If you happen to follow EngageSportMode on twitter, if you don’t remedy that first, you’ll have noticed a steady stream of Pirelli tyre-related lolz on Sunday.
The Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya has rarely been one to set pulses racing, managing to generally rate slightly above Hungary for excitement. But the 2013 race proved to be unpopular with many for more than just poor racing. Namely, when do pit-stops for tyres become too many? Apparently four is the magic number, not three in this regard.
One of the key aspects to the resurgence in “racing” during recent seasons of Formula 1 has been the change to Pirelli as tyre supplier. This, combined with DRS and KERS, has seen a return to a phenomenon known as overtaking, not witnessed in F1 for many years. Despite the fact Sebastian Vettel has won the last three World Championships, nobody is complaining too much about the lack of on-track action.
Pirelli’s tyres have been fundamental to this, in the use of the compounds used to construct the prime and option variants. The rates at which the tyre degrades have been increased, leading to dramatic changes in tyre performance when the level of grip is said to “drop off a cliff” during the race, often without warning. Some teams have coped with this better; others have had to manage them differently during a race, leaving the possibility of cars on different tyre strategies creating overtaking, aided by DRS and KERS.
However, the tyres offered this year by Pirelli are seemingly a step too far. In Catalunya we saw front running drivers such as Alonso, Raikkonen and Massa only pushing their cars to around 80% of their potential. As Martin Brundle commented on Sky’s coverage, behind the wheel the drivers looked positively sedate – not like they were battling for World Championship points. The reason for this was the, arguably, excessive tyre wear seen in Spain. Teams were unable to allow their drivers to push hard for fear of destroying their rubber and being forced to pit. As such, we saw anaesthetised racing and some teams needing to make four pit stops to prevent shredded Pirellis.
Arguably, Ferrari and Lotus might claim that there is no problem. Seemingly their cars are easier on their tyres compared to Red Bull or Mercedes, allowing them to ride away to victory. However, it seems perverse that the two cars which qualified 1st and 2nd on the grid end up 6th and 12th respectively, due to chiefly struggling with tyre wear.
Red Bull in particular has been incredibly vocal about the fast wear rate of the Pirellis, with owner Dieter Mateschitz claiming that: “this is a competition in tyre management. Real racing looks different.” Even Bernie Ecclestone has stirred the pot, suggesting that the tyres Pirelli brought were “wrong” and not what Formula 1 had asked the Italian firm to “produce.” Finally, David Coulthard’s BBC Sport column suggested that the failures seen by tyres this year could be a much bigger worry, should it happen at a “critical point of the race track in a critical racing situation.”
Tyres have always been a sensitive subject in Formula 1; witness the drama which unfolded at the 2005 Indianapolis Grand Prix when only three teams were able to compete due to the safety concerns with Michelin’s tyres. Nobody wants such ridiculous scenes as that, nor do they want the increased risk when we get to quicker circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps and Monza later in the season.
You also have to wonder about the damage it must be doing to Pirelli’s brand. Formula 1 is probably its biggest advertisement; to see such rhetoric in the media about Pirelli products cannot be a good thing for the company.
As a consequence of the above Pirelli Motorsport Director, and occasional twitter antagonist, Paul Hembery has announced changes to the tyres it will offer, starting from the Canadian Grand Prix. Initially Hembery had stated this would take effect from Silverstone, but one wonders whether the sheer loudness of the dissenting voices forced them to act quicker. It also leaves ESM with only one race of tyre-related puns left, Monaco, rather than the two first hoped for.
ESM has never been a fan of racing dictated by tyres; they’re hardly the most exciting part of a racing car for a start. But they are also the key bits which join the car to the track, just in Catalunya they started to make the tail wag the dog in terms of performance. Hopefully, after Monaco, we’ll see less burnt rubber and more of drivers pushing their cars to the limit.
The first race of the Formula 1 season is always a strange one, not least because for European viewers it happens ridiculously early on a Sunday morning. F1′s opening night tends to showcase who has potential for the year ahead and, more importantly, who has more work to do back at the factory. 2013′s edition was no exception, although the unexpected weather and split qualifying sessions meant Australia was possibly not the truest representation of where things currently lie.
