Weekend Preview: 19/20 May 2018

Some of the many things happening this weekend.

Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.


Formula E: Berlin ePrix

Flughafen Tempelhof, Berlin, Germany

Race at 5pm UK Channel 5 and Eurosport (6pm Germany).

The historic former airport in the middle of Berlin is the host of this round. The track layouts used here in the past weren’t great, being just a load of barriers among open concrete and it really shows the lack of top speed. There is a Shanghai-style tightening first turn to cause chaos. At least it has a funky tunnel with a viewing area inside!

JEV and Techeetah have a commanding lead in both championships after combining good results with more race finishes than their rivals. It isn’t all over though – fortunes change incredibly quickly in this series and I wouldn’t bet against a late points run from Sam Bird.

Points
Drivers:
147  Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah);
116  Sam Bird (DS Virgin);
86  Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra);
70  Sebastien Buemi (Renault DAMS);
58  Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt);
56  Daniel Abt (Audi Sport Abt);

Teams:
185  Techeetah;
134  DS Virgin Racing;
113  Audi Sport ABT;
107  Mahindra Racing;
88  Panasonic Jaguar Racing;


MotoGP:  French Grand Prix

Le Mans (Bugatti Circuit), La Sarthe, France

1pm BT Sport 2 (2pm in France)

I always say this is a rubbish track not a patch on the full 24-hour circuit and yet I often get engrossed by the race here. It sort of creeps up on you until you realise you’re enjoying it. Just like the big track it can throw a surprise, especially when it rains.

Preceded by Moto2 and Moto3 on the same channel.

Points:
Riders:
70  Marc Marquez (Honda);
58  Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha);
50  Maverick Vinales (Yamaha);
47  Andrea Iannone (Suzuki);
46  Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati);

Teams:
90  Yamaha;
88  Honda;
70  Pramac;
67  Tech 3;
63  Suzuki;


IndyCar:  Qualifications for the Indy 500

Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Oval), Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

UK TV:
Saturday, 9pm BT Sport 2
Sunday, 9pm BT Sport ESPN

Assuming the weather is good, Saturday will set the field. For the first time in a few years there will be “bumping” so we can call it Bump Day again. This means there are more entries than there are spots in the 33-car field – this year there are 35 entries so two will go home.

Then on Sunday the 33 remaining cars get a guaranteed run to get into the ‘Fast 9’ run at the end of the day. The fastest 9 drivers have one final shootout for pole.

Though this is in keeping with road courses and F1 knockout qualifying, it is backwards to an Indy 500 fan. It used to be that Pole Day was early and the pole-sitter locked in early, winning the advantage of more PR time, more practice time. The drama switched to who could make the field and who would go home, with people making multiple runs. Unfortunately now they can’t come back the next day to try again.

UK TV coverage is a nice bonus and a fairly recent addition thanks to BT Sport, give them credit where it is due.

In the meantime there are practice sessions this week and some of next week live streamed on IndyCar Race Control.


Elsewhere

If you thought this was a quiet week, think again!

I wish I had time to include more, Blancpain and BTCC in particular, I just haven’t had the chance to do the research.

NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte;
Blancpain GT Endurance at Silverstone;
BTCC at the scary-fast Thruxton;
Super GT at Suzuka;
DTM season-opener at Hockenheimring;
Australian Supercars at Winton;
PWC at Mosport;
WTCR on Monday at Zandvoort;
WRC Rally Portugal;

Whatever you watch this weekend enjoy the racing!

And remember next time it’ll be Monaco GP, Indy 500 and Coke 600 weekend already. Where has the time gone?

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I’m Watching… 12/13 May 2018

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

  • F1:  Spanish GP
  • IndyCar:  Indy GP
  • Sports car:  Nurburgring 24

F1:  Grand Prix of Spain

Montmelo, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

Traditionally, the Circuit de Catalunya never produced close racing. They tweaked La Caixa corner and added the chicane which helped for a while, then changed the cars to the ones with the silly wings, which also helped. Now with the current rule set it doesn’t produce close racing again.

I happen to mostly like the current rules other than the awful dirty air, and that they look slow even when they aren’t. One thing I would do is copy IndyCar wholesale: remove most of the stuff from the front wing, add downforce from the underbody, balance the rear. It might only make a slight difference at a track such as this, but it would do something. I’d also redesign this track again. I’ve often wanted to go to this one but the awful racing put me off.

