Monthly Archives: August 2010

A look at the F1 2011 applicants

The FIA has opened the process to accept one more team into the Formula 1 paddock for 2011. After the epic failure of USF1, more stringent measures are being put in place this time to ensure the same does not happen again. It has not, however, deterred teams from their interest, and we will now have a look at their applications.

Durango/Villeneuve Racing

This application is a tie-up between the racing team Durango, who currently compete in the AutoGP series (formerly European Formula 3000), and 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. It is understood that this team would be named after Villeneuve if they are successful.

AutoGP isn’t a bad place for a racing team, but Durango only ran 1 car in this series, which will damage their application. However, they have previously raced in Formula 3 and sports cars. They also competed in GP2 between 2005 and 2008, where they took 3 wins. While this is good, they have since dropped out of the 2009-2010 GP2 Asia Series, due to financial problems. However, despite winning races in GP2, they blatantly broke the rules regarding standard-spec parts.

In 2006, they manufactured their own parts, instead of using Dallara’s own spec equipment. At Silverstone that year, Lucas di Grassi’s rear wing came off, and it emerged that instead of sending the car back to Dallara, Durnago decided to repair it themselves, and did a terrible job of it.

Then, it got even worse in Spa 2008, when Stefano Coletti’s steering column snapped (probably another botched repair job) at Eau Rouge. When the team turned up at the next race in Monza, Dallara had impounded one of their cars, as it was too unsafe for use, as the team had badly repaired it once too many. Interestingly enough, no official explanation came out for either of these 2 incidents I mentioned, I had to dig deep to get a hold of them. Therefore, you can’t rule out Durango trying to cover up this farce, which wouldn’t surprise me at all.

It gets even worse. Last year, it emerged that Durango was being investigated for criminal tax evasion and fraud, and that it had been using a system of companies which constantly changed their names to issue bills with inflated figures in order to reduce costs and lower the payable tax. It has been reported that Durango has €12m of unreported revenue, €11m of false invoicing, €3m of unpaid tax, and they reduced their base tax illegally by €16m. Nice.

Despite all of this, the team still believes they have the funds to enter F1 (even if they can’t afford to stay in GP2), and claim that they have 2 major international finance suppliers or sponsors. It is believed that one of these is Russian.

However, Durango is the last team I would look at for an F1 spot. They look completely unprofessional, may well have covered up their troubles (I can’t allege it though, no proof), and at the end of the day, they can’t even properly repair their own car. They look as viable as USF1.

Pros: Good experience in a variation of motorsport categories. And a nice livery.

Cons: Can’t repair their own car, huge amounts of tax evasion and fraud, broke GP2’s standard-spec equipment rule multiple times, no clear investment, very little known about their actual team.

Overall: Not a hope in hell of them getting through.

Stefan GP

A name that should be easily remembered, if you were following this blog in January-March.  Stefan GP has not raced in any other categories of motorsport at all, but have more technical partnerships to prop them up than Durango. Toyota’s technical details, as well as the chassis  from their 2010 car which was never raced, has been obtained by the Serbian team. It certainly wasn’t a bad piece of kit for them to get themselves experienced, as the TF110 features a triple-decker diffuser, and a radical aerodynamic profile.

Stefan GP had obtained this car before the 2010 season began, but were turned away by the FIA, as they felt they wouldn’t have time to get up to speed. However, the team are trying again next year with the same car, and they have talked to many drivers, such as Sebastien Loeb.

However, like Durango, Stefan GP have a shady background which does not inspire confidence. The team owner, Zoran Stefanovich, owns a Serbian engineering company called AMCO. This company convinced Toyota that they were involved with space and military technology, to get Toyota to support Stefan GP.

To convince Toyota, they set up web pages, that said that AMCO worked with Germany’s Federal Defence Force on flight drones and contributed to the European Space Agency’s orbit launch rocket Ariane 5. But, the German Defense Force then responded that “there are no technologies of the AMCO”.

Furthermore, after looking at the company’s registry, it emerged that the AMCO was founded with capital of… €500. The company has only one employee, took in €3315 in 2009, and after deductions (no info available), ended up with a net total of €42 profit. Yeah!

So, it is obvious that Zoran Stefanovich and his companies are complete frauds, and I’m praying that this is the reason why the FIA turned them down. Of course, the FIA cannot allege what I said, since concrete facts cannot be obtained without a criminal investigation, and I’m not convinced the Serbian government can get that done.

Pros: Very eager to get into F1, despite the probability that they wouldn’t get in, excellent technical partnership with Toyota.

Cons: A fraud company owned by the team owner, too aggressive towards FIA.

Overall: Up to a while ago I wanted them to get in, but never again.

Epsilon Euskadi

While there are very suspicious operations behind Durango and Stefan GP, no such problems occur with Epsilon Euskadi (try saying that 5 times quickly). At the moment, this team competes in the Le Mans Series, World Series by Renault, Formula Renault 2.0 West, and the European Cup.

The team have a history of promoting well known and sometimes very successful drivers, such as Robert Kubica (won the 2005 World Series by Renault with the team), Jaime Alguersuari (won the Formula Renault 2.0 Italia Winter Series), Brendon Hartley ( winner of the 2007 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0) and Albert Costa (winner of 2009 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0).

The team itself it fantastically well-equipped, with an Innovation and Technology Centre to design their F1 car if they are accepted. Also, they have backing from Carlos Garcia, the president of the Spanish Automobile Association, which is an important factor when considering the teams.

On the other hand, their financial situation is unclear, so we will have to wait and see can they get any sponsors on board. Despite this, I firmly believe that Epsilon Euskadi are the best team for the job, and I would also love to see them replace the disastrous Hispania team, which throws out its perfectly good race drivers just to stay financially afloat.