The EngageSportMode team made a concerted effort to stay up and watch the rescheduled late-night qualifying session and the race itself live. Getting up at 6am is tough on the best of days, but a Sunday just seems to make it several times harder. Senna, ESM’s F1 canine correspondent, was dragged from her bed and made to watch also. Afterwards she spent the day chewing sticks, sleeping, and rolling in badger crap. But in between all that we managed to get her opinion on who performed best and worst Down Under.
Qualifying: Vettel – 1st, Webber – 2nd
Race: Vettel – 3rd, Webber – 6th
A front-row lock out should have yielded better results than this. Another awful start by Webber ruined his chances in the race. Vettel tried hard, but the car seemed to be struggling with tyres in the colder than expected condition. Sebastian still looks to be the man to beat, and you can guarantee he’ll be fired up for Malaysia.
Senna’s view: I could get an F1 car off the line better than Webber, and I don’t even have hands to hold the clutch paddle!
Qualifying: Alonso – 5th, Massa – 4th
Race: Alonso – 2nd, Massa – 4th
After the surprise of Felipe Massa outqualifying Fernando Alonso, the sardonic Spaniard looked deeply unimpressed at the end of Q3. Predictably it was Alonso who outshone Massa in the race, but the Brazilian’s form looks impressive even if he did fade later on. Fernando leapfrogged Vettel during the second round of pit stops and was able to build an effective barrier between himself and the Red Bull, securing second place.
Senna’s view: Still don’t like Alonso, or his eyebrows, but that Ferrari looks to be a contender already.
Qualifying: Button – 10th, Perez – 15th
Race: Button – 9th, Perez – 11th
Oh dear. Despite having the strongest car at the end of the 2012 season, McLaren seems to have entered 2013 by completely forgetting everything they learnt in the closing stages of last year. Both drivers consistently struggled for pace in both qualifying and the race. The team made a colossal error to send Button and Perez out on slicks in Q2, and then furthered it by keeping the Mexican on them, thus destroying his qualifying. In the actual race things failed to improve, with Button scraping into the points and both cars not hugely far off being lapped.
Senna’s view: Somebody needs to be fired, probably Martin Whitmarsh.
Qualifying: Raikkonen – 7th, Grosjean – 8th
Race: Raikkonen – 1st, Grosjean – 10th
I don’t think anyone really saw this result coming. An average qualifying session transpired into an epic victory for the Iceman, thanks to some superb strategy from the Enstone team. Only needing to stop twice, compared to other’s three stop strategies gave Kimi a compounding advantage, and the first win of 2013. Grosjean had a quiet race which, let’s be honest, is a good thing by his standards.
Senna’s view: Kimi is the only driver I’ve ever seen drink the champagne before spraying it! (more…)
EngageSportMode was saddened to read that Williams F1 today have, predictably, decided to drop Bruno Senna for the 2013 season and replace him with Valtteri Bottas instead.
Valterri (I’m having a hard time not writing that as Valerie) Bottas has been the Williams team test-driver for the past year, taking Senna’s seat in Friday practice sessions for the latter half of the season. In short, the Oxford-based constructor has groomed the young Finn to take his place in Formula 1 for 2013 for quite some time. To date his biggest success has come in winning the 2011 GP3 Series where he took four race wins to beat his team-mate to the title.
He is, however, unproven in a Formula 1 race environment and the step up from GP3 to the top-level of single-seater racing is a big one. The hype around Bottas suggests he might be the one to push Williams closer to the front of the pack, but in many respects this is somewhat of a gamble. Whilst Pastor Maldonado is known for his qualifying pace and outright ferocious tenacity, that fiery temperament has a habit of producing errors and penalties. Throughout 2012 the Venezuelan managed to accrue eight penalties, including three in one weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix. It says something that despite winning the Spanish round, Maldonado finished only one place ahead of Bruno Senna in the Driver’s Championship standings.
