Monday, August 31, 2009

2009 Belgian GP Review: Ferrari wins while Force India creates history!

The Belgian GP is one of the favorites grand prix for most F1 fans and this year’s race did not disappoint the Tifosi in any way as Kimi Raikkonen wins a race after more than a year and he proved that he is still one of the best on the grid and after such a superior performance, Ferrari is in a fix as now they have 3 drivers under contract for 2010 and they need to drop one of them. Well Alonso joining Ferrari for 2010 is more or less certain while Massa is yet to get medical clearance if he can race again. Any 2 of the combination of Kimi, Alonso and Massa should be a formidable pair which the opponents should fear. Vettel by extending his deal with Red Bull till 2011 saved Ferrari from putting itself in more dilemma as had Vettel signed for 2011, things sure will be murky for them. One thing is certain for Monza, Ferrari will definitely not race Luca Badoer at their home race after a very below par performance from the Italian once again. It seems that he will end his F1 career without scoring points.

Force India and Giancarlo Fisichella had a dream weekend as not only the team scored its first points but this is also Fisi’s first podium since the 2006 Japanese GP and not only did he give Kimi a run for his money but he ensure that Force India have now scored more points than Toro Rosso and now they have a genuine chance of overtaking Renault in the constructor’s championship. Already even before the races they were rumors’ floating around about Fisi driving for Ferrari at Monza and this performance may just catapult him into the Ferrari seat. Though Force India seem to have a the pace now, they apparently still owe Ferrari money over engines supplied last year and every Italian’s dream is to drive for Ferrari at Monza and if the team does calls, Fisi will take it without even thinking.

Red Bull was expected to do well but Vettel actually drove amazingly well to come 3rd and once again put his name in the championship fight. Though he has only one engine left, it will be nothing short of a miracle if Vettel does manages to win the title while Webber after a pit stop mishap where he nearly collided with Nick Heidfeld had to go thru a drive thru penalty which ended his race hopes and he failed to score points which was vital for him. Red Bull has inched closer to Brawn on the constructor’s championship and well could actually overtake Brawn by the end of the season.

Brawn GP is going thru a tough phase and though Rubens Barrichello actually had decent pace and managed to come 7th and take those crucial 2 points, what is happening with Jenson Button remains a mystery and after his performance at the beginning of the season, he was expected to have the championship by now but now 3 guys are chasing him and if he manages to drive the same way as he is doing now, he may end up losing the title this year.

McLaren after 2 stunning races was expected to have a very good race but the team had a very poor race with both Hamilton and Kovalainen failing to make Q3. Hamilton crashed out at the first lap of the race while Kovalainen managed to come 6th and now with rumors of Kimi making a dramatic return to McLaren for 2010, his chances of retaining the seat looks very remote.

BMW Sauber is doing all it can to find new buys and the team had a good show with both Kubica and Heidfeld coming in 4th and 5th. It was a very important result for the team and the drivers while Williams should be happy and should thank Rosberg for somehow managing to push the car to 8th as its setup was just not suited for Spa and Rosberg is just making his own profile go up and well based on his performance he will not be a bad bet for McLaren.

Renault once again had a very poor race and with allegations of fixing the race in Singapore by making Piquet crash, things are not going too well for the team and with Alonso on his way out, the team may not make it next year as Renault as they need to something to score some points or the parent company may just pull the plug while RBR has already given enough indication that it will change its engine supplier for 2010.

Toyota continues to baffle everyone as the team which always had a car to win races and even challenge the likes of Brawn and Red Bull is struggling and thanks to poor strategy and inconsistent racing by drivers the team is sitting 5th on the constructors table and if Rosberg continues his amazing show, even Williams can overtake them. STR had a race to forget and they never looked like score points and now they officially the weakest team on the grid and the team looks like it is incapable of scoring any more points for the remaining of the races.

It was once again a very good Belgian GP and though Ferrari never did have the best car on the grid, Kimi drove like a superstar and pulled off a supreme win the team while Force India after missing points due to various reasons finally scored points in a thumping way with Fisi coming in 2nd. All this leads to a very interesting Italian GP in Monza.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Belgian GP Preview: Now or never for the Red Bulls!

Rubens Barrichello drove a brilliant race and with a bit of luck managed to win his 1st race in 5 years and won the European GP. This is highly important for Barrichello as not only has thrown his name in the title race once again but also could have earned a contract with Brawn GP for the next season. If Barrichello can continue to do this, Ross Brawn will be in a big fix but luckily for them even their rivals Red Bull face the same problem but then mathematically even Lewis Hamilton does have a chance but then Hamilton’s chance is as good as Luca Badoer winning a race this season!

