Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010 Australian GP Review: Jenson Button does the impossible and wins a thrilling race

Jenson Button winning races during the 1st half of the 2009 season was such a common sight that when he signed for McLaren for this season, no one believed that he could win a race soo early this season and though Button was a bit lucky that Vettel was fastest man on track had to crash out due to technical issues but it was still a very impressive performance from the British driver who had to prove a point that he won last year’s title not only because of the car alone but also show that he is Hamilton’s equal if not he can be better too.

Kubica was the surprise package of the race and it was nice to see both him and Renault back in the podium. Though Renault were expected to challenge the big 4 towards the 2nd half of the season, this early podium is good for the team and it will surely make them break rank with rest of the teams in the mid field as most teams there as of now are more or less have the same package.

Ferrari leads the championship and it was good to see Massa once again hit the podium while teammate Alonso after a first corner incident started at the tail end of the grid and fought really hard to finish 4th. Though Alonso leads the driver’s championship but in reality there is not much between the 2 Ferrari drivers and the likes of Button, Hamilton and Vettel challenging him is very high.

Red Bull should be very disappointed with this result as for the 2nd race in a row Vettel had the fastest car on the gird but thanks to the car once again he failed to win and this time did not even score points. If this continues it may become like last season where Vettel will be left with too less time to actually challenge for the title while teammate Webber just tried too hard in front of his home fans and though he managed to score 2 points by coming in 9th, it was a race where Webber had he kept his cool could have managed a podium finish.

Nico Rosberg finishing ahead of a 41 year old Schumacher is not the reason for which he signed up for Mercedes and though Mercedes is slightly behind the pace of Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren as of now, they should catch up very soon or else have the likes of Renault hustling them.  Today was a day that proved that though Rosberg was a decent driver but he is still not world championship material yet as though his car was not as good as the others, he did have some favourable grid position at various time during the race and him finishing 5th is just not good enough.

Force India at the start of the season wanted to become the best mid-field team and so far they have shown that they can do it but with the emergence of Renault they need to work harder while Williams though maybe slightly off so far but expect the grove based team to increase its performance as the season progresses. It was good for Liuzzi to score points as though he is a very talented driver, Sutil was always thought of as the leader of the team and now he is under immense pressure to perform.
Another disappointing race for both Sauber and Toro Rosso, while Sauber continues to have reliability issues but if they don’t start performing there is a real danger in the team winding down before the season gets over while Toro Rosso is way better than the new teams but still is somewhat behind the likes of Williams, Renault and Force India while based on the issues Sauber is having now, Toro Rosso is well ahead of them.

No miracles were expected from the new teams and though it was disappointing to see Virgin ask for the FIA permission to redesign their fuel tank as it was too small and this ofcourse does not go too well for the people who back CFD while Lotus and Hispanic Racing managed to get one car finish the race for them. It was a good drive from    Heikki Kovalainen in whatever equipment he had as he was pretty impressive through the race and more drivers from him could see him back among the big boys while Karun Chandhok managed to finish his 1st race in his short F1 career which is pretty good for the rookie.

It was a very exciting Australian grand prix and the wet tracks at the start of the race too played its part while with Button winning the race and also Kubica coming in 2nd has thrown the season wide open and though it is still early days, one thing is certain, Ferrari will be strong through the season while Vettel maybe the next great driver but then unless Red Bull can deliver a car which can go through the race distance, he may well join Ferrari sooner than expected.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 Australian GP Preview: Prancing Horses sprinting while Bulls pray for rain!

The most anticipated F1 season ever started at Bahrain two weeks back but it turned out to be a very boring encounter with virtually qualifying, the first corner and a faulty Renault engine deciding the outcome of the race rather than some real wheel to wheel action which was badly missing. Though there may not be drastic changes at Albert Park but with some predictions of rain, it may throw a surprise result with Schumacher and Vettel arguably two of the best wet track drivers fighting it out but all depends on the success of the rain dance crew organized by the Red Bull team.

Ferrari had the perfect start with Alonso and Massa coming 1-2 with Alonso making a perfect Ferrari debut by winning his first race for the team while Massa showed no signs of rustiness made a very good comeback after a horrific accident last season. Though Massa might have been ok to let Alonso go to the finish line without a challenge at Bahrain but at Albert Park if he is not far behind he would not hesitate to fight with Alonso to challenge for a win.

