IndyCar driver changes for Oz

Here is the entry list for Surfers Paradise this weekend, the non-championship status of the event means some teams are plugging in their ’09 drivers a little early. I’ve marked the changes in italic.

Ganassi……Dixon & Franchitti
Penske…….Castroneves & Briscoe
Andretti Green…Kanaan, Andretti, Patrick, Mutoh
KVRT………Power & Servia
Panther……Wheldon
Foyt……..Meira
Newman/Haas/Lanigan…Wilson & Rahal
Dreyer & Reinbold…Rice & Bell
Coyne……..Junqueira & Moraes
Vision…….Foyt IV & Carpenter
Conquest…..Tagliani & Camara
HVM……….Viso
Rahal-Letterman…Hunter-Reay

Was it just the three? I thought there were more.

Still no love for Danger Mouse Darren Manning – good grief!

Best. Cartoon. Ever.

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Racenotes: 2008 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix

2008 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix
Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China

Coverage from ITV1, their penultimate event before the rights switch to the BBC.
Paddock anchors: Steve Rider & Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Ted Kravitz & Louise Goodman

Coverage started at 7am, I’m coming in at 7.30am although I wasn’t really paying attention for five minutes or so while I was starting Notepad and FIA live timing. I did mean to get up at 7am but I don’t do mornings very well.

I think Sinopec is a fuel company. Yesterday we were told the circuit is 40 minutes to 2 hours from central Shanghai depending on time of day and levels of traffic.

7.45am, Martin is on the grid, this is he:
“Hamilton can secure the driver’s title and Ferrari the constructor’s.
There’s a stadium effect here, between the grandstands and the buildings over the track, one is hospitality and the other is the media centre.
We’ve seen in the support races the drivers who can hang on around the outside of turn one are in the ideal position for turn 2.”

I’ve woken up now I’ve started typing.

Martin talks to Norbert Haug of Mercedes before heading down the grid – but he says not a single driver is near their cars at the moment. Finds Pat Symonds (Renault): “There’s going to be some shenanigans going into the first corner. Let’s keep out of trouble and have a good race.”
Martin throws to Louise with Mark Webber.

Webber: “My fuel load is probably a little lighter than the guys around here because of Q3. Taking a penalty 5 rows back and you’re gone basically.”

Now she’s with Kovalainen: “All we can do is aim to take maximum points. We’re going to be positive, let’s not worry about what might happen.”
Louise: “Enjoy the rest of your birthday.”

The gridwalk is a bit early today so maybe that’s why nobody is around. They go back to Steve & Mark for a bit.

STARTING ORDER
Q3 Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Kovalainen, Vettel, Trulli, Bourdais, Heidfeld *
Q2 Piquet (9th), Kubica, Glock, Barrichello, Rosberg
Q3 Coulthard, Webber**, Nakajima, Button, Sutil, Fisichella

* Heidfeld was P7 but penalised 3 places for holding up DC in qualifying.
** Webber was P6 but penalised 10 places for an engine change.

5 minutes to go, FIA graphics, we go to James Allen and Martin Brundle and at *precisely* this moment the live timing updates – it was showing qualifying results, now it has cleared the timing data and shows the starting order.

Formation lap – this will be a 56 lap race and there is a chance of rain towards the end.
As I write that BMW get on Kubica’s radio to say there could be rain in 20 minutes.

Martin – it’s a longer lap than Fuji, more chance to get the brakes up to temperature, they need to be 700 degrees to work effectively.

Hamilton is on hard tyres, the two Ferraris are on soft tyres. Alonso in 4th on hard tyres.
Cars arrive on the grid, lots of tension..

5.4.3.2.1.GO!

Hamilton takes the lead, Kova around the outside, crash at the back.
Kovalainen is still alongside Alonso. Heikki bags him. Top 3 are as they were on the grid.
On to the back straight and Alonso goes alongside Heikki, and outbrakes him at the end of it. Important move, and interesting that he could pass with horsepower.

Lap 2 – not seen a replay of the start crash yet. On timing it looks like Trulli is the only car damaged and he pits now.
Alonso is pulling away from Heikki.
Ted is at Toyota – the whole right-hand sidepod is flapping everywhere, completely destroyed, it’ll lose him a load of downforce. James suggests he may have hit Bourdais who is now 18th after starting further up.
Replay – Heidfeld drivers around a few cars. Trulli turns in on Bourdais (not again Sebastien!).
Replay of Alonso passing Heikki who got it slightly wrong leading on to the straight, thus losing speed.

L3 – Trulli pulls the car in after letting the leaders through. The car must be too damaged.

L4 – Hamilton pulling away. Webber vs Barrichello, Rubens covers the inside.

L5 – first ad break
Timing shows Webber has taken Rubens for 10th. Hamilton is still faster than everybody, Ferrari next up with Alonso, these are in a race of their own. Kovalainen can’t stay with them and leads Heidfeld and Vettel.

L8 – back from ads
Heikki is 1.2 seconds per lap slower than Lewis and we saw Heikki’s brakes smoking on the grid, Martin says too much temperature in them. It could be hurting him now.

Louise is with Trulli, ‘not the first time you’ve had contact with Bourdais at the start’: “I mean this guy has to cool down a little bit. I had a hit on the rear right and my car was damaged.”

L9 – Webber is all over Piquet, takes him up the inside but too fast, Piquet comes back and they stay together – Piquet has to back out. Radio: “You know he’s light Nelson so don’t worry.”

L10 – Kimi now sets fastest lap. Ted tells us Vettel (P7) will stop a lot shorter than Kubica (P8) but Robert needs to stay within 7 seconds of him.