Jenson Button after his near invincible show during the first half of the season is now struggling and since his win at the Turkish GP, he has failed to be on the podium and his teammate Barrichello had outscored and outperformed since then. Button needs to not only finish ahead of Barrichello but also score more wins to show that he is a dominating champion and his title is win is just not because he had a very superior machine compared to his competitors. But Spa will not be as hot as Valencia and if we have to go back and see what has happened, Brawn has struggled when the conditions are cold and this will surely give Red Bull an edge over them.

Red Bull has to pull off a one-two and also hope that Brawn fails to score if they want to have a realistic chance to go after both the titles. The team is also having engine problems especially with Vettel as he only has one more engine left and that has to last 6 races. He is bound to have engine penalty and this would definitely hamper his title hopes while teammate Webber will hope that the team backs him in his pursuit of the championship. Renault must be worried as Red Bull is eying the Mercedes engine which is the best on the grid and after the recent engine issues, Mercedes could power yet another team for the 2010 season.

McLaren and Hamilton must have been disappointed after their pit crew goof up which caused them a win but they should be confident as they have been the superior team on the grid for the last 2 races and they could also both cause or maybe help Brawn and Button on their championship quest. Heikki Kovalainen should be a very worried man and though he came in 4th in the European GP, McLaren is still not happy with his race pace and he needs to drive out of his skin if he needs to retain his spot in the team for 2010 as Rosberg is all set to sign with the team.

Ferrari must be wondering what on earth they have done by bringing back Luca Badoer to F1 after a decade of absence. Fellow tester Marc Gene would have been a better choice as he did substitute for the Williams team during the 2004 season and this season he has won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. A few other people who have raced in F1 in the recent past like David Coulthard, Anthony Davidson and S├ębastien Bourdais have been linked to the seat but Ferrari should use this opportunity to give youngsters like Mirko Bortolotti or William’s reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg a chance as this would definitely help the team in the long run. Kimi must be a happy man as he is not only improved since the beginning of the season but in the absence of Massa, he is the focus of the team and he needs to show his worth if he has to retain his seat for the next season.

Nico Rosberg is the most talked about guy on the grid and he is making every use on what Williams is able to give him and though he is still some pace off a podium finish, he has scored points now for the last 7 races and with Kazuki Nakajima yet to open account, Williams is highly depended on their fight against the likes of Toyota as they are still catchable while Ferrari and McLaren will be fighting for the 3rd and 4th spot. Toyota needs to do something drastic as the team has been giving mixed signals, while they pull off their track from F1, they also try to sign Vettel for the 2011 season. It is time for the team to decided if they want to continue in F1 or not as the blow hot blow cold attitude is not going to help anyone at all.

BMW is yet to find a buyer but the team has did score points and any points is good for both the team and the driver as Kubica and Nick Heidfeld would be looking forward to join a top team rather than join a team which will be stuck at the back of the grid. All signs point to Kubica moving to Renault to replace Alonso as the dream team of Ferrari and Alonso is more or less finalized according to German and Spanish media and once again the driver market is dependent on where Alonso goes. Renault will stay and though there has been speculation that the team will leave the sport for the last 3 years, Honda and BMW has pulled the plug while Renault has stayed on and Flavio has promised that they would be on the grid for the 2010 season. Romain Grosjean did not set the track on fire but had a decent debut and if he could score points in the coming races, he will be driving for the team during the 2010 season.

Force India has continued to show progress and though on track since the British GP, the team has been better than fellow minnows Toro Rosso, the team is yet to score points while STR scored some points early on in the season and seem to have now an unassailable lead over Force India.

Belgian GP has always been exiting and it is one of the most popular circuits on the calendar and there is always the rain to spice up things. We all do remember the 1995 edition of the race when Michael Schumacher proved that he is truly a racing god as he won the race starting from 16th on the grid. It has also been a good track for Ferrari and Kimi and this could be a ideal place for both Ferrari and Kimi to start winning this season.

Belgian GP Predictions: 1. Kimi 2.Vettel 3. Hamilton 4. Webber 5. Rosberg 6. Button 7. Heikki 8. Barrichello

Sunday, August 23, 2009

2009 European GP: Barrichello wins to reignite Brawn Wars

What should have been a first one-two of the year for McLaren ended in a disappointment as Rubens Barrichello wins ends his race victory draught and wins his first race after 5 years. It was a very important win for Barrichello as he is now #2 in the drivers’ championship and he can once again resume his rivalry with Button for the title. Having both Barrichello and Button score is good for Brawn as it makes the gap between them and Red Bull wider and gives them the advantage in the constructor’s championship.

