Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Post Race Analysis: 2012 Airtel Indian Grand Prix

The second year of the Indian Grand Prix saw many changes to the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida. With better facilities near the grand stands , better media rooms and more importantly no stray dogs running around while the cars got on to the track. 

I chose my seats at the Classic West Stand having sat the Classic East 2 for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix. The West Stand overlooked the penultimate corner of the circuit (turn 15) and gave breath-taking views of drivers finding the limits and trying different lines on Friday practice ; the thoroughbred nature of a Formula One car at turns 10 ,11 and at the fast chicane of 13 and 14 during qualifying and many overtaking maneuvers at the end of the DRS zone at turn 4 during the race.

Fans from all around the world came to enjoy this unique circuit.
 A Renault supporter from 05,06?

Sebastian Vettel fans all the way from Dresden!

During my loitering around and exploring the various merchandising areas of the circuit between sessions , I did manage to covertly sneak into the Main Grandstand area for FP2 only to be thoroughly disappointed and bored with the lack of action those seats offer. Personal preference probably, but I've always said that Formula One cars are a thing of beauty and elegance in the corners, not so much on the straights.

Around the circuit the usual chaos did loom. Starting with numerous guards and officials whistling maniacally as you entered the circuit, supposedly with the intent of "guiding" you , giving you a feeling of being caged in a zoo. Tight security checks are justified in India , but some instances were just outright ostentatious. I was initially denied entry to the stand as I carried a flag due it having a plastic stick which was a "security concern", despite buying it from one of the merchandising shops at the circuit itself. It took some frantic convincing and arguing for the track officials to see through their lunacy , an unsettling experience to say the least.
Furthermore ,you were only allowed to exit and re-enter your stand once which was absolutely ridiculous on Friday and Saturday considering that were ample time between sessions and that the main F1 village which had most of fan events going on, could only be accessed by exiting your zone in the first place.
At the main grandstand, I encountered a person in his late 70's trying desperately hard to convince a security personal to allow him to carry water to his seat. He begged and tried to reason with the guard that he would have to traverse three flights of stairs every time he was thirsty and all this ,despite paying 30,000 Rupees for the "comfort" a watching a race at the prime location. Overly persnickety,utterly bothersome and an absolute disregard for comfort, if they do indeed plan to keep the attendance figures up in the coming years they severely need to brush things up in terms of crowd satisfaction and general hospitality.To end up disgruntling a die hard fan like myself, someone who pledges to the passion of the sport and overlooks these teething issues it'll be hard for them to keep the casual first comer hooked.

Despite being at the back of the grid, HRT did win many hearts.
But to give credit where it is due, the track itself was fantastic.No longer was it a sand dune off the racing line, the surrounding areas had plush green grass and the marshals and volunteers were did an fantastic job. Ultimately, considering that the Indian Grand Prix is probably the only race on the calendar not backed by the host nation's government and an entirely private venture , 
the Jaypee Group has to be appreciated in taking this huge risk and getting the sport for us fans to enjoy in India. Whatever people say, this WILL contribute to the rise of motor sport in the country. With a population of over a billion people, the odds surely favor finding a Formula One super star here in this country.
The Red Bull's were on another level in all sessions as Force India looked to impress at their home circuit

Fans from all over turned up in good numbers on Sunday

Race Analysis:

Kimi probably telling Heikki how large his vodka shot was last night

Coming into the race , Fernando Alonso had relinquished his championship lead to Sebastian Vettel for the first time since his win at Valencia. It does seem a long time ago and just goes to show how quickly things can change in Formula One. In that context this season is not over yet, despite the current Red Bull blitz.

As the lights went off on Sunday , for a change Mark Webber got a better start than him team-mate,but Seb neatly chopped across enough for Mark to get on the defensive and brake earlier into Turn 1. Hamilton got his self confessed usual bad start which his team-mate Button took full advantage, but the 2008 champion wasn't going to give up that easy and dived down the inside into turn 3 ensuring a 1 km drag race down the back straight. 
But cunningly observing the duel between the two British McLaren drivers was a cerebral Spaniard , who gained a massive tow and overtook them both into turn 4. Another 3 car battle ensured between the former World Champions , showing utmost respect and class in fighting wheel to wheel. Setting a perfect example for the rest of the field. Button eventually won and got past Alonso but the relentless Asturian got the third place from him within a couple of laps. 

At the head of the field, Sebastian drove his perfect race , not bothered by the usual plume of back markers he had to overtake including the luckless Michael Schumacher who suffered a puncture going into Turn 1. The crowd saddened by this legend of Formula One being overtaken. Vettel looked immaculate,never losing focus into any braking zone , never locking a wheel or going off line. Perfection. He was miles ahead of his team-mate who being caught by the charging Alonso who was driving in stark contrast to his championship rival.
Lewis Hamilton hounding Mark Webber for third place.

Fernando was on the edge, that Ferrari looked as if it would fly off the circuit any moment. He was kicking dust on the inside kerb of turn 13 chicane. At turn 15 , he was throwing the car in and balancing it on the yaw , making corrections mid corner every single lap. His downshifts accurate ever single time , you could easily make out he had grabbed the car by the scruff of the throat and was giving it everything he had.

The fans went mad ! Ferdi enticed even the F1 virgins in the crowd who had readily given their allegiance towards the great Schumacher or the champion/past race winner Vettel . They all gasped as they noticed the over steer moments. This was what people had paid for , the "added" experience of watching a race live. This is what many miss whilst watching a race on TV. You could actually feel the aggression,the intensity of the Ferrari driver and stand back and truly agree with him that he indeed produced 60 qualifying laps.

The fans enthralled by the relentless Alonso
There was a nice touch at the end ,at the presentation ceremony when Martin Brundle questioned Sebastian on his new record which equaled Senna's. As he answered, the crowd impatiently chanted "Alonso,Alonso,Alonso". The Main Grand-stand reverberating with his name even before Vettel could finish his point, distracting and annoying the German a bit. 

