Was the 2011 European GP boring?

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

No.

Don’t be silly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Watching… #3: NASCAR road courses, F1, F2, more

I watch too much racing. What have I been watching over the last couple of weeks?

I watch too much racing. What have I been watching over the last couple of weeks?

Formula 2 – Valencia 2009
Race 1 of 2. This was the ‘comeback race’ for the F2 name, unfortunately it was at the Ricardo Tormo circuit so it was rubbish, really boring. I don’t think I’ve seen a good race at that circuit in my life, any series. Maybe MotoGP. Martin Haven did his best to inject enthusiasm and a great deal of knowledge of ‘old F2’ and of drivers parachuting in from other series, but really you need the on-track stuff to be good as well and it really wasn’t. I missed the 2nd race, I have a feeling I watched it live on their site but I can’t remember, it was a year ago..

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=Nationwide+Road+America&iid=9161555″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9161555/bucyrus-200/bucyrus-200.jpg?size=500&imageId=9161555″ width=”380″ height=”294″ /]

Nationwide Series – Road America 2010 *live*
I was curious to see the 2nd-tier NASCAR series on a road course, and it had Jacques Villeneuve guest-driving and a couple of guys were pulling the double with this race in Wisconsin on Saturday and the Cup race in California on Sunday. I was disappointed. JV and Carl Edwards had a great battle at the front, unfortunately the rest of the field were hopeless and it came to a head with a lengthy red-flag delay after a multi-car pile-up which is when I gave up following it. I didn’t expect a ‘Dega-style “Big One” on a road course! Apparently once the race restarted it was brought back under safety car multiple times, and finished some hours after I’d left it. Needs work.

IZOD IndyCar – Iowa 2010 *live*
This was a great race, you could tell that from the few times the Race Control cameras were pointing in the right direction. I’m going to have to watch this again with the TV feed. To give them credit they did stick with the lead battle for a good while, unfortunately the lack of direction meant I missed the battling in the pack. Tony Kanaan had a brilliant run and it was great to see him win and to do it with a pass for the lead as well, excellent. I wasn’t sure what happened to Marco Andretti’s early run, I guess the car went away from him just as TK’s was coming to him. Needless to say the ‘red cars’ were all up there in contention throughout, but I do think Andretti Autosport are regaining the relative pace they had against them some time ago. Good to see.

Sprint Cup, Sonoma 2010 *live*
Again I wanted to see how the stock car people handled the road courses. I expected something more professional than the Nationwide race and that’s largely what we had, after all most of them have driven at Sonoma for some years now. It was a pretty good race with a mixture of strategies throughout the field, it was great to see DTM driver Mattias Ekstrom lead the race for a while on his debut but it was former V8 Supercar driver Marcos Ambrose who was in control much of the time – until he threw it away with a driver error under caution, allowing Jimmie Johnson to win. It was interesting to see how the race turned into a knife fight in the closing stages, it was like a 25-minute BTCC race with cars being pushed all over the track and spun around. This race also had a red flag period caused by a multi-car shunt, thankfully it was cleared up significantly faster than in the Nationwide event. There was the usual problem of going full-course yellow for someone spinning and resuming within 30 seconds, though it wasn’t as bad as usual and some incidents were allowed to develop and recover before the safety car was called so there is some progress.

Formula 1 – European GP 2010 *live*
A moderately interesting race, it was better than I was expecting for this circuit so that is a small victory. Mark Webber was exceedingly lucky and that’s a huge victory. Kobayashi really proved his worth by staying out on one set of tyres for that length of time when nobody else seemed able to, then using his fresher tyres to put a move on Alonso. Well played, Kamui. There was that dodgy safety car call with Hamilton and his penalty, we’re a few days on and now I’m a bit talked-out about it but you can read more here.

The World Cup
A lot of prime motorsport viewing time has been taking up with the World Cup instead. Some of it really wasn’t worth bothering with and I’m by no means a fan of the game, yet others have been enjoyable. There was a game last Tuesday between Japan and somebody which was the best game I’ve seen in ages.

Looking Ahead
Le Tour de France starts this weekend and over the next couple of weeks I’ll be watching the nightly highlights on ITV4 if they are as they were last year. I’m also heading to Goodwood for the Festival of Speed on Sunday.

Blog note.
You may have noticed I’m not very good at sticking to ideas, the weekly review each Monday/Tuesday hasn’t happened lately due to one thing and another (mainly the World Cup) so I’m reworking it into an ad-hoc approach to be done whenever I feel like posting an update. Better to be more ‘organic’ that way rather than doing a post for the sake of it.

