All 8 entries tagged F1
September 10, 2006
I was extremely pleased when today it was formally announced that the remains of the old Jordan F1 team has been sold to Spyker, a small Dutch supercar manufacturer. Well, kind of. It’s a pretty bizarre transaction. Allow me a brief history lesson to set the scene.
As many of you will know, two years ago Jordan was sold to Midland, an obscure, but seemingly very rich, Russian company. Restructured and rebranded under the unevocative moniker of MF1 (Midland Formula One? Could they have come up with a more uninspiring name even if they tried?), they moved swiftly towards the back of the grid. MF1 took even less time in losing the affections of Jordan’s formerly very strong fan base.
It quickly became apparant that Midland weren’t quite prepared for trying to build a decent racing team, and were only in it to try and gain some brand exposure. I still can’t tell you what Midland actually do, and I’ve never heard of them outside the context of Formula One, so that hasn’t really happened. No-one will really notice you anyway unless you’re any good (like, pretty much all the other teams on the grid) or really cool (like Super Aguri). MF1 have been rubbish. I think this largely stems from a lack of motivation and funding, from the top of the Midland board, to get results.
When Midland realised that running a Formula One team is actually quite hard, they began to look to sell MF1 for a profit. They had bought Jordan for a knock-down price, and to give Midland credit they did make the team finacially stable. Rumors of the names of potential buyers circulated, Midland made token attempts at pretending to want to be staying in F1 for the long term, and life went on.
Stepping back a bit further in time to October 2000, the Birmingham Motor Show saw the world debut of the Spyker C8 Spyder. Having orginally ceased trading in 1925, the rebirth of Spyker was not one that many people really cared about, but the astonishing elegance of the C8 Spyder certainly grabbed attention. The car was full of gorgeous quirks, such as the gaping radiatior grill, the handbrake positioned in the passenger footwell, and the lush interior, sprinkled with toggle switches. Plus, and this is probably the most important factor, ‘Spyker’ is a really cool word.
Just for the record, this isn’t the C8 Spyder, but the most recent version of that model, the C12 LaTurbie.
The last ten years or so has seen many tiny startup supercar manufacturers arrive in a brief blaze of publicity, only to vanish into obscurity (and liquidation) in less time that it takes their products to do the 0-60 run. That’s not long at all. I expected Spyker to go the same way, but I’m glad to say that they quickly found their place in the market, and have recorded impressive growth since. However, they remain tiny in comparison to the traditional supercar names of Ferrari, Lamborghini and even Pagani.
This brings us back to the present moment. Rumors recently emerged that this tiny supercar manufacturer would be buying MF1. In a similar manner to the Tevez and Maschareno affair, this didn’t quite seem to make sense. Why would they do it? Where does the money come from? There are some pretty hefty manufacturers thinking about getting into F1, and plenty of existing teams are keen to start running their own ‘B-teams’. The easiest way to do this is by buying another team. Spyker are not one of these hefty manufacturers, and they don’t need to get into F1 to improve the quality of their business. Consequently the only reason that I think they’ve got into F1 is sheer enthusiasm. Evidence of this, and the source of the money, is provided by looking at the latest member of the Spkyer board.
Michiel Mol has been involved in Formula One for many number of years as a sponsor, largely through his Dutch media group Lost Boys. I don’t know much about Lost Boys, except that their simple typed logo looks insanely cool on racing overalls. They’ve backed a variety of teams and drivers, most notably Jos Verstappen and Arrows. Now, in a similar manner to Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull, Mol has decided to take an active role in F1 by buying into it, providing some major finance for Spyker’s deal.
I also suspect that Mol approached Spyker with the idea first, but no matter. Either way he’s helped to introduce a wonderful new name into Formula One, one that’s very far removed from the mainstream names traditionally associated with the sport. BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Renault, and…Spyker? Cool. I think having the Spyker banner above the door will be a big help in transforming MF1 into a remotivated, interesting race team, and one that will be worth following. I hope they swiftly move to clear out all the lingering remains of MF1, and plaster the car in as many Spyker logos as they possibly can, as soon as possible.
