Friday, October 31, 2014

UNITED STATES GP 2014 PREVIEW

The United States Grand Prix is a motor race which has been run on and off since 1908, when it was known as the American Grand Prize. The race later became part of the Formula One World Championship. Over 43 editions, the race has been held at ten locations, most recently in 2013 at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

The Circuit of the Americas, which runs anti clockwise, is a wonderful mixture of many of the most famous circuits on the F1 calendar; it has more corners at over 250 km/h than Spa and more below 100kph than Hungary, which is quite a combination! It has one very long straight with a hairpin at either end. There were a total of 55 overtaking moves during the 2012 race, but only 18 in the 2013 edition. Strategy wise, the race has been a one stopper for both the previous races, due to a conservative choice of medium and hard tyres by Pirelli. This year they have opted for soft and medium.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS
Circuit length : 5.516 kilometres.
Race distance : 56 laps (308.896 kilometres).
Corners : 20 corners in total. Average speed 197km/h.
Aerodynamic setup : Med/High downforce.
Top speed : 315km/h (with DRS open) 305km/h without.
Full throttle : 58% of lap.
Brake wear : medium/hard.
Number of braking events : 10 (Four heavy). At Turn 12 the drivers incur 5.5g in braking forces.
Time needed for a Pit stop : 21/22 seconds.
Lap record : 1:39.347 (Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, 2012)

WEATHER FORECAST

The forecast for the weekend is for warm weather, with temperatures of 24 to 26 Centigrade.

TYRES

Pirelli tyre choice for Austin: Soft (yellow markings) and Medium (white markings) This combination has been used six times already this season.

For the last two seasons, Pirelli has brought the medium and hard tyres to Austin and it has led to one-stop strategies. This year they have gone for the soft and medium tyres, but that is because the 2014 compounds are harder than last year’s. So we could have one or two stops as the preferred strategy, Pirelli thinks two. Tyre warm up has been a factor at this race track in the past as it can be very cool, in the mornings especially.

DRS

At the request of FIM, some of the asphalt run-off area around the outside of Turn 10 has been replaced by gravel, while a number of light panels will be mounted closer to the ground for improved visibility.


There are two DRS zones this weekend. The detection point of the first is 150 metres after Turn 10, with the activation point 320m after Turn 11, while the second zone’s detection point is 65m after Turn 18, with the activation point 80m after Turn 20, on the start/finish straight.

PIT STOPS

Typically with the harder compounds of the past in Austin one stop has been around 10 seconds faster than two stops. One stop has another advantage in that it offers track position in the final stint, so the two stopping car has to overtake it on fresher tyres in the closing stages. A typical one stop strategy is to start on soft tyres and pit around lap 20 for a new set of medium tyres.

Two stops would mean starting on the soft tyre, taking another set of softs around lap 15 and then a set of mediums around lap 37. Alternatively, two stints on the medium tyre if the wear on the soft was marginal and the medium had good pace.

SAFETY CAR

There have been two races so far and one safety car so the probability is 50%.

CONCLUSION

The world championship is finely balanced as F1 makes its third visit to Austin, Texas, which proved a huge hit with teams, drivers and fans last season. The two Mercedes drivers have scored 565 points between them – enough to secure the constructor’s championship already – but there are only 17 points separating Lewis Hamilton from his team mate Nico Rosberg.

There will be only nine teams participating in the Grand Prix after Caterham and Marussia went into administration.

The news that Sebastian Vettel may skip qualifying completely because he has to replace a whole power unit will suck for fans. The way this has been going just shows how poorly thought out the rules were by the FIA.

I'm looking forward to another clean sweep by Lewis Hamilton as he has been very good at this track and the flowing nature of the circuit suits the Mercedes power unit just fine.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WINNERS AND LOSERS: RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX

What can i say about Sochi? In one word - boring. The cars were strecthed out by lap 7 and you know the rest of the race would be a procession.Except for the odd overtaking now and then, no real battles. And one set of tyres lasting almost the whole race? That didn't really help. Although it did help Mercedes seal the crown. Here is the winners vs losers piece by Andrew Davies of PlanetF1. Original article HERE.

Star of the Race
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st
That's four wins in a row now for Lewis Hamilton and as people keep saying, all the drivers who have ever won four races in a row have gone on to be World Champion. (Though they weren't saying this a lot when Lewis won four races in a row earlier in the year). After he'd claimed pole on Saturday, and then worked out where to brake at Turn 2 on the opening lap with a full fuel load - something his team-mate demonstrably failed to do, then he was away. Valtteri Bottas kept him in sight in the opening laps, and by Lap 10 the gap was only 2.7 seconds. Then Lewis put in his latest of a sequence of Fastest Laps and the gap went out to 3.3 seconds. By Lap 20 it was 9.3 seconds.

This wasn't Lewis at his 'team-mate-nailed-to-his-gunsites' best, this was Lewis in cruise mode at a holiday resort. Or, as Eddie Jordan elegantly described Sochi: "It's more of a holiday and time-off time kind of place."

At one stage it looked like Lewis was putting in one fast lap, then a steady lap, then another fast one. We got a new Fastest Lap on Laps 7, 9 and 11. In the closing stages he looked like he was drifting along preserving everything he could, turning the motor down, and just waiting for a much-predicted safety car that never came. He really did make winning look very easy. Just as Nico made recovering from last place to finish second look very easy.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 31: Nico Rosberg on Valtteri Bottas for P2 
Given how well the tyres were lasting, it was crucial that Nico Rosberg got past Valtteri Bottas before the Williams worked out the perfect strategy for defending P2. After Vettel pitted at the end of Lap 30, Bottas no longer had the benefit of the DRS tow from the Red Bull and on the start/finish straight. Rosberg immediately launched an attack, and dived up the inside at the last minute into Turn 2. It caught Bottas off guard because he was already angling across for the apex and had to cut the corner in favour of the escape route to make it through. After the race Bottas admitted that he was surprised by the Mercedes W05's sudden appearance, which only goes to show it was the perfect time. No skulking around today for Rosberg.

