Tag Archive | Brazil

Brazil – Friday Analysis

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.

The Spectacle of Formula 1

Formula 1 is at the most enthralling I’ve ever seen it. The cars, the drivers, the tracks and the regulations all contribute to what really is a fantastic show every couple of weeks.

The cars are extremely closely matched. This might not seem obvious  to someone with little experience of watching Formula 1, but the cars of 2011 are astonishingly closely matched. The gap between the fastest and slowest cars In Abu Dhabi 2 weeks ago was about 6 seconds during qualifying. While a Formula 1 car can travel a long way in 6 seconds (about 500 metres at top speed), the gap is small compared to what it might have been 20 years ago.

The cars are also unbelievably reliable. This season has seen 24 cars finish a race, something that has never happened before in the history of F1. And that was the entire field. Not a single car failed during that race. The days of watching only 5 or 10 cars finish a race are well and truly over.

5 World Champions will line up on the grid for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix. Probably in the top 8, given that they drive for the 4 top teams. What a wealth of talent! And the talent doesn’t end there. With drivers like Mark Webber, Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg alongside the champions, the competition is always sure to be fierce. Vettel, Button, Hamilton, Alonso and Schumacher know all too well they must keep improving to stay at the top.

For 2012 there is the possibility that Kimi Räikkönen will join Williams, which would push the number of World Champions up to 6. If there has ever been such a field in Formula 1 history, I’m not aware of it.

The new tracks – Korea last year and India this year – have provided some fantastic racing. Next year (fingers crossed) F1 goes to a new track in Austin, Texas. Plans for races in New Jersey and Russia are also on the table. Formula One is becoming more global, and is much better for it.

At the beginning of 2011, DRS was introduced as an attempt to increase the frequency and ease of overtaking. Many were skeptical (myself included), thinking that it would make overtaking artificial and routine. However, it has turned out to be an enormous success, and has led to hundreds of overtaking moves in a sport that was previously considered to be a procession. The return of KERS and the new Pirelli tyres have also contributed to the overtaking, and made the races more interesting to follow and exciting to watch.

Formula 1 has been transformed into a thrilling spectator sport. It is entertaining, easy to follow and gripping to watch. The organisers, the teams, the drivers and everyone else involved really have done a wonderful job. All we need now is for next season to start.

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher returned to Formula 1 racing in 2010 after a “retirement” of 3 years. Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix will be the 38th of his second Formula 1 career, which thus far has not quite lived up to expectations. Yet it has still been a fantastic story for Formula 1, and still has the potential for success.

It was hoped when he returned that Schumacher would immediately be back at the top of Formula 1. He was expected to out-pace team-mate Nico Rosberg, to fight for victories, and to be a championship contender. None of those things happened in 2010. He was soundly beaten by Rosberg throughout the season, did not appear on the podium at all, and finished 9th in the championship (his worst ever result in a full season of racing).

2011 has seen a quicker, better-adapted Michael Schumacher. The car is still off the pace, as it was in 2010, but this year he has used it to much greater effect. In the races, that is. Qualifying remains an area that needs improvement. This year he has fought well against the likes of Hamilton (who is driving a much faster car), beaten team-mate Rosberg a few times, and currently lies 8th in the championship, only 7 points behind his team-mate.

Though 2011 has clearly been a better year, Schumacher still has not stood on the podium (although he came heart-breakingly close in Canada, where the old Schumacher showed himself briefly), has not taken a pole position, and has not been seen by the front of the field as a serious contender for race victories or the championship.

Yet, despite the apparent lack of success since his comeback, Schumacher is still enthusiastic, still working hard with and for his team, and still racing for all he’s worth. He is demonstrating one of the keys to his enormous success, and that is his professionalism. He committed to the task of winning with Mercedes, and he will not rest until that is achieved. As an avid Schumacher fan, I sincerely hope it works out for him. It would be wonderful for Formula 1 to have Schumacher back on the top step of the podium. Sport needs great stories, and Schumacher has the potential to create one. Here’s looking forward to 2012.

%d bloggers like this: