A Day At Goodwood Revival 2011

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Goodwood Revival on Sunday, courtesy of Johnnie Walker. Despite having attended five fantastic Festivals of Speed I have never been to the Revival before, so I immediately accepted!

A Unique Atmosphere

The Revival is more than just a normal race meeting for historic/classic racing cars, it has those added Goodwood touches and details we all know and love from the FoS. With spectators in period clothing and the stands selling vintage items, I thought I’d ask Mum to come along to her first ‘big’ race meeting as she’s really into that side of things, regularly attending the local vintage market and so forth.

The first surprise was arriving at the gate and seeing so many of the crowd in period dress. I had expected maybe half of the attendees would do it, and then only in a half-arsed way, but it was a good 80-90% of the crowd! Later as we walked away out to the sticks towards the far end of the circuit it was more like 60-70%, still an impressive figure. It put our minds at rest that if we came back we’d certainly give it a go and not feel silly about it… well maybe only if we stopped for coffee on the motorway.

There were also a lot more ‘acts’ either in their own performance areas or just floating around the crowds at the back of the main grandstands. Dancers, bands, singers, and the Laurel & Hardy boys I’d seen before at the FoS seemed to be following us everywhere as we bumped into them several times, I seem to remember they did that at the Festival too! That’s actually a poor angle of them, in reality they do look a lot like the originals.

This all contributed to a strange crossover in atmosphere between the ‘garden party’ of the Festival, the relaxed feel of historic/classic car racing event with old road vehicles dotted around the track, yet with the attendance levels of a major race meeting. There were easily 50,000 people there by my estimation and likely a lot more.

The Races

Sunday’s card featured seven races, and we arrived in the traffic queue as the second of those got under way. Once we made it in there was an unexplained delay in on-track action, we never found out why but everything was running late by as much as an hour. This meant was had the opportunity to explore all of the above before heading trackside, stopping for a nice organic burger – though I had a hangover and had forgotten that at the Belgian GP it was sausage which was the magic hangover cure, should’ve had that! A cup of tea worked wonders.

The Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy was under way as we walked along the track away from the final corner looking for a space. Neither of us are into motorbikes though I do watch modern MotoGP, it was interesting to compare their 1960s counterparts braking very early in wet conditions.

We got near to Lavant corner and found a good viewing spot, the cars entering our sight directly opposite and heading left-to-right, before driving in an arc to pass in front from right-to-left. The St Mary’s Trophy got under way and there was a great selection of cars of all sizes, from big Ford Galaxies to little Mini Coopers via BMWs, Alfa Romeos, Jaguars and even a Mercedes-Benz 300SE.

Because of the nature of this event I make no apologies for loading this post with big photos and videos where usually I’d have several smaller. I know many don’t like that sort of thing but these are classic cars and deserve to be shown to the world, so an exception can be made here.

St Mary's Trophy (saloons/touring cars 1960-66)

The BMW (2nd in this shot) went on to a dominant win but the Galaxie (leading) and the Mini (3rd) had a race-long battle which was fantastic to watch! The Galaxie usually entered our sight ahead after using its big engine and top speed, but struggled to slow down and turn the corner in this picture, whilst the little Mini barely slowed down at all and nipped through on the inside with far better grip despite having tiny wheels – only for the Galaxie to stretch its legs again straight afterwards.

This was a great race, different types of cars with different capabilities. Touring car racing needs to get back to this and to hell with any thoughts of ‘equalisation’.

Video – St Mary’s Trophy – BMW 1800 leads Galaxie and Mini

The threatening rainclouds dispersed in time for an air display. This was no ordinary air display. This was TEN airworthy Spitfires! Okay I admit they may not all be genuinely from the war, some are rebuilds, but that’s fine if that’s what it takes to keep Spitfires flying. As luck would have it they took off right in front of us!

Spitfire Taking Off

(more Spitfires on my Picasa page)

Then it was the GT race and these were impressive beasts, noisy, tails sliding out on the damp track, fantastic. Yet they are worth tens of millions in some instances!

Video – RAC TT Celebration

Kenny Brack (Indy 500 winner) in the Shelby American Daytona Coupe  leading Martin Brundle (Le Mans winner, ex F1 driver) in the Ferrari 250 GTO owned by Nick Mason. This isn’t a great quality video but I hope it shows the cars well enough. Brack got the tail of his car wiggling under power much more than the others did theirs.

