Races Watched (2019 Week 15): F1 Shanghai, IndyCar Long Beach, FE Rome

Week 15:  8-14 April 2019

In what was a busy weekend both in racing and personally, I found time to watch two live races and one recorded race (OK, so this was after the weekend). I also got one done before the weekend started.

It was annoying that my live picks were the most boring races I’ve seen in ages. I hope you fared better.

Formula 1 – R4 – Chinese Grand Prix
Shanghai International Circuit, Jiading, Shanghai, China
Seen live, 14th April

Bottas pole, Hamilton, Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen, Gasly, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg.

This race sums up the worst tropes of F1:  lots of hype, not a lot of action.

The PR machine has been in overdrive about “the 1000th race” for a year. Yet when it came to it there seemed little happening at the track, a small handful of old F1 cars and very few dignitaries. They didn’t even get Bernie. What a waste.

The 1000th? Add the “World Championship for Drivers” since 1950, including those championship-counting Indy 500s and those races run to F2 rules, to the successor “Formula 1 World Championship” from 1981 onwards, then it is the 1000th race. This is not the same as the “1000th F1 race”, which doesn’t include Indy or those F2 races but does include all the non-championship F1 races back to 1948.

The Chinese GP is actually pretty good on a regular basis, Tilkedromes have this reputation of being terrible but Shanghai has been a great track over the years with overtaking and strategy. But not this year. This year was tedious.

Very little happened after lap one. I’ve seen many F1 GPs like this and I thought its type had been banished.

Hamilton passed Bottas at the first corner and ran off to win. To his credit, Bottas stayed within 7 or 8 seconds, the Mercedes pair basically cruising in team formation for the entire race. They even pitted together at the 2nd stops, choreographed beautifully, Bottas arrived just after Hamilton left and didn’t have to wait. This was done to protect against a Safety Car, with Ferrari and Verstappen having stopped already.

Ferrari played the strategy call. Vettel and Leclerc were switched but Leclerc was no faster, so he was put on the long game strategy and Vettel mirrored Mercedes. Running Leclerc long had put him behind Verstappen, he was able to close down the gap but not overtake, so this strategy was a net loss of 1 place. Gasly had a better day, close to Leclerc, the results sheet shows he was miles behind but he pitted near the end to successfully go for the fastest lap bonus point.

Renault won ‘best of the rest’ with Ricciardo. Alexander Albon had a fantastic run from a pitlane start to finish 10th. Kvyat and the two McLarens collided on lap one, two of the three retiring 40 laps later from the damage. I’ve no idea what happened elsewhere. TV direction seemed off par.

The Mercedes pair already have a significant points advantage over the field having finished 1st & 2nd in the first 3 GPs, the first time this has happened since Williams in 1992. This is starting to look a lot less close than pre-season testing suggested.

Next up is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in a couple of weeks.

  1. Hamilton (Mercedes)
  2. Bottas (Mercedes)
  3. Vettel (Ferrari)
  4. Verstappen (Red Bull)
  5. Leclerc (Ferrari)
Driver Team CHI TOTAL
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 25 68
Valterri Bottas Mercedes 18 62
Max Verstappen Red Bull 12 39
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 15 37
Charles Leclerc Ferrari 10 36
Pierre Gasly Red Bull 9 13
Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 2 12
Kevin Magnussen Haas 8
Lando Norris McLaren 8
Nico Hulkenberg Renault 6
Constructor PU CHI TOTAL
Mercedes Mercedes 43 130
Ferrari Ferrari 25 73
Red Bull Honda 21 52
Alfa Romeo Ferrari 2 12
Renault Renault 6 12
Haas Ferrari 8
McLaren Renault 8
Racing Point Mercedes 4 7
Toro Rosso Honda 1 4

NTT IndyCar – R4 – Grand Prix of Long Beach
Long Beach, California, USA
Seen live, 14th April

Rossi, Dixon, Power, Newgarden, Pagenaud, Rahal, Hunter-Reay, Sato.

This one promised a lot. I thought the hard-to-handle aero package would create a lot of sideways moments and overtakes, maybe some sliding into walls. Didn’t happen.

We don’t have any idiots at the back these days, the ones at street tracks who used to cause a bit of chaos that perhaps wasn’t always welcome, gave the series a bad name for weird accidents, but made it all fun. Those days are mostly gone.

Nobody told the back of the field. Lap 2 Pigot slowed, as everyone braked Ericsson ran into Harvey. We finally saw a car in the flowers at the fountain!

It was then a long green flag run at a race where strategy choices aren’t available. Unlike Barber you don’t get the mix of 2-stoppers versus 3-stoppers. The difference here was between those starting on red soft tyres and black hard tyres, and vice versa later, but it turned out not to make a lot of difference anyway. The reds were durable on the streets.

Rossi and Dixon raced hard into turn one on the original start and again on the restart. Each time the pair pulled a gap on the field.

At about lap 34 of 85, Power overshot turn 1 with dust pouring out of his left front brake duct. He spun it around and continued only losing a few places. Ferrucci had previously stalled in a runoff and the series recovered him under local yellow.