They do, however, need to be careful to maintain the mystique surrounding the brand. It’s the mystique of the product that really bring in Spyker’s clients, so they definately do not need the mass-market appeal that comes with being a manufacturer in Formula One. If they can do that, and actually turn out a performance, then we have an excellent new team in the sport.
And in other news…the most successful racing driver of all time announced his retirement today…
August 06, 2006
I never thought we would ever see this sight.
Jenson deserved the victory today, everything fell into place for him and he simply drove the best race. By and large he kept his nose clean, ran an excellent strategy, and managed to stay calm when the win was still within touching distance. He wouldn't have been the first racing driver to throw it into the wall, when their first race victory is within touching distance.
I'll be interested to see if this does have a noticable effect on him, and the team, in the next few races, as the media seems to think it will. Somehow I don't think the 'Mika Hakkinen phenomenon' will repeat itself for Jense, and I hope he doesn't come back down to earth with too much of a bang in Turkey. Surely a return to mediocrity is inevitable though…
Oh yeah, and was I the only one who almost collapsed with disgust at the sickening commentary from Allen and Davidson when Jense crossed the line :–D!?
May 08, 2006
It occured to me last night that the star of this weekend's Grand Prix festivities at the tedious Nurburgring circuit was Lewis Hamilton. This is quite significant, considering that, for those of you who don't know, he's not even a F1 driver. Hamilton is a young (English!) racing driver, who from a very early age has received support and development aid from McLaren. This is unusual. Most people thought Williams went out on a limb when they signed a 19–yr old Button to race, with only two years of car–racing experience beneath him. However, McLaren had decided to take Hamilton under their wing in the late nineties when he was only 12 years old, with a view to develop his career. That's impressive, and I believe unprecedented to this very day. He's also black, which is notable only because bizarrely I can't think of any decent black racing drivers…you'd think that there would be more, considering most of the world's top athletes, with the required pyhsical build for Grand Prix–style racing, are black.
Happily the McLaren arrangement appears to have produced results. Over the weekend Hamilton seems to have totally embarrassed the opposition in the GP2 support races, preceeding the main F1 race. This has caught the attention of the media, which is a great help in securing a young driver a seat in F1. As one of the favourites for this year's GP2 title, I'm glad to see that Hamilton has delivered on the promise that McLaren saw in his pre–teen racing career. How many sporting protoges over the years have let the thoughts of future brilliance go to their head, and then simply vanish from the scene?
I watched the Grand Prix yesterday with some of the Motorsport clan, and someone commented that Hamilton would probably win an F1 race before Button. I wouldn't be suprised if this was to be the case. I think Prodrive may already have a seat for 2008 earmarked with Hamilton's name, and I'm hopeful it won't take them too long to give Honda a spanking…
As for the Grand Prix itself, Nico Rosberg (who won the GP2 series last season…spot a trend here :–)?) was probably the stand–out performer, even if Schumacher put in one of his classic "I'm going to win five titles in a row"–type race performances. We were hoping that Rosberg, starting from the back of the grid, was in fact going to go for a 0–stop strategy…there's nothing like surreal race tactics to liven things up ;–). However, he did eventually come in for fuel just after the half–way mark of the race, having made his way up into the points…fifth place, I think.
We were dismayed when he stopped again, not much later, for another scheduled pitstop. You'd have thought that considering he did the first half of the race on one tank of fuel, he'd do the second half on one tank as well. No matter. However our dissapointment was removed when he emerged in 7th place, ahead of Montoya. On the same 2–stop strategy as him! From the back of the grid! Excellent work indeed…now all he needs to do is qualify well and that's a race win in the bag. Hope springs eternal….;–)
April 28, 2006
As has already been commented on by some of my Silverstone–visiting comrades, yesterday's F1 test was excellent, and well worth the visit. It was the usual (free :–D) display of some of the most astonishing machines to ever traverse the face of the planet. I'm always taken aback by how much more sedate they appear to be on the TV in comparison to seeing them for real…but I guess that's the limitation of TV for you. I'm glad to say that, in my opinion, the V8s do not sound dramatically different to the V10s. They essentially make the same sound, and sing the same tune whilst zipping through the gears. Excellent.
