Sunday, June 28, 2009

Man or the Machine

This has been a highly debated thing since the early 90’s where we always wanted to know how much of a difference does a driver make to the team and also how much does he needs from a car to go on and dominate the series.

Jensen Button was dominating the 2009 season till Silverstone where an inspired Vettel and his RBR car pulled off such a dominating performance that now suddenly Brawn’s dominating season may not be as dominating as one would expect and the Red Bull team can pose a very serious challenge to both the titles which just a week ago was all set to be won by Brawn without even sweating out much.

Button made in debut during the 2000 season for the Williams F1 team and though he was never pulled off a rookie performance like a Hamilton or a Jacques Villeneuve but still he was impressive enough was immediately touted as a potential world champion in the coming years. But then after 2 years in the Renault/Benetton teams he switched to the BAR team and inspite of a contract lock-up with the Williams team which he eventually got out from, he stuck with the BAR team which became Honda and finally it turned up as the Brawn GP team.

There was a stage when Button became from a potential champion to a very consistent F1 driver and at one stage BAR/Honda test driver Antony Davidson was said to be as good as Button but if nit for his looks and contacts he should have been in Button’s race seat and not Jenson Button!!!

Now Button’s performance this season is compared with the performance which Schumacher put during his championship winning 2004 season. Schumacher has proved that he could infact be the best possible driver ever to have raced in F1 but not only ending up owning every possible F1 record possible but also joining a languishing Ferrari and making it into the superpower that it is now. Prost and Senna were great drivers of the 80’s but they never were part of a team which was struggling to score points, they were always with the best.

How do you judge the driver’s skills unless they all have identical cars but then this is done at junior formula levels and by the time a driver enters F1, you know how much potential he will have. I am sure that everyone on the grid knows that Kazuki Nakajima is never a world champion potential and he is in F1 thanks to Toyota’s connection with Williams while teammate Rosberg can potentially be a world champion if he does have a good car.

There are drivers who are good and they also need a very good package to win races and world titles and these includes the likes of Kimi, Massa, Hamilton and even Button but then there are drivers who no matter how much bad the car can be, they still put up an astounding performance day in and day out and currently on the grid Alonso and Vettel does it. Alonso has proved once again this season that it is just not about the cars and he can pull off an amazing performance even with a poor car.

Sebastian Vettel is a once in a lifetime sort of talent and he has taken the Schumacher route to F1 and everyone still remembers his first win at Monza with the Toro Rosso team at rainy conditions where more experienced drivers were struggling for grip while Vettel having his first full season took an amazing win or his overtaking on Hamilton at last year’s Brazilian GP where Hamilton driving one of the best cars on the grid but Vettel on a Toro Rosso overtook him at the last lap to go with ease.

If it was strictly cars which make a difference then Rubens Barrichello should have won atleast one world championship now as he had a nearly identical car to Schumacher and now to Button. But then though how much ever he may crib about team orders and all, there has never been a whole season where he has consistently beaten either Schumacher or Button.

It is not only the cars but the drivers also matter but off late the car element has gone up so much that and though Jenson Button is a good driver, there are atleast half a dozen guys on the grid who are better than him but still thanks to a very good car he is able to put a dominating show whereas guys like Alonso is struggling to even score points.

It will be amazing if both Alonso and Vettel would join Ferrari by 2011 and if Ferrari can produce a car which is as good as anyone on the field then it would be amazing to watch 2 of the best drivers on the grid battle it out with an equal package and we can surely know that who is the best among the lot as right now if you forget the car and go by sheer driving skills, then Alonso and Vettel are surely on top of the grid by ease now.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

2009 British GP: Bulls on Rampage as Vettel conquers Silverstone!

Sebastian Vettel started his impossible championship quest against Jenson Button’s massive lead in what could be the last British GP at Silverstone. Vettel had a perfect weekend as he not only won the race but also managed a triple crown of getting his car on pole and also having the fastest lap of the race. Vettel showed total dominance as he was a good half a second faster than any other car of the field and even his teammate Webber who came 2nd was not fast enough to catch up with the young German who is tipped to be the future of F1.

