I’m Watching… (21/22 April 2018)

These are some of the things I’ve been watching.


IMSA Sportscar Championship:  Long Beach GP
(from last week)

Long Beach, California, USA

My second attempt to watch this 100 minute race, the shortest of the year, this time via YouTube.

Juan Montoya (Team Penske Acura) started on pole. Opening lap contact at the back of the Prototype field at the fountain prompted an early Safety Car period. Some 15 minutes of green flag racing was relatively calm until Montoya got caught by former Sauber man Felipe Nasr in the #31 Whelen Cadillac. Nasr was clearly faster and made a good move on the back straight after a couple of attempts.

Nasr

A second Safety Car after 40 minutes, with an hour to go. The yellow #85 JDC-Miller car parked in the turn 8 runoff [track map]. Nasr and Montoya stayed out, everyone else pitted for a driver change, apart from Alexander Sims in the GTLM BMW who had already been in. Since nobody was lapped yet he was 3rd overall, but IMSA now separates classes for restarts to avoid problems with traffic, so he restarted at the head of the GT line behind the Prototypes.

Earl Bamber had a tremendous scrap with Sims to take the GT lead, Sims immediately defending against the others. It was even three-wide! Sims was clearly struggling for some reason, in all the traffic he ended up hitting the wall, having to pit for repairs.

Prototypes pitted only 20 minutes after the yellow flag stops, at the first moment the fuel window opened, worried about more yellow. It was the right call as a Safety Car was out almost straight afterwards. The GT field didn’t need to stop again.

Felipe Albuquerque in the #5 Cadillac found himself in the lead after a faster stop. Ryan Dalziel took 2nd at the restart. Earl Bamber’s GT leading Porsche went out with suspension problems, leaving the two Corvettes sandwiching the two Fords. The #31 Cadillac and the other Porsche had made contact and both dropped back.

Wasn’t it great to see the Taylor brothers battle it out on track? Great too to have Pat Long in the IMSA.tv commentary booth, though annoying to have music blaring at ~4 minute intervals for half the race.

Prototype Result
1st  Joao Barbosa / Felipe Albuquerque (AXR Cadillac) 35 points;
2nd  Scott Sharp / Ryan Dalziel (ESM Nissan) 32 pts;
3rd  Renger van der Zande / Jordan Taylor (Taylor Cadillac) 30 pts;
4th  Tristan Nunez / Oliver Jarvis (Joest Mazda) 28 pts;
5th  Juan Montoya / Dane Cameron (Penske Acura) 26 pts;

GTLM Result
1st  Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner (Corvette) 35 points;
2nd  Richard Westbrook / Ryan Briscoe (Ganassi Ford) 32 pts;
3rd  Joey Hand / Dirk Muller (Ganassi Ford) 30 pts;

Prototype Points
91  Joao Barbosa / Felipe Albuquerque (AXR Cadillac);
86  Eric Curran / Felipe Nasr (AXR Cadillac);
79  Jonathan Bennett / Colin Braun (CORE Oreca);
78  Jordan Taylor / Renger van der Zande (Taylor Cadillac);

GTLM Points
95  Ryan Briscoe / Richard Westbrook (Ganassi Ford);
88  Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner (Corvette);
84  Dirk Muller / Joey Hand (Ganassi Ford);
83  Nick Tandy / Patrick Pilet (Porsche);

Next round:  Mid-Ohio, May 6th.


IndyCar:  Grand Prix of Alabama

Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

I watched live on Sunday, but the race got red flagged due to torrential rain and a waterlogged track. It was the right decision.

I’m currently waiting for IndyCar to upload the Monday segment to be able to watch it. Notes will follow next time.

Next round:  Indianapolis Grand Prix (road course race), Saturday, May 12th.


MotoGP:  Grand Prix of The Americas

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA

King of COTA Marc Marquez started 4th after a post-qualifying penalty (he did get pole position originally). He pulled clear after half a lap and was never seen again, bar a brief look from Andrea Iannone, to secure win 6 from 6 at this track.

Good to see Iannone and his Suzuki up there, particularly as his team-mate had been shading him lately and he needed a good run. Maverick Vinales got him for 2nd but Iannone held off Valentino Rossi for the final podium spot.

Dani Pedrosa broke his wrist two weeks ago, started 9th and finished 7th. Amazing!

Andrea Dovizioso made up some ground. Points leader Cal Crutchlow was running 6th but the bike looked pretty evil, he wound up on the floor, picked it up and finished 19th. Alex Rins fell out of a top 10 finish.

