Saturday, April 14, 2012

2012 F1 Shanghai Grand Prix qualifying.

Pole man
Nico Rosberg got his first pole at the Shanghai Grand Prix. It has been a long time coming. Everyone was sure he would get one one day in his career, just figuring out when, was the problem. As it is every pundit is also very certain that he will 1 day get a win in F1. The problem is figuring out when.

With the pole position, Nico has increased his chances of getting a win. What should help even more is that he will have his teammate starting behind him. Mercedes has a number of options on how the can run the race. The team should advice Schumacher to only pass if he has a safe and clear line, or tell him to stay put.

If asked for a definitive prediction on tomorrow's race, we still believe there are drivers behind Rosberg who are able to crash his party, including his experienced and cunning teammate, Michael.

Q2 and lower
The cars qualyfing in 13th place and lower are all in pair order. Team cars of Williams, Force India, STR, Caterham, Marusia, and HRT, have all qualified in lockstep with the respective team leaders in front. Quite strange.

#1 in #11
Sebastian Vettel the driver of the #1 car, which is synonymous of the reigning champion, could only manage an 11th place qualifying. Considering is record setting run of pole position last year at 15, we almost did not expect him to qualify out of the top 10 this year. He did not score any point in the last race. Currently MArk Webber is ranked 4th in the championship standings, and Vettel 6th. Webber qualifed 7th for Shanghai. If the past couple years are any indication, what we have learned is that whatever Mark Webber is capable of, Vettel can very well outdo it. So with Webber qualifying 7th, if we apply our self developed "Vettel equation" to Webber's constant, Sebastian should have qualified in 3rd place.

So what's keeping "The Vet" from his 2012 potential? Perhaps he is still internally celebrating his great season. Indeed it was. Or he was so burdened by promotional work in the off season that he wasn't able to get a properly prepare on this campaign. Or yet again, the intense focus required to achieve such a phenomenal season as last year's, so drained him that the off season was not enough to recharge himself.

It also be that Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, is satisfied with his 2 F1 crowns and has cut back the money he has been shoving into the team's bottomless pockets. Maybe they have now become a team with no more funding than any of the other top teams.

But we're still only 2 races into the season. There's still much to play for, Dietrich can always use a 3rd F1 championship.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Michael Waltrip, ACO driver rank

During LeMans 2011, one of the best driver interviews Justin Bell did was of Michael Waltrip. In the racing community, given that Waltrip has had a 27 year career in Nascar, he was a bit out of place at LeMans.

Yet, in his interviews, he was so vivid in his descriptions, it was so entertaining. Instead of the condescending nature Scott Pruett talked about international drivers, Waltrip was sincerely respectful and admiring, and gave just credit.

He described how he was going as fast as he could in his #71 AF Corse Ferrari, and out of nowhere a prototype would flash from behind and fly around a corner faster than he thought was possible.

About the Peugeots, he said they have so much ground force they suck up the air when they blow past and he has to hang on...or something of that sort.

Considering that he is a 2-time winner of the Daytona 500 in Nascar, 2001 and 2003, these comments are not to be taken lightly. He is a professional race car driver in his own sphere.

At Sebring while looking at the entry list for the WEC we noticed that next to his name there was a "P". The ACO uses a driver ranking system and Mr Waltrip was classified as a Platinum rated driver. The highest rank a driver can have. In Indycar speak guys in the platinum raking would be called road course specialists.

Michael Waltrip has accumulated nearly all of his racing experience in oval racing, so again in Indycar jargon, he would be termed an oval specialist.

At Sebring the #61 Ferrari 458 had Rui Aguas as it's hot shoe driver. He's a Ferrari factory test driver, and is a Silver ranked driver. But Michael Waltrip could never match his times, despite being ranked a platinum pilot.

Let's take a look at the Platimum driver criteria and see where Waltrip made the grade.....O.K aside the fact that he twice took home one of the world's most coveted race victories:

Platinum: Professional driver generally recognised as a well-known
driver on the international scene, under the age of 55, and satisfying at
least one of the following criteria :
- has held a Super Licence (for Formula 1)
- has won the Le Mans 24 Hours outright,
- has been a Works Driver, paid by a car manufacturer
- has finished in the top 10 of an F3000, CART/Champcar, IRL or
GP2 Championship,
- has finished in the top 6 of an F3 International Series
(British/EuroF3) or major international single-seater Championship
(example : World Series by Renault)
- is a driver whose performances and achievements, although not
being covered by one of the definitions above, may be considered as a
professional driver by the Sports Committee.