After pit stops, Newgarden was 2nd ahead of Dixon, but Rossi had him covered as well. Looked like he extended his lead in every stint. The battle for second was on between Newgarden, Dixon, Rahal, Hunter-Reay.

On the last lap Dixon made the move on Rahal, who defended stoutly and got a penalty for it. Dixon was awarded 3rd. This caused half of Twitter to erupt in anger at Rahal blocking Dixon and half of Twitter to erupt in anger at the stewards for penalising racing!

Watching live it looked like Rahal made a harsh move but a fair one, he left space for Dixon. I was against the penalty. But on review it became clear Rahal made a second move right and then returned to his racing line. I’m okay with picking one of two lines and sticking to it into the corner, I’m not so okay with weaving. And I also remembered if it had been Michael Schumacher I’d have been all over it, clamouring for a penalty, so I can’t argue otherwise for someone else!

Rossi wins by over 20 seconds, the highest for something like 25 years. With this he moves to 2nd in the points standings.

Newgarden extends his points lead as Dixon drops to 3rd. Hunter-Reay gains a few spots. Rahal is a big points mover into the top ten. Colton Herta the big loser, just 7 points after sliding into the wall and out with steering damage.

Next up is the GP of Indianapolis in a couple of weeks.

  1. Rossi (Andretti)
  2. Newgarden (Penske)
  3. Dixon (Ganassi)
  4. Rahal (Rahal)
  5. Hunter-Reay (Andretti)
Driver Team Eng LB TOTAL
Josef Newgarden Penske Chevy 41 166
Alexander Rossi Andretti Honda 54 138
Scott Dixon Ganassi Honda 35 133
Takuma Sato Rahal Honda 25 116
Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Honda 30 96
James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Honda 22 93
Will Power Penske Chevy 27 93
Sebastien Bourdais Coyne Honda 19 91
Graham Rahal Rahal Honda 32 90
Colton Herta Harding Honda 7 88

ABB Formula E – R7 – Rome E-Prix
Rome, Italy
13th April, watched 16th April

Lotterer, Evans, Lopez, Vandoorne, Gunther, Buemi, Mortara, Frijns.

Halfway in the season. 6 races done before this one, 6 races to go after this one.

As clean a start as you can manage here and on a damp track, a bit of bumping but okay. Guenther had a huge slide and loses parts of his front wing. At the end of the lap Bird gets hit, car damaged, apparently out for the second race in a row.

Chaos on lap two!

Red Flag. Lopez broadside across the track and Paffett under his car. Lopez hit the kerb and spun by himself and caused a complete track blockage. Luckily for those caught in the melee it was just in front of pit entry, so everyone once released was recovered and the race order restored. Replays showed Sims in the wall as well. And Sam Bird managed to get his car to the pits so it was repaired under the red and restarted last.

On the restart half the field activated Attack Mode, although it didn’t seem to achieve anything. Frijns got alongside Buemi for 4th but couldn’t make the move.

Lopez got a penalty for contact with Bird on lap one. Reliability trouble for Mortara and Massa so we had FCY in which JEV overtook Da Costa as they braked.

Evans passes Lotterer for the lead! Tense move! Very forceful into a chicane, elbowed his way through, got a warning from the race director but only a wag of the finger. Lotterer was fine with it, good hard racing.

Fairly strung out field but the pace was hot, unlike Rome 2018. Everyone pushed all the way, not a lot of energy saving except in the last lap or so, this is what we want to see. I don’t mind a lack of passing when the cars are visibly flat out.

Bird got up to 11th at the end, excellent recovery, great work by team and driver.

  1. Evans (Jaguar)
  2. Lotterer (Techeetah)
  3. Vandoorne (HWA)
  4. Frijns (Envision Virgin)
  5. Buemi (Nissan e.Dams)
Name Team Rome Points
Jerome d’Ambrosio Mahindra 4 65
Ant Felix da Costa BMW Andretti 2 64
Andre Lotterer DS Techeetah 21 62
Mitch Evans Jaguar 25 61
Lucas di Grassi Audi Sport 6 58
Robin Frijns Envision Virgin 12 55
Jean-Eric Vergne DS Techeetah 54
Sam Bird Envision Virgin 54
Eduardo Mortara Venturi 52
Daniel Abt Audi Sport 44
Team PU Rome Points
DS Techeetah DS 21 116
Envision Virgin Audi 12 109
Mahindra Mahindra 5 102
Audi Sport Abt Audi 6 102
BMW Andretti BMW 2 82
Venturi Venturi 67
Nissan e.dams Nissan 19 65
Jaguar Jaguar 25 62
HWA Racelab Venturi 15 22
NIO NIO 6

European Le Mans Series – 2017 R4 – Le Castellet
Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France
26th August 2017, watched 10th April 2019

18 months behind! This one felt like ticking an item off a list. A shame, I really like the ELMS as a good way to while away an afternoon or evening

This time they used the chicane on the Mistral Straight so the only interesting thing about the track, the super-fast balls-out run into Signes, was lost

ELMS catches you out because when you think things are settled with huge gaps after the first hour – it changes. After three hours the order can be completely different. This catches me out because I tend to put endurance races on in the background while I get other stuff done.