However, it wasn't all good news. Unfortunately they've repainted the wall down by Abbey, so the BMW–shaped mark I left after a 'slight off' earlier in the year is gone :'(. I was hoping it would remain forever, as a monument warning all purchasers of £200–eBay–specials to ensure that you never take to a greasy racetrack with slightly perished tyres…
Star of the show for me was the McLarens. They seemed visibly faster that the other cars, but I guess that could have been an illusion caused by their shinyness. They really are very photogenic, despite not being pretty racing cars in the traditional sense. The sheen gives them extra impact, compared to the flat, slightly dull finish used by the other teams.
The STRs look good as well. I thought the design was a bit tacky when I first saw pictures of it, but when you see it hurling down the road at 160mph it is suprisingly effective. Poor old STR, why do they bother? If they go too fast then people complain it's because their V10 isn't restricted enough, and if they go too slow then people complain that they're rubbish. Disaster.
The Williams drivers who were here today, Webber and Wurz (both of whom are legends) also provided some amusement. For reasons beyond the scope of our knowledge, during the day's lunch break, they took a couple of Caterhams out for a spin round the circuit. I guess since these were the new CSR260s (you can tell….puts geek hat on…look at the squared–off front wings…), that there was some marketing going on. Both the CSR260 and Williams FW28 have engines made by Cosworth, so it would be careless not to milk that connection. I was informed that some fellows from F1 Racing magazine were also involved, so I guess we'll find out all about it in a future issue.
We also spent some time up at Copse, which for most of the cars is taken flat out. It's hard enough to get through this blind, narrow corner in a road car at reasonable speeds; but in an F1 car, I believe they can take it at around 180mph. Respect. These guys know what they're doing. Montoya did have a few 'moments' through there, which raised our eyebrows a bit. It was quite a spectacle, to say the least.
Hmm, I don't seem to have included any pictures of my beloved Williams lashing round the track…this will never do. Here's one from Luffield, leading onto the main straight. I thought this was an excellent place to watch the cars from; because here, you can see them accelerate at their most violent, and it's stunning.
Take a gander at the Motorsport website for the rest of the decent pics, if you're interested…link.
To finish, Nathaniel truly gave the circuit's Audi RS4, used for corporate entertainment (not just for corporates though, if you've yet to spend the student loan on anything useful ;–)), some proper loving. Happily he refrained from actually licking it, but I'm confident he only exercised restraint because there were small children around at the time ;–)
In short, I had an excellent day, with some great company and some unreal cars. The BURGERS OF DEATH weren't too bad either. What a combination.
April 22, 2006
I'm pleased to say that one of our exec members has arranged to have the Union screen tomorrow's Grand Prix in Cholo. This is great, since traditionally the Union/Hospitality seem keen to go out of their way not to put F1 on. Gah, the troubles that gave me in my TV-less first year. If a reasonable crowd turns up then it's more likely that this can be made into a regular occassion…and makes it less likely that some awkward employee will decide to turn over to the snooker halfway through the race 8-). Word on the street is that the projector is broken, but meh, if you're a TV-less campus-dweller, you'll get over it!
Also, we're going to go to Silverstone on Thursday to watch the testing. We've got a couple of cars going down and perhaps a minibus, so if you're interested in taking a look, we might be able to give you a lift. Details to follow, but of course paying club members take priority ;). Last I heard, there were at least six teams signed up, so there's going to be plenty of action. I'm looking forward to it; 'tis my first chance to actually hear these new V8s, and to check out that shiny McLaren.