McLaren who clearly looked like the team which would dominate Valencia in the end had to be content with Hamilton coming in 2nd while Heikki Kovalainen was demoted to the 3rd spot after an inspired drive from fellow Finn and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen, who scored his 3rd podium of the season. Kimi’s performance was the only thing to look forward for the Ferrari team after a very poor performance by Luca Badoer. It is highly unlikely that Luca would be given another chance after his miserable race which saw him start from the back and he managed to come 17th out of 18 cars and this too due to a tire puncture for Kazuki Nakajima.

Red Bulls had a race to forget as the car lacked the pace of McLaren and Brawn in the qualifying and though Vettel had a decent start, due to a fuel pump problem had to pit twice within a span of few laps finally had to retire from the race due to an engine blow-up. A major worry for the team as Vettel just has one more engine to use for the remaining of the season and if he has to use anymore he will have grid penalties. Teammate and fellow title contender Webber looked like he may squeeze in a few points but Jenson Button did well enough to not only finish ahead of him but also score 2 useful points while Webber came in 9th and failed to score any points.

Nico Rosberg once again had a very good race for the Williams team and he nearly caught up with Heikki Kovalainen towards the end of the race though he may not have caught up Heikki, he has done well enough and if the rumours are true, he would join Hamilton in a dream team for McLaren for 2010. Williams are also slowly catching up with Toyota and it would be a great feat for them if they could overtake the Japanese team as so far Rosberg is the only driver who is scoring while Nakajima is there to make up numbers.

Renault and Alonso were allowed to race at the last moment and though the team did not perform any miracles, it was great to see Alonso once again score points by coming in 6th while Romain Grosjean had a promising debut and proved that Renault was right in sacking Nelson Piquet. Robert Kubica scored the final points and it was good to see the BMW team score some points. It is very important for both the drivers and the team to do well till the end of the season as for both Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, it is important to do well in order to secure drives for the 2010 season while if the team does well, it would be an attractive option for any new buyer.

Toyota once again had a disappointing race as Trulli and Glock could finish only 13 and 14. The team has to do something really fast and they have been in F1 for some time now and after spending soo much on the team, they are yet to win a race and if the team continue to perform the same way, the head office may just pull the plug of the program. Force India once again had a very good weekend and will be disappointed in not scoring points as the team not only was faster than Toyota but also now has clearly proved that it is better than STR though Toro Rosso leads them on the table.

It was nearly an uneventful European GP till McLaren decided to give away the race to Barrichello and some last minute catching up by Rosberg and Button did provide some excitement. There are talks that this could be the last European GP in Valencia, but no one would actually miss this circuit as there is nothing special to this place.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

European GP Preview: Change of guard as Traditional Powers Rise!

The break in the F1 calendar for once has not raised any new issues between FIA and FOTA but legendary F1 driver and arguably one of the greatest driver ever to compete Michael Schumacher was the talking point ever since the Hungarian GP. We are all happy that Massa has recovered well and if everything goes well could be racing for Ferrari at his home race, the Brazilian GP. Also BMW has announced that it will be pulling out of F1 but then though this has surprised a lot of people, but BMW has a habit of pulling out of F1, well it did happen in the 80’s and again a few years back, they bailed on Williams and the team has been in downhill ever since that.

Michael Schumacher was the biggest newsmaker and he decided to come out of retirement and drive the Ferrari as a replacement for the injured Massa but then his neck injury he sustained during a bike crash is still not healed properly and he decided to not race in Valencia though there is a chance that he could be back this season and well most know that Schumi did retire a bit early and he could have easily raced for another year or so but at 40 even with a car which is not the best at the grid, a half-fit Schumi is good enough to beat most of the younger drivers on track.

This is a very important race for Jenson Button and Brawn GP as the last few races have seem them down the pack and their rivals Red Bull seem to have the car which is the best on the grid but then the only thing which is going in Button’s favor is that both Vettel and Webber are eating points of each other which should in the end may actually benefit Button but then on the constructor’s side, Red Bull is all set to overtake Brawn very soon. Red Bull has to decide which driver to back or else they maybe just short of Button provided Brawn does not improve but in all possibility Brawn has been working very hard and should atleast challenge for podium places.

