Further Thoughts on BBC and Sky in 2012

The changes to the UK’s F1 TV coverage in 2012 were announced back in August. This week both the BBC and Sky firmed up their plans by announcing which races they have chosen as well as the level of coverage they will make available.

I wrote my initial reaction shortly afterwards – a good deal if you already have Sky, a poor deal for the rest of us. Following these announcements that’s pretty much my position now, the only difference being that now you can watch without the expensive Sports option.

Summary

There are due to be 20 races in 2012. This may change at December’s FIA World Motorsport Council meeting which could rule on Bahrain, Texas and Korea, but for the moment there are 20 races.

BBC

The current sole provider will drop from live coverage of all rounds to live coverage of 10 rounds. Those weekends will feature their usual service as in 2011:

  • live practice on the interactive ‘red button’ channel and website;
  • live qualifying on BBC1/online;
  • live race on BBC1/online;
  • post-race “Forum” on interactive/online;

The other 10 rounds will not be live but will have “extended highlights”. This, I think, is basically a tape-delay with a few edits for time constraints.

– “extended highlights” on BBC1: races in the Far East get a 2-hour show at 2pm and European races get a 90-minute show at 5.30pm;
– no ‘Forum’, no practice or qualifying*;
– the speculation of the race being live on interactive/red button was wrong, that will not be happening;

* I speculate there will be qualifying highlightsat the beginning of these shows, much like Ted Kravitz does before the races now but maybe longer.

I’d feared these highlights could be as little as 30 minutes, so 90 minutes isn’t the end of the world. If they wanted to they could almost fit the whole race in or only chop out short bits to make room for a bit of pre- and post-race. The key here are the words, “if they wanted to”.

I cross fingers they only cut a handful of laps, no more than we lost in the ITV days or if you watch any American racing today – that’s my hope. If they had not been landed with Valencia and Abu Dhabi as live races, this kind of treatment would’ve been ideal for those tedious events.
HOWEVER I mistrust any TV producer/editor and can already picture chunks cut out so they can have another long interview with Christian Horner or Martin Whitmarsh! Those are infuriating enough without having to watch at the expense of cars on track. I can also picture having to rush to YouTube after the coverage to catch a crucial moment an editor had to chop due to time constraints.

The other problem is that if you don’t want to be spoiled you have to avoid Twitter, Facebook, G+, live commenting sites, news websites, news channels, perhaps TV and radio entirely – and all the while you must not speak to anybody you know just in case they tell you.
With a European race finishing at 3pm you can just about manage 2.5 hours I’m sure. With an Eastern race finishing at about 8 or 9am, waiting until 2pm is going to become very tedious and is actually unfeasible I think.
We already face this problem if we sleep through the races in Japan or China or Australia and watch them later so we all know how much of a pain in the arse it is, having to do that for 10 races is not appealing, I don’t like that the choice of whether or not to get up early has been taken from me.

It isn’t ideal for us petrolheads without Sky, not by a long shot, but perhaps okay for those people who just want to plonk on the sofa and see who wins the race. Will that be enough and will the favourable timeslots be good enough to keep the ratings good, or will the lack of live seriously drop the numbers?

(NB: BBC Radio 5 Live / 5 Live Sports Extra will continue with all 20 rounds as per 2011 – radio falls under a separate contract.)

Sky

For those of you with a Sky subscription or who can afford to get one, you’re actually getting a pretty sweet deal out of this. Sky will have all 20 races completely live and uninterrupted.

  • a dedicated “Sky Sports F1 HD” channel for all sessions;
  • live practice;
  • live qualifying;
  • live race;
  • if you subscribe to Sports 1 and 2 or Sky HD this channel is free;
  • SSF1 available online and compatible with Sky Go, the mobile service;
  • they say there will be magazine/analysis shows;

There is also talk of different on-board angles and a data channel, which sounds like the F1 Digital+ of several years ago. In effect if you are a petrolhead this is the channel you are looking for – they are able to do things the BBC can’t do either because they can’t justify it for license fee, or because they have to cross to other progamming. It really does sound great.

The problem? The cost! Here are the options:

  • If you are a Sky Sports subscriber this is not a problem – you pay it already, great for you and I’m very jealous!
  • If you have Sky with HD but not Sports, great you get this channel at no charge, no need to add Sports.
  • If you have Sky in SD it’ll cost you an extra £10.25 per month (£123 per year) for the HD pack. Potentially add a new TV if you don’t have one capable of taking HD signal.
  • If you do not have Sky at all, this is going to sting you. The absolute cheapest way to get this channel is to pay the basic subscription (“Entertainment pack”) of £20pm and add the £10.25pm HD pack. £30.25 per month is £363 per year – and perhaps you’ll need a new TV.
  • Optional extras for other motorsport:  if you add Sky Sports to the above because you want to watch IndyCar on Sky Sports 4, that’ll cost you another £20pm to take you to £50.25pm (they have a lot of sport which pushes up the price). Add another £5pm to take “Entertainment extra pack” which includes Eurosport to see Le Mans, WEC, WTCC, IRC. Add another £10pm for ESPN to see DTM, FIA GT and WRC. And then you’ve got Premier Sports at £7.99 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. You could spend over £70pm if you wanted.

(Technical note – this is not Pay Per View. Sky Box Office with the rented movies and boxing and wrestling, that’s PPV. This here is a pay-monthly subscription.)

Now I don’t know about you but I don’t have the £30pm to spend right now on the basic Sky subscription. Thus I will not be watching every F1 race live in 2012. F1 feels like one of the UK’s national sports alongside football and cricket and rugby. With the recent successes of Hamilton and Button it isn’t as marginal as it used to be so this is very disappointing. Of course those other sports took the money as well, for the most part, and now F1 has done the same.

I tell you if I had the money to subscribe to everything I guarantee I would do it. I could fill up the Sky+ PVR in no time and spend every free hour watching it. As it is I manage to find other ways to watch things. I would prefer to do it properly on a huge shiny TV in HD, I really would.

The only way I could afford this is if I were to give up actually attending races. In 2011 I went to Goodwood (twice), Donington Historic, and Silverstone for the 6 Hours and the FRenault 3.5. I had too much fun at those events to give them up, so I won’t do it. Or I would have to give up golf which would drive me insane, I’m no good at golf but I enjoy the quiet walk, the challenge of the game, and the time away from real life.

Then there’s the problem of being allowed to put up a satellite dish if you live in rented accomodation. I might be able to.. will you?

The other problem many have is an ethical one. Sky is a Murdoch property and with the News of the World scandal, among many other things over the last decade or two, people have perfectly legitimate reasons to not take Sky. It isn’t a position I take, as I make a distinction between the news organisations and the TV platform.

Incidentally, there is not yet any word on whether Virgin Media will include SSF1 within their cable line-up. However I think it safe to say it won’t be on Freeview or Freesat.

Races

Date Race Sky BBC
18-Mar Australia Live Highlights
25-Mar Malaysia Live Highlights
15-Apr China Live Live
22-Apr Bahrain Live Highlights
13-May Spain Live Live
27-May Monaco Live Live
10-Jun Canada Live Highlights
24-Jun Valencia Live Live
08-Jul Britain Live Live
22-Jul Germany Live Highlights
29-Jul Hungary Live Highlights
02-Sep Belgium Live Live
09-Sep Italy Live Highlights
23-Sep Singapore Live Live
07-Oct Japan Live Highlights
14-Oct Korea Live Live
28-Oct India Live Highlights
04-Nov Abu Dhabi Live Live
18-Nov United States Live Highlights
25-Nov Brazil Live Live

Some odd choices. BBC could choose 10 they wanted live and Sky could choose 10 they wanted exclusively, starting with 3 from the BBC and 3 from Sky before alternating picks. Apparently they couldn’t choose 3 consecutive races. Even with those considerations if I were the BBC I’d have tried to get Canada and the US for the evening ratings bonanza!

Conclusion

My position remains mostly unchanged. This is a bad deal for most F1 fans who won’t be able to see all the races. It could seriously harm ratings and popularity in this country. On the other side, great if you can get this stuff because purely in technical terms it could move F1 coverage to another level.

Oh, and I still don’t really understand the sense of entitlement many people think they have. It is just a sport. It doesn’t have a divine right to be on the BBC all the time. It sucks that it won’t be, but sadly that’s commercial life I’m afraid.

UK F1 TV Coverage in 2012

There had been murmurs in recent weeks and months of potential changes to F1’s UK TV rights, as everyone knows the BBC is trying to save money and it paid a heck of a lot for the Formula 1 rights, but with the need to cut back across the board nobody really knew if they’d stick to the contract. The names of Channel 4 and Five were mooted as taking over, and I think many fans expected a wholesale switch to one of those channels.

Last weekend it was revealed to be Sky Sports and that it would be a partnership agreement, not a complete switch. Sky will air all 20 races on their dedicated sports channels with additional pre- and post-race coverage on Sky Sports News. The BBC will continue to cover 10 races live and in full, including the British GP, Monaco GP and the final race of the season which next year is scheduled to be the Brazilian GP. Highlights of the other 10 races will be aired later that day.

For the benefit of those outside the UK, you pay a monthly fee for the Sky package and then a premium for Sky Sports. Sky Sports News comes as part of the main package not the premium package. Sky Sports is also available as an add-on with a variety of other competing services such as cable. BBC channels are free to all*.