April 02, 2006
WARNING - MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS so if you want the race result to remain a suprise, then look away...there's only a few pictures of some cars getting destroyed :-D
This morning's race in Australia was fascinating. Littered with a series of unusual incidents, it was one of those races where the time just flies past. Apparantly it was as good as last season's epic race in Japan…I say 'apparantly' because, unfortunately, I never saw that one :-s.
The first lot of incidents made Jense's task of winning (or at least making another pathetic attempt to do so) considerably easier, with Fisi removing himself from the front row with a stall. Montoya is also officially a living legend, having spun on the final corner of the parade lap…what a move!
The second bouts of incidents just after the first corner of the race were equally amusing. Klien and Rosberg made a Massa sandwich, and speared him into the wall. Much carnage and unleashing of in-car fire extinguishers took place, which would have given Massa a nice suprise. The whole thing looked like a racing incident, with no-one to blame, but unfortunately Rosberg incurred race-ending damage. I was looking forward to seeing what he could do from the back of the grid, but never mind.
The Massa sandwich opened the door for the star of the first half of the race to shine.
I feel like an F1-uber-geek by rattling on about the safety car…but…wow! Did you see it move!? Like Brundle pointed out, it was clearly going flat out, and it was a pleasure to watch. It looks great, it looks fast when you see it move, and if you ask Mercedes-Benz very nicely indeed, I think they'll build you one. I'm not a fan of the new CLK, but in the safety car configuration it looks great, very similar to the superb limited-run CLK DTM road car of 2004. Shame it sounded like a sewing machine on the in-car footage, but no matter…it was good to hear the unusual sound of squealing tyres at an F1 race.
Happily for me Mr Maylander got plenty of chances to take the CLK out for a spin, as people kept ditching it into the walls in spectacular fashion. Happily none of the accidents were serious in a driver-life-threatening way, but they were very serious in the car-life-threatening way. Guys like Klien, Liuzzi and Schumacher just trashed their cars completely…extremely watchable stuff :-D
Whilst all this was going on, Jense had inevitably succumbed to the likes of Raikkonen and Alonso, and was steadily falling back. Webber had suffered a mechanical failure whilst in the lead, so both Williams were out early :(. Kudos to Sato and the Toro Rossos though, they were driving extremely well at this point. Especially Sato…the guys stuck behind him were people like Barrichello, Coulthard and Fisichella, and they (should) know what they're doing. They'll probably haul out the Racing Driver's Big Book Of Excuses 2006 to explain why Sato was holding them up. Regardless, they should be pretty appalled with themselves. That Super Aguri is rubbish (did you see Ide spin THREE TIMES in the same lap in qually!? Surely that can't all be down to Ide's uselessness?), and even with the best driver in the world in it, the guys with Hondas and Renaults should just have cruised past.
Maybe Sato's 'reputation' preceeded him, and they were scared of taking him on, just in case…which in fairness, was probably wise. Although Sato did eventually fall behind these quicker guys as the race progressed, he finished the race (third time this season, I believe), without incident. With Ide getting to the finish for the first time as well, the SA people should be proud of themselves.
As race began to draw to a close, Montoya was next on the bizarre-incident hitlist. It was almost a copy of Schumacher's demise, where he ran wide at the final corner, and then hit a bump at the end of the kerb, which flung him into the wall. However, Montoya pulled off the save of the season by copying Schumacher in every way, apart from the hitting the wall bit. He showed some great skills, and whether it was luck or judgement that meant he hit the bump straight on (which made the car easier to control when he jumped over it), we may never know. We may also never know why, inexplicably, as soon as he had escaped a trip to the wall, his car just…stopped. The engine died, and it rolled to a halt underneath the pit wall. Very bizarre. Speculation as to what could have caused this is most welcome.
The race had a few more twists in the final few corners of the race. Alonso had the race in the bag, with Ralf Schumacher having one of those suprising drives that was so effortless no-one noticed him get onto the podium, behind Raikkonen.