Not much else to say. You know a track is not the best when even MotoGP can’t put on a show, which is a shame, as it looks so much fun to drive or ride. That said, it was 35 degrees C, very hard work!

Result
1st  Marc Marquez (Honda) 25 points;
2nd  Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) 20 pts;
3rd  Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) 16 pts;
4th  Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 13 pts;
5th  Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 11 pts;

Points
46  Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati);
45  Marc Marquez (Honda);
41  Maverick Vinales (Yamaha);
38  Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda);
38  Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha);

70  Movistar Yamaha MotoGP;
63  Repsol Honda Team;
52  Ducati Team;
=47  Monster Yamaha Tech3;
=47  Team Suzuki Ecstar;
=47  Alma Pramac Racing;

Next round:  Jerez, May 6th.

Other

I also watched the two UEFA Champions League games this week. Liverpool v Roma was brilliant, 5-2 after a late Roma comeback. I don’t usually watch a lot of football, why can’t it all be as exciting and flowing as that? After Roma’s fightback against Barcelona last round, the second leg next Wednesday will be worth watching.

Coming Up

I’ll be watching F1 in Baku, Formula E in Paris and the conclusion of the last IndyCar race. I also want to start a ‘catchup’ part in these blogs as I work on my backlog of unwatched races, though have struggled for time to watch any lately. In the early season I always forget how congested it can be!

The usual Weekend Preview blog will appear here tomorrow or Friday.

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Weekend Preview (21/22 April 2018)

Some of things happening this weekend that I’ll be watching.

Times are approximate and in British Summer Time. And yes, the MotoGP and IndyCar races are both in the US and they overlap. I’ve noted the start of TV coverage since I’m not sure of exact start times this week, but I don’t think we’ll see MotoGP completely done before IndyCar starts.

MotoGP:  GP of the Americas
(8pm Sunday, BT Sport 2)

Moto3 4:15pm, Moto2 6pm (TV coverage times)

Circuit of the Americas hosts round 3 of MotoGP.

Will we see some sense of the usual order? Or are Crutchlow and Zarco going to be competitive all season? If the former is true then Doviziosio has a healthy points advantage. If the latter, we have one hell of a season in progress!

That said, COTA is Marc Marquez country:  There have been 5 MotoGP races at this circuit and he has won all of them. (Lewis Hamilton has won 5 of the 6 F1 GPs.)

Dani Pedrosa is apparently intending to race, despite breaking his wrist two weeks earlier in Argentina. Made of stern stuff, these motorcycle racers.

Points after 2 races
Riders:

38  Cal Crutchlow;
35  Andrea Dovizioso;
28  Johann Zarco;
21  Maverick Vinales;
20  Marc Marquez;

Manufacturers:
45  Honda;
38  Ducati;
36  Yamaha;
23  Suzuki;
7  KTM;
4  Aprilia;

Teams:
41  LCR Honda;
37  Monster Yamaha Tech 3;
37  Movistar Yamaha MotoGP;
36  Ducati Team;
36  Alma Pramac Racing;

IndyCar:  GP of Alabama
(8pm Sunday, BT Sport ESPN)

The first time we see the new 2018 IndyCar aero package at a natural terrain road course. I can’t wait to see them, the looser cars with lower downforce could either open up passing opportunities or it could make a one-groove racetrack like it was when the ex-IRL cars started racing here in 2010.

Watch onboard cameras at this track, it feels like video from a rollercoaster! That’s one reason alone to watch this race even if it turns out to be boring competitively, the drivers really are working so hard at this place and you can really see it here, unlike somewhere like the Indy road course.

Three different styles of track in three consecutive weeks:  Phoenix short oval, Long Beach street course, and Barber road course. Hell of a mix.

Expect a lot of talk about Indianapolis, this being the final race before the “Month of May”.

Most Barber wins (current drivers):
2  Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden;
Most wins (teams):
5  Team Penske;

Points after 3 races:
126  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
104  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
93  Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman / Honda);
88  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda);
83  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);

Other

Other things happening this weekend, that I probably won’t see.

NASCAR Cup and Xfinity both at Richmond;
Indy Lights at Barber;
IMSA PC at Barber;
Blancpain GT Endurance at Monza;
24H Series with the 12H Navarra;
Supercars at Phillip Island;
World Superbikes at Assen;
Super Formula at Suzuka;
NHRA at Baytown;

I’m Watching… (14/15 April 2018)

These are some of the things I’ve been watching.

Two busy weekends in a row! Apologies for 1700 words, this was a big week.