Of course, sometimes a team and driver put in such a performance that none of that matters – Hamilton was on fire on Sunday. Nobody was going to catch him. Bottas had to run his tyres longer so he had no chance to chase. Vettel pitted even earlier, unable to make the tyres last, which boxed him in on strategy and meant he wound up behind Verstappen. Raikkonen was going to try the one-stop anyway but had a power unit failure. The Red Bulls were much slower than qualifying suggested but also wearing the tyres much less. Ricciardo seemed to be nowhere.

Magnussen managed not to hit anything to run a lonely race to 6th. Team-mate Grosjean caused the action this time, taking out himself and two others before he got to turn 3. It was a split-second decision which makes it tough to be critical, but he seems to be getting enough of those wrong that it feels like 2012 all over again.

Both Spaniards scored points at home, Perez rescued points, and another impressive run for Leclerc.

Five cars on the lead lap, field spread diabolical. Very much an old-fashioned race, in sporting terms I congratulate the winner, but this sort of race is not good entertainment. Our expectations these days are different. I don’t mind 14 finishers, that’s the luck of racing, but they could be closer and they could be able to race each other.

Next up Monaco. I do love Monaco but last year’s race was one of the worst I’ve ever known at the track. It doesn’t bode well, let’s hope I’m wrong. Otherwise we’ll have to wait for France or Austria for a decent contest, since Montreal is just a DRS push-button slingshot these days.

Result
1st  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 25 points;
2nd  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) 18 pts;
3rd  Max Verstappen (Red Bull-Renault) 15 pts;
4th  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 12 pts;
5th  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull-Renault) 10 pts;
6th  Kevin Magnussen (Haas) 8 pts;
7th  Carlos Sainz (Renault) 6 pts;
8th  Fernando Alonso (McLaren-Renault) 4 pts;
9th  Sergio Perez (Force India-Mercedes) 2 pts;
10th Charles Leclerc (Sauber-Ferrari) 1 pt;

Points
Drivers:
95 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes);
78  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari);
58  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) [+1];
48  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) [-1];
47  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull);
33  Max Verstappen (Red Bull);

Constructors:
153  Mercedes AMG [+1];
126  Scuderia Ferrari [-1];
80  Red Bull Racing;
41  Renault F1 [+1];
41  McLaren Renault [-1];

The first real points advantage this year for Hamilton and Mercedes.

Next round:  Monaco Grand Prix, May 27th.


IndyCar:  IndyCar GP

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

A couple of incidents on lap 1, Pagenaud and King off course, where it turned out Pagenaud got sideswiped by Newgarden which put him in King’s way. Second incident was Pigot jumping a kerb and spinning into Sato. Both Carpenter cars in trouble early! Safety Car out straight away to recover King who dropped a couple of laps in the process.

Power and Wickens pulled away from the field. Zachary Claman de Melo impressed in the top ten.

I set my DVR to record the live showing but it decided to record the 4am re-air, which was missing 20 laps in the first half of the race, picking up on lap 37 just before green flag pit stops with Wickens mysteriously now in the lead.

Turns out Wickens used the extra grip from soft red tyres to catch and pass Power running on harder black tyres. Later the strategy switched around, Power charged on reds, caught and passed Wickens on blacks. Wickens’ cause wasn’t helped by faulty Push-To-Pass, but the way Power was moving it looked like it was his race anyway.

Newgarden made an uncharacteristic mistake when trying to pass Bourdais, he hit a kerb and spun it at turn 1, needing a push and bringing out a Safety Car, ironically the last thing his team-mate Power needed.

Everyone pitted, Power just got out ahead of Wickens. It was a long yellow while they swept the track even though the car was recovered quickly. Interestingly all the action all day occurred during the UK commentary segments, which means US ABC were in commercials for all of them, as if they’ve never read a race before.

Scott Dixon started poorly, didn’t even make it out of Q1 on Friday, yet by the restart here he was up to 3rd after working up the field all day, he made the pass on Wickens for 2nd.

A classic Will Power win, chasing a guy down and pushing like crazy, his 3rd win on the Indy road course. A classic Scott Dixon fuel save / appear from nowhere / pass everyone strategy to bag second. Wickens, Bourdais and Rossi were fighting all day. Newgarden recovered to 11th to retain the points lead. I can’t remember seeing another car.