However, Jense and Fisichella were now battling it out for fifth position. This is highly concerning…I probably shouldn't keep going on about how overrated Jense is, but he started from pole…and Fisi started from the back of the grid. What more can be said. Anyway, with two corners left, Jenson's Honda decided to explode, and try to barbecue Fisichella in the face for good measure. Fisi probably had mixed emotions about this…being gifted a place just as you're crossing the finish line is lovely, but getting a engine-fuelled roasting isn't. Jenson's Honda stopped just short of the line, so zero points for him. However, the strange manner of this failure will go some way to masking that throughout the race, both Honda and Jenson were mediocre at best. Not a hint of their claimed race- or world-championship winning potential.
The twists of the race were no longer over, though. It turns out that Jenson could have rolled over the line to take three points, but for some utterly inexplicable reason, Honda told him not to. The argument being that it was worth trading in those three points for not having to change the engine after 'completing' the race, and not incurring the 10-place penalty on the grid for the next race. What a stupid decision.
The fact the Fisichella, from the back of the grid, was right on Button's tail at the end of the race shows that a 10-place grid penalty is relatively insignifcant for a team that can't win races. If it were a McLaren or Renault in that position, then I can see the logic. It's much harder to actually win a race starting from the bottom ten, than it is to get a good points finish. Honda showed today, they can't win even starting from pole, so they need to take all the decent points-finishes that they can. The chances of them recouping those lost three points by virtue of not taking that penalty is very slim. Indeed, at this stage of the season, three points is just over 25% of Jenson's points haul for the season. 25%! Oh well…most likely Jense will win the next race purely to spite me.
My final point on this great race was the silent exchange between Alonso and Raikkonen at the post-race press conference. The pair inadvertantly caught each other's eyes at one stage, and instead of quickly looking away and ignoring each other, Raikkonen broke into a big smile. It was clear that he had geniunely enjoyed chasing Alonso, who returned the gesture with sincerity. It was a nice touch to see that the two top men in the sport really respect each other, and value their rivalry.
March 19, 2006
The Grand Prix this morning was an interesting one. It wasn't anywhere near as spectacular as Bahrain, however it gave us another indication of how the season is going to develop. My first point is Jense, who is a cause for concern. Despite only being ten seconds off the lead at the end of the race, he still doesn't look like he's got the fight in him to take a win. Not intending to contradict myself, I would still be very suprised if he did not visit the top step of the podium this season. However, I think this will only come about if he's in the right place at the right time, when the other guys around him are having diffuclties. It will be the sort of race where him, Montoya and one of the Williams sneak onto the podium…the sort of race where the really big players (Ferrari, Renault, Raikkonen) have fallen by the wayside.
Which brings me nicely onto my next point…McLaren. Kimi's season is already looking like it will go the same way that it did last season, which would be a shame for us all. Also, am I the only person who thinks that the MP4-21 is really, really ugly? The media seem to love it, but they've seen it up close. I guess I should reserve judgement for myself until I see it at the Silverstone test sesh on the 26th April.
<quick plug>By the way, Warwick Motorsport will be going to watch that test, there's going to be a considerable number of teams there and it's FREE to get in! Bit of a bargin. I'll sling more details up nearer the time…but if you've never seen/heard an F1 car in anger, you really should join us. Regardless of whether you like F1 or not, these cars are absolutely stunning. Whenever I see one being driven as hard as it will go, I'm always astonished by the thought that people actually RACE these monsters? 22 on track at the same time? Legends, the lot of them.</quick plug>
More worrying for McLaren is Montoya…without any major issues he just hasn't performed this season, and today he was extremely average. Which is strange, considering he is supposed to be fighting for the one remaining McLaren seat for next season. Maybe he's already given up hope; more likely he knows something that we don't. Even more likely than both of those….he's just not very good.
Which once again seamlessly links into my next point, Nico Rosberg, who is indeed very good. He gave a legendary qually performance, especially considering that Webber is regarded (perhaps overrated) as a qually specialist. However Nico didn't have time today to make up for his appalling start. He got off the line cleanly enough, and fair play to him for trying to defend himself against Webber, but he carelessly compromised the pair of them and allowed Alonso to just walk into third. Driving your teammate into the wall at the start is all well and good, it's just not an intelligent thing to do when you both have quicker cars behind you to fend off. Once Alonso was past, the two Williams then fell down the order much too quickly for my liking, and as far as I could see this all stemmed from that start.
Bit of a minger with the two V8 Cossies going as well, which was suprising. I thought that with their extensive pre-season testing, they'd be pretty good with reliability. Top marks for Nico's pyrotechnics though, impressive work.
I suppose I should mention Fisichella as well, considering he won the race 8). He drove well, but to be honest the only challenge was from Alonso, which wasn't too much of a problem. As James Allen pointed out, he's the 'forgotten man' of F1 (probably the only reasonable statement Allen made in commentary all weekend), so it was nice to see him justifying his Renault seat. I hope that in Melbourne, McLaren and Ferrari (and my beloved Williams, hope springs eternal 8)) will be able to push the Renaults harder. Melbourne always produces a great race, so if the competition develops at the sharp end of the field, it should be pretty good indeed.
March 12, 2006
F1 2006 is looking very good indeed after today's race. For the first time in a long time, watching the TV coverage made me want to be at the circuit. There's a real depth to the grid this year; lots of new teams, the leading drivers all seem to be at the top of their game, and we've still got comedy at the back despite the transformation of Minardi into Scuderia Toro Rosso…I'm so grateful for Super Aguri.
As for the race, it was excellent. Mostly because of the quality of the overtaking manoeuvres, they really were top class. Button, not driver that I especially rate, pulled off some classic textbook moves at the first corner. His move on Montoya (I think, excuse me if I'm wrong) particularly caught my eye. He got a good run out of the final corner, and stayed in Montoya's slipstream, all the way down the start/finish straight right up until the braking zone. Then, just before slamming on the anchors, he aimed the car to go just past Montoya's rear right wheel, and sailed past. However, Jense was not finished.
Montoya knows how to drive, so seeing Jense dive up the inside, he didn't panic. He stayed wide, so that he could turn in later, but get a better exit from the corner than Button and then reclaim the position at the next corner. He did not anticipate that Jense would go wide as well (seemingly intentionally) to block off his escape. Montoya had to wait for Jense to get out of his way before he could get the accelerator down, and by that time Jense was already up to speed and well away, managing to defend himself at the next corner. Credit to you, sir, that was definately a move.
Heidfeld and Couthard also had some notable battles at that first corner, highlighting it as one of the most entertaining overtaking places on the calendar (especially on a Tilke track ;–)). The right–left kink straight after the corner gives some great opportunities for some aggressive defensive/offensive driving, without the risk of hitting anything hard, except for whoever you are duelling with.
However, performer of the best overtaking move, and as Brundle pointed out, star of the show, was Nico Rosberg. Apart from his abberation in qually when he hit the wall (it happens to the best of us ;–)), he handled himself excellently thoughout the weekend; most unlike a rookie driver. Getting points on your F1 debut is quite an acheivement, getting fastest lap on your race debut is even more so (stats fans…who was the last guy to do that? Villeneuve?), and all in a car that is regarded as maybe the 5th/6th best on the grid. Legend.
I of course have to mention his brilliant move on Klien as well, again at that first corner. I loved the dummy he sold Klien, to make him think twice about shutting the door, excellent work indeed. He clearly knows what he is doing, despite his relative inexperience. If Rosberg can continue to race as well as he did today, then he's one for the future, if not the present. Williams are a team that can only improve, especially with that monsterous Cosworth engine in the back, so Rosberg is sitting pretty. Is he a one–race wonder though? Somehow, I don't think so.