Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Gravel Trap

Two races have gone since the last edition of Gravel Trap but the biggest news so far has been Michael Schumacher and though he may have been overshadowed by Mark Webber’s success on track but Schumacher who has been questioned on his comeback has answered critics in an emphatic manner by back to back solid performances over his teammate Rosberg.

The big story was in Monaco during the last corner of the race when the safety car went in while Schumacher overtook Alonso to pip him for a post. Though initially Schumacher was classified ahead of Alonso, the race steward gave him a 20 sec penalty which made him drop from the points table. Interesting thing is that Schumacher’s former rival Hill was one of the stewards and this leads to loads of controversy. Though Schumacher and controversy are not far behind but this time he has done everything under the book but yet penalized.

There are many examinations of the rules and their implications in this case, but it seems quite simple. The stewards point to the fact that section 40.13 applies and that “If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.”

In reality, however, section 40.11 applies: “When the clerk of the course decides it is safe to call in the safety car the message 'SAFETY CAR IN THIS LAP' will be displayed on the timing monitors and the car's orange lights will be extinguished.” This is exactly what happened in Monaco.

From this point on, the following applies: “As the safety car is approaching the pit entry the yellow flags and SC boards will be withdrawn and replaced by waved green flags with green lights at the Line. These will be displayed until the last car crosses the Line.” The cars were racing; the race did not end under safety car conditions.

If we are to believe Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali, the Ferrari drivers were told that the race was finishing under safety car conditions and they couldn’t be overtaken. Why then, did Fernando Alonso accelerate so hard that he lost control of his car? Surely, if he was cruising to the flag, there was no need for such acceleration.

Everything at the track pointed to the race having restarted. The SC boards were in, green flags were being waved, and all of the drivers were looking for that final opportunity to pass. Schumacher alone was successful. Well the FIA has got this thing wrong and it is absurd to penalize Schumacher while racing in the pit lanes and throwing a steering wheel is no offence!

The big news is Mark Webber. A few weeks back there was talk of Webber retiring at the end of the season with Kimi replacing him but now there are even talks of Webber replacing Massa in Ferrari. Don’t remember since when a driver’s fortune has changed so dramatically in 2 weeks time!

Webber has always been a solid journeyman driver who was fast but then he was never talked as being a F1 World Champion material but though last season he was in a position where he was running for the title but this time he has a realistic chance and if he manages to continue this form then there is no stopping him. Red Bull will most likely retain him but then if they fail to do so Ferrari will definitely keep him in till they can get Vettel. Webber holds the key to the 2011 line-up and if he moves to Ferrari the world of driver market will once again head towards chaos.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2010 Monaco GP Review: Bulls conquer the streets of Monaco

Red Bull went into the Monaco GP as the team to beat and they ended up thoroughly dominating the street circuit with Webber winning his 2nd race of the reason with teammate Vettel coming in 2nd. Despite the safety car playing its part through the race, Webber was in a different world with hi totally dominating the race. A few weeks back there was talk of Webber being replaced but now there are even talks of Webber going to Ferrari and such has been the meteoritic rise of his stock in the last 10 days. Now Red Bull leads both the championships with both Webber and Vettel equal in the driver’s standings.

Renault and Kubica continued their upswing with Kubica getting his 2nd podium of the season with a well deserved 3rd place finish. No one gave this team a chance before this season but both Renault and Kubica proved everyone wrong by once again pulling off a very solid performance. Not only are they with the top 4 teams but well ahead of all the teams. If Renault continues this, Kubica may be the surprise package of this season and team could even knock off a top 4 team at the season ending championships. Another reason to celebrate is that all the cars on podium at Monaco were Renault powered cars.

Ferrari were looking good going towards the weekend but despite Alonso starting from the pit stop they did have a very good race with Massa coming in 4th while Alonso putting one of his best drives ever coming in 7th. Though Alonso should be disappointed that Schumacher overtook him at the least corner when the safety car just going him costing him a place. But both Alonso and Massa should go to Turkey with momentum but then can they catch up RBR will be the big question.

Mercedes had a solid race with Schumacher showing old signs of pace and attitude should be happy for his 6th place finish while Rosberg was back in form but then now Schumacher is slowly looking like the lead driver and Rosberg needs more than a 8th place finish to shift the momentum back in his favour. Though since the start it looked like it will be Rosberg who will win the 1st race for Mercedes GP but now Schumacher seems more likely to do it.

