Tag Archives: Formula 1

Your Helmet is Your Brand

Dear Formula 1 drivers.

Did you know that most fans don’t actually like it when you change the design of your helmet every single race?

It’s not big and it’s not clever.

In fact, it’s quite irritating.

And it’s reached a point where the FIA have decided that, rather than focus on the immediate threats for our beloved sport, like the financial state of some teams or the noise your engines make, they must spend an inordinate amount of time coming up with a rule that says you can’t change your helmet each race.

So stop doing it, ok?


An F1 Fan.

Now, I don’t particularly like it when drivers change their helmet designs on a race-by-race basis. Sebastian Vettel began the trend and everyone thought it was cool, and then they realised it was quite annoying. Vettel has had around sixty different designs since he started his career.

The Autosport news article.

The Autosport news article.

And, by the time the fans had realised it was quite annoying (probably the second race), the other drivers had thought it was cool, too, and started doing it.

The fact is that, even in this digital age of high definition TV and on-screen graphics, fans and pundits alike still look for familiar traits to identify a particular car/driver combo heading towards them on the track.

If this changes regularly, it’s hard for anybody to identify a driver and we have to wait for Anthony Davidson to point specific drivers out to us on the Skypad afterwards.

I think it’s fine to have a commemorative design for a specific occasion; a centenary race, an anniversary event and so on. Or to have a new design at the start of each season. After all, it’s what the teams do with the liveries of their cars so why can’t the drivers do it with their helmets?

Nevertheless, teams don’t change their liveries every race so neither should drivers change their helmet designs so frequently.

And yet, should the FIA have gone to such pains as to introduce a rule that physically bans such practice?

No, I don’t think so. It smacks of the FIA procrastinating. They don’t know how to resolve many of the issues on the table in front of them, so they’re nit-picking at little issues that rankle but, at the end of the day, aren’t killing the sport.

I think it should have been a recommendation, a piece of fatherly advice handed down from the governing body and then left up to the drivers’ and teams’ respective PR machines to recognise the simple value in fans identifying with a single image.

Just look at Ayrton Senna’s iconic design. Pretty much unchanged throughout his career, the yellow and green colours of

An iconic helmet design

An iconic helmet design

his national flag can be identified by true F1 fans of all ages even twenty one years after his death.

When shown Vettel’s helmet, would fans still be able to identify it? And in pub quizzes will they now be expected to know not just who’s helmet it is, but which race they wore it at?

So I don’t think there should be a specific rule enforcing it, but I do think the drivers should stop doing it so frequently.

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Felix Baumgartner’s Space Record is Broken

“Scottish Fish Invented Sex, although the cheese grater vagina was probably what killed them off, Formula 1 cars won’t be taking part in this weekend’s American Grand Prix, and Marty McFly and his hoverboard arrive in less than a year…”

This week’s “Things What I Did See On The Internet While You Weren’t Looking” (must think of a snappier phrase for that) is a little delayed because Ali and I took the opportunity to get away for the weekend.

Faced, as we were, by a rather large army of police on our arrival at the train station, we questioned the decision to take a break in Birmingham but, luckily, our hotel was only a few moments walk from Birmingham New Street and it turned out that the police presence was because a thing of football had just taken place.

And home team Birmingham had lost eight-nil.

A quiet night ensconced in the hotel bar lay ahead, then, rather than a night in City Centre pubs!

I’d promised Ali a weekend (mostly) free of Internet stuff soI didn’t get to write this week’s review of things I’d seen on the Internet before we left.

(Not that MY promise to stay away from my usual playground of social media blogs stopped HER from burying her nose in her phone at any given opportunity…)

Still, here are the links I discovered this week…

Google Man Breaks Baumgartner’s Record

One of the defining moments of 2012, for me, was the moment when Felix Baumgartner rose to the edge of space and then jumped, from 127852 feet, back to earth with nothing but a parachute and a space suit to keep him alive.

It was one of the most successful social media activities of our time in the pub. Originally sharing a link on to The Tharp’s Facebook page to let people watch the jump on YouTube from the comfort of their own homes, we also put it on to the pub’s large screens and, before long, the pub was full of people who didn’t at all get bored with watching the balloon take almost two hours to get to the stratosphere.

And then, last week, Alan Eustace, went higher and broke Baumgartner’s record.

Having planned his entire jump in secrecy, Google’s Senior Vice President of Knowledge, went to 135889 feet (25.74 miles) and jumped, successfully, back to Earth.

Baumgartner still holds the record for the fastest speed in freefall, at 843.6 miles per hour.

Scottish Fish Invented Sex

According to international researchers, a type of fish with the unfortunate name Microbrachius dicki is the first known animal on the planet to reproduce by having intercourse rather than spawning.