Rubens Barrichello said before the race that he will try to win the British GP but though he managed to come 3rd and get the last podium place it was very important for him to come ahead of his teammate Button and prove that he is no way behind Button. Though this result does not see a major shift in the driver’s championship but it was important for Barrichello to close in the gap and also try to challenge Button for the world title. Brawn has to be a bit worried about the pace of Red Bull as though they may have a good enough lead to get Button to the driver’s championship, but the constructor’s title is still wide open and Red Bull is fast catching up and a few more races like this could make it neck and neck.

Ferrari had a very decent weekend as they are fast catching up with Toyota and trying to go after the 3rd spot among the constructors as Massa thanks to a very solid drive and good strategy managed to come 4th while teammate scored the last of the points by coming in 8th. Ferrari is still behind Brawn and Red Bull but they are definitely ahead of the rest of the pack and it is very important for them to get both the cars on points consistently.

Nico Rosberg had a very good race as he even had a chance of getting on to the podium but he had to fight for his 5th place with an inspired Button chasing him right through the end. His teammate Kazuki Nakajima though at one stage was as high as 4th but his strategy was not good enough for through the race and he could only come in 11th.

Trulli came in 7th for Toyota while Glock just could not upstage Kimi for the last championship points. Though it was disappointing for the Toyota team who at one stage of the season was as fast as the Brawn cars but now they are way behind not only Red Bull and Brawn but also Ferrari seems to have a slight edge over them and Williams seems to be catching up on them too.

It was a miserable race for the McLaren team as neither driver scored points or even remotely looked like challenging for them while Hamilton did provide some entertainment but have a scrap with the likes of Alonso and Kubica at the back of the field while teammate Heikki Kovalainen is classified last after having a racing incident where he and STR’s Bourdais both had to retire after that. It should also be noted that Williams have overtaken McLaren in the constructor’s title and now sitting in 5th while former champions Renault failed to score points but Alonso once again put up a determined show.

BMW had a race to forget as I think the best for the team is to give up on this season and just focus on the upcoming season while Toro Rosso must be happy having score some points early on in the season as they seem to be behind everyone else and even Force India seem to be pretty strong and this season they had a package which was faster than the likes of McLaren, BMW and Renault which is very impressive for the smallest team on the grid.

It was a very good race and hopefully this should not be the last race at this historic venue as over the years Silverstone has produced some brilliant moments and this year too it was a very impressive show by Vettel and Webber for Red Bull while Barrichello showed that ages does not matter. Hopefully Vettel and Barrichello can challenge Button for the title and we call hope that the 2009 season goes down the wire and we have a similar finish to the 2007 and 2008 seasons where the titles were decided at the last race.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

British GP Preview: Will Button Conquer Silverstone?

Jenson Button is having a Schumacher style season and so far this year his performance has been compared to the 2004 season in which Schumacher won 13 out of the 18 races. So far Button has won 6 out of 7 and no driver including his teammate Barrichello who drives a similar car has not come close to challenging him. Now with Silverstone having its last F1 race, Button could give it a fitting farewell by winning his 7th race of the season here but apart from some misfortune, Barrichello seems to be the only person who can stop him and winning ahead of Button at Silverstone will definitely hurt Button the most.

Though Red Bull and Ferrari showed an improvement in performance levels, but both the cars where no way close to Brawn GP and come this Sunday doesn’t expect them to upgrade its performance to the level of Brawn GP. Both RBR and Ferrari need a mix of luck, brilliant driving and a sound strategy to dislodge Brawn and Button from their winning ways. Vettel and Red Bull won in wet conditions in China and they should be praying that it should rain during the British GP during the weekend so that they can once again show their dominance during the wet weather conditions. Button of all the people knows how rain can turn a race topsy turvy as he won his first race thanks to rain.

