promised a lot. I thought the hard-to-handle aero package would create a lot of sideways moments and overtakes, maybe some sliding into walls. Didn’t happen.

We don’t have any idiots at the back these days, the ones at street tracks who used to cause a bit of chaos that perhaps wasn’t always welcome, gave the series a bad name for weird accidents, but made it all fun. Those days are mostly gone.

Nobody told the back of the field. Lap 2 Pigot slowed, as everyone braked Ericsson ran into Harvey. We finally saw a car in the flowers at the fountain!

It was then a long green flag run at a race where strategy choices aren’t available. Unlike Barber you don’t get the mix of 2-stoppers versus 3-stoppers. The difference here was between those starting on red soft tyres and black hard tyres, and vice versa later, but it turned out not to make a lot of difference anyway. The reds were durable on the streets.

Rossi and Dixon raced hard into turn one on the original start and again on the restart. Each time the pair pulled a gap on the field.

At about lap 34 of 85, Power overshot turn 1 with dust pouring out of his left front brake duct. He spun it around and continued only losing a few places. Ferrucci had previously stalled in a runoff and the series recovered him under local yellow.

After pit stops, Newgarden was 2nd ahead of Dixon, but Rossi had him covered as well. Looked like he extended his lead in every stint. The battle for second was on between Newgarden, Dixon, Rahal, Hunter-Reay.

On the last lap Dixon made the move on Rahal, who defended stoutly and got a penalty for it. Dixon was awarded 3rd. This caused half of Twitter to erupt in anger at Rahal blocking Dixon and half of Twitter to erupt in anger at the stewards for penalising racing!

Watching live it looked like Rahal made a harsh move but a fair one, he left space for Dixon. I was against the penalty. But on review it became clear Rahal made a second move right and then returned to his racing line. I’m okay with picking one of two lines and sticking to it into the corner, I’m not so okay with weaving. And I also remembered if it had been Michael Schumacher I’d have been all over it, clamouring for a penalty, so I can’t argue otherwise for someone else!

Rossi wins by over 20 seconds, the highest for something like 25 years. With this he moves to 2nd in the points standings.

Newgarden extends his points lead as Dixon drops to 3rd. Hunter-Reay gains a few spots. Rahal is a big points mover into the top ten. Colton Herta the big loser, just 7 points after sliding into the wall and out with steering damage.

Next up is the GP of Indianapolis in a couple of weeks.

  1. Rossi (Andretti)
  2. Newgarden (Penske)
  3. Dixon (Ganassi)
  4. Rahal (Rahal)
  5. Hunter-Reay (Andretti)
Driver Team Eng LB TOTAL
Josef Newgarden Penske Chevy 41 166
Alexander Rossi Andretti Honda 54 138
Scott Dixon Ganassi Honda 35 133
Takuma Sato Rahal Honda 25 116
Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Honda 30 96
James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Honda 22 93
Will Power Penske Chevy 27 93
Sebastien Bourdais Coyne Honda 19 91
Graham Rahal Rahal Honda 32 90
Colton Herta Harding Honda 7 88

ABB Formula E – R7 – Rome E-Prix
Rome, Italy
13th April, watched 16th April

Lotterer, Evans, Lopez, Vandoorne, Gunther, Buemi, Mortara, Frijns.

Halfway in the season. 6 races done before this one, 6 races to go after this one.

As clean a start as you can manage here and on a damp track, a bit of bumping but okay. Guenther had a huge slide and loses parts of his front wing. At the end of the lap Bird gets hit, car damaged, apparently out for the second race in a row.

Chaos on lap two!

Red Flag. Lopez broadside across the track and Paffett under his car. Lopez hit the kerb and spun by himself and caused a complete track blockage. Luckily for those caught in the melee it was just in front of pit entry, so everyone once released was recovered and the race order restored. Replays showed Sims in the wall as well. And Sam Bird managed to get his car to the pits so it was repaired under the red and restarted last.

On the restart half the field activated Attack Mode, although it didn’t seem to achieve anything. Frijns got alongside Buemi for 4th but couldn’t make the move.

Lopez got a penalty for contact with Bird on lap one. Reliability trouble for Mortara and Massa so we had FCY in which JEV overtook Da Costa as they braked.