Living around 385 million years ago in an area we now know as Scotland, Microbrachius dicki was apparently 8cm long (poor chap) and the type of sex they had was probably not very comfortable. Rather than a conventional missionary position, the man and lady fish would sidle up to each other side-by-side and then Mister would push his L-shaped penis in to Missus, who would clamp on to it with her vaginal plates.

That’s correct, I said plates.

According to researchers, putting your man-bits in to her lady-bits would have been akin to inserting your manhood in to a cheese grater.

Unsurprisingly, this technique didn’t last long and fish quickly evolved back to spawning.

I wrote something on the Interweb

Every now and then I do actually write something for the company that pays me – the above blog, this week, is on finding out just how well you’re doing at your social media activities…

Back To The Future

That’s correct. After nearly thirty years of waiting, Marty McFly is finally due to arrive next year. Tuesday marked the last October 21st before Back To The Future Day finally gets here:

More interestingly, though, is the fact that on that day, this company will release the first ever truly working hoverboard. For a measly $10000…

Marussia and Caterham go in to administration

It’s been a tough few weeks for the world of Formula 1. Not only does Jules Bianchi continue to be in a coma following his horrific accident at Japan, but rumours have been rife that Caterham are in financial difficulty.

Administrators had gone in, then they hadn’t as apparently it was all to do with a different part of the business. And then they went in again, this time locking the cars down to ensure they couldn’t travel to America.

Bernie Ecclestone has kindly given the team dispensation to not take part in the United States or Brazilian grand prix. As they are back-to-back races, even if Caterham could sort out a deal with their administrators they wouldn’t be able to get the cars out to Brazil in time.

Then, at the end of last week, Marussia – who have been on the end of some pretty horrific accusations that they had actively encouraged Bianchi to ignore waved yellow flags just before his accident – also announced they had gone in to administration.

They, too, will not be attending the US or Brazilian races.

Both teams have declared they will be back on the grid for the season finale in Abu Dhabi but, with rumours of yet more teams struggling under the financial weight of competing in motorsport’s top formula, it’s looking more and more likely that next year the top teams will be asked to run three cars rather than two in order to make up the numbers.

Plates or Boards

I’ve long harped on about my dislike for the current trend in pubs to serve me food on a bread board. I don’t like it – it might look pretty in pictures but I find it a horrid experience to eat from.

I’ll go in to in more detail in my next blog but, for now, vote in my Google+ poll: do you prefer your food on plates, or don’t you care?

Click here to vote in my Google+ Poll

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Sixteen Year Old Gets Formula 1 Drive

“It is now more dangerous to ride a bike through a big city than it is to drive a Formula 1 car…” Max Verstappen.

This week, the news broke that Max Verstappen, son of former Formula 1 driver Jos, will be driving in Formula 1 next year for the Red Bull junior team, Toro Rosso.

Click here to read the BBC story

Click here to read the BBC story

That in itself isn’t necessarily news. New drivers come along each year, some go on to do amazing things (Sebastien Vettel won his first race in a Toro Rosso before going on to win four World Championships (so far) with Red Bull; Daniel Ricciardo moved up to the reigning world champion team this year and is so far the only driver to properly take the fight to the Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg) but the big news about Verstappen is his age.

Right now, he’s only sixteen.

By the time the season starts next year, he’ll be seventeen.

The previous youngest driver to ever get behind the wheel of an F1 car was Jaime Alguersuari in 2009, who was 19 at the time. And this year, Daniil Kvyat, also 19, became the youngest ever driver to score world championship points.

The connection between these two is that they both started out their F1 careers with Torro Rosso, as will Verstappen.

The media and public are, of course, split. Some say it’s a fantastic thing for Verstappen – and it is! Don’t get me wrong; what 16 year old wouldn’t be ecstatic to be handed such an opportunity on a plate? It generates fantastic media for a sport that is often very good at shooting itself in the foot and it will give other teenagers the boost they so desperately need to prove they can make it in top flight motorsport.

The other point of view is that he’s too young, and so often we see young drivers come and go from Formula 1, used up and spat out by a machine that craves publicity and sponsorship dollars. Alguersuari, above, had departed his F1 career by the end of 2011.

But there is another way to look at this and, sadly, it’s the terrible reality of the situation.

The recruitment of Max Verstappen, at age sixteen, to drive a Formula 1 car unfortunately says less about his ability as a driver and more about how dumbed-down Formula 1 has become.

The FIA and team bosses have been hankering left right and centre this year for a way to ‘improve the show’; audience figures continue to decline and this takes with it the revenue the sport so craves.