Senna was far from earth-shattering during 2012, but it’s also fair to say he suffered an unfair amount of bad luck. Scoring points in half the 20 rounds of the season, Bruno could often be found fighting his way through the field to get into the lower points-paying positions. He also had his fair share of penalties, but compared to Maldonado he was a model of restraint most of the time.
In addition, he’s estimated to be worth around $14 million in sponsorship backing, though not quite the level of money Maldonado’s Venezuelan oil dollars bring in. He’s also possibly one of the nicest guys in motorsport, along with being the most optimistic as Gareth Jones (TV’s famous Gaz Top in case you’re wondering) pointed out on Twitter. Oh, and Bruno is the nephew of the greatest Formula 1 driver ever, if you needed reminding. And he has the same birthday as me, so naturally he must be cool.
So, EngageSportMode would like to launch it’s Keep Bruno Senna in F1! campaign. Kamui Kobayashi has the backing of Taki Inoue, so I think it’s fair to give everyone’s favourite Brazilian driver some support too.
The battle begins here, because as we all know, the Internets can do anything; look at Gangnam Style, look at that sneezing panda on YouTube. Perhaps don’t look at Wikileaks, but it’s still obvious how powerful we can be. Go forth and save Bruno Senna’s career!
Yesterday’s Brazilian Grand Prix was possibly the most intense and terrifying motor race I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Never before have I felt the need to actually start drinking beer during a race; such was the sheer drama that occurred at Interlagos.
As I had set out before the race, EngageSportMode was firmly rooting for Sebastian Vettel to take his third World Driver’s Championship, and surpass Ayrton Senna by becoming the youngest winner to do so. Therefore watching the first lap chaos, with Vettel’s RB8 pointing the wrong way with damage, left ESM speechless. The title looked like it had already gone to Alonso before 1/71st of the race was done.
Vettel has come in for criticism from current and past F1 drivers for not being a “true racer” and not being able to overtake or battle for position. Yesterday, as with Abu Dhabi, proved he is more than capable of fighting his way through traffic, to challenge and pass other drivers. With the damage he suffered in turn 4, Sebastian did not have the best car on track at Interlagos. But the rain is a great equaliser, as it was in Monza back in 2008 when he scored his first win, and he was able to use his skills to come back through the field. That is the mark of a true champion and a driver deserved of legendary status, regardless as to what Jackie Stewart might think. Ironically, Vettel has now matched Stewart’s three World Championship titles; somehow I can see him adding more to that, unlike a certain tartan-hatted Scot.
However, more important things were proved by Vettel’s triumph. Namely, you should not listen to this, or the punditry of this:
Instead, you should heed the learned wisdom of this…
…when it comes to who you should put your money on. So there you have it; don’t listen to the foolish words of the 1997 Formula 1 World Champion, but instead listen to a whippet wearing a baseball cap. She is, after all, named after the greatest F1 driver ever.
This year’s F1 season has been the most difficult to predict for a long, long time. Be it the seven different winners of the first seven races, Romain Grosjean’s first corner madness, to the crazy tweets of Taki Inoue and Lewis Hamilton; 2012 has not been short of action. Pirelli tyres, DRS and KERS have produced actual overtaking action, though how real it is open to interpretation. This season never failed to be entertaining, something I’m sure Mr Ecclestone’s bank balance will welcome.
EngageSportMode will bring you a few more post-season features before the year is out, including a final review of Sky Sports F1 and probably an article ascribing factitious trophies to certain people (probably Taki Inoue).
In less than an hour, the lights will go out on the final race of the 2012 Formula One World Championship. After an epic season, two drivers still remain in contention for the Driver’s title; Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. Both are vying to become triple World Champions, but only one will emerge from Interlagos today as the victor.
EngageSportMode makes no attempt to deny that its allegiances are firmly in the Red Bull camp. But in case you haven’t quite made up your mind whether to back blue or red this afternoon, here are a few reasons to sway you to ESM’s way of thinking.