Pros: Impressive technical facilities, huge experience in motorsport, great eye for upcoming young drivers, titles in many racing categories, well supported from the region.

Cons: Unclear financial situation may hamper their budget.

Overall: The best option for the empty grid slot, and even if they were somehow rejected, they could replace Hispania instead.


Senna: No guarantee of Hispania next year

Bruno Senna has said that the financial problems behind the Hispania team are hurting their attempts to develop their car, and that there can be no guarantee of them being on the grid next year.

Bruno Senna has said that there is no guarantee of Hispania being on the grid next year

Bruno Senna has said that there is no guarantee of Hispania being on the grid next year

After surviving the first half of the year with little resources and no testing whatsoever, it is now emerging that Hispania are now unable to develop their car properly, as they lack the financial backing to do so. This is the reason behind Senna stating that the team may not make it through to next season.

Speaking to the Brazilian media at a news conference yesterday, Bruno said:

"The financial difficulties hinder the development of the car. We 
are able to keep the team running through the end of the year. But 
we can not be like Red Bull, which always has little or big things 
in the car every weekend.

Few teams are guaranteed to be on the grid next year. Formula 1 is 
not easy. The Hispania and other teams can not give that guarantee."

We knew it would be a risk to enter into a new team. But essentially 
it changed between when we signed and the start of the season. We 
made a firm contract and we could not predict what lied ahead."

We had a big learning process. We started the year without testing. 
We have been working and making the most of the car. We had small 
updates to the car like the fuel tank, electronics... Every weekend 
we're getting new things [from the car]."

However, on the other hand, he also said that the Hispania team are in negotiations with the former Toyota team, regarding the acquisition of Toyota F1 car parts, but the situation was complicated, as those parts still need FIA homologation.

Adrian Newey hospitalised in Ginetta crash

While most of the drivers and the F1 paddock have been putting their feet up around the world, not so for Adrian Newey, who has been racing as a guest driver in a Ginetta G50 race in Snetterton. However, it did not go as planned, as the Red Bull technical director suffered a crash which has left him hospitalised for precautionary checks.

The Ginetta G50 race was a supporting race of the British Touring Car Championship. Another car spun, and Newey was unable to stop his car from crashing into the other, and the race had to be red flagged. While he was taken away on a stretcher, he seemed to not suffer any serious injuries.

It isn’t the first time that Adrian has crashed in a racing series. In the Le Mans classic of 2006, he crashed out also. To be honest, I’m not bothered about all the crashes, more impressed that he takes his only summer holiday in a racing car at 100mph. Actually, it well suit the man who does donuts on his lawn with Ferraris when Red Bull win races.

Here is a video of the crash at Snetterton yesterday:

Forgotten heroes: Patrick Depailler

Patrick Depallier

Patrick Depallier

Patrick Depailler is a driver who had all the characteristics of a true racing driver. He competed purely for the thrill of racing, and his passion was the driving force behind his career. Like so many others, however, Depaillerr’s ambitious career was cut short, not to mention being in the wrong car at the wrong time.

Patrick Depailler was born on 9th August 1944, as the son of an architect. In his earlier years, he was considering becoming a pastry chef, and was also looking at a career in automotive engineering. After he finished his education, he received a qualification as a dental technician. However, by his early teens, he had already caught the racing bug. His first mode of transport was an old Vélosolex, and later a Mobylette, which apparently was funded from his grandmother. He would spend hours a day in the shed, working on the bikes, trying to find the smallest amount of extra performance.

However, he never got a chance to race until 1962. He borrowed a friend’s 500cc Norton 88 SS, racing at a wet Monthléry circuit. Despite treacherous conditions, Patrick finished 2nd. He made the decicion in 1963 to move int0 motorcycle racing, although his parents had no knowledge of it. In his first national 50cc race at Clermont-Ferrand, he was 3rd, and he was approached afterwards by none other than Jean-Pierre Beltoise. At that time, Beltoise was a multiple-times mototcycle champion, and he had noticed Depallier’s riding technique. His compliments fuelled Patrick’s career even further, and pushed him to continue racing.

However, before he could continue, he was forced to spend six months in military service across France. While he was away though, he was pointed towards a newspaper article, with the “Operation Jeunesse” featured in it, which was a single-make championship, designed to find young talent for the future. Once he was finished in the military, he added his name to the thousands of entrants, and won a preliminary test, and selection process. In 1964, he competed in the competition with a Lotus Seven, and instantly scored 2 second places, then a 3rd. His next race, at the Chamrousse Hill Climb, was his first ever victory in motorsport.

After the 1964 season, he failed to acquire the finance to stay in car racing, so he went back to Jean-Pierre Beltoise, and while Jean-Pierre was injured after an earlier crash, Depallier drive his 250cc Bultaco, and did very well. Later, Beltoise went to Depailler’s home, and convinced his parents to support his future career, even though they had only recently found out about it. While they disapproved of Patrick’s dangerous activities, his father provided the finance for him to continue racing.

This allowed him to sign up to the Winfield School in Magny-Cours in 1966, to try and win the Volant Shell. He eventually lost out to fellow forgotten hero Francois Cevert, but Beltoise convinced Alpine to sign Depailler for 3 years. He went into French F3, and while he won many races, and competed in sports car racing, it took him until 1971 to actually win the title.

With that title in hand, it was time for Depailler to move on, and he raced in Formula 1 for the first time in the 1972 season with Tyrrell, at the final race of the season at Watkins Glen. He finished 7th, which was an amazing feat considering it was his first race. Afterwards, the 1-2 finish of Jackie Steward and Francois Cevert, both driving Tyrrells, drove alongside Depailler into the pits as a show of strength. However, he did not stay there for the next season, as he went back to F2 in an Elf chassis. He was scheduled to return to Tyrrell for the final 2 races of the Formula 1 season, but he crashed a motorcycle and broke his leg, ruining his opportunity. However, despite his mistake, he was still granted the opportunity to try again in 1974.