In its heyday, Formula 1’s fans looked forward to crashes, engines blowing up, tyres exploding and while the FIA has done a fantastic job in saving drivers’ lives, the spectacle of the show has been diluted by the need to reduce costs and save money.

There was a time when no matter how well a driver had done, there was no guarantee of him finishing the race. History is littered with drivers not quite making it to the finishing line because a tyre exploded or the engine imploded on the final lap. Just look at Mika Hakkinen in Spain in 2001:

The need for reliability and austerity has taken away these uncertainties and thwarted the spectacle that Formula 1 once was.

The worst thing that can happen in a pit-stop now is that a driver can be released in to the path of another car; with the absence of fuel stops there’s little chance of anything worse than a wheel gun operator breaking a nail as a car exits his slot and occasionally a wheel nut won’t get attached properly.

Gone are the days of fuel hoses snaking off down the pitlane behind its charge or a hose not being able to connect to dispense fuel and, from time to time, the belch of flame when the fuel ignites. See Max’s dad in 1994…

I’m not suggesting, of course, that we return to the days of men dying every week and maybe I’m being too flippant – accidents do still happen, some with terrible consequences, but unreliability and uncertainty bred intrigue, not the fact that a driver has to push a button to open a flap on the back wing at certain points on a track if he’s within a second of the car in front to help him overtake (or sometimes defend from) another driver. Or pushing another button to engage a boost of electrical energy via a KERS system.

Formula 1 was once the pinnacle of motorsport. It bred heroes and gladiators and the cars were notoriously difficult to drive. No mere mortal could ever hope to get one started or to hold their neck up straight after a few corners. Drivers from lesser formulae would drive a Formula 1 car and marvel at its braking power and the grip it had in a corner.

Now, they have to worry about lifting off and coasting in order to conserve fuel rather than fighting to use every last drop in a battle to reach the finish line.

But perhaps the most damning evidence of Formula 1’s plight comes, ironically, from its newest, and youngest, driver: “it is more dangerous to bike through a big city than race in an F1 car,” says sixteen year old Max Verstappen.

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Is Formula 1 2014 A Success…?

I got up early this morning, (5a.m. GMT) to watch the first race of Formula 1’s 2014 season. I did so with some trepidation, some excitement, like most F1 fans I wanted to know whether these new regulations would be a success or a disaster.

So I watched the race, thought the racing was excellent, that Valteri Bottas had to be Driver Of The Day, and that the cars sounded interesting, but far too quiet. I’ll have to head to Santa Pod this year in order to get that visceral need I have for a loud engine.

It also worries me that the fastest lap for today’s Australian Grand Prix was nine seconds slower than the lap record, set ten years ago by Michael Schumacher. Nine seconds. In F1 terms, that’s a life time. To all intents and purposes, that’s pretty much the difference between a Formula 1 car and a GP2 car (the junior series to F1) in 2013.

The point of F1 is for it to be the pinacle of motorsport. Yes, we were all worried about it becoming stale. Yes, we all thought it was becoming a bit of a procession. Yes, we were all getting bored of Vettel winning all the time. But then, ten years ago, we were all bored of Michael Schumacher winning all the time.

And guess what? Today’s race, nine seconds slower per lap that it might be, produced yet another run away success by a German driver.

But I digress: while a rule shake up might have been needed, if we start making the cars slower, backing them in to the junior series, then where is the Wow! factor that has always been Formula 1? Drivers have always come from other formulas to drive a Grand Prix car and, when speaking to a journalist, have said “Wow! The power in that car is amazing. Like nothing I’ve driven before. The acceleration, the grip in the corner, the braking!”

It won’t be quite as thrilling if they come along and say “yeah, well, it was quick ‘n all, a bit like my GP2 car but with a longer nose and more buttons on the steering wheel.”

And racing drivers shouldn’t have to spend the race trying to save fuel. I do that in my Ford Mondeo on the A1, trying to hypermile and get as much from the car as I can without going too slow, and eek as much profit as I can from my 45pence-per-mile expenses; but when I go out in a go-kart I don’t think about the fuel, I think about going as fast as I can.

And fuel brings me on to my next rant:

So I got up early this morning (5.a.m. GMT) to watch the first race of Formula 1’s 2014 season. Then I went out for the day, saw some friends, came home, and discovered that the result was completely different.

Daniel Ricciardo DisqualifiedDaniel Ricciardo, in his first race for the reigning constructor’s champions Red Bull, scored a brilliant second place. Which he has now been stripped of because the fuel was going in to his engine too quickly. Or something like that. I’m a bit boggled by it. And disappointed.

F1 constantly strives to improve its image with its fanbase, especially the lucrative American market, which often takes a lukewarm view of the sport. Unlike homegrown racing series, they see Formula 1 as a bit aloof, and dull.