As for the race, Nico was incredibly fortunate to score the points he did. Had he badly flat-spotted the tyres at any other race venue and pitted for tyres on the opening lap, then he would have carried that one-extra-stop defecit through the race. To be told that he could pit on Lap 1 with almost full tanks and still aim to go to the finish on that set of tyres was incredible (as in not credible). And if Valtteri Bottas hadn't got a shift on for Lap 53 to claim the Fastest Lap, then Rosberg would have put in the Fastest Lap of the race with his 1:41.360 on Lap 52 on 51-lap-old tyres. Again, utterly incredible.

Winners

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 3rd
Bottas so nearly split the Mercedes on the grid after his heroics in Saturday Qualifying. The split-screen lap comparison with Hamilton showed that he was already fractionally behind Lewis before he got to the last two corners, but it was a mighty effort nonetheless. In the race he kept Lewis honest for the opening laps, even putting in a Fastest Lap of his own on Lap 4.

Jenson Button behind was never going to be a threat, but thanks to the generosity of the first DRS zone, along with the graphene-covered Pirelli tyres, Rosberg was able to close up and pass all the cars in his path to take P2 from him.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 4thJenson was pleased to have kept the Ferraris and the Red Bulls at bay, but the podium just eluded him, thanks to Rosberg's remarkable recovery. Given that it's a long time since he finished so close to the front you would have thought that Jenson would have been more upbeat after the race, but he wasn't moany, just reflective and slightly regretful. Perhaps he's missing Jon Button more than we realise, as McLaren strenuously deny that any new driver plan is in place.

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren 5th
Magnussen looked to have contributed to his own downfall on Saturday by straightlining the kerbs at Turn 2 and bouncing his gearbox into submission in final free practice. He made up for the five-place defecit with a scintillating opening lap, pulling off an audacious/foolhardy move up the inside into Turn 2. It's audacious if you get away with it and it's foolhardy if you lose your front wing. Watching the onboard footage with Eric Boullier afterwards you could see him wince at how close he came to being the lesser of the two.

He couldn't match Jenson Button's pace and finished 23 seconds shy of his team-mate. It would have been interesting if Fernando Alonso had come out in front of him after his pit-stop, to see if Kevin could do anything with the master tactician.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 6th
Not the greatest of days in the office, the F14T didn't have the straightline speed to overtake, or the strategy opportunities for Fernando to do something different to his main rivals. He kept Ricciardo at bay in the latter stages, which he's struggled to do in races past, but that's probably not going to make its way onto his racing c.v.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 7th
There was the tiniest hint of frustration of being held up by Sebastian Vettel, but the Red Bull just wasn't competitive at the Sochi Autodrum.

Russian Grand Prix
The circuit at Sochi is a real success. The drivers say that it's good to drive, it flows, and the frantic Q3 session showed that getting it absolutely right is not the easiest job in the world. We had an abundance of fans over the weekend including the visit of a prestigious waxwork towards the end of the race. Presumably no-one in the Kremlin had bothered to tell Vlad that the interesting bit is at the beginning. TV pictures showed him sitting in the grandstands talking at Bernie, and even with the new quieter hybrid engines Bernie was mouthing, "What?" So, congratulations to Mother Russia for their inaugural GP. Beetroot spritzers all round.


Losers

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 14th
Kvyat paid the price for the glory of a stellar grid position, too much downforce which made him quick over a single lap, but led to problems in the race. Jean-Eric Vergne suffered too. P5 was his best ever gridlot, but he got mugged on the opening lap when it looked like all the Red Bull-sponsored cars were running in a pack and scrapping it out between themselves.

Felipe Massa, Williams, 11th
Felipe's strategy of starting on the medium tyres then changing them for softs after the opening lap didn't work out. Perez, who finished 10th just in front of him, also started on the medium tyres and brought his much-slower car home in the points. Given that the FW36 had the pace to set the fastest lap and that at one stage Massa was lapping faster than Rosberg just in front of him (admittedly on the softer compound) it was surprising that the Brazilain couldn't get more out of the race.

Pirelli
The BBC reported that Pirelli hadn't actually surveyed the track surface at Sochi before deciding the tyre allocation for the race. If that is the case, then it's a major mistake because we were left with one of those old school grands prix where nothing happens and drivers go faster as the fuel load goes down.

Media Watch
Eddie Jordan talking about Alex Lynn's chances of making it into the Toro Rosso team to replace Daniil 'Danny' Kvyat: "He's vying for that place with Carlos Sainz's son...another Carlos Sainz."

Suzi Perry "Did the tyre evolvement catch you out...?"

Talking about the post-race downbeat Jenson Button
Eddie Jordan nodding at David Coulthard: "He's very close to Jenson. They live together
David Coulthard: We don't live together.
Eddie Jordan:
They live near each other.

Talking to Eric Boullier about McLaren's recent upswing in form. Eddie Jordan: "Four races ago you weren't competitive. What has you done to your car...?"

Andrew Davieski

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Friday, October 10, 2014

RUSSIAN GP 2014 PREVIEW

The 2014 Russian Grand Prix (formally known as the 2014 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix is a Formula One motor race that is due to take place on 12 October 2014. The race, which will be contested over fifty-three laps, will be held at the Sochi Autodrom, a brand new circuit built on the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi in Krasnodar Krai, Russia.

The race will be the sixteenth round of the 2014 season, following on from the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka one week previously, and preceding the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. The race marks the first time that the Russian Grand Prix has been held in a century, and will also be the first time the Russian Grand Prix has been run as a round of the Formula One World Championship since the championship was formed in 1950.