1. Vettel wants the Championship more
This is purely opinion; obviously I cannot really measure the motivation of each driver. But from the interviews, body language and on-track attitude I would hedge that Vettel is more bothered about taking the title today. He cares about records, achievements and statistics. It will have galled him to not win his 100th Grand Prix in Austin last weekend. In addition, I would imagine that winning three titles in a row would mean more to Sebastian than them spread out over a number of years.
2. That performance at Abu Dhabi
Pundits and drivers alike have criticised Vettel for not being a true racer and only being able to perform from the front of the grid. The 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix blew that argument out of the water, and proved he could overtake and battle through the field. No, it wasn’t perfect; contact with Bruno Senna and the bizarre Ricciardo/polystyrene sign incident certainly slowed his progress. But he still drove from starting in the pit lane, to finish on the podium in third place.
3. The Red Bull has not been the best car
Unlike 2011, the Red Bull RB8 has not been an all-conquering behemoth this year. The loss of the double-diffuser setup hurt Red Bull, and it has taken all of Adrian Newey’s skills to get the RB8 back to the front of the pack. It still isn’t perfect; look at the straight line speed differentials between the car from Milton Keynes and Hamilton’s Mclaren last weekend.
On top of the difficulties with performance, Vettel has twice suffered at the cruel hands of unreliability this year. Whilst leading in Valencia, an alternator failure dumped him out of the race, and washed an almost guaranteed 25 points into the sea. A second alternator problem compounded a difficult weekend at Monza for Vettel by forcing him to retire and again taking away valuable points. If you’re a conspiracy theorist, the alternators used in the Red Bull’s Renault engine are supplied by Magnetti Marelli. An Italian company which also happens to be a subsidiary of Fiat…
4. Mark Webber is not Felipe Massa
Massa is very much the number two driver at Ferrari, and knows it. Like the “Fernando is faster than you” message of a few years ago, this season has also seen the Brazilian driver take the bullet to assist Alonso. The cutting of the gearbox seals in Austin last weekend to give Massa a grid penalty and move Alonso to the cleaner side of the grid was a pure Ferrari move. There is no way Mark Webber would ever agree to something like that to help Vettel; the German is very much on his own out on track.
5. Jacques Villeneuve is backing Alonso
In a recent article, 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve revealed he is supporting Alonso to win this years title, as whilst Vettel is quick he believes he “reacts like a child” when under pressure. If you need any assistance as to why you should ignore the views of the French-Canadian, try listening to this.
6. Vettel doesn’t look like a puppet from the Dolmio advert.
It’s true, he doesn’t.
7. Senna is backing Vettel.
No, not Bruno Senna but EngageSportMode’s own F1 Pundit whippet. In her opinion, Sebastian is the one to win today, so much so that she’s even taken to wearing a Red Bull Racing cap:
So there you have it, seven very convincing reasons to back a certain German this afternoon. Enjoy.
Japanese Grand Prix Weekend Round Up #3
In the third and final part of this week’s EngageSportMode Formula 1 bonanza, we tie the past two updates together in a bow that a department store gift-wrapper would be proud of. And by that I mean we link Twitter and Grand Prix shenanigans together in one final, slightly crazy, post about this man:
For those of you who don’t recognise Japanese racing drivers from the best part of two decades ago, this is Takachiho “Taki” Inoue. Taki competed in eighteen Grand Prixs across the 1994 and 1995 seasons. Whereas drivers like Romain Grosjean are talented but unlucky, by his own admission Taki recently labelled himself as one of “the shittest” drivers to grace the F1 grid. Running the uncompetitive Footwork Hart in 1994, Inoue’s best result was an eighth place at the Italian Grand Prix. But the Japanese driver is perhaps best remembered for suffering two completely bizarre incidents, that will forever earn him a small place in the Formula 1 history books and ESM’s heart.