It's quite an extensive list, but only one qualifier is needed to make the cut. In Michael Waltrip's case the last criterion makes the case.

In most cases it's a pretty straight forward classification system, but as in everything they can sometimes be a few exceptions.

Toyota too good for endurance racing?

Sorry if you are confused by the our choice of title. One of the biggest news in the FIA WEC is Toyota withdrawing from Spa. The official reason for their withdrawal is that Nicolas Lapierre crashed during testing and severely damaged their lone chassis. Never mind that the Spa race was still a month away at the time of the crash. And even now, there's still 3 weeks left till the race. Never mind that they have a racing facility most teams can only dream of.

We only see the alibi of the crash as public relations posturing. Toyota can easily churn out 5 chassis, and have them shaken, tested, and ready to go for the Spa race. We think they're so far underwhelmed by the whole endurance racing arena. They would rather be rubbing shoulders with McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, and perhaps BMW as well, in a very competitive contest of elitism.

Then again, when you are as big and powerful as Toyota you can stir up things, and get the attention you deserve. Every ounce of news contributes to your popularity, even if it seems disappointing. We can only imagine that this train of events was the plan all along, to generate headlines, gain fan curiosity and support, and then finally make a very awaited and yearned for debut at La Sarthe.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

GT1 or GT3

The FIA GT championship season began its season last weekend at Nogaro. We had eagerly anticipated the start of the season. Change is almost always good, and when it's not, adapting to change can be fun.

Broadcasting platform
On the GT1 website (, we noticed that they have switched their video distribution platform from DailyMotion to YouTube. That's actually a good change. We love underdogs, but videos on DailyMotion just seem to use up computer resources and their streaming is simply not as refined and polished as YouTube.

Of course YouTube is a giant compared to DailyMotion. But with the videos on YouTube now, that means the FIA GT's races are now accessible literally anywhere. Any net connectivity device not designed to play YouTube videos can almost be called outdated.

But being that we are located in the U.S of A, we could access GT3 videos fine, and as well as GT1 interviews and previews, however the GT1 qualifying and the races seemed to be off limits to U.S viewers. As of this writing at least.

On DailyMotion we could watch everything. Is it really worth it to Stephane Ratel to sensor out viewers from the largest market for these cars? Last year we could catch the races fine even though they were supposedly also broadcast in the U.S on Bloomberg TV.

Whatever the reason, for the exclusion, we're not at all convinced it's the right move.

GT3 and more GT3?
SRO has moved to have the GT1 world championship use GT3 cars this year. Very understandable since GT1 cars are aging, and with a GT3 car it allows teams to use them in other championships, so more return on investment.

But at Nogaro this weekend the "GT1" race had similar lap times to the GT3 race. The difference in GT1 and GT3 is supposed to be that GT1 does not restrict the use of accomplished professional drivers, and in the past they were also to have the most developed GT cars.

GT3 on the other hand has regulations to prevent accomplished pros to participate. But there are enlightened youngsters and "master" racers who can light up the track just as well as a thoroughbred racer.

The pole time in GT3 for Qualifying 2 was 1:26.602 and the Qualifying 3 pole time in GT1 was 1:26.138. In our opinion those times are too close. From a spectator's point of view the GT1 race will not look much different from a GT3 race, since the cars would be going at almost the same speeds.

Sure a keen observer might notice the superior skills during the GT1 race, but not a casual fan. To expand the sport, casual fans are the ones whose allegiance you want to gain. F1 is so popular because of its out of this world speed.

We think to really do justice to the GT1 moniker, the cars racing under that championship should be sped up. The last time actual GT1 cars visited Nogaro was in 2008. The pole time of 1:23.703 was set by Marcel Fassler driving a Corvette Z06. The GT2 pole time was 1.26.296 by Richard Westbrook in a Porsche RSR.

So the current GT3 machines used in GT1 are as fast as the GT2 machines of old (evolution we suppose). But given that the ACO's current GT2 now called "GTE" machines have also evolved and have acquired more technology (carbon brakes, full telemetry, GT1 wings and tires, etc) they are no doubt faster.

In order to give more appeal to it's product SRO has to loosen up the restrictors on the cars. Ideally they would make them as fast or faster than the GT1 cars of old to really spice up the show. The fans will notice, and they will clearly be able to differentiate the support race from the main show.

More speed can bring up other issues, such as cost hikes and wear and tear, but the gain in entertainment value would more than compensate for those minor problems.