L13 – Rosberg passes Glock at the hairpin. Webber pits from 10th, James says the leaders are due in shortly. Rosberg’s radio says ‘qualifying laps until you stop’.

L14 – Piquet ran a little wide at the last corner. Webber is now running 18th and has to pass all those guys again, though he’s hoping most of that will come when they pit.
L15 – Massa and Alonso pit. Massa stays on soft tyres, Alonso stays on hards. Massa is 8th behind Kubica, Alonso is 10th behind Piquet.
Adrian Sutil has parked in a little run-off at the last corner.
L16 – Hamilton and Raikkonen pit. Both are on the hard tyres. Hamilton gets out ahead of Vettel with Raikkonen just behind Vettel. Kovalainen leads.
Replay of Sutil’s engine smoking as he pulls over.

L18 – Heidfeld is in.
L19 – Kovalainen and Vettel pit. Hamilton is now in the lead again. We go to an ad break.

Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kubica (not stopped), Massa, Piquet (not stopped), Alonso, Kovalainen, Heidfeld

L21 – Back from break.
L22 – Alonso radio: “Heikki is 6 laps longer than us.”
Lots of marbles on the side of the long straight.

L23 – Ted at McLaren: “Lewis says the car is a lot better and more stable after a half a turn of front wing at the stop.”

Everything is pretty stable right now on the timing screens, they are all matching each other up front.

L25 – Piquet comes in. He beats Vettel and Nakajima. Martin says he tried to pick up a fuel hose the other day and it was very heavy, he struggled with it and that was with no fuel, says it is a very hard job!
L26 – Kubica pits from 3rd. He’s out in 8th behind Coulthard who hasn’t stopped yet.
Replay of Kubica’s stop – they left the tyres on, added fuel and adjusted the front wing. Not often you see tyres left on in F1.

L28 – another ad break, return on L30.
Raikkonen lost 1.4 seconds trying to lap Fisichella.

Hamilton, Raikkonen +7.5, Massa +14.6 from Hamilton, Alonso +21.7, Kovalainen +29.7

L32 – Coulthard and Bourdais having a fight, Sebastien takes the place. Nakajima and Webber pit.
L33 – Glock is in. Massa lost a second passing Fisichella.

L36 – Kovalainen has a puncture! McLaren had been getting ready for him, we saw the mechanics already in the pitlane. They pushed it a little too far. Now he has to run the length of the long straight with it.
Ted: “This is brake-related. We saw them smoking on the grid. Then at the stop there was a lot of black dust, all the team breathed it in.”
Heikki pits and comes back out in 17th. Big news in the Constructors’ championship, McLaren needed him to score.

L37 – Alonso pits.
L38 – Massa is in, he switches to hard tyres. Webber gets on the marbles and runs through the car park.
L39 – Hamilton pits and switches to the soft tyres. Raikkonen is right behind him taking . He’s out just ahead of Massa. Hmmm I wonder if he’ll mysteriously begin to slow down soon and let Massa through..

L40 – Heidfeld is in, he’s out in 6th.
L41 – Kubica pits from 4th, he’s now behind Vettel again. There’s talk of McLaren turning the revs back a bit on Hamilton’s car, they need to take this engine to Brazil whereas Ferrari will have two new engines.

L42 – another ad break. Timing shows Vettel pitting.
L43 – back from ads, James says “this has not been a vintage grand prix”. No kidding. They are all driving away from each other.

L45 – 12 laps to go and I can’t believe Kimi won’t let Massa through. He’s letting him gain a couple of tenths each lap.
L46 – wow we’re going to another ad break already. Rumours on forums say they have to take 5 breaks per race.. Won’t miss this next year on the Beeb!
L48 – back again.
L49 – Kimi completely backs off into the hairpin, Massa is now 2nd. Sensible move given the title situation.

L50 – Kovalainen pits! Did he not take enough fuel when he had the puncture? Maybe not, he parks it in the garage. James and Martin speculate they may have decided to save the engine for Brazil. Ted gets on the phone and says “no, its definitely the brakes, it became undriveable. The man from the brake supplier is here looking very worried.”
Martin – when they get too hot the wear rate goes up exponentially.

L52 – Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso, Heidfeld, Kubica, Glock, Piquet
Alonso is catching Raikkonen. Kubica and Glock are catching Heidfeld. The gaps seem to have come down a little everywhere but nobody is close enough to do any racing.

L55 – Martin: “Interesting isn’t it, 33 starts but only 2 fastest laps for Hamilton.”
L56 – Good drive from Barrichello in 11th in that shitbox of a Honda. Martin suggests Bruno Senna will be testing for Honda soon, maybe he’ll be racing the car next year.

L57 – Hamilton Wins!

Massa 2nd, Raikkonen 3rd, Alonso 4th, Heidfeld 5th, Kubica 6th

Martin: “We’ve had some thrilling races this year, this wasn’t one of them, Hamilton won’t care will he?” He gives ‘driver of the day’ to Hamilton.

Congratulatory radio calls.

ITV sells us some more products as the cars head to parc ferme.

Drivers are in the little waiting room now having a bit of a chill out.
To the podium!
British anthem for Hamilton and McLaren. Dreary little ditty not suited to a celebration at all.

Trophy-giving, a bit fell off Hamilton’s trophy! Massa does not look happy, he’s very down. Martin: “Lovely man is Felipe Massa, a man you’d sit beside on an aeroplane or have around for dinner.”

Champagne!