Evans passes Lotterer for the lead! Tense move! Very forceful into a chicane, elbowed his way through, got a warning from the race director but only a wag of the finger. Lotterer was fine with it, good hard racing.

Fairly strung out field but the pace was hot, unlike Rome 2018. Everyone pushed all the way, not a lot of energy saving except in the last lap or so, this is what we want to see. I don’t mind a lack of passing when the cars are visibly flat out.

Bird got up to 11th at the end, excellent recovery, great work by team and driver.

  1. Evans (Jaguar)
  2. Lotterer (Techeetah)
  3. Vandoorne (HWA)
  4. Frijns (Envision Virgin)
  5. Buemi (Nissan e.Dams)
Name Team Rome Points
Jerome d’Ambrosio Mahindra 4 65
Ant Felix da Costa BMW Andretti 2 64
Andre Lotterer DS Techeetah 21 62
Mitch Evans Jaguar 25 61
Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport 6 58
Robin Frijns Envision Virgin 12 55
Jean-Eric Vergne DS Techeetah 54
Sam Bird Envision Virgin 54
Eduardo Mortara Venturi 52
Daniel Abt Audi Sport 44
Team PU Rome Points
DS Techeetah DS 21 116
Envision Virgin Audi 12 109
Mahindra Mahindra 5 102
Audi Sport Abt Audi 6 102
BMW Andretti BMW 2 82
Venturi Venturi 67
Nissan e.dams Nissan 19 65
Jaguar Jaguar 25 62
HWA Racelab Venturi 15 22
NIO NIO 6

European Le Mans Series – 2017 R4 – Le Castellet
Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France
26th August 2017, watched 10th April 2019

18 months behind! This one felt like ticking an item off a list. A shame, I really like the ELMS as a good way to while away an afternoon or evening

This time they used the chicane on the Mistral Straight so the only interesting thing about the track, the super-fast balls-out run into Signes, was lost

ELMS catches you out because when you think things are settled with huge gaps after the first hour – it changes. After three hours the order can be completely different. This catches me out because I tend to put endurance races on in the background while I get other stuff done.

Teams put their rated drivers in at different times. Early you see a Platinum or Gold driver racing away to a healthy lead while a Silver or Bronze driver loses loads of time. At the driver change it switches, the lead teams put in their Bronze driver and the distant cars suddenly get a Platinum at the wheel chasing them down. It converges.

In LMP2 Ben Hanley gave Dragonspeed a huge lead which was lost when Bronze driver Henrik Hedman faced the likes of Nic Minassian and Felipe Albuquerque chasing him. And the same principle applies in LMP3 and GTE. Niki Thiim brought the TF Sport Aston up from last to 2nd. You have to pay attention throughout.

Unfortunately this featureless track is a hard watch, I lost the thread in the middle as my mind drifted and got hold of it again in the last hour.

At least the mountains in the distance look nice.

But will I get the 2017 and 2018 seasons done before the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours?

LMP2:

  1. SMP Racing (Dallara P217) – Isaakyan / Orudzhev;
  2. G-Drive Racing (Oreca 07) – Rojas / Roussel / Minassian;
  3. Graff (Oreca 07) – Guibbert / Petit / Trouillet;

First ELMS win for the SMP Dallara and their young driver pairing. A 4th straight podium for G-Drive.

LMP3:

  1. United Autosports (Ligier JS P3) – Falb / Rayhall;
  2. Inter Europol (Ligier JS P3) – Hippe / Smiechowski;
  3. M.Racing YMR (Ligier JS P3) – Cougnard / Jung / Ricci;

A second win in LMP3 for United.

GTE:

  1. Spirit Of Race (Ferrari 488) – Cameron / Griffin / Scott;
  2. TF Sport (Aston Martin Vantage) – Hankey / Thiim / Yoluc;
  3. JMW Motorsport (Ferrari 488) – Fannin / Smith / Cocker;

Second straight win for SOR, 4th straight podium for TF.

Next Week

15th to 21st April, Easter Weekend so much quieter than usual.

  • British GT at Oulton Park on Holiday Monday.
  • 24H Series at Spa.
  • Super Formula at Suzuka.
  • British Superbikes at Silverstone (on the National layout).

