For quite a few seasons, Martin Brundle has been commentating for English-language broadcasts of Formula 1. He started alongside Murray Walker, but has become the leading man in the commentary box since Murray’s retirement.
Brundle is an experienced racing driver. With 158 grand prix starts, a win at the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1990 and the World Sports Car Championship title in 1988, he has proven himself on the track. He is very familiar with how Formula 1 works, and knows what is going on among the teams, drivers and organisers. It is fortunate for us who watch Formula 1 that he is so easily able to translate his knowledge and experience into language the casual watcher of F1 can understand.
While Brundle has been a feature of F1 commentary since 1997, his co-commentators have changed a bit over the years. Murray Walker retired in 2001, to be replaced by James Allen, who featured until 2008. 2009 and 2010 saw Jonathan Legard join Brundle in the commentary box. After 2 seasons in which Legard did not seem particularly well-suited to Formula 1, he was replaced for 2011 by David Coulthard.
Coulthard is a fairly distinguished racing driver himself. He has recorded 13 F1 victories and 12 pole positions, and finished second to Michael Schumacher in the 2001 championship. He is well respected in the paddock and, judging by his 2011 commentary, extremely knowledgeable.
For 2012, there will no longer be BBC coverage of the whole season. Sky have taken up the mantle, with a dedicated HD Formula 1 channel, and have signed Brundle on to lead the commentary team. BBC will be showing only a portion of the season, but have held on to Coulthard. Unfortunately, that means the end of what was fast becoming a very successful commentary box combination.
Who will partner Brundle at Sky? Hopefully there will be an announcement fairly soon.
Kimi Räikkönen has signed a 2-year deal to return to Formula 1 with Lotus Renault GP, according to ESPNF1.com.
There was speculation that Kimi would drive for Williams next year, and it was revealed in the press that he had spoken to a few teams, Williams included. During Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Martin Brundle stated in his commentary that the Räikkönen-Williams deal had fallen through, but gave no further suggestions as to what Williams or Räikkönen might do in 2012. Now, however, it seems confirmed that he will drive for Renault.
This means, of course, that there will be 6 world champions on the grid next year. In fact, the most recent 6 world champions will all occupy the grid for the first time. Schumacher, Alonso, Räikkönen, Hamilton, Button and Vettel have never before all taken part in the same Formula 1 event, yet between them, they have dominated Formula 1 for the last 12 years.
The LRGP deal does make sense for Räikkönen. Lotus Renault GP were bold, innovative and aggressive in their approach to the 2011 season. They were building around a top driver, Robert Kubica, until he was ruled out after a rallying crash just before the season started. They are backed by Group Lotus, who clearly have the resources and determination to take the team forward. Kimi Räikkönen has landed himself in the middle of a team with a great deal of potential.
This announcement does also raise a question regarding Williams. It was generally assumed that Rubens Barrichello would be replaced if Räikkönen joined Williams for 2012. Now there is the possibility that Barrichello might keep his seat. In fairness, he hasn’t done a lot wrong this season. The Williams FW33 has not been a competitive car, and there’s not a lot Barrichello could have done with it.
As Formula 1′s most experienced driver, Rubens still has a lot to offer the sport. He has a large fan base, is popular with the paddock, and is still driving as well as he ever has. It would be a shame if he were to leave Formula 1 for any reason other than his own decision.
Mark Webber has won the Brazilian Grand Prix, but I doubt very much if it’s a victory he will savour.
Team-mate Sebastian Vettel dominated qualifying and disappeared into the lead at the start of the race. Only a gearbox problem for Vettel gave Webber a chance to challenge for the win.
It was suggested during the race commentary that the gearbox problem may have been fabricated by Red Bull to gift the win to Webber. Given the reliability of the car this season, Webber himself must be wondering the same thing.
Webber’s 2011 has, frankly, been disappointing. He has been totally outclassed by team-mate Vettel and, despite having the fastest car in the field, has finished only 3rd in the championship. Button, Alonso and Hamilton have looked much better than Webber all season, though they’ve been driving cars that are obviously inferior to the Red Bull.
Considering the depth of talent in and on the fringes of Formula 1, Webber’s place in the Red Bull team for 2012 has to be questioned. Torro Rosso drivers Algersuari and Buemi are working towards a Red Bull seat. Behind them, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne are poised to replace them. Red Bull have a strong development programme in place. Why are they hanging onto Webber when he is not delivering?
