Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Over the Curbs Awards – 2012

Last season was an one sided affair but 2012 was very special as not only the title once again went down to the wire but also Vettel become the youngest 3 time Champion and has become the 3rd driver after Fangio & Schumacher to win 3 straight titles. Also this year we had 8 different drivers winning the race while 6 constructors won the races with them. 2 other constructors even led the races and had realistic chance of winning.

As always many drivers do leave F1 for a variety of reasons but Schumacher has retired for good. The  legendary German driver may not have had the most successful comeback but he did have fun and finally did the podium at Valencia. Maybe he trusted Brawn too much or maybe he is not that good but again everyone does agree that for 3 years the car was never as good as the front running cars and this year there was atleast 6 cars which were better than the Mercedes.

Kimi made a very good comeback to F1 as he finished 3rd in the driver’s championship and helped Lotus achieve 4th in the constructors battle. If only he had a better teammate Lotus could have even finished runner-up in the constructor’s battle. Kimi has done well and another good season will only see the likes of Red Bull & McLaren courting him once again.

US made a return to F1 and the grand prix at Austin was a big success. Good to see F1 back in the US and all now is needed is a good American driver to race but one can only hope for a miracle to see Danica Patrick in F1 but alas it may never happen.

Among the teams, McLaren despite having one of the best cars of the season was the biggest disappointment that the team just could not challenge for the drivers title for a variety of reasons while Hamilton has made a high profile move to Mercedes and despite he having a chance to earn more, not sure if this is a right career more as Mercedes has failed to produce a good car. The outfit apart from one season as BAR and one season as Brawn has a history of producing bad cars only.

Red Bull apart from the Asian leg never really had the fastest car on the grid but Vettel showed great maturity and proved that he is truly one of the best ever as the way the won the title in a not so fast car is remarkable. Alonso can whine all he want and has proved that he is a very bad loser but Ferrari in reality never had such a bad car and in the end it was good to see Massa being faster than Alonso and team orders has to be ensured that Alonso stays ahead.

The mid-field pack was very tight but despite having a very good car Sauber & Williams could have done better had they had better drivers while Force India needs some investment if it needs to move out of this pack. Realistically these 3 teams can and should target Mercedes while Lotus can also be overhauled but again all depends on their budgets. McLaren can be target as now without Hamilton, Button is the new leader and despite being one of the most consistent drivers on the grid but with Perez as a teammate, there will be too much pressure on him and the team to challenge RBR & Ferrari.

Toro Rosso had a very lacklustre season as the teams was not fast as the mid-field pack but was well ahead of the 3 teams which joined in 2010. Caterham is lucky to finish ahead of Maurussuia as the team despite all the talk is still on par with Caterham while HRT will leave F1 after this season as they just do not have any money left.

Over the Club Awards for 2012 Season:

 Driver of the Season – Sebastian Vettel & Fernando Alonso

 Team of the Season – Red Bull Racing

 The Next Big Thing – Nico Hulkenberg

 Most Improved Driver – Sebastian Vettel

 Most Improved Team – Sauber & Williams

 Race of the Season – European Grand Prix

 Best Grand Prix – United States Grand Prix

 Worst Grand Prix – Chinese Grand Prix

 Rookie of the season – Jean-Éric Vergn

 Most disappointing driver of the Season – Kamui Kobayashi

 Most disappointing team of the Season – Mercedes

 Lucky to be in F1 (for the season) - Narain Karthikeyan

 Veteran of the Season – Kimi Räikkönen

 Comeback of the Season – Kimi Räikkönen

 Most entertaining driver of the season – Sebastian Vettel

 Most boring driver of the season – Nico Rosberg

 JV of the Season – Fernando Alonso
 (For the driver who talks utter nonsense like how JV used to do it in his racing days)

 Whiner of the season - Fernando Alonso

 Most missed Driver – Nick Heidfeld

 Least missed Driver - Rubens Barrichello

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sayonara Kobayashi?

Kamui Kobayashi had a blazing start to his F1 career during 2009 Brazilian GP and he not only finished in his debut race but also went wheel-to-wheel with the eventual 2009 title winner Jenson Button and managed to hold him of for a long enough time. In his next race in the inaugural Abu Dhabi GP, Kobayashi scored his maiden F1 points by finishing 6th in the race.