Teams put their rated drivers in at different times. Early you see a Platinum or Gold driver racing away to a healthy lead while a Silver or Bronze driver loses loads of time. At the driver change it switches, the lead teams put in their Bronze driver and the distant cars suddenly get a Platinum at the wheel chasing them down. It converges.

In LMP2 Ben Hanley gave Dragonspeed a huge lead which was lost when Bronze driver Henrik Hedman faced the likes of Nic Minassian and Felipe Albuquerque chasing him. And the same principle applies in LMP3 and GTE. Niki Thiim brought the TF Sport Aston up from last to 2nd. You have to pay attention throughout.

Unfortunately this featureless track is a hard watch, I lost the thread in the middle as my mind drifted and got hold of it again in the last hour.

At least the mountains in the distance look nice.

But will I get the 2017 and 2018 seasons done before the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours?

LMP2:

  1. SMP Racing (Dallara P217) – Isaakyan / Orudzhev;
  2. G-Drive Racing (Oreca 07) – Rojas / Roussel / Minassian;
  3. Graff (Oreca 07) – Guibbert / Petit / Trouillet;

First ELMS win for the SMP Dallara and their young driver pairing. A 4th straight podium for G-Drive.

LMP3:

  1. United Autosports (Ligier JS P3) – Falb / Rayhall;
  2. Inter Europol (Ligier JS P3) – Hippe / Smiechowski;
  3. M.Racing YMR (Ligier JS P3) – Cougnard / Jung / Ricci;

A second win in LMP3 for United.

GTE:

  1. Spirit Of Race (Ferrari 488) – Cameron / Griffin / Scott;
  2. TF Sport (Aston Martin Vantage) – Hankey / Thiim / Yoluc;
  3. JMW Motorsport (Ferrari 488) – Fannin / Smith / Cocker;

Second straight win for SOR, 4th straight podium for TF.

Next Week

15th to 21st April, Easter Weekend so much quieter than usual.

  • British GT at Oulton Park on Holiday Monday.
  • 24H Series at Spa.
  • Super Formula at Suzuka.
  • British Superbikes at Silverstone (on the National layout).

It might be a good time to catch up on past races but I’ll be using it to start, yes, start, watching Game of Thrones! Now I’ve got Sky I can watch it On Demand so I’ve already downloaded them to the box.

And if it is wet weekend and I can’t get outside I’ll see if I can squeeze in a WEC race or something.

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Races Watched (2019 Week 14): IndyCar Catchup – St Pete, COTA, Barber

Week 14:  1-7 April 2019

Over the weekend I watched the first three NTT IndyCar Series rounds:

Friday night:  St. Petersburg, Florida (airport/street circuit)
Sunday morning:  Circuit of the Americas, Texas (road course)
Sunday night (live!):  Barber Motorsports Park, Alabama (road course)

NTT IndyCar – R1 – GP of St Petersburg
St Petersburg, Florida
10th March

Power on pole from Newgarden, Rosenqvist, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Rossi.

Rosenqvist got by Newgarden at turn 1. Ed Jones got up four places in four laps. After a yellow for Hunter-Reay’s engine failure Rosenqvist took the lead from Power! Outstanding move for a series rookie. Highly rated from Formula E, Super Formula, Super GT, Blancpain GT, Formula 3…. the list goes on. He was showing why.

Jones hit the wall hard, seemed to misjudge it but might’ve been a car problem, Leist then clipped him and hit the wall too.

Newgarden got the lead through the pit stops by staying out and gapping the field, Power and Dixon similarly emerged ahead of Rosenqvist, Dixon much later passing Power. Good strategy call well executed.

Decent race but not much more to say. Glad it wasn’t the wreck-fest St Pete can sometimes be. And we already see we have a fantastic rookie field. Rosenqvist lived up to his billing, Herta impressed finishing 8th, Ericsson did well until mechanical problems at halfway.

I really appreciate NBC moving the scoring graphics to a tower on the left of the screen, in line with a lot of other series, but this time with the full driver name. Much better and easier to follow than the horizontal crawl across the top!

I didn’t like their obsession with the 2-seater passenger, interviews before, during and after the ride. Overkill coverage of a gimmick. Just speak to them after.

  1. Newgarden
  2. Dixon
  3. Power
  4. Rosenqvist
  5. Rossi

NTT IndyCar – R2 – IndyCar Classic
Circuit of the Americas
24th March

Power again on pole, from Rossi, Hunter-Reay, Herta, Rosenqvist, Dixon.

IndyCar’s first visit to COTA. They took the IMSA approach of ignoring track limits but it seemed to go into overdrive, the penultimate corner apparently was only advisory. Seemed to make a mockery of the designed length of the run-off. It seemed to work until the major race-changing incident.

Outstanding weekend from Colton Herta, son of Bryan, running for the Harding Steinbrunner team. He passed Hunter-Reay early then ran in the top three all race long. He had earned his 3rd place, before the Safety Car

Hinchcliffe qualified in the back half and made up several places to 12th in the first laps. Rosenqvist went down to 8th.

