Weekend Preview: 26/27 May 2018

Some of the many things happening this weekend and this really is a busy one!

Set aside your Sunday. It is a Bank Holiday in the UK, you’ve got Monday to see the family, so settle in and let’s watch some racing!

For me and many in the UK/Europe the main double is the Monaco GP followed immediately by the Indy 500, which should be the highlight of the day.

If you live in the US you might prefer to start with Indy and move on to the Coke 600 at Charlotte.

Some brave souls will watch all three!

Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.

Monaco:  2:10pm – 4:10pm
Indy 500:  5:15pm   <– I highly recommend tuning in no later than 4:50pm


Formula 1: Monaco Grand Prix

Monaco

Race at 2:10pm UK Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1 (3:10pm Monaco time).

The famous streets of Monaco open our day. As ever, Saturday’s qualifying will set the agenda at this track more than anywhere else. After last year’s race I don’t expect any overtaking at all, it’s tough here anyway but faster, wider cars with a lot of aero wake makes it even harder. It is still a joy to watch the drivers thread their way through this insanely narrow track, negotiating traffic, trying to avoid the walls especially in qualifying.

Engine power can be less of an issue here where handling is rewarded. As such, Red Bull are tipped to again be fast this weekend, one of their annual highlights. You might think McLaren and Toro Rosso will have a good time as well.

And if it rains, at this place it changes everything.

If there are no red flags or delays the race should end about 4pm. By that time the TV coverage of the Indy 500 will be well under way so switch over as soon as you can!

Points
Drivers:
95 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes);
78  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari);
58  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes);
48  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari);
47  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull);
33  Max Verstappen (Red Bull);

Constructors:
153  Mercedes AMG;
126  Scuderia Ferrari;
80  Red Bull Racing;
41  Renault F1;
41  McLaren Renault;


IndyCar: 102nd Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Coverage 3:30pm UK, BT Sport 2
Race 5:15pm UK

A large build-up thanks to BT Sport, this year with a promise to mix pre-race pictures from the US along with the usual UK-based fill-in commentators, who know the series and understand the Indy 500. A much better decision than blanking the whole pre-race in favour of showing us a London studio, as they did last year!

This the first Indy 500, the first superspeedway race, with new universal aero kits. According to Racer.com’s daily videos the likes of Dario Franchitti and Simon Pagenaud say the fight for the lead will be fun but the battles through the field won’t be quite so good due to the aero wash being so severe. Downforce levels are similar though. Let’s wait and see.

This race has been the highlight of any season – across any category – since 2012 and I hope this year will be no exception.

Lots of storylines to follow. Local man and team-owner Ed Carpenter starts on pole, can he get his first Indy 500 win? Team-mate Danica Patrick in her swansong starts 7th and surely will have a good race. Simon Pagenaud a fast fighting 2nd in qualifying. Helio Castroneves starts 8th, it looks a tall order to get his 4th win here but he’s Helio and at Indy you never rule him out.

Seb Bourdais starts as top Honda (5th) and with a point to prove after last year, a strong rookie field with Mathias Leist and Zachary Claman de Melo looking to overshadow Robert Wickens, then throw in guys like Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal starting at the back.

There are 200 points available in the next week:  100 for winning Indy, then 50 each for the “Dual in Detroit” double-header next weekend. Here are the top 6 in points as they are after qualifying – expect them to look very different by June 3rd.

Points:
184  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet)  2 wins
176  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda)  1 win
157  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda)  1 win
148  Scott Dixon (Ganassi / Honda)
144  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda)
142  Will Power (Penske / Chevy)  1 win


Elsewhere

  • NASCAR Charlotte;
  • F2 Monaco;
  • Indy Lights Indianapolis (Friday);
  • World Superbike Donington Park;
  • Super Formula Sugo;
  • World RallyCross Silverstone;
  • British GT Snetterton;
  • PWC Lime Rock;
  • 24H Series 12H Imola;

Whatever you watch this weekend enjoy the racing!

Next time:  IndyCar and IMSA at Detroit, MotoGP at Mugello.

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I’m Watching… 19/20 May 2018

These are some of the things that I’ve been watching.

  • IndyCar:  Indy 500 Qualifying
  • MotoGP:  Jerez and Le Mans
  • Formula E:  Berlin

IndyCar:  Indy 500 Qualifications

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

What a shocker! James Hinchcliffe, title contender, 5th in points, fails to qualify for one of the biggest races in the world. As he said, they can’t blame other teams. First they got caught out as the first to run after the rain. They screwed up the next run with a wheel weight problem, then screwed up again by thinking the session ended at 6pm rather than 5:50pm.

I am torn. On the one hand, big stars should be in the show. There’s no safety aspect here, he’s James Hinchcliffe. On the other hand, he failed to qualify! Qualifying for the Indy 500 means something, it is supposed to be a big deal that you don’t make it, so I’m glad they won’t buy out another entry.

More understandably, Pippa Mann was the other non-qualifier, but that’s no reflection on her. The highly-rated Conor Daly, would’ve been in the same position had Hinchliffe got a clear run. Daly and Mann had the slowest cars in the entry list, the two backup cars for Dale Coyne Racing. Teams spend countless hours on the tinest details, sanding the cars, smoothing the joins, on and on, which wouldn’t have happened so much with those two cars as with the full-time cars.