Though Kobayashi did not have a stellar F3 or a GP2 series, he took the F1 world by storm after his first 2 races but unfortunately for him Toyota withdrew from the Championship and for a short time, his career was more or less over but Sauber took a punt and placed him in his car for the 2010 season. 2010 was a bad year for Sauber as BMW had pulled out from the F1 program and the team till the last minute did not have an entry. Nevertheless Kobayashi in his first full F1 season outpaced and outclassed his vastly experienced teammate de la Rosa.

There were talks of bigger things for Kobayashi but as of now, he is not even sure of a race seat for the 2013 season. There was a time in F1 when drivers like Kobayashi could easily walk into any mid-field team but nowadays all drivers for these teams has to have some level of budgets. Kobayashi is easily one of the best drivers from Japan and still due to the severity of the economic situation, almost all Japanese companies have pulled out of F1 and now he has no backers at all.

For the last 2 races his teammate Perez has proved that he is more than capable and this season Perez with 3 podiums is on his way to McLaren for 2013 while Kobayashi is not sure of his future. Kobayashi is a very good driver but as seen from the last race he is capable of making some basic mistakes as well. Maybe if he is backed by a big organization those mistakes can be forgotten but he has no funding so whatever he does on the track is taken into account.

Sauber benefitted a lot from the Perez plan as not only Perez was pretty good as a driver but also bright in big money for the team. Now that he has left Carlos Slim is still backing Sauber for 2013 and the team maybe force to promote Esteban Gutiérrez their reserve driver to the race seat. The same Esteban Gutiérrez was not promoted when Perez was injure during the 2011 Canadian GP and instead de la Rosa drove the car.

Gutiérrez comes with decent racing credentials as he is the first ever GP3 Champion and despite spending 2 seasons with the ART team which is one of the best teams in GP2, his best result has been 3rd place during the 2012 season. He did manage to win 3 races during the year but James Calado his rookie teammate was not too far off and he did manage to outperform Gutiérrez several times during the year. Gutiérrez is clearly not ready for F1 and he needs one more season in GP2 or even Formula Renault World Series. We have seen the effects of hot-headed rookies creating chaos in F1 and we just do not need one more person.

There was a time when even the legendary Schumacher was associated with the Sauber seat but now ever since he has announced his retirement from the sport, Force India driver Nico Hülkenberg is the favourite to land a drive. Hulk has always shown that he has enough credentials as his pre-F1 career was pretty phenomenal with him being the Champion in A1GP, F3 Euro Series and GP2. Even his debut season in the Williams was not bad by any standards as by the end of the season he managed to get pole and also match his vastly experienced teammate Barrichello for pace.

This season Hulk despite being out of F1 for a year has managed to be on pace with di Resta and for the last few races have actually outperformed the Scot another highly rated youngster. Hulk will bring in more consistency to the team and if Sauber can maintain the current season level of performance, then 2013 will also be a good season for the team. But having 2 new drivers for the team may not be too productive after all especially if the rookie is still not ready for F1. Williams this year despite having a very good car has failed to score big points as they have 2 inconsistent pay drivers.

Sauber has traditionally given youngsters a chance and despite the economic situation the team may never go with 2 pay drivers. Kobayashi scored a podium at his home race in Japan this season but that may not be enough to get him a drive as so far throughout the year, Perez in only his 2nd season has outperformed him and now he will be off to McLaren.

There are others too who are gunning for Kobayashi’s seat and these includes Jaime Alguersuari, Sébastien Buemi & Heikki Kovalainen. All are in the same category as Kobayashi as drivers and they could also additionally bring in some budgets for the team. If only Honda or Toyota was present in F1 today, Kobayashi could have been the big star but unfortunately they are not there and for Kobayashi if Sauber fails to give him a contract for 2013 then his F1 career is more or less over.

It is Sayonara for Kobayashi as the other mid-field teams like Williams & Force India needs someone who can bring in the money as well while it makes no sense for his to go to a backmarker. Tough times ahead for Kobayashi and we all can just hope that this will not be the last season we see of this driver.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Into the Unknown!