It might be a good time to catch up on past races but I’ll be using it to start, yes, start, watching Game of Thrones! Now I’ve got Sky I can watch it On Demand so I’ve already downloaded them to the box.

And if it is wet weekend and I can’t get outside I’ll see if I can squeeze in a WEC race or something.

Races Watched (2019 Week 14): IndyCar Catchup – St Pete, COTA, Barber

Week 14:  1-7 April 2019

Over the weekend I watched the first three NTT IndyCar Series rounds:

Friday night:  St. Petersburg, Florida (airport/street circuit)
Sunday morning:  Circuit of the Americas, Texas (road course)
Sunday night (live!):  Barber Motorsports Park, Alabama (road course)

NTT IndyCar – R1 – GP of St Petersburg
St Petersburg, Florida
10th March

Power on pole from Newgarden, Rosenqvist, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Rossi.

Rosenqvist got by Newgarden at turn 1. Ed Jones got up four places in four laps. After a yellow for Hunter-Reay’s engine failure Rosenqvist took the lead from Power! Outstanding move for a series rookie. Highly rated from Formula E, Super Formula, Super GT, Blancpain GT, Formula 3…. the list goes on. He was showing why.

Jones hit the wall hard, seemed to misjudge it but might’ve been a car problem, Leist then clipped him and hit the wall too.

Newgarden got the lead through the pit stops by staying out and gapping the field, Power and Dixon similarly emerged ahead of Rosenqvist, Dixon much later passing Power. Good strategy call well executed.

Decent race but not much more to say. Glad it wasn’t the wreck-fest St Pete can sometimes be. And we already see we have a fantastic rookie field. Rosenqvist lived up to his billing, Herta impressed finishing 8th, Ericsson did well until mechanical problems at halfway.

I really appreciate NBC moving the scoring graphics to a tower on the left of the screen, in line with a lot of other series, but this time with the full driver name. Much better and easier to follow than the horizontal crawl across the top!

I didn’t like their obsession with the 2-seater passenger, interviews before, during and after the ride. Overkill coverage of a gimmick. Just speak to them after.

  1. Newgarden
  2. Dixon
  3. Power
  4. Rosenqvist
  5. Rossi

NTT IndyCar – R2 – IndyCar Classic
Circuit of the Americas
24th March

Power again on pole, from Rossi, Hunter-Reay, Herta, Rosenqvist, Dixon.

IndyCar’s first visit to COTA. They took the IMSA approach of ignoring track limits but it seemed to go into overdrive, the penultimate corner apparently was only advisory. Seemed to make a mockery of the designed length of the run-off. It seemed to work until the major race-changing incident.

Outstanding weekend from Colton Herta, son of Bryan, running for the Harding Steinbrunner team. He passed Hunter-Reay early then ran in the top three all race long. He had earned his 3rd place, before the Safety Car

Hinchcliffe qualified in the back half and made up several places to 12th in the first laps. Rosenqvist went down to 8th.

I felt the race had passing early but was largely uneventful in the second half with some field spread. It always happens at COTA. That tempted leader Power and 2nd-pace Rossi, who were running with Herta, into staying out a lot longer than the others. They needed to get to 17 laps to go, or less, to ensure their soft red tyres would last the final stint. At 16 laps to go the Safety Car came out. They hadn’t stopped yet.

Hinchcliffe and Rosenqvist hit each other in that Turn 19 runoff area, the IndyCar racing line, sending Rosenqvist into pit entry. Safety Car, pits closed.

Yes it sucks that IndyCar closes the pits and prevents the leader coming in when the SC is called, as the leader is entitled to in F1, but equally that’s the risk you take when you stay out and everyone else has pitted. They had equal opportunity to come in beforehand, it was a gamble worth taking and they lost, simple as that.

It got worse for Power. At the pit stop under this Safety Car he couldn’t engage gear. He was out on the spot. Disaster after leading every lap to that point. Rossi was also in and restarted something like 18th.

And that promoted Colton Herta to the lead with 10 laps to go! And he controlled it like a veteran, driving away and holding a gap despite Newgarden and Hunter-Reay slamming the push-to-pass button every lap. He is now IndyCar’s youngest ever winner!

Awful to see a dominant win punished through cruel luck, but that doesn’t detract from Herta’s fantastic performance. He was often fastest at COTA in winter testing, fast all through practice, ran with the leaders all day long. This was no fluke yellow-assist from 10th, he had the speed.