I felt the race had passing early but was largely uneventful in the second half with some field spread. It always happens at COTA. That tempted leader Power and 2nd-pace Rossi, who were running with Herta, into staying out a lot longer than the others. They needed to get to 17 laps to go, or less, to ensure their soft red tyres would last the final stint. At 16 laps to go the Safety Car came out. They hadn’t stopped yet.

Hinchcliffe and Rosenqvist hit each other in that Turn 19 runoff area, the IndyCar racing line, sending Rosenqvist into pit entry. Safety Car, pits closed.

Yes it sucks that IndyCar closes the pits and prevents the leader coming in when the SC is called, as the leader is entitled to in F1, but equally that’s the risk you take when you stay out and everyone else has pitted. They had equal opportunity to come in beforehand, it was a gamble worth taking and they lost, simple as that.

It got worse for Power. At the pit stop under this Safety Car he couldn’t engage gear. He was out on the spot. Disaster after leading every lap to that point. Rossi was also in and restarted something like 18th.

And that promoted Colton Herta to the lead with 10 laps to go! And he controlled it like a veteran, driving away and holding a gap despite Newgarden and Hunter-Reay slamming the push-to-pass button every lap. He is now IndyCar’s youngest ever winner!

Awful to see a dominant win punished through cruel luck, but that doesn’t detract from Herta’s fantastic performance. He was often fastest at COTA in winter testing, fast all through practice, ran with the leaders all day long. This was no fluke yellow-assist from 10th, he had the speed.

Shoutout to Jack Harvey, 10th in his part-season Meyer Shank Schmidt Peterson entry.

  1. Herta
  2. Newgarden
  3. Hunter-Reay
  4. Rahal
  5. Bourdais

NTT IndyCar – R3 – Grand Prix of Alabama
Barber Motorsports Park
7th April

Sato on pole from Rahal, Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Bourdais, Pigot.

A late green flag at the start held the field, but not Ed Jones who got the mother of all jump starts and cleared half the field! A penalty would see to that.

Ericsson took an early stop, just lap 7 or so. By lap 10 they were trickling in, more and more, right through to lap 19. This was becoming a strategy race, 3 stops versus 2 stops.

It later turned out many had planned for 2 stops but switched when the pace of the 3-stopper became viable. Only Bourdais (lap 29), Pigot and Harvey appeared to be the only ones sticking to a 2-stopper. But Power had made his second stop by then after spinning and flatspotting his tyres, he’d be forced to a 4-stopper.

Herta’s engine was stuttering, some fuel pickup problem which couldn’t be solved.

Reports from Twitter followers at the track were of overtakes everywhere, but TV spent most of their time looking at cars pitting. They had to, they couldn’t miss what might be a crucial stop. I’d have liked to have seen more passes on screen.

There were some great ones! O’Ward and Pagenaud had a great battle for 9th, passing, repassing. O’Ward was on fire all day. And a shout out to Ericsson who got 7th after starting 20th, largely through overtaking although I don’t remember seeing it.

A train of quality drivers running 9th to 15th covered by 3.5 seconds, very close racing.

For a while it looked like Bourdais and Sato were racing each other virtually, Sato had it covered though, he was pushing all the way. Bourdais had really good pace despite saving fuel and tyres which Pigot and Harvey couldn’t maintain.

Eventually the Safety Car came out on lap 56 of 90. Rahal’s car stopped on course with drive problems, he’d already suffered a problem earlier. As everyone rushed to the pits Kanaan nerfed Chilton into the wall. Race Control kept it green until everyone had a chance to come in, a good officiating call.

Strategy was out the window, now it was a flat out run to the flag for the last 25 laps. (It was a long yellow.) And Newgarden made the most of it, restarting 9th and was 4th at the flag!

Sato even cut the chicane, he was pushing so hard to stay ahead of Dixon, but held on for a classy and mostly clean win.

  1. Sato
  2. Dixon
  3. Bourdais
  4. Newgarden (from 16th!)
  5. Rossi

Points Table

50, 40, 35, 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20 then subtract 1 for every position.
Bonuses:  +1 Pole Position, +1 Led A Lap, +2 Most Laps Led.

Driver Team Eng STP COTA ALA TOTAL
Josef Newgarden Penske Chevy 53 40 32 125
Scott Dixon Ganassi Honda 40 17 41 98
Takuma Sato Rahal Honda 11 26 54 91
Alexander Rossi Andretti Honda 31 22 31 84
Colton Herta Harding Honda 24 51 6 81
Sebastien Bourdais Coyne Honda 6 30 36 72
James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Honda 28 14 29 71
Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Honda 7 35 24 66
Will Power Penske Chevy 37 10 19 66
Marco Andretti Andretti Herta Honda 17 28 16 61

Look how competitive it is! Everyone’s had at least one mediocre race – except Newgarden hence an early lead.

Dixon had that poor race at COTA but otherwise is up there. Sato may prove a surprise contender. Rossi is threatening. Penske drivers Power and Pagenaud are not having a good early season.