It would be easy to pick on Mann, but this was her best-funded effort yet and as detailed in this excellent podcast a tremendous amount of work goes into it, despite seriously lacking staff. All the cars have a lot of work, of course they do, but that (long!) interview really opened my eyes into what it takes for any one-off entry at Indy. As it turns out in Mann’s blog, they found the problem later. At the time they only had an hour to figure it out, so would’ve had a shot at getting in on Sunday if those rules still applied.

Up front, the next day the qualifiers ran again. Positions 33 to 10 went first and the order was shuffled a little, particularly by Zachary Claman de Melo who set a great early time to move himself a long way forward – and conversely Alexander Rossi and Ed Jones who each had one terrible lap among their four laps and dropped to the back.

Ed Carpenter was cheered to a popular Pole Position in dominant style, besting the four Penske runners and even getting his own two team-mates up there as well. Danica Patrick 7th in her final ‘500’ I’m sure proved many doubters wrong! The top 9 position awarded points.

And congratulations to Carlin Racing for qualifying both cars into the top 20 in their first year.

Result
1st  Ed Carpenter (Carpenter Chevy) 9 points;
2nd  Simon Pagenaud (Penske Chevy) 8;
3rd  Will Power (Penske Chevy) 7;

Points
184  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
176  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
157  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda);
148  Scott Dixon (Ganassi / Honda);
144  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);

Rahal 6th on 142. Power up to 7th with 135, with Wickens 2 points back.

Next round:  Indianapolis 500, 27th May


MotoGP:  Jerez and Le Mans

Jerez, Spain and Le Mans, France

Two races this week as I get caught up.

Jerez:  Crutchlow on pole, though Lorenzo took the lead at T1 with Cal dropping to 5th. Pedrosa was the man giving chase until Marquez muscled his way through. Zarco was up there until he wasn’t!

18 laps to go Crutchlow hits the gravel, the bike fell away from under him. Later the same lap Marquez took Lorenzo for the lead and edged a lead. Dovizioso on harder tyres caught Lorenzo and Pedrosa quickly but struggled to get through.

Out! Lorenzo, Dovizioso and Pedrosa had been fighting for lap after lap – and they take each other out! Unreal. Just a racing incident, the Ducatis went out wide and the middle one clipped Pedrosa. Marquez was left to take a distant win.

Result:  Marquez, Zarco, Iannone, Petrucci, Rossi, Miller

Le Mans: Zarco on pole at home but dropped to 5th by the Dunlop chicane – yet at turn 3 he dove past them to reclaim 2nd! While Iannone crashed out. Lorenzo led.

Dovizioso took the lead and two corners later crashed out! A couple of laps later, Zarco – battling Marquez for 2nd, fell off as well, crushingly so as a home podium was definitely on.

The rider who impressed me was Petrucci. He was already up there early on, so when Marquez passed Lorenzo he went through not long after. Marquez yet again cruised away to a distant win. Petrucci claimed 2nd, Rossi worked his way up to 3rd from 8th. Lorenzo dropped a way back after losing his early speed.

Crutchlow crashed badly in qualifying, stayed overnight in hospital and was somehow allowed to start – thankfully he took it relatively easily this race and rode around in 14th or so, since if he crashed again he’d be in a world of hurt. He got faster in the end, picked a few off and with others falling out he wound up 8th, so it was worth doing it!

Result:  Marquez, Petrucci, Rossi, Miller, Pedrosa, Lorenzo.

Points
95  Marc Marquez (Honda)   3 wins
59  Maverick Vinales (Yamaha)
58  Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha)
56  Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
54  Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati)

Three wins in a row for Marc, is this championship over already?


Formula E:  Berlin ePrix

Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof

Daniel Abt on pole at home alongside Oliver Turvey. At the start from a few rows back Rosenqvist came from miles back and went very wide, dropping near to the back.

Despite my expectations some good passing early on. Nick Heidfeld doing a particularly good job. Good battles all through the race – di Grassi and Buemi both got ahead of Vergne by lap 12, Lucas also taking Turvey for 2nd.

The cars definitely seem to be faster on the main straight – is the lift-and-coast happening later?

After the pit stops the Audi pair had a clear lead from Turvey who’d pitted slightly earlier, but Vergne and Buemi despatched him in the second stint. Slightly less fun second half, apart from some tense racing 8th to 14th and the final point. Andre Lotterer impressively, from last and with a pit time penalty, fought up to 9th!

Result:  Abt, di Grassi, Vergne, Buemi, Turvey

Points
162  Jean-Eric Vergne  3 wins
122  Sam Bird  2 wins
86  Felix Rosenqvist  2 wins
85  Daniel Abt  2 wins
82  Sebastien Buemi

With just Zurich and the double-header in New York to go, the race now is for 2nd. JEV hasn’t wrapped it up just yet. It is more open in the teams race with Audi Sport Abt on a real roll they could catch up – but with Lotterer now up to speed for Techeetah they may not!

205  Techeetah
161  Audi Sport Abt
139  DS Virgin


Coming Up

Motorsport Christmas!

  • Monaco Grand Prix;
  • Indianapolis 500;
  • NASCAR Charlotte;
  • F2 Monaco;
  • Indy Lights Indianapolis (Friday);
  • World Superbike Donington Park;
  • Super Formula Sugo;
  • World RallyCross Silverstone;
  • British GT Snetterton;
  • PWC Lime Rock;
  • 24H Series 12H Imola;

A bigger preview to follow Thursday/Friday.