Patrick Depailler at the 1974 Swedish Grand Prix, driving a Tyrrell 007

Patrick Depailler at the 1974 Swedish Grand Prix, driving a Tyrrell 007

However, the space allowed for him in the Tyrrell team only came around this time because of the death of Francois Cevert. For the 1974 season, he drove the 005/006/007 variants of the Tyrrell car, and alternated between them, although it it not clear why. Nevertheless, he did very well, getting 5 points-scoring positions in 15 races. However, his season was blighted by several retirements, mostly caused by mechanical problems, and 2 collisions.

While the Tyrrell car remained not very competitive in 1975, Depailler managed to score his first ever podium position in South Africa. While he was in the points only 4 other times, there were less retirements than last year, and only one of those were mechanical related. In 1976, the arrival of the mad 6-wheeled Tyrrell gave the team a boost in terms of pace, even though it went down in history as looking absolutely ridiculous. He managed 7 podium positions out of his 10 finishes, an amazing result. After 2 seasons finishing 9th twice, Depailler was now 4th overall. However, these results were blighted by another awful run of mechanical retirements, so while the car was so quick it could be on nearly all of the races, the car’s reliability held him back.

Patrick Depailler at the 1976 Monaco Grand Prix, 3rd place, behind team-mate Jody Scheckter

Patrick Depailler at the 1976 Monaco Grand Prix, 3rd place, behind team-mate Jody Scheckter

The 1977 season was a step backwards, as yet again a huge list of retirements held Patrick back. He stepped on the podium 3 times, but still never won a race. The car’s performance was off, and it could rarely finish consecutive races, leaving Depailler 9th with only 20 points. While 1978 still didn’t put an end to the Tyrrell’s dire reliability, Depailler finally scored his first win in Monaco, and by doing so took the lead in the championship for the first time. 4 more podiums weren’t enough to keep a hold of the championship lead, and the car let him down again that year, as he was only in 5th place in the drivers’ championship. However, his driving skill was never diminished, as at the final race of the year in Canada, he drove magnificently in the wet to finish 5th, as shown here (note the slide at 1:48):

1979 saw another win for Patrick, as he took victory in the Spanish Grand Prix, which this time put him level with Gilles Villeneuve in the championship. However, this year was ruined not by the car, but a hang-gliding accident, which broke both of his legs after the 7th race, and forced him out for the rest of the season.

By the time he had recovered, he had decided that he would move on from Tyrrell. He must have been sick of the car’s shocking reliability, despite its tendency to perform well when it didn’t explode. While the Alfa Romeo had only spent a year in Formula 1 since leaving back in 1952, Depailler decided to join them to try and improve their cars. But, this move eventually ended his career.

The first disastrous problem was that the car was even more unreliable than the Tyrrell. In the first 8 races of the 1980 season, Patrick failed to finish a single race. He didn’t retire in South Africa, but was 25 laps down (out of 77), so surely that must have been a mechanical problem as well. All of the other races resulted in retirements, 3 times the engine, and 4 times all different components. While it was clear that the Alfa Romeo was an all-round horrific car, there was nothing Depailler could do.

Patrick Depailler overtaking team-mate Bruno Giacomelli at the 1980 British Grand Prix, which turned out to be his final race

Patrick Depailler overtaking team-mate Bruno Giacomelli at the 1980 British Grand Prix, which turned out to be his final race

Even if he could have made a difference, he didn’t get the chance. In testing for the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring, a suspension failure pitched and threw his car into the barriers at the high-speed Ostkurve, which caused fatal head injuries when the car rolled over.

The scene of Patrick Depailler's crash

The scene of Patrick Depailler's crash

Unfortunately, Patrick Depailler is never remembered as the driver he could have been. Those who do remember would think of the endless retirements, yet I’m sure his fierce driving skill can be used to prove that he deserved a better chance than he did. He had a pure passion for racing, had the skill to match, but misfortune meant he will never be remembered as a possible World Champion.

2010 Half-way driver rankings: 5-1

Over the last two days I have looked at 20 of the grid’s drivers, so here are the final top 5 drivers of 2010 so far:

5: Sebastian Vettel

A review of Vettel’s season will always begin with the same question: Why isn’t he leading the championship? True, he lost 38 points in the first two races thanks to mechanical failures, but the truth is that Sebastian has bottled nearly every chance he has had of taking the lead of the drivers’ championship.

It has been starting from 1st position that has been his weak point, as after 7 pole positions this year, he has only won one of those races. His other win was back in Malaysia, when he took Mark Webber on the first corner. By my calculations, Vettel has had 8 chances to win races this year. 2 of those were hampered by reliability, 2 of them were actually won, while the other 4 races were lost because of driver failure, and that is unacceptable from a potential world champion.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of Sebastian’s season so far has been the fact that, when the team is split, the bosses always backed Vettel. Take the crash between in Turkey for example. While the crash was completely Sebastian’s fault, the team still instantly sided with him, and blamed Webber for the crash, with no evidence to do so. After huge pressure from the fans (I was going to point out an article on Red Bull’s site after Turkey where thousands of fans blasted the team for favouritism, but they removed the comments section recently), the team eventually said that both drivers were at fault, then moved on.

It wasn’t over though. When the team opted to take Mark Webber’s front wing and give it to Sebastian in Britain, it set off the same argument again. To summarise, while Sebastian would technically have been in the lead without reliability gremlins, he needs to win the championship through consistency and equality in the team something which is lacking at the moment.