With much news coming from outside the racing tracks, it is time for the teams to go and track and perform to the best as after 2 exciting seasons we are down to a season where one team is running away with both the titles and the second best team seems to be a few seconds off pace. Well Schumacher and Ferrari managed it in 2004 as they had the Tifosi to back them and this group of fans make up close to 70% of the viewers while Brawn’s Cinderella story at first seem to be heartbreaking and fresh is now fast becoming stale and unless the likes of Vettel and Red Bull start winning this could be the most boring F1 season ever. Also it would be good if the old guards of F1 like Ferrari, McLaren and Renault can also see the winner’s step.

Toyota seems to be back in form with Trulli coming in 4th while teammate Glock came in 8th. They at one stage seem to be the genuine challengers to Brawn GP but now if they can hold off the likes of Ferrari, Williams and the fast improving BMW team it would be a great result for them. Atleast finishing 3rd in the constructors’ championship looks achievable so far and it would be great for the team if they can actually pull it off.

Williams do need a miracle and unless Rosberg wins a race this season there is now way that he is going to stay with the team for the next season and with the likes of BMW, Renault and even McLaren expected to get stronger as the season proceeds, Williams needs these points to stay float or else they make join the likes of Lotus and Brabham in F1 history books.

McLaren after a horrific start to season needs points in Silverstone to salvage on what has become a nightmare of a season and they will target atleast a top 5 finish in the championship but will have to fight out the likes of Williams, Renault and BMW.

Alonso and Renault will be hoping for an improved performance and Alonso once again this season has proved to be the ultimate driver and if Renault can pull off something, even a podium finish is possible with Alonso behind the wheels while teammate Piquet will have to drive his best if at all he has to survive till the end of the season with the team.

STR and Force India will fight out who gets out of Q1 this time but STR seem to be the better of the 2 with both its driver scoring points but Force India has come dangerously close in scoring points this season and what better place than Silverstone to score it’s maiden point but with some updates coming in for the car expect the team to atleast challenge the STR cars.

Button should be the favourite to win the race but do expect Barrichello to challenge him while this could be the place where Vettel can start on his quest on mathematically challenging Button for the World Championship while Ferrari would want to prove that it is the best among the rest.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

2009 Turkish GP: Button Clips Red Bull’s Wings!

Jenson Button won his 6th race of the season and his 4th in a row to win the Turkish GP in a very comfortable fashion. Though he started from P2, a minor mistake by Vettel on the first lap allowed him to take the lead and show the true pace of Brawn which was much superior then Red Bull’s pace. Though on paper both Vettel and Red Bull may have an outside chance, it is unlikely that Button and Brawn are going to lose grip on both the Championships and they could well be on their way to celebrate both the titles by the 10th race of this season.

There was much talk about Ferrari’s revival but it was another race where the scarlet red team disappointed while Massa fought hard and came 6th, Kimi had a very poor race and instead of being in the points came a lacklustre 9th place. Ferrari has a lot to things ahead and with the British GP in just 2 weeks time plus all the out of track action with the battle between FIA and Ferrari led FOTA still on, a lot of interesting things will happen in the coming weeks.

Though Brawn is building up a lead with every other race, Red Bull is having their best season and not only they are 2nd in the constructors championships but both Vettel and Webber are 3rd and 4th in the driver’s championship and the way they are going about they will definitely go ahead of Barrichello and be in the top 3. It was again a very good race for them as both their drivers joined Button on the podium with Webber yet again on a 2nd while Vettel took an unlucky 3rd due to a weird 3 stop pit strategy.

Toyota bounced back nicely with Trulli coming in 4th while teammate Glock took the last point with his 8th place finish. This sure was an important result for the team while Williams too especially Rosberg pulled off a good result by coming in 5th though his pace continue to be a shell of his practice pace.

Kubica finally scored his first points of the season by coming in 7th and though he had a very quiet race, right now just scoring among points will do for him and BMW and he will be hoping that in the next few races they atleast have the pace to challenge the likes of Ferrari who is way off behind the likes of both Brawns and the RBR.

McLaren again had a very disappointed race with Hamilton and Kovalainen coming in 13th and 14th while Renault failed to score any points with Alonso coming in 10th while teammate Piquet yet again fails to inspire and could only come 16th.

