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.

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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!

2009 F1 calendar: Canadian GP dropped!

The FIA has today released the final schedule for the 2009 Formula 1 season. A provisional calendar was announced in June.

The big surprise was that the Canadian Grand Prix has been removed. GrandPrix.com suggests that Norman Legault, organiser and promoter of the CGP, has struggled to meet the $$$ demands made by the F1 Group. This doesn’t surprise me because a lot of F1 promoters are struggling at the moment, such as Germany.

There are also the recurring problems with the track surface at Circuit du Gilles Villeneuve. Year after year they struggle to produce a suitable racing surface and this year things finally came to a head when the track was almost declared ‘unraceable’, before some overnight repair work just about solved things – and there were still concerns throughout the race that perhaps the surface would not last.

I do have some sympathy with them as it must be a hell of a problem to try and beat the temperature fluctuations which are said to be huge, between very low in winter to very high in summer. It causes all kinds of havoc with the asphalt. But still.. you kind of expect that the event organisers would know about the local conditions by now?

On the whole, I think the F1 community was willing to put up with a crappy track surface because they need a North American round, although they might have started to push for an alternative venue if it had happened again. This is why my thoughts return to this being a problem securing the money.

I can’t say it has ever been my favourite venue partly for the annual track surface issues, partly because it seems to breed Safety Cars and carnage. Someone should spend a shed load of money developing Mont Tremblant, the sole Champ Car race there was excellent. I say ‘developing’ not ‘redeveloping’ on purpose! I’d like to see extra run off etc., rather than a complete reworking.

Turkey is moved into Canada’s slot in June, which frees a gap in August for the annual summer break which was largely missing this season. Italy and Belgium jump around a bit so that Valencia and Spa are back-to-back with Monza a fortnight later.

As previously announced, there will be a new event in Abu Dhabi, details of which are sorely lacking. It was supposed to be a race around a marina, part street track and partly on a purpose-built racetrack. That plan was canned a few months ago and I don’t believe their current plans have been announced, I would expect that to change when we get to November and the T minus 12 months marker.

Here is the 2009 calendar from the formula1.com announcement:

29 March – Australia
5 April – Malaysia
19 April – Bahrain
10 May – Spain
24 May – Monaco
7 June – Turkey
21 June – Great Britain
28 June – France
12 July – Germany
26 July – Hungary
23 August – Europe (Valencia)
30 August – Belgium
13 September – Italy
27 September – Singapore
11 October – Japan
18 October – China
1 November – Brazil
15 November – Abu Dhabi

(funny, you’d think the offical F1 site would be all over the event sponsors, oh well maybe they don’t want the publicity)

F1 driver market as at 6 Oct ’08

The driver market is falling into place, certainly in F1 anyway, while IndyCar is getting there and obviously GP2 as usual won’t sort itself out until the weekend of the first race (and we’ve got GP2 Asia to sort out first!).

This is how I see things in F1 right now:

Ferrari – Kimi & Massa (both confirmed to 2010)

McLaren – Lewis & Heikki (is Heikki confirmed?)

BMW – Heidfeld & Kubica (both confirmed today)

Renault – unconfirmed, I think Alonso will stick around now that the other options are dried up. I would tip either Romain Grosjean or Lucas di Grassi to replace Piquet Jr, they’d probably go for Grosjean although I do like di Grassi.

Toyota – Trulli & Glock (not sure if these are confirmed)

Honda – Barrichello & Button (not sure if these are confirmed)

Williams – Rosberg & Nakajima (confirmed last week)

Red Bull – Webber & Vettel (confirmed last month)

Toro Rosso – not confirmed, I’m going to say Bourdais and Buemi.

Force India – not confirmed, I’m going to say Fisichella and the other seat could contain frankly anybody. I like Sutil but I’m not sure he’s matching or beating Fisi enough times.

So there are still some seats to fill. Something I miss about the 1990s is the speculation about which team will have which engines, I always enjoyed that even if the teams didn’t! I miss wondering whether Jordan will have Honda or Cosworth engines.