Shoutout to Jack Harvey, 10th in his part-season Meyer Shank Schmidt Peterson entry.

  1. Herta
  2. Newgarden
  3. Hunter-Reay
  4. Rahal
  5. Bourdais

NTT IndyCar – R3 – Grand Prix of Alabama
Barber Motorsports Park
7th April

Sato on pole from Rahal, Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Bourdais, Pigot.

A late green flag at the start held the field, but not Ed Jones who got the mother of all jump starts and cleared half the field! A penalty would see to that.

Ericsson took an early stop, just lap 7 or so. By lap 10 they were trickling in, more and more, right through to lap 19. This was becoming a strategy race, 3 stops versus 2 stops.

It later turned out many had planned for 2 stops but switched when the pace of the 3-stopper became viable. Only Bourdais (lap 29), Pigot and Harvey appeared to be the only ones sticking to a 2-stopper. But Power had made his second stop by then after spinning and flatspotting his tyres, he’d be forced to a 4-stopper.

Herta’s engine was stuttering, some fuel pickup problem which couldn’t be solved.

Reports from Twitter followers at the track were of overtakes everywhere, but TV spent most of their time looking at cars pitting. They had to, they couldn’t miss what might be a crucial stop. I’d have liked to have seen more passes on screen.

There were some great ones! O’Ward and Pagenaud had a great battle for 9th, passing, repassing. O’Ward was on fire all day. And a shout out to Ericsson who got 7th after starting 20th, largely through overtaking although I don’t remember seeing it.

A train of quality drivers running 9th to 15th covered by 3.5 seconds, very close racing.

For a while it looked like Bourdais and Sato were racing each other virtually, Sato had it covered though, he was pushing all the way. Bourdais had really good pace despite saving fuel and tyres which Pigot and Harvey couldn’t maintain.

Eventually the Safety Car came out on lap 56 of 90. Rahal’s car stopped on course with drive problems, he’d already suffered a problem earlier. As everyone rushed to the pits Kanaan nerfed Chilton into the wall. Race Control kept it green until everyone had a chance to come in, a good officiating call.

Strategy was out the window, now it was a flat out run to the flag for the last 25 laps. (It was a long yellow.) And Newgarden made the most of it, restarting 9th and was 4th at the flag!

Sato even cut the chicane, he was pushing so hard to stay ahead of Dixon, but held on for a classy and mostly clean win.

  1. Sato
  2. Dixon
  3. Bourdais
  4. Newgarden (from 16th!)
  5. Rossi

Points Table

50, 40, 35, 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20 then subtract 1 for every position.
Bonuses:  +1 Pole Position, +1 Led A Lap, +2 Most Laps Led.

Driver Team Eng STP COTA ALA TOTAL
Josef Newgarden Penske Chevy 53 40 32 125
Scott Dixon Ganassi Honda 40 17 41 98
Takuma Sato Rahal Honda 11 26 54 91
Alexander Rossi Andretti Honda 31 22 31 84
Colton Herta Harding Honda 24 51 6 81
Sebastien Bourdais Coyne Honda 6 30 36 72
James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Honda 28 14 29 71
Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Honda 7 35 24 66
Will Power Penske Chevy 37 10 19 66
Marco Andretti Andretti Herta Honda 17 28 16 61

Look how competitive it is! Everyone’s had at least one mediocre race – except Newgarden hence an early lead.

Dixon had that poor race at COTA but otherwise is up there. Sato may prove a surprise contender. Rossi is threatening. Penske drivers Power and Pagenaud are not having a good early season.

Herta is seriously impressive! The easy favourite rookies were Rosenqvist and Ericsson, but Herta is going to give them a run all year.

There’s no teams championship but there is one for engine manufacturers.

Engine STP COTA ALA TOTAL
Honda 72 90 96 258
Chevrolet 91 65 54 210

The next race is Long Beach this coming weekend.

Catch-Up

Formula 1 – 2000 German Grand Prix

I’ve discovered by accident that Sky Sports F1 shows classic F1 races on a Wednesday night. The famous race at the old Hockenheim required dropping everything else and watching.