Sochi is a new circuit, built around the Olympic Park from the Sochi Winter Games 2014. It is a street circuit in essence, like Singapore or Valencia in some ways although with faster sections and with a trademark horseshoe shaped left-hander at T3/4, which will stress out the right front tyres.
It is the third longest lap of the year after Spa and Silverstone, but with 18 corners and 12 braking zones, the Energy Recovery Systems will be functioning at their optimum, with no issues on recharging. This is a track which would have been high fuel consumption in the V8 era, but which the teams will easily be able to cover in 100 kilos or less with the hybrid turbos.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS
Track length : 5.853 kilometres.
Race distance : 53 laps (310.209 kilometres).
Corners : 18 corners in total. A new circuit around Olympic Park, with a street feel to it.
Aerodynamic setup : HIgh downforce.
Top speed : 320km/h. Average Speed 200km/h.
Full throttle : 56% of the lap time (average).
Time spent braking : 10% of lap (low).
Number of brake zones : 12.
Brake wear : Average. Not a tough race on brakes.
Total time needed for pit stop : 17.5 secs (plus stop time >3secs ) = 21 seconds (ave).

WEATHER

Sochi is fairly temperate and stable weather wise so it looks like the temperatures will be around 20 plus degrees on race day. Sunny skies during Friday’s practice session will bring temperatures of up to 22C, and more of the same on Saturday should see the mercury hit 24C. Sunday is likely to be as warm again, though cloud cover will begin to form ahead of the race start time.

However, like Austin, it is cold at night, so the track temperature will be low for FP1 and FP3. Another thing to watch out for will be the dropping temperature as the race goes on, due to the relatively late 3pm start time. Unlike at Suzuka, dimming light should not be a problem. Sunday’s race starts at 3pm local time with sunset expected at 6:43pm.Forecast is for sunny and warm weather conditions with the chance of rain low.

TYRES

Pirelli tyre choice for Sochi: Soft (yellow markings) and Medium (white markings). This combination has been used five times this year already.

The track surface is only mildly abrasive, but it will still have the oils on the surface which is normal with fresh tarmac and which could make it slippery to start with. This will disappear after a Russian winter so next year the grip levels will be higher. The tyres are likely to slide on this surface and that will increase the stress on them. Meanwhile there are a lot of traction points (like Singapore) so we are likely to see rear tyre degradation due to longitudinal forces through the tyres on acceleration.

DRS

The Sochi Autodrom will have two DRS zones for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix. The two zones will be on opposite sides of the 5.8 kilometre track and have their own detection points.


The first DRS zone will be on the run to the first braking zone, and the other will be on the next-longest flat-out stretch which curves right and left as it leads into turn 13.

SAFETY CAR

The chance of a Safety Car at Sochi has yet to be established, but after the harrowing events at Suzuka with Jules Bianchi last week and the resulting spotlight on the role of the Safety Car in F1, plus a circuit lined with walls, which makes it hard for marshals to clear debris safely, it has to be presumed that the chances of a Safety Car this weekend are quite high.

CONCLUSION

Mercedes has won 12 of the 15 races so far this season, with Lewis Hamilton now on eight victories to Nico Rosberg’s four. The team will clinch the Constructors’ Championship for the first time since 1955, if they score well this weekend. They can afford to drop 17 points to Red Bull and still clinch the title on Sunday, with three rounds still to go.

The F1 teams will race under a cloud this weekend after the tragic events in Japan surrounding Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, who remains in hospital with a severe head injury. All drivers will be racing with that in mind and we may see more use of the safety car as it was only a week ago that the incident happened.

It is looking increasingly good for Lewis Hamilton to consolidate further his lead in the championship. He has been very good in the past when it comes to a completely new circuit as he can adapt very fast and very well. Looking forward to this race.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

JAPANESE GP: WINNERS AND LOSERS

An interesting race with the heavy weather. Lewis overtake and domination of Rosberg was the highlight for me. Although the Bianchi accident overshadowed everything after everybody realised how serious it was. I just saw a fan video of the crash and it is VERY serious. The car rammed the tractor straight on, no doubt about the seriousness of the head injury.

Here is the winners vs losers piece by Andrew Davies of PlanetF1. Original article HERE.

It was a troubled end to a memorable Grand Prix weekend. With the arrival of the new guard and the changing of the old...

Star of the Race
Jenson Button, McLaren, 5th
If ever McLaren needed a stark reminder of the benefits of an experienced driver, then they had it from Jenson Button on Sunday. His audacious early move to Inters had all the hallmarks of the Hungarian GP fiasco, where the McLaren team got the weather prediction badly wrong and threw away a handful of points. Was it going to pay off? Yes. Because this time it was Jenson Button making the call, and as the most experienced driver on the grid, he got it right.

He tried his best to keep the Red Bulls at bay and resisted the irresistible Daniel Ricciardo for as long as he could, but in the end he had to give best. It was the perfect performance to highlight his skills to the Honda management present at the race, on a day when his rookie team-mate plumbed new depths.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 29: Lewis Hamilton on Nico Rosberg for P1
Lewis has had a few moments into Turn 1 this weekend, including his off in FP3 and a late-closing of the DRS that almost pitched him into a tank-slapper. So when he closed to within 0.4 of his team-mate, the incredibly risky high-speed Turn 1 didn't look like the best option to make a pass. That never really puts Lewis off though, and knowing that he had to make it a clean (non-Spa) kind of pass he had to wait for the right moment. That came on Lap 29 when Rosberg had a small wobble under acceleration out of the final chicane and Lewis closed up down the straight, sucking in behind his rival for maximum tow and minimum visibility, then hurling it down the outside and getting it turned in without running wide. As David Coulthard noted: "That is bravery off the scale. I stopped breathing for a second then. That is a pass that all the other drivers will admire."

As for his race it was another peerless demonstration of his superiority in the W05. Bernie once suggested (yeah, another one of those great Bernie suggestions) that we should have gold, silver and bronze medals to decide the drivers' title. If that was the case then Lewis would have one hand on the trophy, with eight wins to Nico's four wins and four races to go.