And when Brundle turned to the driver of the day, the Buddh International Circuit erupted. Brundle had to stand back as the crowd went frantic cheering and thanking him for his never-say-die attitude. The TV cameras for a brief moment catching Christian Horner's expression as he looked with bemusement at the response. That for me sealed the deal that Formula One in India is here to stay.... 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Spectator's Guide to the Indian Grand Prix

In just under 10 days ,the Buddh International Circuit will host the second edition of the Indian Grand Prix.

Amidst initial concerns and a few initial teething problems during FP1 the entire race weekend of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix was fantastic and a great pride for any die hard Indian Formula 1 fan like myself .To have a Grand Prix track let alone a Formula One weekend in a country where motorsport and Formula One does not have the same appeal and following as compared to cricket or soccer,  was unimaginable even 5 years ago. Hopefully this track and the massive initiative by the Jaypee group in this venture will contribute to the rise of motorsport in this country. 

So for everyone out there who is looking forward to the Grand Prix weekend and aren't quite sure which stand to choose for the best possible viewing experience , I've reviewed each viewing area at the BIC.

The Buddh International Circuit:

With a total length of 5.137 km, The BIC just as any other modern Formula Circuit was designed by Herman Tilke who has received criticism from fans and many Formula One people for his tracks being too boring. With a lack of overtaking opportunities and being very stop and squirt, where the characteristics of the car contribute more than driver skill. However, with the BIC he did things differently with the circuit design being forwarded to the teams in order to improve overtaking opportunities as well as being a proper drivers circuit. If ever there was a Formula One "Super-Circuit" designed by the people who really know, this is the closest we can get.

The Main GrandStand :

The circuit features one of the longest pit lanes of any track in the season. The top teams Red Bull , McLaren and Ferrari have their garages and mechanics assembled on the entry of the pit-lane which is opposite the Tier Right of the Main Grandstand . However you will lose out of being near the pole position spot on the starting grid. 

Although the most action on track in terms of watching an F1 car while the race or a practice session is on will be just cars whizzing past you at over 300 kmph and braking into Turn 1. You do have the opportunity to see what the drivers and mechanics are upto and get a glimpse of how the teams adjust and tweak the setup of their cars. This is the only spot from where you can see the drivers out of the cockpit , discussing data and other technical bits with their race engineers. 

North Zone Stands :

The North Zone stands cover turns 1,2 and 3. Right after negotiating the first corner of the lap, drivers will have to climb 14 metres going through the left hand kink of Turn 2 leading on the top of a crest resulting in a blind apex for Turn 3.   

The exit of blind apex of Turn 3.
The track has been considerably widened here to encourage drivers taking different racing lines whilst battling for position leading on to the main straight. The North Zone stands offer great views of this section of the track .
In terms of car dynamics probably the best place in this zone would be the Classic North Stand as it faces the exit of Turn 3. 

East Zone: 

The main straight dips down slightly before rising slightly again before the hardest braking zone of the entire track at Turn 4 , a blind apex right hander taken at 100 kmphThis will also be where a majority of the overtaking during the race will take place as the DRS zone is set to be here.

The track then again drops down as another mini straight beckons.

Sector two is the bit the drivers really enjoy the most , this sector comprises of mostly 5th gear corners with drivers needing a good balance between the front and the rear of the car.

The complex of Turns 5,6,7 is probably my favorite part of the track and one of the best sequence of corners in the world , with many off track incidents seen during the weekend here. The Classic East Stand is one of the best places to see what a cornering thoroughbred a Formula One car is . 
Fernando kicking up some dust through turn 6

Drivers desperately try using their skill to hook the car into the entry of Turn 5 which immediately leads into Turn 6 and a quick right hander of turn 7. The old adage of compromising corner entry speed to maximise corner exit speed is probably never better accentuated anywhere else on the whole F1 calendar. Sit here and you'll never have a dull moment all throughout the weekend.

South Zone:

The south zone stands face the fastest section of the track with almost every corner in this section taken in 5th gear over 200 kmph.

Drivers negotiate another quick chicane of Turn 8 and 9 taken at 220 kmph . The "Massa"-kerbs loom here. Try and be overly generous in your kerb use in your entry for turn 8 and you'll end up like Felipe Massa last year with a broken front suspension.

Exit of Turn 12

Then comes the iconic Turns 10,11 and 12 . It's similar to the multi-apex turn 8 at Istanbul but with a tighter radius of 215 degrees and hence cannot be taken flat out which adds to the challenge.The Star stand in the South Zone offers a great view of this high speed section where you can notice the different racing lines different drivers take ,their steering inputs and also hear the throttle input mid corner. Another great place to watch a Formula One car and it's immense downforce generating capabilities.

Drivers exit turn 12 at over 250 kmph with another quick chicane, turns 13 and 14 awaiting them. 

West Zone:

At first look , it seems that this zone of the circuit only has the last two corners for viewing pleasure ; however due to the unique construction of the Buddh International Circuit , turns 5-15 are enclosed in an amphitheater of sorts.

The Classic West Stand 1 , offers a great vantage point for viewing cars exiting turns 13 and 14 at 200 kmph , where ever so often the back-end steps out in a dramatic fashion as well as offering a good view of cars incoming from the exit of turn 4 and braking into turn 5. 

The penultimate corner Turn 14 , features another blind apex and multiple racing lines can taken through this corner. Last year saw many drivers struggled to find their braking points into this corner and ran wide before deciding between a trip to the pitlane or going for another lap with Turn 15 being the final left hander before you gain traction and cross the start finish line.

Getting to the track: 

The race organisers do have a shuttle bus facility from the nearest metro station. Unfortunately that's a distance of over 40 km and will take a lot of time getting from there to the circuit. The best way is to avail the parking facilities and drive down . Traffic will be a major issue on the race day , not so much on Friday and Saturday though. If you're coming from central Delhi , it is advisable to leave at least 3-4 hours before the start of the race.

Preview to the Indian Grand Prix :

With Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel back to their dominant ways and having now taken the lead from Fernando Alonso in the championship, 2012 season is all set for a nail biting finish. Unlike last year when both the championships had been decided before coming into the race , the 2012 Indian Grand Prix will play a vital role in who will become World Champion this year.

