Saturday, April 27, 2013

THAILAND F1?



I have written before about Thailand being interested to host an F1 race here. It was to be a street race in the heart of Bangkok. I didn't give it much thought at the time as the announcement was made suddenly and the Thai authorities did sound too confident about it. As we all know, things change very quickly in F1 and deals can be made upside down. So, it was not really a groundbreaking news at the time.

Now after being so quiet for so long they've burst on the scene again and this time they even have an approved track layout and they're saying it will be a night race. This looks like a stronger case for the race but as we know in F1, anything is possible. Plus we also know that at the moment the calendar is quite full with so many other countries lining to pay Bernie his money. So, I'm not quite sure who will get the chop to make way for Thailand.

Although I have a bad feeling it will be Malaysia. Singapore has only been on the scene for a few short years but they've already outclassed Malaysia (who have been doing it for 15 years). Singapore has even been likened to the Monaco of the east. And the race in Malaysia has no festive air to it, plus the track at Sepang is a dump to say the least. Imagine having to wade in ankle deep water inside the toilet. And I'm a Malaysian. That really sucks.

Can we compete with Thailand? Really? Bernie has made his feelings known about the Sepang circuit many times and I do not see the Sepang management doing anything much about it. They had the government's media talk up Sepang after this year's race which celebrated our 15th anniversary.

MALAYSIA staged its 15th edition of the Formula One (F1) race last weekend. Under the current contract, which became effective in, it will hold its 17th and last race in 2015.
Is the government game for F1 to continue beyond 2015? Should the public chide it if the government were to seek and get a contract extension to hold the world’s hottest race? It’s good to hear from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that the government is seriously considering the possibility of extending the contract to host the race.
The government wants to "consider" extending the contract? The Malaysian government does not have any power to extend the contract. That is 100% up to Bernie. The statement should be whether Bernie wants to extend the contract. With shoddy track facilities and lack of festivities surrounding the race (not to mention promotions), what do you think will happen in 2015? I wouldn't hold my breath.

I didn't say anything..
Anyway, back to Thailand. Officials in Thailand have approved the route of a circuit on which it proposes to host a Formula One race in 2015. The 3.725 miles (5.995 km) track which runs through the streets of Bangkok was approved on Thursday by Kanokphand Chulakasem, the governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand.

The "approved" layout..
The proposed circuit passes a number of civic monuments including the Grand Palace, Temple of Dawn and Victory Monument, while the pits and paddock complex would be built alongside the Chao Phraya River. Temporary stands would be erected, capable of holding a crowd of 150,000 people. Kanokphand Chulakasem said:

"We may be about to build the main stands in the river. It would also be convenient for transportation of equipment."
With the circuit layout finalised, the proposal, which includes the race being hosted at night, will be submitted for cabinet approval, a process that can take up to three months. Interesting times we live in, eh?

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Friday, April 26, 2013

RENAULT TWIZY F1

How do you get attention nowadays in a world full of Tweets, status updates, news flashes every tenth of a second? Well, you do something bonkers. Like the Renault Twizy F1 Concept. Renault has applied F1 KERS technology to its electric city car, the Twizy, to come up with a really bonkers one-off concept.

The Twizy Renault Sport F1, to give it its full name, has an F1 KERS unit in place of the usual rear seat and is capable of 0-60mph in 6.0s. The Twizy is also fitted with an F1-style steering wheel, front and rear wings, sidepods and slick tyres from a Formula Renault 2.0 car. Slightly less impressive is its top speed of 68mph.

When KERS is activated it offers an extra 80bhp for 14 seconds on top of the 17bhp from the Twizy's standard electric motor. Just like in an F1 car, the driver has a KERS button on the steering wheel and can choose between harvesting and deploying power. The KERS unit adds an extra 30kg in weight but it more than makes up for it with the extra power. Jean-Michel Jalinier president of Renault Sport F1 said:
"We always said we wanted to create F1-derived technology that was road relevant!. Hopefully, this car will make a few people smile while also making a serious point.
KERS is a very complex system and integrating it into another electric car was a very serious endeavour, but they managed to make it work, delivering a huge boost of power safely and efficiently. I'm not sure we'll be seeing many of these cars on our roads, but it does show that the same principles we see on the race track can be filtered down to the road car range - this is just the evil elder brother!"
The Twizy Renault Sport F1 will make its first public appearance at the World Series by Renault meeting at Aragon this weekend and will also be on display at the Barcelona Motor Show.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Winner and Losers: Bahrain GP

This article is written by Andrew Davies and published on PlanetF1.com. It is re-produced here in its entirety. For the original article, click here.

Vettel was in a class (and race) of his own, but it was Sergio Perez who showed that he can follow a team order to the letter...

Star of the Race

Sergio Perez, McLaren, 6th


Martin Whitmarsh gave Sergo Perez the strict instruction that he had to be more aggressive and having been held up by Jenson Button as early as Lap 8 he took his boss at his word and "used his elbows". McLaren are racers and believe they have the moral high ground over Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull who they see as mere 'strategistas' - racing to percentages. It certainly makes races more exciting. Of course the freedom to race your team-mate includes the maxim don't hit them, but in the past Button and Hamilton have hit each other - in Turkey and Canada to name but two instances.

Perez's problem was that whereas he let Button past cleanly on Lap 27, when Perez tried to take Button back, Jenson felt he had the right to keep the place. The trouble between the two was caused by Jenson holding up what was a faster car. Not only that, it looked very much like he decided to lift at the apex of Turn 4 and let Perez hit him during the 'Laps of Frenzy'. When he had the coming together with Hamilton in Canada there are those that think Button knew exactly what he was doing and where Hamilton was when he moved across on him.

Perez wasn't intimidated by Grosjean and kept his line at Turn 1 when the Lotus driver tried to get past, and administered the wide sweep on Alonso when he overtook Fernando on the inside going into Turn 4. Button had done it on him, so if Checo was going to be censured then that censure would have to be widely spread.

As it was, Button's needless holding up of Perez cost him 5th place. He was closing right up on Hamilton at the finish.

