Lewis Hamilton v. 2011

To tide us over during the F1 summer break VivaF1 set up another of their great Swap Shops, whereby a group of volunteers write for each others blogs in an exchange of ideas.

In this post, Robyn from RookieF1 writes about Lewis Hamilton’s up and down 2011 season.

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Lewis Hamilton v. 2011

One thing that is sure about the 2011 season, it will go down in history as one of the most chaotic in recent times. This years we’ve had tyres that have forced the teams to reconsider the merits of qualifying, a flap that has a mind of its own and a boost button that has caused some major headaches for a particular Austrian outfit (although it seems to be contagious). There’s been the odd mid-season regulation change to halt the Bull ruining it for everyone (vehemently denied by the FIA of course), and then we have the newest batch of rookies putting their twist on respecting the old guard.

The rookie year of any driver is crucial; it’s all about creating performances that have teams knocking on the door for next year, or perhaps more importantly, to stop their current team giving them a premature P45. A quick perusal over recent Formula One history has Lewis Hamilton down as one of the most successful rookie drivers, coming within one tantalising point of winning motor sports biggest accolade on his first try in 2007. The second time around he got the job done on the last lap and since then the British driver has been left chasing another title. As it was in 2009 that Brawn and now team mate Jenson Button wrote the ultimate fairytale, and then in 2010 the Wunderkind stole it out from underneath everyone.

So what has Hamilton done this year to keep himself in contention? Until his second win of the season in Germany, Hamilton’s exploits have been prime journalistic fodder. Not to say his season has been an unmitigated disaster, he started the year in Australia by proving the car was more competitive than first thought from testing. He then went on to claim the first non-Vettel victory of the year, teasing us with a glimmer of hope. A fierce fight kept Vettel honest in Spain, around a track Red Bull was considered the strong favourites, so what has gone wrong? Not able to keep his aggression in check around two tricky circuits brought his unrelenting desire to win, at almost any cost, into the spotlight. In Monaco, the most globally exposed race of the year, he collided with Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado ending the latter’s race. But it was his poorly chosen comments to the world’s media and subsequent tête à tête with the stewards (he’s been involved with the stewards 8/11 races so far) brought the heat to his naturally aggressive driving style. Compounding the situation further in Canada, he spun Mark Webber and crashed into his team mate, this time ending his own race prematurely.

It was during the visit to Canada that an impromptu meeting with the ‘energy drinks’ company sent the media into a frenzy. Despite a win in Malaysia, Hamilton was faced with a surge of criticism from experts, past drivers and fans. Lewis Hamilton’s brief visit to the Red Bull energy station to talk with team principal Christian Horner is still circulating, and will continue to do so until the ink dries on a new contract. A 15 minute get together outside the McLaren bubble threw the F1 world, Hamilton is a McLaren man through and through, cut him and you’ll see he runs on rocket red and chrome. He certainly wasn’t there to congratulate Red Bull on their success, so was he there to build a safety net for his ‘get out’ clause? Whatever the reason rumours abound regarding his future, some cautioned against a rash decision, although after Monaco his pit crew may have wanted a break from their starring role in the blame game. Others have taken it upon themselves to fuel the fire; Red Bull apparently can’t cope with two ‘world class’ drivers, but Ferrari is open to a Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton reunion. Could Hamilton be tempted to switch his shade of red for something more Italian?

Until such time that multi-million Euro question is answered we can appreciate the post-Canadian Hamilton instead. Since his Canadian escapade a new version has emerged, one with a more positive outlook due to a rather intensive PR lesson perhaps? But he hasn’t strayed far from his inimitable driving style, still keeping in touch with the stewards and literally in touch with some of his fellow drivers. It is no secret that the 2011 version of Lewis Hamilton is as divisive as ever, providing the twitterati with endlessly retweetable quotes and the press with countless ‘exclusive’ articles. It may be borne out of frustration from not repeating the euphoric 2008 campaign again, or it could be the continuing rise and dominance of a certain German that echoes his own career. Both Vettel and Hamilton were spotted early and brought through the ranks into a team that has subtly moulded itself around them.

Either way, with an 88 point deficit to consider over the summer break, lessened PR responsibilities and a sunnier disposition could make his second half altogether more rewarding.

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Do check out RookieF1, and you can find all of the Summer Swap Shop posts in this bundle!

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Guest Post at F1 Archive

It occurred to me earlier that amongst watching the Rolex 24 at Daytona last weekend I forgot to mention here the guest post I wrote for Leigh at The F1 & Motorsports Archive. It was written a little late but was for the previous weekend’s 3rd VivaF1 Blogger Swap Shop.