Ferrari look to bring updates to this race in order to match the qualifying pace of the Red Bulls.The Friday and Saturday Practice sessions will be a real joy for those of you out there who enjoy the technical aspects of the sport.With cars dabbed with flo-viz paint , new wings/winglets and who knows some other new device.

For all Kimi Raikkonen supporters and I know there are plenty of Kimi fans in India , it'll be his first visit to India . Never a fan of "learning" a circuit through a simulator , Kimi himself professes that he has a natural gift of learning new circuits quickly. It'll be treat watching Kimi (who we all know is probably the most naturally talented driver out there) learn his way around this great drivers' circuit. The Lotus team will be trying to fine tune their new Coanda effect exhausts , although I don't see them being massively competitive this weekend.

Qualifying will be key , however as 2012 has proved anything can happen in the race. Tyres again will play a important factor and if it's hot on race day , strategy will be key for the win.

The home team Force India will be hoping for a repeat of the brilliance showed by Nico Hulkenberg in Korea and try and outscore Sauber in the constructors championship whilst the home hero Narain Karthikeyan will be wishing for a trouble free weekend as well.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Silly Season ends? No wait..

Well , it has finally been confirmed Lewis Hamilton is off to Mercedes AMG Petronas replacing Michael Schumacher. The last Formula One Super Star who had made a big switch was Fernando Alonso from Renault to Ferrari , but back then the move was hardly a surprise and was famously known as the "worst kept secret in Formula One".

This move however although antecedent with many rumours hinting it , does seem surprising even after its official confirmation. It questions the main motive of Hamilton leaving McLaren , a team who have given him the fastest car of the pack circa Hockenheim and in terms of pure performance has been beaten by only the Adrain Newey designed Red Bull Racing in the last two years.

Some say he switched as a result of the change in the engine regulations for 2014 , but this doesn't seem logical. Mercedes supply their engines to Mclaren and surely no matter what I do not not think that 2014 will be an engine dominated season considering that aerodynamics still play such a vital role in the sport.

Caterham can be seen as a good example of this, having changed from Cosworth to Renualt this year , they still are quite weak to challenge Torro Rosso and are currently even behind Marussia in the championship.

For sure engines will play some part in the outcome of the championship but this is definitely no big decision such as Senna leaving McLaren in 93 as a result of the inferior Peugeot engines and going to the much powerful Renault powered Williams. The engines remain the same for him and I would anyday bet on McLaren having a stronger Aero-package for 2014 since the aerodynamic regulations as of now are expected to remain as it is.

And even if this was the case and that he predicts as such;  why move in 2013 and not 2014 ?

With the current pace of Mercedes abysmal and them effectively going backwards in terms of development despite bringing a new Coanda-effect exhaust at the last Grand Prix in Singapore. With no major rule change going in the next season except for the FIA effectively nullifying any advantage Mercedes had and banning the Double DRS system , 2013 predictably will be another disappointing year for Mercedes.

In stark contrast you have McLaren who arrived in Australia with the fastest car of the lot , and currently are  the performance benchmark. Without any major change in regulations , Formula One tends to have the same teams head the level of performance relative to the previous year , since most cars are an evolution of the its predecessor. Ever since 2010, its been a three way battle between Red Bull , McLaren and Ferrari. A championship for Lewis this season albeit possible is hard to achieve , however 2013 would have definitely seen Lewis Hamilton as World Champion had he stayed on in McLaren.

Despite what everyone was hinting at ,Mercedes was quick to dismiss that Nico Rosberg will act as the number two driver to Hamilton, assuring him of equal status. Rosberg might struggle at times to keep pace especially in qualifying but in no way will be a Felipe Massa to Fernando Alonso. Neither will any development favor the British driver , considering his team-mate is after all racing for Deutschland in a Silver Arrows ! Hence any indications of him being the team leader for Mercedes AMG Petronas are all KAPUT.

Great expectations are placed on Hamilton with critics forecasting analogies such as Hamilton reinvigorating Mercedes the same way Schumacher did at Ferrari and what Fernando Alonso is currently doing. I doubt it, his leadership and development skills have been in question in his 6 years at McLaren but despite what may come Hamilton will be quick but will Mercedes be ?

Hamilton's vacant seat has been taken by Sergio Perez , at just 22 years of age this is the perfect opportunity for him to develop into a multi-race winner and who knows fight for the championship. Another driver who will be fighting at the front come 2013.

Analogies between him and Kimi Raikkonen can be drawn up with both moving from Sauber to McLaren and both being relatively young whilst doing so. At McLaren, Perez has Button to partner , not such a threat as compared to Fernando Alonso had he stayed on and ultimately made his move from the Ferrari Driver Academy to a race seat at Maranello.  The "giant killer" of the current season has had heaps of praises for his many great drives this season and I expect him to be strong and probably even win before Button does next season.

A Ferrari Academy driver being stolen by the "garagistes" McLaren surely would have disgruntled the Tifosi but would Ferrari really have given Perez away with such ease ? Or was he simply not in their agenda ; telling signs of a Vettel to Ferrari move in 2014 ? With the silly season at its fever pitch , its anyone's guess.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Post Race Analysis: 2012 Belgium Grand Prix

Four weeks of no Formula One ended finally with a comeback to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. A tough start to the weekend with a Belgian monsoon affecting running on both Friday practice sessions meant  a lot to be done on regarding setup and tyre strategies for qualifying ,albeit weather permitting. Saturday saw bright sunshine which continued throughout qualifying and the race on Sunday ; an anomaly at Spa-Francorchamps.

Jenson Button drove a very well "balanced" lap to put himself by a good margin on pole with Sebastian Vettel shockingly missing out from Q3, he would require 2 fingers to signal his grid position. Kamui Kobayashi drove superbly to put his Sauber on the front row of the grid as well with Pastor Maldonado delivering another surprising performance. Enthralling pace by Button ,especially considering he out-qualified Hamilton by 8 tenths ! Lewis has never been outpaced by any team-mate by such a margin in his Formula One career. He was absolutely devastated. 