Winners

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 2nd
Rosberg still hasn't beaten Hamilton in wheel-to-wheel racing this year, but hung on to take the best points he could. He already had the satisfaction of nailing another fine qualifying performance on Saturday to go 9:6 up in the qualifying battle.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 3rd
Having won four out of the last five Japanese GPs, this was really the track where Vettel needed to redress some of his defecit to Ricciardo. Which he just about did despite a worrying moment in the Esses when he went ploughing through the gravel and added six seconds to his lap time.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 4th
Yet more incredible race action from the soon-to-be Red Bull team leader. He picked off both Williams through the Esses, each time taking a generous helping of (on other circuits, lethal) kerb and not even having the decency to wag his back end while doing so.

Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, Williams, 6th and 7th
It was clear from the opening laps that Rob Smedley's confidence about the FW36 handling well in the wet was a little premature. In the race, Hamilton, Rosberg and Button opened up a massive gap to them before the Red Bulls could get past. They then set about creating an old school gap between themselves and 5th place - the kind of interval you remember from the 80s and 90s when so many of the cars didn't finish. The conditions may not have suited the car, but they made no slip-ups and helped consolidate P3 in the Constructors' Championship.

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 9th
JEV used his experience to best effect in a race that saw his stellar team-mate look a lot less confident than we've seen of late. Anything to do with the lack of advice from the pitwall ...?

Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, 17th
It may not be the highest Marcus Ericsson has finished a race, but the Swede came home over a minute in front of home favourite Kamui Kobayashi, to put a small shimmer of gloss on what has been a difficult weekend for the team. And it's hard to believe he did all that after spinning the car at the start. No more the moniker Marcus the Milepost.

Losers

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, DNF
Even though this is another technical failure for Alonso and Ferrari, the balance of DNFs over his five-year time at the Scuderia is still very small compared to other teams. It's rare to have a race weekend when there is a titanic battle in the driver's championship and for it to become almost a secondary story. In Suzuka we had the Verstappen debut, the Vettel announcement, the conformation from Christian Horner that the four-time World Champion was going to Ferrari, Fernando's polite avoidance of the subject and then the dreadful accident.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 12th
Given that Kimi is supposed to like his car now, and that the variable conditions should have given him the chance to shine, P12 was a huge disappointment for him and the team. The trouble started when he lost tyre temperature on his F14T and so the car wouldn't turn in as he liked. Throw into that a botched pit-stop and that was Ferrari's record-breaking run in the points ended.

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 14th
This is the first high-speed race when Kevin Magnussen hasn't had the benefit of real-time driver coaching and it showed. He had to contend with electronic issues throughout, so maybe the serial spins and run-offs into Turn 1 were a result of the malfunctioning hybrid system and we shouldn't blame him too much for those. However, if he really was having problems into Turn 1, what was he doing trying to challenge Daniel Ricciardo into that corner when he was a lap down? Had Magnussen lost it in what was a risky move, and collided with the Red Bull, then he would have had all the censure that Romain Grosjean picked up in his year of living dangerously.

Eric Boullier must be having his strings pulled by Ron Dennis because he said afterwards the scarcely believable: "... he [Magnussen] pulled off some good moves, especially his overtake of Daniel [Ricciardo], he was never going to be in with a chance of scoring points here today."

So if that's the case why was he trying to nudge alongside Jenson Button into Spoon late in the race when Button was still in contention for a podium place? Sergio Perez may have been criticised for some of his performances in 2013, but none were as ill-judged as Magnussen at Suzuka.

Race Director: Charlie Whiting
On a day when he got a lot of really difficult calls right, it was the one call that he got wrong which everyone will remember. There were eyebrows raised when the FIA's race director left Adrian Sutil's stranded Sauber on track on the start/finish straight in the German Grand Prix and let it be recovered under waved yellows. And it was his decision not to throw out a Safety Car when Sutil crashed in Suzuka that ultimately created the situation where Bianchi hit the recovery vehicle.

Media Watch
It's hard to know why the three men in the BBC commentary box; David Coulthard, Ben Edwards and the very experienced F1 journalist Tony Dodgins, failed to work out why the F1 world feed TV director kept on showing photos of anxious Marussia mechanics and the Marussia pitwall. It wasn't until the race had been red-flagged and non-resumption confirmed that they finally realised what was going on with Jules Bianchi and why various senior personnel of Mercedes and Red Bull were briefing their drivers as they got out of the car.

Andrew Davies

Original article HERE.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

JAPANESE GP 2014 PREVIEW

The Japanese Grand Prix is a race in the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Traditionally one of the last, if not the last race of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix has been the venue for many title-deciding races, with 13 World Champions being crowned over the 27 World Championship Japanese Grands Prix that have been hosted.

The first two Japanese Grands Prix in 1976 and 1977 were held at the Fuji Speedway, before Japan was taken off the calendar. It returned in 1987 at Suzuka, which hosted the Grand Prix exclusively for 20 years and gained a reputation as one of the most challenging F1 circuits. In 2007 the Grand Prix moved back to the newly redesigned Fuji Speedway. After a second race at Fuji in 2008, the race returned to Suzuka in 2009.

The Japanese Grand Prix was supposed to continue alternating between Fuji Speedway and Suzuka Circuit, owned by perennial rivals Toyota and Honda, respectively. There had been speculation that both tracks would host Grands Prix, with the readoption of the Pacific Grand Prix moniker used by the TI Circuit when it hosted Grands Prix in 1994 and 1995. The race made Japan one of only seven countries to host more than one Grand Prix in the same season (the others being Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the USA). It was discontinued primarily due to its location in a remote area of Japan.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS 

Track length : 5.807 kilometres.
Race distance : 53 laps (307.471 kilometres).
Corners : 18 corners in total. High speed, figure of 8 – a real drivers’ favourite.
Aerodynamic setup : HIgh downforce.
Top speed : 324km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 312km/h without.
Full throttle : 70% of the lap time (ave/high).
Time spent braking : 10% of lap (low)
Number of brake zones : 9.
Brake wear : Light. Not a tough race on brakes.
Total time needed for pit stop : 22 seconds (ave).
Lap record : 1:31.540 (Kimi Räikkönen, McLaren MP4-20, 2005)

WEATHER FORECAST

Being coastal, Suzuka is always likely to get sudden rain showers, sometimes heavy. Strong winds can also be a factor sometimes. Temperatures can vary widely. It is important to bear in mind that if it is warm the tyre degradation will be more severe. There is a typhoon called Phanfone, on a pathway, which could take it close to Suzuka on Sunday or Monday. It looks quite a serious typhoon, so it is being monitored. Heavy rain will precede its arrival.