* the term ‘free-to-air’ does not include the TV License because that is non-optional, everybody has to pay it so it is usually ignored in any comparison.

Reaction

Whilst this sort of sharing arrangement is common over in the US, although maybe without airing on two channels at once, this is a Big Deal for UK rights. Formula 1 TV coverage in this country has always been free-to-air for as long as races have been available on TV –  since the 1970s in highlights form with sporadic live races, and every race of the season covered live since the early/mid 1990s.

Quite a lot of discussion has occurred online in the last week or so, with a great many opinion pieces from insiders and fans alike putting forth their arguments for and against the deal.

For me it isn’t the death knell of the sport in the UK, but that is very much contingent on the BBC honouring their promise to produce an ‘extended’ highlights show or even air the entire race on a tape delay. If it is a heavily edited version the interest will wane and audience figures will drop off. The reason for that is I think only the die hard fans will take the option to watch live on Sky, and there aren’t as many of those fans as some like to suggest.

There are an awful lot more of what most of us more diehard fans call ‘casual fans’, especially so in Britain over the last 3 or 4 years as a result of the championship wins from Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, hence the record viewing figures seen this year. They might not all be buying Sky especially to watch F1, and unlike football I don’t think they’ll all pile down the pub to watch it. If they have Sky Sports already they may well continue to tune in, I really hope so.

With a lot of sponsorship dependent on viewing figures and the UK representing a major market for F1 sponsors, the real question is whether a casual fan without Sky will be happy to wait for the BBC highlights show. The argument goes that they are happy to wait until 10:35pm for Match Of The Day, a highlights show covering all the Premier League action that day. Indeed many make it a weekly ritual. I don’t doubt that a similar F1 show would attract decent viewers. They might not be the nuts who want to have every F1 session live on TV with an hour of pre- and post- analysis, those who are surprisingly vocal about it on the internet, but they are interested enough in F1 to watch an hour or so about the day’s race.

Some have argued we may actually see an uplift in viewing figures as the diehard fans will stump up to watch the race live, then the less diehard fans are able to come to the race coverage at a potentially more favourable time which doesn’t take up a whole afternoon and give the highlights some decent ratings.

I don’t know if that is how it will play out but it definitely just as plausible as live ratings falling off a cliff and highlights being ignored as some others have suggested. We won’t know the answers to that until we see the broadcast time of the show, and how much is included and how much is edited out.

Winners And Losers

The teams themselves and FOM/FOWC (‘Bernie’s lot’) will making extra money so the pressure to nail the BBC at the next renewal will be off, hopefully meaning the BBC will be able to keep their rights for a few years longer than they would’ve done.

There are three sets of fans :-

– For the dedicated fan with spending money, who either already has Sky Sports or is willing to get it, they’ve got a win-win situation because for the first time in years they’ll be able to choose between two live broadcast teams for half of the races. How many countries can say that? Luxury!

– For the casual fan I am sure they can wait for the highlights show and wouldn’t complain a lot because of it, many might even prefer it.

– For me the only true losers are those dedicated fans who can’t afford to take Sky Sports. Sadly I am one of those fans. I’m sure we’ll be climbing the walls staying off the internet and away from news reports, waiting for the highlights show. Web feeds are usually awful and they can suddenly get shut down midrace, I struggle enough with IndyCar, imagine the demand there will be for F1. Luckily I do know people who have Sky Sports so rather than struggle away with a 4 inch buffering web feed I’ll go there and watch 50 inch HD. But I can’t do that forever. I think one day I’m just going to have to make savings elsewhere and stump up for Sky. That may come at the expense of attending races, including Grands Prix.

Sky

I have nothing against Sky in all of this, despite their poor quality news channel and the poor reputation of some of their owners, they do produce very good coverage of other sports. I watched the cricket coverage of England vs India last weekend and it was of a very high quality. Everybody on the panel, including the presenter, was a former international-level cricket player, yet none floundered on TV as so many do.

I’ve also seen football games which are well presented and produced, as well as golf and more. They do a lot of American-style wooshy sounds and boistorous intro music and over-hyping which is all probably a little unnecessary, this is countered with a knowledgeable staff of presenters and analysts and as many on-screen stats as you can imagine. I genuinely would love to see what they could do with F1 coverage, it could be transformed.

There are those who decry Sky Sports based on their IndyCar coverage, which is frankly awful, a few talking heads sitting in a little studio in London trying to fill time whilst their host feed is on yet another ad break. (If anything this is a good sign as it means Sky themselves won’t take too many breaks.) I hope they don’t approach F1 in the same way because it is interminably boring. I don’t have a problem with a studio, just put it at the track in the same way the football and cricket studios are at the grounds. That way the on-air talent can speak to the relevant people before the race and get a better sense of the event. I don’t think they will just plonk them in London and make them work from a feed. I think they are more sensible than that.

As an aside, perhaps they could cross-sell IndyCar to F1 fans to bump up viewership of that series, this could actually be a really good thing for IndyCar viewership figures in this country, which are currently tiny. What good timing with a brand new car being launched for IndyCar next year. Sky might even start sending people to the States to cover IndyCar more effectively rather than simply taking a feed, even just a reporter..? I’m dreaming. I’m hoping.

Conclusion

The main problem here is one of cost. I think people who can’t afford Sky, including me, are going to have to revise their expectations. In any case, with a record 20 races next year surely nobody can expect to watch all of them live complete with an hour of talking before and an hour of talking after. Where would you find the time? Highlights, even extended highlights, could be a blessing. Mind you, I’m holding out for a tape delay.

The Killer Years

I urge any fan of any branch of motorsport to watch this programme.

It will not be an easy watch, although it may be easier if you are accustomed to watching war documentaries with the detachment that brings.

It tells the story of Grand Prix racing, and racing generally, in the 1960s and 1970s and the attitudes that persisted at the time. It tells of the battle fought by Jackie Stewart and others to change the attitudes by all means necessary. The shock after Clark. And it shows the courage and bravery of these drivers to continue what they were doing as their peers were being killed off.

As Stewart says, “it was like the circuit owners were holding a pistol to our heads”.

It also tells of the immense bravery of David Purley and the stupidity and futility of those who either couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything to help Roger Williamson, and so many others through the years.

On a different note, aside from the valuable history lesson, it is also worth watching for the other period footage (most of which I had never seen before) and the contemporary interviews with ‘names’ from the time and notable racing historians such as David Tremayne.

If you are in the UK you can watch on the BBC iPlayer before Sunday by using this link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00z8v18/Grand_Prix_The_Killer_Years/

If you are outside the UK or are reading this after Sunday, you can find the programme on YouTube in 4 chunks of 15 minutes: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. I urge UK residents to please use the BBC video above – it registers a viewing with the BBC and will encourage them to air more motorsport documentaries.

Like any documentary it may have a few faults, things it misses for brevity.. but it is still worth a watch.

Do watch it.

Thursday Thoughts: The Future of F1 Content

Thursday Thoughts visits different blogs and is hosted here this week, so it is my turn to ask the question. Here is my response.

– What innovations would you like to see in F1 content delivery?

I think most of us by now are aware how far F1 lags behind other motorsports, even other sports entirely when it comes to delivering their product to the end user, the customer, the fan. It is quite frustrating to be told repeatedly how F1 teams use the most advanced technology to create these fantastically fast cars and yet the rights-holders are in some cases years behind the game in introducing the technology needed to provide real insight to the fan.

The rights-holders to Formula 1 are the collection of companies owned by CVC and controlled on their behalf by Bernie Ecclestone, I am not sure which company controls which element but I think FOA runs the races or at least the bits the FIA don’t run, and FOM handles the TV and online offering. For the sake of argument I’ll use FOM.

FOM seems insistent on relying on traditional avenues to get their message across, whether it be TV, magazines or newspapers. They seemingly reluctantly got themselves involved with the web business with www.formula1.com but they only did so in 2002 or thereabouts. Given the web recently celebrated 25 years of existence and most forward-thinking companies have been on it in some for or another since the mid-90s it was a curious oversight.

Why is it that F1 keeps talking about “embracing the internet” as if it’s 1994 and it’s a clever idea? Perhaps get on with it?

Ed Straw, F1 Editor of Autosport, via Twitter yesterday

Two major gaffes have appeared on Formula1.com. There may have been more.

One was the SMS text service. This was a great idea in principle: sign up to the service and you would receive a text message after every session informing you of the fastest drivers, and the points positions after races. The problem was they introduced it with the pricing structure of a decade earlier and the world had moved on, at least in the more developed mobile phone markets.
While I forget the specifics, the prices would have looked reasonable in 1997 when the mobile market was enjoying rapid growth and a plethora of new applications but in 2007 they looked utterly ridiculous and far too high. I would like to see this adjusted so that the more casual fan who isn’t able to watch all the sessions or even all the races can receive updates at reasonable rates. My Dad gets a text message whenever his football team scores a goal. It can’t be that hard.

The other was the web shop, again a good idea in principle – yet the original version was stocked with the wrong goods. Like so much in F1 it was pitched towards the premium customer, the more affluent fan who wants something special. Only in F1 could you buy an official carbon-fibre mouse mat, replete with F1 logo, for £200. Which is fine – I actually like the fact these items are there because I appreciate it helps position the brand of F1 – they just forgot to include things mere mortals could afford, a position they have gone some way to correcting in 2009.