Weekend Preview: 19/20 May 2018

Some of the many things happening this weekend.

Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.


Formula E: Berlin ePrix

Flughafen Tempelhof, Berlin, Germany

Race at 5pm UK Channel 5 and Eurosport (6pm Germany).

The historic former airport in the middle of Berlin is the host of this round. The track layouts used here in the past weren’t great, being just a load of barriers among open concrete and it really shows the lack of top speed. There is a Shanghai-style tightening first turn to cause chaos. At least it has a funky tunnel with a viewing area inside!

JEV and Techeetah have a commanding lead in both championships after combining good results with more race finishes than their rivals. It isn’t all over though – fortunes change incredibly quickly in this series and I wouldn’t bet against a late points run from Sam Bird.

Points
Drivers:
147  Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah);
116  Sam Bird (DS Virgin);
86  Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra);
70  Sebastien Buemi (Renault DAMS);
58  Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt);
56  Daniel Abt (Audi Sport Abt);

Teams:
185  Techeetah;
134  DS Virgin Racing;
113  Audi Sport ABT;
107  Mahindra Racing;
88  Panasonic Jaguar Racing;


MotoGP:  French Grand Prix

Le Mans (Bugatti Circuit), La Sarthe, France

1pm BT Sport 2 (2pm in France)

I always say this is a rubbish track not a patch on the full 24-hour circuit and yet I often get engrossed by the race here. It sort of creeps up on you until you realise you’re enjoying it. Just like the big track it can throw a surprise, especially when it rains.

Preceded by Moto2 and Moto3 on the same channel.

Points:
Riders:
70  Marc Marquez (Honda);
58  Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha);
50  Maverick Vinales (Yamaha);
47  Andrea Iannone (Suzuki);
46  Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati);

Teams:
90  Yamaha;
88  Honda;
70  Pramac;
67  Tech 3;
63  Suzuki;


IndyCar:  Qualifications for the Indy 500

Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Oval), Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

UK TV:
Saturday, 9pm BT Sport 2
Sunday, 9pm BT Sport ESPN

Assuming the weather is good, Saturday will set the field. For the first time in a few years there will be “bumping” so we can call it Bump Day again. This means there are more entries than there are spots in the 33-car field – this year there are 35 entries so two will go home.

Then on Sunday the 33 remaining cars get a guaranteed run to get into the ‘Fast 9’ run at the end of the day. The fastest 9 drivers have one final shootout for pole.

Though this is in keeping with road courses and F1 knockout qualifying, it is backwards to an Indy 500 fan. It used to be that Pole Day was early and the pole-sitter locked in early, winning the advantage of more PR time, more practice time. The drama switched to who could make the field and who would go home, with people making multiple runs. Unfortunately now they can’t come back the next day to try again.

UK TV coverage is a nice bonus and a fairly recent addition thanks to BT Sport, give them credit where it is due.

In the meantime there are practice sessions this week and some of next week live streamed on IndyCar Race Control.


Elsewhere

If you thought this was a quiet week, think again!

I wish I had time to include more, Blancpain and BTCC in particular, I just haven’t had the chance to do the research.

NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte;
Blancpain GT Endurance at Silverstone;
BTCC at the scary-fast Thruxton;
Super GT at Suzuka;
DTM season-opener at Hockenheimring;
Australian Supercars at Winton;
PWC at Mosport;
WTCR on Monday at Zandvoort;
WRC Rally Portugal;

Whatever you watch this weekend enjoy the racing!

And remember next time it’ll be Monaco GP, Indy 500 and Coke 600 weekend already. Where has the time gone?

I’m Watching… 12/13 May 2018

These are some of the things that I’ve been watching.

  • F1:  Spanish GP
  • IndyCar:  Indy GP
  • Sports car:  Nurburgring 24

F1:  Grand Prix of Spain

Montmelo, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

Traditionally, the Circuit de Catalunya never produced close racing. They tweaked La Caixa corner and added the chicane which helped for a while, then changed the cars to the ones with the silly wings, which also helped. Now with the current rule set it doesn’t produce close racing again.

I happen to mostly like the current rules other than the awful dirty air, and that they look slow even when they aren’t. One thing I would do is copy IndyCar wholesale: remove most of the stuff from the front wing, add downforce from the underbody, balance the rear. It might only make a slight difference at a track such as this, but it would do something. I’d also redesign this track again. I’ve often wanted to go to this one but the awful racing put me off.

Of course, sometimes a team and driver put in such a performance that none of that matters – Hamilton was on fire on Sunday. Nobody was going to catch him. Bottas had to run his tyres longer so he had no chance to chase. Vettel pitted even earlier, unable to make the tyres last, which boxed him in on strategy and meant he wound up behind Verstappen. Raikkonen was going to try the one-stop anyway but had a power unit failure. The Red Bulls were much slower than qualifying suggested but also wearing the tyres much less. Ricciardo seemed to be nowhere.

Magnussen managed not to hit anything to run a lonely race to 6th. Team-mate Grosjean caused the action this time, taking out himself and two others before he got to turn 3. It was a split-second decision which makes it tough to be critical, but he seems to be getting enough of those wrong that it feels like 2012 all over again.

Both Spaniards scored points at home, Perez rescued points, and another impressive run for Leclerc.

Five cars on the lead lap, field spread diabolical. Very much an old-fashioned race, in sporting terms I congratulate the winner, but this sort of race is not good entertainment. Our expectations these days are different. I don’t mind 14 finishers, that’s the luck of racing, but they could be closer and they could be able to race each other.

Next up Monaco. I do love Monaco but last year’s race was one of the worst I’ve ever known at the track. It doesn’t bode well, let’s hope I’m wrong. Otherwise we’ll have to wait for France or Austria for a decent contest, since Montreal is just a DRS push-button slingshot these days.

Result
1st  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 25 points;
2nd  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) 18 pts;
3rd  Max Verstappen (Red Bull-Renault) 15 pts;
4th  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 12 pts;
5th  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull-Renault) 10 pts;
6th  Kevin Magnussen (Haas) 8 pts;
7th  Carlos Sainz (Renault) 6 pts;
8th  Fernando Alonso (McLaren-Renault) 4 pts;
9th  Sergio Perez (Force India-Mercedes) 2 pts;
10th Charles Leclerc (Sauber-Ferrari) 1 pt;

Points
Drivers:
95 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes);
78  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari);
58  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) [+1];
48  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) [-1];
47  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull);
33  Max Verstappen (Red Bull);

Constructors:
153  Mercedes AMG [+1];
126  Scuderia Ferrari [-1];
80  Red Bull Racing;
41  Renault F1 [+1];
41  McLaren Renault [-1];

The first real points advantage this year for Hamilton and Mercedes.

Next round:  Monaco Grand Prix, May 27th.


IndyCar:  IndyCar GP

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

A couple of incidents on lap 1, Pagenaud and King off course, where it turned out Pagenaud got sideswiped by Newgarden which put him in King’s way. Second incident was Pigot jumping a kerb and spinning into Sato. Both Carpenter cars in trouble early! Safety Car out straight away to recover King who dropped a couple of laps in the process.

Power and Wickens pulled away from the field. Zachary Claman de Melo impressed in the top ten.

I set my DVR to record the live showing but it decided to record the 4am re-air, which was missing 20 laps in the first half of the race, picking up on lap 37 just before green flag pit stops with Wickens mysteriously now in the lead.

Turns out Wickens used the extra grip from soft red tyres to catch and pass Power running on harder black tyres. Later the strategy switched around, Power charged on reds, caught and passed Wickens on blacks. Wickens’ cause wasn’t helped by faulty Push-To-Pass, but the way Power was moving it looked like it was his race anyway.

Newgarden made an uncharacteristic mistake when trying to pass Bourdais, he hit a kerb and spun it at turn 1, needing a push and bringing out a Safety Car, ironically the last thing his team-mate Power needed.

Everyone pitted, Power just got out ahead of Wickens. It was a long yellow while they swept the track even though the car was recovered quickly. Interestingly all the action all day occurred during the UK commentary segments, which means US ABC were in commercials for all of them, as if they’ve never read a race before.

Scott Dixon started poorly, didn’t even make it out of Q1 on Friday, yet by the restart here he was up to 3rd after working up the field all day, he made the pass on Wickens for 2nd.

A classic Will Power win, chasing a guy down and pushing like crazy, his 3rd win on the Indy road course. A classic Scott Dixon fuel save / appear from nowhere / pass everyone strategy to bag second. Wickens, Bourdais and Rossi were fighting all day. Newgarden recovered to 11th to retain the points lead. I can’t remember seeing another car.

Result
1st  Will Power (Penske Chevy) 54 points;
2nd  Scott Dixon (Ganassi Honda) 40 pts;
3rd  Robert Wickens (Schmidt Peterson Honda) 36 pts;
4th  Sebastien Bourdais (Coyne Honda) 33 pts;
5th  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Honda) 31 pts;

Points
178  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
176  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
152  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda);
147  Scott Dixon (Ganassi / Honda) [+2];
144  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);

Rahal 6th on 142. Power up to 7th with 135, with Wickens 2 points back.

Next round:  Indianapolis 500, 27th May [double points plus a bundle for qualifying].


Nurburgring 24

Nurburgring Nordschliefe

I watched from 7pm Saturday night to 3am Sunday morning, once again the combo of helicopter shots, live drone footage and onboard videos was captivating. The combo made it look like a rally stage with 150 cars on it. Eventually the helis and drones landed and we were left with onboards and one or two-cameras on the GP track. Altogether vastly better than the single overnight static camera they used 8 or 10 years ago!

I watched as the long-time leading Porsche was crashed by Romain Dumas as he hit oil and mud not long after it started raining at night. Not his fault at all, there were no slippery surface flags and he had no chance of seeing it.

This is a hard race to understand, but with Radio Show Limited’s www.radiolemans.com providing commentary with some great anecdotes and stories along the way, you can’t fail to be entertained.

I intended to sleep earlier and wake up earlier for the run to the flag. As it turned out I stayed up as rain was coming and I wanted to see what happened! Then I slept in (and needed it!), not that it mattered since on Sunday there was a lengthy red flag for fog. I want to watch the race back in full, though with the next few months being rammed with racing this will have to wait until the off-season, if it is even available.

Manthey’s Porsche won the race for the 12th time, the first victories for the driver crew of Fred Makowiecki, Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz. Black Falcon’s Mercedes was in contention throughout, the older Aston Martin always up there too.


I didn’t write a post last week, but Tuesday last week I watched the 2016 ELMS finale at Estoril which was okay but had a lot of spinning cars and not a lot of passing, and last night I caught the Moto3 from Argentina, a fun race on a damp track with wet tyres versus slicks.