The first came in a practice session at the Monaco Grand Prix. Following Inoue stalling the engine, he asked the marshalls to tow him back to the pit lane. This would mean he could compete in the second qualifying session; something the car being craned away by the marshalls would prevent. Whilst being towed back, his car was hit by Jean Ragnotti who was test driving the Renault Clio safety car. The resulting collision caused Inoue’s car to roll over into the barriers, along with causing him concussion and a damaged helmet. He also missed the second qualifying session.
Perhaps even more infamous than the Monaco debacle, the next instalment of Taki’s bad luck would happen a few months later at the Hungarian Grand Prix. To be honest, it’s easier to show a video than attempt to explain this in words:
Yes…Taki Inoue got hit by a medical car whilst attempting to extinguish a fire on his car. To be honest, in all my years of watching Formula 1 I’ve never really seen anything like it. Come the end of the 1995 season, Inoue was slated to drive for Minardi for the next year. Unfortunately, a sponsor pulled out at the last-minute leaving him without a seat for 1996, thus bringing his F1 career to a grinding halt.
Nowadays, Taki lives in Monaco, and seems to busy himself with drinking in the pub, and tweeting his own F1 opinions like the collective displayed below. These are just a few of the gems I’ve witnessed over the past week or two:
He is possibly my Twitter favourite of the year, and deserves a special EngageSportMode award for “Overcoming a Distinctly Unsuccessful Formula 1 Career to Become a Hilarious Twitter Pundit and Comedian”. Not entirely sure how I’d manage to fit all that on one trophy though. Instead, Taki might have to wait to see if he can be crowned ESM “Man of the Year” in December. Until then, EngageSportMode salutes you Taki Inoue: keep drinking, and keep tweeting.
If you feel your life wouldn’t be complete without hearing from Inoue-san then head over to https://twitter.com/takiinoue and follow him.
Japanese Grand Prix Weekend Round Up #2If there is one consistent theme to take from this year’s topsy-turvy Formula 1 season, it’s that Romain Grosjean is probably going to hit somebody on the opening lap. It’s the regular occurrences of these early race incidents that led a furious Mark Webber to brand RoGro a “first-lap nutcase” after being punted out of the Japanese Grand Prix by the errant Lotus driver.
The problem for Grosjean is the sheer volume of incidents he has been involved in, though not necessarily caused, throughout the course of the season so far. In fact Sunday’s collision with Webber marked the eighth episode of Romain getting tangled up with other drivers. To recap, the others have included:
- Australian Grand Prix – Grosjean and other serial offender Pastor Maldonado tag on the second lap. RoGro later retires.
- Malaysian Grand Prix – Collides with Michael Schumacher on opening lap, retiring on lap four after another spin.
- Spanish Grand Prix – First-lap contact causes Sergio Perez a puncture, putting the Spanish Sauber driver out of the race.
- Monaco Grand Prix – Violent first corner crash sees Grosjean take out Kamui Kobayashi, and Maldonado (again).
- British Grand Prix – This time, contact with Paul Di Resta sees the British driver retire due to a puncture from Grosjean’s front wing.
- German Grand Prix – Runs wide at the hairpin on the first lap, picking up a puncture. Later collides with Bruno Senna.
- Belgian Grand Prix – Blamed for huge opening lap first-corner crash, putting Alonso, Hamilton and Kobayashi out the race. Receives a one race ban for the Italian Grand Prix from the stewards for dangerous driving.
- Japanese Grand Prix – Rams the side of Mark Webber, again at the first corner of the first lap. Spotting the pattern yet?
The unfortunate thing for Grosjean is that if you watch a lot of the incidents above, like on this handy BBC Sport showcase, you realise that many of the collisions aren’t typically malicious nor deliberate. The vast majority of them result from RoGro getting overly excited, or placing the car badly on the track, resulting in accidental contact. Even more unfortunate, is that this is probably a harder trait for Romain and the Lotus F1 team to overcome.