TYRES

Pirelli tyre choice for Suzuka: Medium (white markings) and hard (orange markings). This combination was most recently used at Silverstone

As with the race at Silverstone, the main interest will revolve around whether some teams can race with two stints on the mediums and one on the hard tyres to take advantage of the better pace of the mediums. If they can make the mediums last, this will be a competitive strategy. Last year most runners stuck with the hards. At Silverstone Daniel Ricciardo managed to take a set of mediums to 37 laps.

The performance gap between the medium and hard tyres is likely to be around 0.8 seconds per lap in qualifying trim. But in the race at Silverstone there was little to choose between the tyres; this could well happen at Suzuka this weekend.

DRS

The FIA has retained a single DRS zone for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix. As in previous years at the Suzuka circuit, the activation area runs along the majority of the start/finish straight, following a detection point shortly before the final Turn 16/17 chicane, also known as the Casio Triangle. Monaco is the only other round to have featured just one DRS zone this season, due to a lack of space.


The FIA has also confirmed a number of changes to the Suzuka circuit ahead of this weekend's Grand Prix. TecPro barriers have been added on the drivers' left-side after Turn 15, while a section of the track between Turn 15 and Turn 16 has been resurfaced. Finally, the tail lamp posts that were close to the debris fences around the outside of Turns 13 and 14 have been moved further back from the guardrail.

PITSTOPS

Last year with hard and medium tyres, simulations showed that two stops would be faster than three stops by around 5 seconds. Most people did two stops. A classic two stop is to pit for the first time around Lap 14 and then a second time around Lap 35. We may see drivers trying the undercut, trying to push rivals into running a longer final stint than they would ideally wish to do.

Thermal degradation will be the limiting factor, particularly on the front tyres and that will dictate strategy. Teams will react to degradation once it kicks in and make stops. We have seen a few times at Suzuka that a safety car can make a big difference for teams that are marginal on the tyres.

SAFETY CAR

The chance of a Safety Car at Suzuka is quite high: 60% with 0.6 Safety Cars per race. As accidents at Suzuka tend to be at high speed there is often wreckage to be cleared away. There has been at least one Safety Car in five of the last seven races at Suzuka.

CONCLUSION

It’s a classic circuit with some famous corners, but there are many important tricks to doing well at Suzuka – race strategy is often the decisive factor, as it was clearly last season where Red Bull and Lotus fought for the win with split strategies for Red Bull carrying the day for Sebastian Vettel to take his fourth Suzuka win in five seasons.

One crucial element will be avoiding Typhoon Phanfone, which is on a possible trajectory towards Suzuka around Sunday or Monday. It is being closely monitored, but organisers will be thinking of contingency planning to get the race away without disruption.

And our tight championship battle is leveled again for now with Hamilton leading by 3 points to Rosberg. Although it is possible for Mercedes to seal the constructors championship this weekend, I don't see it happening as Rosberg is due another DNF. Maybe another race.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

WINNERS AND LOSERS: SINGAPORE GP

A slow race to begin with and I almost switched it off halfway if not for the safety car. From then on, it was nail biting to see Lewis Hamilton hammering the field and on to winning the race. Here is the winners vs losers piece by Andrew Davies of PlanetF1. Original article HERE.

F1 race strategists may use algorithms and 'Latin hypercube sampling', but tossing a coin would probably have got the same result on Sunday...

Star of the Race
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st
Lewis maintained the high pedigree of the Singapore Grand Prix Winners Club by making it seven World Champions in seven races. Only he, Seb and Fernando have won at Marina Bay before and for much of the afternoon that looked like being the podium. Obviously his job became a lot easier the second he pulled away on the parade lap and left his team-mate searching for a gear.

Lewis's biggest threat, after Vettel went backwards in the first stint, was a badly timed Safety Car and we almost got one. After the team made the decision to keep the No.44 car out, Lewis was constantly questioning the strategy, something that almost all the top ten drivers were doing in a race when (ironically) engineers were nervous about giving out too much information. In a race where drivers really did need to rely on what they were being told, there was a certain coyness about team radio.

Once the Safety Car came in at the end of Lap 37 Hamilton produced a devastating series of laps to create his 25-second advantage. The gap to Vettel went: 3.2, 5.8, 7.6, 9.7, 11.5, 13.5, 15.3, 17.3, 18.7, 20.3, 21.1, 22.7, 24.0, 25.2 on Lap 51. Even when Lewis came in he was still putting in laps that were a second quicker than Vettel. But he was right to be jumpy about the possibility of a late Safety Car. We've now had ten in seven races.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 59: Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso on Kimi Raikkonen for P7
In the latter stages of the race Jean-Eric Vergne looked like a man on a mission, and we all know what that mission is... To remind other teams that last season he was a pretty good match for Daniel Ricciardo who is now embarrassing a four-time World Champion. In the closing stages of the race on fresher tyres he came up against the Bottas train and picked them off one by one. Hulkenberg's Force India was a nadgy pass, but on Lap 59 he threw his Toro Rosso down the inside of Kimi Raikkonen into Turn One and got the car stopped with only a slight lock-up of tyres. He then dispensed with Bottas and managed to get five seconds clear of Perez to negate his five-second penalty, given to him, for going off track to pass Maldonado.