Result
1st  Will Power (Penske Chevy) 54 points;
2nd  Scott Dixon (Ganassi Honda) 40 pts;
3rd  Robert Wickens (Schmidt Peterson Honda) 36 pts;
4th  Sebastien Bourdais (Coyne Honda) 33 pts;
5th  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Honda) 31 pts;

Points
178  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
176  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
152  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda);
147  Scott Dixon (Ganassi / Honda) [+2];
144  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);

Rahal 6th on 142. Power up to 7th with 135, with Wickens 2 points back.

Next round:  Indianapolis 500, 27th May [double points plus a bundle for qualifying].


Nurburgring 24

Nurburgring Nordschliefe

I watched from 7pm Saturday night to 3am Sunday morning, once again the combo of helicopter shots, live drone footage and onboard videos was captivating. The combo made it look like a rally stage with 150 cars on it. Eventually the helis and drones landed and we were left with onboards and one or two-cameras on the GP track. Altogether vastly better than the single overnight static camera they used 8 or 10 years ago!

I watched as the long-time leading Porsche was crashed by Romain Dumas as he hit oil and mud not long after it started raining at night. Not his fault at all, there were no slippery surface flags and he had no chance of seeing it.

This is a hard race to understand, but with Radio Show Limited’s www.radiolemans.com providing commentary with some great anecdotes and stories along the way, you can’t fail to be entertained.

I intended to sleep earlier and wake up earlier for the run to the flag. As it turned out I stayed up as rain was coming and I wanted to see what happened! Then I slept in (and needed it!), not that it mattered since on Sunday there was a lengthy red flag for fog. I want to watch the race back in full, though with the next few months being rammed with racing this will have to wait until the off-season, if it is even available.

Manthey’s Porsche won the race for the 12th time, the first victories for the driver crew of Fred Makowiecki, Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz. Black Falcon’s Mercedes was in contention throughout, the older Aston Martin always up there too.


I didn’t write a post last week, but Tuesday last week I watched the 2016 ELMS finale at Estoril which was okay but had a lot of spinning cars and not a lot of passing, and last night I caught the Moto3 from Argentina, a fun race on a damp track with wet tyres versus slicks.

I’m starting think I’m going to run out of time to listen to IndyCar podcasts before the 500 and catch up with last year’s WEC before Le Mans…


Coming Up

A quiet one? No!

  • Indy 500 qualifying (2 days);
  • MotoGP France;
  • Formula E Berlin;
  • Blancpain GT Silverstone;
  • DTM Lausitz;
  • BTCC Thruxton;
  • WRC Portugal

A bigger preview to follow Thursday/Friday.

Weekend Preview: 12/13 May 2018

Some of the many things happening this weekend.

Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.

Now this is a massively busy week, including one of the most stupid date clashes of the year, between the Nurburgring 24 Hours and the European Le Mans Series.

Apologies for not writing a recap of last weekend. I actually went to the Blancpain GT Sprint at Brands Hatch to sit on the grass in the glorious sunshine watching GT racing, which I didn’t preview at all, and I haven’t yet seen any of the other events I did write about! With the upcoming weekend so full it looks like I may not catch up for some time.


ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours [24h-Rennen]

Nürburgring Nordschleife, Nürburg, Germany

Race at 2:30pm (3:30pm Germany). The Formation lap starts 20 minutes earlier!

Full international live stream at:

www.24h-rennen.de/en/
www.radiolemans.com

The full Nordschliefe, 600 drivers in 150 cars, of which at least 25 are full GT3 cars, along with GT4 cars, Porsche Cup cars, TCR cars and even Renault Clios all spread among countless car classes. There’s room for everyone!

This is a big event in every way imaginable, and even this is small compared to the 220 car entries of not long ago. It still requires three separate grids to get everyone going!

Unlike other 24 Hour races this race is quite old school, in that even with the best tracking technology it is very hard to understand what is happening! The lap is so long it takes the quick cars well over 8 minutes to complete it, which in turn means a fuel stint of an hour comprises only 7 laps. It is hard to see from the timing screen that someone has had a problem – and again it is such a long course you can’t hope to spot it on screen.

Watch this, at least in part, because GT3 cars around this place has to be seen to be believed, especially when they start lapping traffic!

Supported by World TCR (see below).


Formula 1:  Spanish GP

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Montmeló, Barcelona, Spain

Race starts at 1:10pm UK (2:10pm Spain) live on Sky Sports F1.
Delayed until 6pm on Channel 4.