Were it simply a case of a driver like Pastor Maldonado, or Juan Pablo Montoya for instance, who are/were often deliberately aggressive when
causing collisions, a stern talking to from the team principal should be enough to calm them down. But with Grosjean, the problems are almost more subconscious and beyond his actual control. I’m not an F1 driver, the highest form of motorsport I competed in was Radio Control cars when I was young. But even that taught me how important getting the first corner right was, and how big the pre-race pressure could be even racing a 1/10th scale model around a warehouse in Middlesbrough. RoGro is seemingly struggling to cope with this at motorsport’s highest echelon.
More worryingly is the fact Romain has a history of such incidents in Formula 1. His Grand Prix debut at the 2009 European race in Valencia is probably obscured from history’s gaze, by the hilarious/tragic return of Luca Badoer after ten years as a test driver. Badoer had a torrid time substituting at Ferrari for the injured Felipe Massa, and qualified last, some 2.5 seconds behind his team mate Raikkonen. EngageSportMode found this very amusing at the time. Come Sunday, Badoer made an impressive start, climbing to 14th before being hit by….yeah, you’ve guessed it…Romain Grosjean in his first F1 race for Renault.
The following 2009 round in Belgium perhaps gave a foretelling of the future; Grosjean rammed Jenson Button’s Brawn on the opening lap, putting them both out of the race. Belgium would be the only round where Button failed to score points on this run to his Drivers’ World Championship. Following the Belgium Grand Prix, Grosjean was involved in an another opening lap incident at the Italian Grand Prix, which saw him damage his car. He managed to survive the rest of the 2009 season relatively unscathed, but found himself without an F1 seat for 2010.
Clearly the first lap is a major hurdle for Romain, and one which doesn’t seem to be diminishing with the passage of time. I would imagine that the further criticism and accusations only make a collision more likely, not less this weekend in Korea. Unless of course he can get pole position; that might be the safest bet for everyone.
Earlier in the week I discussed Lewis Hamilton throwing away his talent by seemingly not being bothered enough. With Grosjean, his talent is being wasted because he is almost too eager to do well, and is seemingly placing an inordinate amount of pressure on himself. He clearly has ability, he won the 2011 GP2 and GP2 Asia championships with consummate ease. Prior to this, in 2010, he won the Auto GP championship by some margin, despite missing the first four of a twelve race calendar. This is on top of a number of wins and titles picked up in lower racing classes.
Looking back at what Grosjean has done this season, it’s very easy to see why Webber and other drivers have labelled him a menace. He has cost both them, and himself, points and positions throughout the course of the year. Ironically, when he hasn’t been making contact, Grosjean has used the speed of the Lotus-Renault to collect seven points finishes, including three podiums. With Kimi Raikkonen sitting third in the Drivers’ Championship, the potential of the car is there for all to see. Had Romain managed to convert his talent, and the Lotus-Renault’s speed, into results then the team could easily be challenging Ferrari for third in the Constructors’ Championship.
Personally, I hope RoGro manages to “sort his shit out” as Jenson Button so eloquently put it. Formula 1 has tolerated drivers of much lower potential than Grosjean, but he desperately needs to keep his nose clean and rack up some points to cling onto an F1 driver. If not, Le Mans style endurance racing might be his best bet; that way someone else can do the initial stint, getting that tricky first corner out of the way.
So the sixth Grand Prix of this years Formula 1 season was won by the sixth different driver. Unpredictable, chaotic and disordered, the 2012 championship is like shopping in Primark. Or Greece.
The Monaco race also played host to an almighty gaffe on the part of Simon Lazenby who, if you’re unfamiliar, is the one holding the iPad not managing to be Jake Humphrey
Basically, during Sunday’s coverage of the race, Lazenby made the comment of: “Some twisty and dangerous roads above us here in Monaco, Princess Grace knows all about them.”
If you didn’t know, Princess Grace (aka Grace Kelly) died in 1982, following a car accident on the French side of the border with Monaco. She suffered a stroke which led to the car going off the road and down a mountainside.
Bad taste? For a Sunday afternoon sports programme yes, I think so. The Daily Mail, obviously, agrees. I’ll admit I didn’t hear the comment said by Lazenby; I was too busy channel hopping to avoid him. So I’m not going to write to my MP and demand Lazenby resigns etc. etc.