It might’ve been a combination of damp track and skinny wings for the straights but it struck me how much the cars moved around, Coulthard was on opposite lock through the top chicane, just like IndyCars are now. That again proves to me low downforce and high power is the way to go. And oh man I miss those V10s.

I love this race. Schumacher out early. Dry first half, a heavy rain shower over the pits at halfway but it only covered half the track. Do you take wets or stay on dry weather tyres? Usually you’d go wets but Barrichello stayed out and made it work. It was an amazing drive from a great wet weather driver, who had started 18th and passed most of the field before any rain fell. Coulthard tried dries too and couldn’t do it. Hakkinen tried wets and couldn’t do it, despite the pair leading when the rain came. Rubens’ first win, too.

Memorable. One of the best races ever.

Next Week

8th to 14th April

Your viewing options include:

  • F1 in Shanghai
  • IndyCar in Long Beach
  • IMSA in Long Beach
  • Formula E in Rome
  • MotoGP at COTA
  • World Superbike at Assen
  • ELMS at Paul Ricard
  • Blancpain GT at Monza
  • VLN at the Nordschleife
  • Supercars at Phillip Island
  • Super GT at Okayama

The first truly busy weekend of 2019 and it won’t be the last!

I’m planning F1 and IndyCar live to bookend Sunday. Hopefully also IMSA Saturday night, but I haven’t seen Sebring yet and won’t get the chance before the weekend. And Formula E is calling but I have things to do so that might be a DVR job. MotoGP will be Quest’s Monday highlights for me.

Secondly, what genius put the ELMS and Blancpain GT season openers and round 2 of VLN all on the same weekend? IMSA at Long Beach is slightly different on another continent, but these three European series, there must be drivers, teams and media who would be paid to work both?

Races Watched (2019 Week 13): F1 Bahrain

Week 13:  25-31 March 2019

Formula 1 – R2 – Bahrain Grand Prix

Okay I admit this was a fun race. I really wasn’t expecting it to be this good!

DRS & Overtaking

The addition of a 3rd DRS zone left me assuming it would be filled with simple push-button-to-pass overtakes down the main straight and those did happen, too many times.

But for the most part the strategy worked. The DRS zone at start/finish often brought a following car alongside the car in front leaving the drivers to sort it out at turn 1. If they swapped places, the passed car got DRS on the very next straight, giving an opportunity to get the place back. That worked really well. I like it when the chances are fair. Sometimes he got his place back, sometimes he didn’t, and often the cars were side by side into the next corner.

And that meant the opening 10 laps or so were fantastic! Drivers were able to stay with each other and attack each other yet still leaving it in the hands of the drivers to hit the apex first.

It worked less well when a trailing driver used DRS to get behind a car, then got another DRS activation on the next straight and sailed on past. Although, you could argue the trailing driver was being smarter and using the zones to his advantage, deliberately waiting for the second activation to prevent himself being passed back.

So I concede that DRS can improve the racing. The big caveat? I’d still prefer technical regulations allowing cars to race closely without needing a flappy wing to get them close. There is hope in the 2021 proposals. In the meantime, stick with the consecutive activations so each driver gets a fair use, or better still, simply let anyone in the zone use it.

Team by Team

Charles Leclerc was a revelation. Topped the times all weekend, seemingly laying down an early marker against Sebastian Vettel, yet never in a negative, combative way. Open, friendly, welcoming, taking it all in his stride as if he didn’t feel pressure. Until lap 47. A cylinder failed, initially reported as MGU-H, and he started to panic as he lost a comfortable lead and gradually dropped to 3rd. To be honest he was lucky the car was still running at all and lucky the Safety Car came out with 3 laps to go, which protected his podium finish from Verstappen. He kept his head in the end and brought the car home.

Was it the sign of a championship challenge? Of course not. Not yet. It was simply a good performance in a single weekend. Vettel might yet dominate the rest of the season. It did show Leclerc’s potential, showed he didn’t need time to settle in, showed that Ferrari had made the correct decision on drivers.

Vettel himself was very close to Leclerc on pace but he got boxed in on strategy midrace, falling to 3rd behind Hamilton. He was still quicker though, but when he tried to race his way through, he spun. Ferrari couldn’t believe it. I don’t think anybody could believe that again he spun the car in wheel-to-wheel racing. But it probably wasn’t his fault.