Formula E:  Rome ePrix

I was excited for this one though it started a slow burner. Drivers doing energy saving to get to the pit stop – it happens a lot in FE. I relate to why people switch off early thinking the series is boring, but they don’t understand it all kicks off in the second half! There was contact on the opening lap, Alex Lynn getting hit, resulting in a meatball flag.

Just as pit stops began there was a 4-car crash at the hairpin. All eventually got going. Nobody in danger, Race Control sensibly held any intervention until after the pit stops. Lynn came to a stop this time though – an awful weekend of barrier contact for him – so a full course yellow (virtual safety car) was thrown almost as soon as the last car got out of the pits.

What followed was fantastic! Race-long leader Felix Rosenqvist hit a kerb which broke his suspension, out on the spot, promoting Sam Bird to the lead. The four-way battle for the lead was great, Bird held off the battling trio Mitch Evans, Lucas di Grassi and Andre Lotterer who were passing and re-passing each other. Di Grassi got himself to 2nd. Sadly on the last lap Evans ran low on energy and slowed to finish 9th. Points leader Jean-Eric Vergne wound up 5th. And a lot more changed lower down the field!

TV direction was a bit messy, we missed many overtakes live and only caught some in replay. An area to improve. The decision by Channel 5 to bump the race to 5Spike was a disappointment – at least there was the option to watch in HD on Eurosport.

Result
1st Sam Bird (DS Virgin) 25 points;
2nd Lucas di Grassi (Audi ABT) 18 pts;
3rd Andre Lotterer (Techeetah – Renault) 15 pts;
4th Daniel Abt (Audi ABT) 12 pts;
5th Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah – Renault) 10 pts;

Points
119  Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah – Renault);
101  Sam Bird (DS Virgin);
82  Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra);
60  Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.dams);
50  Daniel Abt (Audi Sport ABT);

152  Techeetah;
118  DS Virgin;
103  Mahindra;
89  Audi Sport ABT;
88  Jaguar;

Next round:  Paris, April 28th.

Formula 1:  Chinese GP

Just like in Rome the first half of the F1 race in Shanghai was pretty uneventful after the first lap, where Max Verstappen got a better start on softer tyres to jump from 5th to 3rd, while Valterri Bottas also cleared Kimi Raikkonen. The order for some while was an equidistant Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Ricciardo.

There was more action at the back as Lance Stroll picked up 6 places and Sergio Perez dropped 6 places as the field negotiated the tightening opening corners.

Red Bull played an aggressive strategy, starting on softer tyres relative the others, even pitting both cars on the same lap with quick double-stacked stops executed perfectly. With Mercedes and Ferrari on the same tyres as each other, Bottas pitted earlier to get grip sooner, Vettel shadowing a little later. It worked for Bottas who jumped Vettel into the virtual lead.

Raikkonen was left out there long time, a sitting duck on long-worn tyres while the others caught him. The only option was that he was one-stopping to the others’ two, but they left it so late Bottas and Vettel passed him. With all needing one more stop it negated any advantage. I really dislike Ferrari screwing up their chances like this.

At halfway I noticed no cars had been lapped, the back of the field more competitive now. The media make a big deal of Williams and Sauber being terrible but really they are not that far off the midfield.

It all kicked off when Safety Car came out. Gasly ran into Hartley thinking he was being allowed through for the second time in the race (he wasn’t). Debris everywhere. Gasly later got a penalty.

It appeared the two lead cars weren’t given the chance to pit first, the SC popping out while they were somewhere near pit entry, no time to make the call. Verstappen dove in immediately, the following Hamilton did not and complained about it after the race, Ricciardo followed his team-mate for a second set of double-stacked stops from Red Bull.

Vettel, Bottas and Hamilton had to convert to a one-stop, Raikkonen too had made his stop by then but at least he had newer rubber than these three. The Red Bull stops were done before the field packed up behind the SC so they barely lost any places, they were sitting pretty.

And so the rest of the race was question of how soon could the Red Bulls pass the Ferraris and Mercedes. Verstappen was too impatient – again – and wound up in a tarmac runoff area after trying to pass Hamilton, letting Lewis and Ricciardo through. It happened again when Max caught Vettel later, contact at the hairpin spinning Vettel and attracting a post-race penalty for Verstappen. A victory lost in the first case, a podium lost in the second. Silly. As for Seb, he struggled with damage after that, got passed by Hulkenberg and Alonso and settled for 8th. Kimi caught Bottas near the end but no pass.