Another aspect website is the live timing. When it works it is very informative, unfortunately it has a lot of glitches. It has been used ever since the site went live and is probably due a rethink. It could be bigger and contain more information. F1 is full of data, let’s make use of it. Again, this year they’ve gone some way to making the info they offer open to more fans by creating the iPhone app which I’ve heard is tremendously useful, if pricey (there seems to be a theme here).

While I’m on the subject of timing, the TV coverage desperately needs to cut back on the “1-stop” graphic and tell us how far apart the cars are! Of course if they borrowed from DTM they could just mark a little ‘1’ on the vertical position graphic that appears to the left of screen from time to time. If I don’t have an iPhone or can’t get near a computer to access live timing, I shouldn’t be deprived of the basic car-to-car gaps, these should be available to all on the main feed and if I want the extra info like sector times then that’s when I should look it up elsewhere. With any luck this data will be rolled out to further mobile platforms in future.

I must admit, other than the iPhone timing app I don’t know what else is offered officially for mobile devices because I don’t own a modern smartphone – but soon I and most others will do, I suspect I am already in the minority among mobile-owners.

I see no reason why FOM cannot offer an app offering short video clips to mobile devices, for a small fee. I see no reason why they cannot offer those same videos on their website, although I think most of us expect web video to be free unless it is of some length. On the website I would therefore offer short, free videos to anyone who visits. I would also offer a premium subscription (‘premium’ in name only, priced at a level we can afford!) where you can watch entire races, let’s say until Jan 1st. They could expand that to show classic races and send FOM TV to each test session to provide us with reports from winter testing.

FOM claim they don’t offer these because the commentary and ownership is specific to particular broadcasters, yet the broadcasters claim they can’t provide online coverage because the video is owned by FOM. The only notable exception seems to be the BBC’s iPlayer (an excellent service) and the FP sessions trialled last year by ITV. At the end of every session aired on the BBC there is a particularly large copyright notice stating that the production is copyright of FOM. If FOM owns the video,can they not put it online, even a version with no commentary? Even better, work with each broadcaster to offer the same footage with different reactions. It would fascinating in the week after a race incident to go to Formula1.com and compare the reactions of crews from BBC, SPEED, Globo, RAI, RTL, etc, etc. They could make a montage and sell it for money.

They also need to bring in High-Def coverage to those who will take it and offer that as a quality option for the downloads. There are HD channels in more and more countries and even the little devices support it now. They’ve been using HD cameras for a year or so now but they still won’t release a true HD feed for broadcast or sale, which is crazy, why invest in the technology if you aren’t going to use it?
This is the most technologically advanced sport in the world and it is still in fuzzy-vision. NASCAR has 36 races per year and most, if not all of them, are available in HD in the US (and sometimes in the UK). It doesn’t matter if you don’t have an HD TV or monitor, you still notice a difference. I think Abu Dhabi was in HD and it looked fantastic on my SD TV on the SD digital broadcast.

Conclusion: FOM are applying 20th Century solutions to 21st Century fans. They need to change. Fast.

There are signs that they are changing slowly. The iPhone app. The F1 2009 Wii and PSP games, and the 2010 PC, Xbox and PS3 games. These should be released annually in the way that the FIFA, Madden and other licensed games are, there is a demand for it.

Perhaps they are starting to wake up?

**
You can read the Thursday Thoughts of my fellow bloggers by following the links in the Question post!

Race Notes: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2009

Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Date: 1 November 2009
Circuit: Yas Marina Circuit
Location: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Distance: 55 laps
Tyre choices (red): SS / S / M / H

Coverage: BBC One
Anchor: Jake Humphrey
Analysts: David Coulthard (DC) and Eddie Jordan (EJ)
Interviewers: Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie

For this race I did not have the 5Live audio option on Freeview and the BBC’s streaming version made each of my browsers crash (I tried FF and IE).

Does anyone know why this isn’t called the UAE Grand Prix? Seems strange that after years of naming GPs after countries or territories we’re naming this one after a city. Maybe the locals are trying to promote the place and get one up on their neighbouring Emirates.

Coverage begins at 12pm UK time.

A quick review of Brazil with new World Champion Jenson Button, Muse as backing music, works well. He says the last 3 laps were the longest laps he’s ever driven. Very pleased to get it after 21 years of working for it, 21 years since his Dad put him in a kart.

Live in the paddock. Brawn garage. JB has a ‘World Champion’ sticker on his lid. Coulthard says for them this race is a celebration of a championship-winning year but he doesn’t think they have the pace here to win.

A look of the points: The interest this weekend is that one point gap between McLaren and Ferrari.

Chatting with Richard Cregan, ex-Toyota F1 and has spent the last year or two overseeing the Yas Marina construction project. He says he likes the ‘can do’ attitude of the people in this part of the world.

Quali recap with Lee McKenzie, she points out:
Q1. Grosjean and Kovalainen spun. Alonso was very slow but he seemed to be expecting it.
Q2. Kovalainen then had transmission failure. Raikkonen slow.
Q3 in darkness. Hamilton very fast, Vettel tried hard but Hamilton lowered the bar considerably at the flag. Webber 3rd. Button had vibrations on the brakes.

Grid
Hamilton, Vettel
Webber, Barrichello
Button, Trulli
Kubica, Heidfeld
Rosberg, Buemi
Raikkonen, Kobayashi
Nakajima, Alguersuari
Alonso, Liuzzi
Sutil, Kovalainen*
Grosjean, Fisichella

*Kovalainen had a 5-place drop for a gearbox change.

We go to a review of Renault’s year. A very fast review. Lots of ups and downs with the whole Piquet thing, Grosjean coming in, car sometimes fast and sometimes slow and now Alonso is off to Ferrari.

Review of BMW. Less of a review, more a 20sec montage to music and maybe two sentences after it. This is their 70th and final race and they only had one podium all year.

McLaren. Started with a terrible car and turned it around to become winners. The guys say Kovalainen is expected to leave the team (most of us expect Raikkonen to come in). DC says Heikki is capable of winning, given the chance – he just hasn’t had the chance. (DC has been in the exact same situation against Mika.)

Ferrari. Worst ever start to a season, and the first season without a pole position since 1993. Massa injured, Badoer and then Fisichella in. Both they and we are looking forward to Alonso alongside Massa in 2010, it’ll be a great partnership.

Seems that’s it for the recapping the teams, apparently nobody cares about the rest.
We jump into a skit with Humphrey taking part in his first ever race in a Lotus Elise championship at Silverstone. This is show how hard it is to race, and also to promote GoMotorsport, getting more people involved in racing. (They cleverly used only a .net domain so I had to Google it to find it.) This piece is badly edited – he damaged the front of the car but it has mysteriously repaired itself..

Gridwalk
Martin Brundle and Eddie Jordan on the grid.

Boris Becker: “Amazing, they all say a lot before races how its gonna be but its all true what they say, amazing place.”

350 British marshals are helping here, here’s one of them: “Really good, fantastic experience, thanks to BARC for the opportunity and the ATC for accomodating us. I’ve been doing this 30 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes, its in my blood so I’ll carry on. We’re all a team.”

Lewis Hamilton: “Great job all week, incredible feeling to be up front at the last race. We’ve got the pace and a good strategy to win. We never anticipated we’d be so fast at the end of the season though that was our goal.”

Mark Webber: “Went pretty well yesterday in quali. Sensational circuit. Predict a good fight with JB, Lewis pretty strong and Seb and I, all three of us. For sure I’m not gonna do anything to hurt Seb’s chances, totally in the team’s interest not to lost too many points on that front.”

Quick chat with cricketer Andrew Flintoff.. but I don’t care. He says this is his first experience at a GP but I swear Brundle has talked to him elsewhere..

Richard Branson, arm in a sling. Says he turned a quad bike over and he just had an operation on the shoulder. EJ thanks him for swearing on TV before when everyone said Eddie would be the first (at the first race, no less).

Jay Kay. Says compared to this race, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do at home. One of the finest tracks in the world. Looking for a Ferrari podium.

Crown Prince of Bahrain: “It is spectacular, it does so much for the sport in the Gulf region.” EJ layers on platitude after platitude on the Prince and Bahrain for introducing the sport to the region. The first race of 2010 will be held in Bahrain on March 14th.

Anthem of the UAE

Shots of the King Carlos of Spain walking on the grid with Bernie. Martin Brundle walks up and chats to him casually, as you do.. Not on mike this time.

Flypast by an Etihad jet. Jake calls it an Emirates jet despite the race being named after Etihad and there being giant Etihad banners all over the place. Sponsorship fail.

Replay of yesterday’s piece with Martin and David racing two-seater F1 cars around the track a few weeks ago when it had just opened.. dust everywhere. Showing us the racing lines.

Ted Kravitz tell us who has improved the most since March. Ferrari are 2.8sec faster, Force India 2.6, Red Bull 2.0, BMW 1.8, Toyota 1.6, Brawn 1.0, with Renault and Ferrari much smaller gains. I recognise the music but I’m not sure what it is..
He also tells us about the fuel weights but it doesn’t interest me.

Lee has found Ron Dennis. He’s in an overview role at McLaren now. He says the team are doing a great job, quick interview because it is time to race.

Hah, the lead-in music is the KLF! 90s classic.
We’re into the FOM intro.

Engines fired.

FORMATION LAP

55 lap race

1.2.3.4.5.hold.GO!

