Monday, November 28, 2011

Over the Curbs Awards – 2011

After a stunning 2010 season where till the final race of the season you were not sure who will win the F1 Driver’s Championship but 2011 turned out to be a year where Vettel not only became the youngest double World Champion but also broke Mansell’s long standing record of the most number of poles in a season. Red Bull proved that they are no one-hit wonder and that they are here to stay. Red Bull was so dominant that Vettel and RBR won the titles even before the season was over. McLaren and Ferrari were able to challenge the team only at few races while the mid-field battle between Force India, Sauber and STR was pretty exciting.

Schumacher nearly hot the podium in Canada but though he still struggles in qualifying, overall the German Legend has improved his race pace and given a good car can challenge for wins once again though there were silly errors from him throughout the season. Also the whole Lotus saga comes to an end with Lotus Renault GP will now become Lotus while Team Lotus will become Caterham.

Robert Kubica was severely injured before the season started and he is not ready to drive a F1 car. We all hope during the course of the 2012 season, he can atleast drive a car in tests and show that he still has it in him. Also there were talks of Kimi racing for Williams and Lotus Renault for 2012 but given the state of global economy and Kimi’s inflated salary, don’t think a Kimi comeback is on cards.

Among the 3 new tears none really made a huge progress but Team Lotus did manage to challenge some mid-field team during a few races and they should make the jump from this pack to challenge the likes of Sauber and STR. Williams are on a deep slide and they had their worst ever F1 season. If they continue going this way they may end up like the original Team Lotus and may eventually go into liquidation. For 2012 they have big plans and they have signed up with Renault for engines. They had the same Renault engines during their successful period 1989 to 1997. Realistically, we can’t expect the team to win races but they should be challenging the likes of Sauber and STR.

Also there was the first ever Indian GP and it managed to go on without a hitch while Force India has sold a 42% stake to the Sahara group and with Sahara coming onboard, the only way for Force India is to go up and after a stunning last 2 seasons, the team should challenge the likes of Lotus Renault for the coming season.

Over the Club Awards for 2011 Season:

Driver of the Season – Sebastian Vettel

Team of the Season – Red Bull Racing

The Next Big Thing – Paul di Resta

Most Improved Driver – Jenson Button

Most Improved Team – Force India

Race of the Season – Canadian Grand Prix

Best Grand Prix – Singapore Grand Prix

Worst Grand Prix – Chinese Grand Prix

Rookie of the season – Paul di Resta

Most disappointing driver of the Season – Lewis Hamilton

Most disappointing team of the Season – Williams

Lucky to be in F1 (for the season) - Jarno Trulli

Veteran of the Season – Michael Schumacher

Comeback of the Season – Adrian Sutil

Most entertaining driver of the season – Michael Schumacher

Most boring driver of the season – Vitaly Petrov

JV of the Season – Lewis Hamilton
(For the driver who talks utter nonsense like how JV used to do it in his racing days)

Whiner of the season - Rubens Barrichello

Most missed Driver – Robert Kubica

Least missed Driver - Pedro de la Rosa

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Crazy and no-so Crazy Driver Market!

The F1 driver market will always be an interesting read as at times you can hear some audacious stories floating around. For 2012, there is an unusual calm and more or less all the big 4 teams have announced their drivers. I don’t expect any change in Red Bull (Vettel & Webber), McLaren (Button & Hamilton), Ferrari (Alonso & Massa) and Mercedes (Schumacher & Rosberg) and also Sauber has announced that it will continue with Sergio Perez & Kamui Kobayashi while Team Lotus has re-signed both Heikki Kovalainen & Jarno Trulli, there is still some speculation on Trulli’s role if he is going to be a race driver or will he take up a David Coulthard type of role.

Williams, Lotus Renault, Force India, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Marussia Virgin Racing and HRT still has available seats and there are plenty of drivers in the market. The biggest news which is going around is that former World Champion Kimi is having talks with Williams. One may wonder why a driver of the caliber of Kimi would have talks with Williams but it actually makes sense for everyone involved if this actually happens. Williams have gone from one of the most dominant team of the 90’s to a mid-field team which this season has gone even worse. They are just ahead of the 3 new teams of F1. Force India and Sauber are well ahead and even the possibility of catching up Toro Rosso is remote. Williams have announced a partnership with Renault but Red Bull is the premier works team of Renault while Williams is more or less a customer team only. The benefit for Williams by signing Kimi is that they have a former Champion racing for them and this could easily attract new sponsors for the team. Also the serious intent that the team is looking at breaking away from the mid-field will be shown by this move. Williams took a lot of flank by replacing Hulkenberg  with Pastor Maldonado but then atleast the team’s financial situation is stable and Maldonado is doing a pretty decent job and comes with a decent driver pedigree as having won the GP2 Championship. For Kimi, Williams is the sort of team where he would have less pressure as no one expects him to win races with the team and a few good drives would once again entice the likes of Red Bull and McLaren. If Kimi had gone to Red Bull and had Vettel smoked him out like he is doing it to Vettel, Kimi’s future in the sport will have a downward spiral. So Kimi and Williams is the best combination for both the parties involved.