Sergio may have been a bit lively but during the race there were at least two other drivers - Rosberg and Webber - making what looked like double moves and moving under braking (another Button complaint) so it will be unfair if Perez gets singled out in the post-race soundbites. Raikkonen apparently already had a moan in the driver's briefing about Perez after Kimi's half-arsed attempt to pass him in China didn't come off. It only adds further fuel to the argument that Kimi is far from the iceman and is in fact Finland's answer to Victor Meldrew.

Perez took P6 from P12 on the grid under a lot of pressure. All Martin Whitmarsh needs to do is qualify his 'elbows' remark.

Overtaking Move of the Race

Lap 1: Sebastian Vettel on Fernando Alonso for P2


Having been well and truly out-manouevred at Turn 1, Vettel lined up to take Alonso into Turn 4, but held back some KERS for the traction out of 4 into 5 on the inside. On a full tank of fuel it was the most precise of overtakes and a very important one.

Winners

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1st


Vettel made two key overtakes that gave him the lead inside of the first three laps; and from the moment that Fernando Alonso's DRS stuck open he was on a tyre-wear observation run to the finish. Could he have beaten a fully-functioning Alonso? It's very hard to say because he was easing up in stints and easing up in pit-stops with only the rarest flashes of all-out speed, such as to take Fastest Lap on Lap 55.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 2nd

Despite qualifying poorly Raikkonen bided his time and filtered through to an unspectacular P2. He looks well on course to beat Michael Schumacher's record for most consecutive points finishes. Not that it will bother him at all - asked after the race which was his best Bahrain podium finish (of six) he said: "I don't know. It doesn't really matter. Second is obviously better than third place but we haven't won and that's what we try to do. Today we got good points, we didn't lose too many to Sebastian but obviously it doesn't help to finish second if he's winning all the time.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 3rd

Grosjean took a lot of care with his overtakes on his way to P3 - although he said the scariest of his moves was getting past Massa. Very soon he'll have all the same development parts as Raikkonen - and that could prove interesting.

Paul Di Resta, Force India, 4th

Di Resta was combative early on and was held up behind Alonso who could sprint away from him with the DRS open - but was clearly dropping him back in the twisty stuff, and keeping Paul behind (which must have been quite a feat from Fernando). Fourth equals Di Resta's best result but he's never been so close to the podium.

Paul looked uncomfortable at having to be happy in the post-race interviews. He had to admit that it was good points, and a great result etc, but you knew inside he was hurting not being able to be openly gloomy about his thwarted debut appearance in the Pirelli cap. Just as Kimi cannot embrace euphoria, Paul errs towards the negative. He managed to sneak into post-race interviews that Grosjean was only able to get P3 because he had more sets of tyres from failing to get into Q3, as though it had been the Frenchman's great masterplan.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 5th

The new, patient Lewis Hamilton has seen the light both from a spiritual POV and a race tactics viewpoint. Instead of going for it flat out, Lewis played the long game and it got him some points. True he had to have a go at the end, but he was keen to give Mark Webber room on the outside of Turn 4 when most drivers had been washing across the road. It's a fair result given that his gearbox failure (which set him back five places on the grid) came about not through a Mercedes fault, but an outside agency that burst his tyre, bent the suspension and then damaged the gearbox.

Pirelli

Paul Hemberry may have had some anxious moments with the Massa punctures, but the race provided great drama thanks to the different strategy afforded by the tyres.

LOSERS

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 8th


Now that's what you call a double DRS... Given that he caught up a lot of time without DRS or a Safety Car you have to feel that Alonso lost out on at least P2... plus the fun of some scrapping with Raikkonen. It's hard to know why Ferrari didn't tell him not to use the DRS again after it jammed open the first time. Maybe, like the front wing in Malaysia, they hoped for the best and it was a coin toss that didn't go their way. Just imagine if they told him not to use it, he got to the end of the race, and then it opened perfectly when he tried it out on the slowing down lap...

Adrian Sutil, Force India, 13thAdrian Sutil was the victim of first lap contact as Felipe Massa bumped into Sutil's front-right tyre (presumably against the left side of Massa's front wing, which flapped from then on) and that was his afternoon done. The slow return to the pits was an even bigger blow than Alonso's DRS failure. That's two first lap contacts in successive races.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 15th

The travails of Felipe Massa in Bahrain were part of the great fascination of F1. Before the race, pundits were predicting a Ferrari benefit with Alonso and Massa both poised for a podium finish - and then the race happened. Massa's tyre woes may have been karma from bashing into Sutil, or more likely other debris strewn round the circuit. Felipe's own opinion that the first puncture was delamination (like Lewis in FP3) and the second was debris - looked the correct assessment.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 10th

One race after he got the moniker Mr.Kindly Tyres, that title has to be taken away from him. Perez made his tyres last longer and as noted above, defending unnecessarily against his team-mate won't have prolonged Jenson's tyre life. Through the race he seemed forever destined to come out after a pit-stop behind Nico Rosberg.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 7th

Mark has redefined defensive driving after his performance against Lewis Hamilton in the last seven laps of the race. Had that been Hamilton taking those extreme lines then there would have been a familiar chorus of disapproval. Webber was being so obstructive you thought he might have mistaken Lewis for Sebastian Vettel. To defend so forcibly and then hand over another place to Perez (and almost Alonso) on the last lap was bordering on the comic.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 9th

Before the race Rosberg was confident that he wouldn't hang on to his pole position and his confidence wasn't misplaced. It was hard to work out why he crashed into Webbo, when Mark was out of position, but the car was robust enough to take it. This was Groundhog Day at Sakhir, the same top three as last year and more controversy around Rosberg.

Andrew Davies

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VETTEL WINS IN THE DESERT

The Bahrain GP weekend was a real hotbed, not just the temperatures and F1 machinery going berserk in the middle of the desert but the surrounding region was a hotbed of protest. The unrest in Bahrain rages on despite claims by the government of on-going "talks" to heal the nation. But the show goes on even when Bernie says the Bahraini government was "stupid" to host the race. Although he also said:
"I feel they do a super job and we're more than happy to give them a new contract for five years. I don't see any problems."
Yeah, all he sees is cash as the Bahrain GP promoters cough up GBP26 million per race, so a 5 year contract would do just nice for Bernie. Who cares how many have died on the streets, right?