McLaren and Hamilton are happy after their first win for the season at the Hungarian GP but they know that Ferrari is also fast catching up and they could pose a very serious threat. It is also very important for Heikki Kovalainen as the next few races will decide his F1 future as Nico Rosberg is tipped for a McLaren drive and with BMW out of the picture; McLaren seems to be his only destination. Heikki has to drive out of his skin to retain his seat for the next season.

Another Finn who is under immense pressure is Kimi as with Alonso moving to Ferrari for the 2010 season is one of the biggest open secrets ever, there is a chance that Ferrari may buy Kimi out of his contract so that he can go on to become a rally driver but now with Schumi not driving, Kimi should be a happy person as he does not want to be slower than a 40 year legend but then worst is being slower than a 38 year old test driver who has never raced in F1 this century! Luca Badoer is living a dream and the man who has never scored points in F1, finally does get his chance to rewrite history and though it could be only for a short time, finally we see an Italian in the Ferrari team.

Renault and Alonso are back at the last minute and it was important for the organizers that Alonso drive this weekend as the popularity of F1 has raised ever since he won 2 world championships. Piquet finally gets the boot and Frenchmen Romain Grosjean gets to replace him. This again is a very important race for Renault as if the team continues to languish, the team may consider pulling out of F1 as the company at the moment is not doing very well.

BMW has promised that they will improve the car in order to make it more attractive for prospective buyers and with the Peter Sauber backed Brawn style takeover bid now gone, it is very important for the team to find new backers or else a new team may occupy its place on the grid. Kubica and Heidfeld will be racing as each is their last in-order to make themselves attractive to other teams.

Toyota another team which may exit F1, will be looking for a good show from both its drivers as though through the season, the team did always have a car which was really good but then the team has struggled at times and at no time it was actually challenging for a win. Time the team goes up a notch and get its maiden win but then that should be a real hard task as Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and even Williams are far ahead. The other Toyota powered team, Williams will once again fight the big boys while spending a fraction of what they do, it is important for the team to keep scoring points and try challenging for wins if the team has to remain in the sport on a longer run.

STR and Force India will have an interesting battle at the bottom of the grid, though STR is ahead with points on the table, Force India is still looking for those elusive points and they may just do it in Valencia with a little bit of luck on their side. Hope this year’s European GP is more interesting than the one we had last year.

European GP Predictions: 1. Vettel 2.Webber 3. Hamilton 4. Kimi 5. Button 6. Rosberg 7. Glock 8. Trulli

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Hiatus

Cutting the Chicane also took a mini break due to the ongoing break in F1 and well though Williams and Force India, the 2 non FOTA teams may complain how they have incurred cost by shutting down their factories during this period but from a fan point of view, this break has been hard on people and I think both FIA and FOM along with FOTA should reconsider such long breaks. I suggest it is better to make the season shorter than have such a long period especially when you are expecting a very close finish in the championship with Brawn losing steam and both the Red Bull driver’s closing in on Jenson Button during every race weekend. They say there are no fairytales in sports and this could actually be true for both Jenson Button and Brawn GP, but then if Webber or even Vettel does pull it off it will be nothing short of a miracle!

Something’s which has hogged the limelight and they are in no particular order

- Schumacher’s legendary return and later his decision to abort from the European GP and maybe even from the 2010 season. (I nearly booked tickets for the Singapore GP!)
- BMW going the Honda way and shutting down the team for the 2010 season. Peter Sauber nearly did a Brawn but BMW got too greedy. (History repeats itself, BMW pulled off Williams at the end of 2005 and Williams has never been the same)
- Jean Todt and Ari Vatanen trying to outgun each other as both men has high hopes and have a surreal campaign going around.
- Jaime Alguersuari decided to race as much as possible with apart from F1 commitments, decided to go back to Formula Renault series and also take part in various Karting events.
- Romain Grosjean waiting for his F1 debut with the Renault team but not sure if it will be in Valencia or Spa-Francorchamps as all depends on the FIA
- Luca Badoer makes a historic comeback and he gets rewarded for all the work he has put in as a Ferrari test driver. This will be the 4th Italian team he races for after Scuderia Italia, Minardi and Forti Corse teams and he has the most recorded starts and yet to score points in the championship. (The last Italian to drive for Ferrari was Nicola Larini during the 1994 San Marino GP, he came 2nd)
- Montreal returns as a F1 circuit and it will be on for the 2010 season
- Jacques Villeneuve is looking for an F1 seat for the 2010 season and oh yeah he is divorced now.