F1 – European Grand Prix

2008 Formula 1 Telefonica Grand Prix of Europe
Valencia, Spain
Round 12 of 17
5.440 km (3.38 mile) street circuit
Race distance: 57 laps, 310.08 km, 192.66 miles

The Grand Prix of Europe, because we’re all one big happy European family!

Coverage: ITV1 *LIVE*
Anchor: Steve Rider
Analyst: Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Louise Goodman & Ted Kravitz

You can read my race preview here. I was unable to take notes live by computer when I watched the race, so my notes are hand-written. It’s now Monday and I’m trying to decipher them.. Quotes are paraphrased!

Pre-Race
The info comes thick and fast on the ITV pre-race, they do an excellent job which is only really let down by their main commentator (this is strange as he was one of the best pit reporters I’ve ever heard) and their over-emphasis on Lewis Hamilton. Coverage switches to the BBC in 2009, it’ll be interesting to see how they approach it.

12:05 British Summer Time / 13:05 local time in Valencia

Steve: “This is Valencia’s first F1 race, the track took 9 months to build. It is a high-speed layout with two or three potential passing places.” The track is around several America’s Cup racing yacht bases.

Mark: “This is the first time in years we’ve had a track with a flat out turn 1. I’m looking forward to it. New circuit, new race conditions. The warm temperatures should suit Ferrari. Brakes could be an issue.”

This is because like Montreal and Bahrain, there are several fast sections leading into tight, slow corners.

12:10 Interview with the guy who built the track, didn’t catch a name (not Tilke):
“This circuit cost 70m Euros to build but we’ll save money from now on, now we have the facilities. “
It took 700 workers 270 days to construct the circuit, they relaid the asphalt so we aren’t on normal streets, this is racetrack.

Alonso was fined 10,000 Euros for crossing the pit exit (or entry?) white line during practice. Can’t cross that line, not even an inch.

Trulli: “I like the city, I like the circuit environment, it doesn’t feel like a street track.”

A reported 112,000 fans are in attendance, later we learn the capacity is 120k and the promoters were disappointed not to get a sellout.

Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren test driver), interviewed because he is Spanish: “Great track, a great effort, safety is good. It will get stronger and better.”

Mark (who raced in CART for several years): “It’s like Montreal or the US street tracks. The teams are prepared, McLaren has a laser wot scans the circuit so they can put it into their computer.”
European street tracks are tight, fiddly affairs, there aren’t many in the US mould of wider more open layouts i.e. Long Beach or St Pete. There aren’t many European street tracks at all actually.
He was also referring to McLaren’s scanning system, we learned in qualifying that McL sent a team out several weeks ago with a scanner for their race simulator.

12:15 Here’s James with a quick report from qualifying, blink and you miss it, I did.
Talking to more drivers. Massa, Hamilton, Vettel.
Lewis: “Surprised there have been no shunts yet.” Only in F1 Lewis, the support race guys have been crashing everywhere. Who will win? “Whoever looks after their tyres and stays off the walls.”
Seb Vettel: “I made a mistake in turn 12 so could not improve, but I wasn’t going to be on pole anyway!”

Qualifying order:
Q3: MAS, HAM, KUB, RAI, KOV, VET, TRU, HEI, ROS, BOU
Knocked out in Q2: NAK, ALO, GLO, WEB, PIQ
Knocked out in Q1: BUT, COU, FIS, BAR, SUT

Steve: Surprises in qualifying?
Mark [I’ll summarise]: “Massa outstanding job. Vettel. Topsy turvy until the last session when the order returned to normal. Toro Rosso outpaced Red Bull.”

Now we go onboard with Felipe Massa during is pole lap yesterday, commentary from Martin Brundle who talks us around the corner entries, racing lines, gears, etc. I always look forward to this.
Martin: “5.44km, was very dusty but has improved as rubber down. Flag marshals will have to be on their toes as there are a lot of blind-entry corners at speed. The pole position spot was only moved to the clean side of the grid this morning.”
The cars are laying rubber on the racing line, over one half of the grid. The other half is still fairly dusty – same as Hungary. Pole was supposed to be on the dirty side. Later we learn it was changed before Qual but they weren’t given the info in the commentary box.