Force India is now almost challenging Renault for the 5th place and has a realistic chance of taking it but then with Sahara taking over a major stake in the team and also Sahara is keen on an Indian driving for the team, things are not too clear for the team. But then Paul di Resta seems to have a contract for 2012 while there are reports saying that Nico Hulkenberg has already signed for 2012. This line-up seems to be the most logical for the team and if the car is as good as this year, this line-up can pose a challenge for even 4th place for the 2012 season. F1 is business and nationalistic ideals do not go well with it and Force India may actually will not a sign an Indian driver to race while Sutil is bound to get the axe despite being in the team since the beginning. Sutil has had enough chances and also the brawl in China has not done him any favors. He has some personal sponsors and he is looking at the Williams seat as well but then his days in F1 is more or less over if Force India does drops him.

Lotus Renault is the most complicated team on the grid as despite being called a Renault the team has nothing to do with the car company and all it does is run Renault engines. The team could have had a stellar year this season but Kubica’s accident has ruined everything and his replacement Nick Heidfeld has failed drastically and has even been dropped by the team. It is a bit harsh on Heidfeld as more or less his F1 career is over with this move. Kubica is still recovering and there are rumors floating around that he may become the reserve driver for Ferrari in 2012 and take up the race seat during the 2013 season once Massa’s contract is done. This seems to be a good option for Kubica as given how murky the Renault teams has become. Renault still had a decent car and could attract some good drivers but does the team actually has the money to pay a good driver is a good question. Vitaly Petrov & Bruno Senna are currently racing while Petrov is well backed, Senna if he could pull off some good performance during the last few races, could be a good for the team as the Senna name can attract sponsors. Romain Grosjean is more mature and a better driver than we last saw him and his French connections could earn him a seat but then it call comes to money when Lotus Renault will decide on its drivers.

Toro Rosso has four drivers for 2012 with the incumbents Jaime Alguersuari & Sebastien Buemi more or less evenly matched but with new Spanish sponsors coming in, Alguersuari may have an edge while Daniel Ricciardo & Jean-Eric Vergne will also come into the mix. Ricciardo has done decently well with HRT while Vergne is rated highly but still is untested in F1. STR may just drop both Alguersuari & Buemi and bring in the other guys.

For the minnows, Timo Glock will race for 2012 while Jerome d’Ambrosio may get the boot. The likes of Charles Pic & Giedo Van der Garde will come into the mix while even Petrov can come in if Lotus Renault decides to give him the ax. For HRT, the biggest thing once again will be getting their car ready and anyone with enough money will be driving for team but Vitantonio Liuzzi may yet be retained.

Rubens Barrichello’s long F1 career is coming to an end and it looks certain that Williams have not renewed his contract while Lotus Renault could be his realistic shot at driving a good car while HRT may sign him if he brings in the money.

2012 looks sober but 2013 will be very interesting with the likes of Hamilton, Massa, Webber, Schumacher and Rosberg all without contracts meaning that big 4 teams has seats available. But Mercedes is sure to sign on Rosberg unless McLaren dumps Hamilton while Schumacher will retire at the end of next season but then a few race wins may even keep him going longer for a bit. Massa needs a miracle to continue with Ferrari while only a World Championship could get Red Bull retain Webber. Hamilton’s best chance of another title is with McLaren but then stranger things has happened in F1 and a former World Champion did sign for BAR and his F1 career plunged into the depths and it never took off again. Kimi’s return will be a big  plus for the 2013 silly season as a solid year with Williams could add him in the mix and F1 is just getting interesting.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Enough is Enough!

Michael Schumacher is one of the greatest formula 1 drivers of all time and he is the best if you go only by statistics. AT 42 Schumacher still has it in him to go head-to head with drivers who were in their diapers when he started racing!

The constant criticism he gets from former drivers and the British media is uncalled for and it is just plain sour grapes. One his arch rivals Jacques Villeneuve who is often known for his brash and crazy comments actually made a good point about Schumacher’s’ comeback. F1 is not about the driver alone and though till the early 80’s it was 50/50 now it is more on the technical side and the car that it is become 80/20 in favor of the car. Yes a Karun Chandhok given a Red Bull may not win a race but a Rosberg with a Red Bull will be a title contender.

During this Belgian GP Schumacher would be celebrating his 20th anniversary of his F1 debut which happened at Spa. This was also the venue which saw his 1st race win and been host to a bunch of memorable Schumacher drives. Even during the Canadian GP we were shown that he has not lost much and was actually in line for a podium finish but eventually the faster McLaren of Button and Red Bull of Webber overtook him and he finished a much celebrated 4th place.