Herta is seriously impressive! The easy favourite rookies were Rosenqvist and Ericsson, but Herta is going to give them a run all year.

There’s no teams championship but there is one for engine manufacturers.

Engine STP COTA ALA TOTAL
Honda 72 90 96 258
Chevrolet 91 65 54 210

The next race is Long Beach this coming weekend.

Catch-Up

Formula 1 – 2000 German Grand Prix

I’ve discovered by accident that Sky Sports F1 shows classic F1 races on a Wednesday night. The famous race at the old Hockenheim required dropping everything else and watching.

It might’ve been a combination of damp track and skinny wings for the straights but it struck me how much the cars moved around, Coulthard was on opposite lock through the top chicane, just like IndyCars are now. That again proves to me low downforce and high power is the way to go. And oh man I miss those V10s.

I love this race. Schumacher out early. Dry first half, a heavy rain shower over the pits at halfway but it only covered half the track. Do you take wets or stay on dry weather tyres? Usually you’d go wets but Barrichello stayed out and made it work. It was an amazing drive from a great wet weather driver, who had started 18th and passed most of the field before any rain fell. Coulthard tried dries too and couldn’t do it. Hakkinen tried wets and couldn’t do it, despite the pair leading when the rain came. Rubens’ first win, too.

Memorable. One of the best races ever.

Next Week

8th to 14th April

Your viewing options include:

  • F1 in Shanghai
  • IndyCar in Long Beach
  • IMSA in Long Beach
  • Formula E in Rome
  • MotoGP at COTA
  • World Superbike at Assen
  • ELMS at Paul Ricard
  • Blancpain GT at Monza
  • VLN at the Nordschleife
  • Supercars at Phillip Island
  • Super GT at Okayama

The first truly busy weekend of 2019 and it won’t be the last!

I’m planning F1 and IndyCar live to bookend Sunday. Hopefully also IMSA Saturday night, but I haven’t seen Sebring yet and won’t get the chance before the weekend. And Formula E is calling but I have things to do so that might be a DVR job. MotoGP will be Quest’s Monday highlights for me.

Secondly, what genius put the ELMS and Blancpain GT season openers and round 2 of VLN all on the same weekend? IMSA at Long Beach is slightly different on another continent, but these three European series, there must be drivers, teams and media who would be paid to work both?

IndyCar On Sky Sports For 2019

The NTT IndyCar Series will air in the UK exclusively on Sky Sports F1 for 2019 and beyond, in a deal announced just over a week before the first race.

This is exciting news if you get Sky Sports F1. And possibly good news for the series to get in front of more eyeballs. This is not so good if you were watching on BT TV.

I’ll get on to the future in a little while. First some context.

History With Sky

The old IRL had long been aired on Sky Sports. Eurosport aired the rival CART / Champ Car. When the series merged, Sky aired the unified IndyCar Series as a continuation of the IRL deal.

At the time Sky gave IndyCar little promotion and audiences were tiny. But they gave it some attention by providing a London studio which filled in the gaps.

US TV is allowed to take far more advert breaks per hour than British TV. This causes a headache for UK channels when they take live American sport. How do you fill the gaps? This is trickier if the host doesn’t show the action while US TV is away.

Sky Sports provided a studio for Keith Heuwen and a regular guest. Keith, the former 500cc Grand Prix motorbike racer and now MotoGP lead commentator for BT Sport. The guests were often former Indy Lights racer and long-time sportscar driver Johnny Mowlem, or British IndyCar engineer Andy Brown who had worked for teams in F1, CART and IRL with success.

Pre-race would be a discussion in London which joined the US broadcast just before the green flag. We rarely saw the packages from the host broadcast. Mid-race, when they didn’t go to break themselves they’d talk through the action we’d seen and show replays again, always a benefit. It was a good compromise.

Unfortunately it could also be dry which is just a function of the format. I’m never a fan of going to a studio during a live event. It doesn’t matter what it is, it could be racing, football, athletics, whatever. I find it detaches you from the event and sucks the life and atmosphere away. I’d rather see the event I’m tuning in to see and have the remote analysts talk over it. I get the sense I’m missing something when they cut away. Unfortunately it is common practice in UK sports broadcasting.

Sky Sports F1 launched in 2012. There was a bit of cross-pollination with 2 or 3 IndyCar races on the channel, but mostly IndyCar was on Sky Sports 4 and the two didn’t interact very much.

History With BT Sport

IndyCar TV rights outside America were held by ESPN International. ESPN had been trying to get into the UK market for a while and set up their own channel in 2009. IndyCar moved to ESPN UK in 2013. But by Summer 2013, BT, the telecoms giant, set up BT Sport as a big-money rival to Sky Sports with the intention of poaching some of the Premier League rights. They succeeded. BT Sport also purchased ESPN UK and repositioned and rebranded it to focus on American sport.

BT Sport ESPN

IndyCar on BT was basic to start with, just taking the raw feed from the US and I’m sure they even showed UK commercials for every US break.