There were severe gusts of wind all day, the pre-race coverage from Sky really showed it, even if the in-race coverage from FOM probably didn’t. As Vettel crossed Hamilton’s car’s airflow and unsettled his own car it wouldn’t surprise me if he also caught one of those strong gusts.

The Mercedes weren’t quite there but had enough to fight the Ferraris in the early laps, Hamilton was close enough to catch Leclerc. Unfortunately the All New 2019 Bottas reverted back to 2018 Bottas and by lap 45 was some 15-20 seconds behind Hamilton.

Red Bull were in no-mans land. Well, Verstappen was. Gasly again mired in the field after another poor qualifying effort. At least he recovered to 8th, but that would’ve been 10th had it not been for Renault.

Renault in the closing stages were running 6th and 7th even though they ran divergent strategies, Ricciardo stayed out long, even leading for a bit, it didn’t work in the end, Hulkenberg who started near the back had got ahead of him. But then both retired on the spot at Turn 1 at the same time! Both with car problems, either mechanical or electrical. I’ve never seen that before, both team cars out in the same place with unrelated problems within seconds of each other. They’ll be back but these points were vital.

Something Lando Norris knows. He had a great day. Fell back early then raced his way through, putting solid moves on the likes of Kimi Raikkonen. 8th became 6th when the Renaults went out. A much better showing of speed for McLaren. Lots of potential at McLaren this year. They aren’t quite with the works team on speed, but they might beat them if they finish more races and are definitely hugely better than last year. Sainz suffered damage early, needed a new wing and ran at the back until retiring late on.

Alexander Albon also impressed with some good speed and overtakes including on Kvyat who’d otherwise done a decent job before being shunted into by Giovanazzi, who didn’t get a penalty for it for some reason.

Alfa Romeo had Raikkonen up there and he fought back after pit stops dropped him down. Giovanazzi as above hit Kvyat, other than that I don’t remember seeing him.

Haas qualified well but Magnussen had no race pace at all and Grosjean had damage by turn 2 of lap 1 after contact.

I didn’t see a lot of Racing Point other than Stroll’s car getting damaged in the contact with Grosjean, sparks everywhere. With a new front wing he still caught and passed the Williams pair but had no hope of more. I don’t think I saw Perez all race, he inherited the final point when the Renaults went out.

Williams again at the back. Kubica started on the mediums (everyone else on softs) yet I noticed he pitted first, perhaps he had a slow puncture? He and Russell raced each other all day. Positively, both cars finished the race and right now mileage and race finishes are the most important thing.

Points

Just the point for Fastest Lap in Melbourne keeps Bottas ahead of Hamilton. Verstappen sits a lucky third. The Ferraris surely retain a speed advantage into the next round at Shanghai and should close the points gap. There’s a very long way to go yet in 2019.

The rest of the field is tight as anything. Early season reliability trouble is having an effect. It has long been a truism of F1 that you can’t throw away points in the early races to poor reliability, they’re worth just as much as the season-closing races.

BAH TOTAL Driver Team
18 44 Valterri Bottas Mercedes
25 43 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
12 27 Max Verstappen Red Bull
16 FL 26 Charles Leclerc Ferrari
10 22 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
6 10 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas
8 8 Lando Norris McLaren
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault
4 4 Pierre Gasly Red Bull
2 Lance Stroll Racing Point
2 2 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso
1 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
1 1 Sergio Perez Racing Point

A lucky break for Mercedes but I think this just gives them a temporary advantage. Ferrari will be quicker at fast, open tracks which make up the bulk of the calendar.

BAH TOTAL Constructor
43 87 Mercedes
26 48 Ferrari
16 31 Red Bull Honda
6 10 Alfa Romeo Ferrari
8 Haas Ferrari
8 8 McLaren Renault
6 Renault
1 3 Racing Point Mercedes
2 3 Toro Rosso Honda
Williams Mercedes

Catch-Up

Nothing!

With the previous week off work (watching all that MotoGP), last week I was very busy and never got around to catching up with anything in the evenings. Over the weekend I was getting jobs done and visiting family for Mother’s Day.

Next Week

1st to 7th April

IndyCar is at Barber Motorsports Park. I need to watch the first two rounds and hope to do that by then, next week’s post may be an IndyCar Special. It helps that UK and US are back in sync with DST. Unlike the previous race I can actually get home for it.