Mainly because it probably wasn’t his fault. If you watched him presenting F1, it’s apparent he’s struggling to cope with such a fast paced moving format. You could put anything on a TelePrompTer or bark any instruction in his ear, and he’d say/do it. I’m sure you could offer the words; “punch Jean Todt in the face, then crap in Mark Webber’s cockpit Simon” and he’d loyally do so.
Will Sky drop him? I doubt it. This early in the season it’d be like Lotus booting out Raikkonen. But a couple more foot-in-mouth situations and he could be moving on to pastures new.
Despite the fact Lazenby follows me (and several others who have been negative about his presenting) on twitter, I’m not going to change my opinion of him. You only had to flick between the BBC and Sky coverage to witness the gulf in ability between him and Jake Humphrey. Sky are charging people like me a premium for its F1 coverage; why should we suffer when the BBC get high quality (admittedly for only half the season) anchoring?
To finish, here’s a photo of another awkward situation from Sunday. Our dog, stuck behind my shed:
Pastor Maldonado’s victory today in the Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya has a very tenuous link to this week’s BMW theme. Until today the last Williams win had been taken by Juan Pablo Montoya, in the teams BMW.WilliamsF1 phase, at Brazil in 2004. In addition, Maldonado is now the most successful Venezuelan F1 driver, overtaking the position previously held by Johnny Cecotto. Cecotto more famously achieved great success racing touring cars for BMW in the 1990s. With that out the way, let’s get down to the business of revelling in an epic win for the team from Oxfordshire.
I’m sure some will argue that the stage was effectively set for Pastor with the penalty given to Hamilton, but this does Maldonado’s efforts a real disservice. His patience in the early stages; not allowing Alonso’s first corner pass to get to him, rewarded him with the opportunity to be in a winning position come mid-distance. His pace in the later stages was considerable, outclassing both Fernando’s Ferrari and the Lotus of Raikkonen to give him a well deserved win.
After the disappointment of last season, such a win is a massive boost for Williams. Although Senna was unfortunate to suffer retirement at the hands of Michael Schumacher, the team should be buoyed by the result at Catalunya. Hopefully they can build on today and at least go some way towards restoring their glory days of the 1990s.
Catalunya also reminded the world of the terrifyingly dangerous reality of F1. The post-race fire, seemingly started whilst fuel was being removed from Senna’s car, produced an explosion and shocking fireball. The video from SkySportsF1 shows mechanics from teams up and down the grid battling to control the flames; an example of the camaraderie amongst those who spend the year travelling together.
EngageSportMode wants to award Ted Kravitz the inaugural ESM Bravery Award for his pit lane reporting today. Keeping calm in the face of a fiery adversity, Kravitz corralled his SkySportsF1 camera crew to keep them out of the way whilst still filming. He also found the time to talk with former driver Alex Wurz, making sure Sir Frank Williams was safe, whilst mechanics queued up with fire extinguishers. Somehow I don’t think Simon Lazenby would have kept so cool; I doubt they could have updated the autocue with instructions such as “avoid the fire” and “keep out the way” quickly enough for him to cope. 31 people required medical treatment according to the FIA, including four Williams team members, a further reminder of just how serious the incident was.
A dramatic weekend for Sir Frank’s team all round. Fingers crossed Monaco produces more success, but less drama.
The past three seasons of Formula 1 coverage by the BBC had made me forget just how bloody irritating advert breaks are in the middle of practice sessions and qualifying. Sky Sports F1 seemed to feature rather a lot of them during its broadcasting including, ironically, a lot for its own F1 channel. But, in between watching advertisements, did Sky manage to live up to the hype? Yes-ish.
Producing and directing any new show can’t be easy, especially one with so many parts which need to coordinate together. There were a few blank stares and missed links over the weekend, but the Murdoch money-machine will iron them out over time I’m sure.