He later ever so publicly rued this on having a different rear wing as compared to Jenson for the session . To add more insult , he later tweeted the team's telemetry analysis highlighting how he lost time on the straights. A little immature in my opinion.   The telemetry had details such as ride height , speed carried through corners etc . Essentially a report card of  both car's performance which in the hands of rival teams can effectively reveal their "Formula" of speed. Quite brash and immature in my opinion .

Race day on Sunday saw quite a few drivers moving back in the grid due to gearbox penalties received. As four weeks of utter boredom and distraught for Formula One fans finally ended , the 5 red lights illuminated and we were set for an action packed Belgian Grand Prix. 

And CRASH ! 

Romain Grosjean got it ever so wrong , weaving right in order to get the inside line of La Source squeezing Hamilton twice . Lewis had no where to go , the Lotus and McLaren collided with each other resulting in an absolute carnage of carbon fiber . Fernando Alonso and Pastor Maldonado meanwhile had both made good starts and were riling up an attack on the fore-runners down the Kemmel Straight but alas he picked up in the chaos and came ever so close to being decapitated. Essentially a sitting duck in the crash , it almost seemed jinxed that he would not equal Michael Schumacher's record of 24 races in the points. Really gutted for him and all his fans. The aftermath of the crash saw Lewis Hamilton absolutely livid with Grosjean and for 

As Jenson Button stormed at the front to build a conformable lead at the front , leaving a trial of a plethora of overtaking moves down the field The biggest winner after the first couple of laps was Mr. 300 Grand Prix's , although his pace eventually died down during the course of the race. Mercedes are a slow car , there is no doubting that . There was promise in the early part of the season with their Double DRS which was supposed to bear fruit in low downforce circuits such as Spa but to no avail . They are miles off the pace and have no excuse for such abysmal performances. 

The Driver of the day would a tough decision between Sebastian Vettel who started 11th and the race winner Jenson Button . Vettel was superb with his overtaking moves round the outside of the bus stop chicane , I suppose its one of those corners where there is a lot of grip on the outside off the traditional racing line , similar to the outside of Turn 1 at Suzuka. Vettel was Alonso-esque in maximizing the potential points after Alonso's failure . He benefited with a one-stop strategy and never put a foot wrong in the race. 

The King of Spa had a very disappointing race, never getting his tyres on. He was matching Vettel in his final stint even tough he was on considerable fresher tyres.

Interesting race for the Championship however as Fernando's lead has been cut down to 24 points . Vettel is now the straight contender in the fight . Even though McLaren has made it back to back victories , both their drivers have never capitalized as a whole when their car's performance has a par above the rest. This is something which they really need to do in order to overthrow Red Bull in the Constructor's Championship ; its a straight fight between them with Lotus and Ferrari fighting for the 3rd and 4th positions.

Looking forward in a week's time for the home of Ferrari and Italian motorsport , Monza baby !

The championship so far

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Flying "Safety" Lap of Spa-Francorchamps

A video of F1 Medical Delegate Gary Hartstein at Spa-Francorchamps , clearly the G forces were getting to him. The sound of that "industrial" engine in the Mercedes SLS AMG hurtling through the Ardennes is just a symphony. Never really realised how steep the entry to Rivage was and how long Pouhon actually is.

Telemetry Analysis of Lewis Hamilton

I must admit as an Formula One fan , the science and hard data of the sport entices me as much the noise , beauty and blistering speed. The harmony between the science and the passion is what makes me love it more anything else. To see numbers coming to life on the track as pure speed takes my breath away.

All credit to McLaren to enunciate this in no better way than to share some good hard data on Spa, Silverstone and Monaco of no other than Lewis Hamilton.

What is telemetry?

Telemetry is basically the system by which engineers in the garage or control center of a team can monitor the various elements of the car during a race or test session. Sensors on the car are used to detect Speed, G -forces , Engine RPM , Usage of the brakes and throttle , Gear Shifts , Steering input , temperature gauges , suspension and wheel displacement etc.

All these elements are usually plotted on a graph against the lap-time which makes it easy to read for the team and the drivers. The software used for creating this graphical analysis is Advanced Telemetry Linked Acquisition System or ATLAS . Due to all teams using the FIA mandated McLaren Engine Control unit as a means to standardize data gathering and to avoid teams masking the use of banned devices such as traction control and two way telemetry(where the changes on the car can be made while it is racing on the track) , the use of ATLAS has been standardized as well.

Telemetry between team-mates is compared at times ; especially where a slower driver is losing time. It also plays a vital role in the setup of the car , hence gaining such data from any team is a real treat. The systems working on the car for the purpose of telemetry have become so advanced that a team can predict a lap time based on it. The FIA can adjure telemetry on any driver in the case of a collision or accident to rule out driver error. Telemetry data was used to implicate Renault in the Crash-Gate saga of 2008 at the Singapore Grand Prix.

The graph usually has time increasing as a component on the X axis. The data shared by McLaren has the following traces which increase with the Y - axis :

Purple (Top)
Shows us the Engine RPM.

Red (Stepped)
The stepped binary graph-like trace show the gear the car is travelling in. A down step means a downshift , an up-step means an upshift. Formula One cars have a 7 speed gearbox .
Its interesting to note the small fluctuations which are caused by the gearshifts when the RPM drops ever so slightly.
Traces the steering input of the driver , this is probably the most interesting bit if we have to compare driving styles between drivers . Driver coaches usually use this to discuss unwanted spikes and corrections to improve a drivers skill behind the wheel. McLaren have declared the data belongs to Lewis. It'll be interesting to notice the subtle corrections and habits in his driving style.
Up = Right. Down = Left.

Throttle Input of the driver is measure here. Full throttle is achieved when the trace reaches the uppermost flat line . This is another key aspect of deciphering a driver's driving style.

Car Speed, very interesting to note the mid-corner speed . This would have been useful to compare different styles as well since some drivers who tend to be on the smoother side usually carry lesser speed into the corner and focus on a better exit speed while others focus on a higher mid-corner speed losing a bit on the exit.

The bottom purple line indicates the brake input.

Eau Rouge(Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps) 

The Racing Line picked up by the telemetry through Eau Rouge.
The Purple line indicates the position of the car and the black lines show us the confines of the track.

Eau Rouge : Seems easy.
"How hard can it be ?"

The data starts on the entry to Eau Rouge , Lewis here shifts to 7th gear(Bump in the Top Red line) . Usually a driver would use 6th to get more torque up the hill and then change to 7th as he exits but this can change due to a variety of factors such as wind speed or even saving the tyres and engine. As he shifts up there is no drop in speed ( a seamless shift , testament to modern F1 cars), the revs drop a bit.

A quick look at the racing line taken here by Lewis shows us perfection , he has minimized the time taken and maximized the speed , ensuring a good exit speed as well. He's taken a large chunk of the inside kerb was taken by steering left , Hamilton does this to straighten the car as much as possible for the next corner within the limits of the track  so as to use lesser steering angle. Any speed unnecessarily lost here due to an excess lateral load on the tires or excess scrub will obviously hurt the top speed attained at the end of the following straight . This is how tenths are gained. He's hit the inside apex of Eau Rouge and is steady with his approach through the right hand kink and smoothly kisses the exit apex of Radillion. All this while he is flat out as indicated by the bottom red line in other graph.

His speed and RPM does drop a little every though he in on full throttle you may ask. This is due to the sheer steepness of Eau Rouge , even though its easy flat it does take some revs off.

Did I mention that this telemetry would probably be of a length of only 2 seconds and he's doing all this while being succumbed to 5G !

Massenet and Casino (Circuit de Monaco)

Racing line through Massenet and Casino. 

Negotiating the most "on the limit" corners of Formula One.

Things get a little crazy here. On the approach to the quick left hander , Massenet he shifts up till 7th gear , gaining speed and on full throttle. We can then notice his breaking as the first green circle from your left ; Lewis leaves the throttle , dabs on the breaks the speeds plummet ( that's a drop of around 100 kmph in 1 second)  , he downshifts to 4th, he now is easing off the breaks gradually , feeling the grip on the car till he has the confidence to get back on the power again. He is very steady with his throttle increase (mark of a skilled driver).

We then notice inside the Golden Circle a significant anomaly to Lewis's smooth throttle input, a valley of sorts. If we correlate this with the blue line highlighted inside the golden circle we can deduce that he might have been a micro-second of a correction. The steering angle suddenly goes static even though he was going to turn right.

The speed increases slightly until Lewis is on the breaks again for the entry of Casino , steering now on quite some lock as he turns right.
Another anomaly is the sudden rise in revs as he exits Casino ( Red Circle) , this was caused by a bump at the exit of Casino , correlating with the steering trace we see a another nice oversteer-moment.

Two things really astonish me here .

Firstly, I've highlighted his throttle and brake inputs in the green circle. There is absolutely no lag in getting off the throttle and getting on the breaks , seems easier said than done since we're talking microseconds here. He's losing no time in reducing speed as he comes off the throttle, making even inch count on the track.

Secondly, look at the apexes he hits through Massenet and Casino. We're talking about Monaco here, there area no run off areas. He's brushing the barriers here at 240 kph , lap after lap . A momentary loss of concentration here and there is no coming back.

Becketts (Silverstone)

This is where crowds usually come to see a Formula One car in full force . The high speed complex of  Maggots and Becketts at Silverstone is another favorite of drivers. These corners are taken at 280-300 kph. This is where downforce really makes a ton of a difference.

McLaren claim that Lewis’s approach is to send the car in as fast as he can, then deal with it later. If he’s got the grip, he’s away; if he hasn’t, he’s got the talent to deal with it. It’s a win-win situation for him. 

That's typical Lewis Hamilton for you and that's what makes him a great racing driver. To be able to take those risks and those speeds ,being subjected to 5G lap after lap is just sheer brilliance.
Through Maggots , then Becketts and the exit through Chapel onto the Hangar Straight

As he enters Maggots reaching a peak speed of 295 kph , he has a "mini" lift with which he drops about 20 kph itself with that showing just how much downforce these cars carry. He's full throttle for the next mini left hander and then for Becketts he lifts of completely and just feathers the brakes , he does to counter the lateral loads on the car,stabilizing it to avoid any nasty surprises. He's communicating with the car , telling it to prepare itself for the next fast right hander as he comes off the throttle once again and then quickly straightens the car up quickly, shifts up through the gears to 7th and steadily reaches full throttle. Again here he tries not to scrub off any speed which may affect his top speed at the end of the Hangar straight which follows consequently.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Round 12 :Preview: Belgium Grand Prix

The Summer break is drawing to a close and Formula One fans all over the world who were anxiously waiting and getting awfully bored during these 4 weeks were met with great news this week as everyone's beloved Spa-Francorchamps circuit host to the Belgium Grand Prix has been promised on the calender for the next 3 years ! With rumors of Spa alternating with the Nurburgring due to its recent financial troubles or Magny Cours in a bid to reinstate the French Grand Prix ,fans were quite worried about the future prospects of this great race circuit.

The Track: 

The Old Spa vs the New Spa

Its no secret that Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is a favorite of many great champions,drivers , teams and of course us fans. The pre-Pirelli and DRS years , this circuit would be one circuit where  we all could look forward to some overtaking , its unique combination of corners ,straights , kinks , hairpins all just perfectly laid-out in the middle of the Ardennes just seems like racing-paradise.

Even the laconic Fin Kimi Rakkonen states :

"You can’t get the same kind of a feeling anywhere else. It’s great to race with a modern racing car at a proper circuit that has such a great tradition.Spa offers very challenging high-speed corners and you need to get the right set-up for the car. I bet every driver likes Spa. For me it is the greatest racing circuit in the world. It is my favourite place. I’ve liked it since my first ever visit there in 2000 with Formula Renault.”

The initial Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was a 14.1 km long stretch , meandering through the Ardennes. The modern and heavily revised 7 km circuit still features some of the old great corners such as Eau Rouge and Blanchimont but the daddy of all corners (as Jackie Stewart described it) , the Masta Kink no longer is a part of it.