The back runners STR and Force India had a poor time and they just could not challenge the front runners while a lot was expected from STR they struggled for pace while Sutil after managing come go to Q2 for the team along with Fisi struggled once again with Fisi retiring and what seems to be like another season without points for the team.

Button once again proved his superiority not only among his rivals but especially to his teammate Barrichello who now should be happy playing 2nd fiddle to him and just help the team on its way to the constructor’s title. Red Bull needs a little more pace to catch up with Brawn as they have run out of ideas to beat them on pit strategy while Ferrari needs a lot of thinking to do going into the British GP.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Turkey GP Preview: Will Istanbul bring about a Ferrari Renaissance?

The last 3 years have seen Ferrari’s Massa dominate the Turkish GP and this season after how much the Ferrari has improved in the last few races, Turkey could be the place where the team could put down its foot and put one last stand to defend its constructors championship and also make life for Jenson Button miserable and give him a stiff challenge for his race towards the drivers title. Massa knows his way around the circuit well and the circuit will also suit the Ferrari’s and don’t be too surprised if Massa and Kimi pull off a Ferrari one-two.

Jenson Button has clearly proved that he is the best driver in Brawn GP and he has clearly proved that he is way better and quicker than teammate Barrichello, who may have a sense of déjà vu all over again as he once again has a teammate who is beating him race after race. This could also be the last opportunity for Barrichello to challenge Button and if he fails then Jenson will be backed to the hilt to win the drivers’ championship.

Vettel had a race to forget at Monaco and his Red Bull is expected to once again provide stiff challenge to both the Brawn’s and the Ferrari’s, but also expect his teammate Webber to do something spectacular as his long awaited first win is not too far off and this could be his best season to pull it off.

Hamilton was strong in Monaco till his crash in the qualifiers which effectively ruined his weekend but with no new off-track distractions, this could be the race for him to prove himself that he is a good driver who is not dependent only on his car. Though it may be tough for him to win the race, but if he is lucky enough a podium place is well on the cards while his teammate Heikki Kovalainen will once again try to use this as an opportunity to prove that he is as good as Hamilton and would like to outscore him once again.

Toyota and BMW had a miserable Monaco GP, while atleast Toyota has had a decent start to the season but with various rumours floating around about the future of the team, well this could be the season that they can pull off their best performance and anything less than a race win this season could see them off the grid for the 2010 season while BMW need a miracle to just score points. The irony of their situation was that though they at one stage last season had a realistic chance of challenging for both the titles, they continued to develop this season’s car and we all know how this season has so far been a nightmare and the best thing for the team is to forget the year and start focusing on the next season.

Williams and Renault both are capable of scoring points thanks to Rosberg and Alonso but they at the moment do not have the cars to even get a podium finish. Williams and Rosberg though seem to be the fastest in practice are not able to produce the same pace at the race but personally Rosberg if he continue to perform the way he does, he can land a seat with a top team while Alonso’s next move is dependent on Kimi’s impending retirement plans and even with a poor Renault he continues to fight it out and prove that he is infact the best complete driver on the grid. So far this season their teammates Nakajima and Piquet have been sitting at the bottom of the grid and though Nakajima will survive due to his Toyota connections but the future of Piquet looks very bleak.

STR is another team which expects a good result from Turkey and though the team has an identical chassis to its sister team RBR but this is a proof that drivers make a difference and though with a Ferrari powered engine, both the rookie Buemi and 4 time Champ Car winner Bourdais have been a bit consistent but given the track conditions it will be a great result for the team if both can score points.

Force India though nearly scored points in Monaco, from now on, the team is there to make up for the numbers and they could well the next Minardi as they continue to languish at the back of the grid while rivals STR is slowly building up a substantial lead over it.

You can expect a very exciting Turkish GP and you have the likes of Button, Vettel and Massa all favoured to win but I do feel that Ferrari will have an edge and this could be the best place to start of their winning habit once again.