I need the money, ex-wife sucking me dry (not there)..
Qualifying set up a pretty interesting race although Rosberg putting his Mercedes on pole was more of a show as we know the Mercedes has been struggling on Friday and Saturday. With Alonso and Vettel so close, it was a foregone conclusion that they would overtake him pretty quickly to shape up the race. Which was what duly happened although Rosberg did put up a brave fight until lap 3.

The pace of the Mercedes were appalling  it was ridiculous to see them losing so much time, unable to fend off anybody for the first few laps. They dropped off for most of the race although Lewis did regain the pace later towards the end when the temperatures went down a bit and his car went from crap to "amazing". I'm unable to comment on the fight between him and Webber at the end because my live feed went down when it mattered. So I basically missed the finish.

"I was nowhere and had no speed at all. There was nothing I could do because no matter what I did to the car it wouldn't go any faster and the gap was growing in front. Then all of a sudden something happened after the second pit-stop and the car started to react differently and I was able to push because I had grip again.
It must have been something that happened to the car after qualifying when we changed gearbox and something wasn't set right and then went back to being set right because all of a sudden the car was amazing."

Ferrari went into this race as the favorites for the win as both Alonso and Massa have won here many times. Ferrari also have been traditionally strong in Bahrain. But luck was not on their side. Alonso suffered a DRS wing failure so couldn't use it for the whole race and Massa had 2 tire punctures plus a host of other problems. Alonso commented:

"We were very, unlucky," he said. "In four races we've had two very unlucky moments. But it will come for the others and in that moment we will take our opportunity. It was very difficult. I stopped two times in two laps so was at the back of the group, with no DRS to pass. The race became very, very difficult."

Lotus were also the favorites as they have good pace and tire management even in the heat of Bahrain. They also have good data from finishing on the podium last year. But their starting position was not so good and they had to fight through the field to reach the podium. Coincidentally  this year's podium was exactly the same order as last year. So basically Vettel had free reign to cruise his way to the podium.

The interesting battle of the race was a race long scrap between the McLaren pairing of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, who spent much of the race in a fight with Rosberg. As has been the case during this early part of the season McLaren had a much better race pace than what they have shown on a Saturday and were able to compete with Ferrari and Mercedes throughout the race.

Perez was on form and harassed Button like crazy to which Button complained to his race engineer, insisting that Perez was driving too aggressively and should be ‘calmed down’. Perez didn't really give a rats ass as his team boss Martin Whitmarsh has already told him after China to be more aggressive and use some "elbows". Afterwards Button criticized his team mate for being too aggressive and said, “That’s not the way I want to go racing.”

Keep your fucking elbow in the car at all times Checo!
"I was vocal on the radio and emotions were running high but I will say exactly what I said then: the racing out there and was great fun but Checo was too aggressive. At 300 kilometres an hour you don't expect your team-mate to come alongside and bang wheels with you. So that was a bit of a surprise and I'm probably not the only one feels like that."
I think Button needs to suck it up and toughen up too. What do you think Mr Whitmarsh? Personally I quite enjoyed Perez harassing Button as it was exciting racing. Of course nobody wants to see an accident between team mates especially when one of them is a noob and overdid himself but it did look good. Perez has the skills, he just needs to round off the edges now and smoothen it down.

Di Resta produced an excellent drive, particularly in his first stint to pass Rosberg and pile pressure on Alonso. It will be a shot in the arm for Force India who have had some difficulties in the first part of the season, however the second car of Adrian Sutil collided with Felipe Massa on the first lap and could not recover to score any points. But the Force India has become a force to be reckoned with this season. The force is strong with this one, eh?


BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX, 57 Laps
1. Vettel Red Bull 57 laps
2. Raikkonen Lotus + 9.1s
3. Grosjean Lotus + 19.5s
4. Di Resta Force India + 21.7s
5. Hamilton Mercedes + 35.2s
6. Perez McLaren + 35.9s
7. Webber Red Bull + 37.2s
8. Alonso Ferrari + 37.5s
9. Rosberg Mercedes + 41.1s
10. Button McLaren + 46.6s
11. Maldonado Williams + 1m06.4s
12. Hulkenberg Sauber + 1m12.9s
13. Sutil Force India + 1m16.7s
14. Bottas Williams + 1m21.5s
15. Massa Ferrari + 1m26.3s
16. Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 1 lap
17. Pic Caterham + 1 lap
18. Gutierrez Sauber + 1 lap
19. Bianchi Marussia + 1 lap
20. Chilton Marussia + 1 lap
21. van der Garde Caterham + 2 laps

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

BAHRAIN GP 2013

The Bahrain Grand Prix is a Formula One Championship race in Bahrain sponsored by Gulf Air. The first race took place at the Bahrain International Circuit on 4 April 2004. It made history as the first Formula One Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East, and was given the award for the "Best Organised Grand Prix" by the FIA. The Bahrain Grand Prix has usually been the third race of the Formula One calendar. However, in the 2006 season, Bahrain swapped places with the traditional opener, the Australian Grand Prix, which was pushed back to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games. In 2010, Bahrain staged the opening race of the 2010 season and the cars drove the full 6.299 km (3.914 miles) "Endurance Circuit" to celebrate F1's 'diamond jubilee'.

The 2011 Grand Prix, due to be held on 13 March, was canceled on 21 February due to the 2011 Bahraini protests after drivers including Damon Hill and Mark Webber had protested. Human rights activists called for a cancellation of 2012 race due to reports of alleged human rights abuses committed by the Bahraini authorities, team personnel also voiced concerns about safety. The race however was held as planned on 22 April 2012. This year is no better with protests on-going and martial law imposed, the situation is not in the best interest of the sport and puts it in a bad light.

