Sunday, July 11, 2010

2010 British GP Review: Webber conquers Britain but civil war looms at RBR

Mark Webber won the 2010 British GP but Red Bull could end up as the overall loser in the championship hunt as Webber collided with teammate Vettel which caused him to go right behind everyone else but an inspired drive by the young German saw him finish 7th. The season is not yet over but the war between Webber and Vettel has turned ugly and the team has to either control the situation or just back one driver as if this continues Hamilton may end up winning the championship like how Kimi won in 2007 when McLaren’s policy ended up in disaster as both Alonso and Hamilton lost out by a single point.

McLaren is happy that despite having 2 world champions there has not been any major issues but in a few races they have to back either Hamilton or Button and this could lead to a civil war in the McLaren camp as well. Having 2 strong drivers looks good on paper but in reality it does not always workout as the success stories of Ferrari and Renault have seen one superstar driver paired with a solid hand who can not only score points regularly but also win races at times. But McLaren should be happy with the results as despite their issues with the car Hamilton finished 2nd while Button after a disastrous qualifying ended up 4th.

Nico Rosberg is back on the podium with a solid 3rd place finish but he Kubica’s retirement meant that he was not troubled by anyone and despite Button following him towards the end of the race, he was never in a position to really overtake Rosberg. A good result for Rosberg but his teammate the 7 time Champion Schumacher despite a pretty decent race could only finish 9th and the Schumacher bashing could once again start but the next race is his home race and it is highly important for the Mercedes team to be competitive during the race. Schumacher could use the German GP as a platform to show the world that he still has it in him to not only win races put pose one last challenge for the world title.

Williams after a slow start to the season has been revived with Barrichello once again putting in a solid drive by finishing 5th while rookie teammate Nico Hülkenberg managed to finish 10th and take home the last set of points. Likewise fellow mid-field team Sauber who has also seen a change in fortunes saw Kamui Kobayashi yet again performing a good show with him finishing 6th. If Sauber and Williams continue their momentum they could challenge Force India for the 6th place spot in the championships.

Force India who until the last race was seen as the best of the rest and at times has shown pace enough to match the likes of Mercedes, Renault and even Ferrari is now under pressure from Williams, Sauber and even STR at times. Despite Sutil’s 8th place finish the team will be hoping for better luck at Monza and Spa, 2 tracks which should favour them while Liuzzi is once again blowing hot & cold during the races. If he does not perform consistently he may end up losing his seat for the 2011 season.

Toro Rosso may not have scored much this season but Buemi have made the most of it this season by putting in some good drives that he is now in frame for a Renault seat for the 2011 season. While teammate Alguersuari after a good start to the season is now lagging behind Buemi and he needs to finish off the season on a high if he needs to retain his drive for the next year.

Ferrari and Renault are 2 teams which would want to forget the British GP immediately as it turned out to be a disastrous weekend for both the teams. Neither was expected to win but Ferrari was hoping for a podium finish while Kubica at one stage was all set for a podium place till his mechanical issues. Ferrari and Alonso were once again at the wrong end of the Steward’s decision. Alonso did benefit from the overtaking of Kubica but then the Steward’s taking their own time in making the decision and the safety car once again ruined the race for Ferrari. Massa is struggling and he once again failed to score any points. He is under pressure and he needs to start putting in some good performances as Ferrari did have a good car but the drivers ruined it for the team this weekend.

The new teams once again just made up for numbers and the good thing was that none of them were involved in any incidents with the faster teams. The British GP was exciting but then the coming week will be highly crucial for the Red Bull team and the future of Webber’s F1 care

Saturday, July 10, 2010

2010 British GP Preview: Red Bull and McLaren fight it out at Battle of Britain

Red Bull heads into the British GP as the favourites with Vettel going in carrying some very good form after winning a stunning European GP. His teammate should be happy to just walk leave alone racing after a horrid crash which saw him airborne for some time. Webber will be using Vettel’s old chassis but despite that he has shown some solid pace the practice. Red Bull has done well at Silverstone and they are all set to continue to dominate this year’s British GP which will mark the debut of the new Silverstone circuit which has seen some changes which will make it a very high speed circuit.

McLaren at their home race will be looking for the win but they do have not yet seem to have got the grip of the new track while Button will be desperate to win his home race as he is not only yet to win this race but also needed this win to go over his teammate Hamilton as he has been outpaced by his younger teammate for the last few races. Hamilton despite all the controversy during the European GP will be looking for a podium place here. Winning could be tough here but then given his recent form a podium seems a certainty unless Ferrari has managed to catch up with McLaren.