By making the cars slower, quieter and then asking the drivers to ‘lift and coast’ to save fuel, all you’re going to achieve is the American audience scratching its head in bemusement. And then to disqualify a car because it was injecting fuel in to the engine too quickly will just have them changing the channel.

Admittedly, the racing looked exciting, the cars squirmed about, and some big names failed to finish as their engineers failed to find a way to make the cars reliable, but I’m yet to be persuaded that the new rules are for the better.

GP Predictor Results - Australia 2014


I also missed out on a £20 win because I’d bet Maldonado would score points, and my prediction accuracy in Castrol’s GP Predictor was just 30% for this race… don’t forget to join my league and see how you get on for the rest of the year. Just click by clicking on the image or the link below:


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Join the Inapub Formula 1 Team…

Wikipedia: “A fan is a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something … They may show their enthusiasm by … promoting the object of their interest and attention.”

Anybody who has ever spent more than thirty seconds in my company will be aware that I am something of a fan of Formula One. I can bore the earwax out of most people about why it’s not dull, pictures of legendary greats adorn my office wall and I’ve seen Rush almost as much as I’ve seen Star Wars. I’m also one of the millions fervently praying for Michael Schumacher to make a full recovery.

This year, anybody who’s had half an ear to the sporting news will be aware that 2014’s season should be anything but dreary. New regulations, new engines, and a slightly dubious new look to the cars, plus some rather exciting driver pairings, has lead to the most mixed-up looking grid in a very long time.

As a die-hard fan, one of my biggest worries is actually going to be the noise. Last year, along with our beloved editor Matt Eley, I attended the Silverstone Grand Prix and, as we took our seats at Copse Corner, I slipped some ear plugs in to my ears. “Why on earth are you doing that?” asked Matt, who had never been to a Grand Prix before.

Then twenty two F1 cars drove passed at full chat and his ears began to bleed.

The noise is part of the experience; it’s visceral and, this year, it’s gone. Reports from the pit lane already say that they don’t have to wear ear defenders when they start the cars and you don’t see images of people with their fingers in their ears as the cars return to the garages. It’s going to take some getting used to, and I might have to make a visit to Santa Pod this year to get my heart shaken from my ribcage.

The looks of the cars are, putting it politely, quite different too. With a blank sheet to work from, we get to see designers coming up with completely different interpretations of how the cars should look and they are, well, interesting. Some look like they’ve had marital aids attached to them in order to achieve the regulations, others look like they’re ready to accept those marital aids. And Lotus have a really unusual take…

And then there are the driver pairings. Several have moved around and I’d love to see Massa doing well with Williams following his departure from Ferrari. But at the Italian team, they’ve paired up Fernando Alonso (who notoriously likes to be the number one and had a massive public falling out with McLaren when his team mate, the unknown upstart Lewis Hamilton, took the fight to him in 2007) with Kimi Raikkonen, who infamously debunks all attempts at authority and does his own thing regardless.

Raikkonen won his only championship in 2007, benefiting right to the end from the infighting going on at McLaren and slipping through to steal the crown from beneath the warring noses of Alonso and Hamilton.

My tip for 2014, seven years on, is that similar scrapping will take place between these two top drivers. And wouldn’t it be nice to see Jenson Button slip through right at the end for a second world title… I can but hope, but you can’t discount Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. Their performances in testing have been paltry, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been beavering away back at their Milton Keynes base. They could still be a strong contender; let’s not forget, their run-away success last year didn’t start until half way through the season…

This weekend, though, pick the Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for the top two positions. I’ll leave it to you to choose which one will be where.

Each year I play the Castrol GTX Grand Prix Predictor, a free online game where you select the top ten order you think the race will finish in, and who you think will be on Pole Position, who’ll be the winner and who’ll get the fastest lap. You’re pitted against other players of the game and you earn points.

I used to invite customers to play the game at my pub and this year I’ve created the Inapub F1 league on the game. Simply click here and sign up http://gppredictor.com/league/join/code/07ad834f9225749e40f7cfafcd97633e – it’s completely free, you can invite others to join too, customers of your pub can take part, or maybe you can make it a bar debate as to who should be put where on the grid. When you click on the link, sign-up using either your Facebook account or simply fill in your details, and you’ll be added to the league and prompted to make your predictions for the race.

So as I switch from my winter dressing gown to my Ferrari dressing gown in time for the start of the season, here’s hoping Formula One has finally returned to being a great pub sport…

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McLaren win Formula One World Championship…

2012’s crop of Formula 1 cars appear to have hit every branch of the ugly tree on their way to earth and bare more resemblance to a duck-billed platypus than they do one of the most advanced racing cars on the planet…

Usually, at this time of year, I get quite excited. Testing for the next Formula One season is getting under way, drivers

Ferrari F2012

Two Ferrari F2012s, ready for the F1 challenge ahead

are back on track (some in new overalls), teams are launching their new cars.