It looked to many as though Maldonado had forced him off the track, but JEV got a five-second penalty for it. Interestingly, Fernando Alonso, in a far more calculated run off the track limits, didn't give up that amount of time to the cars behind when he did it on Lap 1.

Winners

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 2nd
With no Rosberg to interfere with his run to Turn 1, Sebastian got a flying start, which was briefly interrupted by Alonso taking the short-cut to P2. He had to hand the place back to Seb straight away. Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was thinking that maybe he should have got a place back, too, but was too polite to say despite a lot of post-race prompts. After that Vettel was clearly the faster of the two Red Bull drivers thanks to what seemed like a recurring problem for Daniel's energy recovery system. Vettel's tyres started going away from Lap 9 when Hamilton's lead suddenly went from 3.8 seconds to 5.1.

So right from early on it was clear that this was not going to be a race when Red Bull matched the Mercedes for pace despite a few people predicting that Vettel or Ricciardo might win.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 3rd
Dan couldn't get close to his team-mate all afternoon thanks to spending most of it in his role as IT manager for his hybrid system. It's a credit that he could do all that and stay on the podium.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 4th
A tremendous bounce back from Alonso after Monza but it could have been so much better. He surrendered second place for a change of tyres during the Safety Car period, which seemed a brilliant move because Red Bull were going to run out of tyres. Before Perez lost his front wing, Seb had already been on the team radio and said he wanted supersofts for a final 12-lap dash to the line. But after the Safety Car Red Bull were reluctant to give up track position, and Alonso could close but not pass.

Felipe Massa, Williams, 5th
With Bottas acting as his rear gunner, Felipe was able to stay ahead of the late-race chargers with a useful buffer, and his 38-lap stint on the soft tyre succeeded. Valtteri's gave up the ghost and punctured. From a team point of view it was very important to minimise losses to Ferrari.

Sergio Perez, Force India, 7th
An amazing result for Checo, who'd have thought you could be tooling around in 18th place on Lap 39 and make it through to P6? He put in some robust moves towards the end, including one on his team-mate. But the fact that he could get as far as he did in the closing stages justified the aggression.

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 10th
Kevin Magnussen did a heroic job fighting off cramp and burns from an overheating cockpit, which went some of the way to atone for his first lap errors. Just like Spa he put his own interests in front of the team's and tried to block Button coming through on Lap 1. The result? If he'd let Jenson go, McLaren would have finished the opening lap in 6th and 7th places. As it was, Massa was able to get past Jenson and so they finished the opening lap in 7th and 9th instead. Button's car failure meant that they have now dropped behind Force India in the constructor's championship so they really can't afford to chuck places away.

Lotus, 12th and 13th
Considering the Qualifying session that Lotus endured, and the year they're having, it should be noted both cars finished, unlike McLaren and Mercedes. It allowed Pastor to get a bit more combative than usual and do what he does best as the boy scout of F1 - helping older drivers across kerbs.

Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, 15thHaving been outpaced by both the one-shot drivers that Caterham have brought in for the race at Spa and Monza practice, Marcus got the better of both Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton in Singapore. However there wasn't the kind of late-race drop-off to capitalise on.

Quieter Engines
It was a rare moment when you heard the crowd roar in F1 races of old. The cheers that Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton got in Qualifying and the race have brought a new dimension to the sport and it's simply great to hear. Deaf octogenarians with a distant contact of reality should take note.

Losers

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, DNF
Nico Rosberg was probably aware when engineer Tony Ross radioed through that: "the only thing working on your dash is the gearshift pedals." And even then they seemed to be shifting up two at a time. Nico's racing demise may have helped Lewis regain the World Championship lead, but both men will be nervous that the same thing doesn't recur in the closely-packed races ahead. Imagine the anti-climax before the double points last race in Abu Dhabi should it happen there.

The score of wins to DNFs for Mercedes is now - Rosberg 4/2 - Hamilton 7/3 not including two technical failures in Qualifying for Lewis and one severe glitch in Canada for Nico. So we're getting towards parity. Rosberg took the blow squarely on the shoulders. More than ever this World Championship looks like it will be decided by stuff such as a wiring loom failure and less by wheel-to-wheel action.

Jenson Button, McLaren, DNF
A strong opening lap for Jenson. Given what happened with Bottas at the end he would probably have been duelling it out with Kimi and Jean-Eric instead he was looking for a scooter.

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 14th
Singapore is always tough for rookies, but even more so when their drinks bottle packs up before the race even starts. As he let his team know: "Without a drink, I'm dying here!" Sauber's Adrian Sutil has been known to go without a drinks bottle before now to save weight but not even he would attempt Marina Bay without one. So, heroic to get to the end. Drivers have stopped for lesser reasons than that, but were the team wise to leave him out there...?

Media Watch
It's always a pleasure to listen to ex-Honda, Red Bull and Toro Rosso communications director Eric Silbermann in the Radio 5 commentary box. They should give Allan McNish the weekend off more often.

Eric Silbermann: "Jenny, you're standing in an F1 pitlane. So if they're moving their lips then they're probably lying."

Eric Silbermann in response to the question about how the stewards judge what is and what isn't driver coaching: "Maybe we should bring someone along from the old Jim Russell driving school at Snetterton to get his training manual out to work out what is coaching and what is not."

James Allen "We look at Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost looking up at about 14 data screens. Does he understand all that, Eric?"
Eric Silbermann: "Every team principal understands everything about everything in F1. That's the golden rule..." (said with the Martini driest of wits)

For once Eddie Jordan was tub-thumping for the small independent teams who are under threat from his mate Bernie. "No, I think it's the fault of the manufacturers. They're the ones who have left In Formula 1 days."

The STBO Award
Radio 5's Jenny Gow has completely got the hang of night racing. "It's pitch black here. Very dark."

Andrew Davies

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

THE EFFICIENCY FORMULA

At the end of 2013 F1 bid farewell to its normally aspirated V8s and embraced brand new power units that combined a hybrid V6 turbo engine with two energy recovery systems - the MGU-K that works under braking, and MGU-H which harvests energy at the exhaust. Monza 2014 offered an ideal opportunity to compare and analyse the performance of modern low downforce-spec F1 cars with their previous counterparts.