TRACK INFORMATION

Location : Sakhir, Bahrain
Time zone : UTC+03:00
Construction cost : 56.2 million Dinars ($150 million)
Lap record : 1:30.252 (Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004)

Circuit Length : 5.41 kilometres
Race distance : 57 laps (308.23 kilometres)
Corners : 15 corners in total, mostly medium speed, with three long straights
Aerodynamic setup : Medium downforce
Top speed : 322km/h (with Drag Reduction System on rear wing) – 310km/h without
Full throttle : 64% of the lap
Total fuel needed for race distance : 150.8 kilos
Time spent braking : 16% of the lap (7 braking zones)
Brake wear : High

Loss time for a Pit stop : 18.6 seconds
Total time needed for pit stop : 22.6 seconds
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried) : 0.38 seconds (average/high)
Fuel consumption : 2.6 kg/lap
Max. corner g-force : 3.6 (Turn 6)
Tyre selection : Medium (White), Hard (Orange)

WEATHER FORECAST

Friday - Sunny, high 34°C (93.2°F) / low 22°C (71.6°F)
Saturday - Sunny, high 34°C (93.2°F) / low 22°C (71.6°F)
Sunday - Sunny, high 36°C (96.8°F) / low 21°C (69.8°F)

Latest update is that rain is expected during both Friday practice sessions with "heavy rain" in the morning and "light" showers in the afternoon. The rain, though, won't have an effect on the temperature with it ranging between 28C to 34C.

DRS ZONES

Two DRS zones will be in place at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix for the first time in its history, with governing body the FIA choosing to add to the pit-straight area. The first detection point has been placed at Turn 9, before the activation mark on the exit of Turn 10. The second detection line comes under braking for the penultimate corner, Turn 14, with the activation area situated shortly before the start-finish line.


As per the regulations, DRS can be used in the allocated zones during practice and qualifying, while in the race a driver must be within one second of a car ahead.

Again, we are looking at a strategy driven race as the Pirelli tires are still an unknown element at this track since Pirelli has altered the construction from last year. Pirelli has also changed the tire allocation from soft/hard to medium/hard as the softs were just being killed in Shanghai. Imagine the heat of Bahrain. The long-running on Friday afternoon, FP2, should be an indication of how long the tires are going to last, Pirelli's Paul Hembery is predicting three stops, although he is hedging his bets:
"We expect about three stops per car, although we'll have to wait to get some running in on Friday before we can look at the data and make a more accurate prediction. One of the main challenges of racing in Bahrain is that the track evolution is very hard to predict, depending on how much sand is blown onto the circuit. From what we saw last year though, there will be plenty of scope for different race strategies, which can even allow drivers who have not qualified as well as they hoped to recover during the grand prix."
So qualifying should be close and watch out for the strategies teams will employ then that will then impact the race strategy. We've seen how Vettel played qualifying in China, it will be interesting to see Red Bull in Bahrain.

KIMI QUOTE: "It's a little bit different from others we visit and it's quite nice to be out there in the sand! Wherever you look around the track you can just see sand in the distance and you notice it in the paddock too."

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

TRACK DAY AT HOME – CIRCUITS YOU CAN GOOGLE STREET VIEW AROUND

This is an article written by my guest this week, Tom Jeffries author of BMX Racing with an interest in motorsports photography and Formula 1 on behalf of Puma hotels. It's about certain tracks which can be street viewed via Google. Interesting.

Have you ever wondered what the tarmac on the Curva Parabolica at Monza looks like? How about the apex at Stowe corner? Well wonder no more – we take you through the tracks you can look at on Google Street View.

Silverstone, Britain 


Where better to start than our home Grand Prix? The Street View bike (yes, bike!) follows the Nissan pace car (which makes an appearance in every photo round the track) around the circuit to give you a look at what it’s like to go round the current version of Silverstone. Due to there not being the usual 100,000+ fans packing the stands, it has a strangely empty look to it.

Here is a video as well, looks nice.



Monza, Italy 


Whilst we know we’ll (unfortunately) never drive a lap of the Monza circuit, we can imagine what it’s like thanks to GSV. The car does a sedate lap of the famously fast circuit, and gives us a great view of the always-interesting first chicane.








Montreal, Canada 

The Gilles Viellneuve Circuit in Canada is another addition to GSV’s racing CV. One thing it captures that you won’t see on race day is a speed limit sign after the second corner! We can only imagine what it’s like having to do only 30 around such an historicly fast circuit. You can also get about as close as you’d want to get to the wall of champions.















Suzuka, Japan 

The Japanese circuit has always been an interesting one, and is now one you can drive for yourself (albeit using your mouse instead of your car.) Highlights include going round 130r, the first corner which saw Alonso taken out last year and the iconic final chicane with the Ferris wheel in the background.








Sao Paulo, Brazil 

The Interlagos circuit is the final stop for the Formula 1 season, and the final stop for the Google Street View car. Doing a full lap of the circuit it takes in the entire track, however Kimi Raikkonen’s “detour” from the 2012 season is not included.








Unlike the Formula 1 season, the Google Street View season only has five races. Going by the amount of competition, it looks like the GSV car beat Vettel’s record and took every win possible (even if the Silverstone race was under pace car.) Whilst not the fastest, it does give a good insight into what it’s like to go round a track, and lets you have a look at the tracks in more detail. Have a go today! 

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ALONSO WINS IN CHINA

Another weekend, another race. That was quite entertaining actually. I expected it to be a bit boring as most Chinese GPs tend to be, at least to me. The pack did fan out quickly as expected, the cars were spread out quickly within a lap due to the nature and layout of the track. But the tires did cause varying strategies to be played out. We saw this coming during qualifying especially during Q3 when Button purposely set a slow lap of 2 minutes plus while Vettel didn't bother to set a time.