Steve and Mark are in pitlane, behind Mark a throng of people pack out the start/finish straight.

After more adverts and a results review we go to the press conf.

Lewis: “Team have done a phenomenal job. I owe so much to the guys, the car is a dream to drive.” Peter Windsor suggests it was an easy win. “It was quite straightforward actually, made a great start, one of the best we had this year. Fortunately we were very consistent therefore I was able to create a gap. After my second stop we were just trying to look after the engine and tyres.”
Lewis seems quite quiet and understated today as well.

Felipe: “For us the hard tyre was not quick, difficult to drive, the soft was the only option. At the start I had a bit of wheelspin, then we just stayed in the same positions. Lewis was pulling away 3 tenths per lap, we were on the limit. Lewis had the better car. I think for the drivers championship it was not fantastic but for the constructors it was very good.”

Kimi: “We won as a team, its normal in these situations. The car was handling quite nicely but it wasn’t fast enough. Every time when I was faster it was too late. I got traffic three times and it cost me a lot of time. 2nd and 3rd was the best we could do but hopefully next race we can challenge a bit more.” Pete asks the inevitible team order question. “I know what the team expects, I have nothing to lose I’m driving for the team.”

Lewis again. Peter says: “7 points was your lead last year, 7 points is your lead this year into the last race in 2008*”
Lewis: “I know going to Brazil will be much different to last year, we know we’ve got to do a good job, these two will be pushing hard.”

Long conference today, longer than I’ve written down, thanks to ITV for sticking with it.

Steve & Mark briefly review the race with replays. A crowd has gathered to watch them! That’s funny!

Results
01. Hamilton 56 laps in 1h31m57.403s [10 pts]
02. Massa +14.925s [8]
03. Raikkonen +16.445s [6]
04. Alonso +18.370s [5]
05. Heidfeld +28.923s [4]
06. Kubica +33.219s [3]
07. Glock +41.722s [2]
08. Piquet +56.645s [1]
09. Vettel +64.339s
10. Coulthard +74.842s
11. Barrichello +85.061s
12. Nakajima +90.847s
13. Bourdais +91.457s
14. Webber +92.422s
15. Rosberg + 1 lap
16. Button + 1 lap
17. Fisichella + 1 lap
DNF Kovalainen (brakes)
DNF Sutil (engine?)
DNF Trulli (crash damage)

Fastest Lap: Hamilton 1m36.325

(results from Autosport.com who had them online unbelievably quickly)

World Drivers’ Championship
01. Hamilton 94
02. Massa 87
03. Kubica 75 (eliminated from title race)
04. Raikkonen 69
05. Heidfeld 60
06. Alonso 53 [+1]
07. Kovalainen 51 [-1]
08. Vettel 30
09. Trulli 30
10. Glock 22 [+1]
11. Webber 21 [-1]
12. Piquet 19

Hamilton extends the gap by 2 points and now leads by 7. All of the top six scored today. That top six now includes Alonso who has passed Kovalainen.

World Constructors’ Championship
01. Ferrari 156
02. McLaren 145
03. BMW 135
04. Renault 72
05. Toyota 52
06. Toro Rosso 34
07. Red Bull 29
08. Williams 26
09. Honda 14

Ferrari have a 9 point lead with 16 available in Brazil. McLaren will need Kovalainen to bring a better game to that race to pick up as many points as possible on a track were Ferrari are always strong.
Red Bull will need to score well to avoid the embarrasment of being beaten by the B-team!

The title-deciding race will be at Interlagos, Sau Paulo, Brazil on November 2nd. Not only is a Brit in the running, this will be ITV’s last race for the forseeable future so their coverage may be a little emotionally charged.

Bernie and ITV will be happy that it has gone to Brazil because that race gets away at 6pm here – prime time Sunday ratings!

Preview: 2008 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix

To the 4th Chinese GP, and the Space Station Shanghai for the penultimate race of the 2008 season. Following some strange calls from officials last week in Japan let’s hope this week’s on-track action doesn’t end up in front of the stewards.

If you’ve seen this race before you’ll know why I refer to it as a space station. The media centre and offices are HUGE and straddle the track like some alien ship has landed at the circuit for a day at the races. Or it could be in orbit somewhere. You can imagine smaller craft docking with it – or maybe I need to get out more.

This is another of those tracks designed by the ubiquitous Herman Tilke, who says he modelled the layout on the Chinese character ‘shang’ (from Shanghai). I guess he ran out of ideas that week so copied the promoter’s letterhead.

Obviously the teams don’t fly the trucks halfway around the world so at the ‘flyaways’ the circuit owners lay on special facilities. This week the teams are based in tranquil-looking huts at the back of the pits, set among waterways and plants and stuff. It looks nice. No such luxury in Brazil in a couple of weeks.

One year ago Lewis Hamilton and McLaren blew his first shot at the World Championship by destroying his tyres and not calling him in for new ones, respectively. When he eventually pitted, he threw it into a little gravel trap set just off the pitlane entry. Okay you can argue they were waiting to see which way the weather would go, it had been raining on and off for a while and they needed to know whether to go for dry or intermediate tyres. Hindsight is a wonderful thing yet I remember thinking they should at least pit him for something. The tyres were delaminating. Raikkonen was 17 points back before China ’07 and 7 behind after it. Kimi then won the title.

This year Hamilton can confirm himself as Champion by scoring 5 points more than Massa. Massa can take the fight to Brazil by closing that gap, and ideally needs to beat his opponent by a couple of positions. Both men are under tremendous pressure to perform well and you can easily argue both cracked in Japan. Can they regroup in China? How effective will their team-mates be in helping take points from the other team’s contender?