The recent Grand Prix emphasised an important point: the 2014 regulations have greatly enhanced the cars' efficiency while maintaining - and even increasing - their level of performance. Renault takes a look and explains the differences and improvements made so far.

A two-second gain in a single year

2013 saw F1 cars fitted with normally aspirated V8s delivering around 800bhp (that's 590kW without the extra 60kW provided by the KERS). Monza's speed traps recorded single-seaters clock around 340kph, with pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel posting a lap of 1:23.755 in qualifying aboard his Infiniti Red Bull Racing-Renault. A year later the fastest Q3 time was 1:24.109, achieved with a car weighing 50kg heavier - a 1.8secs deficit - and using harder tyres. Once these differences have been accounted for and the times corrected, this year's lap represents a two-second gain over the course of 12 months.

Fuel consumption down to 1.9kg per lap

The 2014 regulations also brought another revolution with a 35% reduction in the amount of fuel permitted for each race (100kg against 150kg last year). It's been made possible thanks to the V6 engine's high degree of hybridisation: 20% of the power is now electric and comes from the energy recovered under braking and harvested at the exhaust. The average Monza consumption rate therefore went from 2.5kg per lap in 2013 to under 1.9kg a lap this year. With the same mass, the corrected 2014 time is faster.

An F1 car's energy source distribution

2013: The vast majority of energy available came from the 160kg of fuel used by the car. Power generated by fossil energy and transferred to the wheels reached 30%, while the remainder escaped in the air. A single KERS unit also ensured the share of electric power remained quite limited.
2014: With a 100kg restriction in fuel mass, the share of electric power has grown significantly. A greater percentage is now transferred to the wheels, which vastly improves the overall energy efficiency. Electric energy is much more important (4MJ) than it was last year. It comes from two different sources: braking and the exhaust.

Better energy efficiency

In 2013 an F1 car's efficiency was rated at 30%, which has increased to 40% in 2014. This has been made possible by reducing the internal combustion engine's displacement (and amount of friction), the introduction of a turbocompressor, and cutting the number of revs (from 18,000 to 13,000). The efficiency of a car fitted with an internal combustion engine cannot exceed 50%. Only a fully electric engine can achieve a much higher efficiency. To do so, however, requires 25 tons of batteries!

Additional stats and facts

30% fuel mass reduction between 2013 and 2014.
10 points: the efficiency improvement of an F1 car between 2013 and 2014.
In qualifying, the 25kg battery delivers an extra 10% of energy, which amounts to 200g in fuel.
While overtaking during the race, Daniel Ricciardo's Infiniti Red Bull Racing-Renault reached 362.1kph, smashing the 2013 top speed by an impressive 20kph.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SINGAPORE GP 2014 PREVIEW

The Singapore Grand Prix is a motor race on the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The event takes place in Singapore on the Marina Bay Street Circuit and was the inaugural F1 night race and the first street circuit in Asia. Spaniard Fernando Alonso won the first edition of the grand prix, driving for the Renault F1 team. The Singapore Grand Prix will remain on the F1 calendar through at least 2017, after race organizers signed a contract extension with Formula One Management on the eve of the 2012 event.

The longest race in the F1 calendar at almost two hours, one of the hardest on brakes, with a 100% record of a safety car, a long slow pit stop and a choice of the softest tyres which cannot do the 308km marathon in one stop, the Singapore Grand Prix is always a strategy challenge.

But now, with a new ban on team radios due to come into force this weekend, it makes it even more fascinating. Messages from engineers to drivers about strategy are permitted, but drivers are no longer allowed coaching when looking after the tyres and the brakes and getting the start procedure right, which opens up some big question marks.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS

Track Length : 5.073 kilometres.
Race Distance : 61 laps (309.316 kilometres).
Corners : 23 corners in total. Street circuit around Singapore’s Marina Bay area.
Aerodynamic Setup : High downforce.
Top Speed : 305km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 290km/h without.
Full Throttle : 45.5% of the lap time (low).
Time Spent Braking : 21% of lap.
Number Of Brake Zones : 16.
Brake Wear : Very high. Toughest race of season for brakes as no cooling opportunities.
Total Time Needed For Pit stop : 29 seconds (very high).
Lap Record : 1:48.574 - S Vettel (2013).


WEATHER FORECAST

The temperatures are always high for this event, around 30 degrees with high humidity, but amazingly none of the six races at Singapore have been affected by rain. There has been plenty of rain around the event, but not during the race.

DRS

The night race featured just one zone in 2011 and 2012, but moved to two from 2013; the first area is situated on the long stretch from Turns 5 to 7, known as Raffles Boulevard, with the second on the start-finish straight.

Separate detection points control the two zones – the first just after Turn 4 and the second before Turn 22.


TYRES

Pirelli tyre choice for Singapore: soft and supersoft. This has been a popular combination this season and has appeared at Monaco, Canada, Austria and Germany. The Singapore lap is long and the great challenge is to look after the rear tyres; it is 15% harder on the rear tyres than Monaco, for example. This means that this combination of the softest tyres in the range will give less mileage and suffer more degradation than in Monaco, which could be done as a one stop race. In Singapore you have to stop twice ,but timing is everything.

SAFETY CAR

Because the track is lined with walls, making it difficult for marshals to clear debris, the chance of a Safety Car at Singapore is 100% ! There has been at least one Safety Car at every Singapore GP so far with an average of 6 laps spent under Safety Car.

CONCLUSION

The start is particularly crucial at Singapore as it’s very hard to overtake on this circuit and the field spread is significant, so gaining places on the run down to Turn 1 is vital. The undercut is a very useful tactic here to gain places; you pit before the cars ahead of you, use the performance of the new tyres versus old and then gain places when they pit. Kimi Raikkonen did it very effectively last season on his way to a podium.