With that in mind, it seems unlikely that Red Bull would have gifted Webber the win. This is Formula 1. If he’s not good enough to win on the track, they’d be better served to replace him. So it may be simply be Webber’s good luck that he ends the season on a high. Perhaps it will provide him with the extra bit of confidence he needs to start 2012 on the right foot. Though how much confidence can he really get from winning through Vettel’s misfortune?
Saturday’s qualifying session for the Brazilian Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel break yet another record. Vettel took his 15th pole position of the season yesterday, which beats the previous record of 14 set by Nigel Mansell in 1992. Sebastian Vettel is firmly writing himself into the history books of Formula 1, motor racing, and sport as a whole.
For a racing driver, Vettel is still very young. At 24 years old, he finds himself on top of the sporting world. He is now the youngest driver to take pole, lead, score points, stand on the podium, win a race, win a championship, and become double world champion. In addition to all of the other records he’s broken this year, if he wins this afternoon he will have won 10 races from pole position this season, another record (he currently shares the record of 9 with Mansell, also from 1992).
The reasons for Vettel’s dominance are fairly clear. He has the best car, and he is the best driver. The car is obviously quick. Red Bull have occupied the front row at most of the races this season. 3 of the pole positions that haven’t gone to Vettel have been taken by his team-mate, Mark Webber. The car is visibly quicker through high-downforce corners than the rest of the field and has no trouble getting tyres up to operating temperature.
Vettel himself, however, seems to add just that little bit more that makes him untouchable. He has outqualified Webber for almost the entire season, and has won 11 races, when Webber has not yet stood on the top step of the podium this year. Vettel has been in control of almost every race, and has been able to put in quick laps whenever required. His personal dominance of the season has gone completely unchallenged, and that is remarkable considering the calibre of opposition he faces. Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Webber are talented, experienced, fast racing drivers. They must be scratching their heads.
For some time, Vettel has been compared to Michael Schumacher. It is only natural for Germans to look for the next great champion among themselves, and Vettel fits the mould easily. Certain figures in Formula 1 have compared Vettel to Ayrton Senna, referring to his raw talent. However, Vettel has now reached the stage where comparison is no longer valid. He is not like Schumacher or Senna. There is no point comparing him to the greats of the past. He is Vettel. He is already among the great drivers of Formula 1. The greats of the future may be compared to him.
It’s always difficult to interpret lap times from free practise. Only the teams know what fuel loads are in the cars, what the drivers are doing and why, and what the engineers are working on, so the order on Friday can mean nothing at all.
In Brazil, the Friday times mean even less. The track is very short, so the cars will appear closer together than they are in reality. There is also always the possibility of rain, which has the potential to upset the order. Rain is predicted on Saturday and Sunday.
Judging from the Friday times, McLaren and Red Bull seem to have the edge on everyone else. Ferrari are a little off the pace, and Mercedes appear to be reasonably close to Ferrari.
The track is an interesting one for set-up work. The first and third sectors are very fast, with quite a tight, twisty middle sector. The middle sector is generally not conducive to overtaking. The major overtaking places on the track are at the end of the start/finish straight into turn 1, and at the end of the next straight into turn 4.
The Mercedes pair of Rosberg and Schumacher were quickest in the third sector in FP2. This suggests that they are running a set-up that is more in favour of top speed than cornering speed. If either Schumacher or Rosberg were to get among the front-runners at the start, they would be very difficult to pass with such a set-up. This is a set-up that Schumacher has used very effectively earlier in the season, at Monza in particular.
Another team to watch for a similar strategy is Force India. They have historically been strong at high-speed tracks such as Spa and Monza, so expect them to be competitive in Sectors 1 and 3.
The back of the field will also be interesting to watch. Team Lotus have a new rear wing, which is designed for more efficient DRS. This should help them significantly in qualifying, where they can use DRS as much as they like. The practice times suggest that they have quite a margin over Virgin and HRT (about 1.7 seconds), and that they are reasonably close to the mid-field (about 0.6s slower than the fastest Williams). They could possibly make it into Q3 this afternoon.
It’s shaping up for a very interesting qualifying session. The close times at the front, improvements at the back, and possibility of rain all promise to yield some surprises.