Overall it worked; the F1 Show on Friday was a notable success, I generally felt well informed and the HD pictures looked deep and glossy. Everyone’s favourite Dutch-sounding Englishman, Christian Horner, made a number of appearances, we got many pictures of a (more) miserable looking Alonso and there was no Anchorman style confrontation with the BBC.
With Sky having such a disparate roster of individuals working across the weekend, it’s perhaps easier to assess them individually. Here we go then:
Possibly the man with the biggest weight to carry, replacing Jake Humphrey in the eyes of former BBC viewers. It might have just been first race nerves, but from what I saw he could have been presenting anything, anywhere on any channel. Came across bored, soulless and disinterested; check out this from the post-race interview with Eric Boullier for example:
Kept forgetting things like his iPad or to take the microphone off the person he’d just interviewed. Brundle and Hill looked awkward in his presence. Who knows, he might grow into the role as the season progresses but for now he looks out of his depth.
Having commentated on F1 since 1997, Brundle’s television career is now actually greater in length than his time spent behind the wheel. He didn’t seem quite as comfortable as normal and the grid walk failed to hit the spot, getting there too early to bag the top drivers. In truth that’s more the producers fault than his, but it did undermine his role as chief pundit. However, in the commentary box at least, he was on usual form.
“Crofty” as everyone calls him (including himself) spent several years commentating on F1 for BBC Radio 5 Live before jumping ship to Sky. His radio history shows; he sadly seems to suffer from Jonathan Legard syndrome. This irritating affliction involves stating every little detail of what’s going on as if the commentator was on the radio and thus having to give a vivid description to help the listener. This isn’t necessary with television; we can see what’s happening for ourselves! Generally knowledgeable, and really nowhere near as annoying as Legard (or James Allen, thank Christ). If he calms down and lets the pictures speak for themselves he’ll be fine.
Like Brundle, another F1 TV journeyman, having spent time with both ITV and the BBC before moving on to Sky. Kravitz (or Theodore Slotover as he was originally named) is consistent, insightful and eager to please with his pit-lane updates. Aside from the rather excellent F1 Show with Thompson on Friday he felt underutilised this weekend, which is a real shame. Less Lazenby, more Kravitz.
Another BBC Radio 5 Live refugee. I had never heard much of her on the radio, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The result was some incredibly lightweight questioning and confused looking F1 drivers. Highlights were discussing koalas with Sergio Perez, lowlights being the stupidity of asking Alonso if Ferrari planned to update the car between Australia and the next race weekend (which begins in only 5 days). The irritated look on Fernando’s face said it all.
Went to the same school as Pinkham and, according to Wikipedia at least, is her friend. Georgie proved to be something of a revelation this weekend as, to be honest, I didn’t really expect a great deal from her. She co-hosted the F1 Show on Friday with authority and professionalism. In my opinion she could quite easily replace Lazenby as anchor for the whole weekend, such was the impression she made. Before anyone says anything, the above isn’t related to her looks. Yes she is easy on the eye, but not my type; this praise is purely for her presenting.
The only member of the team whom I have an incredibly tenuous personal link with; a result of vaguely knowing his younger brother many years ago. Davidson is another under used part of the group, with great professionalism onscreen and astute commentary on practice sessions. His chemistry with Thompson seems to be the most natural of any pairing across the line-up. Also seems to be the only person capable of working the SkyPad display.
The Roman Grosjean equivalent of pundits, going above and beyond what anyone must have expected from this former F1 World Champion. Charismatic, clever and (according to my girlfriend) a bit of a silver-fox. Apparently only scheduled to be doing ten races for Sky; they desperately need to get him onboard for the rest to give some weight and magnitude to proceedings. Undoubtedly the star of the weekend.
Like a timeless, neatly coiffured squirrel Rider presents the Legends show, which I haven’t seen and thus can’t comment on. But his inclusion is a nice throwback to the original days of Grandstand on the BBC.
So there you have it. The 1996 World Champion leading the pack, with the rookie anchor trailing in last place. I sincerely hope Lazenby at least attempts to look more interested in Malaysia; otherwise it’s going to be a long road to November.