Alonso and Ferrari had a shot at the podium at the European GP but the safety car ruined everything for them but they will go into this grand prix determined as they still have a good shot at challenging both the championships. Alonso will be desperate for a win here as he has not won a race since the Bahrain GP while Massa despite a contract extension will be under immense pressure as his performance when compared to the previous 2 seasons has been very poor and he is yet to challenge for a win this season.

Mercedes has had a disastrous start to the season and despite their claims that they would be challenging for the titles the reigning champions have gone from bad to worse since the start of the season. Both Rosberg and Schumacher have not consistently challenged the front runners and Schumacher at times during the season have been beaten by the likes of Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso. Recent news of Haug’s meeting with Kimi does not bode well for the 7 time champion but then Mercedes should show patience as this was the same team which came up with dog of a car during its time as BAR/Honda.

Renault is the most improved team since the start of the season and with Kubica signing for the next year as well, the team looks at catching up with Mercedes during this weekend. Kubica has been the driver of the year so far and has been very consistent and despite an inferior car has put up a fight with the likes of Ferrari as well. Vitaly Petrov may have been the best rookie of the year but despite his good performance he will remain in the team as long as he can bring in the sponsors. If the rumoured MasterCard deal goes ahead, Petrov will be looking for a new team for the 2011 season.
Force India has been the most improved team since the last season and despite the fact that the team has not been challenging for podiums, it has done extremely well and the team is looking like the Jordan team of the late 90’s where the team was a solid mid-field team. Team owner Vijay Mallya has the resources to make the team better and if the team continue its impressive progress, it can be challenging for podiums regularly by the next season.

Williams has had some major announcement with Frank Williams stepping as the Chairman of the team due to age issues. Williams the most dominant team during the 90’s are struggling and fighting it out with the likes of Toro Rosso and Sauber. Already Force India is way ahead of them while both STR and Sauber have beaten them this season. Williams showed some improvement during the last race and the main aim for the team will be to finish ahead of STR and Sauber while also trying to catch up with Force India by the time the season ends.

Toro Rosso has been decent so far this season and this is the team’s best season since the 2008 season when Vettel had a magical season for the team which also won its 1st race at Monza. The team during its previous Minardi days struggled but now the team with 2 very solid young drivers are always looking to score points and so far this season apart from scoring a few points have also done well to beat Sauber and Williams regularly and even during the odd occasion the team has also outpaced Force India.

Sauber after a disastrous start have finally started scoring points and the team has improved by leaps and bounds since the 1st race. The team has always had the pace but reliability has been the issue and if the team does manages to solve that with a driver like Kamui Kobayashi the team can score a lot more points.

Lotus, Virgin and HRT so far are only making up the numbers while despite the claims by Lotus that they are catching up with the likes of Sauber and STR, the team has just managed to perform better than Virgin and HRT but then the team has a long way to go if it has to even make it to Q2. The biggest news of the weekend has been the axing of Senna for the British GP by HRT. Sakon Yamamoto has hardly set the F1 world on fire by his previous drives for Super Aguri and Spyker but the Japanese driver will be doing a decent job if he manages to stay out of trouble.

The British GP at the new Silverstone circuit should be special and also we can always include the possibility of rains which will make it even better. Red Bull looks the favourite but if anyone can challenge them then it has to be either McLaren or Ferrari but Renault could be the dark horse for the race.

British GP Top 10 Predictions

1. Sebastien Vettel

2. Mark Webber

3. Robert Kubica

4. Fernando Alonso

5. Lewis Hamilton

6. Adrian Sutil

7. Felipe Massa

8. Nico Rosberg

9. Jenson Button

10. Vitantonio Liuzzi

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Michael Schumacher Problem

Michael Schumacher is statistically the most successful driver in the history of F1 and he could also be the best driver to have ever raced. Of course a few would always counter that there have been others like Juan Manuel Fangio, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna who could have been better than Schumacher but comparing drivers of different era is tough and the sheer success rate of Schumacher makes his probably the greatest ever driver. Prost and Senna finished their careers when Schumacher was starting his but Prost and Senna always raced for the best of teams. Prost left Renault as he could not win the championship with them while his rivalry with Senna caused him to move out of McLaren. He spends just 2 seasons with Ferrari and took a sabbatical from the sport only to re-join a year later to win his final championship with Williams. Senna after some good drives with Lotus joined McLaren as it was the most dominant team in the late 80’s while left the team to join Williams as they started dominating the sport but unfortunately he dies in a horrific crash at the San Marino Grand Prix.