You can read my post here “Are Pay Drivers Getting Better?” and the rest of the articles in the 3rd Swap can be found in this bundle including RubberGoat’s post here.

Thanks to Leigh for hosting and to VivaF1 for the swaps.

Swap Shop: Too Much Racing?

Too Much Racing?

I am really excited to be guest writing for Pat’s blog as part of the Bloggers’ Swap Shop series as I am a regular reader of this blog – like Pat, I’m not just a Formula 1 fan, but a big fan of all Motorsports.  It’s amazing how different each form of Motorsport is and what makes these series so enjoyable for different reasons.  The long-term strategy of Endurance Racing, The wheel banging of Touring Car Racing, the ‘Maximum Attack’ opposite lock slides of Rallying and the madcap daring of MotoGP to name a few.  If it’s got wheels and an engine then I will probably like it…

Back when I was a kid, when I lived in the UK, we watched F1 on Sundays only (no qualifying sessions were shown on TV) and the RAC Rally.  Then when Nigel Mansell moved to America, we started watching Indycar.  Then the BTCC started getting really popular too.  Then a chap called Carl Fogarty started looking quick on a motorbike and so we started watching Superbikes.  But with most of these series showing half or one hour highlights and usually at the weekends, so these were quite easy to watch and didn’t take up too much time.

Then in my teens, I moved to NZ, which back then was a Motorsports moratorium! F1 was on Sky only, no WRC, no bikes and not even any V8 Supercars coverage except for Bathurst itself! Thankfully this situation slowly improved, and Sky in particular started to show more of the series I was used to – including Indycars, as soon as Scott Dixon had a ride…

So now I live in Europe again and I have access to all of these Motorsports if I want to.  But the main difference is that the way they are shown on TV has changed – while they used to be short highlights packages, we now get full live coverage, Not only that, but we have access to the whole season of racing, so for example the RAC Rally expanded into the WRC, Le Mans into Sebring, Petit Le Mans, ALMS and LMS, MotoGP has the 125’s and Moto2’s, Indycar has the  Lights series, plus F1 has all the practice and qualifying sessions live on TV.

Being a Motorsport fan has changed a lot with the advent of satellite/cable TV and the internet – seeing a short highlights programme and maybe reading a small clipping in a newspaper (or Autosport if you were lucky enough).  Can you imagine following the sport like this now?  We spend hours watching footage, reading articles on the web, writing blog posts and arguing the toss on various internet forums – we analyse, scrutinise and opine in ways we never dreamt of before.  As a viewing pubic we have welcomed this move with open arms and consider that if you don’t watch the whole coverage, then you aren’t following the sport properly.  These have been big changes over the last 10 years.

Another big change has been the number of series – I have mentioned some of them above, but you can add A1GP to that mix, along with the IRC to supplement the WRC, DTM, WTCC, Superleague Formula and various other Feeder Series like GP2, GP2 Asia, F2, F3, AutoGP, GP Masters, Formula Renault 2.0 and World Series, and many more.  All of these have unprecedented TV coverage and it’s hard not to feel as a racing fan that you should be watching these.  All racing drivers say they want to get to F1, but I wonder if there are those who wouldn’t mind a career where as long as they get sponsorship, they are happy just to compete year after year in this multitude of series having a laugh?  They’d never admit that to though as it would surely upset their sponsors…

I do wonder where all of these series have come from – and they keep coming too.  Granted, some of the above have failed as quickly as they have started, but plenty of others have happily taken their place.  You do feel as though there is critical mass now and at some point that the bubble will burst, a lot of sponsors and money will just disappear from the sport and we will be back to the old days again.  I feel sorry for the young guys wanting to get to F1 – in the old days it was simple how to get there, but now there’s no clear path at all.  It’s especially hard to see drivers with talent not doing as well as they should do just because of a lack of funding, but that’s another story…

One can only conclude that there are simply aren’t enough hours in the day to follow all of the Motorsport we want to any more, which means that we have to pick and choose what we follow and what we don’t because we just can’t watch them all.  And as I said earlier, with no clear path to F1 any more, it’s hard to prioritise which ones are more important to watch.  At the end of the day this can only be a bad thing – there are so many series all competing for the same turf that they are taking fans and sponsorship monies away from each other.  This is why I said earlier that I think the bubble will burst – and that a consolidation of the many series on offer is just over the horizon.

So I leave you all with a question: Do you think we have too much racing?