For the British media anyone not from the isles winning races means the car is good while if their own guy wins then it is all about the driver. Vettel, the reigning Champion and also according to many the heir to Schumacher’s throne is considered an inferior driver to Hamilton according to the British press. Vettel has shown that he is a more consistent driver and by far a better team player than Hamilton will ever be. F1 is not about one race but it is about performing the whole season. This is something which Schumacher throughout his F1 career has shown.

From the time he made his debut for Jordan, he has shown that he is a special talent and with an unfancied Benetton managed to win 2 driver’s championships. This was the time when Williams seems invincible and everyone wanted to drive for the team. Also the Frenchman and multiple-time World Champion Alain Prost ran away from Ferrari after a poor season but not Schumacher. Given his German connections he could have easily gone to McLaren but he stuck around with Ferrari and ensured that Ferrari which at that point was lagging behind the likes of Williams, Benetton and McLaren became the best team in F1 history!

His time with Ferrari was one the greatest moments in F1 which resulted in 5 consecutive world championships and barring 2 years of his time with Ferrari, he was challenging for the title every other time. He is one of the greatest drivers ever but he is not a superman who can take a dog of a car and win races in it. Seriously who has managed to do it? None has in reality. Senna did manage to drag a Toleman to a Monaco during very wet conditions while Vettel went one up by actually winning at Monza during a wet race driving for the Toro Rosso team which in its previous incarnation as Minardi was always a back-marker team.

You have to remember that the Brawn GP car in which Button won was actually one of the most expensive F1 cars ever which had close to 2 years in development time. While the likes of McLaren & Ferrari were fighting for titles and Red Bull just coming up the ladder, Brawn thanks to a very generous funding by Honda managed to build a car which during the 1st half of the season was close to invincible. You can always argue that Rubens Barrichello did not win a single race during that phase but again the driver does make a difference. Best example is if Chandhok is in a Red Bull. Do you thing he can win the title?

The very team in its previous avatars as BAR & Honda F1 has proved real dog of cars. Except for 2004 and to an extend 2006, the team has never produced cars capable of even challenging for podiums at regular intervals. Now how can you expect Schumacher to actually come take this dog of the car and challenge the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren? He can’t and the car is just not capable enough. Also Schumacher is not 28 anymore and he is 42 and he has been out of F1 for 3 years. Yes he is not the same Schumacher anymore but then Rosberg is a very good driver and given a good car he can challenge for wins and maybe even a title. He is similar to Jenson Button who is very consistent and can win a title if everything goes in his way.

It not like Trulli is beating Schumacher and the difference between Rosberg and Schumacher this season is actually not much. Schumacher given the right car will be challenging for wins but then even Vettel with this Mercedes would find it difficult to challenge for podiums leave alone a win. The car could be the best of the rest but it is lagging behind the top 3 teams. So unless Mercedes produces a car where one driver is winning while the other is yet to win you can question Schumacher. Something similar is happening in Red Bull but then since Webber is Australian who is a darling of the British media they still manage to spin the conspiracy theory that RBR gives Vettel a superior car compared to Webber!

Guys like Lauda and Jordan can keep quiet as they have had their time and it is sour grapes that Schumacher has done something which they have never managed to it. Also the British press despite their constant criticism of Schumacher he is actually not that as bad as they portray. Well the last 30 years has produced 4 British Champions and Schumacher alone has more titles put together than these 4 combined. Britain despite being home to F1 has not consistently produced good drivers. Germans since the arrival of Schumacher has had more drivers than the Brits. Among the 2 drivers on the grid, Button can win if there is rain and chaos or he has a car which is 2 second faster than any other car while Hamilton is getting worse as a driver since his F1 debut.

Schumacher is Schumacher and this comeback does not take away anything and if you look purely at statistics like a few commentators have done then Rosberg in his 6th season is yet to win a race while Schumacher in the 6th season has already won 2 World Championships! So statistics alone would count for nothing! Give the man a good car and he will show he is still the Man! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Webbergate: Version 2

The whole “team order saga” once again erupted but then this time around Webber whining is just getting plain boring. Mark Webber is just lucky to drive for Red Bull. If Webber was so good, he would have gone to Renault during the 2007 season but the only reason he got his Red Bull drive was because of Renault supplying engines to Red Bull and his manager Flavio Briatore ensured that the deal happened.

Webber is way over-rated and on his day he can be a good driver but then he is not a “special” driver who can go on and win titles. He can be a good #2 or he can be a good driver for a mid-field team but then expecting Webber to win and challenge for titles is something which just is not possible. Last year people say it was Webber’s best chance but then he was just not consistent enough and that showed that by the end of the season it was Alonso who was Vettel’s biggest threat not Webber.