Both Alonso and Kubica are on form at the moment – can they steal a win? Alonso especially is on a roll at the moment and has made public comments that he is in it to support Massa. After his year alongside Hamilton I would expect nothing else…

Kubica is an interesting one. Aside from Hamilton and Massa, Robert is the only other driver not mathematically eliminated from the title fight. He’s still some way back and will have to score well with the others (esp. Hamilton) having problems – yet Lewis and Felipe have both struggled to score decent points lately while Robert has been notching up the points finishes. Don’t count him out just yet.

We may also hear news of Sebastien Bourdais’ movements – if any – for 2009. I hope STR see sense and keep him around.

Event Times
Qualifying is on Saturday at 2pm local / 7am UK / 2am US EST.
Racing starts on Sunday at 3pm local / 8am UK / 3am US EST. Check your listings for TV coverage start times.

If you are watching live remember to make use of the live timing at http://www.formula1.com, a link is on the main page (remember to ‘load in big window’).

F1 News – Update
Further to my post yesterday, Formula1.com now has official video from multiple positions on each of the three contentious decisions from the Japanese GP. See my previous post for the video link and my comments.

Thoughts on a strange week in F1

I can use that heading in any week of the year, yet this week seems more even more bizarre than most.

The 25-second post-race penalty applied to Sebastien Bourdais in the hours after the Japanese Grand Prix has been universally panned, in fact I haven’t seen a single person agree with it. (In the interests of balance I haven’t been able to find any Ferrari quotes). This is actually quite unusual despite what the English-speaking media might pretend after other penalties going in favour of Ferrari. There are usually a few (or more) ardent Ferrari fans arguing in favour of the penalty. I can’t find any in this case.

For example, after Belgium this year there was plenty of opinion from elsewhere in the world agreeing with the penalty, although you might not believe if from reading a lot of the British-based press corps.

This penalty does nothing to reduce the belief that the FIA stewards have an inherent Ferrari bias. Neither do the continued rumours that Jean Todt, team principal of the race team until he was promoted higher up the company some 12-18 months ago, will be taking over from Max Mosely as FIA President or joining the FIA in some other high-ranking capacity.

Until last year the FIA had a permanent steward at each race, Tony Scott-Andrews. He brought much needed consistency to the rulings and was widely praised by all in the paddock. This ended when he departed at the end of 2007 after only one year in the job. We are now back to the earlier situation with three different stewards at each meeting. One is from the national sporting body of the host country. Consider the countries which host F1 races these days, they are not the hotbeds of motorsport that some of the other countries are, and other former host countries still are. There are some pretty inexperienced guys making these calls and none of them have ever sat in a Formula One car.

The FIA has rules about which drivers are allowed to drive F1 cars in races. They have to have had F1 race experience, or have finished in the top 3 in selected championships the previous year, or have completed 300km of testing. That gets you a Superlicence which allows you to race in a Grand Prix.

I propose a Superlicence for race stewards. I want these people to have had experience officiating F1 Grands Prix, or have performed a similar role in another top line or feeder championship for at least a year. I want there to be a permanent steward who attends every GP and chairs the stewards’ meetings, as Tony Scott-Andrews did.

Other News
Just a week after the FIA pulled the Canadian GP, the French themselves have cancelled the French Grand Prix for “economic reasons”. Remember that France has struggled to get on the calendar for the last two seasons, that 2007 was supposed to be the last ever race at Magny-Cours. The same was said in 2008 before the 2009 race was announced. The promoter for the French GP is the French national motorsport federation, the FFSA, and technically another promoter could step in.

As things stand we’re now down to 17 races next year. Canada and France have been financially unstable for a while so I don’t think this is the start of a domino effect. On the other hand, I didn’t expect them to actually go…
Perhaps with France gone that re-opens the door for a new deal with Canada or the US? Maybe under the current global financial climate Bernie is willing to renegotiate? I’ve seen rumours floating around that Chris Pook of Long Beach fame is working on an F1 venue on the Western coast of the US.

Max & Bernie have been talking this week about changing the engines to a spec formula provided by a single manufacturer. ‘Cos that’ll persuade the car companies to stick around, right boys? Maybe they actually want to drag us kicking and screaming back to the 1970s with Ferrari vs Everyone Else using Cosworths. Maybe because they were successful as team owners in that period they think it’s the only thing that’ll work now.

The new FOTA organisation of team representatives has suggested a ban on refuelling and a reduction in race length. And I thought Max Mosely was crazy…

I finally caught up with the Japanese MotoGP on Tuesday. Belated congratulations to Valentino Rossi! Now there’s a guy dominating racing who I actually like – and that doesn’t happen often. They have a race in Malaysia this weekend at Sepang. I need to watch the Australian round first…

My F1 Chinese GP preview will be up tomorrow.

* UPDATE 16/10/08 *
Formula1.com has uploaded video of all of the contentious issues from the Japanese Grand Prix:
http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2008/10/8530.html
After seeing this, I’ve changed my view.
#1 Hamilton initiated the two Ferraris leaving the track by locking up, however Kovalainen was the car who pushed them wide simply by following Lewis around.
#2 Massa’s onboard camera clearly shows him accelerating toward Hamilton at the chicane. He was pulling a Schumi. Not good.
#3 This is as blatantly obvious as it was watching it live. Massa turned in on him. Just as an aside, that last angle shows the incredible stopping power of these cars… its easy to forget just how good they are at braking.

