Tag Archives: F1 2010

2010 was a year of practice for Schumacher – Lauda

3-time champion Lauda still trusts Schumacher to leap back to the top

3-time champion Lauda still trusts Schumacher to leap back to the top

The major German news agency SID conducted a survey and surprisingly, more than 70 per cent of those surveyed do not believe Michael Schumacher will win an eighth world title in 2011.

The most successful driver in F1 history had a difficult return to the sport in 2010 after 3 years of retirement, finishing ninth in the championship and 70 points behind his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Triple world champion Niki Lauda is certainly one who understands Schumacher’s troubles. The Austrian had won 2 titles before he retired in 1979, then returned after a 3-year absence. However, although he initially struggled, he won another championship in 1984. He told Spain’s El Pais newspaper:

"In my second phase in F1, the testing was not limited so I had plenty of 
mileage to prepare.

Michael has had trouble adjusting. Furthermore, he has been against a lot 
of young guys eager to prove they can beat him, including Rosberg who is 
really fast.

2010 was a year of practice for Schumacher. At first I thought he would 
not take more than four races to be back, and winning races has never been 
easy, but now it is harder than ever before.

Anyway, if anyone can do what he has to do, it's him."

Over to you: Do you think Schumacher can bounce back from his 2010 struggles?

Stewart: 2010 drivers are the best ever

Stewart highly rates the 2010 F1 grid

Stewart highly rates the 2010 F1 grid

Jackie Stewart, three-times world champion in the 1960’s and 1970’s, has claimed that the current batch of F1 drivers are “the best ever”. He even went as far as saying that current title holder Sebastian Vettel could be compared to former legends such as Jim Clark, Jack Brabham and Graham Hill.

The 2010 title battle included 5 drivers and 3 teams, and went all the way to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Stewart was very impressed with the racing he saw across the year:

 "I think it's the best field ever. Red Bull had a good car this year 
but right down to the last race there were four drivers battling for 
the championship, and there were five for most of the season really 
in contention."

"Up there was a Red Bull, a Ferrari and a McLaren, and a Renault 
pushing and shoving, so you cannot ask for much better than that. 
It was a long season and it came down to the very last race. It was 
close racing too."

Despite enormous changes in Formula 1 over the years, to both the cars and the drivers, Jackie claims that the raw driver instinct remains the same:

"I think the animal is exactly the same. I don't think Sebastian Vettel is 
any different from what Jim Clark was, or Graham Hill was, or Jack Brabham 
was, or people who have won the world championship more than once."

"These drivers are the same - all the same desire, want, focus, commitment 
and God-given talent that has been developed to the highest level."

"So they are not different as individuals, but we have a crop of them just 
now and we have got a little closer unification of the quality of the 
performance of the cars, so it is going to give us better racing - and I 
see 2010 was as good as the late 1960s/early 1970s."

Despite giving particular praise to Vettel, saying that there is “a lot more to come”, he still says that all of this year’s title contenders are hugely talented. He also touted Robert Kubica as a future champion, and noted each driver’s different driving talent:

"Webber is still in there, and Kubica could one day be world champion. You 
also have Jenson driving in the smoothest and cleanest way of any driver, 
and Lewis is probably the best racer of the whole lot - and the best 
equipped is still Alonso. You have such a group of extraordinarily 
skilled people."


The maths behind the 2010 championship battle

With just one more race to go this year, Formula 1 is about to experience something historic, as this is the first time in history that 4 drivers have entered the last race with a chance of becoming World Champion. With this in mind, there are many ways that each of them can take the title.

With this in mind let’s have a look at each driver individually, starting with the underdog:

Lewis Hamilton

2 DNFs in Italy and Singapore have killed Hamilton’s title challenge, and he comes to Abu Dhabi with an extremely low chance of becoming champion. At the moment, he is 24 points adrift of Fernando Alonso.

His task is simple but very difficult: Take the win while Vettel, Alonso and Webber all finish out of the points. While the McLaren isn’t bad at Abu Dhabi, the likelihood of the other 3 drivers being taken out are slim to say the least.

My prediction: As likely as Nick Heidfeld shaving his beard.

Sebastian Vettel

The first of the Red Bull drivers is in with a better chance than Hamilton, but like the McLaren driver, will need a good performance and a stroke of bad luck to hit Webber and Alonso.

Although he is 15 points behind, a 3rd place (with Alonso scoring no points) will not be enough for Vettel, as Fernando has taken 5 wins already, more than any other driver this year. If Vettel finishes 2nd, he will need Alonso to finish 9th or lower, with Webber 5th or lower.

If Sebastian take the win, which is likely is he is on form, the Ferrari needs to be 6th or lower, while Webber will be knocked out automatically, seeing as even if he was 2nd and level on points, Sebastian would have taken one more win.