After a while the US broadcaster provided a continuous feed during US ad breaks. This allowed BT Sport to employ their own team in London, again filling in the gaps, but this time with no formal studio. It would be audio only, over the pictures from the US. Perfect! The team included Keith Collantine of RaceFans.net (formerly F1 Fanatic), Ben Evans who commentates for BT on other series such as GT Open, and freelance Tom Gaymor who you will have heard at Eurosport on basically any racing they show. Usually it would be a pair from this three.

It was the best of both worlds. You never lost sight of the action. It settled into a routine whereby if US TV took a break while the race was green BT would stay with it with British commentary, but if the race was under Safety Car BT Sport would take a commercial break. This worked well – especially when the number of yellows decreased significantly in the last couple of years!

Occasionally this too could be dry, especially when they exchanged statistics rather than talked about the racing – the lone race where the BT team covered Road America in its entirety was particularly bad for this. But in general the team illuminated the coverage from a British perspective and kept it moving, even including fans’ comments via Twitter and running Q&As for people new to IndyCar. It was a very positive step.

There was moment when a different production team on the UK side covered Indy. The theory was good, big fanfare and explainers for newbies, but they made the same mistake as Sky with a UK studio. It meant UK fans watching for the first time were denied the pomp and ceremony preceding the race, which are as much part of the Indy 500 as the race itself. Instead we watched an incredibly dry discussion about how Fernando Alonso might do. The usual knowledgeable UK team were sidelined which was very unhelpful in explaining to potential new fans.

That race in 2017 the viewership hit 200,000, some 10 times higher than usual! Again generally IndyCar viewing numbers were terrible, just like with Sky, barely making 30,000 some weeks. There’s no way it should be that low in a country so mad on F1.

Future With Sky Sports F1

Sky Sports F1 has matured since 2012. It found its place and has built a loyal audience of motorsport die-hards willing to pay money to watch racing. So this is a good deal, yes?

Sky Sports F1

Well, I have three concerns. One is promotion. How often do Sky promote the non-F1 series they already have, Formula 2 and GP3 (which will be FIA Formula 3 this year)?

Last year they failed to show a live F2 race, choosing instead to show F1 drivers playing giant Jenga, even though three British F2 drivers would sign to race in F1 this year (Russell, Albon, Norris) and two of them fought for the F2 title. For me this is not forgivable. The future of British talent in F1 was handed to them on a plate and they didn’t take it. Will IndyCar races get pre-empted by a magazine show about F1?

The other concern is those loyal die-hard Formula 1 fans. Judging by internet comments and comments I’ve overheard at racetracks and at Goodwood FoS, many have proven over many years to have a real problem with IndyCar. They jump to conclusions about “just turning left” or being “F1 rejects”, though a lot of IndyCar fans in the US make the second point as well.

It makes no sense to me. IndyCar races are mostly on road and street courses. They are open wheel single seater cars that race at high speed. Oval races often are tactically brilliant while being insanely fast.

Will F1 fans give IndyCar a fair shot? I hope so. It’s a fantastically competitive series. And the depth of talent is higher than ever. The top 5 were always as good as anyone in F1, but now you could extend that to the top 10 or 15. Drop Josef Newgarden or Scott Dixon into a Mercedes with 8 days of testing and they’d run Lewis Hamilton close.

The positives?

If even a portion of these fans can be convinced, there is a ready and waiting audience. 600,000 fans regularly watch Grands Prix on SSF1. Convert even 10% of the audience and you’re already ahead of what BT achieved.

And the Indy 500? Lots of potential there. Could we see 400k? 500k? That would be a record for a UK audience. Will the channel see an uplift in subscriber numbers now F1 is exclusively live?

Costs

This is my third concern and it’s a big one. Sky is very expensive. Even with the deals on offer.

For a full cost analysis of Sky Sports please see Motorsport Broadcasting (the blog is also the source of the viewing figures quoted in this piece). The comparison includes Now TV streaming and the Sky Sports Mobile TV app which is by far the cheapest option.

If you already subscribe to SSF1 this is a win for you.

If you don’t you’ll either have to miss IndyCar – and live F1 – or you’ll have to switch. You will at least have delayed highlights of F1 on Channel 4.

YouTube was another option. Races have been uploaded in full to YouTube within days. I have a smart TV with a YouTube app and this was a great way to catch up on those 2am night races if I forgot to record them on BT.
However in the US there’s a new agreement with streaming and on demand catch up on NBC Sports Gold. It remains to be seen whether the series will continue to upload races to their YouTube channel. I suppose we will find out next week.

Speaking Personally

I have BT fibre broadband and BT TV and will lose IndyCar and F1 in the same year.

I had been resigned to watching F1 with Channel 4’s evening highlights.

To be honest I’d assumed IndyCar would stay on BT Sport and was happy with that because they have MotoGP. Two of the best series in the world justified keeping BT Sport and I got to see some Champions League and Premiership Rugby as well.

Yes I know they have other racing, DTM, GT Open, and so on. But I don’t watch those.

I’ve been an IndyCar fan since 2000 and this year’s series promises so much. SSF1 having live F1 and live IndyCar has me seriously looking at subscribing.