Race Notes: 2008 Japanese Grand Prix

2008 Fuji TV Japanese Grand Prix
Fuji Speedway, Sizouka, Japan
4.563km (of which 1.5km is the main straight!)
Scheduled distance: 67 laps

ITV1 *live*
Anchors/Analysts: Martin Brundle & Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Ted Kravitz & Louise Goodman

Martin is pulling double-duty this weekend, Steve Rider was at Wembley yesterday for a football World Cup qualifier against the mighty Kazakhstan. England won 5-1.

The usual one hour pre-race show got under way at 4.30am UK time, obviously I said “screw that” so I’m joining coverage just before the cars leave for the formation lap (it’s now 5.25am or so).
There will be no long preamble from me today and I might struggle to get all the usual details. I don’t do mornings well.
(I later came back and edited for spelling, results and penalties)

START ORDER

Q3: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kovalainen, Alonso, Massa, Kubica, Trulli, Glock, Vettel, Bourdais
Q2: DC, Piquet, Webber, Nakajima, Rosberg
Q1: Heidfeld, Barrichello, Button, Sutil, Fisichella

Massa is starting on soft tyres, everyone else on the hard. It is not raining.

5.4.3.2.1.go!

Kimi takes the lead but is immediately passed by Hamilton who pushes through.
BIG impact, Coulthard hard in the wall, car is destroyed and he’s out. Nakajima is damaged in the same incident. Safety Car? There was a lot of debris.

Starting Lap 2 Kubica somehow leads?? Kimi was pushed wide and lost positions. Naka pits for new wing.
Hamilton on Massa, gets him but Massa had nowhere to go and spins Hamilton around! Martin Brundle called it half a second before it happened. Lewis has to wait for the field to pass and rejoins last, and actually he pits.

Lap 3 – replays: Martin says Massa was always going to come back over, Lewis didn’t give enough racing room even though Felipe was a long way across.

Lap 4 – Kubica, Alonso, Kova, Trulli, Kimi (who sets Fastest lap), Bourdais(!), Massa, Glock, Piquet, Vettel, Sutil, Button, Heidfeld, Webber, Barrichello, Fisichella, Rosberg, Hamilton, Nakajima

Replay of the start – Lewis locked the brakes in turn one, which pushes both Ferraris and McLarens wide, which is how they all lost positions. Coulthard’s suspension was broken before he hit the wall. Failure or contact in turn one?
Lap 5 – Glock pits for a slow stop – his team didn’t expect him.

Lap 6, short laptimes here – ITV are taking ad breaks already?
Lap 7 (ads) – can see on live timing that Glock is in again. The text says he’s getting out of the car.
We’re back on lap 8. NO replays or mention of Glock. We do get a replay of Kimi passing Trulli for 4th.

Lap 9 – Sutil pulls off the road with big damage to the right rear wheel. Tyre failure Brundle thinks, maybe caused by debris from the Coulthard crash.

L10 – Martin says Lewis Hamilton did the whole start badly and ‘we hear he flat-spotted his tyres down to the canvas’ – hence the pit stop.

L11 – Replays of Fisi, Rosberg, Button. We see a lot debris on the main straight which is very dangerous, the cars are at top speed, top downforce. Martin says this actually must be where Sutil’s tyre failure came from as he pulled over at pit exit.
L12 – Caption: “Incidents involving cars 1, 2, 22 under investigation.” Kimi, Massa, Lewis, prompts further replay. Martin says Massa was always going to come back but James says “but you’re supposed to stay on the track” which Massa did not, his opinion is Massa just drove off road and took out Lewis.
L14 – Hamilton one minute behind the leaders but catching the back of the field at 2 seconds per lap. He’s up to 16th due to early attrition.

Kovalainen and Raikkonen are not making in-roads on Kubica and Alonso. BMW struggled in qualifying, Heidy started 16th and Kubica was nearly out early in qualifying as well, he scraped through each session and did a decent lap in the last one.

L15 – Louise with Sutil. Lots of debris in the road from the Coulthard incident, he went wide in turn 6 and over the grass, caused it to jump in the air (the car not the grass), when it landed it broke the suspension.
Rosberg passes Fisichella for 13th, they’ve now dropped Button.

L17 – ad break as they cross the line and Kimi’s timing goes purple, he’s still fastest out there but only 0.1s better than the 3 ahead.

L18 – We’re back just as Kubica and Raikkonen pit and we’re told Massa and Hamilton have been given McDonalds penalties. Drive thru. Kubica beat Raikkonen in the pits.
Hamilton takes his penalty.
L19 – Alonso pits after leading one lap. Massa pits for his stop. We’re not being shown where cars come out, other than Massa who is ahead of Barrichello meaning he’s 10th.
Heikki is slow.. he pulls over! He was running quickly up front and taking points from Massa, helping Hamilton. McLaren did NOT need this.
L20 – Massa takes his penalty.
Hamilton’s penalty was for forcing a car off-track at turn one. Massa’s penalty for colliding with Hamilton.

L21 – Lewis is lapped by Trulli who leads. Alonso is told “Kubica is 5 laps longer, fuel 4, push like hell mate”. Martin reckons ‘fuel 4’ is the quickest setting. Not sure how he knows as each car is different.
L22 – Trulli pits. Ted says we don’t often see a penalty for pushing a car wide, Martin says he needs to see another camera angle, the stewards have more angles available than we do.
Should note here that ITV do not control the pictures unless they interject with their own camera in pitlane/paddock, they don’t do that often.