This season in 8 races before the British Grand Prix, Vettel has won 6 races and managed to finish 2nd in the other 2 races. McLaren drivers Hamilton and Button both won races but Webber was just chasing Vettel throughout the season and was not even close to him. Even at the British Grand Prix despite on being pole Webber never did challenge him till the last 2 laps and that too it happened because of a horrible pit-stop by the Red Bull crew on Vettel while Webber actually got the better pit strategy.

Webber’s indiscipline this time is unacceptable and Red Bull should just not re-sign him for the next season. If they feel the younger drivers whom they have under contract is not good enough they can just sign Kamui Kobayashi who has proved that he is a highly capable driver and given a fast car he can be more than a capable teammate for Vettel. Or else they can just look at Massa who after the last 2 years in Ferrari is looking lost and he seems to have lost that spark that made him a challenger to the Championship during the 2008 season.

Red Bull does not need Webber while Webber needs them more than anything else. Webber does not have too many good options and the only seat which could be possible is Ferrari but that depends on Massa. Massa had a contract for 2012 but in F1 contracts means nothing so that is a possibility but then Alonso has molded the team around him Webber will have to be a #2 driver. He can go to Renault but with the whole Group Lotus fiasco, Renault may provide a good car but they just cannot provide a race winning car.

Williams and Force India are two options while Williams with a deal with Renault may look like they are keen on revival but given his age Webber would not want to spend his last few years nurturing the team while Force India will always be a team which performs well on a few track rather than a team which challenges for podiums.

Webber should have kept quiet and Red Bull should just sign Kobayashi as he is one for the future and has a good marketing potential too. Webber can just call it day or finish his career with Renault as he has just shot himself with his latest outburst. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

2012: The Silly Driver Market

The driver market has been very stable for the last few things and the last big move occurred when Alonso left Renault to join Ferrari while that was always expected but there have not been any big shocking moves which caused most teams to change drivers. Looking at the line-up of the top teams for the current season, everyone has a good line-up and maybe expect for McLaren, 2012 could be very different for the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and even Renault.

Two drivers who could really make a difference and plunge 2012 into a silly season are Mark Webber and Felipe Massa. Webber has a deal only till end of the year while Massa despite on paper has a deal till 2012 nothing is guaranteed as everyone knew what happened to Kimi Räikkönen.

Red Bull owns Toro Rosso for the development of drivers in their program and Vettel’s success vindicates continuing the program but then with Daniel Ricciardo all set for a Toro Rosso seat in 2012, both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari will be hoping to step-up and become Vettel’s teammate for 2012. But then it all depends on Webber and his chemistry with the team. No team likes a driver who is way too outspoken and keeps criticising & whining to the press about the team and Red Bull given how strong they are can actually any driver to partner Vettel.

Things in Ferrari are a different story and some speculate that had it not been for Massa’s serious accident, it would have been Kimi and Alonso rather than Massa continuing in the team. Massa had one great season where he nearly won the championship but then apart from that season Massa has lacked the consistency which is needed for a top driver. Last season Alonso owned Massa and looking at how things have shaped up this season things may not be that different. Massa’s failure last season was one of the main reasons why Ferrari could not even challenge for the constructors title while McLaren due to good point scoring drives by Button and Hamilton were very much in the hunt.

For Red Bull things are not that complicated as given how strong their car is any good driver would want to drive for them. Webber if he still has that hunger could be retained but I doubt if that could happen. Among the 3 young drivers Daniel Ricciardo is the most talented one but he is yet to drive in F1 while the current STR drivers Buemi and Alguersuari are both good but lacks consistent which Vettel showed when he was in Toro Rosso. If Massa is booted out of Ferrari he could come into the picture as he is a proven performer and with a fast car he can always have a good race. But one name which could surprise everyone was Nico Rosberg. Rosberg has always showed that he had the talent when he was in Williams and moving to Mercedes he did manage to beat Schumacher but then if he does manage to beat him once again this season Rosberg will be able to prove that he belong with the race winners.

One name which keeps popping up whenever Red Bull comes up is former champion Kimi Räikkönen, who is sponsored by Red Bull and is not that serious about either rallying or NASCAR as his deals are all on per race basis. A Kimi return would do F1 a world of good and it would be good to see Kimi and Vettel go up against the likes of Hamilton, Button, Schumacher and Alonso. But then Kimi has been out of F1 for 2 years and things have changed now but not that drastically that he could still be fast and challenge for races. Kimi would be a marketing coup for the team and he is also close to current world champion Vettel which means that the driver harmony in the team will be very good.

Massa and Webber could just swap seats but then Ferrari would actually benefit a lot from Webber as he is off proven quantity and since he does not have too many years left in him, he could fill in the seat till Vettel is available or till the likes of Sergio Pérez and Jules Bianchi are ready for F1. Another name which could be associated with Ferrari will be Nico Hülkenberg. The man is managed by Wili Weber, the same guy who brought Schumacher to Ferrari and the Hulk showed last season that how good he was in a bad Williams’s car and this season in Friday practices he has shown good pace with Force India.