Martin Brundle, Ferrari 250 GTO

This was a good one as well, maybe not so much in the wheel-to-wheel but just the spectacle of it. Despite being slower than last week’s sportscar race at Silverstone these seemed much more impressive. We headed back towards the final corner to watch the end there and as we did so the black clouds drifted over and sure enough, the rain came down very hard.

Wet track for the GTs

The track quickly became treacherous with standing water everywhere and spray being kicked up. In the modern era they’d probably have sent out the Safety Car in such heavy rain. In this case with the race already scheduled to be shortened from 1hr down to 45min, they waved the chequered flag a further 5 minutes early. At a race for historics, particularly one which is delayed, there is no sense in continuing to risk these collectable and highly valued cars.

Another cup of tea sought, we moved location to watch the Tribute to Juan Manuel Fangio and then the short race for 1960s 1.5-litre Grand Prix cars.

The Fangio tribute featured a wide selection of his race cars from his career, in a parade behind a pace car, spanning his early days right through to his succesful Maseratis, Mercedes and so forth. Even his Indy 500 car was there, even though he’d failed to qualify for that race! It was good to see a famous name or two out there in the cars.

John Surtees, Fangio Tribute

We were stood between the last corner ‘proper’ and the makeshift chicane on the main straight. The 60s GP cars took it very gingerly on the wet track, I don’t blame them because if I were in a priceless 50-year old Lotus, Cooper or BRM I’d probably do the same. Still pretty fantastic to see the cars in action even if they were slow.

Grand Prix cars of 1961-1965

Andy Middlehurst took a dominant win by half a minute but the group behind were very close throughout. Paul, Lord Drayson – yes he whose 2010 LMP1 Le Mans car adorns the top of this very blog – finished a creditable 2nd. Ben Collins was also guesting and he was passing cars.. until he slid into the gravel.

We were running out of hours so decided to skip the final race of the day (1950s sportscar world championship) to explore the rest of the Revival.

Paddock

We spent a little while looking around the stalls. Many were the usual sort of thing you find at race meetings or at the Festival of Speed: model cars, books, £30 t-shirts, £300 Steve McQueen ‘Le Mans‘ leather jackets, etc., etc. The rest of the stands were an odd mix of vintage fashions and automotive art.

Surprise of the day? Seeing Sir Stirling Moss signing at one of the book stands surrounded by a crowd! A part of me regrets not getting the book. I like Moss a lot but I didn’t really want that particular book, but I could’ve had a book signed by Stirling Moss.. Irritatingly this was the moment my camera died and I realised the charged batteries I’d brought hadn’t actually been charged.

We ventured through the tunnel to the paddock. Unlike the Festival this paddock was roped off except to badge holders, but they did provide viewing areas around the whole perimeter of it so that was something. It was great to be there though and it looked like the podium finishers for many of the day’s races went out for another celebratory lap, as they came into parc ferme as were stood nearby. I borrowed Mum’s camera to get some up-close shots of those although I’ve not seen how they turned out.

And we (eventually) found the drivers’ club too, but no drivers, it was 5 or 6pm though and most of the racing action had stopped, little potential for seeing famous names. The good thing is that now I know the lay of the land, a future visit can be planned to ‘bump into’ certain drivers as they happen to be walking from place to place.

Oh and we checked out the Earls Court Motor Show as well, some fantastic supercars from the 1960s to today, from E-Type, GTO, Daytona to XJ220, McLarenF1 and Alfa 8C Competizione.

Sadly there wasn’t time to sample some Johnnie Walker (we got lost looking for the right bar.. and I had something of a hangover already!). They didn’t have the big tower from the Festival with the different drinks so I didn’t feel I was missing out so much. I don’t drink a lot of spririts but I’ve started exploring them in recent months so I think I may well buy a bottle as a ‘thank you’.

EDIT – I’ve been contacted by the man from JW who corrected me and said they did indeed serve a variety of drinks, and the bar featured an original Rob Walker car as well. I must say, after VivaF1 sampled some at the FoS and gave a thumbs up I would’ve quite liked to have tried it myself, it was just a shame we ran out of time. Apologies to them for jumping the gun!

In all a great day and I think I’ll be back.

Further Links

You can view my photos at Picasa and I also uploaded videos to YouTube.

Do have a look at these great photos from Lara and from Lynch. Lara also wrote a few words, as did the F1 journalist and writer Maurice Hamilton.