I’m starting think I’m going to run out of time to listen to IndyCar podcasts before the 500 and catch up with last year’s WEC before Le Mans…


Coming Up

A quiet one? No!

  • Indy 500 qualifying (2 days);
  • MotoGP France;
  • Formula E Berlin;
  • Blancpain GT Silverstone;
  • DTM Lausitz;
  • BTCC Thruxton;
  • WRC Portugal

A bigger preview to follow Thursday/Friday.

Weekend Preview: 12/13 May 2018

Some of the many things happening this weekend.

Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.

Now this is a massively busy week, including one of the most stupid date clashes of the year, between the Nurburgring 24 Hours and the European Le Mans Series.

Apologies for not writing a recap of last weekend. I actually went to the Blancpain GT Sprint at Brands Hatch to sit on the grass in the glorious sunshine watching GT racing, which I didn’t preview at all, and I haven’t yet seen any of the other events I did write about! With the upcoming weekend so full it looks like I may not catch up for some time.


ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours [24h-Rennen]

Nürburgring Nordschleife, Nürburg, Germany

Race at 2:30pm (3:30pm Germany). The Formation lap starts 20 minutes earlier!

Full international live stream at:

www.24h-rennen.de/en/
www.radiolemans.com

The full Nordschliefe, 600 drivers in 150 cars, of which at least 25 are full GT3 cars, along with GT4 cars, Porsche Cup cars, TCR cars and even Renault Clios all spread among countless car classes. There’s room for everyone!

This is a big event in every way imaginable, and even this is small compared to the 220 car entries of not long ago. It still requires three separate grids to get everyone going!

Unlike other 24 Hour races this race is quite old school, in that even with the best tracking technology it is very hard to understand what is happening! The lap is so long it takes the quick cars well over 8 minutes to complete it, which in turn means a fuel stint of an hour comprises only 7 laps. It is hard to see from the timing screen that someone has had a problem – and again it is such a long course you can’t hope to spot it on screen.

Watch this, at least in part, because GT3 cars around this place has to be seen to be believed, especially when they start lapping traffic!

Supported by World TCR (see below).


Formula 1:  Spanish GP

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Montmeló, Barcelona, Spain

Race starts at 1:10pm UK (2:10pm Spain) live on Sky Sports F1.
Delayed until 6pm on Channel 4.

F1 starts the European season in Barcelona. This track doesn’t promote passing, we’ll probably have to wait until Montreal for that, since of all tracks this has potential to be like Albert Park’s less interesting race. So let’s hope for some good strategic battles. It is good though to have the full F1 paddock back for the first time this year, motorhomes and all.

All of this year’s pre-season testing was done here which means the teams know a hell of a lot about it – however it was much colder than usual so there should still be things left to learn.

After Baku all eyes will be on the Red Bull drivers!

Supported by F2 and GP3 also live on Sky Sports F1.

Points after 4 races:
Drivers:
70  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes);
66  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari);
48  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari);
40  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes);
37  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull);

Constructors:
114  Scuderia Ferrari;
110  Mercedes AMG;
55  Red Bull Racing;
36  McLaren Renault;
35  Renault F1;


IndyCar:  INDYCAR Grand Prix

Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course), Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Race starts Saturday 8:50pm UK, BT Sport ESPN (3:50pm US Eastern).

The new tradition to start the ‘Month of May’ on the road course. Again, like this week’s F1 event, this layout isn’t known for great racing.

You’ll see a lot more fans at the infield viewing mounds than in the huge grandstands, since this race gives fans in Indianapolis the chance to see road course racing and some good outbraking moves in a couple of places. On the other hand, the chicane inside oval turn 1 is a field-spread generator.

I see the value in having a ‘cheap’ self-promoted race for the home fans. For a TV viewer like me though, it seems more like a calendar filler and I wouldn’t miss it if it went away.

One positive is it lets the full Mazda Road to Indy race at IMS, including Pro Mazda and USF2000 which don’t get to race on the oval.

Points after 4 races:
158  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
145  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
119  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda);
119  Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman / Honda);
118  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);


European Le Mans Series: 4 Hours of Monza

Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Milan, Italy

Sunday, 11:30am UK (12:30pm Italy)

Full international live stream at:

www.europeanlemansseries.com
(you may need to click through to YouTube or Dailymotion)

The second round of the ELMS is at the classic Monza with a 43 car field across three classes. Supported by the Michelin Le Mans Cup which races on Saturday.

LMP2:
25pts  Pla, Nato, Petit (Racing Engineering / Oreca);
18  Duval, Perrodo, Vaxiviere (TDS Racing / Oreca);
15  Jamin, Panciatici, Ragues (Duqueine Engineering / Oreca);

LMP3:
25  Garofall, Farano, van Uitert (RLR Msport / Ligier);
19  Ferrer, Legeret, Droux (M.Racing YMR / Norma);
15  Mondini, Berlo (EuroInternational / Ligier);

GTE:
25  MacDowall, Griffin, Molina (JMW / Ferrari);
19  Roda, Roda Jr, Cairoli (Proton / Porsche);
15  Babini, Narac, Pera (EbiMotors / Porsche);


WTCR: Nürburgring Nordschleife

Nürburgring Nordschleife, Nürburg, Germany

Race 1 Thursday 6:45pm UK (7:45pm Germany) online only;
Race 2 Saturday 10:00am UK Eurosport / Eurosport Player;
Race 3 Saturday 11:20am UK Eurosport / Eurosport Player;

The full Nordschliefe is in use just as it was for the WTCC. The length of the track means they only get 3 laps, even though it is still a half hour race! This year they get three races, the first of which we already missed.

