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. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Motorsports' Ugly Head Rises Again

When things go wrong in motorsport, they usually go horribly wrong.

Today, we had two incidents which again remind us about the dangers of motor racing. 

Maria de Villota , test driver for Marussia Formula 1 has sustained "life threatening injuries" while conducting straight line aerodynamic tests at Duxford airfield. Although in season testing is banned in Formula 1 , teams are allowed to carry several straight line aerodynamic tests privately. Teams do this primarily to reduce drag and sometimes give their test drivers a feel for a Formula 1 car. De Villota , who has yet to acquire a FIA Super Licence which enables a driver to race in Formula 1 , she was however primarily hired by the Marussia F1 Team to promote women drivers in Formula. 

In India, we mourned the death of Jatinder Shukla, who passed away on Sunday after an incident in the 3rd Jammu & Kashmir Mughal Rally.

Both these incidents will have a profound effect on the idea of women in Formula 1 and motor sport in general across India.

I wish Maria a speedy recovery and hope that we see her in a grand prix weekend soon !