Motor Sport magazine has released a podcast with Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart, Martin Brundle, Gerhard Berger, Eddie Cheever, Arturo Merzario, Nick Mason, Tom Kristensen, Emmanuele Pirro, Andy Priaulx, and Rauno Aaltonen. I’ve not listened yet but with a line-up like that it can’t be anything other than brilliant.

Thanks once again to Johnnie Walker for the tickets and to Jackie at VivaF1 for making it happen.

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Attending the 2011 6 Hours of Silverstone

ILMC/LMS at Silverstone Wing
Sportscars Race Past Silverstone's New Pitlane (photo by P.Wotton)

Sportscar racing is something of a niche branch of motorsport, you don’t really find many casual fans except at Le Mans itself. It is a difficult form of racing to follow at times. Multiple classes, long races sometimes won or lost over laps not seconds.

I firmly believe it is worth the effort.

This apparent inaccessibility has been improved in recent years by the battle between Audi and Peugeot which has captivated many, especially since they’ve mixed well-known sportscar racers with drivers who made their name in Formula 1 and elsewhere.

Plus they built some really cool cars. That always helps.

The New

I got there late (no surprises) and parked up as the cars were on the grid. The best part of the new pit straight is that it is right next to the main car parks so it is very easy to be in the midst of the action straight away.. as long as there aren’t queues at the ticket desk and attendants who don’t recognise their own discount vouchers. Grr. Still, at least the queues meant there was a fairly good crowd, bigger than previous years, so you can’t complain too loudly.

This was the first time I’d seen the new pit buildings in action. I was at the Renault event just a few weeks ago and this area of the track was deserted and unused with all the action at the old pitlane. This time it was a living, breathing pitlane and the atmopshere was transformed. It looked soulless the other week but seeing it in action it just clicked, it works.

Continue reading “Attending the 2011 6 Hours of Silverstone”

A Promising Start For Baltimore

Last weekend’s IndyCar and ALMS double-header event at the new street circuit in Baltimore was a tremendous success.

Ticket sales had been strong since they were put on general release some months ago, support locally was something we haven’t witnessed outside of each series’ main events (the Indy 500, Sebring 12 Hours and Petit Le Mans) for a long, long time. It reminded me of races at Long Beach or Surfers Paradise 10 years ago.

It was pleasing to see the talk of a large attendance wasn’t just pre-race marketing hype, the place really was full!

Officials from the championships racing this weekend said the crowd on Friday was higher than they’ve seen on race days at some venues this year. That’s partly a measure of how popular this event was, and partly how poorly these series draw at some locations.

The region around around Baltimore and Washington DC has been lacking major motorsport for a long time, the only thing I can think of was the ALMS round in Washington in 2002. There’s a significant amount of population in that region and it was time someone hit it. That’s probably why so many turned out this weekend.

Resurgence

I’m glad it was ALMS and IndyCar which took the chance – it paid off for them. Both series are in desperate need of some good news and this was just the tonic, proof that people do want to come out and see their races, and potentially proof that untapped markets are better propositions than flogging dead horses in established locations. Perhaps it will serve as a wake-up call to these series to race where they are welcome and to drop venues which aren’t working any more, no matter how hard that might be.

From the on-the-ground reports I’ve seen in the media, on blogs and on Twitter, it sounds as if the crowd was a mix between the usual smattering of hard-core fans, a good number of existing racing who may not necessarily follow either/both of these series, and a lot of people completely new to racing. From the sounds of the reactions it was a hit with all concerned. I hope they made a lot of new fans!

Difficulties

The weekend wasn’t without its difficulties. Hurricane Irene was luckily downgraded to a tropical storm before it reached Baltimore but the preparations for its arrival and the necessity to wait until it had passed – and repair any damage – caused severe delays to the build schedule. A street race needs a lot of extra work over and above a road course or oval, including laying the concrete barriers and fencing, repaving the streets, building up the grandstands and creating temporary facilities for teams, drivers and media.

Given the delays it wasn’t a surprise to find construction rolling well into Friday. They finished by lunchtime and cars were on track from a little after 1pm. At that point I expected crash after crash as various fault were found with the circuit. Would the chicanes be alright? Would they slow the cars enough for them to cross the light rail tracks safely?