This year, potentially, there’s more to be excited about. New rules, new broadcasters. Things in the world of Formula One are going to look a little different in 2012. Starting, unfortunately, with the cars.

When the rebranded Caterham F1 team launched their car on January 26th I thought there surely had been a mistake. I’m no aerodynamicist (clearly), but with that strange walled lump halfway down their nose I immediately relegated them to back-marker territory once again. Then, on February 1st, McLaren launched their car, and all was well in the world once more.

It went horribly wrong a couple of days later when Ferrari launched their car to the many gasps of terror and every mirror in my house broke. To top it off, Ferrari – clearly knowing something was wrong with the gaping maw at the front of their motor – decided to take the pressure off by issuing their drivers with the ugliest company cars in the world.

Usually known for providing their drivers with posh Fiats and expensive Ferraris to laud it up in, this year Alonso and Massa have been provided with a Scuderia Red Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 each which, quite simply, makes the new Ferrari F2012 look lovely. And I never thought I’d be able to say that…

Duck Billed Platypus

A duck-billed platypus, the inspiration for many 2012 F1 cars, including Ferrari...

So far, however, manufacturer after manufacturer have revealed their 2012 challengers, complete with the “stepped nose” concept apparently necessitated by the change in rules for this season. Even Adrian Newey, that bastion of beautifully designed F1 cars, has fitted the Red Bull RB8 with a similar monstrosity. And Michael Schumacher’s title hopes this year rest on another Ornithorhynchidae-inspired design, as these spy pictures of the car’s first outing at Silverstone attest to.

How on earth can that wind block at the front in any way shape or form aid the smooth flow of air over the car? I’m sure somebody will tell me but, despite it being fair to say that I have pretty much worshipped at the alter of Ferrari since I was a three-year-old, McLaren – who are so far the only manufacturer to produce a nose that’s smooth and attractive – have already won the championship, by deed of fact that their car does what a Formula One car is supposed to do: look as if it’s going damned fast even when it’s standing still.

The others all look like they’ve been hit over the head with an ugly stick and appear to be more genetically connected to a duck-billed platypus than being one of the fastest racing cars on the planet.

With such a disappointing looking grid of cars to face, I find myself hoping that Sky’s new Formula 1 channel can produce something spectacular to ease both the pain my eyes will feel each time I switch to F1 on a Sunday and the loss of the simply brilliant BBC coverage we’ve all loved these past years.

When you see the figures, it’s understandable that the BBC were struggling to justify the ongoing broadcast of the sport but it is painful to think that the only way we are going to be able to see the opening race of the season is by subscribing to Sky’s HD service (which I’ve just done – more about that in a later blog…) and everybody is hoping that they will produce something simply stunning to blow us away and make us grateful for their existence.

Because, right now, I’m struggling to generate much interest in Formula One this year. And I don’t think I’ve ever said that in my almost forty years…

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New Post Coming Soon…

I’m just making sure I’ve got the look and feel of this blog the way I like it and then I’ve got a new post on the look of the 2012 Formula 1 cars to go up… check back here shortly.

This blog is going active again after a short time unhappily using Blogger for my personal musings here: http://markjdaniels.blogspot.com

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Formula 1 2011 – bad science fiction or great motorsport?

“The rules for Formula 1 2011 might have been conjured up by a bad science fiction writer, but the season ahead looks exciting. And I get to wear my Ferrari dressing gown…”

At last, it’s that time of year again, and isn’t it exciting?!

No, I don’t mean the fact that the sun is shining, or the clocks are going forward at the weekend, giving us much more daylight in which to enjoy a beer at the end of the day.

Nor am I talking about the fact that I go on holiday next week, although that is quite exciting for me…

Instead, I’m talking about it being the first Formula 1 Grand Prix of the season, and it seems like it’s been an incredibly long wait for it to come round.

Clearly, some of that wait was caused by the postponement of the Bahrain Grand Prix due to the troubles there, but while I wish the people of Bahrain well, did we really miss the race itself?

Apart from the season not starting quite as early as it should have, the Bahrain Grand Prix is not exactly renowned for giving us exciting starts to the season.

Indeed, last year the red top headlines heralded the 2010 inaugural race as Bore-ain.

Fears that the rest of the year would prove to be a Sunday afternoon snooze fest were quickly allayed at the Australian Grand Prix when the sport actually kicked in to gear and gave us one of the best seasons ever.

