Thursday, September 20, 2007

McLaren fastest in Jerez testing

McLaren's de la Rosa appeared to put the Spygate controversy behind him as he emerged the fastest in the second day of testing in Jerez. The times from the testing were as follows:

Unofficial Wednesday times from Jerez:
1. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 1:19.267
2. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:19.947
3. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:20.249
4. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:20.318
5. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso, 1:20.624
6. Jenson Button, Honda, 1:20.804
7. Nelson Piquet Jr, Renault, 1:21.101
8. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota, 1:21.608
9. Nico Rosberg, Williams, 1:22.863
10. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso, no time

Quite surprising that the McLaren was a full one second faster than Badoer's Ferrari. Will be interesting to watch the tactics and that the teams follow for the last 3 races. Kimi's one stopper at Monza really showed that the teams (at least Ferrari) are not averse to trying out new stuff.

Meanwhile, FIA released the transcripts of the 26 July and 13 September McLaren hearings. You can read them here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Singapore F1 Race - September 28, 2008???

The FIA today announced the revised calender for the 2008 season. The Belgian race will now take place on September 7, a week before the Italian Grand Prix on September 14. The Japanese event, meanwhile, will take place a week earlier than previously announced on October 12, with the Chinese Grand Prix switching to October 19.

The full calender can be found here.

The highlight of the season for me next year would definitely be the night race at Singapore. It is currently scheduled for September 28. The construction of the street circuit has begun and so has the pit work. I expect the track to be completed very quickly with typical Singaporian efficiency. My Singapore office is on the 32nd floor in Raffles place. I hope there is a good view from there... can save on the tickets ;)

The Malaysian GP at Sepang sees Indians from Mumbai and Chennai land up in thousands. I expect that the Singapore race would see at least as many if not more Indian fans. Of course, Indian fans need to wait only one more year... if the Indian Olympic Association is to be believed, India would have its own F1 race in New Delhi in 2010. Now thats the stuff dreams are made of.

Monday, September 17, 2007

When Mclaren broke the Eleventh Commandment

A journalist wrote in the Times of India a couple of months back “Mclaren have so far stolen Ferrari’s thunder. The question remains – Is that all they have stolen?”.Mclaren had it all covered. They could try out the weight distribution in the simulator, try out the tyre gas in testing, change their pit strategy in real time based on information flow from the Ferrari garage… the list goes on. Unfortunately they got caught.

The FIA came down very strongly on Mclaren. The team was fined $100 million and banned from the Constructors Championship. You can read the entire judgement here.

I thought that Mclaren was let off easy. The amount of information that was passed on by Nigel Stepney, the ex-chief mechanic of the Ferrari team to Mike Coughlan, the Mclaren chief designer was shocking. What was more shocking was that Alonso and de la Rosa were part of this all along. They exchanged several emails with each other and other members of the team on strategy around the best form of exploitation of the data. What a disappointment it must have been when they realized that their car was technically too different from that of Ferrari for them to try out their newly learnt tricks.

What is incredible is that in its defence to the FIA in July, Mclaren submitted:
(i) that the Ferrari confidential information in question had not been circulated within McLaren;
(ii) that McLaren had neither used nor benefited from the receipt by Coughlan of the Ferrari confidential information; and
(iii) that the actions of Coughlan in receiving and dealing with the Ferrari confidential information were those of a "rogue employee" for which McLaren should not be held responsible.

(i) appears to be untrue as was proved by the emails exchanged between de la Rosa and Alonso

(ii) Mclaren was unable to use the information… more because of technical reasons (more uncharitable souls would argue it was due to lack of capability to copy… but not I) than lack of any intention to do so and..

(iii) Sure Coughlan was a “rogue employee” but appears to not have been the only one

This incident reminded me so much of 1994 in Adelaide and 1997 in Jerez when a certain Herr Michael Schumacher crashed into Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve respectively. Both were in the last race of the season. In both cases Schumy was leading the championship by a narrow margin. In both cases Schumy was the only one to benefit from the crash. In both cases (in my opinion) Schumy caused the crash deliberately. MS won the Championship in 1994 (the race marshalls were too kind) and in 1997, he was stripped of the second place in the Championship. A farcical punishment, much like the FIA’s July judgement in which it said that Mclaren was being reprimanded for possessing Ferrari information but not fined or banned as it had not used the information.

Imagine my shock when I heard the commentators argue that Mclaren was being excessively punished. However, this one was easy for me to make my peace with. A formula one commentator on TV is average…on a good day.

Actually I wouldn’t mind being in Ferrari’s shoes(!?). Through the season while they have got their backsides kicked by Mclaren they could argue “They beat us with our own car… either way a Ferrari would have won the Constructors Title ;)”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Flaming Ferraris in Belgium


It took a $ 100 million penalty and a ban on Mclaren from the constructors title to finally get the Ferraris roar into action. Was almost as if the team was waiting for all this while for the FIA decision before saying “lets put this thing behind us and start racing”. Most of the Ferrari fans (me included) had started giving up on Jean Todt and his boys.

That said, what an amazing display of power by the prancing horses. Kimi was perfect from pole to flag. While Kimi dominated the race from start to finish, it must be said that he was never more than 5 seconds or so ahead of Massa. The two red cars came in within a second of each other. Amazing how quickly things turn… a week ago the Ferraris were humiliated at Monza.

Mclaren must have come to this race seething in anger over the FIA judgement. They really had a big point to prove. However, Spa with its smooth, flowing high speed corners was far away from the straight line speed focused circuit at Monza where Mclaren was so dominant. The silver arrows were out of their league. However, it was a bit unclear whether they were racing at all. The way Alonso ran Hamilton off the road on the first corner made me wonder if he wanted to end the race for both cars. Will be interesting to hear what both drivers have to say about the incident.

It was quite a boring race. The sole “racing” was between the BMWs and the Renaults and that too for inconsequential positions. It would have been multifold worse if in the end Mclaren had won. However with a Ferrari one – two, I can live with a boring race.

For me, the star of the race was Adrian Sutil for Spykar. While he started at 19th, he fought his way to 14th at the end of the race… finishing ahead of both Super Aguris and just 3 seconds behind Barrichello’s Honda. Big deal you say? Well am sure driving a Spykar isn’t easy. Must be akin to flying a propeller aircraft next to an F16. Hoping Dr. Mallya increases the budget of the team next year, puts in an Indian driver and makes the team something other than 21 and 22 on the grid. Dr. Mallya has sold a lot of beer in his life, made a successful airline. This, however will be his biggest challenge.

The season goes now to Japan and here is to Kimi cutting down on the rookie’s lead even further. A real treat would be if he drives around Hamilton on turn one the way he did with Fisichella two years ago.