This is likely to be the only live race I’ll see this weekend. I’m at an astronomy course on Saturday, then o Sunday I’m probably helping to put up a fence!

Your other viewing options include:

  • BTCC Brands Hatch on ITV4. I considered actually going to this one but other plans have cropped up, there are plenty of other chances though.
  • WTCR Marrakesh on both Eurosport and, amazingly enough, the BBC Red Button. Of all the series. Plenty of UK interest with Shedden, Huff and Priaulx.
  • World SBK at Aragon.
  • Supercars Australia in Tasmania.
  • Blancpain GT Asia at Sepang.

Races Watched (2019 Week 12): FE Sanya, More MotoGP

What have I been watching?

I usually catch one or two live races per weekend and spend time in the week catching up on other things.

Week 12:  18-24 March 2019

Live

Formula E – R6 – Sanya ePrix

Mostly uneventful by Formula E standards, ’til the crash at the end. The track was fast and flowing yet only seemed have one racing line. Yet from the overhead pictures it was hard to see how they could’ve done a better job with the available space. And the backdrop looked amazing, I’d never heard of Sanya, now I want to go to the beach.

It livened up later, after a slow period there was a little bit of side by side racing especially from those in Attack Mode versus those not using it. Otherwise there wasn’t a lot of overtaking. It was more interesting for who was fast and who wasn’t.

Oliver Rowland set a good early pace in the lead, just as he did in Hong Kong. Later it became clear he was saving power, Jean-Eric Vergne overtook him and opened a gap. This bit was fun, as Rowland tried to hold off a hard-charging pack of 5 others, and succeeded!

There was contact. The BMW Andretti of Sims had steering damage after being squeezed between wall and Lotterer. This put him out on the spot. But the clear up took ages. After several laps under local yellows then a Safety Car, the race got red flagged. It looked like flatbed trucks were available, perhaps none had cranes, so they eventually deployed a tractor which apparently couldn’t be done quickly.

I know this is street racing and in places not accustomed to racing, but this is one area the FIA will need to tighten up.

After the restart there was a clash between Frijns and di Grassi. It looked like Frijns rammed LdG out of the race but on replay you could see Buemi had knocked Frijns out of control. This incident caused the race to end under Full Course Yellow. Just 13 cars finished the attritional race, a lot of cars pulling up with problems.

Buemi crossed the line 6th but was penalised to 8th for causing the collision, di Grassi later tweeting to point out Buemi was 8th anyway when he hit Frijns so didn’t lose anything. Buemi though shouldn’t have been there in the first place, he was penalised to 6th in qualifying, but the stewards took so long to make the decision there wasn’t time to charge the car before pitlane closed for the grid, so he started from pitlane and raced his way through. (Presumably through overtaking I missed…)

An underwhelming end to an underwhelming race. It happens even in Formula E. And perhaps my lack of tea or coffee at 7am added to that sense.

JEV won and dedicated it to Charlie Whiting who we sadly lost in Melbourne. In doing so he jumps into third overall. Rowland 2nd in this race but not yet in the top 10 in points, and I get the sense he’ll move up quickly too. Antonio Felix da Costa finished 3rd and takes the points lead. Bird, di Grassi and Mortara all with no-scores.

And we have tie for the lead of the Teams Points! A no-score for Virgin means the others close up, four teams covered by two points. Outstanding.

Total Points Sanya Name Team
62 15 Ant Felix da Costa BMW Andretti
61 8 Jerome d’Ambrosio Mahindra
54 26 Jean-Eric Vergne DS Techeetah
54 0 Sam Bird Virgin
52 0 Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport Abt
52 0 Eduardo Mortara Venturi
44 10 Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt
43 0 Robin Frijns Virgin
41 12 Andre Lotterer DS Techeetah
36 6 Pascal Wehrlein Mahindra
36 2 Mitch Evans Jaguar
Team Points Sanya Team
97 0 Envision Virgin
97 14 Mahindra
96 10 Audi Sport Abt
95 38 DS Techeetah
80 15 BMW Andretti
67 1 Venturi
46 25 Nissan e.dams
37 2 Jaguar
7 0 HWA Racelab
6 0 Nio

Next:  Rome ePrix, 13th April.