Feature: After quals, Red Bull drivers from both teams were taken out on an America’s Cup racing boat, the one Red Bull sponsors. While there they talked to Louise.
Bourdais: You’re used to this sort of track from America? “Not actually much like the USA. It’s unique. It’s an interesting track.” He’s referring to it being a normal racing surface but around streets.
DC (sitting next to Bourdais on the yacht): “The atmosphere will build over the coming years. We’re definitely not in America, I don’t see anyone eating hotdogs and hamburgers!”

12:24 Unusual that there are only grandstands here, no general admission. Even Monaco has a little GA section.

The America’s Cup is in a legal dispute over where to hold their event, so they might not even return to Valencia despite them building facilities for them. So they need to find another use: F1!
Bernie was interviewed before quals yesterday and said it was his idea.

DC again, this time on a balcony in pitlane: “It will be better in 5 years when the local redevelopment is complete.” Says something about being a dockyard.

Ted Kravitz: “This is like Monaco but with less money and more room to spread out.”

12:29 Team personnel are now on the grid and engines are firing up in the garages. As Steve and Mark babble about something, the first cars head out on their sighting laps.
Mark had tipped Massa for the title a few weeks back: “I’d better stick to my guns. Out front nobody can touch him, he struggles when he’s behind, and he’s starting on pole. Watch Hamilton, he always starts fast.”

12:36
Lewis: “We’re fast and consistant, happy to be on the front row.” About Massa passing him in Hungary: “No-one ever usually overtakes me, if they do its on the inside! Outside won’t happen again.” And Valencia? “Very wide, don’t get close to the walls, it’s like a car park!”
Have you sent a message to Team GB in Beijing to support them? (FFS what sort of question is that?): “Very proud of GB [looks at camera], very proud of you if you’re watching. Usain Bolt, gobsmacked at the speed of the Jamaicans.”

12:39 Martin’s gridwalk!
“Valencia has character, an unusual first corner, sitting on the grid they are looking at a wall. Corner feeds into the braking area for turn 2. GP2 got through there and they drive like its their last day on Earth. There is no perimeter road, no space for cranes so Safety Cars are expected. No F1 cars in the wall yet though.”
“Superb lap from Massa. Hot temps favour Ferrari. [why Martin, why?] 10-12 guys working on the cars on the grid.”
Michael Schumacher (honestly) is standing talking to Mario Theissen of BMW. No, he’s on the phone! Martin interrupts him anyway.
“Michael, sorry didn’t realise you were on the phone”
Schuey: “Honestly” [hah, his first word was ‘honestly’!] “Honestly, the cars and tyres are sensitive to temperatures.” Short answers today from Michael, there was that and some one word answers..
Martin asks if he’d like to drive here? “Maybe on a bike! Martin: “But you keep falling off! Isn’t it unsafe?”
“I thought so too a few years ago.”
“I know what you mean, I ride a road bike myself, thanks Michael and sorry for interrupting your phone call – Mario!” He grabs Mario Theissen who is talking to someone else. Michael says goodbye to Mario…
Mario: “Kubica in a good position, good chance. 1 stop for the cars at the back, 2 stops further up.” Martin: “Sorry to butt in!”.
Bumps into Bernie who is with the Mayor of Valencia, tries to motion Martin to talk to his esteemed guest but he ignores her completely. Bernie: “I’ve wanted a GP since my first time here. That was 14 months ago.” Martin: “I’m sure you’re pleased and so is the mayor, well done ma’am”. [words to that effect]
Walks along, finds Heidfeld: “Track is quite grippy, not our own rubber but should be nice. We took the safer option on brakes which is more comfortable anyway.”
Out of a break, into gridwalk, into the next break.. Commercials bunching means nearly race time.

12:47 Button with Louise: “Disappointing qualifying, we chose the wrong tyres.” Plan? “Go fast, don’t crash!”.
Ted with Alan Permaine, engine guru at Renault. Ted: “Seems to have become an engine circuit with long straights, you struggling?” Alan: “Don’t want to go into that too much for obvious reasons!” He said more but I didn’t take it down in my notes for some reason..

Almost ready to begin, one final ad break before the start, now we join James and Martin upstairs as the official F1 track graphics are rolling.

Barrichello and Sutil will be starting from the pit lane as they had to work on their gearbox after qualifying. That breaks the new ‘your gearbox has to last for 4 races’ rule. I’m not sure why they don’t just put them at the back.