F1 starts the European season in Barcelona. This track doesn’t promote passing, we’ll probably have to wait until Montreal for that, since of all tracks this has potential to be like Albert Park’s less interesting race. So let’s hope for some good strategic battles. It is good though to have the full F1 paddock back for the first time this year, motorhomes and all.

All of this year’s pre-season testing was done here which means the teams know a hell of a lot about it – however it was much colder than usual so there should still be things left to learn.

After Baku all eyes will be on the Red Bull drivers!

Supported by F2 and GP3 also live on Sky Sports F1.

Points after 4 races:
Drivers:
70  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes);
66  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari);
48  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari);
40  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes);
37  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull);

Constructors:
114  Scuderia Ferrari;
110  Mercedes AMG;
55  Red Bull Racing;
36  McLaren Renault;
35  Renault F1;


IndyCar:  INDYCAR Grand Prix

Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course), Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Race starts Saturday 8:50pm UK, BT Sport ESPN (3:50pm US Eastern).

The new tradition to start the ‘Month of May’ on the road course. Again, like this week’s F1 event, this layout isn’t known for great racing.

You’ll see a lot more fans at the infield viewing mounds than in the huge grandstands, since this race gives fans in Indianapolis the chance to see road course racing and some good outbraking moves in a couple of places. On the other hand, the chicane inside oval turn 1 is a field-spread generator.

I see the value in having a ‘cheap’ self-promoted race for the home fans. For a TV viewer like me though, it seems more like a calendar filler and I wouldn’t miss it if it went away.

One positive is it lets the full Mazda Road to Indy race at IMS, including Pro Mazda and USF2000 which don’t get to race on the oval.

Points after 4 races:
158  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
145  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
119  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda);
119  Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman / Honda);
118  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);


European Le Mans Series: 4 Hours of Monza

Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Milan, Italy

Sunday, 11:30am UK (12:30pm Italy)

Full international live stream at:

www.europeanlemansseries.com
(you may need to click through to YouTube or Dailymotion)

The second round of the ELMS is at the classic Monza with a 43 car field across three classes. Supported by the Michelin Le Mans Cup which races on Saturday.

LMP2:
25pts  Pla, Nato, Petit (Racing Engineering / Oreca);
18  Duval, Perrodo, Vaxiviere (TDS Racing / Oreca);
15  Jamin, Panciatici, Ragues (Duqueine Engineering / Oreca);

LMP3:
25  Garofall, Farano, van Uitert (RLR Msport / Ligier);
19  Ferrer, Legeret, Droux (M.Racing YMR / Norma);
15  Mondini, Berlo (EuroInternational / Ligier);

GTE:
25  MacDowall, Griffin, Molina (JMW / Ferrari);
19  Roda, Roda Jr, Cairoli (Proton / Porsche);
15  Babini, Narac, Pera (EbiMotors / Porsche);


WTCR: Nürburgring Nordschleife

Nürburgring Nordschleife, Nürburg, Germany

Race 1 Thursday 6:45pm UK (7:45pm Germany) online only;
Race 2 Saturday 10:00am UK Eurosport / Eurosport Player;
Race 3 Saturday 11:20am UK Eurosport / Eurosport Player;

The full Nordschliefe is in use just as it was for the WTCC. The length of the track means they only get 3 laps, even though it is still a half hour race! This year they get three races, the first of which we already missed.

TCR seems to be a formula for old dogs as Tarquini and Muller are STILL going at it!

Points after 2 weekends:
118  Gabriele Tarquini;
82  Yann Ehrlacher;
77  Yvan Muller;


Elsewhere

Other things happening this weekend, should you choose instead.

Monaco Grand Prix Historique – live on Quest on Saturday & Sunday;
NASCAR Cup and Trucks at Kansas;
World RX in Belgium;
Blancpain GT Asia at Buriram;
Formula 3 Europe on the streets of Pau;
Super Formula at Autopolis;
World Superbike at Imola;

I’m Watching… (28/29 April 2018)

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

  • F1: Baku
  • FE: Paris
  • IndyCar: Barber

F1:  Grand Prix of Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan

Wow, what a dramatic race! I can’t do a blow by recap, seek out the race, seriously.

Close racing through the field, very close combat between the Red Bull drivers which looked like ending in tears and eventually did, different strategies among the front-runners, a driver in the wall (when behind the Safety Car!), a puncture for the leader, the points leader locking up allowing his main rival through, a Force India driver on the podium, and countless recovery drives.