Mercedes could end up losing both its drivers but then though Rosberg to Ferrari rumours are afloat, he is currently in the best position to pick teams as if he has a good 2011, he can actually choose between Ferrari and Red Bull while his teammate Schumacher has said that he will continue to drive till 2012, but then if Rosberg dominates him once again like he did in 2010 and Paul di Resta if he continues in the way he has started the season, he could retire to make way for the younger driver. Another possibility for the Mercedes seat will be Hülkenberg but then his nationality would play a major factor in getting him the seat.

Renault will be waiting for Kubica as this season they do have a car which can challenge for the title and no offence to Nick Heidfeld, who is very good but then he did not have a whole season for 2010 and the car was built around Kubica. Heidfeld could still do well but then losing the early momentum means that the team would be forced to fight for the 3rd place in the championship rather than look at race wins and the title itself. Vitaly Petrov has been impressive so far and if he continues to do the same he could hold on to the seat for quiet sometime. A very good season for Heidfeld means that he could possibly get a seat with likes of Williams and Force India for 2012.

Among the others, veteran Rubens Barrichello could stretch his career further but that is not going to benefit anyone while Sutil if he continues to get outpaced like this then his dream of a top car could just vanish as Mercedes would be looking at the likes of di Resta and the Hulk while Renault wants a consistent driver which Sutil may not be. Timo Glock will rue that he did not take the gamble and sign with Renault as his chance of getting a drive for a top team is getting very slim. Maybe he and Sutil can look at Team Lotus for a drive as Trulli is not getting any younger. One driver who I wish gets a good drive is Kamui Kobayashi as he is a true racer and Red Bull will do no harm in giving him a chance for 2012. If he fails to land a drive in the next few seasons he could fast become these generations Heidfeld, a good talent but never had a race winning car.

Long way to go for the 2012 season but the traditionally the driver’s market slowly picks up momentum at the start of the European season and this year it could be no different.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2011 Malaysian GP Review: Flawless Vettel dominates dominates Sepang

Sebastian Vettel won his 2nd race of the race with an ease that for most part of the season he was on his own. Even better this victory was that his championship rivals from last season Hamilton and Alonso could only finish 6th and 7th. Though it was a good race for Vettel, his teammate Webber had a mixed race but eventually managed to finish 4th fighting it out hard for that place. Not a dream start to the season for Webber but he will take it. Red Bull looks strong and if they could solve their KERS issue they can run away with the championship this season.

Jenson Button finished 2nd and though he never looked like challenging Vettel this was a good result for the British driver as the season is 19 races long and this finish is good for him in-terms of his standing in his team itself and also with regard to the driver’s championship. Button did similarly last season and was in contention for the title till the penultimate race of the season. Also he seems more suited to the Pirelli tires than his teammate Hamilton.

Ferrari came into this weekend not expecting to challenge Red Bulls for a win but there were ready to challenge for podium places and Alonso during various stages of the race was set for that but due to various races it never materialized and he could only finish 6th while teammate Massa improved to finish 5th. Not a great finish but finishing ahead of Alonso and a much improved show by him should restore some faith him in by the team.

Renault had Vitaly Petrov on podium during the last time and this time they had Nick Heidfeld who had a stunning race to finish 3rd. Renault’s decision to replace Kubica with Heidfeld has been vindicated and Heidfeld was the driver of the race and was actually 2nd during the early stages of the race after an amazing start. Petrov also had a good race till he crashed out but he has shown that he can race and if he continues his progress, then Renault can mix with the likes of McLaren and Ferrari.

Sauber once again showed that they have a very good car and though both Kobayashi and Pérez were disqualified in Melbourne for technical infringements but here in Sepang, Kobayashi once again drove a very exciting race and he fought hard with everyone and finished 8th. It is only a matter of time till one of the big teams will sign this Japanese driver. Perez did not have a great race but he has the potential and as the season progresses he should do well.

Mercedes after a horrible Australian GP looked set for an improvement at Sepang but they did open their account for this season with Michael Schumacher coming in 9th. Schumacher did show some of his old magic and if only he had the car he could be mixing with the guys at the top of the grid. Teammate Rosberg had a poor race and whatever reputation he gained during the last season will be gone quickly if he drives a few more races like he did today. Mercedes needs to up its game or else it will find itself battling the likes of Sauber and Force India rather than Renault, Ferrari and McLaren.

After seeing the way Paul di Resta drove today, we all should be wondering what was he doing in DTM for so long but he atleast managed to get a break this season and yet again finished 10th and got into point scoring position for Force India. Though the team’s car is lacking in pace compared to Sauber and even Toro Rosso, di Resta drove brilliantly and he is on course to become the rookie of the year if he continues to drive the same way. Teammate Sutil also had a good race and he managed to finish 11th importantly ahead of Rosberg and the Toro Rosso drivers.

