Lewis Hamilton v. 2011

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

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

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Lewis Hamilton v. 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swap Shop: Too Much Racing?

Too Much Racing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Blog Swap Post – Pruning the Feeder Series

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

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

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

A Proper Offseason

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

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

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

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

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

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