It is official as we now head towards uncharted territory! For the first time in the history of the sport 7 different drivers have won the first 7 races of the season. Apart from 7 different drivers, 5 different constructors have also won the races while the likes of Lotus and Sauber have hit the podium multiple times now.

Usually F1 has never witnessed this level of chaos since early 80’s and usually when the European part of the season begins, the pecking order is clear but this season despite after 7 races no one really know who actually has the pace. At the beginning of the season McLaren and Lotus were the 2 teams with pace but McLaren despite winning 2 races, the car has not really evolved much after the first race and the team has made some costly errors and now the team is trailing Red Bull in the Championship. Red Bull had a difficult start to the season but despite that they are leading the constructors table with both Vettel and Webber in the top 4 of the drivers’ championship with only a few points adrift of the current leader Hamilton who got the lead only after winning the last race.  

Red Bull due to some consistent driving and innovative strategy are looking good despite not have the best car in the grid. Another team which had a poor start was Ferrari. Ferrari’s start was so poor that it was widely expected that the team will not even get regular podium finishes but due to a mix of luck and some brilliant driving by Alonso, Ferrari still has an outside chance for the constructor’s championship if Massa pulls up his act while Alonso is one of the favorites for the driver’s championship. Right now on the grid, Alonso is the best driver and if the likes of Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton were driving the Lotus or even the likes of Williams or Sauber, they could have won almost every race.

Lotus despite having a very fast car and though the results are good for the team and it just seems like a win is just around the corner need to be more consistent. Both the drivers and the team need to show more consistency if it needs to challenge for the titles. Another team which has had a very mixed result has been Mercedes. Despite having a pretty strong car and Rosberg winning his first race, the team is yet to show the level of consistency which can make it genuine contenders for the title. Schumacher has been plagued by bad luck that had he not had it he may have well even been leading the title race now.

It is always good to see a strong Williams’s team and despite having 2 pay drivers, the team has done reasonably well. They managed to break their win draught and now after such a miserable season last year, the team is on its way up. If only had both its drivers done the job, the team would have been comfortably ahead Sauber & Mercedes. Maybe even Ferrari would have been at their sight. The team has shown that it can still produce a good car and hopefully we will see a good fast racer join the team next season as the team can progress well.

Sauber has shown that the results in Malaysia is now fluke and the team does have good pace but then it at times have struggled in a few tracks. Pérez is not that consistent and he is still a few years away from a drive with Ferrari but compared to his teammate Kobayashi, he is doing a far better job. Kobayashi is struggling despite his promising start to his F1 career and he needs to show some good results or else a chance with a top team which already is looking slim maybe lost forever. There was a time when there was call for Ferrari to replace Massa with Kobayashi but not that seems like distance memory.

Force India after having a brilliant season last year is actually having a good season despite where they are placed in the table. They have the most promising line-up on the grid and the resurgence of Williams & Sauber along with the way Lotus and Mercedes have upped the game, things do look bad for the team. The problem for the team is that they have not managed to raise their game to the likes of Williams, Sauber & Lotus while they are very comfortably ahead of Toro Rosso. It does look like Force India will have a lonely battle in the middle as their rivals are ahead of them while FI are just no match for Toro Rosso at the moment.

Among the rest Toro Rosso scored its customary early season points and if we do go by tradition, then we need to wait till the end of the season for them to score again. But in the last few years the team has taken the battle to the midfield teams but this season the midfield bunch has gone up leaving STR at times time battle with Caterham. Not that Caterham has caught up with STR but they are nearly there and STR needs to up its game a bit.

Marussia and HRT still make up for numbers while Caterham for all their hype on how they plan to score points still look a long way from it. Maybe a race with rain and incident could be the only realistic chance for these teams to score points.

It is still early days but among the drivers Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel looks like the guys who will fight for the Championship while the likes of Webber, Rosberg and even Kimi could be the dangerous floater. Massa looks like he is on a revival while Jenson Button after winning the 1st race of the season is woefully out of form.

There are still drivers like Schumacher, Kimi, & Massa who have all won races in the past to win races this season as they all have the machinery to do it. While the likes of Grosjean and Pérez scoring their first win is also possible.