So with Australia now hosting the opening race of the season, what do I think we can expect from F1 2011?

The first is that it’s going to be more complicated for the average Sunday “viewer” to understand, as new rules introduced for this year aim to make the racing more exciting, but appear to have been written by somebody who just watched Death Race.

Simply put, KERS is back for 2011 – a “green” aid to help boost overtaking or defend a position, KERS is operated by the driver when he feels he needs it, receiving an extra 80.5bhp … but only for a total of 6.67 seconds per lap. After that, they’re on their own.

This year also sees the introduction of moveable rear wings.  Last year’s F-Duct system, which was operated by the driver to block air to the rear wing and therefore ‘stall’ it to provide extra speed down the straights, has been banned for 2011 and replaced with the new, electronic system. The rear wing, as with the KERS system, can be adjusted by the driver to help gain an advantage on track.

However, this is where the rules become particularly complex: the system is constantly available to drivers during all practice and qualifying sessions, but in the race itself it cannot be activated until two full laps have been completed. After that, access to the system will be electronically controlled by the FIA Race Control; it will also automatically deactivate under braking, and cannot be used for two laps after any Safety Car period.  On Formula 1’s own website, the rules are described as thus:

The driver may only activate the adjustable bodywork in the race when he has been notified via the control electronics that it is enabled. It will only be enabled if the driver is less than one second behind another at any of the pre-determined positions around each circuit.

This basically means that at each circuit, access to the system will be available at different points, meaning armchair viewers will never quite be sure when the driver is allowed to change their rear wing, and when they aren’t. There will be lines painted on the track at each circuit to try to make this function clearer, but I can’t help thinking that the BBC’s new HD broadcast of Formula 1 is going to see the TV screen littered with graphics explaining who’s got their wing in what position, KERS on/off and a myriad other bits of information that are probably too mind-boggling to understand.

The other big change to Formula 1 for 2011 is the introduction of Pirelli as the sole tyre manufacturer, after Bridgestone ended their long association with the sport at the end of 2010. Various compounds will be available to the driver and, to make them easier for television viewers to spot, the name of the tyre will be painted a different colour for each compound, which – according to Formula1.com – will be coloured as such:

There is new system for visually differentiating tyre types, using various colours for the sidewall lettering: wet – orange; intermediate – light blue; super soft – red; soft – yellow; medium – white; hard – silver.

Expect to see a veritable Willy Wonka kaleidoscope of colours on the track, especially early in the season, as drivers and teams try to establish the best tyre for their car, and at nearly 200mph will you really be able to tell the difference between white and silver?

Finally, a reintroduction of the 107% qualifying rule for 2011 means that any car not setting a qualifying pace within 107% of the Pole sitter’s car will not be able to take part in the race. Back marker teams, beware… the opportunity for your sponsors to get TV coverage could be very thin!

Other than that, it’s pretty much business as usual. So, which driver or team do I think is going to be the one to beat this season?

It’s always difficult to gauge from pre-season testing, as the form book changes so frequently, but the sad absence of Robert Kubica will be felt terribly by Lotus-Renault, even though I’m sure Nick Heidfeld will do a sterling job of replacing the injured Pole.

Expect the Red Bull boys to be very strong, especially reigning Champion Vettel, who will be sublime now that he has the championship duck off his back.  Webber will be keen to prove he’s not over the hill yet, and the Red Bull car will surely be one to beat.

The McLarens of Hamilton and Button look to have fared poorly during pre-season testing, and neither driver has seemed to jump up and down with enthusiasm about the car. McLaren are usually quick to develop though, so if they’re not strong at the start of the season expect them to make a huge leap forward quicker than the other teams. (I started writing this blog yesterday, before the practice sessions had taken place, and have chosen to leave that comment in despite the fact that in second practice earlier the McLaren duo were fastest, with Button just pipping Hamilton…)

The Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Schumacher could be the dark horses of the season, and it would be great to see Michael come to form and prove his critics wrong. Who knows – podiums are very possible for both drivers, and race wins might also come on the odd lucky day when it all goes wrong for their rivals.

I’m expecting Williams, Force India, Sauber and Torro Rosso to be strong mid-fielders, ready to pounce and make advantage of any errors from the big boys in front, and Team Lotus (or whatever their name might become as the season moves on!) to make huge strides forward in to the mid pack.

HRT and Virgin will undoubtedly continue to be the back marker crowd, and the most likely to fall victim to the new 107% qualifying rules on a Saturday if they’re not quick enough.

But the team I think will ultimately be the one to put the smart money on this year is going to be Ferrari … and that, unfortunately for his Brazilian team mate, means that Fernando Alonso will be the driver to beat in 2011.