That set up an interesting race strategy wise as teams chose different tires to start and finish the race. The start was pretty clean and as expected Lewis lost the lead to the shockingly fast Ferraris. Seems their race pace is hugely strong compared to their qualifying pace. Just imagine if Alonso had put the car on pole? He would have blitzed the start and romped away. In comparison, Lewis had a good start but couldn't stretch out a lead over the Ferraris at all with mediocre pace throughout. He ended up being overtaken before pitting for the medium tires. Lewis commented:
"I am not really sure where we are losing out. Today just the overall pace was not there and there are definitely a couple of areas we can focus on on the car. We are really happy with it, and it is almost to the point that it shows how we have improved so much.
To be disappointed with a third is a fortunate position to be in. It has been a good weekend. Of course I would have loved to have won, as that is what I came here to do, but we just were not as quick as the Ferraris. Maybe if we did not have some of the issues with the front wing then I might have been able to overtake the Lotus [of Kimi Raikkonen], maybe, but they were still very quick even though he had problems with his front wing.
We just need to improve. As Ross [Brawn] said on the radio, we are not quite there yet but we are not that far away."
But looking at how Lewis has done the past 3 races, it would seem to me that he is surpassing his or Mercedes' expectations for this year, at least mine. I was set to forget him having a chance at this year's title but it does look like that is possible. I'm still not really rooting for it though as I still believe their target should still be to produce a car that will blitz the field in 2014. But at the current pace, Lewis will definitely win a race this year. Just waiting for the right development on the car to coincide with the right track and tire combination.
P1 to P3. Someone pulled the 'ol switcheroo on me there..

Mercedes does look to have a genuinely strong package, unless of course if you're looking at Rosberg. Something is wrong with him or his car. Conspiracy anyone? So far he's had the share of bad luck, it will swing the other we know that much in F1. But if he can sort out his issues, Mercedes will collect more points. I feel that Rosberg is shaken a bit by the performance of Lewis, who wouldn't be, even a 2 time world champion was rocked. Maybe he was expecting more of himself after hammering Schumacher for 3 years. Rosberg will need to get himself together if he is to have any chance of moving up the ladder.

Alonso was in a league of his own this race. Although the Ferrari's qualifying pace is not that great, the race pace is awesome. And the stability of the car with its tires was the cornerstone of the race for them. Alonso was able to push and keep a steady pace with more pace in his pocket. His race engineer was heard telling him no need to push and his answer was "I'm not pushing" just after setting another fastest lap.
“It was fantastic race for us.The tire degradation was better than expected. After the retirement in Malaysia we had some pressure today. You always push but it is true that we had some pace in our pocket. We had more potential but maybe we can show that in Bahrain next week.”
Fantastico!

It is a sign of the domination of a driver in a race when there was very little coverage of him during the race as what happened to Alonso. His pace was supreme throughout that the race director focused on other drivers most of the time. Are we seeing a resurgence of Ferrari power? I hope so even though I am not a Ferrari fan as I want to see a more balanced F1 with Red Bull not sweeping every race.

Kimi Raikkonen had a pretty good race as well. He qualified 2nd and finished 2nd. In fact the top 3 qualifiers finished the race together albeit Lewis and Alonso switched positions. But the interesting thing and what really impressed me what that Kimi managed to finish the race with a very strong pace even with a broken front wing. Early on in the race he hit Sergio Perez in the back and damaged his front wing and nose cone. There was a big hole there with bits of carbon fibre flapping around.

Yet he continued to race. When he pitted for tires, the team did not change the wing as they did not want to waste time and the car was still stable. This showed in the sector times and lap times when comparing Kimi and Lewis as Kimi was chasing Lewis for most of the race. In his laidback style he said:
"I think in the end it was an OK result. Obviously we want to win. After a bad start, the car was handling well. Overtaking Perez, I was next to him and he just pushed me on the kerb. I tried to avoid him and when on the grass and I hit him.
It damaged the nose but luckily it didn't damage too much the handling, just a bit of understeer. Anyhow, good points and we try to do better next time."
I know what I'm doing!!

Kimi matched Lewis' pace throughout the race with that damaged nose and even managed purple sectors on ocassions. It was a testament on the stability and toughness of the car that secured Kimi his position in the championship last year. We saw many mishaps with the Lotus hitting and being hit by other cars but it just does not break down. That has allowed Kimi to collect points race after race for the last 20 races! He is a strong contender for the title this year I'd say.

Mark Webber was the low point in this race. His race weekend couldn't have gone any worse. Not only did he not complete qualifying by not making it past Q2 due to low fuel, he was then demoted to the back of the grid due to not having enough fuel to make it back to the pits. In the race he proceeded to hit Jean Eric Vergne damaging his car. After that his day went from bad to worse after pitting for repairs and a new set of tires, his day came to a premature end when his right rear wheel came loose at the Turn 14 hairpin. That was quite funny to see as the tire came off the car rolled nicely across the track and back nearly hitting 3 cars including Vettel. Not so funny for Mark I guess. What is even more not funny is that he now carries a 3 place grid penalty to Bahrain for that incident.

MULTI-FUCK UP!!

That incident has ignited a firestorm of conspiracy theories now. Maybe Red Bull sabotaged Mark's weekend (does not make sense) or maybe it was Helmut Marko (plausible but nah). The conspiracy theories are fun to read and for Webber fans believable but it does not make sense from a team perspective. As Autosports F1 group editor Jonathan Noble puts it:
It makes no sense at all for an outfit to invest nearly £200 million per year on its two car operation and then throw half of its efforts away by deliberately stopping one of its drivers. To suggest that the team would purposely not put enough fuel in Webber's car for him to complete qualifying is ridiculous, as there is no benefit to the team's constructors' championship ambitions by having one of its men at the back of the grid.
In fact, the conspiracy theories would actually have more credibility if the team had done the opposite and put too much fuel in Webber's car – thereby deliberately adding extra weight to the car which would have slowed him down and left him behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has been popping some veins trying to deny and explain away this "conspiracy" towards Webber.
"It's complete rubbish, forget conspiracy. We're all about trying to get two cars to the finish as high as we can. Anybody who thinks there is a conspiracy here against either driver does not know what they are looking at."
There's no conspiracy!! La la la la la la...

Webber himself in interviews did not specifically deny the word "conspiracy" adding fuel to fire. Maybe he is too pissed at the situation and he knows his position in the team that he has deluded himself as well. When it was pointed out to Horner that Webber had not exactly denied a conspiracy, Horner said:
"Mark knows exactly what happened - exactly! That's it. There is no conspiracy."
Ooh, doesn't he feel a brain freeze coming from a popping vein in his forehead? I'm having one just looking at his face.