The Red Bulls may have the best car on the grid but their Renault engine has once again let them down and if the engine is not consistent expect another season of near miss for the team as Vettel has a very good chance of becoming the youngest world champion this season while teammate Webber can be the most unexpected winner of the championship since Keke Rosberg.

McLaren and Hamilton will be thanking their lucky stars for a podium finish but if they need to score podium again they need to up their game to challenge Ferrari and Red Bull while they also need to keep a close eye on the Mercedes team as they are expected to perform well this weekend and already both Rosberg and Schumacher finished ahead of the reigning champion Button at Bahrain.

Force India has high hopes for this season and the way the car performed so far this season has given all indication that they do have a realistic chance of finishing 5th ahead of their immediate rivals like Williams, Renault and Sauber. They have already scored points and if they manage to outpace a top 4 team don’t be too surprised while Williams did have a decent start but they need to something extra special to match the top 4 teams as finishing ahead of the mid pack is not a great achievement for Williams who used to be a top team in the 80’s and the 90’s.

Renault may be the dark horse of the season and as the season progress they should be catching up with the bigger teams while Kubica may even get a few podium places towards the 2nd half of the season while Petrov who had a decent debut would want to prove a point that he deserves his place on the grid.

Sauber and Toro Rosso both would have been disappointed with the results in Bahrain and Sauber just cannot have 2 cars retiring for a team which has been racing for the better part of the last 2 decades while Toro Rosso need to up their game to score points. Right now they yet do not have the pace of Renault, Williams and Force India but if updates they can catch up with them very soon.

Among the new comers Lotus impressed the most and though they did finish the race this season could be the one for them where they will go through a whole season without scoring but it should be good for them as they should be more focussed on 2011 rather than this season. Virgin Racing proved that CFD can be a thing to look at for underfunded teams while HRT racing getting away with putting two rookies without any F1 experience in an untested F1 is something where the whole community should be happy as there were no incidents.

Hope it rains in Albert Park and this could turn the race into a very exciting contest which all F1 fans do deserve given the hype this season has had.

Australian GP Top 10 Predictions

1. Sebastien Vettel
2. Fernando Alonso
3. Mark Webber
4. Felipe Massa
5. Michael Schumacher
6. Nico Rosberg
7. Lewis Hamilton
8. Jenson Button
9. Robert Kubica
10. Nico Hulkenberg

Sunday, March 14, 2010

2010 Bahrain GP Review: Normal Service Resumes with Ferrari One-Two

The 2010 season finally started off in what can turn out to be the most unpredictable season ever but though Alonso made his Ferrari debut in grand style by finishing 1st while Massa making a comeback after a very serious injury followed him to the 2nd place in what was a Ferrari one-two after nearly 2 years. The last time was during the now defunct 2008 French GP and though usually a Ferrari one-two means total domination by the team but this season there are 3 other teams which could be challenging it and these includes Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes.

Sebastian Vettel will be the most disappointed man on the grid and though he was set to win the race after a stunning qualifying pace but the RBR turned out to be fragile with Vettel just managing 4th place. His teammate Mark Webber after a first corner error managed to finish only 8th and RBR will be disappointed with these results but RBR has proved that it is really a top team and they will be a major threat throughout the season.

Hamilton and McLaren will be happy with their lucky 3rd position which was largely thanks to Vettel’s mechanical issues while Button managed only a 7th place on his McLaren debut and already Hamilton is proving that he is way ahead of Button. McLaren will be happy to score more points than Mercedes their former owners but they need to have a significant updates in order to match the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull.

Mercedes went into the race saying that they are still slightly off pace and they should be very happy with the way things have turned out for them. Michael Schumacher making his comeback after 3 years showed no sign of rust as he managed a 6th place and crucially finished ahead of the reigning World Champion Button but he still needs to up his pace during qualifying as Rosberg though may have finished ahead of Schumacher it was still not a convincing performance but it is still early days and the fight between these 2 should be interesting.

Force India proved that their days as back markers are over and they could be well be the surprise team among the mid-field teams and could bring back the team to its past heights when it was Jordan Racing. Vitantonio Liuzzi managed a well deserved 9th place while Sutil managed to finish 12th. Williams unless they become a works team once again should be getting used to its status as a mid-field team and though Rubens Barrichello did score the final points for the team, if they managed to finish ahead of Renault, Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso then they should be very happy with the results and Nico Hulkenberg making his F1 debut did nothing wrong and managed to finish the race 14th.

