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.
Due to popular demand, a photo of F1′s furriest correspondent relaxing after a busy weekend of punditry.
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!
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.