While the odds are against this Red Bull, the title is certainly not out of reach, though it will take some luck to push Alonso down the order.

My prediction: If he doesn’t win it, he will at least get very close.

Mark Webber

This Red Bull driver is within better striking range of the Ferrari, although Mark’s title hopes were hit slightly by failing to overtake his team-mate in Brazil. Nevertheless, Webber is in with a good shot.

If none of his rivals scored a point (although Hamilton can still win the race in this situation) Mark only needs 5th to take the title. If he gets 4th place, Alonso will need to be 9th or lower, with Vettel not taking the win. If he is in 3rd position, Alonso can be 7th or lower, and Vettel not to take the win.

If Webber takes 2nd place, Fernando has to be 6th or lower, while Sebastian again cannot take the race win (effectively 3rd or lower). Meanwhile, if Mark wins the race, Vettel is taken out no matter where he finishes, while Fernando would have to be 3rd or lower in order for Webber to take the title.

There are many more possibilities as you can see, and it demonstrates why Webber needs to be pushing as hard as he can coming into this final race.

My prediction: A good chance, although he may find trouble keeping Vettel (and Alonso) behind him.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando comes into this race with the title lead, and 8 points to spare against his rivals. He may have the point margin, but his Ferrari will probably be slower than the Red Bull this weekend, so he needs to be very careful.

If he takes either the win or 2nd place, then the championship is his, no questions asked. However, seeing as the Red Bulls are probably going to be on form in Abu Dhabi, this is unlikely, so now the fun begins. If he takes 3rd place, Webber would need to take the race win, and Sebastian Vettel would be knocked out.

If he is 4th, Webber will again need to take the win, and Vettel would still be out of the running.

However, if the Ferrari is 5th, Webber yet again needs to win, and the same goes for Vettel. However, you might notice a small problem there. If Vettel were to win, and Alonso was 5th, then they would be equal on points. FIA rules regulate that the winner would be the driver with the most 2nd place finishes, and both Alonso and Vettel have the same amount. The rule would then move to 3rd place finishes, and -surprise surprise – they have the same amount again! However, Sebastian has two 4th places to Fernando’s one, so this would most certainly be an interesting end to the championship to say the least.

If Alonso is 6th, Webber will need 2nd place, and Vettel would need to win the race. If Fernando was 7th, Mark would have to be on the podium, and Sebastian again requiring the race victory. The exact same requirements for the Red Bulls are needed if the Ferrari is 8th.

In the event of Alonso being 9th, Webber needs 4th, and Vettel needs 2nd or 1st. If Fernando is 10th, Mark would need 5th or higher, and Vettel again requires 1st or 2nd.

In the unlikely event of the Ferrari not taking any points at all, or retiring, Mark Webber would need 5th or higher, and Sebastian Vettel once again has to take 1st or 2nd. If Alonso was not to score, with Vettel 3rd and Webber 6th, then all 3 would be tied on points, but Alonso would take the title because of the “most wins” tiebreaker rule.

My prediction: Best mathematical chance, but needs to watch his back.


As you can see, with a 4-way battle for the first time ever, the amount of mathematical possibilities are greater than ever before. With all of these chances of winning the title, we are in for an epic showdown in Abu Dhabi in just a few days time!

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.

FIA fines and disqualifies USF1

USF1 have been fined €309,000 for failing to race this year

USF1 have been fined €309,000 for failing to race this year

The FIA World Motor Sport Council has announced that they have fined the USF1 team €309,000, and disqualified them from competing in any FIA championship, for failing to make the grid this year. The team had pulled out 3 weeks before the season opener, saying that they would not be ready in time.

The American project was set to become one of the 4 teams to compete in the 2010 Formula 1 season, but they failed to make the grid, because of a lack of sponsors, and their car was not ready. They requested the FIA to postpone their entry until the 2011 season, but the FIA rejected this proposal, seeing as the other teams were on course to make the grid. After USF1 pulled out, the FIA soon announced that they would be taking action against the team, as they had broken the terms of their entry.

USF1 representatives attended a hearing in Paris yesterday. In their defence, they argued that the period of uncertainty, caused by the Concorde Agreement and proposed budget cap rules during the 2009 season, had hampered their efforts. They also suggested that Bernie Ecclestone was deterring sponsors from the team, after making negative comments about them.

The FIA rejected all of these suggestions, saying that:

"The WMSC considered US F1 had cooperated fully with the FIA in its
investigation, and had been entirely open in answering the questions
of the Reporter.

The WMSC however did not consider events of 'force majeure' were
established in this case as there were no compelling supervening
events but instead this was about a lack of funds.

Nor did they accept statements from FOM [Formula One Management]
had had any real material impact.

Rather they considered that the team, whilst well-intentioned, had
displayed poor financial management and had underestimated the
requirement to present an F1 car for the 2010 season in the time
and with the financial resources available to them.