Renault though did seem to have the pace early on but after Kubica’s spin they lost the plot and they just did nothing significance during the race while they did have a very shoddy pit-stop for Vitaly Petrov which was not the perfect start for Russia’s 1st F1 driver. Sauber said to be the dark horses for the season had to retire both the cars with hydraulics issues while Toro Rosso looked decent and they should only improve as the season goes on.

The historic name Lotus was back in F1 and they proved to the best among the 3 new teams which was making its debut and it was an impressive effort by the team which had just 4 months to build the car and its experienced drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli though were way off the pace still managed to finish the race distance. Virgin cars were plagued by gear box problems with Glock lasting 17 laps while di Grassi managed only 2 laps. Hispanic Racing were the worst of the lot with their car running for the 1st time ended up having one of the worst debuts ever with Bruno Senna managing 18 laps while Karun Chandhok who had no business on being in the grid managing to crash out at the first lap itself.

The Bahrain GP may not have been the most exciting grand prix but it did show signs of a very unpredictable season which is what 2010 is going to be all about. In the end though Ferrari won, there were 3 teams behind it while the middle pack looks unpredictable. The next race is at Melbourne in 2 weeks time and it should once again throw in a lot of surprises.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 Bahrain GP Preview: A Brave New Era Begins

This weekend the 2010 Formula One World Championship begins and for the first time in the history of the sport, there will be four teams going into the season with nearly six drivers favorites to win the driver’s championship. The traditional power teams like Ferrari and McLaren will be joined by Red Bull and the rebirth of the Mercedes Grand Prix team will lead to the most unpredictable season ever.

Mercedes is not the only iconic name which is returning to the sport but the greatest driver of our era and maybe the sport as well is returning but not with Ferrari but Michael Schumacher will make his dramatic comeback with the Silver Arrow Mercedes team where he will team up with Ross Brawn once again and this was the combination which resulted him all of his seven Championships, five with Ferrari and two with Benetton.

Names like Schumacher and Mercedes will overshadow others but then Cosworth is back after a disastrous 2006 season while the Senna names returns to the grid in the form of Bruno Senna, the nephew of the legendary Ayrton Senna a former three-team World Champion who died in a crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Though the Lotus name returns, this outfit has no connection to the Colin Chapman led outfit. The only connection is that the group which owns the current Lotus team also owns Lotus Cars.

Though last season Brawn surprised everyone and won the Championship largely due to a loophole in the regulations and had it not been for the double diffuser, then Red Bull may have won it but this season Brawn which is Mercedes now will face a very stiff challenge from Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren.

Mercedes may not go into the season as hot favorites, and though the team does not expect to win right away and would take time, but if Schumacher comes out of retirement, then he is in for wins only.

Though publicly the team may deny it will take time, Mercedes and Schumacher could be on track for wins right from the first race while teammate Rosberg after polishing his skills in the under-powered and under-funded Williams, he finally can prove his potential and show that he can win races.

Red Bull last season’s runner-up is tipped to have the fastest car and with Vettel & Webber behind the wheel, they the only top team to have the same lineup and Vettel is tipped for greater things while Webber who is 33 now may have him last chance at going for the Championship and he could be the dark horse for this season.

Ferrari after a disastrous 2009 did stop work on their 2009 car and started work on their 2010 car before everyone else and with Alonso joining the team, the Latin era begins for Ferrari with Massa coming back after his injuries, this season if both Alonso and Massa can work as a team, Ferrari will be challenging for the titles this season right from the first race.

McLaren has a British super team with Hamilton and Button but with what happened when Hamilton teamed up with Alonso, things may not be as smooth as it seems as Button will take sometime getting used to the car and crew while by then Hamilton will have a good enough lead over him to relegate Button to the No. 2 driver status. Also the ruling on the wing will play a part at their campaign early on this season.

Williams has a strong lineup with the experienced Barrichello along with the GP2 Champion Hulkenberg and with Cosworth proving to be consistent maybe not be far off behind the top four while Sauber after taking buying back the team from BMW may not pull off a Brawn but could be the surprise package of the season as they have a car which has the best tire management so far.

Renault will be led by the mercurial Kubica who given the right car can go wheel to wheel with anyone while Vitaly Petrov has to prove that he is in more for his talent rather then the money he brings with him. Force India is looking forward to 2010 as the break through season for the team while Toro Rosso building a car for the first time on their own since the Minardi days may provide the biggest surprise of this lot.