EDIT – Fuji TV is doing the TV work here, not the usual FOM, which is why we missed pit exit a lot today. This is a hangover from the old days when each country would have a ‘host broadcaster’ providing pics and a director who would invariably focus on that country’s ‘star’ driver or team. When Renault were winning a lot in 2005, we sat through an entire GP of just looking at Renaults. FOM only took over in the last 2 years as the contracts ran out. Japan and Brazil I *think* are the only two remaining. Notice how we looked at Nakajima a lot in qualifying.

L24 – Fisichella is pushed into the garage. Bourdais Leads! Piquet is 2ND! Vettel 3rd, no, he pits. This would be why teams run longer..

Vettel is out alongside Heidfeld, defends the position. He’s now 8th.

Recap top 10: Bourdais, Piquet, Alonso, Kubica, Kimi, Webber, Trulli, Vettel, Heidfeld. Alonso is the leader in the clubhouse, those who have stopped for fuel. Massa 13th, Hamilton 14th. Championship contenders will not score at this rate.

Louise with Heikki as Rosberg passes Rubens: Heikki says it was an engine failure.
Rubens re-passes Nico! Bourdais pits and drops to 7th.

L27 – Hamilton unlapped himself when the leaders pitted and he’s catching Massa quickly – Massa is behind Button and losing time. Piquet leads because he’s not stopped.

L29 – Piquet is in, rejoins.. 6th, Bourdais goes to pass him! Doesn’t make it.
Louise with Coulthard now: ‘I went inside of Bourdais, found myself between two cars, lots of bumping.’ ‘We were all bumping together.’ Whatever damaged was caused there sent him out.
Massa takes Button. We go to an ad break to avoid hearing Alonso’s radio again. Alonso leads from Kubica and Raikkonen.

L33 – We’re back and hear Alonso asking who they are racing, maybe that was the call we missed. Renault reply: “Kubica!” ITV disagree – Kimi is only 5sec behind Kubica and is quick. I agree with ITV.
L34 – Hamilton passes Button for 13th on the straight, candy from a baby. Webber pits, the only frontrunning guy not to have done so. Ted says his rear tyres are very worn. He’s out in 10th but shouldn’t need another stop.

L37 – Martin: If the results stay like this McLaren will have to worry about Kubica (in the points), add 8 points to his score and he’s only 12 behind Hamilton.
L38 – Nakajima pits.
More adverts! I swear they didn’t used to have this many in the early morning races.

We’re back on L40. Nothing has changed other than the Hondas pitting, nobody cares about that.
James tells us that Alonso is setting identical laptimes consistently. 1:19.2 every. single. lap. Says something about ‘the drive of a champion’.

L41 – Heidfeld pits. Massa takes Webber for 10th! Hamilton pits. The green grooves were wearing off of Hamilton’s tyres. Martin says Lewis has completed his stops, Massa has one more to make and points are definitely on – also mentions Massa will have to pass Webber again because Mark isn’t planning on stopping again.

L43 – Raikkonen had fallen back from Alonso but is now quicker again. Rosberg pitted unseen by us. Hamilton passes Barrichello.
L44 – Alonso pits from the lead. “Tweak of front wing” says Martin. He’s out behind Bourdais who was lapping a Honda at the time.

Kubica radio: How’s the balance? “Understeer, understeer, poor traction.”
Martin: “That’s both ends sliding then, that’s tough to fix.”
I missed the second part of the radio while typing that..

L46 – Kimi sets new fastest lap. He’s got 10 this year already, if he gets his 11th at this race that’s a new record for fastest laps in a season.
L47 – Kubica pits so Kimi leads. Robert is out behind Vettel, 7th.
James says ‘Alonso is now looking good for the win’. Martin says ‘good stop from BMW, now Kimi has to nail his out-lap to beat Kubica for 2nd.’
L49 – Kimi pits. Kubica JUST beats Kimi! Pulls away a little with momentum. Massa has just set fastest lap.
Martin mentions that Piquet and Bourdais have done a very good job today and are going to be rewarded. They are up front but yet to stop, Bourdais is pretty fast too.
L51 – Trulli pits. Massa sets a 1m18.8 – oh no! Bourdais exits the pits and hits Massa! Replay: looks like Massa cut across into Bourdais – Sebastien had nowhere to go, he was on the inside line. Massa’s fault.
L52 – Raikkonen has caught Kubica. Piquet pits. Kimi tried to pass Kubica into turn one, Robert defends that one. Not sure where Piquet is now.

L54 – Kubica and Raikkonen side by side! Kimi gets pushed wide.
Massa pitted during that, we don’t see where he gets out. Timing shows Piquet is still up in 4th, good run from him.
L55 – Caption – Incident involving cars 2 and 14 to be investigated after the race. Massa and Bourdais..
Piquet had passed Trulli in those stops and is CATCHING the Kubica/Raikkonen fight! We go to ads again. I reckon Piquet is driving for his career, there have been rumours di Grassi or Grosjean will replace him.

L58 – Piquet radio: “you’re 1 second quicker than Raikkonen, let’s see if we can overtake him”

10 to go: Alonso, Kubica, Raikkonen, Piquet, Trulli, Bourdais, Vettel, Webber, Heidfeld, Massa, Rosberg, Hamilton, Rubens, Button, Nakajima.

L61 – Martin can see that Kimi’s rear tyres have gone away, the fight now is Massa vs Heidfeld, we cut to it – Massa passes Heidfeld on the main straight! P9 now, Webber is next up but is somewhat slower after chewing up his tyres one-stopping.
Slowmo close-up of Webber’s front tyres, he’s worn the grooves away! No wonder he’s slow.