It was wholly unacceptable that the FIA was presented with only
three weeks warning of the total non-appearance of the team at the
Grand Prix in Bahrain and for the 2010 season, and WMSC members had
real concerns about the impact on the championship, not least the
deprivation of the opportunity for another team to have provided
two cars to run in the championship in 2010 instead of US F1.

The FIA has fined US F1 309,000 euros, the equivalent of the
championship entry fee and ordered it to pay the costs of the FIA
disciplinary process, and disqualified the team, "which definitively
deprives US F1 of the right to take part, in any way whatsoever, in
any competition."

Also, after having read the full WMSC report (link at bottom), it seems that USF1 were not very clear on their budget either. In December 2009, when doubts were growing over them competing in 2010, USF1 claimed that they had $26m of sponsorship money, under 3 different binding contracts, meaning that they didn’t have it yet, but the binding contract would force them to get it. However, the FIA found out that only one of these contracts were binding ($8m), meaning that the other $18m was not actually binded to USF1.

Because of this lack of sponsorship money, USF1 did not have enough capital to build their cars and spares, as the report explains:

"USF1 was unable to produce its race cars and necessary spares in 
the time available. This was a result of lack of adequate and 
timely capital investment combined with sponsorship arrangements 
which did not com to fruition or were terminated. This caused a 
delay in construction of the cars and equipment."

The Entry Fee for competing in Formula 1 is €309,000. This is a deposit for the FIA, and is later added to the deposit paid to Cosworth for their engines. USF1 had paid the Entry Fee, given the deposit to Cosworth, and also made the first payment under their contract (even though USF1 had previously stated that they did not want to use the Cosworth engines).

The FIA found out that after all of this, USF1 had “little or no financial liquidity”. The FIA were then advised that a new fine to the team would be pointless, as their lack of liquidity would mean that they would probably be unable to pay. Therefore, they were advised that “at the very least” they should force USF1 to forfeit their Entry Fee.

At the end of their report, the FIA fined USF1 €309,000 (in other words, make them forfeit their Entry Fee), disqualifying them from any taking part in any competition whatsoever (no timeframe specified), and force them to pay the FIA’s costs for this inquiry. USF1 have 7 days to appeal.

In my opinion, this is very good news. It is absolutely unacceptable that a team could pull out with only 3 weeks to go, leaving another prospective team without a space on the grid. Their situation spiralled out of control in late 2009, yet they continued to claim they would make the grid, up to February 2010. The team and investors have lost approx. €20m in total from this failed attempt to enter F1, because of poor financial management, and a lack of knowledge of the sheer effort required to enter Formula 1.

While this never should have happened in the first place, this is a good response from the FIA, considering the sheer farce of USF1’s attempt to enter F1.

Extreme gap in tyre compounds for German GP

Bridgestone F1 tyres

Bridgestone F1 tyres

Bridgestone have announced that they are to bring a 2-step gap in the tyre compounds in the tyres that they will bring to the German Grand Prix, in an effort to mix up tyre strategies. Following the Canadian GP, the Japanese company had said that they would be more radical with their tyre compound choices.

For the race in Hockenheim, Bridgestone are to bring the super-soft and hard tyres, meaning that there will be a 2-step difference in tyre compounds, the first time that this has been done this season. Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone’s head of motorsport tyre development, said that the characteristics of the Hockenheim circuit allowed this extreme tyre variation to go ahead.

However, for the next 4 races after this, there will only be 1 gap between tyre compounds. In Hungary, the super-softs and mediums will be used, and similarly for Singapore. The soft and hard tyres will be used for Belgium and Italy.. Hamashima explained these choices:

"The Hungaroring requires a softer allocation as finding grip is 
always a target there. Spa and Monza are high speed tests for 
cars and tyres, needing a harder allocation because of the heat 
durability requirements. Singapore is a high-speed street course 
where the softer allocation is suited."

Personally, I think that a 2-step difference is dangerous, as performance in the cars will vary wildly across the race. What do you think? Is this a step too far to “improve the show”, or is a simple and effective way of spicing up the racing?

Lotus make biggest leap yet

Regardless of what the blind and the ignorant say (ie. Luca Di Montezemolo), the progress of the 3 new teams so far this year has been stunning. From one of them not even making the grid, and another one only barely, to battling in the midfield only 8 races later, is nothing short of a miracle. Just last weekend, at the Canadian Grand Prix, Lotus made their biggest leap yet in charging up the field.