As you exited the town of Malmedy , you were greeted with the 2.4 km Masta Straight where Formula One cars would easily reach a top speed of over 300 kph , another 2 km straight followed both separated only by the Masta Kink. It was crucial to get a good exit speed out of the high-speed left right chicane for a good lap time. The Kink as old circuits characterists were , was situated between two farm houses. These very barns provided shelter to Jackie Stewart when he crashed heavily here into a telephone post while negotiating the Masta Kink. He waited unconscious for over 2 hours for medical aid with Graham Hill stopping mid-way during the race to cut him from his car loose with some spanners. The Masta Kink was the most feared corner of all time.

No mention of Spa being a great drivers circuit is without the mention of Eau Rouge. Named after a river with a red tinge which flows underneath the corner. The current Eau Rouge has been heavily modified on grounds of safety which made it easy flat for modern Formula One cars but with G-Forces of upto 5G and a great overtaking move up ahead at the Kemmel straight it is one of the greatest corners in the racing calender today. In fact, Eau Rouge is so steep that a couple of years ago , a mini van failed to climb it.

The old Eau Rouge was way more steep and angled , and this was indeed another one of those feared and revered corners require skill and bravery in the cars of yesteryear's.

However, its not just Eau Rouge or the Kemmel Straight which gives drivers a rush whilst putting a lap , its just the way the corners flow .

A Flying Lap

Starting from the short pit straight, braking into the cramped up La Source (which offers great action during the start), ever so gently feeling the traction and deploying KERS at full power and straightening up the car for Eau Rouge, taking a huge chuck of the inside kerb and making sure you get a clean exit from Radillion,

Gathering speed on the Kemmel Straight , reminiscing scences of Hakkinen's great overtaking move  here on Schumacher into the right hander Les Combes , making sure you get you're braking right and not carry extra-speed since you flow into Malmedy.

Braking downhill into the tricky hairpin , Rivage which is tough to negotiate in the wet, hugging the inside kerb as long as you can till the front of the car slides out going right again preparing for a mini straight from turn 9 , getting ready for another of F1's great corners Pouhon.  A double apex slightly downhill left hander  : Entry Speed - 290 kph ! Exit speed 300kph !

Braking again for the slightly off camber right-left 170kph Fagnes chicane or as the as Belgium's call it fittingly Tiff-Taff . Again making sure you don't chew off more than you can bite. Getting a good exit out of turn 14 which will determine your top speed into Blanchimont , the drivers finger just waiting for the car to settle in a straight line to deploy the KERS and DRS on a hot lap.

Negotiating the Curve Paul Frere and heading towards another great corner - Blanchimont. A left hander taken at over 300 kph and then braking hard into the bus stop chicane another great overtaking zone where you can ever so easily loose every bit of your effort of the previous sectors and heading down to the pit straight again.

No stop and squirt , no mickey mouse corners , no stupid slow chicane's , no ludicrously narrow braking zones. Circuit de-Francorchamps rewards passion , speed , bravery.....It is just perfection.

Raikkonen recorded his last Formula One victory here in 2009 , and has a total of 4 victories here; fighting greats such a Schumacher, Alonso and Hamilton on the track , producing some great overtaking moves and just being Kimi during the weekend. Its one of those weekends where you can bet that the Fin is definitely giving his best. No questions about his motivation here for sure. With Lotus on good form, Kimi showing us that he hasn't lost a bit of his talent and skill , it would seem just poetic if he wins.

But who can count out the other Lotus ? The other Dark horse can dampen it ever so much for Kimi . If Grosjean wins at Spa, beating the King of Spa himself in a similar car and achieving Lotus' first victory this season would really not go well for all Raikkonen fans.

With the ever so dynamic weather of the Ardennes , Spa ever so often throws in surprise showers during the ever so gripping moments of the grand prix and with a certain driver nicknamed the Regenmeister celebrating his 300th Grand Prix on his favorite race track , a track where he has already achieved so many milestones in the past including clinching his 7th World Championshipin 2004. A Schumacher victory here seems quite unlikely unless the weather throws us a surprise. Definitely rooting for a Michael Schumacher victory here.

Alonso has never won at Spa and will be hoping for another stunning drive to attain that elusive victory here.

With the summer break and a lot of expected updates including the Double DRS on the Lotus, a McLaren resurgence and Ferrari bringing updates to boost their top speed as well ;  Formula One is back to its usual predictable business of being unpredictable...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Post Race Analysis : 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix

"Just like old times, Kimi..."

A brilliant drive from Lewis Hamilton saw McLaren find the pace it had at the start of the season , with Lewis Hamilton being lightning quick in all practice sessions and delivering in qualifying to put his car on pole position.

Although in Q1 and Q2 we saw signs that the Kimi Raikkonen had found his element and would challenge Hamilton for pole , sadly the flying fin disappointed in Q3 and ended up in 5th , his team-mate however showed that the Lotus had good pace and qualified on P2.With Lotus finally delivering a strong qualifying result , McLaren had a tough Sunday to look forward to.

The torque restriction drama had many pundits think Red Bull would struggle to find one lap pace and even more so with tyre degradation during the race , but Sebastian Vettel proved otherwise and looked on course to challenge Hamilton's time for pole position until an uncharacteristic mistake in the final sector.

Championship leader Fernando Alonso , echoed his team's regular claims that the Ferrari was still not fast enough in a dry session and by his standards a lowly qualified 6th.

Sunday, saw track temperatures soar in the mid 40's with fears of rain being eradicated as the sun shone brightly over the old-school style Hungaroring.

Would Hamilton dominate the race ? Would Lotus finally win ? Will Grosjean make it till turn 2 ? Speculations , questions , drama at its tipping point when the cars assembled after the formation lap......


As Schumacher's car was pushed into the pit-lane the grid took another formation lap and we finally had the 5 red lights illuminate.

Hamilton made a great start, Vettel and Grosjean fought into turn 1 and as they did Button sneakily overtook Vettel .

Mark Webber had made a great start to 8th from 11th and Felipe Massa went backwards.