We needn’t have worried. Somehow despite a 5-hour delay they still fit in practice sessions for all series on Friday, no mean feat when you have two top series and 3 junior series all desparate for track time on a brand new track, some of whom needed to qualify as well as practice.

Tony Kanaan’s warm-up crash was horrifyingly scary and he was very lucky. I don’t think there’s anything the track people can do other than smooth out the bumps in case it was those which caused the mechanical failure. If it wasn’t, then it could’ve happened anywhere in the world.

Racing

The racing was very good by street race standards, better than I’ve seen at many other street tracks. The ALMS race was the better one for me and I think that was a function of having multiple classes, faster cars having to make their way past slower ones engaged in their own tight race. For the first time ever there was the question of whether an LMPC car would win overall because the LMP1 cars couldn’t make 2 hours on a single stop as other classes could. That became moot with the safety cars but it was an interesting dimension – I was rooting for the LMP1s to beat the others on speed because that’s what they should do, but I enjoyed the fact they might not and had to race for it!

The real focus was in the GT class which was as fun as always, and the field of Ferraris, Porsches, Corvettes and BMWs looked right at home on the city streets even more so than any of the other classes racing that weekend including the others in the ALMS.

The IndyCar race wasn’t as good, big open wheel cars always struggle on narrow streets like these. It wasn’t a total borefest though. There was concern it could’ve been like many street courses with a single-file parade, the order only changing when someone crashed. That didn’t happen, we actually had a solid race with a bit of drama and controversy, which is all you can ask for from this type of track. I still prefer natural terrain road courses but Baltimore proved to me it has a place in both championships, perhaps even at the expense of an existing street course such as St Pete.

Perhaps the biggest compliment to the event organisers is that the largest problems over the weekend were down to the series themselves and not the track at all. After all, the Friday delays were forgivable given they just had a near-hurricane.

The IndyCar race start was awful and could’ve resulted in horrible injury, with two safety pickup trucks on track in turns 1 and 2 as the green flag was waved at the start line. Both trucks moved to safety in the nick of time but the second truck was a very, very, very close call. It should not have been there.

The other issue was down to reordering the field on a restart after half the drivers got stuck in a Macau- or Pau-style traffic jam at the hairpin. Eventually I think it turned out that INDYCAR (sanctioning body) had moved the delayed cars ahead of those who continued, except for those which caused the incident or suffered damage. My own opinion is that the delayed cars should’ve been left in the order they resumed which is what happens in every other series in the world. Perhaps the bigger crime was the lack of information, to their credit they played the radio call from Race Control giving the field order, yet everyone at home was kept guessing at the reasons WHY that order was given.

Lessons

The track was too bumpy, everybody knows it and I really hope that is fixed for next year. The drivers generally agreed much of the track was like Long Beach, which is a fairly bumpy street course. The rest of the track was much worse and this area needs to be fixed, it was not safe. There comes a point where a good challenge for a driver tips over into becoming unsafe and I think some areas of this track did that, but as a first attempt this wasn’t a massive complaint and they will learn for next year.

The pitlane was very tight. I don’t think there is anything they can do with the available space where pitlane currently is, I hope they can find an alternative location for it.

The chicane before the rail tracks was too slow and too tight. I’m glad they took the cautious approach in year one, it was the right choice, however next year I’d like to see a chicane which is faster which in turn will make turn 1 more of a passing zone.

Summary

A fantastic debut event which got more right than wrong. Lessons were learned as early as Friday morning and continued to be learned throughout, so that by Saturday evening’s ALMS race it looked like fully sorted, and by Sunday evening’s IndyCar race it looked like it had been running annually for years. I have no doubts whatsoever that things like the bumps will be fixed for 2012.

I got the impression this is a can-do city willing to solve any problems in order to make a race meeting happen. The area of the racetrack seemed perfect with the Inner Harbor as a backdrop. The atmosphere was of curiosity mixed with excitement. I hope both ALMS and IndyCar stick together to make this event a long-lasting success. I want to go to this race meeting.

I keep being told by Americans that their people only like oval racing. Well I’m sorry. On this evidence, I just don’t believe you.

Onboard Lap

To see how bumpy and challenging this course is, take a ride along with Gunnar Jeannette in his LMPC ORECA during ALMS qualifying last Friday:

http://vimeo.com/28684848

2 laps around Baltimore Street Circuit with Gunnar Jeannette, #06 CORE Autosport ORECA FLM09, LMPC class, American Le Mans Series

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2011

I spent two days at this year’s Festival of Speed and it was fantastic, this was my 5th visit but the first time I’d attended two days of the meeting (Friday and Saturday).  The extra driving, the red arms and face, and the still-aching feet from two days of almost non-stop walking, they were all very much worth it.