Their actual raw pace, in qualifying, was the first sign, as Heikki Kovalainen got dangerously close to beating the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi, and he only missed out by 2 tenths. At the season opener in Bahrain, they were more than 5 seconds off the pace in qualifying. Now though, they are only 3 seconds behind the pole position time, as shown here:

Comparison of Lotus' qualifying times against pole position times

Comparison of Lotus' qualifying times against pole position times

That was indicating the distance in time between the pole position lap, and the fastest Lotus driver. As we can see, Lotus have cut a massive 2.5 seconds off their deficit, not even halfway through their first season back in F1. It wasn’t just in qualifying only, they are also making progress in the races as well. Heikki Kovalainen successfully kept back Vitaly Petrov in the last 10 laps in Canada, for example. To make matters even better, he was racing the Russian on old tyres, which makes his performance much more impressive.

By the end of the season, I’m sure the team will want to be competing in the midfield. But, what next after that?

The team may not be the same one in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but they have kept an important relic to be used when they improve – Colin Chapman’s hat. Whenever Lotus won a race, Chapman would famously throw his hat into the air, 79 times over 2 decades. In memory of this, Tony Fernandes has been entrusted with this hat, which now goes with the team at every race. The glass case it is in reads “In case of victory, break glass”.

The question is. will Lotus ever be able to break the glass? Fernandes has previously said that he wants Lotus to be in the top 5 teams by 2013, and I think that this is a realistic target. Do you think that the new Lotus can ever win a race, and if so when?

"In case of victory, break glass"

"In case of victory, break glass"

Can Liuzzi hang on?

Vitantonio Liuzzi has been comfortably outpaced by team-mate Adrian Sutil this year

Vitantonio Liuzzi has been comfortably outpaced by team-mate Adrian Sutil this year

This is the third attempt Vitantonio Liuzzi has had in Formula 1. Only 2 of those should really be taken into consideration though, as his first stint with Red Bull was an absolute mess, as the driver rotation system left him on the sidelines far too often. Despite this, he has had plenty of time to adjust to F1, but he still hasn’t made the grade.

This season, he has been comfortably outpaced by team-mate Adrian Sutil in practically every race. He has been out-qualified 6-1 by Sutil, and that would have been 7-0 if it wasn’t for Vitaly Petrov’s crash in Monaco qualifying. So, the question is, how long can Liuzzi hang on for? Because there is increasing pressure from many sides to see him go, most notably from talented rookie test driver Paul di Resta.

As we can see here, his pace against Sutil has been very poor in the first 7 races, being out-paced in all but one race: (Don’t forget Sutil was in a first-lap collision and had an engine failure in the first 2 races)

Bah Aus Mas Chn Esp Mon Tur Points
Adrian Sutil 12 RET 5 11 7 8 9 22
Vitantonio Liuzzi 9 7 RET RET 15 9 13 10

In his entire 51 races in Formula 1, I have only seen 2 notable performances. The first was his drive to 6th place at the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix. However, this was overshadowed by him still being beated by team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who was 4th. The second good drive was Italy 2009, where he was in contention for a podium, before a transmission failure ruled him out. That was his first race returning to F1, but he has been unimpressive since then.

Some people will argue that some of it is just bad luck, and Liuzzi may well have the pace to match Sutil. However, this next chart says differently. This chart puts Sutil’s and Liuzzi’s qualifying performances together. Since qualifying is low-fuel, it is an excellent opportunity to show true pace in a driver.

(Note: If one driver was knocked out in Q1/Q2, then the other driver’s time will be from that same session, to ensure similar track conditions when the times were set.)

Bah Aus Mal Chn Esp Mon Tur
Adrian Sutil 1.54.996 1.25.046 1.50.914 1.36.671 1.21.985 1.15.318 1.27.951
Vitantonio Liuzzi 0.627 0.697 1.34 0.49 0.869 -0.257 1.007

Worse still for Liuzzi, there is a very talented youngster in the sidelines waiting for an opportunity to drive in Formula 1. Paul di Resta has been competing in several Friday Practice sessions this year, and even with such limited milage has been showing potential. Shown below are Di Resta’s times comared to Sutil and Liuzzi:

Aus Chn Esp
Adrian Sutil 1.38.008
Vitantonio Liuzzi 1.28.192 1.23.284
Paul di Resta 0.345 0.61 -0.254

As we can see, on one occasion Paul di Resta has managed to beat Liuzzi, this time in Spain. The other time, Liuzzi was faster, but only by three tenths of a second. However, that was Paul’s first ever practice session, so that is a very poor margin for Liuzzi considering that. On the other hand, when Sutil was up against Di Resta, he comfortably beat him by 6 tenths.

In my opinion, Di Resta should get Liuzzi’s seat, preferably by the British Grand Prix. Don’t forget, this is the man who, in the 2006 F3 Euroseries, beat team-mate Sebastian Vettel to the title by 11 points. A talent like this doesn’t deserve to be wasting away in DTM, so I fee that Liuzzi should make way if he doesn’t improve soon. What do you think?