The race on the Marina Bay Circuit is also one of the longest and toughest of the year for the cars and drivers. The race can last up to two hours and with high temperatures , humidity and constant braking and turning, it is a real marathon.

Plus we're getting a new FIA mandated radio ban on driver coaching and car situation. Some drivers may be pushing to the limit and not know it so this should be a very interesting race indeed. As for the 2 championship leaders, it will be interesting to see how Rosberg will handle this race without having so much information on Hamilton's status all the time.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2015 CALENDAR CONFIRMED

The FIA's World Motor Sport Council, meeting in Beijing ahead of the inaugural Formula E event, has announced the 2015 F1 calendar.

In essence there are no changes to the calendar leaked over the course of the Italian Grand Prix weekend other than the fact that the Japanese event takes place a week earlier than originally scheduled and the United States and Mexican races change order.

Date         Race                  Circuit
15-Mar Australia          Melbourne
29-Mar Malaysia   Sepang
05-Apr Bahrain     Sakhir
19-Apr China        Shanghai International Circuit
10-May Spain         Barcelona
24-May Monaco    Monaco
07-Jun Canada      Montreal
21-Jun Austria      Red Bull Ring
05-Jul Britain      Silverstone
19-Jul Germany   Nurburgring
26-Jul Hungary    Hungaroring
23-Aug Belgium Spa Francorchamps
06-Sep Italy          Monza
20-Sep Singapore Marina Bay
27-Sep Japan        Suzuka
11-Oct Russia       Sochi
25-Oct United States Austin
01-Nov Mexico     Mexico City
15-Nov Brazil        Interlagos
29-Nov Abu Dhabi Yas Marina

At 20 races, the 2015 calendar equals the number of events held in 2012, the busiest season in the history of the sport. Azerbaijan is scheduled to join the schedule in 2016.


Friday, September 5, 2014

ITALIAN GP 2014 PREVIEW

The Italian Grand Prix (Gran Premio d'Italia) is one of the longest running events on the Formula One calendar. The Italian Grand Prix was also one of the inaugural Formula One championship races in 1950, and has been held every year since then. The only other championship race for which this is true is the British Grand Prix, and the only other inaugural F1 races that are still on the calendar are the Monaco Grand Prix and the Belgian Grand Prix. Every Formula One Italian Grand Prix since 1950 has been held at Monza except in 1980, when it was held at Imola. The Italian Grand Prix counted toward the European Championship from 1935 to 1938. It was designated the European Grand Prix seven times between 1923 and 1967, when this title was an honorary designation given each year to one grand prix race in Europe.

Monza is the fastest circuit on the F1 calendar and the one with the highest straight line speeds, which are expected to reach 360km/h this year, due to the reduction in downforce and drag on the cars. Strategy is also important as there is a long pit lane, which makes for slow stops and as the cars remaining on track are travelling at high speeds, so it is easy to lose track positions with wrong strategy moves.

Monza has tended to be a one-stop race, but this year Pirelli has been making moves to encourage one more stop than in 2013. However, due to the heat build up in the tyres from the high wheel rotation speeds, they are obliged to bring the medium and hard compound tyres, which are likely to maintain the one stop strategy. Evaluating the tyre performance during the Friday practice sessions will be vital.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS

Track Length : 5.793 kilometres.
Race distance : 53 laps (306.72 kilometres).
Corners : 11 corners in total.
Average Speed : 247km/h.
Aerodynamic Setup : Low downforce.
Top speed : 360km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing).
Full Throttle : 74% of the lap (high).
Time Spent Braking : 11% of lap.
Number Of Brake Zones : 6.
Brake Wear : High.
Total Time Needed For Pit Stop (at 80km/h) : 25 seconds (ave/high).
Lap record : 1:21.046 Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, 2004.

WEATHER FORECAST

The weather forecast predicts a warm weekend with temperatures of 27-29 degrees, but there is a 40% chance of rain on Saturday morning.

TYRES

Pirelli tyre choice for Monza: medium (white markings) and hard (orange markings). This combination of tyres was seen in Malaysia, Spain and Silverstone. Monza is not particularly hard on tyres, as there are no high energy corners to speak of apart from the Parabolica. However as it is a low downforce circuit, the tyres will tend to slide more, especially under traction out of the low speed chicanes and this increases the degradation. Also with the biggest stop of the season from 360km/h down to 75km/h in Turn 1, with little downforce to help, it is easy to lock a wheel up and flat spot a tyre.

The fast Parabolica corner places high lateral energy demands on the tire, while the stop-go nature of the chicanes means Monza also makes high longitudinal demands on the rubber. Even so, the presence of the hard and medium tires combined with the long pit lane time makes this a good place to try a one-stop strategy.
DRS

There will be two DRS zones in Italy. The detection point for the first zone will be 95m before Turn Seven, with the activation point 210m after Turn Seven. The second detection point will be 20m before Turn 11, with the activation point 115m after the finish line.


SAFETY CAR

The chance of a safety car at Monza is statistically very low at 43% and 0.4 Safety Cars per race. There was however a Safety car three years in a row recently from 2007- 9.

CONCLUSION

In a season dominated by Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has won three races, including the relatively low downforce Canadian Grand Prix. Due to various circumstances, the Australian has led 68 laps in the last two races, compared to 27 laps for Hamilton and Rosberg combined!

Meanwhile Mercedes has dominated pole position, apart from Austria, where Williams came out on top. Williams has a low drag car and is likely to feature strongly this weekend. Red Bull has never had the best straight-line speeds, but managed to win the race in 2011 and 2013 due to clever gearing which kept Vettel ahead on acceleration out of the chicanes. It has been a good circuit for McLaren over the years too. The Mercedes power unit advantage is likely to help them once again, as it will Force India, although they have fallen behind recently on development.

From a driver perspective, Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton are the only drivers in the field who have won the Italian Grand Prix; Vettel three times, Alonso twice and Hamilton once.

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