13:02 Cars away on the Formation Lap
James: “This race is 57 laps which is 192 miles, the longest race of the year.”
My comments: F1 races last either 2 hours or 300 km, whichever is soonest. The scheduled laps are normally based on the 300 km but this one seems to be 10km more for no apparent reason. We don’t yet know how long this will be in terms of time, depends on SC. The next race (Spa) is long in terms of time, not sure on distance, the one after (Monza) is the shortest in time.

Grid forms up.

5..4..3..2..1..pause..GO!

57 to go: Everyone gets through the first turns, they are taking it carefully. Amazing sight through T1. Nope – someone in the wall at T3. Alonso is slow. Nakajima has a damaged front wing. DC has also dropped back.
Replay: Nakajima hit Alonso’s rear wing, both wings damaged. James: “Rear wing is structurally attached to the gearbox and will take up to 5 minutes to change. Front wing is easy – change the nose.”

L55: Massa is 8 points back from Hamilton with 6 races to run. Kovalainen gets Raikkonen on the start.

L54: Alonso is out of the car. He’d been told to wait while they fix it, looks like he’s done. Replay: He had to get out of it to avoid another car. Naka didn’t get out of it.

L53: DC runs at Piquet and gets him, nice move!
L52: Heidfeld lost a spot to Rosberg at the start for 8th. Sutil radio: “I’m faster I need to pass him!” Talking about his teammate Fisi.
Louise with Alonso: “2 races in Spain, 2 retirements. We tried to go out for the fans, they came to see me, too much damage to suspension and gearbox so impossible to go out now.”
L50: DC makes a run at Sutil, hits him and spins! Sutil continues.

L48: Kubica in 3rd is now 8.5s behind Hamilton, lost some time. Struggling with oversteer will fix it at next stop. Bourdais has a broken front wing element.

L46: Rubens runs wide, DC goes by him. Vettel is fast.
L45: Kimi 5th 17.8s back from Massa after 12 laps but may be quicker than Kovy. James talked about ‘field spread’, cars spread out more easily at some tracks due to configuration of straights/corners.

L43: Allen: “In F1 if 3 people gather they’ll end up talking about Massa. Is he good enough?” Championship material? Brundle: “He’s beating Schumacher and Raikkonen in the same car, he’s fast.” Massa pits! That’s early and unexpected even by McLaren. Expected 2 laps later. He’s out ahead of Kimi! Massa running heavy is ahead of a light Kimi, he’ll hold up Kimi, that’ll annoy him.
ITV are saying Big Mistake.

L41: Hamilton pits. Lots of dust. Is out behind Raikkonen. Vettel also in, back out 9th.
L40: Now the turn of Kubica and Raikkonen.
L38: Trulli in. Hamilton only gained 1 second over Massa on his stop.
L37: Kovy pits as does Rosberg. HK comes out alongside Heidfeld who hasn’t stopped.
L35: Nick pits now, out 11th, not great but some one-stoppers are ahead.

L34: They are saying Renault is generally down on power compared to the other manufacturers, and that Red Bull aren’t happy with the situation. Glock is asked about his tyres.

L31: Piquet has wing damage. Fisi hasn’t stopped yet, neither have Webber, Piquet, Glock, Button or Sutil.

L29: Hard tyres are getting better lap times as we go through the stint. Webber overshoots his pit box on the dust, hits his jack man. Everyone has to shuffle down a bit. Martin: If you go in too hot that can happen, but if you’re too careful you lose too much time.

L28: Team checks in with Glock again. No wing adjustment for Timo, he’s happy. During the next few laps he pits while we’re in an ad break. He’s 1-stopping and looking to beat Vettel who’s 2-stopping.

L25: This is fairly uneventful. I’m not gonna lie, I’m flipping between this and the Olympic Closing Ceremony which is just starting because a) this race is boring and b) I want to see London’s handover segment. If I miss anything tell me later ‘k?

L22: Hamilton struggling to match Massa’s pace, has he settled for 2nd and the championship points? Raikkonen is catching Kovy. The Ferraris *are* faster in these conditions. If I were McLaren I’d be hoping for cloud cover.

L19: Massa pits and is released into Sutil. Traffic already in pitlane has priority! You can try and beat him but once he’s there you’ve got to give way. Ferrari’s error, no doubt about it. Not Massa’s fault, he goes when the team tells him.

Incident involving car 2 under investigation.