It is going to be a very exciting season and the driver who has been very consistent and also at times brave with strategy looks like the guy who will win the championship at the end of the year. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Australian GP 2012 & Beyond!

The first race of the season got over last week in Melbourne and if we are to take anything from it the pecking order is still not too clear and I guess we will know the true order only by the European Leg of the season. Jenson Button managed to win the race while Hamilton after a good pole performance managed to come only 3 and should be disappointed as his teammate in an identical car has outperformed him during the race once again. Hamilton as a driver is drastically going down while Button ever since his title win with Brawn has improved a lot as a driver and with the right machine could be a very serious threat for the title.

Vettel & Red Bull who many expected to smoke everyone once again will find this season tougher than they though it will be but in the end Vettel coming 2nd in a car which was slower than McLaren is a good result and I do expect Red Bull to catch up with McLaren very soon. Webber also had a pretty decent result in coming in 4th but one thing is certain and it may just be the 1st race of the season but Vettel already looks like a better driver and Webber winning the title is something which looks like will never happen anymore.

Ferrari as expected had a horrible race but Alonso salvaged it for the team by coming in 5th in a car which truly does not deserve to be in the top 10 itself. Ferrari needs to do something real soon as a driver as good as Alonso just cannot go about driving car which is bad compared to the title contenders. Also it is time Ferrari drops Massa as he is not good and with Massa in the other car the team by the end of the season will struggle to even finish in the top 3 in the constructors table.

Mercedes & Lotus have made lot of improvement and though it is still early days and Mercedes for all their talk in the end failed to score points but the car does have potential and if the team can solve the mechanical issues they can challenge for podiums while Lotus traditionally have always had good starts but it is up to the team to capitalize on this and as far as the Australian GP is concerned despite their bad luck and poor planning during qualifying the team managed to score points and Kimi is rusty but by the team the European leg comes he will be up to speed which means that the big teams has to worry about Lotus as Kimi in a fast car is always a threat.

Sauber looks pretty decent and if they just manage to continue their progress they can take away crucial points from top teams and it is also a very important season for both Kobayashi and Pérez as a few seats will be vacant next year and a very good performance could see them land up with good seats in top teams. Williams is one team which had made a huge improvement from the previous year and at one stage it was looking good for even a 5th place with Maldonado but then he rather lost it in the last lap and despite him showing good speed there were crucial points which the team cannot lose. Always a decision to go with 2 pay drivers is not a good one and this may hurt the team in the end of the season.

Daniel Ricciardo is his debut Australian GP scored points in his home race while teammate Vergne making his debut for the Toro Rosso team had a decent race and managed to bring him the car in the 11th place. Force India another team which was supposed to be fast will have their hands full this year as they have set high ambitions of finishing 5th this season and this will be a tough ask as the likes of Sauber, Williams and even Toro Rosso looks string while Mercedes and Lotus have improved a lot.

Among the 3 new teams Marussia finished the race while Caterham despite the pre-season hype had issues and looks like another season where they will be quicker than Marussia and HRT while they will fail to catch up with the middle pack as the middle pack has just become faster. HRT is an embarrassment at this level and they fail to qualify for the race with the 107% rule being enforced upon. They look like they will yet again fail to qualify in Malaysia and the campaign looks like a long tough one for them.

Still early days but one thing is certain is that Red Bull will not dominate the season as it did last season while Ferrari is in real danger of being in the mid-pack if they do not do much to improve the car. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

F1 2012 Season: Preview, Thoughts & Predictions!

The biggest news going into this season has been the comeback of the 2007 World Champion Kimi with the Lotus Renault team while Williams which is a deep free fall into F1 obscurity has tied up with Renault in a hope to rekindle the magic which resulted in total dominance in the early 90’s. Apart from that there have not been any big name moments between teams.

This is the team line-up for the 2012 season:

Red Bull Renault – Vettel/Webber
McLaren Mercedes – Button/Hamilton
Ferrari – Alonso/Massa
Mercedes AMG – Schumacher/Rosberg
Lotus Renault – Kimi/Grosjean
Force India Mercedes – di Resta/Hulk
Sauber Ferrari – Kobayashi/Perez
Toro Rosso Ferrari – Ricciardo/Vergne
Williams Renault – Maldonado/B Senna
Caterham Renault – Heikki/Petrov
HRT Cosworth – de la Rosa/Narain
Maurussia Cosworth – Glock/Pic

The Lotus issue has been solved now with Renault F1 becoming Lotus while Team Lotus has become Caterham while even Virgin has now become Maurussia. Mercedes have also added AMG to their name.