And what of Vettel? He had an unusual qualifying session where he did not bother to set a time in Q3 and ended up staring P9. Red Bull they took a different approach from qualifying onwards, starting Vettel with the mediums and only going on the softs on lap 52. Nothing much happened with Vettel with him stuck in traffic most of the time but the stint on soft tires was the highlight of the race. With Alonso leading to the win followed by Raikkonen and Hamilton, Vettel changed to the softs and proceeded to chase down Hamilton overtaking Massa with relative ease (not in DRS zone).

Vettel was 11.5 secs away but pulling in about 4 secs a lap to Hamilton and by the last lap was right on his gearbox. With the Caterham of Charles Pic in front of them, Hamilton was heard on the radio yelling "Blue flag! Blue flag!" to get Pic out of the way. Hamilton overtook Pic nicely then Vettel tries the same but overcooked the final 2 turns and finished the race 0.2 secs behind Hamilton. Phew! That was close. Many fans were standing on needles on that one, myself having hair standing all over.

That was an exciting and yet dull race at the same time. A lot of people felt the soft tires were too fragile and it showed in China. Pirelli has taken note of this and has changed the allocation fro Bahrain from soft to medium. Imagine the heat and sand of Bahrain destroying those softs. Bring on Bahrain!!

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Friday, April 12, 2013

WE CAN LEARN FROM LEWIS

How's ma teeth?
This is a pretty thought provoking article written by Matt Coch from Pitpass. I just didn't know how to sum it up really as Matt really did a good job. And that is not just because I'm a fan of Lewis but I just think he is right, not on all points but generally. Like he said, F1 fans are mostly hate 'em or love 'em types, very little are in between. I happen to be those from in-between. Yeah sure I support Lewis and hate to see him not winning but what is right is right and what is wrong will always be wrong, no matter how you twist it.

At the end of the day though, what's the point of being extreme and emotional when it causes you to be so angry that you missed the point. You didn't enjoy the racing which is the point of watching and following F1. So to those out there who are extreme, chill out, relax, stay calm and enjoy F1.

Formula One fans fall into one of two categories; the fickle, who support whoever is winning, and the diehards, who will defend their beloved team or driver to the hilt. The second group are as passionate and one-eyed as supporters of any other team or athlete in any other sport. There is a bond that runs more than skin deep and they adorn themselves with the apparel of their heroes.

Nowhere is this more evident than Lewis Hamilton. He has the sort of support most can only dream of; an army of dedicated, passionate and vocal supporters. One need only read the message boards of any Formula One website, or the comments section below any critical article for it to become apparent.

Lewis Hamilton is good for the sport. He divides opinion, sparks controversy and is absolutely unique in the F1 paddock. That makes him interesting, newsworthy and sparks conversation and debate. Lewis Hamilton gets Formula One spoken about more than it otherwise might.

Lewis has a different approach to most drivers. Sebastian Vettel likes the quiet life of Switzerland where he can drive his Volkswagen people mover to the shops. Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, if Twitter is to be believed, spend their time inflicting pain on themselves cycling. These are very European pursuits in, what is still, a very European sport.



You the man Mike!
Hamilton prefers a more 'American' approach, for want of a better description. His lifestyle appears more akin to a Hollywood celebrity and the 2008 world champion happily shares more of this than many of his peers. It gives us all an insight into his character and what makes him happy, for a happy Lewis is a fast Lewis.

To his millions of Twitter followers this is appealing; a refreshing insight in to Formula One and a driver many can relate to in a sport which often appears corporate and sterile. To others it provides a seemingly endless opportunity to deride and belittle one of the world's fastest men because he has a different approach to life and racing.

It reminds me a little of Greg Lemond. Lemond was an American cyclist during the 1980s, who won the Tour De France twice. He was the first real non-European to reach the pinnacle of professional cycling, which is still a very European sport (though an increasing number of Australians and Americans fill its ranks).

The etiquette in cycling is complicated and superstition is as much a part of the sport as the cycling itself. Riders won't shave on the morning of a big race as they believe it takes away energy as the stubble re-grows.

Lemond had none of that. He'd happily eat Mexican food, stay up late and break many of the rules that ran deep through the cycling world. His wife often travelled with him at a time when women were not welcome in cycling. Lemond was a trailblazer, and he had a hard time because of it.
Sock it to 'em Lewis!

And that seems to be the position in which Lewis now finds himself. His approach to his work is different; it is not good or bad, just different. But to the Formula One fraternity it is an assault on the establishment, a way of doing things that is outside the accepted 'norm', and for that he upsets and confuses people.

Greg Lemond's penchant for Mexican food was frowned upon, but ultimately he won the toughest cycling race in the world, twice. He revolutionised the sport and began to break the European barriers cycling was hidden behind. Together with the likes of Phil Anderson they helped lay the foundation for the generations of non-European cyclists to come.

Perhaps in time that is how we can view Lewis. He does not subscribe to the way the media wants or expects him to behave, and while many view this as a weakness maybe it's a strength. Lewis is breaking down boundaries, introducing new fans to the sport who can relate to him more than the cookie-cutter drivers we've grown accustomed to in recent decades.

Perhaps rather than ridiculing and critiquing Hamilton for his lifestyle we should take off the blinkers and look at the positives. We might just learn something his loyal fans seem to already know.

Mat Coch


The original article can be found HERE.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

CHINESE GP AT SHANGHAI

Ah yes, the race weekend is nearly upon us. The long 3 week wait is almost over. Now we'll have 2 races back to back, after Shanghai it will be Bahrain (hopefully). This coming Chinese GP will be the 10th edition, that was fast, didn't feel like 10 years already.

The Chinese Grand Prix is currently held at the Shanghai International Circuit, designed by Hermann Tilke. When completed in 2004, it was the biggest and most expensive Formula One circuit facility, costing USD240 million. The track is 5.451 km long and features one of the trickiest corners combinations on the Formula One calendar, comparable to that of Istanbul Park's turn 8, also designed by Tilke. Turn 1 and 2 in sector 1 are a very demanding 270 degree, right-handed corner combination that requires a lot of speed whilst entering and it tightens up towards the end.

Sector two features Shanghai’s only medium and high-speed corners, Turns 7 & 8, as well as a pair of slow left handers. Then Sector three is a long sector with three tight corners and one of the longest straights on the F1 calendar.

