Here Comes the Night

Posted on 29th September 2008

Sunday afternoon I settled down to watch a bit of history. The first Formula 1 night race in Singapore. I wasn't expecting much from the race much beyond a parade lap, and a few place swaps thanks to well timed pit stops. However, as I predicted last week, the main reason the finishing order was different from the starting grid was down to accidents. Personally I don't find those kinds of accidents fun, as the driver is already being tested to the limit and driving a millimeter over the edge sends you crashing into the wall.

Ferrari cocked things up good and proper for themselves, and regardless of who is to blame, something more than a slap on the wrist should be done about releasing drivers into the path of other cars. Adrian Sutil must be about ready to take a hammer to Massa's car. After the incident in Valcencia, for Massa to pull out again in front of Sutil and almost collide with him, is really too much. For the first incident, Mass received a €10,000 fine. and yesterday he was given a drive through penalty. Thankfully Massa seemed to completely lose any desire to compete for the rest of the race. Ferrari, however, should have their whole pit and garage communication abilities investigated. If any team repeatedly releases their driver into the path of another, then there should be some heavy penalty (deduction of constructors points or hefty fine) to deter anyone doing it again. I did feel for Sutil later in the race as he pretty much had nowhere to go but the wall, after Massa spun into the wall ahead of him, then pulled forward to rejoin the race. Again a decent run off area would have avoided that.

I suspect that Massa's release from the pits will be heavily investigated anyway, as driving off down the pit with a fuel hose attached to you shouldn't happen. David Coulthard almost got caught out with that too in the final stages of the race. After the 1994 incident with Jos Verstappen, who was racing for Benetton (who are now owned by Renault) at the time, it always make me really nervous to see those kinds of accidents.

I was pleased for Hamilton taking away championship points, but it did seem like he was struggling to race, getting continually caught up behind cars and finding it extremely difficult to pass. It's the latter I really don't like about street racing. Although the Singapore track was wide enough to pass in places, if you looked closely the amount of debris off the racing line would have been like racing over cobblestones for a forumla 1 car. In fact at the end of the race you could see the tyres of the cars as they came into Park Firma, as they looked they were about to disintegrate. On a traditional racing circuit the debris is considerably reduced as only racing cars are driving on it, and with the additional grass borders around the track, catching a bit of gravel or driving slightly on the kerb, only means you run on the grass for a bit and lose pace. Being taken out the race just causes far too many other problems. Safety cars seem to have featured rather too much in recent times.

The idea of a night race isn't bad, and the track was well light. However, as one commentator said, having Singapore as a night race every year could get rather boring. For me, without the accidents the race would have been very boring indeed. I hope that Japan in two weeks time sees the end of the unwanted incidents that have plague the rest of the season.

File Under: formula1 / motorsport / racing

Chasing Cars

Posted on 23rd September 2008

The Ferrari boss, Luca di Montezemolo, has said that the increasing number of street circuits in Formula 1 is bad for the future of the sport. I can only agree with him. Monaco is perhaps a bit special for all sorts of reasons, but the other street tracks have mostly ended in very uninspired racing. With all the accidents and resulting debris, it makes for a very messy race and ultimately a race that ends mostly in the order that the cars line up on the starting grid, minus those cars that crash out. Driver skill is more about not getting hit rather than using their talents to break, pass and manoeuvre round the track and their competitors.

Singapore's night street race is going to attract a lot of interest, mostly because a night race has never been done before. I can see why they're trying it, as the majority of fans, constructors, sponsors, etc are based in Europe and it makes it easier for them to watch it just after lunch rather than in the early hours of the morning. I think a night race would be worthwhile on a proper track, as it would likely have the same kind of visibility (if not better) than some of the races in torrential rain that we've had recently. However, on a street track I can't see it having anything but a negative effect on the racing. I hope to be able to watch the next race and will be intrigued to see whether I'm proved wrong.

In other news Hamilton & McClaren have lost their appeal over the incident in Spa. The BBC News piece picks up on a few areas of concern that do need clear and decisive resolutions by FIA. At Monza there were several cars that cut chicanes and no-one got penalised in anyway. The drivers took the decision not to overtake until after the succeeding corner, but that's not what the rules say. The various decisions being made in recent times have definitely gone in Ferrari's favour. Now while I doubt there is any conspiracy, it has damaged the public face of motor racing. Aside from fans, those who having a passing interest in the sport, are reading and hearing all these news reports and getting the message that Ferrari and being engineered to be the winners, as the FIA can't accept Hamilton winning. That may not be reality, but that matters little when the media are only showing the sensational parts of the stories. It bad for Forumla One, certainly in the UK, as if the sport gets much more bad press, I wouldn't be surprised to see sponsors starting to not renew contracts and opt for other sports with more good publicity.