Catch-Up

MotoGP

I had last week off and spent a lot of it catching up on the rest of the 2018 MotoGP season.

I watched Misano, Aragon, Buriram, Motegi, Phillip Island and Valencia. Not Sepang, which failed to record. It’s not too bad when the races are only 45 minutes, although I did watch some of the excellent BT Sport pre-race as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Yes they got the number of the last race wrong, Valencia is Round 19.]

Misano, San Marino & Rimini GP (Sept.). After the initial skirmishes this was another tremendous battle between Marquez and the two Ducatis. Dovi pulled away and the other two fought – until Lorenzo crashed! The bike folded under him as he tipped it, nothing he could do. That gave Crutchlow 3rd.

Aragon GP (Sept.). This time Lorenzo crashed at the first corner of the race, over the top of the bike, causing enough damage to himself that he’d be out for over a month. That left a fight between Marquez and Dovizioso, again what a fight it was, couldn’t take your eyes off it! Marquez took his 5th win of the year and a sizeable points lead. And a good day for Suzuki too, Iannone getting amongst the fight and Rins 4th.

Buriram, Thailand GP (Oct.). The inaugural Thai GP. Car races I’ve seen at this venue have been rubbish, but not MotoGP. Dovizioso, Marquez and Rossi traded the lead. Pedrosa was working his way up, after some lacklustre races in his final season he looked on for 4th or even a podium, but then he crashed out. Vinales joined the top 3. I’m amazed how it comes to a fight between Marquez and Dovi nearly every race, here diving past each other at the final corner and driving for the line ON THE FINAL LAP. Marquez another win, by inches.

Motegi, Japanese GP (Oct.). Another race, another Dovi vs Marquez battle, this time with Dovi ahead and Crutchlow in close attendance as Marc’s wingman, Cal even ahead for a while to try and pressure Dovi. A little behind, the Suzukis were having fun racing Rossi. Marquez got to the lead. But then… Dovizioso was out! His bike folded over like Lorenzo’s had in Misano. Marquez race winner and Champion. (Crutchlow 2nd, Rins 3rd).

Phillip Island, Australian GP (Oct.). A favourite race for everyone. But Crutchlow was out in free practice and he’d be out the rest of the year. Lorenzo still away. A nasty crash too for Zarco as he touched Marquez’s bike, which also put Marc out with damage. Thankfully both riders were OK. Vinales fell back but he raced through and cleared the pack by a clear margin to score Yamaha’s first win for 2 years! Iannone for Suzuki just beat Dovi. Oh and Bautista, on Lorenzo’s bike, had a sensational race to 4th – why wasn’t he hired for it for 2019?

Sepang, Malaysia GP (Nov.). I didn’t see this one other than the above highlights. Rossi actually led a race again and it looks like by quite a gap – until he fell! That gifted it to Marquez, who took his 9th win of the year. Dovi down in 6th. Rins took 2nd for Suzuki, Zarco 3rd for Tech 3 Yamaha.

Valencian GP (Nov.). A wet race with a red flag interruption when the track got waterlogged. Rins got an early lead. There were a lot of fallers through the first half, Petrucci, Miller, Bautista – and Marc Marquez, who landed on a shoulder he’d dislocated before. Vinales went down too. Dovi, Rossi and Rins were racing closely when the red flag came, rightly so. The race resumed with a grid start, Rins on pole on countback, but he’d lose out to Dovi and Rossi. Then Rossi fell, but he got back up to roll in 13th of just 15 finishers. Oh Lorenzo was there too but never troubled the top ten, still injured. Dovizioso won from Rins, with the KTM of Pol Esparagaro in 3rd!

That was fun. When you watch a race per day you get a much better sense of storylines through the season. Marquez vs Dovi. The improving Suzukis and resurgent Yamahas. But all change for 2019, Lorenzo to Honda alongside Marquez, Petrucci to the works Ducati, Bautista to World Superbike. You’ll have seen Qatar, I’ll be watching that next.

Next Week

Monday 25th to 31st March. I’ll have Sky installed so will be watching the Bahrain GP, plus I’ll be catching up with two IndyCar races and the Qatar MotoGP. Let’s hope I have room for all this in next week’s post.