Williams is having a catastrophic season and the way Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver on the grid is driving, they would wonder if they made a huge mistake in letting go Nico Hülkenberg. Williams ever since BMW left them have been on a downhill and the team also has made some mistakes when it came to drivers and engine suppliers and yet again this season instead of signing up with Renault they went with Cosworth. Pastor Maldonado despite brining in the money in the 2 races he has raced has shown that he does not belong on the grid.

Toro Rosso had a poor race as they do have a car which can challenge Sauber and which is better than Force India but both their drivers failed to score points. This resembles last season as the team had a decent start and they just tapered off during the middle part of the season. It is a very important season for both Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari if their F1 careers have to continue.

Among the others who make up the numbers on the grid, Team Lotus despite their promising show during the testing has not really progressed beyond the tail-end of the grid while Virgin and HRT racing is just one bike joke. The teams are neither competitive nor doing something to improve it. Virgin despite backed by Sir Richard Branson should quit F1 as the CFD alone concept is not working and Branson should learn how to run an F1 team from other billionaires out there which is throw some money on the team. HRT’s shoestring budget set-up looks like it will not last the whole season. The team has decent drivers but the car is not even good enough to race in GP2. FIA should step in and throw the team out.

The next race will be in China next week and none of the teams will have time for any updates and given how RBR and Vettel have dominated so far, things should not change too much in China. Maybe a clever mix of strategy and some gutsy driving could have the likes of Hamilton and maybe even Heidfeld challenging Vettel.

Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 Australian GP Review: Vettel dominates while rest watches

Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion had no problems winning the 2011 Australian GP a race which he dominated from pole and he won without even a challenge. Vettel and Red Bull once again looked dominant and if the likes of McLaren and Ferrari have any decent shot at the title, then they drastically need to cut the distance or else Red Bull will have the titles by mid-season.

Lewis Hamilton despite nursing home his McLaren should be a very happy man with his 2nd place finish and just 2 weeks back McLaren was lagging behind not only RBR but also the likes of Ferrari, Sauber, Renault and even Toro Rosso but the team has done extremely well to change things and now look set to challenge RBR as the season progresses. One thing the team has to be careful about is Hamilton’s over aggressive driving style may have issues with the new Pirelli tires.

Vitaly Petrov has his best result in his F1 career by finishing in 3rd. It was not only his 1st podium finish but it was the return of the Lotus name on to the podium after more than 2 decades. Though for all technical and legal purpose the car is officially still called as Renault, the Lotus Cars sponsored Renault team which was expected to be the surprise package of this season did not disappoint at all with Petrov having a very solid race. He is definitely my driver of the race. Teammate Heidfeld had a horrible debut for Renault and he will hope that he can get back his groove during the Malaysian GP or else if he continues in his current form, he maybe replaces very soon.

Ferrari which was expected to challenge Red Bull Racing would be disappointed but it was not a very poor start. Alonso was scrappy through the race and ever since been pushed out of the 1st corner of the race, he just could not fight it out for a podium finish. The car looks ok and with more updates it can challenge RBR. Teammate Massa had a very mixed race and if he continues in that same vein he may yet again be relegated to being Alonso’s #2. He definitely needs to up his game for the next race while Button the man with whom Massa fought most part during the race was a bit unlucky. The tires should suit his driving style and with some clever strategy he could do better than Hamilton but if he needs to pose challenge for the title he needs to be more aggressive.

Sauber was the team of the race till both their cars were disqualified due to technical violations. Though the team has appealed, Sauber has started the season well and at current form looks better than fellow mid-field teams like Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso. Sergio Perez had an amazing debut and showed that Peter Sauber does have a knack for finding talent while teammate Kamui Kobayashi yet again showed his worth by battling it out with everyone. Kobayashi has all the ingredients to become Japan’s 1st F1 champion provided he gets a very good drive.

Toro Rosso which looked strong during the pre-season testing had a solid car and will be looking at beating fellow mid-field teams like Sauber, Williams and Force India. Sébastien Buemi, the once highly touted rookie is under pressure to perform and he did well to finish 8th while teammate Jaime Alguersuari needs to up his game a bit as the highly promising rookie Daniel Ricciardo is waiting for a drive and he will put immense pressure on the incumbent drivers.

Force India despite not having a car which can score points were lucky to score points due to Sauber’s disqualification as Sutil and di Resta were classified 9th and 10th. Sutil was very consistent through the race while rookie teammate di Resta was very impressive. He did not get overawed during the race and showed that he does deserve his place on the grid. A good season in which if he could be Sutil could result even in a Mercedes drive in the future. But the team has to work hard if they have to catch up Sauber and STR.