4: Jenson Button

Many claimed that the 2009 champion would be slaughtered by Lewis Hamilton by moving to McLaren. This move, they claimed, would prove that his championship success was purely because of the Brawn car, and not the driver. After only half a year at McLaren, Jenson Button has proved his critics completely wrong, and has made the best possible move to defend his title.

While it surely takes time for drivers to adapt to a new team, Button has settled in remarkably well in McLaren, being only 10 points off Lewis Hamilton after 12 races. He was beating him earlier in the year, after victories in Australia and China, both through excellent strategy and tyre managment. However, a recent slump in form is damaging his championship hopes. His raw pace is simply not good enough, and in dry-weather races with low tyre degradation, Button has stood no chance. His consistency has helped him though, in the fact that, except Monaco, he has finished every single race in the top 8.

But again, there is no point in being consistent when your team-mate keeps out-performing you. Jenson hasn’t qualified ahead of Lewis since China, a gap of 8 races. This has given Lewis a massive advantage in races, as Jenson generally can’t keep up. While there aren’t many drivers faster than Hamilton when he is on the pace, Button still needs to counter this and get his way back up the field.

3: Mark Webber

In the top 5 drivers of the championship, 4 of these have scored 2 wins each, a respectable amount considering the topsy-turvy form this season. However, Mark Webber has scored 4 wins so far, every single one of them convincingly. When Webber is in top form, he has been simply unstoppable, and is a deserving 1st place in the championship.

So why, you may ask, is he only 3rd in the rankings? Well, when he is on form he is brilliant, but when he is off form, it is dire to watch. His scrappy form in Australia was awful, and he ended up crashing into Lewis Hamilton for no explainable reason. A horrible start in Valencia ruined his race there, before it was sealed with a collision with Heikki Kovalainen, which in my view was more Mark’s fault.

But, he is still leading the championship, and with good reason. His dominant performances in Monaco and Spain were fantastic, and he overcame team bias to win in Britain. In Hungary, a massive stint on the super-softs paid off, although he was helped by Vettel’s penalty. Another excellent drive was qualifying in Malaysia, where a gamble on the intermidiate tyres paid off, to take pole position.

So, while he deservedly leads the championship (just) at the moment, improvements must be made to secure the title for Mark Webber.

2: Robert Kubica

The Polish driver is in a situation very similar to 2008. He is in a car that is unable to challenge for wins, yet he is smashing his way up to the top of the grid when he can, and has proven multiple times that he is one of the best drivers on the grid, just without the best car.

His results, on paper, don’t look to impressive to the average F1 fan, with only two podium positions. But, when you consider the fact that he is in only the 5th or 6th best car, Robert Kubica is driving the R30 out of its skin. He does so by avoiding the mistakes the frontrunners have made, such as qualifying in Malaysia, tyre choice in Australia and China, and when that doesn’t suffice, he can outperform some of the best drivers in terms of sheer pace.

He got 2nd place in Australia, by simply combining good strategy with a fast pace, something most of the championship contenders couldn’t do. He beat the Ferraris in Turkey, simply through raw pace. All of this has been done with remarkable consistency, as Robert Kubica has never spun or crashed this year. All of his retirements or his one race outside the points were caused by mechanical failures or Adrian Sutil.

After another season mixing it with the top drivers, you would wonder why the main teams haven’t tried to get him on board. his best shot is at Ferrari, where there might be an opening as Felipe Massa struggles for pace.

1: Lewis Hamilton

I’ve never really liked Lewis Hamilton, to be honest. The massive media attention from the second he entered the sport, to the stuck-up attitude he showed all through 2007. However, since then, Lewis has been improving and improving, and in 2010 has matured incredibly, with a hint of caution to his speed and aggression, which has turned him into a more complete racing driver, and one of the favourites for the title.

When he has found himself down the field in Australia, Malaysia or China, he has fought his way back up the grid, and does so in breathtaking fashion. In Spain, he was on course to split the Red Bulls, after they had out-qualified the grid by an entire second, before a broken wheel nut forced him out at the very end. His first win of 201o was obtained by sticking behind the Red Bulls, and when they crashed out, the win was Lewis’ for the taking. Then, in Canada, he got an excellent pole position, the only non-Red Bull one so far, and stayed calm throughout a chaotic race to take one of the best wins of his career.

A slightly sluggish start was odd for him, and brushed a little to close to the stewards in Malaysia, but these are very small instances when you compare them to the troubles of the other top drivers. There is no blatant favouritism at McLaren, so if Lewis wins the title, it is because of his work. His car will need to improve in the next few races though.

2010 Half-way driver rankings: 12-6

This is the second part of the half-way rankings of all of the drivers so far this year. I wasn’t able to fit all 12 top drivers in one post, so these are drivers 12-6:

12: Vitaly Petrov

The Vyborg Rocket has had a tough time trying to keep up with his extremely talented team-mate Robert Kubica, but Vitaly hasn’t let himself down either. The first few races were difficult, as only one points position in the first 10 races was below expectations. However, his defensive driving certainly impressed me, most notably in Turkey against Fernando Alonso, who he held off for most of the race. They eventually clashed, with Petrov coming off worse, but he had still made an impact.

However, it soon became clear that he would have to up his game to keep his seat for 2011, and he has done exactly that. A 10th place in Germany was the start, then he qualified 7th and finished 5th in Hungary, a career best. On both occasions these finishes were because of his driving skill, not getting lucky with the safety car like others have done. A few more points finishes will seal his seat for next year.

11: Felipe Massa

For most of the first half of the season, very little mention was made of Felipe’s recovery from his crash in Hungary, which he only returned from this year. He started impressively, with 2 podium positions in the first 2 races, but since then has been well outpaced by Fernando Alonso. It wasn’t too notable until Canada onwards, when a string of poor performances mixed with bad luck shot down his chances for the championship.