Among the drivers, the longest servicing F1 driver Rubens Barrichello was given the boot by Williams while fellow veteran Jarno Trulli who was originally supposed to drive this season was replaced at the last minute by Petrov. Sutil was also dropped by Force India while Toro Rosso went for a total clean-up as they replaced both Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari were dropped. Others missing from the grid includes Nick Heidfeld, Vitantonio Liuzzi & Jérôme d'Ambrosio. Atleast d'Ambrosio & Buemi have landed up reserve driver roles.
The pre-season testing is always interesting and though this season it looks very close when you look at the time of various drivers but Red Bull looks like the favorites once again while McLaren could have a car which can challenge for the title. Ferrari seems to have got it wrong and so this could be another year where Ferrari will struggle and this time around they could be lucky to retain the 3rd place in the constructors table. Mercedes is looking strong and looks good to challenge for regular podium places while if you look at pre-season pace Lotus is looking very dangerous and if they actually have a fast car and with Kimi behind the wheels they can upset some big teams.

The mid-field once again looks tight but early signs show that Force India looks more likely the team which can break away from this pack while Toro Rosso could also surprise a lot of people. Sauber looks ok but nothing special from the team and they will actually do well to finish 7th like last season while Williams will just feel good beating these teams are gone are the days where you had Williams challenging for the title. Caterham will do anything just to score a point while HRT & Maurussia just make up for the numbers. Atleast Maurussia is trying hard; HRT is nothing but a joke.

My Predictions for 2012:

2012 World Drive’s World Champion: Sebastian Vettel
2012 World Constructor Championship: Red Bull Racing
Disappointment of the Season: Ferrari
Sure to get Fired: Massa
Sure to change Teams: Lewis Hamilton
Sure to Quit the Sport: Mark Webber
Surprise Package of the Year: Lotus/Force India
Rookie of the Year: Jean-Éric Vergne

Friday, February 17, 2012

The New Era of Pay Drivers!

Pay Drivers have always been on the grid in F1 and will always remain in the sport! It is just next to impossible to avoid pay drivers in F1. In a sense both Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso both had to pay for their first slots but then it was by their sponsors, which is similar to few drivers in the grid and it does not always mean that they are bad. There are 2 types of pay drivers – one who are good but needs some financial backing to get into the sport and others well little said about them is better. Also there are talented drivers who have vanished from the sport because of lack of funds while some mediocre ones continue to appear on the grid.

Ever since the strict tobacco bans came about one sport which has been deeply affected is F1. There was a time when Marlboro was sponsoring both Ferrari & McLaren and nearly every single car on the grid has some cigarette brand on them. Smoking cigarette is injurious to health but just because we see Marlboro on Ferrari does not mean that we are going to go out rushing and buying packs. If Alonso smokes a Marlboro and then drives it may influence people but then having stickers on car does not influence at all. It has been more than a decade since the ban kicked on and people still smoke. Everyone millions of new people join the smoking brigade.

With the global economy in a very bad state there was a time when the top companies had the budget of a third world country but gone are those days and barring a few teams a majority of them lack cash and would not mind more money coming in. Cost cutting and other FIA introduced policies may work but then this is F1 the pinnacle of motorsport so I personally feel like the best of technology should be showcased. I do agree testing 365 days a year is a bit too much but next to zero testing is also not good. FIA for its bit got in 3 news teams recently and among them only Caterham have been decent while Maurussia is there just to get track time while HRT well is a big joke! I would rather see only 10 teams than have 14 teams with teams like HRT on the grid.