Mercedes had a race to forget with both cars retiring. Schumacher got tangled in the 1st corner with Alguersuari and he just did not recover from it. The car was damaged and Schumacher had a forgettable race. Teammate Rosberg was a having a decent race till Barrichello decided to punt him which resulted him having issues and he had to retire. Barrichello despite being the most experienced driver on the grid once again proved that why he never won a world championship at Ferrari and Brawn GP. While teammate Pastor Maldonado another rookie making his debut retired after having transmission issues. Williams should have taken a cue from Sauber and should have partnered Nico Hülkenberg with Maldonado as Barrichello just do not bring in much to the table while Maldonado is needed for bring in the money for the team. They need to up their game or else they may even have Team Lotus catching up with them.

Team Lotus despite early promise once again looked the best of the 3 teams which made its debut last season but not as good as the other teams. The team had reliability issues during the pre-season testing and once again in Melbourne Heikki Kovalainen had to retire due to water leak while Jarno Trulli managed to finish 13th. The team has pace and if they could managed to solve their reliability issues they can catch up with Force India which looks the weakest among the mid-field teams.

There was not to expect much from the entirely CFD designed Virgin cars but Jérôme d'Ambrosio finished 14th and was the last person classified while Timo Glock was too far behind to have been classified. The team is still half a second behind Team Lotus and they have lot of work to be done before they can catch up with the Lotus team. HRT landed up in Australia with a car which was yet to hit the road and as expected the team failed to even qualify for the race with the 107% rule implied. Having teams like HRT is making F1 looking like a joke.

With no chance of having a Bahrain GP this year, there will be 19 races and Vettel if he manages to continue his current form, he should easily retain his title while McLaren and Ferrari need to up their game or else Renault may just surprise and even beat them. It is a good start to the season and it can only get better.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 Season Preview: All things Possible!

2010 turned out to be the most exciting season ever and till the last race, 4 drivers were in contention for the Driver’s Championship but Sebastian Vettel not also won his 1st title but also became the youngest ever champion. Though it was a very tough season were Vettel was trailing his teammate Webber and Ferrari’s Alonso for most part of the season but in the end his toughness and determination led to him conquer the F1 world with his maiden title. Vettel also became the 2nd German to win the title while compatriot Schumacher who made a stunning comeback had one his worst ever season.

Even before the season started, there was a very serious accident to Robert Kubica who will be out for more than a year after his rallying escapades ended in disaster. It not only put him out but also has created a problem for his team Renault who has since replaced him with his former BMW teammate Nick Heidfeld who has had a rebirth of sort after failing to land a seat for 2011. The 1st race of the season will be the Australian GP this was because of the unrest in Bahrain which led to the cancellation of the Bahrain GP. We still do not know if we are going to have the Bahrain GP otherwise we will have only 19 races for the season with the Indian GP making its debut.

All teams which raced during the 2010 season will be starting this year too but there have been some minor name changes while the driver market did see some major moments from the mid-field teams. The highly talented rookie Nico Hülkenberg was dropped by the Williams team but he has managed to join Force India as it’s reserve driver while the racing career of veteran Pedro de la Rosa seems to have ended after Sauber dropped him mid-way last season and replaced him with Heidfeld but they have signed up talented Mexican Sergio Pérez who was also the GP2 runner-up. GP2 winner Pastor Maldonado was signed by Williams and though they do claim that he is not a pay driver, but Maldonado is heavily backed by the Venezuelan government.

2011 will also see the return of former Jordan driver Narain Karthikeyan who will join HRT while his fellow countryman Karun Chandhok failed to secure a seat for the coming season. Other drivers who exited after last season includes Christian Klien, Sakon Yamamoto, Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi. This season will also see the debut of the highly rated reigning DTM champion Paul di Resta who actually was Vettel’s teammate during the 2006 Formula Three Euroseries season and actually managed to win the title by winning Vettel.

As always there was the technical changes which comes in with the new season but 2 of the biggest change from last year was that KERS makes a comeback while Pirelli returns to F1 after 20 years and with the exit of Bridgestone, Pirelli would be the new sole tire supplier.

There are the predictions on how each team would perform:

Red Bull – The reigning world champions, RBR impressed everyone last season by winning both the championships but unlike their rivals they backed both the drivers and in the end despite the catastrophic Turkish GP, it turned out to be a good plan for the team with Vettel winning. Despite having the best car on the grid the team did not race to its potential and at one stage Ferrari had a chance to upstage them but for a glaring strategic error, they could have stolen the title. This season so far RBR seems to have the best car and with Vettel winning the title he will go into 2011 stronger while Webber would once again try to win the title in what could be his last season in the sport.

Ferrari – The Alonso led Ferrari nearly won the driver’s championship but Massa’s form last season prevented them from challenging for the Constructor’s championship. Though the team seem to have a solid car for the coming season, they need more from Massa if they are going for both the championships. This season is highly crucial for Massa as if he fails once again he may be out of a seat for 2012 or could just become another designated #2 driver for the team. Alonso showed great maturity last season and if he continues to show that he will be a very serious treat for Vettel’s championship.