The race seemed processional during the first two stints with the hard to overtake nature of the track being showcased nicely. Hamilton was storming in front, closely chased by Grosjean while Vettel crucially lost a lot of time behind Button and again the two time world champion was losing his cool and being visibly frustrated with his engineer.

The only fascinating point of the race was at the final stint when Raikkonen came out of the pits , outbraked his team-mate into turn 1 , going wheel to wheel on the exit and consolidating second place. He was now in the hunt to chase down race leader Lewis Hamilton , but again the Hungaroring would prove to be hard for someone to overtake despite DRS and KERS.

The ice-man just couldn't put on the power quick enough to match Hamilton into the braking zone for Turn 1 and had to settle for second yet again with Lewis Hamilton taking victory number 2 of the season .

The spark is certainly there , Raikkonen and Lotus are quick , they just need a bit more and victory will be theirs . Who would bet against a victory at next month's Belgium Grand Prix for the King of Spa ?

Hamilton's victory meant the closed down the gap to Alonso, yet still is quite a far way back.

Alonso despite finishing 5th , has now the biggest lead in the championship ever.

A month off from F1 seems long but the next double header will be a cracker with Spa and then Monza ! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Round 11 : Preview to the Hungarian Grand Prix

The Lotus F1 Team has gathered a reputation for being overly generous in sharing information about their cars. We as fans love the detail in the descriptions which no other team dare to reveal.

Here's a look at the needs and setups for the Hungaroring courtesy Lotus F1: 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Championship So Far: Round 10

Post Race Analysis:2012 German Grand Prix

"Spaniard in an Italian car , designed by a Greek winning the German Grand Prix"

A weekend similar to the one we had a fort night ago at Silverstone - a predominately wet practice sessions , teams scratching their heads about dry setups and tyre wear , a wet qualifying although luckily not red flagged and a familiar man on pole position proving again this season he is the man to beat when the going gets tough. A man who delivered not one but two pole position laps......Fernando Alonso. 

Four hours before the race and things were spiced up a bit a suspected technical infringement by the FIA , although the FIA cleared Red Bull , they did however mention that Red Bull have indeed breached one of the regulations however the FIA claimed no action could be taking due to the ambiguity of the rules.
Although Red Bull were accused of cheating since this is not the first time they've been involved with an infringement, I see this as another aspect of F1 . The engineers and teams constantly thrive to find loop holes in the rules and seek performance and that's their job. If it all went right , then just as Brawn GP in 2009 with their double-diffuser they would be called clever and brilliant. I think this makes things interesting and given F1 this added dimension off the track which makes it even more enjoyable. 

"There's no clause in the regulations that refers to the spirit of the regulations"

After an year off , Hockenheim saw two familiar faces on the starting row of the grid on Sunday although roles reversed. As the front runners lined their cars on the grid after the formation lap , the clever Spaniard angled his car to the right , pointing it to the apex of Turn One, giving signs to the home-race-hero that he still remembered how he was squeezed out two years by him giving way for Massa to inherit the lead , his intentions obviously to unsettle the German ,make him ever so cautious and who know's botch the start ? 

When it comes to mind games , there is no one who can play it better than the cunning Spaniard.

As Karthikeyan took his place to complete the grid of 24 , the marshall waved the green flag giving an all clear. As the five red light illuminated, little did we know we that Hockenheim would provide us with great battles all throughout the grid for 67 laps.

It was go , go , go....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Preview: 2012 German Grand Prix

A couple days left for the 2012 German Grand Prix. The mid point to the 2012 Formula One Season still sees no clear favorite driver , no dominating car , no over-powering innovation and each race telling a different story about the pecking order . 

The season started with McLaren dominating the opening race , with Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel looking vulnerable due to the "restrictions" imposed on exhaust-blowing diffusers ( I say restrictions , since the ban hasn't been completely enforced as teams are still harnessing the gases to gain rear-downforce) and Ferrari in the shambles.

Things as they are , seem at a contrast to the beginning of the season. Red Bull people say have the strongest package, followed by Ferrari and Lotus , McLaren have dropped back and are being given tough competition from Mercedes, Sauber,Williams and Force India.

They have rumours of a huge update on the McLaren this weekend which will boost they're chances of victory and regain their form but with things as they are in the current season simply putting on oodles of downforce on any car doesn't seem to get the results. The tyres here play more of a significant role , sometimes more downforce leads to the tyres getting overheated and not lasting and hence that downforce is not "seen" in lap time. 

Understanding the tyres seems crucial to the winning championship this year(understatement of the year award)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Post Race Analysis : 2012 British Grand Prix

Free Practice and Qualifying: 

It was a pretty horrible start to the weekend , with rain minimizing running in Free Practice 1 . I really cannot understand why the FIA do not increase the number of wet and intermediate tyres available during a weekend, its absolutely frustrating from a spectators perspective to go out there in the rain , travelling through the traffic only to reach and see drivers like Fernando Alonso not set a lap time. Mind you , I don't blame any driver for taking a conservative approach on this , I believe they all have been severely handicapped and although this might through in an element of surprise in terms of setup for the teams during the weekend , it comes at the huge cost of putting off the fans. This is truly one of those instances where people say NASCAR and Indy have the better of F1 ! The Americans have a way of making everything a spectator sport and simple steps to eliminate such nonsensical rules just give F1 a bad image. 

Luckily the fans saw some running in FP2 and a dry FP3 was met with Fernando Alonso setting the fastest time. Was this signs of things to come in qualifying and the race ? Dissecting the fuel levels and lap times, it was quite evident the Ferrari was strong at this circuit which favored high speed grip and balance something which Adrian Newey cars were previously feared for.

Qualifying in Q1 was met with trecharous weather and a rather surprising elimination of Jenson Button, despite his recent poor form , I'm sure that was still a shocker for him and his team.

Q2 started with both Ferrari drivers gambling on Intermediate tires while others choose Wet and boy did that almost ruin things for them. 