In the current grid there are as many as 7 who are in some way of the other classified as pay drivers but then a few can hold on their spot on but still in way their pay driver status helps them get a spot easily over their rivals. Paul di Resta is good enough for a top team but his Force India ride is easier with the Mercedes backing he receives while Sergio Pérez is good enough to be part of the Ferrari Driver Academy but still his Carlos Slim backed sponsorship makes it easier for Sauber to hire him. Williams a team with such a rich heritage is now forced to have 2 pay drivers. Both Bruno Senna[ and Pastor Maldonado’s credentials are debatable but without their money there is no way that they will be driving for Williams. Also Williams Nico Hülkenberg after a very impressive rookie season for Maldonado’s oil money.
Then there are guys like Narain Karthikeyan who have no business to be in F1 but is still there because of sponsorship money! Here is a driver who is in his mid-30’s in a team which is yet to have a car ready and all this is not at all good for the sport. He maybe a decent driver but without the money there is no chance that he would have made it to F1. Karun is a much better driver who is also younger and it would have been wise for Tata to spend money on him rather than NK. Maurussia has a habit of picking a pay driver for each season and the latest one is Charles Pic. He is young decent driver and could go on for bigger things but currently he is on the grid because he has the sponsors with him.

Romain Grosjean is a very interesting case as he was part of the Renault driver program and though he made his debut for Renault in a controversial way there are people who still feel that he deserves a fair chance in F1 but then he is in Lotus because he is managed by Gravity and also he is still Renault backed so it made sense for Lotus to give him his chance. Petrov the former Lotus driver may still upstage Trulli for the Caterham drive while Sutil though is not a pay driver he does brings with him some sponsorship which will always be helpful. In fact Webber was part of the package when Red Bull got Renault engines but no way can you call a guy like Webber a pay driver.

Pay drivers are not good for the sport but then it is better to have talented pay drivers like Perez & even di Resta rather than have someone like NK still having a go at F1 at the expense of a younger driver. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Early Days!

It is still early days and the first test is never a benchmark for the season but we can assume a few things as always with this test. In an historic season which will see 6 World Champions on the track with the comeback of Kimi Räikkönen, the season on paper looks to be the most exciting season. 2007, 2008 and 2010 were the most exciting season in recent times while the dominance of Red Bull and Vettel was too much during the course of last season that even Mark Webber in a similar car to Vettel could just not match his pace.

This season the likes of Ferrari and McLaren have said that they will be challenging RBR right from the start while Mercedes & Lotus wants to challenge the big 3. So far based on the times, we can say that right now Red Bull once again has the car which everyone has to beat but then the difference between theirs and their challengers could not be determined and it is still early days. McLaren over the last few seasons despite not having the best of starts eventually catch up with speed towards the end of the season. This is good news for the team with regard to the development pace but then too many times the lead is just too much that the team realistically just cannot catch with the Championship team.

Ferrari is having a sense of Déjà vu of the early 90s’s as they once again do not have the pace to beat the best team but then they are better than the rest. Ferrari has promised something different for this season but unless they do something drastic in the next few weeks they will not be race winners during the 1st half of the season. The F2012 has problems and they need to be solved quickly. Lotus may not be able to do a Brawn but they do have a car which can consistently fight for podium finishes. Which is actually good news for the team where last season they were nearly caught by the Force India.

Mercedes may have topped the timing but it was with a 2011 car and the team needs to show that it has in it to fight the top 3 teams. This could be Schumacher’s last season and though a win may be very tough a few podium finishes could be good while Rosberg needs to show that he is actually a driver capable of a World Championship as given how he is in his career it could either go the Button way or the Heidfeld way!

Force India aspires to come 5th in the Championship and they certainly have the most existed driving pairing in recent times so if the car is good then they can challenge the likes of Lotus and Mercedes. But then the team does needs funds and given the current size they are punching well above their weight. They have new sponsors in Sahara who do have bucket loads of cash while with UB in a mess don’t expect too much from VJM this season.

Among the others STR looks most likely to finish ahead of Sauber who are short of funds while Williams now are quickly going down the original Team Lotus route. The team missed an opportunity to sign Kimi and even though they have Renault engines now, Williams are right at the bottom and they need to be careful as the likes of Caterham will be looking to beat them. Maurussia will have a car but HRT is one team which should not be allowed on the grid. The team’s flawed principle on how it views F1 is not a good thing for the sport. Would rather see David Richards and his Prodrive team or even ART GP instead of this team.