Hamilton leads immediately. Everyone clear and through lap one.

Replay: Webber cuts across Barrichello’s nose and little pieces of Brawn go flying.

BMW and Toyota fighting.. I am having big trouble getting Firefox to stay open without crashing as it loads the 5Live audio feed, so I’m trying to fix that while following the busiest part of the race..

Hamilton building a big lead already!

L5 – Great helicopter shots.
L7 – CGI of the first corner showing everyone’s positions! Not sure it was all that useful in this instance but it will be in future when existing camera angles aren’t enough.

Heikki is told if he can’t pass Kimi, he should save fuel instead. Millions of fans suddenly gather around their TVs to watch the amazing spectacle of guys saving fuel.

L10 – Not that good of a race at the moment, though Webber is fast and catching his teammate.

L13 – Lewis is told he has to pick up the pace, or fall into the clutches of the 1-stoppers.

F1 journalist @WillBuxton via Twitter:
“Apparently the Yas Hotel will be lit up in the colours of the flag of the winning driver at the end of the race.”
That’s crazy!!

L17 Barrichello and Kubica are the first to pit. They succesfully negotiate the tricky pit exit.
Hamilton sets the Fastest Lap.

L18 – Hamilton pits, so does Button. Button beats Kobayashi… no, side by side.. hairpin, and again along the straight, Button brakes too late and Kamui takes the position! He’s a feisty one this new guy, isn’t he?

L19 – Webber, Trulli, Rosberg, and Buemi pit. Hamilton is told he may have a brake problem.

L20 – Vettel pits and comes out in the lead!!

Ted Kravitz says McLaren are clearing a space in the garage!

Hamilton pits. Wow, he pulls into the garage and gets out of the car. We can hear Martin Whitmarsh telling Lewis that ‘the data shows a problem, they might take it off and find nothing but they can’t risk it.’ With that long straight I concur, very big shame though, this basically kills the race stone dead.

L23 – It has all gone quiet again. Rosberg has been told to take risks because Trulli is slow.

Order:
Vettel, Webber, Kobayashi*, Button, Barrichello, Raikkonen*, Kovalainen*, Heidfeld, Trulli, Kubica, Rosberg, Nakajima*, Buemi, Fisichella*, Alonso*, Grosjean*, Sutil*
* yet to make their first (or only) stop

Kobayashi flying!

Hamilton with Lee: “Problem with the right rear brakes, it was too dangerous to continue. Struggling to stop the car.”

Getting dark in Abu Dhabi now.

Brundle is talking about how Kobayashi had a poor GP2 season and Grosjean had a good one, yet F1 is all about absorbing pressure and Kobayashi is doing well with it, Grosjean isn’t.

L28 Gaps opening between cars.. not much going on..

L30 Raikkonen pits.
L31 Kobayashi also in.
L32 Now for Kovalainen, can he beat Raikkonen? Yes, by some margin!

Wow, Sutil and Grosjean are side by side *without crashing*!

It got dark very quickly..

This is one of the most boring races of the season. The images coming through the TV look fantastic but that’s not really enough – we could use some racing.

Kobayashi and Nakajima started next to each other… Kob is now 8th, Nak still where he started.

L42 Kubica vs Buemi, contact, spin! Kubica spins trying to get around Buemi, loses a place to Rosberg while he recovers.

L43 Vettel and Button pit. Seb has a clear lead and Button beats Barrichello!

All done bar the shouting. The only entertainment is watching the decorative lights on the hotel as they change colour. Blue. Orange. Purple. Different every lap, how can you get bored? Umm..

L45, 10 to go.

L49 Button is catching Webber at half a second per lap, but we are running out of laps.

L51 Vettel is only now putting laps on the back end of the field, strong pace from everyone yet still a boring race.. I wonder if that means lapping the backmarkers helps racing?

L52 Fisichella on Grosjean! Grosjean goes across the run-off and will have to give up the place for cutting the corner.
Brundle: “Its hardly going to change our day is it?”
Hah. Snark factor 50.

Button has caught Webber! Mark is all over the place, will he hold on?

LAST LAP

Great fight between Button and Webber, nice and clean, no weaving and Mark manages to hold him off. This is how it should be done. No hard blocking a la Kobayashi in Brazil.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS!
Webber 2nd, Button 3rd.

Vettel screaming on the radio: “Bitte! Bitte! Kate’s dirty sister did it again!”
A reference to the name he gave his car..

Donuts from Vettel but we can’t see it because the director is showing us the crowd, and the hotel again.. it was showing a chequered flag! Not as good as a donut though..

About now @WillBuxton corrects himself when he realises it was a flag they were showing rather than the winner’s colours..

Parc Ferme.

Replay of the donuts. FIA likes to penalise them. Brundle says donuts should be mandatory.

Drivers head upstairs.. Button talking to Webber, swears live on worldwide TV! Despite us being able to hear them all season, the drivers still haven’t cottoned on to that fact..
Legard apologises on behalf of the BBC. I just realised I haven’t mentioned Legard at all in these notes, did I mentally tune him out? Did I still listen and take in the info? I have no idea.

Podium

Anthems for Germany (Seb) and Austria (RBR). Sorry Austria, your anthem is way too long.

Trophies

Back to the guys. 19 weeks, or 133 days until we do it again. DC says, “it was a great bit of action on the last lap. Great spectacle in Abu Dhabi, incredible season.”

Ross Brawn: “It was a great race. There are some things we could learn from the circuit, fabulous place. We haven’t quite got the pace of Red Bull at the moment but we made the best of what we had. Our reliability record is stunning.”

Pit board being held up behind the BBC guys, by a BrawnGP man: “Will you marry me Fatna?”
Hopefully she is race-mad and thinks this is romantic!
Boris Becker is around again.. Get James Corden off my TV screen, he’s not funny.

Conference

Vettel, P1: “Had a very good start, not enough to beat Lewis but it was good, I was surprised. I was able to stay close enough, we were a little heavier. In the last sector the car was a dream today. Nearly went wide at pit entrance, unfortunately then he had to retire but up to that point it was a fantastic race, then we had a cushion to Mark and I could pace myself.”

He’s been drinking his sponsor’s product, I can’t keep up with his fast talking.

Webber, P2: “Made a pretty good launch (start), tried to get back on the inside, got hit quite hard on the left rear and was worried about a puncture, relieved it wasn’t. Seb was just quicker today, especially the last stint. At the end, thought this is gonna be quite tight, we had a slight top speed advantage, we had a good clean fight. Want to thank the team for their patience with what happened (broken leg), my best season, 16 podiums together, very good.”

Button, P3: “Fun race. Lot of understeer on the Prime tyre. Outbraked myself against Kobayashi but he was faster at the point anyway. The last couple of laps were a lot of fun, I was very excited about that battle, Mark is always difficult to overtake and it was clean but on the edge, it was perfect, I really enjoyed the fight. Today was a bonus after the championship in Brazil. Thanks to everyone at Brawn and Mercedes. Congratulations to Seb, sterling pace today and we didn’t have the legs and we couldn’t challenge them. I’m looking forward to coming back to Abu Dhabi.”

Vettel again, what’s next? “We’ll face a long winter with no testing. The guys in the factory are pushing hard. No refuelling next year. This was a special season all round, hopefully next season will be just as exciting.”

And so say we all!

Race Result

Driver Gap Pts
1 Vettel 55 laps 10
2 Webber 17.8sec 8
3 Button 18.4sec 6
4 Barrichello 22.7sec 5
5 Heidfeld 26.2sec 4
6 Kobayashi 28.3sec 3
7 Trulli 34.3sec 2
8 Buemi 41.2sec 1
9 Rosberg 45.9sec
10 Kubica 48.1sec
11 Kovalainen 52.7sec
12 Räikkönen 54.3sec
13 Nakajima 59.8sec
14 Alonso 69.6sec
15 Liuzzi 94.4sec
16 Fisichella 1 lap
17 Sutil 1 lap
18 Grosjean 1 lap
DNF Hamilton Brakes
DNF Alguersuari Gearbox

Another win for Vettel and a deserved one. Even without Lewis’ problems he could well have still won this race, he was fast enough and was catching Hamilton before the retirement.. of course we don’t know how much of that was down to the brake issues.
I like the symmetry of the best four drivers and two teams of the season taking the top four positions in the final race, despite the resurgance of McLaren and Ferrari in the second half of the year.

Drivers’ Championship

Driver Prev AD Total
1 Button 89 6 95 C
2 Vettel 74 10 84
3 Barrichello 72 5 77
4 Webber 61.5 8 69.5
5 Hamilton 49 49
6 Räikkönen 48 48
7 Rosberg 34.5 34.5
8 Trulli 30.5 2 32.5
9 Alonso 26 26
10 Glock 24 24
11 Massa 22 22
12 Kovalainen 22 22
13 Heidfeld 15 4 19
14 Kubica 17 17
15 Fisichella 8 8
16 Buemi 5 1 6
17 Sutil 5 5
18 Kobayashi 0 3 3
19 Bourdais 2 2

The top four drivers hammer home their advantage, yet it is the Red Bull drivers who made the most of this race with a maximum score for them. Surprisingly given recent form neither Raikkonen or Hamilton scored.
Heidfeld asserted himself over Kubica at the last gasp.
Buemi scored a decent haul this year for a rookie and a Toro Rosso driver.
Good to see Kobayashi get on the board, he’s a hot prospect for the future.