It is strange how perceptions change over time. I was always more into the cars and even at Goodwood always thought the drivers were far-off and hidden away. Not this year. I don’t know if it is because the drivers now emerge in the paddock from a new entrance, or if it was because I’ve seen some of the cars a few times now, or if it was because I was with people who have always been more driver-focussed. This year the personalities seemed a lot more interesting to me.

It was of course excellent to hear Formula 1 engines once more, both modern and historic. McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault, Lotus, Mercedes brought recent machinery to the event and ran them on the hill, whilst Williams had a static car. There were also classic cars from Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Lotus and many more.

It was Vitaly Petrov’s first time at the Festival and he seemed to really get into the spirit of it, doing burnouts on the hill and being friendly with fans as he walked through the paddock. Mark Webber was doing a good job too on Friday, happily posing for photos and signing away.

Vitaly Petrov at Goodwood    Mark Webber

I also love seeing the big smiles writ large across the faces of the legends of the sport.

Réne Arnoux in the Renault RS01 of 1977

I was pleased to see the Audi R18 sweeping silently by, driven by 2011 Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer. There was also an R15 making runs on the hill with Marco Werner at the wheel. Peugeot sent their 905 but not a 908 in the paddocks, though there was a hybrid in the manufacturer strutures in the ‘infield’. Several classic sportscars were also present including Alfa Romeos – with Arturo Merzario – Jaguars, even a couple of Chaparrals.

There was also representation from WRC, IRC, BTCC and a variety of motorcycles. Ken Block was fantastic on the hill! Kris Meeke and Guy Wilks put on a show with sideways action, Block took it even further with lurid slides and donuts!

A big attraction for me this year was the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500. I’m as much a fan of Indy racing as I am of F1, so to see so many drivers and cars make the effort to come over was very special. What people don’t appreciate is that most of these people don’t ever make public appearances in the UK, even the British drivers, and only a handful of cars only usually make the trip. Johnny Rutherford being the notable exception, he’s been attending Festivals since 1999.

I believe this was the first time a contemporary IndyCar of any flavour (CART, IRL, current) has run at the Festival since it began – and maybe even the first in the country since the CART/ChampCar visits of 2001-2003 – so for me this was very exciting. But not half as exciting as seeing actual current IZOD IndyCar Series drivers come over here to drive them!

“I love it here. Invite me back!”
– Johnny Rutherford, 3-time Indy 500 winner

Goodwood regular Johnny Rutherford was joined by fellow legends Bobby Unser, Al Unser Jr, Parnelli Jones, Dan Sullivan, Bobby Rahal, Kenny Brack and Gil de Ferran, as well as current drivers Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Dan Wheldon – no current drivers are usually present as Goodwood frequently falls on a race weekend, but not this year (with due apologies to Watkins Glen). F1 and Indy legend Emerson Fittipaldi was present in his Indycar capacity to drive a Penske.

Dario Franchitti was a legend with the fans, as he is famous for being. My friend Kai isa big fan and after missing him Friday, made a vow to track him down on Saturday. We made a plan to watch the IndyCars return to the main paddock (though we didn’t think he was driving one), and right on cue a Lotus pulled up.. we tried to identify the driver.. and it was Dario! He’d stalled it waiting for marshals to signal him to move on, then got out and pushed the car. Here is the moment Kai runs off to chase him (she’s the one saying “I’m going”).

And.. here’s the result:

Not only that but when asked for a photo he said ‘one minute’ and turned away to consult his aide, who was trying to tell him where he had to be next. He went and had a photo with someone else and we thought he was gone.. next thing there’s a tap on Kai’s shoulder and it is Dario asking “did you want a photo?”. Well.. duh! Didn’t have to do it but still made our day.

On Friday I spotted Helio Castroneves in the crowd and he stopped for a photo with Kai. On Saturday she returned the favour, spotting Helio a mile away and running after him, I gave chase and I got my own photo with an Indy 500 winner!

How cool is that?!

So that was that, I thoroughly recommend attending the Festival of Speed especially with like-minded souls, the more pairs of eyes the better for spotting people or splitting into groups to track them down! It is all about being sure to be in the right place at the right time.