TCR seems to be a formula for old dogs as Tarquini and Muller are STILL going at it!

Points after 2 weekends:
118  Gabriele Tarquini;
82  Yann Ehrlacher;
77  Yvan Muller;


Elsewhere

Other things happening this weekend, should you choose instead.

Monaco Grand Prix Historique – live on Quest on Saturday & Sunday;
NASCAR Cup and Trucks at Kansas;
World RX in Belgium;
Blancpain GT Asia at Buriram;
Formula 3 Europe on the streets of Pau;
Super Formula at Autopolis;
World Superbike at Imola;

I’m Watching… (28/29 April 2018)

These are some of the things that I’ve been watching.

  • F1: Baku
  • FE: Paris
  • IndyCar: Barber

F1:  Grand Prix of Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan

Wow, what a dramatic race! I can’t do a blow by recap, seek out the race, seriously.

Close racing through the field, very close combat between the Red Bull drivers which looked like ending in tears and eventually did, different strategies among the front-runners, a driver in the wall (when behind the Safety Car!), a puncture for the leader, the points leader locking up allowing his main rival through, a Force India driver on the podium, and countless recovery drives.

Street racing is a lottery in any category, they punish errors more severely than most tracks. After the car park runoff areas elsewhere this is a welcome change. At Bahrain you go off line and you lose half a second, at Baku if you go the same margin outside the line you hit the wall and are out of the race. Benefits to both approaches: at Bahrain they go can flat out, at Baku they need to be more measured and disciplined.

I thought the racing between Verstappen and Ricciardo was fantastic. It was just on the right side of acceptability, each giving barely a millimetre. They even banged wheels once. Ricciardo eventually made a pass stick, immediately losing it in the pit stops. Even early in the race it looked like they might take each other out, that the team should let the faster driver go. Just when you thought they’d found the limit, Ricciardo ran into the back of Verstappen taking both cars out.
At first I blamed both: Max moved in a braking zone, Daniel went for a closing gap. Watching again now, there is no gap. This one is 80% Ricciardo. I’ll say 20% Verstappen for not letting it go, for moving on the line. The team blamed neither and while Christian Horner looked livid on the Channel 4 post-race show, his comments were measured, saying both knew where the team stood and both should be contrite and apologetic. They were.

That threatened to overshadow everything else. All drivers seemed to adapt to strong wind gusts, struggling more with tyre temperatures. Up front, Vettel had the measure of everyone with Hamilton just 4 seconds back. The midfield was tremendous fun and TV focused on that: a lot of overtaking attempts, cars running out of their usual position, action throughout.

While Bottas got lucky with the timing of the Safety Car caused by the Red Bulls, falling after Vettel and Hamilton pitted but before he’d stopped himself, those two then changed tyres when he did anyway – having learned from the last race in China to take new rubber. Vettel tried to pass him but locked up, looked like Bottas had it sealed. You had to feel sorry for the guy when he got the puncture. He’s shown excellent pace in Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan, could’ve been in the title hunt yet has little to show for it.

Further back, Alonso – the magician – got a car with two punctured right-side tyres to the pits at the opening lap Safety Car, restarted last and passed 4 or 5 other cars (including his team-mate) within a few laps. He was one place behind Charles Leclerc, who raced well, even overtaking some cars in a Sauber. Both drivers helped by DNFs of course, but good nonetheless.

I haven’t even had space to mention Raikkonen vs Ocon (Kimi’s lucky escape), Perez, Sainz, Stroll or Hartley.

As a race track, removing political concerns, Baku is a winner for me.

Result
1st  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 25 points;
2nd  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 18 pts;
3rd  Sergio Perez (Force India) 15 pts;
4th  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 12 pts;
5th  Carlos Sainz (Renault) 10 pts;
6th  Charles Leclerc (Sauber) 8 pts;
7th  Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 6 pts;
8th  Lance Stroll (Williams) 4 pts;
9th  Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) 2 pts;
10th Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) 1 pt;

Just 13 cars finished. You want uncertainty, unreliability and random top tens? Race at Baku. Well done, Baku.

Points
Drivers:
70  Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) [+1];
66  Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) [-1];
48  Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) [+2];
40  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) [-1];
37  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) [-1];

Alonso 6th after consistent scoring. Verstappen only 8th. Perez jumps from 0 into 9th. Hartley’s 10th gets him on the board, leaving just Grosjean and Sirotkin with no points.

Constructors:
114  Scuderia Ferrari [+1];
110  Mercedes AMG [-1];
55  Red Bull Racing;
36  McLaren Renault;
35  Renault F1;

Force India 6th. Williams get off the board, still last but good pace this race will give them hope.

Next round:  Spanish Grand Prix, May 13th.


Formula E:  Paris ePrix

Paris, France

Points leader Vergne on pole at a track where there is only one slightly sketchy passing spot. An early Safety Car for Ma Qing Hua not getting going off the line, plus contact elsewhere which broke various wings for Tom Blomqvist and Mitch Evans, while Nico Prost decided to keep going with no rear wing for 13 laps until he got the meatball flag.

It got incredibly tense with Vergne, Bird and Lotterer running nose to tail for lap after lap, inches apart, cars sliding! Back in the field there was some passing, the only way to do it was to dive-bomb in that sketchy spot and hope the other guy leaves you space. Daniel Abt was on a mission, starting way down and making pass after pass.

The leaders pitted at half distance, with di Grassi and Buemi staying out a few short laps longer, helping di Grassi to jump Engel. Mortara went even longer, leaving him a way down but with plenty more battery power which he used well to work through the field, until he and JM Lopez made contact. Edo was out on the spot.

Lotterer eventually passed Bird as did di Grassi, but would cause chaos on the last lap in the narrow final section when he ran out of useable energy. Di Grassi got by, Bird was nearly through but they hit which broke his suspension – luckily it was close to the finish line, Bird dragged it to 3rd on 3 wheels.

Result
1st  Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah) 28 pts (win + pole);
2nd  Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt) 19 pts (2nd + FL);
3rd  Sam Bird (DS Virgin) 15 pts;
4th  Maro Engel (Venturi) 12 pts;
5th  Sebastien Buemi (Renault DAMS) 10 pts;
6th  Andre Lotterer (Techeetah) 8 pts;

Rosenqvist would only finish 8th.

Points
Drivers:
147  Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah);
116  Sam Bird (DS Virgin);
86  Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra);
70  Sebastien Buemi (Renault DAMS);
58  Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt) [+3];
56  Daniel Abt (Audi Sport Abt) [-1];

Teams:
185  Techeetah;
134  DS Virgin Racing;
113  Audi Sport ABT [+1];
107  Mahindra Racing [-1];
88  Panasonic Jaguar Racing;

JEV and Techeetah are looking very good indeed. Bird is a threat though, and di Grassi and Audi are coming up fast!

Next round:  Berlin ePrix, Saturday, May 19th.


IndyCar:  Grand Prix of Alabama
(from last week)

Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

A wet IndyCar race on a road course promised much and delivered until a red flag lead to an overnight delay. As I couldn’t record Monday’s segment and couldn’t see a replay on BT Sport, I waited for it to appear on the IndyCar YouTube channel – they upload all of the races in full! So I watched this Friday night.

Sunday

A single-file start helped the field get away cleanly and we had 10 laps of good racing with no trouble. I was surprised, IndyCar doesn’t race in the rain often and this was particularly heavy. There was even overtaking through heavy spray.

Andretti spun, then Jones tagged Kimball into the wall. Safety Car out. Slower cars didn’t kick up spray to clear the water, add a heavier spell of rain, so they lost the track. After 6 SC laps they went green anyway and immediately Power hit the pit wall, out on the spot. Race leader Newgarden nearly did the same and he could see where he was going! Immediate SC before a red flag on lap 19. They tried again 40 minutes later with 3 slow laps behind the Safety Car (during which Rahal spun) after which it was stopped.

Monday

A timed race resuming where they left off yesterday, except everyone was allowed to fill up with fuel and switch to slicks.

Josef Newgarden drove away to a huge lead over Seb Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay, in turn miles ahead of the rest. Zach Veach became a bottleneck, struggling on red tyres I think, he slowly sank down the order but had impressed in the wet on Sunday.

Zach Claman de Melo got a 2-lap penalty yesterday but that didn’t deter him from overtaking his way through the field – until Pigot tried to repass him and tagged him sideways, both resumed.

Newgarden pitted first with spent tyres where he’d been pushing on, whereas Bourdais and Dixon stayed out much later aiming to go for one stop versus everyone else’s two. After they came in, remarkably Newgarden’s lead was up to 20 seconds. And then it got fun!

Light rain arrived with 22 minutes to go. At 14 minutes, Newgarden was the first driver to pit for wets. Rain would mess up the one-stoppers if they couldn’t hang on to slicks. Bourdais stayed out lap after lap, it looked like it was working while he was much faster than Newgarden, but the rain intensified and with 7 minutes remaining he said enough, took wets and dropped to 5th.

Result
1st  Josef Newgarden (Penske) 54 points;
2nd  Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti) 40 pts;
3rd  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson) 35 pts;
4th  Robert Wickens (Schmidt Peterson) 32 pts;
5th  Sebastien Bourdais (Coyne) 31 pts;

Points
158  Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet) [+1];
145  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda) [-1];
119  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda) [+1];
119  Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman / Honda) [-1];
118  James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);

Next round:  Indianapolis Grand Prix, Saturday, 12th May.


 

Coming Up

MotoGP at Jerez, WEC season-opener at Spa, IMSA with a welcome return to Mid-Ohio.

It is a Bank Holiday in the UK and I have a weekend of other plans, all weather-dependent. This year I’m trying to get out more at weekends to offset being cooped up in the office all week, especially after being stuck inside during a dismal wet Spring. So I’ll be watching a lot of things delayed this year.

I’m Watching… (21/22 April 2018)

These are some of the things I’ve been watching.


IMSA Sportscar Championship:  Long Beach GP
(from last week)

Long Beach, California, USA

My second attempt to watch this 100 minute race, the shortest of the year, this time via YouTube.

Juan Montoya (Team Penske Acura) started on pole. Opening lap contact at the back of the Prototype field at the fountain prompted an early Safety Car period. Some 15 minutes of green flag racing was relatively calm until Montoya got caught by former Sauber man Felipe Nasr in the #31 Whelen Cadillac. Nasr was clearly faster and made a good move on the back straight after a couple of attempts.

Nasr

A second Safety Car after 40 minutes, with an hour to go. The yellow #85 JDC-Miller car parked in the turn 8 runoff [track map]. Nasr and Montoya stayed out, everyone else pitted for a driver change, apart from Alexander Sims in the GTLM BMW who had already been in. Since nobody was lapped yet he was 3rd overall, but IMSA now separates classes for restarts to avoid problems with traffic, so he restarted at the head of the GT line behind the Prototypes.

Earl Bamber had a tremendous scrap with Sims to take the GT lead, Sims immediately defending against the others. It was even three-wide! Sims was clearly struggling for some reason, in all the traffic he ended up hitting the wall, having to pit for repairs.

Prototypes pitted only 20 minutes after the yellow flag stops, at the first moment the fuel window opened, worried about more yellow. It was the right call as a Safety Car was out almost straight afterwards. The GT field didn’t need to stop again.

Felipe Albuquerque in the #5 Cadillac found himself in the lead after a faster stop. Ryan Dalziel took 2nd at the restart. Earl Bamber’s GT leading Porsche went out with suspension problems, leaving the two Corvettes sandwiching the two Fords. The #31 Cadillac and the other Porsche had made contact and both dropped back.

Wasn’t it great to see the Taylor brothers battle it out on track? Great too to have Pat Long in the IMSA.tv commentary booth, though annoying to have music blaring at ~4 minute intervals for half the race.

Prototype Result
1st  Joao Barbosa / Felipe Albuquerque (AXR Cadillac) 35 points;
2nd  Scott Sharp / Ryan Dalziel (ESM Nissan) 32 pts;
3rd  Renger van der Zande / Jordan Taylor (Taylor Cadillac) 30 pts;
4th  Tristan Nunez / Oliver Jarvis (Joest Mazda) 28 pts;
5th  Juan Montoya / Dane Cameron (Penske Acura) 26 pts;

GTLM Result
1st  Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner (Corvette) 35 points;
2nd  Richard Westbrook / Ryan Briscoe (Ganassi Ford) 32 pts;
3rd  Joey Hand / Dirk Muller (Ganassi Ford) 30 pts;

Prototype Points
91  Joao Barbosa / Felipe Albuquerque (AXR Cadillac);
86  Eric Curran / Felipe Nasr (AXR Cadillac);
79  Jonathan Bennett / Colin Braun (CORE Oreca);
78  Jordan Taylor / Renger van der Zande (Taylor Cadillac);

GTLM Points
95  Ryan Briscoe / Richard Westbrook (Ganassi Ford);
88  Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner (Corvette);
84  Dirk Muller / Joey Hand (Ganassi Ford);
83  Nick Tandy / Patrick Pilet (Porsche);

Next round:  Mid-Ohio, May 6th.


IndyCar:  Grand Prix of Alabama

Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

I watched live on Sunday, but the race got red flagged due to torrential rain and a waterlogged track. It was the right decision.

I’m currently waiting for IndyCar to upload the Monday segment to be able to watch it. Notes will follow next time.

Next round:  Indianapolis Grand Prix (road course race), Saturday, May 12th.


MotoGP:  Grand Prix of The Americas

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA

King of COTA Marc Marquez started 4th after a post-qualifying penalty (he did get pole position originally). He pulled clear after half a lap and was never seen again, bar a brief look from Andrea Iannone, to secure win 6 from 6 at this track.

Good to see Iannone and his Suzuki up there, particularly as his team-mate had been shading him lately and he needed a good run. Maverick Vinales got him for 2nd but Iannone held off Valentino Rossi for the final podium spot.

Dani Pedrosa broke his wrist two weeks ago, started 9th and finished 7th. Amazing!

Andrea Dovizioso made up some ground. Points leader Cal Crutchlow was running 6th but the bike looked pretty evil, he wound up on the floor, picked it up and finished 19th. Alex Rins fell out of a top 10 finish.

Not much else to say. You know a track is not the best when even MotoGP can’t put on a show, which is a shame, as it looks so much fun to drive or ride. That said, it was 35 degrees C, very hard work!

Result
1st  Marc Marquez (Honda) 25 points;
2nd  Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) 20 pts;
3rd  Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) 16 pts;
4th  Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 13 pts;
5th  Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 11 pts;

Points
46  Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati);
45  Marc Marquez (Honda);
41  Maverick Vinales (Yamaha);
38  Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda);
38  Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha);

70  Movistar Yamaha MotoGP;
63  Repsol Honda Team;
52  Ducati Team;
=47  Monster Yamaha Tech3;
=47  Team Suzuki Ecstar;
=47  Alma Pramac Racing;

Next round:  Jerez, May 6th.

Other

I also watched the two UEFA Champions League games this week. Liverpool v Roma was brilliant, 5-2 after a late Roma comeback. I don’t usually watch a lot of football, why can’t it all be as exciting and flowing as that? After Roma’s fightback against Barcelona last round, the second leg next Wednesday will be worth watching.

Coming Up

I’ll be watching F1 in Baku, Formula E in Paris and the conclusion of the last IndyCar race. I also want to start a ‘catchup’ part in these blogs as I work on my backlog of unwatched races, though have struggled for time to watch any lately. In the early season I always forget how congested it can be!

The usual Weekend Preview blog will appear here tomorrow or Friday.