Constructors’ Championship

Constructor Prev AD Total
1 Brawn 161 11 172 C
2 Red Bull 135.5 18 153.5
3 McLaren 71 71
4 Ferrari 70 70
5 Toyota 54.5 5 59.5
6 BMW 32 4 36
7 Williams 34.5 34.5
8 Renault 26 26
9 Force India 13 13
10 Toro Rosso 7 1 8

Brawn and Red Bull cemented their significant advantage over the field, with RBR fighting to the last even though the titles had already been wrapped up.
McLaren and Ferrari are unchanged as the ‘best of the rest’.
Toyota are a clear 5th with Williams just losing out to BMW at the final hurdle.
Toro Rosso prove that the last-placed team doesn’t always have to score a flat zero.

Next Event

That’s it for the season! Thanks to the BBC for their coverage, better than ITV’s but still room for improvement in many areas. Thanks also to everyone for reading these and for bearing with the delays in these posts this season due to my studies. The next race is the 2010 Bahrain GP in March.

In the meantime I’ll continue to blog through the winter as it takes my fancy, you may have noticed I don’t really keep to a schedule! Watch out in particular for the F1 car launches in Jan/Feb, but before then I am going to try and catch up on the IRL and GP2 seasons. I’ll also be active on the Twitter account and at Sidepodcast and in blog comments here, there and everywhere.

If you are the type to stop reading blogs during the offseason have a good break and I’ll see you in March, I hope. If you are as obsessed with this stuff as I am, I’ll be back very soon..

Flag courtesy of 4 International Flags

Race Notes: Japanese Grand Prix 2009

2009 Formula 1 Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix
Date: 4 October 2009
Circuit: Suzuka International Racing Course
Location: Suzuka-shi, Mie-ken, Japan
(PitlaneFanatic) (GoogleCircuits)
Distance: 53 laps
Tyre choices (red): SS / S / M / H

Coverage: BBC One with BBC Radio 5 Live audio
Anchor: Jake Humphrey
Analysts: David Coulthard (DC) and Eddie Jordan (EJ)
Interviewers: Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie

R5 commentary: David Croft (Crofty) and Anthony Davidson (Ant)
R5 interviewer: Holly Samos

Coverage begins at 5am UK time. I recorded the pre-race show and watched it back after the race, on race day I got to the TV at 5.58am just in time for the start. BBC pre-show is good, but not that good.

DVR Notes

Three races to go including this one. Button has a 15 point lead over Barrichello, that needs to become a 20 point lead to win the title today. Red Bull need to score 6 more than Brawn to stay in the Constructors’ hunt.

BBC guys essentially giving the Constructors’ title to Brawn already, even if they outscore Brawn here they have a lot to do over the next two races. Have to say I agree.

Fernando Alonso has joined Ferrari, here’s a word from him:

“Ferrari has dominated F1 for the last ten years. The most popular team in teh world, the most famous team in the world you become a legend when you drive that car, whatever the performance is it is very attractive to drive for Ferrari.”

Eddie though says McLaren are about to overtake Ferrari in the table and they need to up their game. DC says Kimi is now the key to the driver market, will he go to McLaren or take the money at Toyota?

Qualifying Report with Ted Kravitz
– Friday Practice was run in the wet so by they time they got to quali on Saturday, the drivers didn’t know what cars they had underneath them.
– Webber had an accident in Saturday practice, the repairs ruled him out of qualifying so he starts from pitlane.
– Accidents from several drivers, the worst of which was Glock heavily into the tyre barrier which rules him out of the race today. He should be back for Brazil.
– Buemi caused controversy by returning to the pits after a heavy crash instead of parking it, this meant yellow flags when several drivers set their personal best (and in some cases only) lap time. For this reason several drivers were moved back five places, including Buemi.
– Vettel and Trulli line up on the front row, Hamilton and Sutil took 3rd and 4th – until Sutil had to change a gearbox and was moved back 5 places.

Grid:
Vettel, Trulli
Hamilton, Heidfeld
Raikkonen, Barrichello
Rosberg, Sutil
Kubica, Button
Kovalainen, Alguersuari
Buemi, Fisichella
Nakajima, Alonso
Grosjean, Liuzzi

Pitlane: Webber
Not starting: Glock

Jake says there were so many penalties the final grid was not announced until 10am Sunday! Overnight he saw six potential grids from six teams.

Glock says he has a cut in his leg 5-10cm long. Says he can walk, not perfectly, and it makes no sense to drive. The mechanics have the car ready, he just can’t drive it. He says it was his misjudgement on the exit of the corner.
Good stuff from Timo, admitted his error and a real shame he can’t drive this race.
DC claims the medical helicopter landed at the wrong hospital though, it had to take off and go to another..

The Buemi accident – DC says it was totally unacceptable that he didn’t stop the car and get out of the way after his crash, and instead chose to spoil the laps of those still qualifying.

Obligatory Recorded Button Interview
Says he didn’t think of slowing down for the stewards, trots out some excuse that he didn’t know what would happen with cars behind if he’d slowed down. Well if everyone obeyed the flags they would have slowed down too.. he does have the point that four other drivers did not slow down so he would’ve been in danger, but that’s crap, they should always obey the yellows, they are there for a reason.
Says for the championship the next two circuits suit their car more than this one so it is looking good for him. For this race though he’s got cars ahead which are heavier on fuel so he’s not sure how that’ll turn out, says it’ll be a fun race.

Back to the pitlane. Ross Brawn appears. He says the team will take this race as it comes. [Very philosophical because they know Red Bull has a car advantage here].
Eddie tell Ross he wants a promise: If Brawn wins this race he wants a rendition of ‘My Way’ in the karaoke club tonight – Ross agrees!
Ross says they’re fortunate that Webber had his accident and it takes pressure off them, ‘we don’t need a huge number of points here’.

Lee has recorded a piece with Vettel.
He’s talking us through his pole lap. Says the car is ‘a bit more lazy’ with race fuel onboard. This is the “5th gear through here, turn right here” sort of thing.
Lee says he has a good strike rate of converting poles to wins, but he says he doesn’t care about statistics. #SorryGavin
He’s looking back to 2007 when Kimi was 17 points down with 20 on the table, two races to go, and Kimi still won the title.

DC walking around the merchandise area! This weekend you can buy Jenson Button themed cushions and Jenson Button themed cookies.. okaaay..

Gridwalk with Martin Brundle

Vettel, P1: “Jarno is next to us [and Lewis behind], the run to turn one is not that long. We should be alright against both of them.”

Hamilton, P3: “I’m racing for the team, want to get the result. We’re in a good spot, there’s a lot of road before turn one so hopefully on the clean side I’ll get a good start. I was looking at the replays of the last few years and the outside of turn one doesn’t look a good place to be, so go for the inside.”
[Odd that he says there’s a lot of road and Sebastian says there isn’t.. a clue to their mindset?]

Heidfeld, P4: “So far so good, luckily I did lift in qualifying and others didn’t so they got penalties and I didn’t. I’d like more top speed, we’re slowest in the ranking because our 7th gear is too short.”
Martin: That’s ‘ranking’, everyone, make sure you get that right. [Heidy has a lisp]

Quick stop at Ferrari to get a good look at it while no-one is around, Martin says the cars are starting to look more like they were last year with all the aero developments being added.

Martin points up to his commentary box which is a ten minute walk from the grid so he has to get out of here, quick time for one more person..

Andy Shovelin, Button’s engineer: “Gonna be a difficult start, if we get off the line well we can do something in the race, definitely a tough afternoon. We think we’ve got a speed advantage in a straight line. He’s always relaxed on race day, that doesn’t worry him too much.”

Japanese National Anthem

Track guide with Martin and Rubens Barrichello. Rubinho says this place is special, along with Spa it is one of the top two circuits F1 visits. 130R is easier than it used to be, the entry is the same ‘wow’ as before but they’ve widened the exit. Keep off the astroturf all around the track, it slows you down.

Ted Kravitz says Sutil will be the first to pit, lap 14. Race win contenders on laps 17 or 18, with a long stint of 28 laps for Kubica.

Eddie, pick a winner: Trulli. [interesting choice, outside chance, could do it]
David, the title? Brawn will get the Constructors’ but not Drivers’. [I agree]

Live Notes

Formation Lap. 53 lap race.

1.2.3.4.5..Go!

Awesome stuff on the first lap, very fast and frantic and yet everyone is through! Amazing. I swear the cars look 2x faster here than at the likes of Bahrain or Shanghai.
Buemi very slow away at the back.

L1 (Lap 1 completed) – Vettel leads Hamilton, Trulli, Heidfeld, Kimi, Rubens, Sutil, Rosberg, Kovy, Kubica, Button.

Alonso passes Liuzzi. Webber pits despite starting from last, he’s changing from soft to hard tyres.

L3 – Webber pits again, his headrest has come loose and he goes a lap down while they try to fix it.

L4 – Lots of replays. Jenson passes Kubica! 10th.

Fuji TV directing this race, not FOM as per usual, so we’re getting a very odd choice of camera shots.

L6 – Webber pits again, guess this is now a test session for him.

L8 – Vettel is 3.3sec up on Hamilton, then a 1.9sec gap to Trulli and 3.1 to Heidfeld.

L9 – Vettel gets another half second up.

L12 – Button’s radio: Kubica is still a threat behind.
I can’t hear JB’s response. Something about Sutil.