TRACK CHARACTERISTICS 

Circuit Length : 5.45 kilometres
Race distance : 56 laps = 305 kilometres
16 corners in total, a mixture of slow, medium and fast
Aerodynamic setup – Medium/high downforce
Top speed : 322km/h (with Drag Reduction System on rear wing) – 310km/h without
Full throttle : 55% of the lap
Total fuel needed for race distance : 148 kilos
Time spent braking : 14% of the lap (8 braking zones)
Brake wear : Medium
Loss time for a Pit stop : 17.5 seconds
Total time needed for pit stop : 21 seconds
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried) : 0.34 seconds (average)
Fuel consumption : 2.55 kg/lap
Track capacity : 200,000
Lap record : 1:32.238 (Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004)

DRS ZONES

This year there will be an additional DRS zone with the second one being placed on the main straight. The kilometre-long back straight between Turns 13 and 14 will feature for the third season in a row and the detection point will once again be midway through Turn 12. A second detection line will be just before the entry to Turn 16 with the DRS zone situated on the start-finish straight and, as per regulations, drivers will only be able to use DRS in the dedicated zones during practice and qualifying.


WEATHER FORECAST

It is usually overcast and cold in Shanghai and rain is quite common. The 2010 event was held in wet conditions, as was the 2009 edition. The race starts at 1500hrs local time. The ambient temperatures are forecast to be around 18-20 degrees, quite low by F1 standards. For the weather forecast for this weekend,  it is forecasted to be sunny but you never know. See HERE.

TIRES

Pirelli has nominated the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tires for China, the first time that this combination makes an appearance this year. The single step between compounds should mean a performance difference of around 0.5secs per lap.

China is well-known for its smooth and sweeping track layout with moderate ambient and track temperatures, which makes it ideal territory for this combination. The flexibility of the medium and soft compounds also mean that several strategies are open to the teams and in the past the top positions have been decided through the use of extremely wide-ranging race tactics. Rain - a notable feature of the first two races held so far this year - is also not an uncommon occurrence in China, so we could see the appearance of the Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue full wet tyres once more.

Paul Hembery:
"China has often produced some of the best races of the year, where strategy has been at the forefront of the action. With all our compounds having got softer this year the degradation is deliberately more extreme leading to increased performance, but history has shown that it never takes too long for the teams and drivers to get on top of the tires. Shanghai is less aggressive on the tires than the last round in Malaysia but we would expect to see the majority of competitors go for three stops although some may try two. Last year we had a new winner with Mercedes and Nico Rosberg, who were able to get the most out of their tires from the very beginning of the weekend in order to spring a surprise. That goes to show exactly what is possible with the correct tire management at this point in the season."
Jean Alesi, Pirelli brand ambassador:
"China is a circuit that is again not very typical of the others, and although I never raced there myself, it looks like a great track. From a tire point of view, the drivers will have to find the best compromise between performance and degradation, which is exactly the way that it has always been in Formula One. I raced through many different tire regulations and suppliers during my career - even in the era of qualifying tires - and while they all had different aspects, Pirelli is the company that has supplied the most entertainment to all the fans: so far we have seen two fantastic races. This is exactly what was asked, and in my opinion just what the sport needed. One thing that doesn't change at all is that the best teams will always be the most successful, so there is no point for anybody to complain because this will always quite rightly be the case, whatever you do with the regulations."
2012 winner, his first in F1

CHANCE OF A SAFETY CAR 

The chance of a safety car at Shanghai is reasonably high, at 43% and there is an average of 0.7 safety cars per race. In the 2005 and 2010 races there were 2 safety car periods.

So there you have it. The Shanghai track based on the simulator I've tried is an "OK" track to drive, not really boring. Past races have tended to be a bit boring because the nature of the wide and long track tends to spread out the field pretty quickly within the first few laps so you won't see cars battling each other into lap 3 or 4. But then again, this year we do have the newest Pirellis and you never know. Looking forward to an exciting race.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

RUSH TRAILER OUT NOW

The F1 themed movie called "Rush" has been in production for some time now and F1 fans are eagerly awaiting it as there has never been a really good F1 movie so far. "Senna" however good it was, was a documentary. I've been waiting for a real Hollywood type movie with a story and action. This one is it. The movie is directed by Hollywood legend Ron Howard.

Who is Ron Howard? Ronald William "Ron" Howard (born March 1, 1954) is an American film director, producer and former child actor. He came to prominence playing Opie Taylor in the sitcom The Andy Griffith Show for eight years and later the teenager Richie Cunningham in the sitcom Happy Days for six years. He appeared in the films The Music Man in 1962, American Graffiti in 1973 and The Shootist in 1976, the latter during his run on Happy Days. He also directed "Apollo 13" starring Tom Hanks.

Ron Howard
So what is the story behind Rush then? Here's the official synopsis:

Two-time Academy Award® winner Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon), teams once again with fellow two-time Academy Award® nominee, writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen), on Rush, a spectacular big-screen re-creation of the merciless 1970s rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

The epic action-drama stars Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers) as the charismatic Englishman James Hunt and Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds) as the disciplined Austrian perfectionist Niki Lauda, whose clashes on the Grand Prix racetrack epitomized the contrast between these two extraordinary characters, a distinction reflected in their private lives.

Set against the sexy and glamorous golden age of Formula 1 racing, Rush portrays the exhilarating true story of two of the greatest rivals the world has ever witnessed - handsome English playboy Hunt and his methodical, brilliant opponent, Lauda. Taking us into their personal lives on and off the track, Rush follows the two drivers as they push themselves to the breaking point of physical and psychological endurance, where there is no shortcut to victory and no margin for error. If you make one mistake, you die.

Also starring Olivia Wilde (TRON: Legacy) and Alexandra Maria Lara (The Reader), Rush is produced by Andrew Eaton (A Mighty Heart), Howard, Academy Award® winner Brian Grazer (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind), Eric Fellner (Senna, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Morgan and Brian Oliver (Black Swan) and executive produced by Cross Creek Pictures, Exclusive Media, Todd Hallowell and Tim Bevan. Universal Pictures will distribute the film in North America.