I’m not going to broach the subject of ‘test and reserve’ drivers, or ‘third’ drivers, at least not until early next year. I’m sure there will some hype about that when winter testing kicks in later in the year when the junior series winners get their ‘reward’ tests and others are evaluated.

Other series:
I’d like to do an IndyCar post like this soon, it is too early now especially with the goings on with Helio Castroneves which could unlock a few moves, but I’m ahead of myself there – I hope Helio stays. Obviously we know about Dixon/Franchitti at TCGR and I’m sure the 4 at AGR will stay the same. Wheldon at Panther. Meira at Foyt. I make that 9 confirmed, or 10 counting Helio. Luczo Dragon are due to make an announcement tomorrow. Actually that’s better than I thought and maybe better than this time a year ago?

GP2: I think half the grid is signed up for the Asia Series, the tail enders won’t get there until race week as is the tradition of GP2 and F3000 before it. Many drivers will have dual-deals, in that they will be signed up for the 08/09 Asia Series as well as the 2009 Main Series. As things stand I have no idea who has done what and I’ll try to get some answers before the first round of GP2 Asia in China alongside the Formula 1 race next week.

I haven’t forgotten about the mini-notes / summaries of the 2008 season, I just haven’t had time to watch the races yet. I may yet can the idea because the races were weeks ago and any blog posts about them will be well out of date, so you might have to wait for a season review post in a couple of months.

A1GP and Superleague operate a revolving door policy so we won’t touch those.

I don’t do NASCAR. I enjoy sportscars but that driver market is way too complicated for the likes of this blog. I’ll catch up again in a few days and let you know what I’ve been watching while we wait for the Japanese F1 race.

News and Notes to October 4th

Apologies for the sparseness of updates since Singapore, I know a fair amount has happened this week however I’ve been focussed on other things. It’ll likely be this way until June when I’ve completed my accountancy course. Hey this ain’t a news site, I don’t need to keep to schedule.

So let’s recap, with the aid of Sonador 1556, a lovely Cab Sauv / Merlot blend red wine from Argentina which I picked up cheaply from a booze warehouse near Calais a couple of months ago, and with Winamp running at random through my 2500 MP3s (check out my Last.fm profile – get one yourself!), as the autumn wind and rain hammer at the window.

– Helio & the Taxman
I’m sure you’ve all read about Helio Castrovneves (et al) and the trouble with the tax authorities in the US. Like all racing fans I truly hope Helio is innocent in all this, that he got screwed by a manager or advisor or someone. In saying that, I have a bad feeling about it, that maybe he isn’t entirely clean. Just my gut, hope I’m wrong.

The official position of Too Much Racing is this: Let’s wait and see, we don’t have enough info as yet.

– Gerry & the Lawyer
Since the Helio story broke the otherwise big news of Paul Tracy suing Gerry Forsythe has hit the backburner. Basically, Tracy wasn’t paid monies due by Forsythe according to the contract between them. Will at IsItMayYet? looks like he has some good access on this.

I don’t trust Forsythe as far as I can throw him, though he has some good people under him. I was amazed when he announced his Indy Lights team.

The official position of Too Much Racing is this: “Go Paul Tracy!” I hope he gets the money owed to him, plus interest. I also hope he hooks up with an intelligent sponsor for the ’09 season. I still think he’d do wonders for KV or Conquest. There’s a part of me that still wants him to join an ex-Champ Car team, it wouldn’t seem right any other way, and right now I can’t countenance his o/w career being over.

– Andretti & the Europeans
Michael Andretti is in the Netherlands, apparently choosing to go to Zandvoort for his new A1GP venture rather than see his team’s last attempt (for now?) at Petit Le Mans. I respect that decision greatly, it would have been easy for him to just go to Petit, but he wanted to see his A1 team off from the start despite the much-reported troubles of the series as a whole right now, despite AGR’s involvement apparently only existing for mere weeks.
Make no bones about it, his presence and that of AGR boosts A1GP immensely right now, perhaps more so than Ferrari given it is they who seriously dropped the ball on car supply.