L14 – Sutil vs Kovalainen – SPIN! Adrian spins around, Heikki runs wide and Button passes the pair of them for 8th and one point!

L15 – Buemi retired for some reason. He’s with Holly:
“We had a problem on the start with the clutch, and it finally failed.”

L16 – Hamilton pits and takes the harder tyre.
Sutil also pits from 12th.

L17 – Trulli is in, he’s out between Hamilton and Button.

L18 – Button pits and takes the harder tyre. Out in clear air. Fisichella also in.

L19 – Vettel pits from the lead, he’s taking hards as well. Barrichello, Heidfeld, Raikkonen also in.
Webber has picked up a penalty for ‘unsafe release from the pits’. Not his day.

L20 – Not a stellar race so far.. for Suzuka I’m disappointed, this race usually has drama – maybe we used it up yesterday. Most of the racing was on the first lap.

L21 – ALG complains about Rubens holding him up. Davidson, 5Live: “Well PASS HIM THEN!”

L22 – Rosberg pits, was running just behind Vettel and drops down to 9th.

L25 – Lewis radio.”OK Lewis, you need a 3 second gap to Trulli.”
“OK Lewis..” his engineer always starts like that. “OK Lewis, an anvil is going to be dropped on your head at turn 4, turn 4.”
Kovalainen pits.

Strategy races. Meh. Wonder if we’ll be clamouring for them back next year when refuelling is banned, just so fuel stops give us a break.

L29 – Groskjean runs wide at Spoon Curve. Loses a place.

L31 – Vettel sets fastest lap on lap 30. Alonso was very heavy on fuel, he’s the only one yet to stop.

L32 – Liuzzi passes Nakajima! Front straight. Kaz tries to run him off the road or into the wall by swerving over, Tonio’s having none of it, love it Tonio – we like Tonio.

L33 – Fastest Lap from Raikkonen in 5th. Catching Heidfeld quickly.

L36 – Raikkonen pits from 5th and is out in 8th.
L37 – Heidfeld in…and out, Raikkonen beats him! They made that work. Nick is out in front of his team-mate and holds him up massively.

L38 – Hamilton pits.
L39 – Kubica tries to pass Heidfeld at Spoon! Can’t do it, loses time but by the chicane he’s caught him again.
L40 – Trulli pits, quick stop, he’s beaten Hamilton!

Fisichella and Kovalainen pit, Fisi beats him on strategy but Heikki pushes his way through in turn 1 – Fisi was caught sleeping by a Finn at turn 1 at Suzuka… I’ve heard that before somewhere.

L41 – Vettel pits from the lead, slight problem on the right front but he’s so far ahead it doesn’t matter.

L42 – Kubica pits. Wonder how much time he lost behind Heidfeld.
Of the current frontrunners, Barrichello and Rosberg have yet to stop.

Oddly, this race hasn’t been great yet it seems to have gone by very quickly. Only 10 to go.

L43 – Barrichello pits and is out ahead of Button! Change of running order for the team-mates. Title-deciding?

L45 – big accident for Alguersuari. SAFETY CAR
Spin at 130R. Radio – he says he’s fine.
Rosberg pitted and is out ahead of the Brawns, he did that because the Brawns were running slow under yellow before everyone caught the Safety Car.

Hamilton is reporting a KERS issue just like in Singapore. He got it cleared then, can he now?

Replay: Alguersuari took the inside of 130R and got on the grass, through the advertising hoarding and on to the gravel – the gravel sends him into the tyre barrier.

Longish hold while he is recovered in the ambulance and the barrier is fixed.

L50 – Restart. Seems nobody made a move.. until the chicane at the end of the lap, Button takes a look, not close enough. Kubica too. Nah.

L51 – Kubica very good on braking, looking to pass Button.

Webber gets fastest lap… in last after 5 pit stops..

Last Lap

Kubica trying.. nope.

VETTEL WINS!
Lights to flag, flawless run.
Trulli 2nd, Hamilton 3rd.

Title fight? Barrichello 7th and Button 8th. Jenson made up a lot of places but Rubens fell back, not sure why, but he still got a point nearer to Button – not sure it will be enough. Vettel took a nice chunk of points out of the pair of them.

Parc Ferme
Podium
Anthems
Champagne!

Query over Rosberg’s position – BrawnGP say Nico went too quickly on his in-lap for his second pit stop, when he stopped under the Safety Car. On the lap they catch the SC they have to hit a computer-generated lap time readout on their dashboard for safety reasons and Brawn say he failed to do so, and was too quick.

Conference

Vettel, P1:

“What a race. With pole position and strategy-wise we were the favourites but first of all we have to do the start. We were pretty confident, we’ve had good starts in the past, it was closer than I thought it would be in turn one, all of a sudden I saw a Silver Arrow on the inside. I tried to push every lap, the car was fantastic. With strategy we were 2 laps longer than Lewis in the first stint. It was pretty much in control until the soft tyres in the last stint, I was taking care of my tyres apart from the fastest lap. Finally we made it, the last couple of races were a little bit up and down. Good to be back in 1st position.”

Trulli, P2:

“I knew the start would be the hot spot of the race and most difficult, Hamilton is strong on the start with KERS, this time the car pulled away pretty well but obviously came by. From then it was fantastic, qualifying laps with Lewis, closing the gap and pushing again. After the first stop again chasing closely, I was really enjoyed it because the car was strong. Eventually thanks to the strategy we got him at the last pit stop. Really happy.”

Hamilton, P3:

“We had a great race, tried to get both of them at the start but they both got a really good start which is not always the case. Sebastian drove a good race and pulled away into the distance, Jarno and I were battling with our times, after our first stop I lost KERS. I had to have a 3 second gap before our last stop and I lost half a second or something, good job by these two and we’ll battle until the last race.”

Vettel:

“Tactic was to get a good start, after that look right look left, quickly I noticed I had a decent start so I stayed in the middle. Fortunately apart from that I didn’t have wheel-to-wheel racing this race. The speed of the car was fantastic, this circuit is unbelievable. I really enjoyed myself today.”

Race Result

Driver Gap Pts
1 Vettel 53 laps 10
2 Trulli 4.8sec 8
3 Hamilton 6.4sec 6
4 Räikkönen 7.9sec 5
5 Rosberg 8.7sec 4
6 Heidfeld 9.5sec 3
7 Barrichello 10.6sec 2
8 Button 11.4sec 1
9 Kubica 11.7sec
10 Alonso 13.0sec
11 Kovalainen 13.7sec
12 Fisichella 14.5sec
13 Sutil 14.9sec
14 Liuzzi 15.7sec
15 Nakajima 17.9sec
16 Grosjean 1 lap
17 Webber 2 laps
DNF Alguersuari Accident
DNF Buemi Clutch
DNS Glock Accident

There was a query on Rosberg’s position – but after the race it was confirmed he would not receive a penalty because his dashboard showed a low-fuel warning rather than his lap time delta for the SC period, this was a fault with the common ECU everyone uses and so not the fault of Williams or Rosberg.

Drivers’ Championship

Driver Prev JPN Total
1 Button 84 1 85
2 Barrichello 69 2 71
3 Vettel 59 10 69
4 Webber 51.5 51.5
5 Räikkönen 40 5 45
6 Hamilton 37 6 43
7 Rosberg 30.5 4 34.5
8 Alonso 26 26
9 Glock 24 24
10 Trulli 22.5 8 30.5
11 Massa 22 22
12 Kovalainen 22 22
13 Heidfeld 12 3 15
14 Kubica 9 9
15 Fisichella 8 8
16 Sutil 5 5
17 Buemi 3 3
18 Bourdais 2 2

Vettel closes in! Can he pull a Raikkonen and fight his way back into contention? Rubens could still take it too, but the odds are still in Button’s favour.

Constructors’ Championship

Constructor Prev JPN Total
1 Brawn 153 3 156
2 Red Bull 110.5 10 120.5
3 Ferrari 62 5 67
4 McLaren 59 6 65
5 Toyota 46.5 8 54.5
6 Williams 30.5 4 34.5
7 Renault 26 26
8 BMW 21 3 24
9 Force India 13 13
10 Toro Rosso 5 5

All over bar the formalities, Brawn are 35.5pts ahead of Red Bull with only 36 available. This title should be won in Brazil. Keep an eye on Ferrari vs McLaren though, just two points in it for 3rd and the resultant extra squillions in TV money next season!

Next Event

The next race is the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, Sao Paulo on 18th October – the penultimate round. As it is Brazil it is an evening race for us in the UK, 5pm start (4pm-ish on TV) which is a great time for a title decider- and remember Interlagos, where ANYTHING can happen.

That’s it from Japan. I am moving house during the week of the 12th and it might run into Brazil weekend, if my internet is restored in time I’ll be live-tweeting and live-commenting the race as usual with blog notes appearing later in the week.

Flag courtesy of 4 International Flags

Race Notes: Singpore Grand Prix 2009

2009 Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix
Date: 27 September 2009
Circuit: Marina Bay Street Circuit
Location: Marina Bay, Singpore
(PitlaneFanatic) (GoogleCircuits)
Distance: 61 laps
Tyre choices (red): SS / S / M / H

Coverage: BBC One with BBC Radio 5 Live audio
Anchor: Jake Humphrey
Analysts: David Coulthard (DC) and Eddie Jordan (EJ)
Interviewers: Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie

R5 commentary: David Croft (Crofty) and Anthony Davidson (Ant)
R5 interviewer: Holly Samos

Coverage begins at 12.10pm.