L63 – Piquet has dropped away from Raikkonen. Ted reports Lewis has been slow all day due to damage to his bargeboards and other aero devices on lap one.
L65 – Massa passes Webber for 8th position and one point, bit of a risky move against the pitwall, he could have gone the other side of Webber. Martin says that’s what Raikkonen should have done against Kubica!

L66 – Renault guys run across pitlane to climb on the wall. Hamilton unlaps himself from Alonso. Martin: It may seem pointless but if anyone breaks down on the last lap he’ll gain a position or two.

L67 – ALONSO WINS!

Two in a row. Well driven. Kubica 2nd, Raikkonen 3rd, Piquet, Trulli, Bourdais, Vettel, Massa, Webber, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Hamilton, Barrichello, Button, Naka.

Cars roll into pitlane. Alonso climbs on to his car in his usual style. Ted is with Alan Permane, the guy on Alonso’s radio. “We’re going for four in a row!”
Top 3 are making their way upstairs. Bit of water.. that’s right make sure you tidy up your overalls, get that money in.. and outside to the podium..
Spanish anthem for Alonso.
French anthem for Renault (though the cars are made in Britain). Alonso chatting to Kubica through this one.
Points mean prizes, Alonso gets given something so big he can put his 50″ plasma screen on it.
Champagne!

7:30am, I’m going back to bed. I’ll add full results and points later. I might even watch the afternoon rerun to watch the pre-race and post-race talking. I half-listened to the post-race, ITV did get out of there pretty quickly, I was speedily re-reading this for errors but I can’t take in any more information.. will proofread again later!

EDIT – Provisional Race Results
(from autosport.com)
01. Alonso 67 laps in 1h30:21.892 [10 points]
02. Kubica +5.283 [8]
03. Raikkonen +6.400 [6]
04. Piquet +20.570 [5]
05. Trulli +23.767 [4]
06. Bourdais +34.085 [3]
07. Vettel +39.207 [2]
08. Massa +46.158 [1]
09. Webber +50.811
10. Heidfeld +54.120
11. Rosberg +1:02.096
12. Hamilton +1:18.900
13. Barrichello + 1 lap
14. Button + 1 lap
15. Nakajima + 1 lap
DNF Fisichella
DNF Kovalainen
DNF Sutil
DNF Glock
DNF Coulthard

Fastest Lap: Massa 1:18.426 (Kimi will have to wait to claim that record)

World Driver’s Championship Points
01. 84 Hamilton
02. 78 Massa
03. 72 Kubica
04. 63 Raikkonen
05. 56 Heidfeld
06. 51 Kovalainen
07. 48 Alonso
08. 30 Trulli [+1]
09. 29 Vettel [-1]
10. 20 Glock & Webber
12. 18 Piquet

The title gap reduces by 1 point. Kubica is still closing in on the main protagonists. Alonso is rapidly catching Kovalainen.

World Constructor’s Championship Points
01. 141 Ferrari [+1]
02. 135 McLaren [-1]
03. 128 BMW
04. 66 Renault
05. 50 Toyota

McLaren scored zero here, Ferrari get 6 and BMW 8 to gain on the pair of them. The biggest points haul was Renault with 15.

UPDATE AFTER PENALTIES
Sebastien Bourdais has been given a 25-second penalty for causing a collision with Felipe Massa on exiting the pitlane. I wish I was making this up because that’s bullshit! He wasn’t given the racing room, Massa tagged him not the other way around.

This drops Bourdais from 6th to 10th and gives Vettel, Massa and Webber an extra point each. The affected section of the results:

06. Vettel +39.207 [3]
07. Massa +46.158 [2]
08. Webber +50.811 [1]
09. Heidfeld +54.120
10. Bourdais +34.085 + 25.000s = +59.085s

Revised WDC Points
01. 84 Hamilton
02. 79 Massa
03. 72 Kubica
04. 63 Raikkonen
05. 56 Heidfeld
06. 51 Kovalainen
07. 48 Alonso
08. 30 Vettel & Trulli
10. 21 Webber
11. 20 Glock
12. 18 Piquet

Vettel places ahead of Trulli on ‘quality of results’, i.e. if you are on the same points the decider is your best finishing position.

Revised WCC Points
01. 142 Ferrari [+1]
02. 135 McLaren [-1]
03. 128 BMW
04. 66 Renault
05. 50 Toyota
06. 36 Toro Rosso
07. 29 Red Bull
08. 26 Williams
09. 14 Honda
10. 0 Force India & Super Aguri

The next race is the Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai next weekend, the penultimate round of the Championship!

Preview: 2008 Japanese Grand Prix

Preview: 2008 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix

This weekend sees the second visit to the revised Fuji Speedway (owned by Toyota) after many successful years at Suzuka (owned by Honda). I always enjoyed the racing at Suzuka. It was unique for being the only figure-of-8 layout in major motorsport as well as being a demanding circuit for the drivers. This was because it was designed as a test track for Honda in the 1960s by the same guy who did the original Zandvoort (not the current Zandvoort).

F1 visited Fuji twice before, in 1976 and 1977. These races I know very little about except that one of them was held in appallingly wet conditions and that one of them was a title decider between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. It might have been the same race because I remember Lauda pulled out of the wet race saying it was too dangerous.

Fast forward to 2007 and the return to a massively redeveloped Fuji for a race held in appallingly wet conditions. Modern safety rules being what they are, the cars circulated behind the Safety Car for the first 19 laps (yes, 19 out of 67, not a typo!), and it was the right decision – the conditions were dreadful with almost zero visibility. If the 70s guys had the same stuff I don’t blame Lauda for stopping in those pre-Safety Car days.