2011 then. It’s going to be exciting. Even more importantly, this year it will finally justify my owning a High Definition telly. The only trouble is, now I want a bigger one!

And there’s one other thing: this weekend doesn’t just bring sun and Ferrari Dressing Gown logo...motorsport and the end of Britain’s winter. It also means I can hang up my winter dressing gown and put on my bright red Ferrari one until the end of the season.

Roll on seven o clock Sunday morning. (But remember to change your clocks … It’ll still be 06:00 to us!)

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Alonso is NOT faster than you, Sebastian Vettel…

Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull on winning both the driver’s and constructor’s championships in the 2010 Formula One competition…

As the sun set on Jenson Button’s year as a Formula One World Driver Champion, I couldn’t help but have mixed emotions for the possible outcome of this weekend’s F1 finale.

A lifelong fan of Ferrari, to me it’s always great to see one of the scarlet cars win a race, and one of their drivers win a title.  But not Alonso.  I’ve never been able to warm to him; no matter how much I used to enjoy watching the sport’s other Dick Dastardly, Schumacher, rummage around desperately trying to scupper everybody else’s race in an effort to gain his own advantage, Fernando Alonso’s petulant, toys-out-of-the-pram approach to underhand tactics has never quite matched the German’s despicable panache.

And there’ll always be a question mark over the Spaniard’s innocence in the whole Singapore Crashgate of 2008.

So as the cars lined up in Abu Dhabi yesterday, with Alonso having to do little more than ensure he was on the podium to win the title, I couldn’t help feeling a little … discombobulated.  A Ferrari driver winning the world championship?  Great.  Fernando Alonso being world champion?  To me, not so great.

As the lights went out and the race started – with Alonso having qualified third and his only real title rival, Mark Webber, sitting fifth – it seemed that for me and my mates in the pub all we were going to have to do was sit there, drink a few beers and get ready to raise a toast to the Spanish guy’s third driver’s crown.

A safety car period followed the end to Michael Schumacher’s ignominious return to F1 as Liuzzi tried to drive over his head, but when the Mercedes SLS peeled away and the race resumed Webber and Alonso snapped away at each other until, stuck in traffic, the Australian made a decision to pit.  Tactically, it seemed the right thing to do; sadly, it turned out to be a woeful error.  By doing so, he almost certainly handed the championship to Ferrari’s driver.

Except that Ferrari made the rare tactical error of deciding to cover Webber’s stop by pitting Alonso straight away too, rather than calculating where he might sit if they watched the race ahead of them.

The result was catastrophic for the two main title protagonists, leaving them in positions outside of the points and stuck behind Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who in turn was driving for the glory of his team and to save his own F1 career from going up in smoke after just one season.

Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Vettel, who had been a rank outsider for the title at the start of the race, set about doing what he needed to do: win the race.

Despite stiff opposition from the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who were racing to secure McLaren’s position of second place in the Constructor’s Championship, the young German went on to ensure he finished the race first.  It was up to Webber and Alonso to get themselves in to a position to stop him and sadly, for them, they couldn’t do it.

The result was a new world champion in the form of Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull, while second and third place on the podium alongside him was taken by the driver’s champions of the preceeding two years.  Alonso and Webber could only manager seventh and eighth respectively; not enough to dent Vettel’s victory.

In frustration, Alonso pulled alongside Petrov in the warm-down lap and shook his fist at him, clearly blaming the Russian for scuppering his title chances.  Unsurprising behaviour from the Spaniard, who seemed to have spent much of the race just hoping that Petrov would get out of his way, rather than challenging him for position.

Even Alonso’s race engineer was getting frustrated: “we know you have a lot of talent,” he said to his driver over the radio. “Now use it!”

Fernando was, however, magnaminous in defeat and did at least praise the Renault driver on a good race when interviewed later.

And that, as they say, is that.  The 2010 Formula One season is over.  It started with an Alonso victory in Bahrain, a race so dull that it belied the level of excitement that was to follow, and ended with Red Bull taking both the Constructor’s Championship and the Driver’s Championship in well-deserved, hard fought victories.

One is left to wonder what 2011 will bring.  Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari will all be strong, each determined to win, but Mercedes could be a good outside bet.  After a year sitting around in the doldrums, they’ll be keen to make their mark and give their German drivers a car capable of winning the title.

But the big question now is this: what am I going to do to fill the next 117 days until Formula One returns…?

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F1 2010 – so realistic Karun Chandhok could actually win…

“I chose the HRT-Cosworth team, with the idea in my mind of being able to usurp Bruno Senna and at least give India’s Karun Chandhok a shot at completing the whole season.”