Prost and Senna are good drivers provided they have good cars and neither have not gone on to build a team like Schumacher has done it. Prost and Senna are no angels on the track as they also had their run of incidents and Senna if not for his death on the track is no stranger to controversies and he has in fact been involved in quite a bit of fist fights for on track incidents. Before Schumacher joined Benetton, the team was good but never good enough to win titles. He ended up winning 2 championships with the team and was fighting for race wins right from his 1st full season with the team. He made the team dominate the sport for 2 seasons where they decimated teams like McLaren and Williams. He then joined Ferrari and when he joined the team, the team had not any titles since 1984 and in the 5 year period before he joined the team won 2 races in that period. Schumacher build the team and ensured that they became one of the most dominant team of that era. The Schumacher led Ferrari won 5 driver’s championship and 6 constructor’s championships. Their worst finish in that period was finishing 3rd in 2005. Schumacher won an astonishing 72 races in 11 seasons with Ferrari. He is not only the world’s greatest driver but also the best support driver as Eddie Irvine would say as during the 99 season, Schumacher broke his leg and missed 6 races which ruled him out for the season but he came back and ensured that he provided all the support for the Irishman who went on to lose the title by just 2 points. That was the year Ferrari won his first constructor’s championship since 1983.

There have been fast drivers like Kimi Räikkönen, Jacques Villeneuve, and Lewis Hamilton who went on to win titles with a fast car but no one else have built a team around them and turned the fortunes of a team so much that he became synonymous with the team itself. Though Ferrari could have been hasty in putting in Kimi for the 2007 season which resulted in Schumacher retiring from the sport after a stunning drive at the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2006. It could have been a bit premature as he had a few years left in the tank. He did test the Ferrari cars and was their consultant till 2009 but then Schumacher was used to racing not watch it from the side-lines but Massa’s accident nearly resulted in him making a comeback last year for Ferrari but then when Button left Brawn and when Mercedes took over the team they needed a world champion and Schumacher answered Brawn’s call as his association with Brawn is even longer than his association with Ferrari and Brawn has been instrumental in all his championships.

We should remember that Schumacher has been out of F1 for 3 seasons and a lot of changed. The current field is one of the most talented fields ever while another factor is that the Mercedes team in its previous avatars as BAR and Honda has produced some disastrous cars. Brawn GP though ran on low budgets their car was in development for over 2 years and Honda has put in close to half a billion on that car. It is not that Schumacher is struggling while his teammate is winning but despite the reasonable start that Rosberg had when Schumacher was still getting used to the car it has not been as big as a disaster as some sections of the media are portraying. Schumacher did have his worst ever finish in Valencia on a track where he has never raced before but then he was also an unlucky victim of FIA’s flawed safety car rules. Had that not been the case he could have even been on the podium and the Schumacher comeback story would have taken a different turn. In 2009 while Button was winning races his teammate Barrichello was not even on the podium on regular basis but here Rosberg is not exactly doing wonders apart from his early good run. Rosberg has never truly beaten Schumacher and the good old Schumacher may not be back as long as they don’t provide him with a good car. Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari are miles ahead and even Renault is catching up. Last weekend at the European Grand Prix saw Williams and Force India showing stronger pace then Mercedes.

If Mercedes do improve then the old Schumacher should be back and with the likes of German, Belgian and the Italian GP’s to go, these tracks have been special to him and we could even expect a win but knowing how the development has gone for this season for Mercedes, that may just not happen. Schumacher’s comeback given the situation and car has been very good for a 41 year old drivers competing with men half his age but then he should not give up so easily and even if he manages to win races that would cap off as a remarkable comeback as this was the team who used to produce some of the worst cars on the grid during the BAR/Honda era. Brawn is one man and he could not change much but the team should focus on 2011 and just use this season for Schumacher to warm up as if the car is developed for him and if the team is able to produce a car which is even half good as the Brawn GP car of 2009 then he can challenge the likes of Red Bull, McLaren and his old team Ferrari. The real Schumacher will be back only if he has a car to drive with the current car even the likes of Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton, the 3 best drivers of this new era will fail to challenge for wins leave alone score points regularly.