Street racing is a lottery in any category, they punish errors more severely than most tracks. After the car park runoff areas elsewhere this is a welcome change. At Bahrain you go off line and you lose half a second, at Baku if you go the same margin outside the line you hit the wall and are out of the race. Benefits to both approaches: at Bahrain they go can flat out, at Baku they need to be more measured and disciplined.

I thought the racing between Verstappen and Ricciardo was fantastic. It was just on the right side of acceptability, each giving barely a millimetre. They even banged wheels once. Ricciardo eventually made a pass stick, immediately losing it in the pit stops. Even early in the race it looked like they might take each other out, that the team should let the faster driver go. Just when you thought they’d found the limit, Ricciardo ran into the back of Verstappen taking both cars out.
At first I blamed both: Max moved in a braking zone, Daniel went for a closing gap. Watching again now, there is no gap. This one is 80% Ricciardo. I’ll say 20% Verstappen for not letting it go, for moving on the line. The team blamed neither and while Christian Horner looked livid on the Channel 4 post-race show, his comments were measured, saying both knew where the team stood and both should be contrite and apologetic. They were.

That threatened to overshadow everything else. All drivers seemed to adapt to strong wind gusts, struggling more with tyre temperatures. Up front, Vettel had the measure of everyone with Hamilton just 4 seconds back. The midfield was tremendous fun and TV focused on that: a lot of overtaking attempts, cars running out of their usual position, action throughout.

While Bottas got lucky with the timing of the Safety Car caused by the Red Bulls, falling after Vettel and Hamilton pitted but before he’d stopped himself, those two then changed tyres when he did anyway – having learned from the last race in China to take new rubber. Vettel tried to pass him but locked up, looked like Bottas had it sealed. You had to feel sorry for the guy when he got the puncture. He’s shown excellent pace in Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan, could’ve been in the title hunt yet has little to show for it.

Further back, Alonso – the magician – got a car with two punctured right-side tyres to the pits at the opening lap Safety Car, restarted last and passed 4 or 5 other cars (including his team-mate) within a few laps. He was one place behind Charles Leclerc, who raced well, even overtaking some cars in a Sauber. Both drivers helped by DNFs of course, but good nonetheless.

I haven’t even had space to mention Raikkonen vs Ocon (Kimi’s lucky escape), Perez, Sainz, Stroll or Hartley.

As a race track, removing political concerns, Baku is a winner for me.

Result
1st  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 25 points;
2nd  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 18 pts;
3rd  Sergio Perez (Force India) 15 pts;
4th  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 12 pts;
5th  Carlos Sainz (Renault) 10 pts;
6th  Charles Leclerc (Sauber) 8 pts;
7th  Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 6 pts;
8th  Lance Stroll (Williams) 4 pts;
9th  Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) 2 pts;
10th Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) 1 pt;

Just 13 cars finished. You want uncertainty, unreliability and random top tens? Race at Baku. Well done, Baku.

Points
Drivers:
70  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) [+1];
66  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) [-1];
48  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) [+2];
40  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) [-1];
37  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) [-1];

Alonso 6th after consistent scoring. Verstappen only 8th. Perez jumps from 0 into 9th. Hartley’s 10th gets him on the board, leaving just Grosjean and Sirotkin with no points.

Constructors:
114  Scuderia Ferrari [+1];
110  Mercedes AMG [-1];
55  Red Bull Racing;
36  McLaren Renault;
35  Renault F1;

Force India 6th. Williams get off the board, still last but good pace this race will give them hope.

Next round:  Spanish Grand Prix, May 13th.


Formula E:  Paris ePrix

Paris, France

Points leader Vergne on pole at a track where there is only one slightly sketchy passing spot. An early Safety Car for Ma Qing Hua not getting going off the line, plus contact elsewhere which broke various wings for Tom Blomqvist and Mitch Evans, while Nico Prost decided to keep going with no rear wing for 13 laps until he got the meatball flag.

It got incredibly tense with Vergne, Bird and Lotterer running nose to tail for lap after lap, inches apart, cars sliding! Back in the field there was some passing, the only way to do it was to dive-bomb in that sketchy spot and hope the other guy leaves you space. Daniel Abt was on a mission, starting way down and making pass after pass.

The leaders pitted at half distance, with di Grassi and Buemi staying out a few short laps longer, helping di Grassi to jump Engel. Mortara went even longer, leaving him a way down but with plenty more battery power which he used well to work through the field, until he and JM Lopez made contact. Edo was out on the spot.