McLaren- Having 2 world champions as teammates never do work but for McLaren they somehow managed to pull it off. Hamilton was in contention till the last race but he may a lot of errors which resulted him failing to win the championship while Button who everyone expected to be outclassed by Hamilton proved that he was a worthy champion and despite not fighting out for retaining his championship he did manage to gain respect from everyone. 2011 will be a tough year for the team as if we are to go by testing, McLaren just do not have a good enough car which will fight for the championship.

Mercedes – The fabled silver arrow team was revived last season after Mercedes purchased the Brawn GP team and even convinced Schumacher to make a comeback but it was a season they would want to forget. Schumacher failed to even get on to the podiums while his younger teammate got some credibility by outclassing the veteran consistently through the year. This was the same team which did produce some real bad cars during its previous incarnation as Honda so do not expect a miracle for this season but a few more podium places can be expected from this outfit.

Renault – The team was in the news for all the wrong reasons and despite being called Renault the team has nothing to do with the carmaker apart from some technical partnership and engine supply. The Lotus Cars sponsored Renault out did seem to have a car which can challenge for the title but Kubica’s accident has through the team into disorder but in Nick Heidfeld they do have more than a capable replacement and this could be the season Heidfeld could straighten the record. They may well emerge as the 3rd best team provided Vitaly Petrov drives every race like the 2010 Abu Dhabi GP.

Williams – They have entered the stock market and they claim they do have enough funding but dropping Nico Hülkenberg for Pastor Maldonado showed that all is not well for the team. Despite winning the GP2 title Maldonado would not have got the Williams seat without funding and also the 2010 GP season was not the best and it was Maldonado’s 4th season in the series. Rubens Barrichello will be with the team and this could be his last hurrah as the Brazilian if he fails to impress may just have to quit the sport after spending 2 decades in it.

Force India – The team which was the surprise package of last season till the end atleast have 2 very good drivers in Sutil and Di Resta while their reserve Hülkenberg could one day be a future world champion. The team lost some key technical personals and there are talks of financial problems but if they do manage to get their act together they have a chance to do better than last year. Make or break season for Sutil while if Di Resta do manage to impress bigger things can happen for the Scottish driver for 2012.

Sauber – The team has the mercurial Kamui Kobayashi who with a decent car will be the most entertaining driver on the grid. Kobayashi has proved that he can go wheel to wheel with anyone on the grid and he will not get intimated by any names. If they have a good enough cars he could consistently get to the podium. While his teammate Sergio Pérez may be a bit too early for the sport but he is backed by Carlos Slim the richest man in the world and his money would help the team in beating rivals like Williams and Force India.

Toro Rosso – The sister team Red Bull won the championships while STR after having a decent start just managed to finish ahead of all the new teams only. So far this season after testing STR may have the surprise package and even if they do manage to finish ahead of Williams, Sauber and Force India, it would be a great achievement for the team. In Buemi and Alguersuari they have one of the youngest driver line-up in the grid and with highly rated Australian Daniel Ricciardo as reserve both the drivers are under immense pressure to perform.

Team Lotus – The team which along with Renault was in the news for all the wrong reasons have made some huge progress during the off season with a new engine deal with Renault and also a technical partnership with Red Bull Technologies the team would be hunting for its 1st points and also will try to challenge the likes of STR and Force India. They have retained Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen which has showed that the team wants continuity and they could by the end of the season could challenge some of the mid-field teams.

Hispanic Racing – The only team during the 2010 season which failed to manage a single update from the start of the season had as many as 4 drivers racing for them and at one stage anyone with cash was offered the seat. The 2011 car will not be any better but they have signed a technical partnership with Williams and in Liuzzi the have a very decent driver. Narain Karthikeyan will bring in the money for the team and he completing races would be huge for the team.

Marussia Virgin Racing – The only team which does not do testing by using wind tunnels but rather use CFD alone well last season they were just about challenging fellow newcomers HRT and this season to the team would be stuck behind the pack. Timo Glock by being part of this team would have sealed his F1 future while Jérôme d'Ambrosio will join him to just make up for numbers.

2011 Constructor Championship Predictions:
1. Red Bull Renault
2. Ferrari
3. Renault
4. Mercedes
5. McLaren Mercedes
6. Sauber Ferrari
7. Toro Rosso Ferrari
8. Williams Cosworth
9. Force India Mercedes
10. Team Lotus Renault

2011 Driver’s Championship Predictions:
1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Fernando Alonso
3. Mark Webber
4. Felipe Massa
5. Nick Heidfeld
6. Michael Schumacher
7. Lewis Hamilton
8. Nico Rosberg
9. Kamui Kobayashi
10. Jenson Button