We’re two weeks after the scheduled series start, which was cancelled, and still five teams are unable to participate due to lack of cars. Four teams this weekend have seriously struggled because their cars only arrived at the circuit on Friday, meaning some of the teams missed practice. A1Team.China still hasn’t turned a wheel as I write this. A1GP had to schedule an extra practice on Sunday to compensate. This is after they introduced a ‘dropped score’ rule to compensate for the guys who don’t have a car to run.

Back to Andretti. I’m pleased it is he who got the US franchise. He has unfinished business over here and it would clear his name, especially if he attends most of the races, gets his face about. The F1 fraternity has branded him as tainted after his McLaren run so Europeans often see him in that light rather than based on his Indycar credentials. Yes I know most of A1 takes place in Asia but most of the teams and personnel are European.
It is a big step for A1 to have an American team, rather than Brits in US clothing as most teams are (or have been – actually I’ve lost track of who runs what team now). More A1 teams should take this step. It is also better to have a true racing guy running the team rather than some businessman we’ve never heard of.

I’ve seen many blog posts deriding the choice of Marco and Danica. I disagree. I think it is huge boost to A1GP to have these more established drivers race rather than a bunch of younger guys who’ve grown out of F3 but couldn’t get the budget for GP2 or WSbR, as it has been lately. No offence to Charlie Kimball who is a talented guy, I hope AGR gives him an IndyCar test. Also my nerdy-senses are tingling at the prospect of those two up against Bleekemolen, Carroll, and Jani who in my book are the clear frontrunners and are no slouches.

The official position of Too Much Racing is: to wish A1 well, after all it is a superior concept than Superleague. When the season gets under way properly, all problems ironed out, it’ll be something to watch. I intend to find a way to watch it, albeit delayed, as I cannot afford Sky’s prices. Apparently there is no US TV coverage at all so you’ll have to use the same methods as me.

Hey – maybe Paul Tracy could be the driver for A1Team.Canada!

– F1 Fans & the Annual Survey
For the last few years, the FIA in association with AMD and F1 Racing have offered a survey to the fans of Formula 1. The questions were usually loaded so they got the answers they were looking for, but it was still worthwhile.
The new survey is out and apparently drops the association with the FIA. This year it is run by F1 Racing and ING (sponsor of RenaultF1 and several GPs).

http://www.ingf1racingmagazinefansurvey.com/

I’ve just completed it and it seems less loaded than in years past.
I strongly recommend to anybody who watches F1, complete this survey, tell them what you think, and forward the link to your friends or your own blog. It doesn’t matter if you religiously watch every race or just a handful every year, this is your chance to be heard. All I ask is you don’t put in stupid answers to fuck up the results, let’s make this count people.

– TMR & the Bloggers
I’ve only been blogging for 8 weeks or so so I’m no old-hand, but it is always nice when you visit a site or blog you’d never taken the time to read before (for whatever reason) and find that you’ve been linked. One such blog is The Open Wheel. Having just read the last few updates I wish I’d known about it sooner. Thanks for the link, consider yourself reciprocated.

It is just as good, perhaps better, to find yourself linked at places you’ve been reading for months and – so I’d like to thank Pressdog, MyNameIsIRL and Meesh (you’re blog name is too long!) who’s links are in my sidebar already.
Final mention goes to The Starting Grid, who like this shit so much they invited me to post it at their site! My latest post is the thing about Singapore, check back there soon for a report about Petit Le Mans from Void who is there right now. I’m assuming he’s doing a report. If I had a blog I’d be doing a report. Oh. I do have a blog.

While I’m here, check SniffPetrol.com on October 10th for the monthly update. Brit-biased, lots of in-jokes for regular readers, and very much Not Safe For Work (or kids). Meantime, spend a little time reading the history. You’ll love it.

Given the wine consumed I think this last section has been the blog equivalent of the drunken “you’re my besht mate, I luv you”.

Sorry, I know blog posts are supposed to be short and snappy and I could have done 3 here, that’s not how I do things.

One thing I’ve learned today: red wine improves my writing. Must do this again sometime.
Catch you later.