Sunday, 26 June 2011

Europe: post-race analysis

Since Canada:

Ugh. There are increasing reports that the BBC, which receives more guaranteed funding than NASA, has chosen not to spend on F1 despite it being hugely popular and the coverage being excellent. This means it will probably either end up on ITV (hopefully they won’t run bloody adverts during live racing again) or Sky, which I don’t have. Marvellous. And by ‘Marvellous’ I of course mean ‘Whoever made that decision deserves to be fired from some sort of giant artillery gun into the heart of the sun’.

The contract ends in 2014, but rumour has it some penny-pinching arsehead is intent upon breaking the contract early.

In other news, there’s no throttle map alteration between qualifying and race, so this should reduce Red Bull’s qualifying advantage. However, it’s so vast I’d be unsurprised if Vettel got pole.

Qualifying summary:

No tips, as I only had a few minutes and it looked like Vettel would get pole at short odds.

I missed this live and saw snippets online. Sadly no change at the front, and whilst it’s nice to see the Ferraris seemingly more competitive we’ll have to see if this is borne out during the race.

Race summary:

Betting-wise, I only offered one tip, and Button never threatened to get a podium so it wasn’t even hedgable, alas.

From a racing perspective Valencia/Europe was always going to suffer by comparison with the epic Canadian Grand Prix, but, even given that, I think it’s fair to say Europe was the most tedious race of the season.

Every single car finished, which is great if you get turned on by reliability, but if you aren’t a Volvo salesman it does indicate the tedium of the race. Most of my underlying assumptions regarding Button were wrong. Webber did suffer slightly from tyre degradation, but not so much it cost him a podium spot. Massa did have decent pace and neither Alonso nor Hamilton crashed out or had a similar issue. I was right about Vettel being over the hills and far away. He won with depressing ease, to be honest.

More importantly, McLaren lacked race pace. They were clearly inferior to Ferrari but superior to Mercedes, and I’ll go into more detail about that in the musings below.

Schumacher had another bad time in Valencia, mostly because his front wing was ruined by a Renault, meaning he had to stop again, and he then ran out of option tyres.

Alguersuari got a great eighth for Toro Rosso and Perez almost managed to make a one-stopper work again, but in the end had to settle for 11th.

I’d imagined the processional boredom of Valencia would’ve been blown away by the delights of KERS, DRS and the Pirelli tyres. Instead, it was just a bit dull. Vettel was never threatened, most of the cars had a substantial gap both ahead and behind them, and there wasn’t even an exciting crash to liven things up. The good news is that Silverstone’s a proper circuit, and we’re there in a fortnight.


Why were McLaren so rubbish in the race? Well, Button did get stuck behind Rosberg for a bit, which hampered him early on, but throughout both cars were slower than Ferrari. Button also had a KERS failure, but I don’t think that made a difference to his finishing position.

There are a few potential explanations. I do not believe the circuit is especially bad for them, as they got two podium places last year. It is possible the loss of hot/cold blowing changes from qualifying to race actually hit them hardest, but a perhaps the more probable explanation is that it was hot and that this disproportionately affected the McLaren.

Next race will see the hot/cold blowing banned entirely. Silverstone is a pretty McLaren-friendly circuit, so they absolutely must aspire to beat Red Bull in Blighty.

Interestingly, every single one of the five tips I considered (Ferrari win at 9.2, 18 or fewer drivers at 2.96, Safety Car at evens, Massa to finish outside the top 6 at 2 and the Button tip) was wrong. That doesn’t speak well of my betting eye this weekend, but at least I only bet and tipped one of them.

Button and Webber are tied on 109 points, a full 77 behind present and future World Champion Sebastian Vettel. I really can’t see him losing from here.

All good things come to an end, but hopefully I’ll be able to offer some better tips for the race in Silverstone, and I’m pretty sure the race will be a damned sight better than a Spanish procession.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Canada: post-race analysis

Since Monaco:

Whilst Hamilton’s outburst was still stupid, evidence has emerged suggesting he was perhaps harshly treated regarding the Maldonado penalty (although it didn’t actually cost him anything). More info here:

More importantly, Bahrain has returned from the racing dead and will now take over India’s slot in October, with India’s inaugural race being shifted to December as the final race of the season. I think this is wrong on numerous levels. It appears to give an endorsement to the Bahrain Government, it over-stretches an already full season and it means that the off-season is far too short. [Including the provisional Turkish GP, 2012 has a 21 race calendar, which exceeds the informal desire of the teams to have a maximum of 20].