There are deals around which drop the price of Sky significantly, though it is still expensive. I’m trying to justify it to myself. It might mean changing broadband.

I won’t be able to get Sky installed before Round 1 at St. Pete next weekend and probably not before the Australian GP the week after. But to guarantee two of my favourite series for two years… is it worth it?

Is it worth it?

2019 Race Schedules for Google Calendar & iCal

In order to watch too much racing you will need to know when it happens.

Keep up with your favourite racing series by adding my Calendars to your Google Calendar, Apple iCal, Microsoft Outlook, or other service which supports ICAL or HTML format.

Just click the link for the race schedule you want to import and it will appear in your calendar in your browser or on your phone.

Screenshot_20181124-212802

Go here for details:

www.toomuchracing.com/calendar

Lastly, I would like to say a huge thank you to the people who have kindly donated!

I have a Paypal tip jar on the top right of the blog which is aimed at covering my site hosting fees and domain name registrations for the year. Though these aren’t big, just a basic WordPress.com blog plus some domain names, they are sometimes a bit of a pain after some other financial headaches personally in the last few years. And the time sink of entering the calendar dates is quite considerable.

I’m pleased to say thanks to you I’ve covered my fees and enough to keep me in cups of tea for the year as well!

I’m astonished people pay at all, let alone anything more than £2, I know acutely there are far more worthy causes than this. It does encourage me to put in the work through a dark dingy autumn and winter, so thank you.

[This is a pinned post on the main blog to direct traffic, please click through to the Calendar page for more.]

Ten Years Of Too Much Racing

On August 5th, 2018, I reached a milestone:  10 years of blogging!

There have been periods of downtime along the way. On and off, I have been writing words about motor sport for a decade. And soon it’ll be 20 years since I first joined a Formula 1 newsgroup, at age 18 at the end of December 1998, which is where it all began. Now I am 38 and I feel very old.

The Changes Over A Decade

A lot has happened in the last decade. The blog was set up to look at F1, IndyCar, Le Mans and other endurance races, plus whatever else took my fancy.

For one thing the original version was on Blogspot and is still there.

First Blog

In 2008’s Formula 1 season, on the face of it it looks familiar:  the young upstart Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes-powered McLaren racing the Ferraris of defending champion Kimi Räikkönen and his team-mate Felipe Massa. It would be Hamilton’s first title – and Massa who would take it to the last race and win a legion of fans for his sportsmanship in defeat.

There the similarities end. It was the era of multiple manufacturers:  BMW were still with Sauber with Robert Kubica finishing 4th in points (including a race win). Honda and Toyota both still had their own full F1 teams. Fernando Alonso had gone back to the works Renault team after the “spygate” scandal – and this was the year the “crashgate” scandal would unfold. Tyres were grooved and V8 engines screamed and a lot of us complained it wasn’t as good as slick tyres and V10s.

In IndyCar the reset button had just been pressed. “The Split” of the CART/IRL war was over, the two factions had come together for the 2008 season. As it happened late in pre-season with very little time to prepare, the Champ Car teams had to adapt to the IRL cars in less than a month. They looked hopeless at Homestead-Miami as the IRL teams dominated, then just a week later Graham Rahal won at St Petersburg for Newman/Haas, giving hope to those of us who were on the Champ Car side of the fence.

It was a long road to recovery for IndyCar racing after that and it took a lot longer than I think anybody expected. They’re still travelling that road today. It took arguably until 2016 to really make traction. Now though, you have to say that after 10 years the series is in excellent health and has a bright future. The peak of quality was never in question all along, what’s changed is the depth of quality of both drivers and teams is the highest seen in 20 years. In some neat symmetry, Scott Dixon won the 2008 and 2018 titles. Dare I say this year he’s driving better than I’ve ever seen him. And the current cars are cool too, which wasn’t the case in 2008.

In sports car racing, the continual cycle of boom and bust is never far away from throwing in a curve ball.

In Europe we had the Le Mans Series, five races of 1000km with the Le Mans 24 Hours itself being a non-championship race. Audi and Peugeot went toe to toe in LMP1, a healthy field of privateers scoring podium finishes all year long when any of the lead quartet fell off. LMP2 was dominated by the Porsche Spyder which brought LMP1 engineering and reliability to a class previously renowned for cars breaking down.
We still had the glorious GT1s, Corvette C6 vs Aston Martin DBR9 vs Saleen S7-R. And GT2 was the Pro/Am Porsche vs Ferrari class with cars that were much closer to road-relevance than today’s GTs.

There was a defined route from ‘upgraded road car’ to ‘really mega road car on steroids’ to ‘baby prototype’ to ‘fast prototype’. Today we have ‘a prototype that looks like a GT’, then ‘fast prototype’ to ‘even faster really expensive prototype’. It feels like we’ve lost something along the way. I suppose that’s why LMP3 and GT4 now exist.

The good thing is we now have a World Championship – and we kept the European LMS underneath it so we’ve gained a load of racing. We had a great mini-era of LMP1 Hybrid in the WEC which was a joy to watch. The new era though, it all still needs work. Whatever happens to the WEC and LMP1, down at continental level, I’d argue the ELMS should adopt IMSA’s DPi as its top class.

Over in the US, the IMSA American Le Mans Series was at the height of the battle between a nearly equalised Audi LMP1 and Porsche LMP2. It had a strong GT2 field. And yet a rival series in Grand-Am with its own bespoke cars and NASCAR backing. Peaks and troughs in both series led to a merger for 2014. Lessons were learned from the bumpy and rushed IndyCar merger and the new-era IMSA has worked very hard to solve some tricky problems. That 2014 season was itself bumpy. But the recovery is happening very quickly, aided by the DPi concept of upgrading LMP2 cars and tapping into GTE and GT3 resources.

There is still a risk IMSA will take the backward step of having its own rules, Grand-Am style. They should avoid this and work to share platform with the ACO – even if it means running a “dumbed-down” version of the cars. Maybe it would work as a base platform for IMSA and ELMS, then if you want to go to WEC P1 you add a Special Nifty Widget that makes the car faster. (I specialise in these highly technical solutions.)

And then a wildcard. Formula E was launched. Like a cross between A1GP and Scalextric and the Toronto IndyCar track and a good dose of FIA weirdness. I’ve loved it since it started. Not necessarily for the same reasons as everyone else. I think the eco message has a problem when you jet the cars around the world and power them with generators. The tracks need a bit more space. But the racing is fun and frantic, the talent level is top notch and the future of cars is electric so you might as well have a championship for them now. Though I can’t help feeling it should’ve been a touring car or GT series, maybe a silhouette series with a spec chassis underneath and a manufacturers’ bodyshell to make it look like their road cars.

I don’t even have space to talk about the globalisation of LMP3, GT3, GT4 – and the remarkable TCR. All this has made previously national or regional events accessible to others around the world.

I haven’t even touched on MotoGP which year after year is the best racing around.

There’s an obsession with nostalgia in racing. I happen to think we’re in a golden era right now.

The Future

I know in my head what I want the blog to be. The same as it was in 2008 – short pieces of snippets every few days, intermingled with a lengthy weekly or fortnighly column. The problem is finding the time or the motivation in the depths of the season. You’ll have noticed I stopped the latest project back in July when the summer got too hot!

The goal is to get people to pay attention outside their own bubble, be that the F1 bubble, or the IndyCar bubble, or the sportscar bubble, or even the Formula E bubble these days.

I’ve tried various formats of race report, showing points progression and including race video, but few people read race reports, and I’m wary of video now due to copyright rules. I think the future of this site is in personal comment and reflection.

The racing e-calendars for iCal and Google Calendar will continue. They are laborious at times, yet very popular and a focal point of the blog. I even considered flipping it, so the calendars are front and centre and you had to hunt to find the blog posts.

As for the future of racing? We are in interesting times. We’re going back to the future.

IndyCar has shown the way. The nail-biting close finishes are gone. Instead we have cars visibly difficult to drive. They may not set lap records compared to last year’s very-high-downforce kits, but they do allow a difference between nailing the setup and missing it. Between top driver/team and those further back. And reducing the wake so cars can get close.

F1 needs to follow suit. It can find a way to do this while retaining the fastest cars. It also needs to go back to tyres that allow drivers to go flat out in a race. Cruising around to save super-ultra-hyper-soft tyres isn’t good enough and makes a mockery of changing the cars themselves to be faster.

Sports cars among GT racing is in rude health. They just need to be careful not to spend GT3 out of existence. In the prototypes there’s a golden opportunity lying just ahead, in blending LMP1 with DPi. If they get it right… well, special things could happen.

And Formula E will be the first of many series with what we presently call ‘alternative fuels’. Fast-charging electric cars are coming. Longer-range batteries are already here, with no need to swap cars in the 2019 season. Other electric series are coming. And elsewhere, hydrogen cars are coming.

The rest of the motor sport world needs to pay attention. If Governments are banning cars powered by fossil fuels from sale, how long will it be before they ban racing other than anything emission-free? 40 years? 30? 20?

The change over the next five years could be bigger than the whole of the last ten.

COMMENT: 14 & 15 July 2018 – Toronto IndyCar & New York Formula E

Street racing single seaters.

  • Formula E – New York double-header season finale;
  • IndyCar – Toronto GP;

Between the World Cup and getting out and about at weekends I’ve fallen behind on MotoGP, when there is a clear weekend with not much else happening I’ll catch up.

I also want to get caught up with ITV’s nightly highlights of the Tour de France!

Continue reading “COMMENT: 14 & 15 July 2018 – Toronto IndyCar & New York Formula E”

COMMENT: 7 & 8 July 2018 – British GP & Iowa IndyCar

A really good pair of races this week!

  • F1 – British GP, Silverstone;
  • Indycar – Iowa 300, Iowa Speedway;

I must admit, being tired from not sleeping due to the ongoing heat and humidity made it hard to concentrate at times.

This blog appears late courtesy of the World Cup! I don’t usually follow football other than international tournaments and this one swept me along.

Continue reading “COMMENT: 7 & 8 July 2018 – British GP & Iowa IndyCar”