The conditions were such that we didn’t actually see a lot of the circuit redevelopment on TV, there was just too much spray. I hope we’ll get to see it this time so that we can properly criticise it on Sunday. I mean really, ditching Suzuka? What were they thinking?

The distinguishing features of Fuji are that is has a 1.5km main straight, possibly the longest in F1? I’m not sure because next week we go to Shanghai which also has a ridiculously long straight. The rest of Fuji is made up of unremarkable corners with acres of run-off, from what I recall. To be fair to the designers they wanted to stay reasonably close to the original design, and the topography of the land didn’t offer many options. The track is very close to Mount Fuji so it is in a mountainous region. We didn’t see anything of the mountain last year because of the clouds blocking the view, I really hope we get to see the place at its best this year despite my reservations about the circuit layout.

We’ll see the cars back at Suzuka in 2009 as the two circuits have agreed to alternate, just as Hockenheim/Nurburging do in Germany. I hope this doesn’t set a trend where we’ll alternate the entire calendar in future!

The 2008 Japanese Grand Prix gets under way at 13.30 local time which is 05.30am here in the UK. At this time of year I have no idea what DST is doing around the world, I think that makes it 00:30 Eastern in the US but you should check.
Wherever you are * remember it starts on the half hour *.

Qualifying is at 14:00 local, 06:00 UK, and that is on the hour as usual.

F1 News
Bridgestone have added green grooves to all tyres this weekend to promote eco issues. That’ll work, well done boys. It won’t really mean the majority of fans asking “why is there green paint all over the tyres?”, and “isn’t all this extra paint very much eco-unfriendly?”.
The softer compound will continue to be marked with a white groove as well as the green. We can add this to the long list of reasons why I’ll be glad to see slicks again next season!

Just days after I was wistfully remembering the late 90s and the days of the rumoured engine deals among the mid- and back-field teams, Force India is rumoured to be switching from Ferrari to Mercedes engines! I swear I can see the future in my dreams. I AM Isaac off of Heroes, although I blog instead of paint. Painting with words.

Ferrari has announced they will no longer use their ‘traffic light’ pit signalling system for the remainder of the year – meanwhile Honda have erected a different design at their pit boxes in Fuji for use this weekend, I’m not sure if they are testing it in practice or if they intend to use it in the race too.

Blog News
Sorry for the delay in writing this preview, I was shattered yesterday after a long and boring day learning about tax and financial statements – I will attempt to do the Chinese preview on Wednesday unless I’m still doing homework by then!

I ditched the clock thing because it didn’t work well for this site, and I rewrote the bottom panel. I now have flags of my county, nation, country and continent because unlike most people in this country I am actually proud to represent all of those things rather than just one or two.

See you Sunday.

GP2 Catch-up: Hockenheim

I tell you what, it was really refreshing to watch an open-wheel race without sitting here tapping out a load of notes about it. I did find my concentration lapsing, my short attention span causing me to drift away. I’m not sure if this is because the race was so old (July), because I don’t care enough about the participants this year, or because I’m now used to note-taking during the racing.

This is a short summary of the two races.

Feature Race
This was fairly tedious most of the way through, the drivers just couldn’t make a pass work. I swear there was more passing in the F1 race the next day and that NEVER happens with GP2. There was the odd good move but it was pretty much decided in the pits and a faultless drive from Romain Grosjean – until the rain fell with just 5 laps remaining. Chaos!
Senna and di Grassi, who were running about 5th, took to the pitlane for wet tyres and fell some 25 seconds behind the remaining leaders including Grosjean and Pantano, who stayed out and tried to hang on.
The rain held at one end of the circuit, yet it was fairly dry at the other end (at the pits). The race became a question of whether the guys who stopped would catch the guys who didn’t – and whether the latter would spin out – before we ran out of laps.
Several drivers spun out, most of whom were on dry tyres, but Grosjean and Pantano held on to finish 1st and 2nd respectively. I believe the top wet-shod finisher was Senna in 4th. Parente was 3rd and I can’t recall if he pitted or not.

The result was short-lived as Grosjean was later given a time penalty for overtaking under yellow flags during the wet-weather period – and there were a lot of yellow flags. The penalty reversed the top two positions giving Pantano maximum points (inc. fastest lap).

Sprint Race
Sunday’s race was more eventful with some good moves both at the hairpin, and at the Mercedes… err… bit. It stayed dry throughout so it looks like several guys made some good calls on setup.
The best drive of the day was Mike Conway who after a dreadful Feature race had to start this one from 24th. He finished 9th without the aid of the Safety Car!
Giorgio Pantano was out early with a broken steering arm after a hit with Soucek. Lucas di Grassi was out shortly afterwards when Maldonado used him as a brake at the hairpin. This was time for the others to claim valuable points.

Karun Chandhok put in a very good drive against Andi Zuber to claim a deserved win, with Senna fighting up to 3rd and Grosjean 4th.
There was some pretty good racing throughout the field, which didn’t spread out as much as it often does. I wonder if that was down to the lack of pit stops in the sprint?

I won’t detain you with the points standings for a 3-month old race but I would like to keep posting these little summaries until I complete the season. I’m considering covering A1GP in the same way which I’ll only begin when I’ve done GP2. I haven’t decided on GP2 Asia yet, last year’s Asia series was so dull I’m not too bothered about it.

Come back soon for my preview of F1’s Japanese Grand Prix featuring green grooves!