McLaren overall once again had a disappointing weekend with losing lead in both the championships and also getting only one of its car on points. This time Hamilton came 5th and though he did show some spirit it was just not enough and in the end he looked like he was more than just happy to finish the line while Button retired due to an error by one of the mechanics. If the team has to realistically compete against Red Bulls and be ahead of Ferrari and Mercedes, it needs to show more consistency and ensure goof ups like these do not happen again.

Force India for the very 1st time got both their cars on points and there should be a wild party tonight for the team. The team has been very consistent throughout the season and now it is definitely ahead of both Williams and Toro Rosso. The future is looking good for the team and if they continue in this direction they can relive the glory days of Jordan GP.

STR despite getting both its car to finish the race just missed out on the points and the team now has to work hard to catch up with Force India and also ensure that it is ahead of Williams. It will be tough for the team to score points from now on as the six teams at the top are very solid but then in F1 all things are possible and if the team does race consistently it can score a few points here and there.

Williams must be wondering what went wrong this season as they started the season with a totally redesigned car and despite all the hype behind it, it is one team which has remained the same since the start of the season. STR has a better car as of now and if its drivers continue to drive the same way, Williams could be fighting it out with Sauber and the new teams.

Sauber is the only old team yet to score points and though the team looked like it has improved at Barcelona, it was 2 steps backward here and the team needs some drastic showing in the next few races if it has to survive this season. None of the new teams finished the race but Lotus despite showing all the promise is not really catching up with Sauber while both HRT and Virgin have managed to tag along with Lotus.

It was a very good Monaco GP and Webber who after a slow start to the season looks a totally different driver and if he continues this form, we can once again see an Australian World Champion in F1.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

2010 Monaco GP Preview: Can the Bull Run continue on the streets too?

The most prestigious grand prix of the season will take place this week at the principality of Monaco. Though the race on the streets of Monaco has its own mystique it is also one of the most demanding circuit in F1 as even a single small error could see a driver crashing out quickly. Though Red Bull has been the team to beat this season but they continue to be plagued by a mix of reliability issues and bad luck. Despite pole on all 5 races this season, the team has won only 2 races with Vettel and Webber taking a victory each. Though Webber pulled off an amazing win in Barcelona last week, Vettel must be happy to finish on the podium despite issues with the car. Though the streets of Monaco is totally different from the rest of the circuits, if Red Bull gets pole once again, it will be tough for anyone to challenge the team.


Ferrari and Alonso looks like the people who could most likely to challenge the bulls but then though Ferrari and Alonso have been pretty consistent this season they are yet to match the pace of Red Bull and Alonso should bring in all his experience to someone get his car on pole so that he can win the race. Teammate Massa had a very poor Spanish GP and with talks of Kubica replacing him next season, he needs to put a solid performance for the next few races of Ferrari have to keep him in. Already he is looking more like a 2nd driver rather than look Alonso’s equal.


McLaren has been the surprise of this season with Button just about leading the championship. Though Hamilton has put on some unbelievable drives throughout the season, he tends to makes mistakes and even has had some bad luck. This is one of his favourite circuits and if McLaren is even closer to the pace of RBR he can take on the fight to the team provided he keeps his cool and finishes the race for a change.


Mercedes has had a mixed race in Barcelona with Schumacher showing old signs while Rosberg just looking lost. Though so far for Monaco both Schumacher and Rosberg have looked competitive, it is Schumacher who will go into the race as the Mercedes driver who had a chance of winning this race given his experience on this track. He is also a former 5 time winner here while Rosberg once again have to prove himself against the legendary driver.


Renault and Kubica had so far had a decent if not pretty good start to the season but despite Kubica showing impressive pace, the team needs rain or  a major pile up to be once again on the podium while Vitaly Petrov needs to be extra careful as this is one of the tracks where a driver can’t make any error at all.


Force India and Toro Rosso has had their best starts so far and they will once again use this weekend to try catch up with Renault while also extend their gap with Williams who has look the same since the start of the season. If Williams does not do anything even Sauber may catch up with them very soon.


Among the rest the new teams may actually prove very dangerous during both qualifying and the race as Monaco had a very narrow street circuit and it could be very dangerous for the other teams if the backmarkers fails to drive properly.


It should be a very good Monaco GP where Red Bull’s pace should be neutralized due to the nature of the track but both Ferrari and McLaren will provide stiff challenge with Mercedes going into this race as a dark horse.