With this in mind, the team decided to push Fernando Alonso’s assault for the title instead, and used Massa to hand the lead of the German Grand Prix. Massa has since received critisism worldwide, especially in Brazil, for being weak and spineless in handing his position over. In my view, the team orders scandal could have been avoided if Massa had just been driving as fast as, or faster than, Alonso. At the moment, Felipe is 63 points behind Mark Webber. Significant improvement is needed to justify his new 2012 contract.

10: Adrian Sutil

2010 saw the arrival of something completely unprecedented: Adrian Sutil hasn’t crashed into anything yet this season. This has been his main weakness so far in his F1 career, so now we can truly see Sutil’s potential. So far, he has 35 points, more than double that of team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi. Adrian is driving very much like Nico Rosberg did last year, getting consistent points finishes in a midfield car, while their fumbling team-mates held the team back.

Adrian has every reason to be happy with his performances so far, as he is only 3 points behind Michael Schumacher. While the Mercedes’ understeering nature doesn’t suit Schumacher, it must still be a good feeling to be close to overtaking a 7-times world champion. 6 points-scoring positions in a row has been Sutil’s highlights so far, and Belgium and Italy are up next, so there is a great chance of his first ever Formula 1 podium finish.

9: Kamui Kobayashi

I can still clearly remember last year in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, when this Toyota test driver suddenly became a Formula 1 favourite, thanks to his “absolutely crazy, very aggressive” driving, as Jenson Button called it. His overtake on the Brawn in Abu Dhabi single-handedly granted him a drive with Sauber this year. At the start, it seemed as if it was just a one-hit wonder, as  until Turkey he only had one single, unimpressive finish. But, he didn’t let us down that easily, and as the car has improved, has shown us dazzling performances that makes him one of my favourite drivers.

His first points finish was 10th in Turkey, with not much to report. However, in Valencia, he pulled off a risky hard-tyre strategy to leap up to 7th place, after overtaking Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi (on the last corner of the last lap). Then, at Silverstone, he got another impressive 6th place, and has since gt 9th in Hungary as well. All of this has come from a car with dire performance and reliability (and the worst livery on the grid). Kamui has overcome all of these obstacles to fully justify his place on the F1 grid.

8: Rubens Barrichello

Like Adrian Sutil and Kamui Kobayashi, Rubens Barrichello has impressed me this year, comfortably beating his team-mate to be the driving force of the Williams team. 6 points finishes out of 11 finishes overall, in a mediocre car, is certainly a good performance. Valencia was by far his best drive this year, where he valiantly held off Robert Kubica to finish 4th. Another impressive race in Great Britain left him 5th, and he was also 10th in Hungary.

With exactly 3 times the points tally of Nico Hulkenberg, Barrichello has proved that his experience in his 299 Grands Prix has not affected his pace at all, and he is still able to mix it with the frontrunners. If it wasn’t for a loose drain cover in Monaco, he would have finished every race as well, meaning he is bulletproof reliable as well. The only main problem he still needs to face is the difficulty he faces with the starts, more specifically he needs to stop releasing the clutch too early, as he has done a few times in recent years.

7: Nico Rosberg

As previously mentioned, this year’s Mercedes car has suffered chronic understeer, mainly as it was designed for Jenson Button’s driving style. While Michael Schumacher has toiled with the W01, Rosberg has kept his head down and got on with the job, and has hugely impressed me by his ability to pull podium positions out of a extremely disappointing car.

If it wasn’t for 13th place in Spain, where he struggled with the new longer-wheelbase car, and the mistake from the pit crew in Hungary, Nico would have finished in the points in every race so far, which is what he was doing for a lot of the season back at Williams. Three podium positions, in Malaysia, China and Britain, as well as three 5th places, show his potential. He has twice as many points as Schumacher, and before Hungary had more points than Felipe Massa, which is a huge achievement considering how much faster the Ferrari is. However, competition from Renault and Force India may well dampen Rosberg’s second half of 2010, as the car appears to go backwards.

6:  Fernando Alonso

At the start of the season, Alonso said that titles may well take time with Ferrari. While this was probably being pessimistic, Alonso has done well in his first season so far for Ferrari, but the controversies just seem to follow him around.

Alonso’s return to a top Formula 1 team started well with a win in Bahrain, thanks to Sebastian Vettel’s reliability woes. However, by Malaysia, Alonso fell prey to problems, with a gearbox problem and engine failure forcing him out after battling his way up the grid. From then on, a string of 6 high-scoring positions followed, as the car was unable to challenge for wins just yet. But, within 2 races, 2 different controversies circulated around Alonso. First of all, he was blamed for getting a drive-through penalty in Britain, after cutting a corner to pass Robert Kubica.

Then in Germany, his team blatantly handed him the win by getting Felipe Massa to allow him past. Fernando has the pace to win, and should not have to resort to pushing his team-mate past to win. However, he also has a characteristic that, when he is surrounded in controversy, he often produces a great result. He did so in Hungary, when he split the dominant Red Bulls to finish 2nd. Fernando is well on course to challenge for the championship, but needs to do so without using Massa.

Part 3 of my half-way driver rankings will be up tomorrow.

2010 Half-way driver rankings: 25-13

This article, and one to follow, will rank this year’s drivers depending on how well they have done, in my opinion. I was planning to have this up before the Hungarian GP, but a delay forced me to move it back, but it’s up now:

(All facts and figures were written before the Hungarian Grand Prix)

25: Sakon Yamamoto

It would have been very funny, except for the fact that his comic driving is coming at the expense of Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna, who have been forced to give up their driver seats at certain races. He is only here because of extra sponsorship, which the team needs, and he is completely wasting their time, never getting out of last place, and miles off the pace of anyone else. In Germany, he started the race with the pit limiter on dropping him miles back, then later hit the engine fire switch instead of the brake bias lever, causing him to retire. An absolute joke.