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Rubbergoat is the author of the popular stats blog Making Up The Numbers, is a regular commenter across the motorsport blogosphere and Twitter, and is a regular caller/emailer on multiple podcasts. This post appears as part of the 3rd instalment of the fantastic Bloggers Swap Shop by VivaF1. Thanks to Gavin for writing it!

My Blog Swap Post – Pruning the Feeder Series

As part of the current round of the Blogger Swap Shop, I have written about the structure – or lack of it – of the European junior series. Given how often I complain on Twitter and elsewhere about the proliferation of series, you might be surprised to find I leap to the defence of many of them.

Check out my conclusions and suggestions at The Formula 1 & Motorsports Archive.

While you are there you really should read Leigh’s Q&A with Justin Wilson as well, its good stuff in which Justin is an actual human, there’s little of the usual PR stuff drivers frequently trot out.

A Proper Offseason

I’m priveliged to host two posts in this weekend’s VivaF1 Blog Swap, here is the second post which is by Allen Wedge from Grab Bag Sports.

As we set sail into this thing known as the motorsport off-season I can help but want to write a piece on how… boring… it is.
Truly, we don’t need to extend the seasons of Formula One, IndyCar, Rally, and for the love of all that is holy do not extend NASCAR. The problem isn’t the timing of the off-season, but that there is a literal break in action for about 3 months; and let’s not pretend testing and “Silly Seasons” suffice. For now I and many other await the 24 Hours of Daytona.

Do we wait because it’s a great and amazing event? Not really, we wait because it’s the unofficial beginning to the motorsports year, by containing drivers from 7-8+ different series providing almost an All-Star type nature. That’s what we’re missing for the off-season; something that fills the space of November/December/January (possibly even February).
We’ve recently lost A1GP which was out best bet, but it was run so poorly and spread out that I lost its way and died. The Race of Champions is getting better, but its own announcers are unsure of how it operates, rules, and no one is allowed to watch it live (without going the extra mile). In the USA we have major Karting events that pull All-Star type rosters, but the SKUSA Super Nationals were held the week before ROC, so even with these off-season events, we’re still stuck in a lull.

What Do We Need? We need a proper international all-star series. And it needs to not be an expansion of ROC, A1GP or the U.S.’s former IROC series. Instead it needs to pull from all of them, it needs:
Multiple Race dates and locations (happening ONLY during the off-season of major series). A1GP had one thing truly correct, multiple dates touring internationally, with the qualifier that a country needed a “horse in the race” in order to host. It doesn’t need 15 rounds, but anywhere from 4-8 would suffice.
Competition via Nations: A1GP and even ROC has proven this to be the most effective route to make fans/onlookers pay attention to something new/foreign. Anytime you can quickly look and see national flags, it’s easy to pick a rooting interest, regardless of having to know the participants. But there is something neither A1GP nor ROC have done, and that’s requiring the different nations to form a line-up of drivers. Ireland won A1GP using only a single driver, Germany wins ROC using two; essentially it’s not a countrywide effort.  So…
Force roster building and usage: Let’s say there are 7 race weekends involved. At each weekend there are two scored events (14 in all). Here’s the rule, each nation must field 6 different drivers in scoring competitions minimum (no maximum). This means Schumacher can’t run 100% of the events for Germany; at most he could run 9 of the 14. It needs to be more like the Ryder Cup in golf, or Olympics; countries need a strong roster, not just 1 person who holds it all up. Secondarily, it’s also so countries like USA, who have a MASSIVE/DIVERSE set of drivers to choose from, can get many of them in there; this year at ROC we were stuck (again) with Carl Edwards, a debatable-at-best champion, who went a whopping 0-4. This also means that a driver doesn’t have to go to all 4-8 rounds; they can just do one and then let countrymen pick up other dates if they have other commitments.
Competition diversity. This goes along with the schedule, but the rounds should tailor themselves more to helping the many kinds of drivers involved. A1GP was too strong for European drivers, ROC is at least better, but how about a round in the USA that resembles Rally X/Rally America; how about a round in Australia that more resembles V8 Supercars and some dirt buggying? ROC has many cars lying around, as does the former A1GP, which is for sale; and Rally cars aren’t hard to round up.

It needs more drivers/countries. ROC had a whopping 6-1/2 nations represented, not enough. Where were Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, and Brazil!? A1GP at least had that better covered, and it worked great because it let you learn about other countries and their drivers and driver’s backgrounds when they come from other countries.
Lastly, It needs a way for people internationally to watch, without having to pay additional money than what they already pay for internet or TV.