L18: Hamilton pits. Emerges behind Massa. Vettel in.
L17: Kubica in.
L15: Sutil into the wall. Okay the tyre wall. Yellow flags at turn 2, they should be able to recover that without the SC as he’s in a runoff area.
Incident with car 2 will be sorted after the race.
Rosberg now into a runoff, continues.
L14: Kimi hit a man! He left his pit box with the fuel hose still attached, it took a guy with it. Kimi stops immediately. The mechanic is stretchered away to the medical centre. Replay: Kimi goes on the orange light. Ferrari have a light system rather than a man with a stop board. Supposed to wait for green, the orange lit and he went.

L11: Now his engine! Kimi’s engine has gone. Boom! He’s on the pit straight in front of everyone as well.. pulls to the side. This doesn’t help his points battle, and he might be relegated to Massa’s Helper.

L9: Kovalainen 4th is much quicker than Kubica 3rd. Catching him fast. Enough laps left? Fisi gets it wrong on the kerb.

L7: Louise with Kimi: Oh, she’s not got him, he’s walking past everyone, not talking. Will try to get him later.

L6: Team to Glock: “Rosberg catching you.” Shot of people on the funnel of the ship!

L5: Ferrari man to Ted [on Massa incident]: “Nobody lost time”.
Allen (bloke can’t hear him): “That’s not the point! It was an unsafe release, as the caption said.”
Massa’s conception was an unsafe release.

These last laps are really tedious. Where is the passing we were promised? Can I at least have a close battle? Some form of intrigue? No? Nothing?

L2: Brundle cottons on: “Not much overtaking. Hopefully the 2009 car regulations will bring overtaking back to F1.”
Allen: “Vettel is 10 km/h faster than Trulli on the straights here.”
Salient point there James..

L1: Brundle: “Great drive but rules are rules.” He’s been complaining for a while now that Massa should have been given a penalty. Expects a grid penalty next race.

Chequered Flag – Massa wins!
Hamilton 2nd then a biiig gap to Kubica 3rd and the chasing cars.

Finishing order:

MAS, HAM, KUB, KOV, TRU, VET, GLO, ROS, HEI, BOU, PIQ, WEB (-1), BUT (-1), FIS (-1), NAK (-1), BAR (-1), COU (-1)
DNF: RAI, SUT, ALO

Martin’s Driver of the Day? Sebastien Vettel.
I’d choose Glock because he had a much lower starting position and finished one place back from Vettel. Martin gives it to Vettel because of his ablity to run up front at speed.

Rob Smedley, race engineer for Massa: “We released him and he backed off [to let Sutil through]. Silly little incident let’s not dwell on it.” Then into the usual ‘great race’ platitudes the engineers give their drivers when they win.

James Allen says it: “Not a thriller but lots of drama.”
Martin Brundle: “Yes and Kubica is only 2 points behind Raikkonen now.”

This year has seen good racing and an even better points battle. Let’s look at the tables:

WDC
Hamilton 70
Massa 64
Kimi 57
Kubica 55
Kovy 43
Heidy 41

WCC
Ferrari 121
McLaren 113
BMW 96
Toyota 41
Renault 31
RBR 24

Full tables at www.formula1.com as is the transcript of the press conference, I haven’t read that, this is from the TV:

Massa: “Chose the right tyres yesterday. Pole, race, fastest lap what more to ask for? Start was just great, car improving lap by lap. Sutil not clever, should have let me by. I was the leader and he was the lapping (lapped) car.”
Uh, no, there has been a precedent for some time… you’re stopped and a guy is coming past, if there isn’t room for two wide you wait until he’s through.

Hamilton: “Strong weekend, problems healthwise. Nice new circuit, solid weekend. Track not too physical but hot.”
ITV decided that hearing from Kubica was none of our business so cut away to Steve and Mark babbling again, because that’s what we all want to hear.
Louise got a very quick comment from Sutil: “Car just appeared alongside me.”

I think his bit was edited because we’re quickly into the ITV F1 competition then dumped out into adverts and an old Carry On film. Seriously? I can understand Coronation Street, biggest soap in the country. But this shit? Nothing like cutting a post-race debrief short for a 1967 “comedy”.

I really hope the racing gets better next year because Valencia was a fantastic venue! One I would be tempted to visit.

Okay, so that concludes my notes for this event. Sorry if this is too long for you, whaddaya gonna do. Feedback is appreciated.

I missed the IRL at Sonoma on the big fuck-off TV, had to go elsewhere. I’ll catch it later in the week.