24: Lucas di Grassi

At the start of the season, Lucas and Timo were unable to finish races, mostly because of Virgin’s terrible reliability, but also because of the fuel tank, which was too small to last until the finish. A fix for this only came for Lucas in Turkey,and since then he has not been granted much opportunity to prove himself.

Timo Glock has been leading the attack against Lotus, to no prevail, while Di Grassi has mostly been behind Timo, as shown by the fact that he has been out-qualified 10 times by Glock this season so far. While he has not been terrible, he needs to show his potential to stay in F1.

23: Karun Chandhok

Karun is probably the nicest driver you will ever meet in the paddock, although unfortunately has not been given the car to prove himself in the races. The Hispania car is miles off the pace, and Karun has only Bruno Senna to race for position. Mostly, Bruno has won, leaving Chandhok further down the order. However, recently the team have decided that they don’t need performance as much as money, so Chandhok has been ditched in favour of Yamamoto, leaving Chandhok on the sidelines, and now unable to gain experience.

22: Vitantonio Liuzzi

In no way has Liuzzi justified his race seat this year, and with a car like the Force India, it is a complete waste of time with Vitantonio there. One good qualifying performance in Canada is all he has mustered, and a first-lap collision with Felipe Massa took him straight out of contention, although he was able to grab a point.

He has been out-qualified 9 times out of 11 by Adrian Sutil, and has been completely off the pace compared to his team-mate. In some races, h was up to 0.8 seconds slower, and Force India cannot afford this any longer. Paul di Resta is waiting on the sidelines, and after a few impressive Friday Practice runs, has gained good experience to deserve Liuzzi’s place.

21: Pedro de la Rosa

There has only been one points-scoring position so far this year for de la Rosa, while rookie team-mate Kamui Kobayashi has (deservedly) taken all the glory with impressive performances and excellent strategies. Pedro was on course for points in Valencia, but a 5-second penalty after the race brought him down to 12th. It has taken him until Hungary to get himself on the points board. Put simply, he is not on the pace enough to justify his race seat.

His experience must have helped the team out in testing, but in the races De la Rosa has been unable to deliver the goods when the opportunity arises, unlike Kobayashi. Because of poor reliability, he has only finished 5 races, 4 of these have been outside the points. In my view, Pedro won’t be able to keep improving in the car like Kobayashi, and if Sauber are to move up the grid, they need a younger and certainly faster driver. Nick Heidfeld would do fine.

20: Timo Glock

When the opportunity arises, sometimes the Virgin cars have the opportunity to challenge the Lotus cars. In these cases, it has been Timo Glock leading the charge. While the fuel tank saga held him back for the first quarter of the year, since then he has continued to out-qualify his team-mate and consistently finish well.

While Lotus are developing next year’s car from now on, now is the time for Virgin and Glock to seize the initiative and get ahead of Lotus, and extend the gap to Hispania.

19: Jaime Alguersuari

One good points performance is not good enough to prove your place in Formula 1. For the Toro Rosso drivers, consistent points finishes is what is required, and Alguersuari hasn’t scored a single point since Spain, while team-mate Sebastien Buemi has led a race, got more points-scoring positions, and better finishes than Jaime.

A 9th and 10th is all Jaime has to his name, giving him a total of 3 points, while Buemi has 7. With the Hungarian Grand Prix approaching, it has now been exactly a year since Alguersuari entered F1, and he has not proved himself yet. He has been out-qualified 9 times so far by Buemi, and is falling out of contention for the 2012 Red Bull seat.

While his defensive driving has occasionally been impressive, his form must improve if he is to prove his potential in Formula 1.

18: Bruno Senna

Having out-qualified team-mate Karun Chandhok 7 times comprehensively so far, Bruno is completing his first steps in F1 well. With a dog of a car at his disposal, showing his potential is nearly impossible, but it is certainly visible to see that Senna is the faster of the two Hispania drivers.

While a 16th place is his highest finish so far, Senna has also suffered more reliability problems, and that has hampered his assault on the Virgin cars. To be honest, staying in HRT after this year would be a complete waste of time, so it is up to Bruno to get the attention of a better team, and jump ship before his chance goes away.

17: Nico Hulkenberg

Before the season began, Nico Hulkenberg was my favourite rookie, and the one driver I was tipping to cause an upset. Unfortunately I was wrong on both counts, as Hulkenberg’s drives so far have been disappointing at best. Two measly points is all he can offer, while team-mate Barrichello has been challenging as high as 4th place in some races.

His lack of maturity has let him down on occasions, such as pointlessly crashing in Friday Practice in Spain. Two 10th place finishes is all he can offer, and so far I can’t see why he would have deserved anything better. He has been out-qualified 8 times by Barrichello, and put simply his pace is not good enough. It seems as if he will be retained for one more year by Williams, but improvement is needed.

16: Jarno Trulli

The “Trulli Train” has not appeared so far this season, to my relief, which means that, even in the races, Jarno Trulli can now race at the same pace with the other new teams. Traditionally, he would qualify well, and then fall away. While this has happened this year when racing with his team-mate, it is not as profound as it used to be.

However, on the other hand, qualifying, where Jarno is supposed to be better than Heikki, has not gone entirely his way. He is currently leading 6-5 to Heikki, but has been consistently been out-performed in the races. Trulli is now one of F1’s most experienced drivers, but I can’t help but feel that his heart is not in it any more, as he is not driving with as much heart these days.