DVR Notes

Jake – “Lights out in Formula One usually signifies the start of a race, tonight in Singapore it its lights on.”

Quick recap:
Four races to go including this one.
Button leads Rubens by 14, less than 30 pts cover the top four.
Brawn have a healthy lead over Red Bull.

DC says he didn’t appreciate the spectacle of a night street race last year, he was too busy working and preparing for driving. This year he’s been able to take it all in.

Recap of Singapore 2008’s Renault/Piquet race-fixing. Are we bored of this yet? I know I am, so let’s skip this bit other than to say title sponsor ING and associate sponsor Mutua Madrilena this week pulled out of supporting the team, I believe they might be still be a personal sponsor of Alonso but I’m not entirely sure.

EJ and DC are asked if it reminds them of any past incidents. They bring up Senna vs Prost at Suzuka in 1990 when Senna just drove Prost into the gravel at turn one to seal the championship. We get a replay – Murray Walker! More of this next week when we visit Japan, no doubt.

Jordan says we need to restore confidence in the integrity of F1. Agreed!

Qualifying
– Grosjean complained of brake issues. Knocked out in Q2.
– Fisichella yet to adapt to the Ferrari. “Not easy, nice to have one complete day of testing to feel better with the setup”. Meanwhile Raikkonen could only manage 13th.
– Button struggled with handling, he was out in Q2.
– Hamilton, Vettel and Rosberg were setting fast times until Barrichello hit the wall and ended the session. Rubens was 5th but will start 9th – firstly he had a 5-place penalty to 10th for an unscheduled gearbox change after worries about the unit at the last two races, but then Nick Heidfeld was found to be under-weight and was sent to the back of the grid.
– Hamilton’s time secured pole, with Vettel 2nd and Rosberg 3rd.

Grid:
Hamilton, Vettel
Rosberg, Webber
Alonso, Glock
Kubica, Kovalainen
Barrichello, Nakajima
Button, Raikkonen
Buemi, Trulli
Sutil, Alguersuari
Fisichella, Grosjean
Liuzzi
Pitlane start: Heidfeld

After Heidfeld was sent to 20th position for being underweight in qualifying, BMW elected to change his engine and gearbox and start him on full tanks from the pitlane.

To a recording bit with Hamilton earlier on race day. It is hot and humid in Singapore so he’s having to keep hydrated often. Says Singapore has great fan support (presumably for he and the team), second only to the British GP. He says his hotel blacked out his windows because the F1 personnel are staying on European time, so they are sleeping in the day, getting up at 2pm and going to bed at 6am.

Live with Ross Brawn:
“Fairly disappointing qualifying. Fine on Saturday morning, even Q1 we weren’t too bad. Out in Q2 with Jenson and it all started to fall apart. Heidfeld’s penalty puts us on the good side of the grid, small mercies. Difficult track, got to bide our time and hope opportunities come. Scoring some points would be a great result.”

Jake says this place is lit by 3 million watts of power. 500 million people are gearing up to watch this race.

DC saying “you really don’t want to get off-line, the dust sucks you into the wall, you saw what happened to Rubens yesterday.”

We’re hoping it won’t rain, as is possible. It is a long race anyway and who knows how it would affect the visibility, with glare from the lights reflecting on the track. This happened in Qatar last year for the MotoGP night race which had to be postponed a day.

Gridwalk with Martin Brundle.
– Lightning in the sky but the rainstorm is not heading for the race track.
– Rubens, P9: “Everything is okay. It looked bigger than it was [the crash yesterday], from here I need to move forward. Clean side of the track does make a difference, for the support race just standing on the pitwall you could see a lot of dust.”
– Brundle says to John Button while walking by.. “here I’ve got a present for Jenson, a glow stick, and make sure he eats his carrots!”
– Very quick line from the PM of Singapore, he tips Hamilton for the win.
– Martin says this will be a race all about saving the rear tyres. Trying to find “Teflonso” – ha!
– Rosberg, P3: “Looking forward to a strong race, I have more fuel than Sebastian and I’m on the better side of the grid. (Hamilton) looked strong in qualifying, will be difficult to beat him and he has KERS.”
– Vettel, P2: “Its a long race, 61 laps is a long way to go. First of all survive the first corner, first lap. Who knows what happens.”
We lost the gridwalk camera feed so he throws back to Jake in the pits.

Singapore National Anthem
Fact: Singapore has been an independent nation since 1965.
Unfortunately their anthem sounds like a lot of other anthems, or Eurovision Song Contest entries.

Shots of Ari Vataen and Jean Todt quickly shaking hands on the grid. Not a staged thing, looks like Todt and his entourage were walking through and Ari, alone, fights his way through to get a handshake..

Track Guide.. new pit entry and exit. The turns have been extended out into the runoff area and are tighter than last year, to create space for the pit access.
New kerbs at the turn 10 chicane.. last year we had saw-tooth affairs which were not good, this year we have kerbs similar to the new ones at Monza the other week. Chicane is a bit tighter than before, drivers not happy though. Turn 17 now known in F1 as Piquet’s Corner!

Ted Kravitz says Vettel has only 42kg of fuel on board, compared to 51kg for Hamilton. Lewis is quickest and heaviest of the frontrunners. Lots of stoppers between lap 17-21, Button is fuelled heavily to lap 28.

Mario Theissen! We like Mario. He looks like Ned Flanders. Talking about Heidfeld’s penalty:
“It was a mistake, we found out a ballast weight was not correctly placed. We indicated it to the FIA and the penalty was to go to the back of the grid. If it was intentional we would not have indicated it!”
Speaking of which we get Heidfeld team radio, which the BBC completely ignore in order to hear David Coulthard speak about tyre management. Both EJ and DC tip Hamilton for the win.

Grid reminder:
Hamilton, Vettel
Rosberg, Webber
Alonso, Glock
Kubica, Kovalainen
Barrichello, Nakajima
Button, Raikkonen
Buemi, Trulli
Sutil, Alguersuari
Fisichella, Grosjean
Liuzzi
Pitlane start: Heidfeld

Live Notes

Engines firing.

1:00pm UK time – Formation Lap

Grid

1.2.3.4.5..Go!!

L1 Hamilton clear in the lead. Everyone through turn one. Rosberg 2nd.

Alonso pushing Webber. Goes wide. Webber and Glock clear Alonso.

L2 Cars stringing out already.

Replays:
Vettel had a lot of wheelspin on the dust. Slow away.
Webber ignored the kerb to pass Alonso on the wrong side of it – could get penalised.

L4 Grosjean pits and enters the garage.

L5 Hamilton radio “Possible KERS issue”. He’s told to disable the KERS.

L7 Webber told let Alonso through, for passing wrong side of kerbs.. He also let Glock through.

L8 Not sure why Crofty thinks it was Red Bull’s decision. He said it was “ultra-conservative” from them. Surely it was an order from Whiting…

On the replay Webber looks to take a good line through the corner, that kerbing is in a really strange place. If they moved it back that corner could make a good passing place!

L10 Radio calls.. Sutil told to manage the engine due to overheating stuck behind Alguersuari, then Fisichella is told about Sutil’s message and to pass him!

L12 Buemi runs wide on to the dust, Raikkonen passes him.

L14 Liuzzi goes for Fisichella, they are side by side… yellow flag! Liuzzi has to back out. I’m unable to see the reason for the flag at that corner.

OK we see it now – debris from Glock’s Toyota (slowmo replay shows it falling off). In the wrong place as well, on the exit of the only decent passing place on the circuit! Always the way.

Order: Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Glock, Alonso, Webber, Barrichello, Kubica, Kovalainen, Button, Nakajima, Raikkonen, Buemi, Alguersuari, Sutil, Fisichella, Liuzzi, Trulli, Heidfeld.

L18 A brave (stupid?) marshal runs to collect the debris under double-waved yellows* – as Vettel pits to emerge in 7th behind Barrichello. I’m not sure you could pay me to do that – and these guys aren’t paid.
* single waved yellow warns the driver of danger, double flags mean slow down and be prepared to stop.

L19 Rosberg pits, he’s out ahead of Rubens but crosses the pit exit line early. Rubens passes him on the next corner. Penalty coming for Nico. Webber also pitted.

L20 Glock is in, so is Barrichello. Glock out behind Nakajima. Barrichello is just ahead of Raikkonen now.

L21 Hamilton pits – he beats Alonso who has yet to stop.
Drive-through penalty for Rosberg for crossing pit exit line. Replays showed him fully on the race track before he darts back across the blend line to pit exit side.

SAFETY CAR

Sutil tries to pass Alguersuari and spins – as he tries to recover he t-bones Heidfeld and knocks Nick around. Adrian tried to continue the spin to turn it into a 360 but forgot to look for traffic. His fault, no question.
New front wing for Sutil. Heidfeld is out on the spot with broken suspension, he manages to clear his car to the escape road. This ends Heidfeld’s record run of races without retirement, he got up to something like 42 consecutive races! That’s more than two seasons!

L22 Lots more pitting. Button, Kovalainen, Alonso, Nakajima, more.
Alguersuari departs with his fuel hose attached! Stops but not before the equipment his fuel man is pulled down. He went before the stop board was lifted!