Preview – F1 European GP ’08

First up, I gave the blog a lick of paint.
I was messing around with Google earlier and discovered Pressdog’s old blog from 2006/07. I hadn’t seen it before – it was an identical maroon scheme to the one I was using until now!
I know it is a standard Blogger template but so that I’m not accused of ripping him off too much (hey, I already stole the race notes idea from him and others), I changed it to the more patriotic British Racing Green. OK, so it isn’t exactly BRG but whatever, close enough for me.
I like the header, I’m not so sure about the profile box – let me know what you think!

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F1 Preview: 2008 European Grand Prix
Streets of Valencia, Spain

The European Grand Prix has been running for several years now, largely as an excuse for a second German race during the Schumacher era, held at the Nürburgring. This year, the European GP returns to Spain for the first time since 1997 when it was held at Jerez, that controversial season-closer where Schumacher tried to ram Jacques Villeneuve off the road – only for the move to backfire and for JV to claim the title.

Circuit

Rather than Jerez, we go to a new street circuit around the America’s Cup marina in Valencia. The existing circuit outside town, good enough for F1 testing and races for MotoGP and World Touring, doesn’t have the facilities required of Bernie & Co (and, frankly, it sucks balls as a race track). Also the locals wanted to make better use of the facilities they builts for the yachts, and to get one over on Barcelona and Madrid…

This isn’t your usual street track. It looks wide, lots of runoff, and the track itself seems as smooth as any other race track from the photos I’ve seen. I guess it helps that it runs through an industrial area which can be developed accordingly, and not everyday downtown city streets.

The drivers are saying it will be like Melbourne or Montreal. Fast, but don’t get it wrong or you’ll hit a wall. One novelty is the swing bridge they will cross to get to the other side of the marina. Bridgestone are today (Thursday) saying it may cause punctures with the Super Soft compound they’ve brought, because the road on the bridge isn’t exactly aligned with the road surface on land. It is 15 mm off. It didn’t cause any trouble in the test event (a GT & F3 meeting) but F1 tyres are different. I hope their fears are unfounded, we’ll find out in practice tomorrow.

Form Guide

None as this is the first F1 event here. Right now the Ferrari and McLaren cars are roughly equal on pace, however they’ve just come off the back of a 3 week mid-summer break. The factories and wind tunnels do not stop working during the break. What developments will be on the cars this time out, and how will that affect the performance gap?

This will probably have a bigger bearing on the form than their performance at Melbourne and Montreal this year – although if this place is hard on tyres watch out for Hamilton struggling, he uses them more than Kovalainen and the McLaren generally uses them more than the Ferrari.
McLaren are fast on a single-lap run so my bet is on them for qualifying, but Ferrari are faster over a fuel stint, so they may well come good in the race, just as happened at Hungary. But with this development jump – who knows?

Rest of the field

The teams not in the title hunt are beginning to wind down their developments on the ’08 cars, with the completely new aero regulations coming in for ’09 they want to put their full attention on those cars earlier than usual. Perhaps the guys fighting for 4th in the WCC will still develop a little.
You should expect BMW after the main battle, followed by a big jumble of Red Bull, Renault and Toyota, hopefully also including Williams, Toro Rosso just behind, then Honda, then Force India.

SC

Being a street race, even a wide one, you can expect the Safety Car to be deployed. How this affects the race will depend on when it appears. If it happens midway through the pit sequence it will become a lottery because of the crazy-ass rules they are using this year. We might get another ‘Piquet at Hockenheim’ result.

Live Timing

I highly recommend the official live timing at http://www.formula1.com/ – this is essential during commerical breaks and useful the rest of the time. However it does make you frustrated when you see someone is fast, or you spot their strategy, and the TV guys miss it..

You have to sign up (for free) but that’s no big deal, you have to sign up to lots of sites nowadays, and the only emails I ever get from them are for the FIA/AMD surveys which are a ‘must do’ anyway. No spam from Bernie.
You also need Java installed, best thing is to just go to the timing screen and follow the instructions (when it is up make sure you switch to the Big option).
Not only does the timing look like the pitwall timing screens, which is ultra cool, there is also text commentary for those who are not near a TV or radio. It only updates as cars cross the finish line so if you are used to IRL or ALMS timing it may seem a bit wonky until you get used to it.

Done

Okay, I’m out of here. You’ll next see me with F1 notes on Monday – my first F1 notes! I will usually have them out just after the race but this week I’ll be at Dad’s doing house-sitting. The plus point is that I’ll catch the IndyCars live at Sonoma (on a big fuck-off 50 inch screen) instead of the delay I usually have to put up with, so I hope to get notes for those done by Tuesday.

See you then.