Lotterer eventually passed Bird as did di Grassi, but would cause chaos on the last lap in the narrow final section when he ran out of useable energy. Di Grassi got by, Bird was nearly through but they hit which broke his suspension – luckily it was close to the finish line, Bird dragged it to 3rd on 3 wheels.

Result
1st  Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah) 28 pts (win + pole);
2nd  Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt) 19 pts (2nd + FL);
3rd  Sam Bird (DS Virgin) 15 pts;
4th  Maro Engel (Venturi) 12 pts;
5th  Sebastien Buemi (Renault DAMS) 10 pts;
6th  Andre Lotterer (Techeetah) 8 pts;

Rosenqvist would only finish 8th.

Points
Drivers:
147  Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah);
116  Sam Bird (DS Virgin);
86  Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra);
70  Sebastien Buemi (Renault DAMS);
58  Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt) [+3];
56  Daniel Abt (Audi Sport Abt) [-1];

Teams:
185  Techeetah;
134  DS Virgin Racing;
113  Audi Sport ABT [+1];
107  Mahindra Racing [-1];
88  Panasonic Jaguar Racing;

JEV and Techeetah are looking very good indeed. Bird is a threat though, and di Grassi and Audi are coming up fast!

Next round:  Berlin ePrix, Saturday, May 19th.


IndyCar:  Grand Prix of Alabama
(from last week)

Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

A wet IndyCar race on a road course promised much and delivered until a red flag lead to an overnight delay. As I couldn’t record Monday’s segment and couldn’t see a replay on BT Sport, I waited for it to appear on the IndyCar YouTube channel – they upload all of the races in full! So I watched this Friday night.

Sunday

A single-file start helped the field get away cleanly and we had 10 laps of good racing with no trouble. I was surprised, IndyCar doesn’t race in the rain often and this was particularly heavy. There was even overtaking through heavy spray.

Andretti spun, then Jones tagged Kimball into the wall. Safety Car out. Slower cars didn’t kick up spray to clear the water, add a heavier spell of rain, so they lost the track. After 6 SC laps they went green anyway and immediately Power hit the pit wall, out on the spot. Race leader Newgarden nearly did the same and he could see where he was going! Immediate SC before a red flag on lap 19. They tried again 40 minutes later with 3 slow laps behind the Safety Car (during which Rahal spun) after which it was stopped.

Monday

A timed race resuming where they left off yesterday, except everyone was allowed to fill up with fuel and switch to slicks.

Josef Newgarden drove away to a huge lead over Seb Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay, in turn miles ahead of the rest. Zach Veach became a bottleneck, struggling on red tyres I think, he slowly sank down the order but had impressed in the wet on Sunday.

Zach Claman de Melo got a 2-lap penalty yesterday but that didn’t deter him from overtaking his way through the field – until Pigot tried to repass him and tagged him sideways, both resumed.

Newgarden pitted first with spent tyres where he’d been pushing on, whereas Bourdais and Dixon stayed out much later aiming to go for one stop versus everyone else’s two. After they came in, remarkably Newgarden’s lead was up to 20 seconds. And then it got fun!

Light rain arrived with 22 minutes to go. At 14 minutes, Newgarden was the first driver to pit for wets. Rain would mess up the one-stoppers if they couldn’t hang on to slicks. Bourdais stayed out lap after lap, it looked like it was working while he was much faster than Newgarden, but the rain intensified and with 7 minutes remaining he said enough, took wets and dropped to 5th.

Result
1st  Josef Newgarden (Penske) 54 points;
2nd  Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti) 40 pts;
3rd  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson) 35 pts;
4th  Robert Wickens (Schmidt Peterson) 32 pts;
5th  Sebastien Bourdais (Coyne) 31 pts;

Points
158  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet) [+1];
145  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda) [-1];
119  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda) [+1];
119  Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman / Honda) [-1];
118  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);

Next round:  Indianapolis Grand Prix, Saturday, 12th May.


 

Coming Up

MotoGP at Jerez, WEC season-opener at Spa, IMSA with a welcome return to Mid-Ohio.

It is a Bank Holiday in the UK and I have a weekend of other plans, all weather-dependent. This year I’m trying to get out more at weekends to offset being cooped up in the office all week, especially after being stuck inside during a dismal wet Spring. So I’ll be watching a lot of things delayed this year.

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.

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)”