Daniel Ricciardo in contrast to his team-mate took his time and made decisive moves, to take the lead with plenty of time to spare.

Result
1st  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull – Renault) 25 points;
2nd  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) 18 pts;
3rd  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 15 pts;
4th  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 12 pts;
5th  Max Verstappen (Red Bull – Renault) 10pts;

Driver points after 3 races:
54  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari);
45  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes);
40  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes);
37  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull);
30  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari);

Constructor points after 3 races:
85  Mercedes;
84  Ferrari;
55  Red Bull;
28  McLaren;
25  Renault;

Next round:  Baku, April 29th.

IMSA Weathertech:  Long Beach GP

Juan Montoya started on pole, managed a first-lap Safety Car period, after which he got caught and passed by former Sauber man Felipe Nasr in the Whelen Cadillac. Another Safety Car came at pit time, this pairing staying out while everyone else pitted. The only other man to stay out was Alexander Sims in the GTLM BMW which had already pitted under green. IMSA rules these days have the classes sorted together for restarts, so Sims dropped back and restarted in front of the rest of GTLM.

It was at this point I had to stop watching. This was about 40 – 50 minutes into the 100 minute race. The official http://www.imsa.tv stream buffered so frequently it was not watchable. You could only see 10 seconds for every minute or two of real time. Add in annoyances with the audio – loud music every 5 minutes got old very quickly – and I wasn’t inclined to stick with it. I could’ve switched to the radio and live timing, but was too annoyed by that point. I’ll wait for the YouTube upload.

[Results to follow next time, after I finish watching the race.]

Next round:  Mid-Ohio, May 6th.

IndyCar:  Long Beach GP

Alexander Rossi started on pole and was dominant all day long. Yet again this weekend the first half was pretty uneventful following a dramatic first lap.

This time it was Graham Rahal torpedoing Simon Pagenaud out of the race. He blamed the brakes locking “like they did before”. Perhaps it would be harsh of me to suggest that if they did it before he should make allowances… He got a drive-through which would be negated by Safety Car later on.

The choice was 2 stops or 3 and a surprising number went for the latter and did so early. Robert Wickens car stalled at his stop, did a slow lap and pitted again with some sort of software problem, the team unable to get it going again for about 6 laps.

After the first stops Rossi had a big lead. Scott Dixon took Will Power while in traffic.

TV missed a lot of passes that I saw happen on live timing. Unusual for an NBC Sports race.

BOURDAIS. All of a sudden out of nowhere through lapped traffic, Bourdais makes it 3 wide to pass Dixon and then dives another car – and doesn’t hit the wall! Incredible move!

He was judged that two wheels over the blue pit exit line was a foul. I disagree with the rule, but that’s the rule and he had to give Dixon the place back. At least it wasn’t a drive-through. Bourdais got mad and immediately re-passed Dixon.

Unfortunately his day got ruined by his team-mate Zachary Clamen de Melo hitting the wall. Not ZCdM’s fault. Bourdais and Dixon were in the pits when the Safety Car came out, Seb got waved through so he lost time but didn’t get a penalty, Dixon took service and was penalised. Bourdais came in again when the pits opened.

That put Bourdais in the pack, where he got speared by Jordan King making a GP2 move in a place nobody usually passes.

I totally lost track of strategy and somehow the back end of the field got shuffled up behind Rossi, so we had Veach, Rahal, Andretti and others in the top ten. They held their own though at the end and were just as fast as anyone else, so I guess they made the Safety Cars work for them.

Rossi was dominant all day and it would’ve been criminal had he lost this one. Power took 2nd, Jones and Veach were nice and clean, Rahal got 5th despite taking out a competitor.

Result
1st  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda) 54 points;
2nd  Will Power (Team Penske / Chevrolet) 41 pts;
3rd  Ed Jones (Chip Ganassi / Honda) 35 pts;
4th  Zach Veach (Andretti Autosport / Honda) 32 pts;
5th  Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman / Honda) 30 pts;

Points
126  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
104  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
93  Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman / Honda);
88  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda);
83  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);

Next round:  Barber Motorsports Park, April 22nd.

Other

A huge amount of racing happened elsewhere, particularly in sports cars. I do watch ELMS and LM Cup on delay so I hope to catch up with those before it is time for Le Mans.

Coming Up

Next week see even more IndyCar, a natural road course this time, plus MotoGP goes to COTA. I’ll have a preview blog by Thursday night.

I prefer it when we have a small handful of races to focus on rather than everything at once!

I’m Watching… (7/8 April 2018)

These are some of the things I’ve been watching.