A senseless lunge at Chandhok in Monaco showed that he didn’t analyse the situation properly. While he is not off the pace, retirement seems to be looming for Trulli.

15: Sebastien Buemi

An excellent qualifying record against his team-mate has helped Sebastien Buemi improve in his second year of F1, and he is well on course to challenge for the Red Bull seat in 2012, so long as he continues improving. To do this, more points finishes are required.

That may be difficult with the Toro Rosso car he has at the moment, but 3 points-scoring finishes so far proves that it is possible. He led the race in Canada for a lap, and managed to just about hold off Alonso and Hamilton at the same time, which shows how well he is improving in his second year.

While bad luck hampered the first half of his season, especially in Australia and Spain, he has comprehensively beaten his team-mate, and maybe some good luck could show his real potential in the second half of 2010.

14: Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki has been the best driver out of the new teams so far, and with good reason. He has always been the driver to challenge the midfield, whenever the opportunity arises, and got within 2 tenths of out-qualifying Kamui Kobayashi in Canada. After two troubled seasons with McLaren, where he was well beaten by Lewis Hamilton, he seems much happier at Lotus.

His best finish has been a 13th place, the best of the new teams so far. Without a doubt, I would put my money on Kovalainen to out-qualify some of the drivers in the midfield this year, and maybe get a point.

13: Michael Schumacher

Even before the season, Michael was making his presence felt, by taking the number 3 car off Nico Rosberg, simply to try and intimidate him. However, in the first half of 2010, Schumacher has turned into a laughing stock, as he has been slaughtered by Rosberg, made stupid dangerous defensive moves, and has been knocked out of Q2 countless times.

Schumacher’s tendency to follow Ross Brawn around, wherever he goes, has backfired on Schumacher, as the Mercedes car is not good enough to challenge for wins yet. However, Nico has got 3 podium finishes so far, while Michael is the only driver out of the top 4 teams to not have stepped on the podium this year. Clearly, Michael simply doesn’t have the pace any more, and is embarrassing himself, and his list of records, every race he competes in. He doesn’t have the pace, has simply shoved other drivers off the road, and simply does not deserve the Mercedes seat any more. His lethal move on Rubens Barrichello in Hungary was the icing on the cake of his retirement party.

Part 2 will be up soon.

Hungarian Grand Prix stats and facts

The Hungarian Grand Prix was Red Bull’s 100th Formula 1 start, and they celebrated it well with a pole position, race win, and taking the lead in both championships. Here are some more stats and facts from the Hungarian Grand Prix:

  • This was the 6th time this year that Red Bull have had a front row lockout in qualifying, but they have only turned one of these lockouts into a 1-2 finish, at Malaysia.
  • With Vitaly Petrov out-qualifying Robert Kubica, no driver has out-qualified their team-mate in every race now.
  • This was Sebastian Vettel’s 4th pole position in a row, and the 7th this season. He now has 12 overall, as many as Gerhard Berger and David Coulthard.
  • This was Mark Webber’s 6th career victory, putting him level with many drivers such as Ralf Schumacher, Ricardo Patrese, Gilles Villeneuve, and Jochen Rindt. He has only 1 less than Sebastian Vettel.
  • Sebastian Vettel set his 6th career fastest lap, as many as Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Mike Hawthorn, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Emerson Fittipaldi, Carlos Reutemann and Jacques Laffite.
  • This was Red Bull’s 100th race start, and their 12th win.
  • Both Vitaly Petrov and Nico Hulkenberg scored their best career performances in Hungary, finishing 5th and 6th respectively. It was also Petrov’s best qualifying position, with 7th.
  • Pedro de la Rosa scored his first points of the season, and first since the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix.
  • Since Mercedes failed to score for the first time this year, only Red Bull and McLaren have scored points in every race now.

If you know of any more, please leave a comment.

Thoughts on the Hungarian Grand Prix

The Hungaroring was never built properly, nowhere near the F1 standards you would see today. The right-left right sequence at the end of the track, for instance, was only put in after the designers (halfway through construction) noticed a natural spring in the way. You would have thought that a track like this would have been thrown off the track years ago. Strangely enough it hasn’t, and despite its overtaking difficulties, the Hungarian Grand Prix was packed with action to keep us talking for the next 4 weeks.

The most important aspect of the race was Sebastian Vettel’s extreme pace, in my opinion. Only last week, the Ferraris and Red Bulls were evenly matched on pace. Now that this track suited them much more, the RB6 is a second a lap faster than the F10, and any other car on the grid. And yet, Vettel failed to transform his pace into a win yet again. Out of 7 pole positions, he has only won one of those races, and that is simply unacceptable for a championship contender.

This again left team-mate Webber to pick up the lead, after many fantastic laps in the Grand Prix to open up a 20-second gap to Alonso. This simply demonstrates how powerful the Red Bull car actually is when it suits the circuit, and not just one driver’s speed.

Then we got to the pit stops. Put simply, the safety car period is becoming more dangerous than safe. The pit lane was crammed with cars on Lap 16, and a crash was inevitable. The fault for the first incident lies at the feet of the Renault lollipop man, who didn’t realise that Sutil, who was charging down the pit lane, was actually going to box right ahead of the Renault. Cue an embarrassing accident, taking Sutil out on the spot.

While Kubica was able to continue, he received a 10-second stop and go penalty, which in my view was a bit pointless. I mean, he was already a lap down, and this was only going to entice them to retire the car early. A fine or constructors’ points penalty would have been fairer, since it was the team who were at fault.