L23 New Order:
Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Glock, Alonso, Barrichello, Kovalainen, Button, Webber, Kubica, Nakajima, Raikkonen, Buemi, Trulli, Fisichella, Liuzzi, Alguersuari, Sutil.

Rosberg still needs to take is drive-through penalty. This SC has worked wonders for the one-stoppers who have come in now, but not helped the two-stoppers who have lost their track advantage. I have completely lost track of who that is. Who needs to come in again and who doesn’t? I should keep notes or something.

L24 Team radio : Rosberg will follow SC in to take his penalty.
Sutil pits under the SC, goes into the garage.

L25 GREEN FLAG – Rosberg did not take his penalty.

L27 No change in the order. A couple of little looks on the restart.
Race Control: Incident involving cars 6 and 20 to be investigated after the race. Sutil and Heidfeld.

L28 Rosberg takes his penalty and he’s now behind Trulli in 14th.

L31 Through half distance. If we get another Safety Car we’ll hit the 2hr limit.

L34 On 5Live, Sutil blames Heidfeld for driving over his front wing, unbelievable!

L35 Rosberg pits for tyres and fuel. He’s quite a way back now, out of contention. Shame.

L38 There’s not a great deal going on, though now Hamilton and Vettel are trading fast laps and are only half a second apart.

Replay: Vettel’s right wing mirror (and associated aero devices) have come off.

L39 Rosberg passes Alguersuari. Jamie just pulls over and lets him go.

L40 Vettel pits from Hamilton’s tail, and he’s back out behind Jenson Button for 7th.

22 laps to go. This isn’t a great race, but not the MOST boring I’ve ever seen. Try watching Valencia, Magny-Cours, Imola-with-chicanes and the before-they-fixed-it Hungaroring.

L41 Buemi pits twice in two laps, his fuel rig broke down and they had to use the backup.
Vettel – speeding in the pitlane!
Replay – he’s broken his rear diffuser on a kerb.

L44 Vettel takes his drive-through for pitlane speeding.

L45 Webber pits, lots of black dust from the brakes. He rejoins 14th behind Fisichella and Liuzzi.

L46 Glock pits from 2nd. He’s now behind Kovalainen in 6th. Button is catching this group.
Webber spins at turn 1! He’s backwards in the tyre barrier.

Hamilton take the opportunity to stop, in case of SC.

Brake failure for Webber – we saw it coming with that dust earlier.

Also pitting: Barrichello, Kovalainen, Nakajima, Fisichella, Liuzzi.

No Safety Car, track has been cleared. Alonso leads.

L48 Both Toro Rossos are pulled in retire – worried about brakes too? Seems so.

L50 Alonso pits from the lead. Hamilton now leads. Fernando is now 4th.

L52 Button pits from 2nd. Does he beat Barrichello? Yes! He is 5th after starting 11th.

L53 Raikkonen pits from 7th, he’s out in 10th, bad day for Ferrari.

9 laps to go. Top ten: Hamilton, Glock, Alonso, Vettel, Button, Barrichello, Kovalainen, Kubica, Nakajima, Raikkonen.

Vettel has brake problems – sister car crashed, sister team withdrawn setting fastest laps. He’s 6.3sec behind Glock. Glock is only 7.7sec behind Hamilton, a good race from Timo.

Heidfeld with 5Live: “Sutil started moving without switching his brain on. 42 races without stopping, pity it came to an end.”

L56 Clouds of black brake dust from Button’s car.

L58 Ross Brawn on the radio to Button, he’s told to back off and bring it home. Rubens then told about Button’s issues… “Can I catch him??” “Um, no, you’re 10 seconds down at the same speed.”
Actually he is over a 1sec lap faster, but he’s almost certainly going to have the same problem if he pushes and with 3 laps left there’s no point risking it to close a 10 second gap.

L59 The only battle remaining is Kubica-Nakajima-Raikkonen for 8th position and the final point.

Last Lap

Lewis Hamilton wins!
Glock 2nd, good run
Alonso 3rd
Vettel, Button, Barrichello Kovalainen and Kubica round out the points.
Nakajima somehow holds off Raikkonen in what is possibly the first time in a while I’ve seen him not simply wave the other guy past him..

Long cooldown lap.
Parc Ferme. Lewis happy!
Podium
Anthem
Trophies
Champagne

Lots of post-race rambling from the trio in the paddock. Now the drivers:

Button with Lee: “I wish I’d done those laps in qualifying. Good race, I got stuck behind Heikki but got past him when he pitted. Happy to get Nakajima off the line, that was key for me.”
McKenzie throws him a curveball by asking him about the second safety car – there was only one, Lee! Jenson says he doesn’t remember the second one.. he’s very positive for Japan.

BBC main coverage is out of here double-quick time in order to show a rerun of Eastenders. Really? I mean.. really??? Come on.. No press conference. BUT we can hit the (free) red button service to catch more interviews, that’s where we find the conference. (UK TV has gone for interactive extra channels instead of a lot of HD, for now)

Conference with Peter Windsor:

Hamilton: “Very tough race. Race was pretty straightforward, managed to get a big enough gap. I knew I was 5 laps longer than [Vettel], all I had to do was keep him behind. Big thank you to the team and my family.”
Windsor: “You had trouble with the KERS button early in the race.”
Hamilton: “I had no problem in the car but the team said we had a fault, I had to disable it and re-engage it and it worked fine after that. Had pressure from Nico in the beginning. There’s corner after corner, there’s no real break here. The fans here are amazing.”

Glock: “Really good race for me, the start was a bit messy but then then a good first stint. Before I came here I knew the driver can make a difference here. I lost the view of where the other guys are, my team did not say to me where I am, suddenly they said you are safe for P2 and I was really surprised!”

Alonso (collar unbuttoned in order to not show ING sponsorship!): “Result is great for us, first podium of the season. First lap was a little bit stressful side by side with Mark, then Timo took the benefit in turn 8, so the battle with Mark I lost a position to Timo and we finished right behind him but no complaints, fantastic for us, we had the pace all weekend.”

This coverage on the interactive channel continues for another hour, it is called the BBC F1 Forum and there is a lot more chat, interviews, F1 personalities come and pay a visit, all good stuff and far too long to note down here!! Interestingly in this one, Martin Whitmarsh may just have let slip that Kimi is coming in to replace Heikki simply by being terrible at denying a rumour put to him..giggling away like a schoolkid.. All good fun.

Race Result

Driver Gap Pts
1 Hamilton 61 laps 10
2 Glock 9.6sec 8
3 Alonso 16.6sec 6
4 Vettel 20.2sec 5
5 Button 30.0sec 4
6 Barrichello 31.8sec 3
7 Kovalainen 36.1sec 2
8 Kubica 55.0sec 1
9 Nakajima 56.0sec
10 Räikkönen 58.8sec
11 Rosberg 59.7sec
12 Trulli 73.0sec
13 Fisichella 79.0sec
14 Liuzzi 93.5sec
DNF Alguersuari Brakes
DNF Buemi Gearbox
DNF Webber Brakes
DNF Sutil Damage
DNF Heidfeld Accident
DNF Grosjean Brakes

Drivers’ Championship

Driver Prev SIN Total
1 Button 80 4 84
2 Barrichello 66 3 69
3 Vettel 54 5 59
4 Webber 51.5 51.5
5 Räikkönen 40 40
6 Hamilton 27 10 37
7 Rosberg 30.5 30.5
8 Alonso 20 6 26
9 Glock 16 8 24
10 Trulli 22.5 22.5
11 Massa 22 22
12 Kovalainen 20 2 22
13 Heidfeld 12 12
14 Kubica 8 1 9
15 Fisichella 8 8
16 Sutil 5 5
17 Buemi 3 3
18 Bourdais 2 2

Vettel keeps pace with the Brawn drivers but realistically this is now a fight between the two teammates – Seb needs to be out-scoring these two by some margin and he isn’t doing so. Equally, Rubens is 15 points behind Jenson now so has a lot of work to do. If Jenson scores 5pts more than Rubens in Japan he is Champion.

In the meantime, Hamilton manages to get a good score on the board while Raikkonen gets a big fat zero – the opposite to Monza – and so closes the gap once more, taking Rosberg’s position as he does so. Alonso and Glock take higher positions in the midfield bunfight.

Constructors’ Championship

Constructor Prev SIN Total
1 Brawn 146 7 153
2 Red Bull 105.5 5 110.5
3 Ferrari 62 62
4 McLaren 47 12 59
5 Toyota 38.5 8 46.5
6 Williams 30.5 30.5
7 Renault 20 6 26
8 BMW 20 1 21
9 Force India 13 13
10 Toro Rosso 5 5

Brawn have got this one pretty much sewn up now, with only three races remaining it is a tall order for Red Bull to catch up. There are 18 points available at each race if a team places first and second, that’s 54 points over the next 3 races with a gap of 42.5 between the top two.

The action is in the midfield where Ferrari and McLaren are after 3rd but seemingly not able to take big scores in the same race as their rival, and there’s a big fight for 6th where Renault may have started a late surge.

Next Event

The next race is the FujiTV Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka this weekend! An early start for this one, BBC TV should kick off at about 5am UK time with the race start at 6am. That’s 1am US Eastern, assuming they carry it live. I’ll be live-tweeting and live-commenting the race as usual, with blog notes appearing later in the week. In the meantime my Weekend Preview ought to be up on Friday. See you over the weekend!

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