This was the first big multi-event weekend of the 2018 season. I enjoyed a chilled out Sunday, first with IndyCar on the DVR from overnight then two live races back to back.

If there was a theme for the weekend it was tyre strategy. It created some much-needed uncertainty in all three of the major series I watched!

Continue reading “I’m Watching… (7/8 April 2018)”

Preview: 2018 Australian GP

f1 2018

2018 Rolex Australian Grand Prix

Albert Park, Melbourne
Lap Distance:  3.296 miles (5.303 km)
Race Lap Record:  1m24.125 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)

Multiple Total Wins

Australian GP World Championship races (Adelaide 1985-1995, Melbourne 1996-current).

Drivers
4  Michael Schumacher;
3  Jenson Button;
2  Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel;

Constructors
11  McLaren;
8  Ferrari;
5  Williams;
3  Mercedes;
2  Renault;

The Australian GP has a history going back to 1928 but didn’t join the F1 championship trail until 1985. It moved to the current Albert Park circuit in 1996.

Last 5 Wins

2017  Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari;
2016  Nico Rosberg, Mercedes;
2015  Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes;
2014  Nico Rosberg, Mercedes;
2013  Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus-Renault;

Set Up

Albert Park is a unique place, it is a parkland track running around a lake yet it is in the middle of city suburbs. It is only used for racing once every year so like Monaco the track changes a lot from Friday to Sunday.

There is also a lot of support race action which is great for fans, one of the best of the year. Australian Supercars events are now full points-paying rounds of the championship for the first time so if you are going, expect some action. There are also GT races and more. But for F1 teams it means rubber from other brands gets laid down, so it can take a few laps for the F1 rubber to come back in. This mixes things up and makes it unpredictable.

With this being the opening round and only two short pre-season tests this season, those being colder than usual, the competitive order hasn’t yet been established. If you are looking for an upset the place to find it is in Melbourne.

It also has that tricky, narrow and fast first corner which always catches people out at the start, so even a driver in form may find himself bundled out of the race straight away.

Then again, as I’ve said in my season preview, there is definitely pecking order as we stand right now.

Bookies have a good idea about these things and this is reflected in the odds for the Australian GP where Hamilton is marked as clear favourite. They think the Mercedes dominance will continue for the season. But don’t let that put you off. Anything can happen at Albert Park and we really don’t know how things will settle until race day, so it is worth a punt elsewhere – at those odds I’ve put a cheeky £5 on Ricciardo to win at home! Bottas is also worth a shout. If you like a little flutter there are some good things out there.

Again it’ll likely be a battle between Hamilton and Vettel. Their team-mates will be in the mix. Ricciardo and/or Verstappen will surely be up there. And what might Alonso do, now he has a Renault engine?

If the first race was somewhere like Bahrain, as your race prediction you might write down the testing results and you’d be mostly right. The beauty of Melbourne is that we could be completely wrong!

My Podium Prediction

1. Hamilton;
2. Vettel;
3. Ricciardo;

I hope to write about all F1 rounds for 2018 along with other championships as well, do check back weekly!

2018 F1 Team By Team Preview

Preview:  2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship

f1 2018

A Year Of Changes

2018 will see many changes, not least in the presentation of Formula 1, as you can see with the logo above! New owners Liberty Media start their second season and are beginning to make an impact. It’ll take too long to go through it all so here are some bullet points:

  • Increased digital presence, including hiring journalist Will Buxton to present video content across platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
  • That new logo.
  • New theme music, which we’ll probably hear around the podium ceremony.
  • Increased promotion.
  • Change of race start times.

The cars are largely unchanged. The biggest change is the addition of the halo safety device. Opinion is divided of course. The aeroscreen or IndyCar windscreen seem much better options but those haven’t been tested fully – the halo is ready now. The FIA would be open to legal challenge if they had a system ready to go, didn’t install it, and someone got seriously hurt. Really they have no choice but to install it while developing alternatives.

Otherwise the cars still look badass. A 2018 car is basically a 2017 car with a halo and no “shark fin” engine cover. A 2018 car with a halo looks miles better than a 2012 car with those disproportionate front and rear wings. I’ll take a 2018 car every time.

Pirelli have introduced two new tyre specs, the “hypersoft” at one extreme and the “superhard” at the other. Yes, those really are the names. There are further restrictions on “oil burning” (feeding oil into the fuel mixture). And there are changes to the way penalties are awarded. Chain Bear F1 made a good video about it.

Continue reading “2018 F1 Team By Team Preview”