The second incident was much more serious. Nico Rosberg was released while the back right wheel wasn’t secured, and it detached and bounced down the pit lane. It nearly hit the Sauber crew, who were just about to work on Kamui Kobayashi’s car, so they couldn’t stop it. Eventually, a Williams mechanic, Nigel Hope, was hit by the tyre, and has suffered a broken rib and bruising, although he was able to take part in the later pit stops after a quick check-up. I heard that apparently “Big Nige” actually jumped in the way of the tyre to catch it, to stop it hitting anyone else. Brave lad 🙂

Since Nico retired, the stewards were forced to hand Mercedes a $50,000 fine instead of a time or grid penalty. Before the safety car even pitted, the stewards had another incident to investigate, as Sebastian Vettel was too slow on the restart, and held the other drivers up way too much. The rules say that you must be within 10 car lengths of the car ahead, and Sebastian was 22 car lengths away, so unfortunately he has nobody to blame but himself.

The drive-through penalty relating to that incident left Alonso 2nd, and would later hold up Vettel at the end. It was a very good performance from Fernando, considering that the Red Bull behind was much faster. Also, for all the talk about Ferrari favouring Alonso, where was Massa? He was 4th, and never troubled anyone in the race. If he truly wants to compete in the title battle, he needs to step up and actually finish ahead of Alonso, as he hasn’t done so since Turkey.

After Webber’s pit stop sorted out the top 3, focus soon switched to the battle between Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher for 10th. Here’s the problem. Barrichello was Schumacher’s team-mate for 5 years,constantly opening the door for him and allowing him through, or not challenging him for the win. How does Michael repay him? By shoving him into a concrete wall of course. A 10-place grid penalty wasn’t harsh enough, but to be honest, when there isn’t a collision, the stewards must be limited to the penalties they can hand out. But will Michael learn from his penalty? Nope, not really. The only way to make him learn into shove him into a concrete wall at 300km/h himself, but no intelligent driver would actually think of doing that.

But back to the race. Both Vitaly Petrov and Nico Hulkenberg scored their best career performances to date, getting 5th and 6th respectively. This is absolutely fantastic for them, especially Petrov, as he needs to get consistent points finishes. He has the same amount of points as Kamui Kobayashi now, and I’m struggling to pick which one has been better this year. Kobayashi finished 9th today after starting 23rd on the grid, and made an excellent move on Schumacher at the restart, which unfortunately we didn’t see. Hulkenberg was 6th, and used the harder tyre first to make his way up the field while everyone else pitted at the safety car. While it was a good performance, it is worth pointing out that the strategy wouldn’t have worked if the safety car hadn’t been deployed.

The championship battle is also heating up nicely, as Mark Webber takes the lead in the standings. It is worth pointing out that, while a driver has been in the lead of the championship, none of them have won a race this year. Lewis Hamilton is only 4 points behind, after suffering a transmission problem, while Sebastian Vettel is another 6 points behind. Jenson Button was very poor all weekend in Hungary, and deserves to fall to 4th.

Finally, Sakon Yamamoto was last, again. His fastest lap was an entire 1.2 seconds slower than Bruno Senna’s. Even at the end of the race, when he had a decent set of tyres on and low fuel, his fastest lap was a whole second slower than Adrian Sutil’s, whose fastest lap of the day was set with a 50-lap fuel load on board (he retired on Lap 16).

At the end of the day, the Hungarian Grand Prix was a very interesting one, and much better than the races we have had here in the previous years. We now have a 4-week wait until Belgium, so I have been writing up new articles to keep us interested until then. There should be 1 or 2 new Forgotten Heroes posts, a ranked review of all the drivers so far, a look at the teams applying for F1 in 2011, and regular articles across the way.

Disgraceful Schumacher deserves ban after lethal move

I have stated countless times that Michael Schumacher’s “comeback” has consisted of nothing but cheap defensive shots, and driving his opponents into the wall/gravel/grandstand. However, today’s performance takes the cake, as he shoves, into a concrete wall at 300km/h, a former team-mate which held the door open for him for 5 years.

Two different views from the Schumacher move that has sparked huge controversy already

Two different views from the Schumacher move that has sparked huge controversy already

The stewards have since served Schumacher a 10-place grid penalty for the next race in Belgium, butthis is nowhere near enough. Barrichello was inches away from a crash that could have easily been fatal, and it would have been completely Michael’s fault. He tried to justify his move by saying afterwards: “I think I left him too much room because he passed.” This single-handedly explains why I think that he should just walk away today from F1, as he has become nothing more than a pathetically arrogant, and dangerous, disgrace to the sport.

There has always been a group of supporters that have hated Schumacher for his illicit moves, such as taking out Damon Hill in Adelade to win the title in 1994, the failed championship-stealing move on Villeneuve in 1997, shoving Frentzen into the gravel in Canada 1998… do I even need to go on?

Even worse, he seems to practically endorse his moves. He stated afterwards that: “I think I left him too much room because he passed.” Clearly he has forgotten one of the most important rules in motorsport, and it’s called sportsmanship. The worst thing is, a similar accident happened today in Superleague Formula, where Chris van der Drift’s car split in half after a huge crash (although it is designed to do so):

As you heard in that video, it was a communications error that caused that crash, but it is a clear sign of what could have happened today. The main difference in this situaion was that there was no gap between the car and the wall, which meant that, in the event of a crash, Barrichello’s car would have speared sideways into Schumacher’s car (not 100% a bad thing) and ending in the cars smashing into the wall at Turn 1, with no guarantee that they would be the right way up.

Our last huge crash was only in Valencia, and it is far too soon to see how close the drivers can cheat injury again. In my view, rather than a penalty, Schumacher should just admit he has contributed absolutely nothing useful to Formula 1 this year, and is putting all of his fellow drivers at risk, and hang up his helmet for good. My favourite underdog Nick Heidfeld will be waiting to take his seat.

Here is the video again, if you didn’t see it live: