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.

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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;