Rush was shot on location in the U.K., Germany and Austria.


The 1976 Season

This movie tells the story of the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in 1976. So what was the story during that season? 

The 1976 Formula One season was the 27th FIA Formula One World Championship season, which commenced on January 25, 1976, and ended on October 24 after sixteen races. In an extraordinarily political season the world championship went to James Hunt by one point from Niki Lauda, although Ferrari took the constructors' title. Controversy began in Spain where Hunt was initially disqualified from first place, giving the race to Lauda, only for the decision to be overturned on appeal months later. The six wheeled Tyrrell confounded the sceptics by winning in Sweden, with Lauda third and Hunt fifth.

Relax, I know what I'm doing!
Hunt won in France and, it seemed, in Britain, but the race had been restarted after a first lap pile-up and Hunt restarted in a spare car, which was against the rules. He was eventually disqualified after an appeal from Ferrari, whose own driver, Regazzoni, had also restarted in a spare. Lauda became the official race winner.

Lauda then crashed heavily in West Germany and appeared likely to die from his injuries. Hunt won the race and finished fourth to John Watson's Penske (the team's only win) in Austria. Miraculously, Lauda returned to finish fourth in Italy, where Hunt, Jochen Mass and Watson were relegated to the back of the grid for alleged infringements of the regulations.

If my calculations are correct I will win this time..
Hunt won in Canada and in the US but Lauda took third to lead Hunt by three points going into the final race. In appalling weather conditions Mario Andretti won, Lauda gave up because of the hazardous conditions, and Hunt eventually finished third to take the title.

James Hunt is the cool, wild and break the rules type of racer while Niki Lauda was a disciplined, methodical and calculative type. They couldn't be more spaced apart if you put the Universe between them. Kimi Raikkonen reminds me of Hunt with his own flair, style and attitude. Kimi even did an homage to James Hunt by using a helmet design with James' name on the side in Monaco in 2012.


Can't wait for this movie. The trailer is out now and it looks good. So go ahead and enjoy it, we'll have to wait a few months though as it will open in September 2013.

video

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

TOP TEN PITLANE BLUNDERS

Not my fault, blame the hose..
Many races have been decided inside the pitlane by teams switching drivers ( a fine example of team orders although a cleaner way of doing it), by pitting early or later, by pit crews who do a fantastic job changing the tires or by blunders such as not attaching the wheels properly. We saw some in the last race in Sepang where Lewis Hamilton stopped in the wrong pitbox and by McLaren who once again bungled a pitstop this time screwing up Jenson Button's wheel so much so that he had to retire from the race.

So what are the best pitlane blunders of all time then? Keith of F1 Fanatic has compiled a list of the top ten pitlane blunders and it provides for some good laughs. Example from Keith:
Disaster struck at the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix when race leader Felipe Massa, pitting under the safety car following Nelson Piquet’s infamous deliberate crash, was given a green light before the fuel hose had been disengaged.
Massa drove off, tearing the hose from the garage and dragging it to the far end of the pit lane. His mechanics eventually removed it and the Ferrari returned to the race, but a potential ten points had been lost and serious damage to Massa’s championship hopes had been done.
I remember that incident. Seeing the Ferrari drive off with the fuel hose was quite entertaining but that's just me. For the top ten list then, proceed HERE.

Man, this thing is heavy..
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Friday, April 5, 2013

SHANGHAI GP INFOGRAPHICS

Still a bit to go to Shanghai, it's been a long break from Malaysia. After 2 exciting and eventful races in Melbourne and Sepang, I'm looking forward to Shanghai. If the previous 2 races are any indication of how exciting this season is going to be then Shanghai should be explosive. Usually Shanghai is a bit boring as the field gets stretched out a bit quite early on in the race due to the nature of the track. That long back straight also does not help. But this year since the new Pirellis were introduced, even boring races like Shanghai should light up.

Here is an infographic I made about the last 9 races at Shanghai which asks the question - Does pole position result in a win at the Chinese GP? It is based on the article of the same name here.




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Monday, April 1, 2013

SUPERSOFT TIRES TOO SOFT?

This year Pirelli has made huge changes to their tire range, making them all softer compared to last year. Basically, each tire range now has been moved down one step i.e. the Hard tire is like last years' Medium. So the Supersoft this year becomes.....bloody hell too soft. It could even be termed like a Qualifying Tire. So what is a qualifying tire?

In the old days of F1, qualifying tires were used to extract the maximum lap time but they lasted on a lap or two at optimum temp and pace. These tires were only good for 1 hot lap and teams used them just to qualify and never used them again in the race. They were banned from 1991 onwards.

So are the new Pirelli supersofts something like the olden qualifying tires? They seem to be as they seem to work on just one hot lap. But the teams have to use them in the race as the rule says that you have to use the tires you qualified with to start the race, well at least for the top 10. Pirelli motorsports director Paul Hembery said as much:

"It was pretty close to what we anticipated in terms of our pre-race simulation. Certainly after the winter test in Barcelona, which we felt was not representative at all of what is going to happen this season, we wanted the super-soft to be almost like a qualifying tire and we knew that would then force the teams into a two or maybe three stop strategy.
If we'd come with any other compound we probably would have had a one-stop race. It might sound bizarre why we brought the super-soft, but we knew it wouldn't last long enough to push people into a one-stop and would last such a small amount of time that they would question whether they would do two or three stops."
So far we've seen 2 races - Melbourne and Sepang. One was cold and wet, the other hot and wet. The supersofts doesn't last very long. One outlap, one hot lap and by the 3rd lap they were gone. In the race, teams were pitting around lap 4 or 5 to get rid of them and go on to the medium. So from here on in, it should be an interesting season with teams having shorter first stints that would jumble up their strategies as those outside the top 10 could start on the harder compound and do less stops or longer stints.

Pirelli has said that they will only review the tires after Bahrain. Hembery said:
"I think we have to be happy. The two leading teams clearly had issues between the drivers, that maybe took away from what would have been an interesting finale. As for wheel to wheel stuff... it is something we will have to review after four races. It is still very early days."
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