Update: pissups and breweries spring to mind. The FIA suddenly remember they’ve ignored their own rule that all teams must agree to any calendar change (and none of them wanted to go to Bahrain) and it’s not terribly clever for publicity to visit a country in such circumstances. I feel most sorry for the Indian chaps, who have been dicked about by FIA incompetence, and those who may have cancelled airline tickets to India only for the race to return to its initial calendar slot.

Perez did P1 but declared himself not quite up to racing, so his seat (for Canada) is taken by de la Rosa. Hopefully that’s just a one-off, as Perez has generally been quite impressive.

Qualifying summary:

Rubbishly, I got both tips wrong. Vettel, yet again, got pole. I was pleased to see the Ferraris putting in competitive times, and 2nd and 3rd puts them in a great position for the race, but was utterly baffled by the lack of pace from Mercedes.

The much hyped McLarens did poorly, getting only 5th and 7th. Apparently, this is because they ran more front wing (a wet setup) which reduced their straight line speed. Effectively, they compromised qualifying pace for an optimal (if it rains) race setup.

Less explicable is the poor pace from the Silver Arrows. It was overcast and cooler, but they went from very competitive in practice to also-rans in Q3. Di Resta got 11th, just missing out on the final session.

Race summary:

Canada last year was probably the most baffling, complicated and exciting race. This year, it was extraordinary in even more ways.

First off, betting. Last year I offered 4 tips and managed to get all wrong. I did equally ‘well’ this year in qualifying, with 2 tips wrong, but happily my McLaren tip for the win (at 5.9, with a hedge at evens) came off, in dramatic fashion. For those interested, over the course of the season so far not hedging is rather more profitable.

Bad weather had been forecast and duly arrived. Personally I think the safety car start was unnecessary, that it stayed out too long both initially and following the red flag restart.

The first tranche of racing laps were remarkable mostly for Hamilton getting involved in incidents. The Maldonado incident in Monaco showed the wisdom of reserving judgement (it seemed at the time to be Hamilton being reckless but actually was probably not the case when screenshots were seen afterwards). He tapped and spun Webber and then hit Button later. Button was ok, but Hamilton’s rear suspension was broken and he became the first retirement.

More rain came, and we had a second consecutive red flagged race. Hours, literally, of waiting ensued. Button was well down the field at this stage (I forget how far back). He got a drive-through penalty for excessive speed whilst following the safety car, and at one point was 21st on the grid.

Because some drivers hadn’t bothered with intermediates, the top few looked unusual. Naturally, Vettel was there, serene in 1st. Kobayashi was second, followed by Massa then the two Renaults. Webber and Alonso had opted for intermediates just before the heavy rain and were well down the field, albeit ahead of Button.

The race restarted under the safety car, which stayed out so bloody long numerous drivers almost immediately dove into the pits for intermediates. It wasn’t long after that that the drivers switched to the supersoft dry tyres, and then magic happened on the track.

Vettel was still leading, but Schumacher, who had caught and passed both Massa and Kobayashi was closing him down. A few laps later Webber was chasing down Schumacher, but then was Button, flying faster than anyone else had in the race. Sadly, yet another safety car appeared and the first three became close (there was a Virgin backmarker between Button and Webber). At this stage there were roughly 10 laps left.

The safety car departed, and Button cleared first the Virgin, then Schumacher and Webber. Webber managed to pass Schumacher for the final podium spot (bit of a shame) and on the penultimate lap Button was close enough to Vettel to deploy the DRS. The gap was just under a second going into lap 70 of 70. But then, the Weltmeister made an extremely rare mistake, straying onto the wet part of the track, and Button passed him, halfway through the last lap, to achieve the most unlikely and sensational of wins.

The race (which lasted about 4 hours and 5 minutes) was the longest in F1 history, with more time spent waiting for the restart than actually racing, I believe. Button had 6 pit stops (including the drive-through) to Vettel’s 3 and rose from 21st to 1st.

Hopefully I haven’t missed too much of importance. Bizarre to watch a 4 hour Grand Prix then write it up past 11pm.


The mid-season review will actually be after race 11 (Hungary), as that’s just a week after Germany and then there’s a 4 week gap to Spa.

Button’s under investigation for a collision with Alonso which saw the Spaniard retire from the race. I think it (like most collisions today) was a racing incident and hope nothing comes of it.

The soft tyres made no appearance in the race, but they and the supersoft held up surprisingly well in Canada, given the harder Bridgestones degraded rapidly last year.

The next race is in Valencia in a fortnight’s time.

Morris Dancer