Now… someone with a lot of money, go and do this! I speak broadly above, but hashing out these details are not hard, I’ll do that work, just ask me to, we’ll all be a lot less bored if it can be done

Trop de Course?

This guest post appears as part of the latest round of the VivaF1 Blog Swap, and is written by Maverick from the host site itself.

One group who currently seem to have no fear of being snowed under with Too Much Racing seems to be the French, with no sign of the return of the French Grand Prix and the motorsport industry in general, in the doldrums. That said, you could be forgiven for thinking that as long as they have 24 Heures du Mans, they’ll remain happy.

Often considered the original Grand Prix, having first run in 1906, the French Grand Prix (or Grand Prix de l’ACF as it was) missed just one season of the Formula World Championship in 1955. That was, until 2009 when the race was cancelled with organisers citing economic reasons. Since that announcement at the end of the 2008 season, the French Grand Prix has shown little sign of returning regardless of the number of proposed locations, most notably at Flins-Les Mureaux where plans for a new circuit were eventually abandoned. Despite Magny-Cours recently expressing confidence that a series of improvements would see the race return in 2012, the already crowed calendar would seem to prevent that prospect for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the longer the race remains absent from the Formula One calendar, the less it can rely on playing the “historic race” card.

It’s not only France’s international status that has fallen in to decline. In 2003 the French Formula Three series merged with its German counterpart to form the Formula Three Euroseries as entries dwindled. While the Signature and ART Grand Prix teams have produced a strong French showing in the series, its notable that the French only host a small proportion of the series and just one of this year’s nine meetings took place on French soil.

So Le Mans remains strong but the Grand Prix has gone, meanwhile the third part of French motor racing’s triumvirate, the Pau Grand Prix has become a shadow of its former self. The Pau Grand Prix, the first race to carry the title “Grand Prix” back 1901 was for a period a non-championship F1 race before becoming the jewel in the crown of Formula 2 and then F3000. However, it has gradually lost its lustre in recent years before being suspended altogether this year. It remains to be seen whether the ambitious invitational event for F3 cars planned next year can revive this grand old lady of motorsport.

It’s not only the motor racing though but the whole associated industry that appears to be in the doldrums.

French motorsport as a whole may end up as wistful as Rene Arnoux at the 2003 Goodwood FoS

While there are sparks of optimism, notably Peugeot’s Le Mans exploits while ART Grand Prix has been a force to be reckoned with in GP2 and F3, the inflexible labour market has prevented teams from being competitive with outfits from other countries. If you consider that Renault F1 is fundamentally an English team funded by the French (and now only partly so) then the last French Formula One team was Prost Grand Prix which folded at the beginning of 2002 with debts in the region of $30 million. Prior to that, AGS and Larrouse suffered similar fates while the DAMS F1 project got little further than building a chassis.

The result of that has inevitably filtered down the feeding chain in the form of a lack of support for up and coming, home-grown talent. In recent years, Romain Grosjean, Sébastien Bourdais and Franck Montagny have quickly come and gone and the last French drivers to make a substantial run in F1 were Olivier Panis and Jean Alesi whose careers came to an end in 2004 and 2001 respectively. Perhaps, the few prospects for the future are this year’s British Formula Three Champion, Jean-Eric Vergne, who tested with Toro Rosso in the recent young drivers’ test, and Ferrari test driver Jules Bianchi. However, a few years ago the same would have been said about Grosjean. Unfortunately, the question is whether any of them can secure the necessary financial backing to fund their way to the top echelon of open-wheel racing in a climate of French motor sport apathy.

Still, Le Mans carries on shouldering a nation’s motoring pride (alas, Peugeot’s self destruction spoilt the party this year) and while the French Grand Prix’s absence continues, that reliance will only strengthen in the hearts and minds of the French.

Overall, it’s a sad state of affairs that the country that gave motorsport to the world finds itself in. The French created the Grand Prix and for the early decades of racing their blue cars dominated. Yet that appears to be part of the problem: A look at the racing calendar of French circuits sees classic car races predominant. In short, French motorsport gives the appearance of being content to dwell on the glories of the past with no plan for the future.

Blogger Swap Shop: Perception

As part of the VivaF1 Blogger Swap Shop, I was given the honour of writing for the host blog of the Swap.

Please be sure to head over to VivaF1 to read my thoughts on the perception, talent and prestige of racing drivers both in and out of Formula 1, and where I question what could have been. Enjoy.

If you missed it before, Leigh from the F1 & Motorsports Archive was guest blogger on this very site, you can read his excellent post right here.