Do check out my photo galleries for more, there are some interesting nuggets in there even if I’m not a great photographer and I only have a budget point-and-shoot camera. There are videos in the galleries but as they aren’t easy to distinguish you may prefer to look at them on YouTube.

Friday / Saturday / YouTube

I’ll leave you with these videos. A lot of TV coverage of the Festival is professionally made and as a result is very well-polished, so much so that I always feel it doesn’t get across what it is ACTUALLY LIKE to walk around in the paddock. Well.. it is like this. Enjoy.

You just don’t know where to turn next. Famous person there, famous car there, engine suddenly bursts into life in front of you.. Why yes.. that is Adrian Newey about to get into a March Indycar he designed in the 80s… And Bobby Rahal about to get into a 1931 diesel car.. And Dan Wheldon hanging around the Target Chip Ganassi car which genuinely is the one scheduled to be raced by Scott Dixon at Edmonton in a few weeks.

Any complaints? Too many people on Saturday, it felt uncomfortably overcapacity in places. Track commentary needed to stop talking about cars waiting at the start and tell us what was in front of us.  It was very hot at times, I didn’t drink enough fluids and didn’t realise how much it took it out of me until Sunday when I was at home resting! And my feet are killing me still despite wearing walking shoes!
Was it worth it? Oh yes. Absolutely. If you’ve never been, you need to go. Add it to your bucket list. Kai is from the US and had never been to an F1 race or an IndyCar race I think, yet here there were stars and cars from both.

Just go.

Was the 2011 European GP boring?

I’ve seen all manner of opinion across a variety of internet feeds, be it Twitter, Sidepodcast’s comments, and more, that the 2011 European Grand Prix was the most boring motor race of all time. But was it?

No.

Don’t be silly.

This kind of reaction seems to have become a hallmark of internet discussion and especially in ‘real time’ fora such as Twitter or Facebook. Knee-jerk overreactions just because someone is bored with a race and there is a keyboard in front of them.

Was the race boring? Well, half of it was. The first half actually really interesting, but the second half was awful. It seems people with a keyboard in front of them lose all sense of time and perspective after 25 boring laps, and by the chequered flag they had forgotten the first part of the race wasn’t actually that bad. They seem to have applied 3 previous years of boredom to this year’s event. I’m sorry, you just can’t do that.

The only person I saw with a different opinion was Lukeh in this excellent post, a beacon of common sense. It was not a great race. It might not even have been a good one, but I tell you something, it wasn’t a bad one either.

Afterwards I posted the following comment to Sidepodcast’s ‘Rate the Race’ thread:

I give this a 5 out of 10 simply on the basis that I really enjoyed the first half of the race and it was only from halfway onwards that it got boring (really boring).

People must have such incredibly short attention spans to level the vitriol I’ve seen about this race. There is nothing wrong with having a 5/10 race once in a while.

I’ll admit I didn’t watch live and because I had it fullscreen and was too lazy to boot up a separate device, I wasn’t following internet reaction as it happened (i.e the live thread), so I was just left with my own thoughts. I found the first 40% of this race to be just as interesting as any other. There was racing. There was passing. There was a 3-way fight for the lead which could have resulted in a pass at any time. That it didn’t was neither here nor there, at no stage in the first half of the race did I think it was a foregone result (apart from actually already knowing the result.. but you know what I mean).

There was a battle for 4th. Racing between McLaren, Mercedes, etc. There was a colossal battle for 7th-14th which I loved, Force India, Toro Rosso, Williams. There was split strategy among midfielders, with Jaime in particular proving a lot of people wrong, he shouldn’t be written off. Sutil had a good run as well, no crashes, top ten result.

There was genuine passing as well as DRS-assisted passing. Just because the DRS was useless among the top 5 – and we have to say the FIA got this one wrong with the distance between detection and activation – it doesn’t mean it was useless for everyone.

We also can’t expect the FIA to get the zones right first time at each venue.. they are going to get some wrong in the first year, they got it wrong here. But on the few occasions a car was close enough in the zone, there was a pass.

So it fell flat in the second half. That’s not an excuse to write off the entire thing. It was by far the best F1 race at this track I have ever seen. That’s not saying much but it is positive progress. We had half an interesting race here, that’s half more than we had before. Change the DRS zone next year. Problem solved.