Later on , a  big moment for Alonso as he exited Chapel onto the Hangar straight ( luckily the race director had his onboard camera on at that exact moment ).Surely he's going to collide into that wall , I feared and as I held my breath and waited for the sound of a big thud, Alonso skillfully came on the breaks to slow down the car, his hands vigorously turning on full opposite lock the moment he lost the rear ,the car dancing sideways with locked front tires he gently left the breaks allowing the car to roll back and masterfully caught the second tank slapper as if it was business as usual. Apparently the whole press room erupted in applause the moment he did that. It was one of those instances which separates the men from the boys. 

Massa at the same corner , unfortunately wasn't so "smooth"

General Classification:Round 9 2012 British Grand Prix

Alonso still leads with a healthy margin  and Webber has closed down the gap to Raikkonen to 8 seconds. Button and Rosberg are steadily lagging behind. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

General Classification in Formula One

The general classification (or the GC) in bicycle racing is the category that tracks overall times for bicycle riders in multi-stage bicycle races. Each stage will have a stage winner, but the overall winner in the GC is the rider who has the fastest time when all the stage results are added together.

This is method of determining who gets to wear the prestigious Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France and ultimately "win" the Tour de France. 

I always thought it would be fascinating if the same classification would be applied to Formula 1 , taking each "stage" as individual grand prix and taking the overall time as the sum of the time taken for a driver to finish every stage. 

A couple of things before we start : 
  • A major problem I faced while trying to determine the General Classification method in Formula One was when a driver crashed or retired and did not finish is the lack sufficient data as to what was the exact time in terms of race distance did the driver complete before retiring during a grand prix. I tried to overcome this method using the lap time of the driver who subsequently finished the race in the position of the retiring driver driver on the last lap of grand prix and multiplied it with the number of laps the driver did not finish. Thereby determining the time the driver lost out from the winner in that particular grand prix.
  • For example :In the European Grand Prix where Sebastian Vettel retired on Lap 33 and the driver who subsequently finished the race in the race position Vettel retired in was Alonso.  So , I multiplied Alonso' lap time in the final lap by the number of Laps Vettel did not finish = 57-33 = 24. Alonso's final lap time was suppose X seconds , we then multiply 24*X = Y seconds. Hence Vettel finished Y seconds behind the leader in the particular stage(race).
  • Although this isnt the best way to overcome the problem , lack of sufficient data led me to do this. And in essence after looking at the results we really can see that this assumption can be taken safely.
  • Its pretty obvious that in this method of classification , consistency would be key as finishing each race would put you right at the top of pack in terms of overall leader.
  • However, another different dimension this method of classification opens up is the fact that time is everything , so whilst finishing second or third in a grand prix under the present scoring system would mean that you would have had a deficit of 7 and 10 points respectively; however if a driver finishes close to his championship contender he wouldn't loose out on much. 
  • For example : if we take the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix where the top six all finished withing a second of the leader,  even 6th place Felipe Massa would have had a brilliant result in that sense .

Let's begin : 

The Data :

The numbers with respect to each driver is the overall deficit with the wearer of the yellow jersey(the overall leader , in the General Classification method the leader being the driver with the least completion time of all the stages till that stage).

For instance , Button won the season opening Australian Grand Prix and hence has a deficit of zero.
After the second round , adding up the total race times of each driver we see that Hamilton who placed third in the Malaysian Grand Prix leads and Alonso is now just 2.899 seconds from him.  

The Graph:


Consistency and strong finishes have given Fernando Alonso a twenty point lead in the current scoring format and not surprisingly he's also the leader in the general classification method with a lead of 57.157 seconds.

What is surprising is that in second place with the least deficit to the leader Alonso is Kimi Raikkonen , who is now 34 point behind Alonso and sixth in the championship. Only three drivers have finished all laps raced in this season till date : Alonso, Raikkonen and Rosberg. This puts Raikkonen in a strong position in the overall classification ,however it necessarily does not do the same for Rosberg.

We can see that he lost a lot of time to leaders due to poor finishes in the Malaysian, Spanish and European Grand Prix.  Funnily enough the graph levels in Monaco as Alonso finished .6 behind him and he finished .43 seconds in front of Rosberg in Canada.

Although Mark Webber has not had a retirement yet, he did finish 1 lap down at the Spanish Grand Prix leading to a big spike from round 4 to round 5 but strong consistent finishes have put him third in the General Classification method.

Although Hamilton started strongly and was the leader till the Chinese Grand Prix , but due to bad bit stops in Bahrain and starting from the back of grid in Spain made him loose a lot of time with respect to Alonso.

The biggest loser ,in this form of classification would be any driver who retires early in the race. Although Sebastian Vettel was second till the Canadian Grand Prix , due to his early retirement in Valencia, his graph substantially shoots up . Such a huge spike that I could not accommodate his deficit in the graph without the other deficits being too minuscule to notice. The same can be noticed for Button too and Romain Grosjean can be expected to be languishing with the Caterhams due to his many early retirements. 

Apart from just looking at numbers, if this method was indeed at some point adopted by the FIA for a Formula One Championship it would definitely open new avenues in racing.

Simply consolidating a position whether it may be the lead driver in a grand prix or someone down the grid is not sufficient to win the championship. With the current Pirelli tires, which need to caressed and looked after this would indeed bring forward more pit stops as every driver would constantly be on the limit of his car and go as fast as possible. Although this is always the aim in racing , drivers and team do take advantage of tactics such as an undercut to gain track position. With this method even if a driver ends up coming second he can still be close in the championship if he finished within a second of the leader.

This was evident at this year's Spanish Grand Prix , where Kimi Raikkonen pitted and put on an extra set of softs and ended up closing the gap to Alonso to .7 seconds when he crossed the chequered flag. 

This would please those who criticized the Pirelli tires for not being like the Bridgestone era tires where drivers would be told to put in 20-30 qualifying laps in a race due to the durability of the tires and the ease with which the drivers got the tires in the working temperature .

Even for someone who would let's say would be somewhere in position six with an uneventful race where he finds himself quite a bit in front of the driver in position 7 and quite a bit behind the driver in position 5 ( as Nico Rosberg found himself quite a few times in the 2010 Formula One Season ) , he simply would not sit calm and look after his car or engine for the next races , he would be harried by the driver behind him and he obviously would be harrying his nearest championship contender.