The responsibility and heirarchy within the sport and espcially on track day is dreadful. What is the point of having a Race Director?  If the Race Stewards out-rank him, why bother even having him there if any advice he gives is a complete waste of time. Then there is the heirarchy between Forumala One and the FIA. Seeing as Bernie Ecclestone is consided to be the one running the show, and with Max Moseley being largely just a big embarrassment, isn't it about time there was some sort of clear cut management structure? Maybe there is, but it is not being made very clear. The F1 racing rules are in dire need of a review by race officials, constructors and drivers. With all the uncertainty over ambiguous or remarkably unfair penalites being awarded at a very descretionary level, some clear unarguable rules need to defined, with a level of penalty attributed much more suitable to the incident.

This weekend is going to be crucial for Hamilton, as with only 4 races left, it doesn't leave much margin for error. I hope he wins, as he has injected a lot of interest in the sport, and his racing style has ignited enthusiasm within fans of the sport. Whether he wins the championship or not this year, I have no doubt that he is still a future world champion. I just hope FIA get their act together and provide him a sport worth competing in.

File Under: formula1 / motorsport / racing

Going For The One

Posted on 11th June 2007

What a race! I watched the Canadian Grand Prix at the weekend and it was certainly a race packed full of thrills and spills. Thankfully, the only hospital casualty, Robert Kubica, only broke a leg. If you saw the accident then you would be amazed that that was all he suffered. It could so easily have been a completely different story. Just goes to show how much driver safety has been put into F1 cars these days. Several cars went into the "Wall of Champions" and the cameras mounted on the walls, gave you quite a dramatic view point. There was one incident involving Nico Rosberg and Jarno Trulli, where the commentators were convinced they'd collided, but on the replay it was like a ballet as both cars merely pirouetted around the chicane.

DanDan and I watched the race, but also thanks to the latest Live Timing from the official Formula One site, we got to watch all the split second timings around the circuit, and got to see who was pitting, who was out and who retired, often before the commentators mentioned it. It certainly added to the whole Grand prix experience.

However, man of the race has to be Lewis Hamilton. It was a little obvious he really was pulling away from the pack, and he'd amassed over 20 seconds before his first pit-stop. He did it again later on in the race too. All this despite the safety car being brought out 4 times. His team mate, Fernando Alonso, must have been really infuriated with himself, as after the first corner he appeared to have done some damage to the underside of the car, and never really managed to get the momentum back, despite clocking in the fastest lap of the race in the later stages. The 10 second penalty didn't help either. If there was a second man of the race, I think it would have to go to Takuma Sato, who had a great drive, and help to add to the excitement as he took on some of the big names.

Lewis deserved the win, and I was amused by the comment of one of the commentators, who said that Lewis has yet to have the experience of others drivers who don't finish the race heading for the Parc ferme, as in all his 6 Grand Prix races, he's finished on the podium. While there were initial stats about drivers who have done better after their first race, I don't believe any other driver has ever finished this well in their first 6 F1 races. If this is what he is like now, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. About time we had a great British driver again, who actually won races :)

It was quite an interesting race for DanDan, as it meant that I had to explain a lot of what was happening, what the penalties were about, why two cars got black flagged, what the safety car was for, etc. You don't normally get all that in one race! It was also interesting for DanDan, as the dad of one his classmates is a rally driver, who happened to come through the karting scene alongside Lewis Hamilton, and they know the Hamilton family. It's always nicer to support someone you know, even if they are a friend of a friend :)

The most unusual casualty of the race though, was an as yet un-named beaver. Anthony Davidson managed to hit it on his way around the circuit, and had to make an unexpected pit-stop so his pit-crew could wipe the blood off the car!

File Under: formula1 / hamilton / motorsport / racing

Silver Dream Machine

Posted on 3rd June 2007

This week is the Centennary of the TT Races. To be honest I had even forgotten that they were still on. Once upon a time the races featured quite heavily in the news and the media, this year I only got to hear about it because I happen to flick through the cable channels looking for something to watch.

It's a shame that motorbike racing doesn't get anywhere near the same kind of coverage as other motorsports. Personally I prefer speedway, although I haven't been to a race meet for about 10 years, but it does seem that the media don't give motorbike racing much of an airing anymore.

When I was living in Holmes Chapel, my next door neighbours used to ride in junior scrambling meets around the North West. Their dad was an ex-rider of the TT races, and Nicks first scramble bike was built from his dad's Honda. I used to love going to watch them at the meetings, an occasionally I'd get to along to the practice sessions too. At one such practice I got to do a circuit once, no jumps or anything dangerous, and had a great time. It's been the only time in my life I've even rode a motorbike.

I probably won't see any of the TT results on TV, so I'll have to remember to check the site later in the week. Though, I still have no idea who any of the riders are anymore. Gone are the days of Mike Hailwood and the like, but I remember Carl Fogarty racing in later years. Maybe it will get a bit more coverage this year, being the centennary and all, but it would be nice to see a bit more of motorbike motorsports on TV.

File Under: motorsport / racing

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