Though Lotus and Virgin managed to run the car on the tracks but Hispanic will be running the car for the first time during the race weekend and if the car is slow it may prove to be dangerous for all the other teams who are not far off from each other in terms of speed.

The Bahrain Grand Prix will be the first of many exciting races we will have this season and the return of marquee names will provide more excitement to the season.

Bahrain GP Top 10 Predictions

1. Sebastien Vettel
2. Fernando Alonso
3. Mark Webber
4. Felipe Massa
5. Lewis Hamilton
6. Michael Schumacher
7. Nico Rosberg
8. Jenson Button
9. Kamui Kobayashi
10. Nico Hulkenberg

Friday, March 5, 2010

The New Era of Pay Driver’s!

The one real thing which happened in the 90’s was that though the entry of manufacturers insanely hiked the budgets of various teams but with the likes of Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Toyota, Renault and Ford all either started teams or closely aligned with constructors and the likes of Jordan, Sauber and Minardi were the last set of independent teams and apart from Sauber who after taken over by BMW is once again back as an independent team this year while Williams after a bad marriage with BMW which finally ended in 2005 was at one stage the only independent team in the grid.

With the global financial downturn, big names like BMW, Honda and Toyota have all left the sport while Renault only exists in its name while teams like Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India are financed by billionaire entrepreneurs. Also the FIA had such a dicey selection process where known names like Prodrive and Lola missed out while teams like Manor, Campos & USF1 made the grid. Off the 3, manor due to Virgin’s backing did not have any problem launching while Campos is now taken over by Jose Ramon Carabante and renamed the team Hispania Racing F1 Team while USF1 has shut shop.

The influx of new teams and the high cost of the sport have forced even established teams Sauber and Renault to look for drivers with some money as otherwise Nick Heidfeld would have still made it to the grid. The issue with under funded team entering the sport is a huge risk as their cars are 5 seconds slower than most of the grid and Hispania Racing is going to start the grid in Bahrain with 2 rookie drivers with no testing. The teams would not have any qualms about overtaking a slow car but then a car which can potentially drop parts is highly dangerous and looking at what happen to Massa, this will be a concern for all the teams.

There are five new boys: Nico Hulkenberg, Vitaly Petrov, Karun Chandhok, Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi. Of the lot, Nico Hulkenberg has proved himself at all the previous levels of racing while Lucas di Grassi has been a test driver with Renault and does deserve a spot on the grid. Vitaly Petrov is a decent driver who did finish runner-up to Hulkenberg in GP2 but without his money he may not have made it to the grid. Bruno Senna is decently talented but got his break due to his last name while Chandhok is purely in because of the money he managed to bring in for the team.

There is an argument that GP2 or any other lower formulas is an indication on the talent as we had Kimi who came through after just a handful races at open wheel racing while Kamui Kobayashi did not exactly set the world on fire in GP2 but have shown that he is an extremely quick driver and with a fast car can go wheel to wheel with anyone. Though guys like Hamilton, Rosberg, Kubica and Vettel who have come through the ranks of lower formula have all done consistently well at those levels and of course for every Hamilton you will have a Nelson Piquet who despite good credentials at junior formulas failing at the highest level.

F1 is an expensive sport where but the era of pay drivers is something which should be avoided as guys like Chandhok who apart from a few wins in GP2 in 3 years has not exactly set the world on fire but him racing ahead of a talented youngster like Paul di Resta or a veteran like Heidfeld is just bringing the standard of the grid down. 2010 is having one of the strongest grids ever with the likes of Schumacher, Alonso, Hamilton, Button, Vettel, Massa and Webber all eying for the championship along with the likes of proven drivers like Rosberg, Barrichello, Kubica, Sutil, Trulli & Glock along with exciting youngsters like Kobayashi and Hulkenberg is just amazing for the sport. You will always have the likes of failed drivers like Heikki Kovalainen and guys making comeback like Vitantonio Liuzzi but the grid should not be weakened by the era of drivers coming in due to their money.

These names will come and go but as with the case of established teams like even Jordan and Sauber at times due to financial constraints have to employee pay drivers as a one off basis and this should not become the norm like how Minardi used to run it but then Minardi also gave us the likes of Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber from time to time. It would be great if the new teams can provide talented drivers a start in F1 but then giving it to the guys with the most money is just not the right thing to do. Off the rookies, the most likely to impress will be Nico Hulkenberg while Vitaly Petrov may just prove everyone wrong and prove that he too deserves his seat.