Monaco GP Top 10 Predictions


1. Sebastien Vettel

2. Fernando Alonso

3. Michael Schumacher

4. Mark Webber

5. Nico Rosberg

6. Jenson Button

7. Lewis Hamilton

8. Felipe Massa  

9. Robert Kubica

10. Adrian Sutil

Monday, May 10, 2010

2010 Spanish GP Review: Bulls on Rampage with a Webber win!

Red Bull went to a race once again looking as the team to beat and though there were some hiccups for Vettel, Mark Webber had no problem and won his 3rd race of his career in an empathic manner. He totally dominated the field and not once since the start that he was challenged by anyone on the gird. Even his teammate struggled to match his sublime pace. Though Vettel did manage a 3rd place there were moments where the car looked like it will breakdown but he scored vital points and has kept his hands on the driver’s championship with this result.

Bernie Ecclestone dream had come true in Spain after Alonso was in Spanish GP in Ferrari colors for the very 1st time, most of the stands saw only red and it was a windfall for the Ferrari team. He also did not disappoint with a very consistent drive to finish 2nd. A few more performances like this would ensure that he is the clear #1 in the team while teammate Massa who is under pressure did himself no favor as he could only manage 6th. Already there are rumors floating in the Italian media that Kubica will replace him for 2011. Massa needs to seriously up his game in a weeks time or else he may need to look for a drive the next season.

Mercedes and Schumacher came into this grand prix under tremendous pressure but Schumacher though did not pull off a miracle he did had his best drives of the season and he thoroughly beat teammate for the 1st time during the whole weekend. Next week in Monaco he has a realistic chance of a podium place but then with rains, the old magic could be back. Nico Rosberg should be unhappy after a bad weekend where he went into the Spanish GP with just 10 points behind leader Button but he failed to score any points and now he is in 5th with Vettel, Webber & Alonso going over him while both Massa and Hamilton are just a point behind him.

McLaren was the team which was expected to challenge the Bulls but in the end, the race was a disaster for the team. Though they lead both the championship as of now, the margins have dropped drastically and Hamilton who was on course for a 2nd place finish crashed out at the dying moments of the race. Button had a frustrating race as he was stuck behind Schumacher for most of the race and his failure to get past him robbed him of any chance of fighting for a podium.

Both Force India and Renault had a consistent race with Sutil and Kubica scoring points. Though Renault looked like they have cleared the mid field pack and have closed in on Mercedes, but after this race they are back on par with Force India and they have lot of work to do. Force India as of now is better than Williams, Toro Rosso & Sauber but they need to get both drivers on points to catch up with Renault but so far this has been one of their best ever seasons since the Jordan days.

Though Williams and Toro Rosso scored points, Williams have not made any significant progress since the start of the season and if this continues STR & even Sauber may overtake them very soon. Sauber finally made some progress with Kamui Kobayashi finishing a race for the 1st time this season but de la Rosa will be a man under pressure and if he fails to score points in the next few races he may be out of the team.

Virgin had a good weekend with both their cars finishing for the 1st time this season while Lotus though had Trulli finishing, Heikki failed to start the race while HRT once again had both the cars retiring during the race. Virgin suddenly seems like the team who can beat this pack but Lotus will provide them a stiff challenge.

It was a very good Spanish GP with Red Bulls dominating while Schumacher did show glimpse of his old form. If he does manages to keep improving, he can once again start winning races and the battle between Schumacher, Vettel and Hamilton could be very good.

Friday, May 7, 2010

2010 Spanish GP: The fight for the Championship starts now

The European leg of the F1 has in the past traditionally separated the boys from the men. Last season though Williams and Toyota were close to Brawn during the Asian leg of the calendar, once the European season began, it was a straightforward battle between Brawn and Red Bull for the title. This season as many as four teams are in the race with Renault still in the mix. The hot favorites for the title Red Bull despite having the fastest car on the grid is only 3rd in the Championship while Jenson Button and McLaren have surprised one and all by leading both the championships.

Jenson Button has proved everyone wrong by going into Europe with 2 wins and a substantial lead over his much fancied teammate Hamilton. Though Hamilton can always bounce back but he has to deal with loads of both on-track and off-track antics while Button has solely focused on racing alone. If Button continues to maintain the form he showed in Asia, there is every chance that he may once again be the champion and prove to the world that he won not because of the car but also he is good enough to win it.

Ferrari like Red Bull were fancied towards the start of the season but reliability issues have hit them hard but now they seem to have sorted that out and if Alonso & Massa can work as a team Ferrari will be hard to beat but if the pair fails to get along then Ferrari may self destruct it chances of winning the titles. Though they are still not as fast as Red Bull, they can quickly catch up with McLaren and need to beat them fast.