In the second half of this race we’ve proven conclusively – without the effect of rain as per Canada – that the old aero problems still exist and cars can’t pass without DRS (even with KERS and Pirellis). That’s a problem.

By 2009 standards this would’ve been a good race. Leaders sailing off into the distance, bit of battling in the midfield as a sideshow, just like 2009 with different players. We’ve been spoiled this year. Frankly if this was the worst race of the year, we’re very lucky. People are acting like this was Bahrain 2010 and it was nothing of the sort.

And I’m not saying the latter half of the race wasn’t boring, far from it, it was terrible..

I should also add… it probably says something about how low my expectations were, that I was watching on delay in the first place, having prioritised a golf game with my Dad over it. And I always prioritise F1 first.

Let’s just have a sense of perspective, shall we? Two years ago we’d have loved this race and here we are with people saying it is dull. I think that shows just how far we’ve come in such a short time. What a great result that really is for the sport of Formula 1 and motor racing in general.

2011 Monaco Grand Prix

This was possibly the most exciting Monaco GP in many years. It was certainly up there alongside all the classics – 1992 with Senna and Mansell, 1996 when nobody could win, 2003 with Montoya and Raikkonen.

We saw passing moves in places we wouldn’t normally expect them. At Monaco we normally see passes just at the chicane and that’s all. This time they didn’t really try it at the chicane (not on TV anyway), understandably so given the accidents of Rosberg and Perez this weekend. Instead the attempts were made at the hairpin and at Sainte Devote. Amazingly enough some of them worked!

I always thought a hairpin pass was a fluke, on the rare times I see it happen the move more often than not fails. This time it was successful maybe half the time – the other half causing damage and penalties (see Massa/Hamilton as well as Di Resta’s wars). It was good to see that a supposed “no-no” could be made to work when both parties co-operate, and it did need the leading car to concede he’d lost the corner and leave space. My read of the Massa and Hamilton collision at the hairpin was that it was a racing incident, neither to blame. Hamilton went for a move just as he had with Schumacher, but it just so happened that Massa at the same instant decided to try the same on the Toro Rosso in front of him.

It was interesting to see Schumacher back off against Hamilton, something I really didn’t expect when the move started. Memories of banging wheels with Alex Wurz in ’97?

However, the move in the tunnel was all Hamilton. You can’t pass in the tunnel without it going wrong for one or other of the parties, and that’s nothing new. Where was Massa supposed to go? The better option would’ve been to draft behind Massa and get him into the chicane just a few hundred meters up the road. The tunnel is just wide enough for two cars but the outside is always covered in marbles, that’s why Massa skated into the barrier.

It was good to see Hamilton in battling mood though, if he’d just kept his head a little he’d have been seen completely differently in this race, as the swashbuckling hero fighting through the field. Instead he looked hot-headed, crashing into people and then getting out of the car to complain about it.

The top three drivers put in excellent drives, solid smart performances from the champions they are. Before the red flag they were nearly a minute up on the chasing group. They ran different strategies and speeds all day, yet had converged with less than ten laps to go, we were set for a fantastic battle for the lead in the closing stages and not for the first time this year! Who says F1 in 2011 is boring? Far better than having all the racing done by 1/3rd distance – the first pit stop – and then watching a parade.

Vettel made his one-stop strategy work despite some very old tyres. Alonso was on him for several laps and couldn’t get by – we’ll never know if he would’ve made it or if Vettel’s tyres would’ve dropped off even more.  Button put in flawless laps to reel in this pair on his newer tyres, closing in a decent gap to start battling Alonso. The BBC commentary was talking up a Button win, or at least a second-place. I’m not so sure that would’ve happened but I was on the edge of my seat hoping either driver would take the win from Vettel! Nothing against Seb, he’s just been winning too much lately and the others need the points.

I use the Softpauer iPad app during F1 races and qualifying sessions and I could see on the map that the lead trio were catching a massive group of cars, there must have been 6 or 7 of them there! This group was being led by an Adrian Sutil trying valiantly to make his tyres last to the end of the race. Webber and Kobayashi had fallen behind through the stops but both made it past him, and the group behind him included Hamilton, Petrov, Alguersuari and Rosberg (some of those a lap behind Sutil but now running faster on fresher tyres).

