Monday, February 27, 2012

Thoughts on Williams F1

Aside from their first year in F1 (1977) when they did not score a single point, 2011 was the worst year in F1 for Williams F1 when they only managed 5 constructor points. Never mind that the previous year they had totaled 69 whole points, yet they believed 2010 had been a mediocre season. Never mind that it had been the most constructors' points they had totaled in any of the past 5 years.

Perhaps the reason why their sights were set so high in 2010 might have been because of the arrival of rookie Nico Hulkenberg, whose pre-F1 resume is as exemplary as a young racing career gets. He had won at least 1 championship every year since 2005 before landing in F1.

The Williams team had imagined Nico to outdo whatever result Rubens Barrichello could achieve. Hulkenberg was outscored 47-22. Even so, as of now we still don't think he should have been replaced, and we doubt he would have been let go if the team was not in such a dire financial situation.

Bruno Senna is now the driver driver on the team, alongside Pastor Maldonado. Despite the fact that both drivers have attracted sponsors to the team, Embratel and PDVSA, respectively, during the launch of the new Williams car their race overalls simply looked second grade to us. The sponsors' patches on the main area of their uniforms are on patches which are sewn to the uniforms. The overall effect of the tailoring is decidedly out of place in the high end world of F1.

It could just be that such cost cutting measures, were some of the sacrifices they had to make to make sure they had a car that would give them a chance to be competitive. We'll gladly assume so.

On the issue of who is the team leader, Bruno Senna has 1 year of F1 experience ahead of Maldonado. However if money talks, Maldonado's sponsor PDVSA features more prominently on the car than Senna's Embratel. On their race suits PDVSA's sponsorship patch is the same size as Embratel's, but it's place right above it.

Despite the fact that he will have a much larger fan base and is more famous, until Senna distinguishes himself by his performance it should be a good bet that Maldonado is considered the go-to-guy by virtue of him waving a bigger check.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Seiji Ara...again

When it was announced that Pescarolo would be running a Dome in the LeMans 24 hours, it was also announced that the drivers would be Sebastien Bourdais and Nicolas Minassian, and the 3rd driver would be announced later.

We now know Seiji Ara will be that 3rd driver. From one standpoint it was a very predictable choice, and on the other hand he can be considered the most successful Japanese driver at La Sarthe. He was 4th overall in 2003 (second in class), and then won overall in 2004 at LeMans driving and R8 along with Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen. However since then, Seiji's sports car forays have not been anything to brag about.

In 2009 driving a Porsche RS Spyder for Team Goh (that was a very well funded operation by the way), while the team was pretty much locked in 2nd place in P2 (behind Team Essex) Ara crashed into the PlayStation chicane with less than an hour to go.

We're not sure what happened at that time, but it seems as if the suspension might have gave way as he hit the brakes for the chicane.

We remember watching that race and actually envisioned the team allowing Sascha Maassen to bring the car home. Sure Seiji was the hometown hero, but Sascha was like an embedded resource Porsche had given the team. He knew the car in an out and would have probably sensed such defect (if there were any) and known how to nurse the package home.

The following year Seiji was one of the drivers for Swiss Racing Team, driving one of its Nissan GT-R entries in the FIA GT1 championship.

The Nissans were not competitive. Well...only the ones entered by Swiss Racing team, because Sumo Power also had Nissans and they were mixing it up with the mid-pack teams and even managed a couple wins.

While there's very little a competent pilot can do if a team is uncompetitive, or if a car is not properly prepared, we feel that a very good jockey would still show flashes of brilliance an even search for better rewarding opportunities.

Either way, the momentum of success in Ara's career has slowed down and at present there are other race car drivers in Japan who are currently riding a wave of success in their careers. To name a few: Takashi Kogure (GT500 champion in 2010), Juichi Wakisaka (multiple GT500 titles), and perhaps the most successful driver in Japan in the past decade and a half, Satoshi Motoyama, who has won multiple GT500 and Formula Nippon championships.

We're not sure how it came about that Seiji Ara was selected to drive in the Dome, but as far as us, he has become almost like a "cliché" choice. The announcement itself looses its pomp and excitement. We can almost predict approximately during a broadcast when a color commentator will remind us of his 2004 LeMans win.

It's not that we dislike Seiji, but the fanfare that has followed him has not yielded any substance as of late. We hope to be wrong this time around.