Mercedes went into the season as defending champions and even got Schumacher out of retirement but then his comeback though has been pretty good but then everyone is so used to Schumacher dominating the field but now his teammate who is yet to win a race has beaten him in four straight races and this is something which the legend has never experienced before. Though the Mercedes is being set for Schumacher and everyone does expect a backlash from the German but he needs to prove in Barcelona that he still has it in him and the most important thing will be to dominate Rosberg who has had a dream start to the season.

Red Bull must be comfortably leading both the championships now but a mix of bad luck and reliability has cost them hard. If Vettel needs to win the title, RBR should provide him with a car which is not only fast but also can go the distance or else it will be a case of chasing the leader once again and then miss out in the end. Webber will be a man under pressure as there are talks of Kimi replacing him for 2011 but the Australian needs to bounce back strongly and needs to get back on podiums before winning races.

Renault and Kubica have been the surprise package and though they may not win the titles, they may yet win some races and if they continue their progress they can be a thorn in the path of the big 4 teams and even could beat a couple of them in the end. Vitaly Petrov, their rookie driver has been the best among the rookies so far and if he too continues to score points, it could be a great revival for the team which nearly closed shop last year.

Force India has had its best start ever and both Sutil and Liuzzi have been impressive but the team should now focus on trying to catch up with Renault rather then trying to beat Williams and STR. The team has beaten those 2 teams soundly so far and in order to reach the next level they should target Renault.

Williams are once again suffering from being a private team and though before the season started they did seem to have a decent package but now their car is not good as the rest of the field and they are fighting out with the likes of STR. Rubens Barrichello is a fast driver and it is disappointing to see him finish his career this way while Nico Hulkenberg has shown promise and he deserves something much better than this as of now.

Toro Rosso have had a typical start where they manage to score points but then lag behind bigger teams but they have 2 promising drivers and if the updates are as good as they are expect both Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi to be in points and the team must beat Williams once again and also catch up with Force India.

Sauber has been the most disappointed team and if the team continues to go the same way they may not even finish the season. Both de la Rosa and Kobayashi have failed to impress though the car has not been too supportive as well. But the team has to turn around its fortunes quickly if it needs to survive this season and start the next one.

Among the new teams as expected Lotus have impressed everyone and they seem to be closing in on Sauber slowly as well. Though scoring points is still way off if they manage to catch up with Sauber and beat both HRT and Virgin on a regular basis, it would be a good debut season for the team. HRT after a horrible start seem to have caught up with Virgin but then the poor Dallara chassis may hurt them in the long run while Virgin after looking promising have taken a few steps back. The team needs to regroup and start challenging Lotus.

It should be a good Spanish GP and this race would possibly set the precedent on how the season may end but after a few rain interrupted races a dry race will be a welcome sign.

Spanish GP Top 10 Predictions

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

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Gravel Trap

Jacques Villeneuve has finally opened his mouth again and this time though his comments were actually a bit sensible for a change. He still wants to make a comeback & we all hope he does makes his comeback for 2011 as F1 needs someone who talks without even thinking. This time he has actually praised Schumacher for once while he has glorified Button as the best wet weather driver which is actually not true as the best guy on wet should be the kid who got the former Minardi car on to podium at Monza and gave Toro Rosso its 1st and only win so far plus got us to listen to both the German & the Italian anthem together for one last time! All hopes on this driver joining the Scuderia for 2012!

Many actually though that F1 would be tireless for 2011 but now we do have 3 serious companies which wants to supply and among the 3, Michelin seems to be the favorite as of now while Avon is backed by one Bernie Ecclestone himself. Italian maker Pirelli has also entered the race and the last time it supplied tires to F1 cars was in 1991. It will be good to have 2 or even 3 suppliers as the tire wars is something which can spice up F1.

Teams want KERS for next season and while Renault is ready to supply to anyone, Ferrari has promised its units for teams which run the Ferrari engine while Williams has increased its share on the company which manufactures its KERS. Ideally McLaren has the best package on the grid and FIA should make it the common system as each team developing KERS will only lead to more expenses.

Finally Ferrari is criticized for running subliminal advertising on its car as the bar code featured on its cars and other team members is said to advertise Marlboro. This should be the most ridiculous claim ever as even without the barcode; Ferrari’s association with Marlboro is such that the very colour of Rosa Corsa will be associated with the brand. Also just because Ferrari runs the barcode means more people actually take up smoking. Smoking is bad but then that should be the least of worries in many countries especially the 3rd world ones which includes India.