Now it was always going to be fraught but I thought they’d be sensible and pull over one at a time to let the leaders through. Instead Sutil under pressure from Hamilton slid into the marbles after Tabac, into the barrier causing a puncture. Hamilton had to lift off in avoidance, surprising Alguersuari who rode up over the McLaren’s rear wing. Poor Vitaly Petrov was following Alguersuari just as closely, he had nowhere to go when he was confronted with this accident and hit the barrier. Petrov said in post-race quotes that he chose to hit the barrier rather than another car, but he can’t have known he’d hit so hard and cause himself minor injury.

The red flags came out and I was sure it was just a race suspension whilst others were saying it was over, though of course it would come at the discretion of the organisers if they couldn’t get the track cleared or if the barrier was damaged. Restart they did, but what nobody reckoned on was the teams being allowed to repair accident damage and fit new tyres. Most people (including me) expected neither tyre changes nor repairs except in the pitlane, and maybe then only once the field was moving again.

A great way to suck out the tension of the race. However, I can understand the rule exists for safety reasons, if there has been an accident you don’t want to leave people out there on damaged tyres after running over carbon fibre shards, so it is a difficult one. It is very hard to argue for a reduction in safety, so I think we should chalk this one up as something that just happens in racing sometimes.

Good to see Williams finally get some points, it would have been even more had the collision not occurred between Maldonado and, yes him again, Hamilton. Also a shout out to Kamui Kobayashi and the Sauber team, who played the strategies and Safety Cars to perfection to record a strong 5th ahead of all the melee.

I hope some of this isn’t just my blinkered glasses since I’m a huge fan of the Monaco Grand Prix, I really do think this was an excellent race in its own right, not even “by Monaco standards”, and the red flag doesn’t detract from that at all.

Result

  1. Vettel
  2. Alonso
  3. Button
  4. Webber
  5. Kobayashi
  6. Hamilton
  7. Sutil
  8. Heidfeld
  9. Barrichello
  10. Buemi

Driver Points

  1. Vettel 143 (winner)
  2. Hamilton 85 (6th)
  3. Webber 79 (4th)
  4. Button 76 (3rd)
  5. Alonso 69 (2nd)
  6. Heidfeld 29 (8th)

Vettel is already looking unbeatable. Can he wrap this up as early as the Hungaroring in July, as Schumacher once did?

Constructor Points

  1. Red Bull 222 (1st & 4th)
  2. McLaren 161 (3rd & 6th)
  3. Ferrari 93 (2nd & DNF)
  4. Renault 50 (8th & DNF)
  5. Mercedes 40 (11th & DNF)
  6. Sauber 21 (5th & DNS)

Red Bull are in charge. McLaren could yet fight back though, they have a chance in this fight.

The next race is the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal in two weeks.

2011 Motorsport Calendar

For the second year running, I have created motorsport calendars for a variety of race series for use with Google Calendar and iCal. They ought to work with other things too such as Outlook but your mileage may vary – give it a go and see what happens!

I created the dedicated Calendar page a few weeks ago but never got around to plugging it in the main blog. This was by design, I was waiting for official start times from racing bodies. There still aren’t many around, but with the Formula 1 times released in the last few days and others gradually emerging, and with the racing season now truly upon us, it is time to plug it properly!

What Are They?

If you want an online calendar you can use to easily look up which races are happening on a given weekend, here is your answer. You can pick and choose which series you want to add, so you can choose F1, IndyCar, MotoGP and ILMC if you like, while ignoring NASCAR and BTCC.

Each series is listed independently, and the different ‘Le Mans’ series are independent of one another as well, so you can colour-code them if you choose (this does mean some ILMC duplication).

This is what they look like when used with Google Calendar:

IWTMR Motorsport Calendar for March 2011 shown in Google Calendar. Disclaimer: Only a handful events have published start times as of 6-Feb, those without are shown as 'all-day events' until start times are released.

How Do I Use Them?

To choose your series simply go to the list on this page and add them at will. Unfortunately WordPress and Google don’t seem to be friends so I can’t embed them.

Notes

– Events with start times are listed in colour text. Events with no start times (or those spanning more than a day like Le Mans) are listed in colour blocks. I hope to add start times as they become available, this might not be until a week before the event.

– Practice sessions are NOT included. If you viewed more than a handful of championships the races and qualifying sessions got lost among hundreds of practice sessions, so I deleted them. Let’s focus on the interesting and important things.

– For more notes please read here.

I really hope you like these and find them useful throughout 2011!