This week, the game I have been waiting for only slightly less eagerly than Gran Turismo 5 arrived through my postbox in a flurry of jiffy bag and celophane.  F1 2010 has been hyped as the most realistic Formula One driving game ever, and the biggest difference between waiting for it and Gran Turismo 5 is that the F1 game was announced about a year ago, and turned up on time, whereas I got my PlayStation 3 almost three years ago and have eagerly been awaiting the release of GT5 ever since!

So, is it really as good – or as realistic – as the heady praise it’s receiving suggests?

One thing was for certain as I watched the game come to life initially is that it is visually stunning.  Only seconds in to my experience I couldn’t fail to be impressed by the graphical representation of the Formula One world.  Some camera angles would have you believing you were watching the real thing, rather than a game console’s adaptation and the rendering of this year’s cars is superb.

But what’s it like to play?

Codemaster’s F1 2010 is based on the 2010 season,with this year’s teams and drivers and this year’s rules and new points scoring system (something I am still struggling to get my head around after fifteen races).  When you first start your career within the game you are given a choice of low-end teams to start with, and asked how many seasons you intend to compete in.

The aim, ultimately, is to impress other teams enough to get yourself a seat in a better car and then become World Champion.  Seems straight forward enough, so I chose the HRT-Cosworth team, with the idea in my mind of being able to usurp Bruno Senna and at least give India’s Karun Chandhok a shot at completing the whole season.

However, the game is so realistic that what it did was drop Chandhok instead and set me up as team mate to the Brazilian.

You then find yourself in the cockpit of your car, with access to data, team-mate information, your race engineer and the chance to fine tune your set up.  And then you’re out for practice.

With the controls configured to my liking, I quickly got the hang of the car and went back in to the pits to prepare for qualifying.  And this is where the realism got stretched a bit…

For a game that has lauded its credentials on being the closest thing to actually driving a Formula One car as I’m ever likely to get, it seemed impossible that I could take a back-marker car like the HRT and stick it on Pole Position at the opening race of the season in Bahrain.  Yet that’s exactly what I did.

My team mate, Senna, put his HRT exactly where the rest of us expected it to be: 23rd.

The game had given me a qualifying objective of placing 20th or better.  I think I achieved that.

It was a few hours later before I got the chance to take part in the race, but once I was sat in front of my telly with the controller in hand and lined up in Pole Position I expected the game’s realistic traits to kick in.  After all, alongside me on the grid was Alonso in his Ferrari, and the row behind me consisted of the McLarens of Hamilton and Button.  With my trusty steed being effectively a back-marker car I figured my position there was a fluke and I would be mugged by the much-faster cars behind me before I’d even made it to the first corner.

As the red lights began to go out in front of me I felt a surge of excitement, and even though I knew I stood a good chance of losing my first place position I revved the engine up and prepared to race.

But the other cars didn’t catch me.  I was scampering off towards the first corner as the lights went out and the three drivers behind me were left fighting over who was going to be in second place as we entered the first corner.

In fact, I had quite simply the fastest car on the circuit, until corner three when I put a wheel on the kerb, lost control and span out on to the gravel.  I had to sit there, dejected, as the pack surged passed me while I waited for a clear gap to rejoin the race and by corner four I was plumb last.  Right where I expected to be, I admit, but I blame the three pints of Kronenbourg I’d had before playing the race for my third corner crash than I did the slightly-lacking-in-reality traits of the game.

Still, I’d been set an objective by the game of finishing the race in 18th place or above, so I headed off to try and catch my opponents up.

It would be at this point that I could tell you that I managed to make some headway, but the truth is that my Hispania Racing Team car was still the fastest thing on the circuit and, despite a pit for a change of tyres, I fought valiantly through the field, only narrowly missing out on a podium finish.  Fourth, on my first attempt, in a car that has struggled in real life this year, seemed a little false to me and I found myself traipsing through the game’s settings in an effort to make it a little more difficult.

The problem, it seemed, was that when I’d first started the game it had asked me what level I thought I could play at and I’d opted for the easy option.  This was because the last time I played a Formula One game on a PlayStation the car was impossible to drive, even with all the driver aids switched on, and I’d found it relatively unenjoyable.

This new game, with all the driver aids switched on, seemed to make me super human and so I’ve decided to change the options slightly.  I’ve found options for the tyres and damage and traction control that all allow me to change to a setting called realistic.

The telly in front of me has just loaded up the first practice screen for Melbourne, the next circuit in my season, and I’m about to go out and see what sort of lap time I can set…

F1 2010, then.  Visually great, and even in easy mode it’s caught my attention.  The level of detail, from menu system to pit crew to racing features are phenomenal.  I just hope it’s more challenging now I’ve changed the options.  But I can’t help wishing that it would be great if, in an act of realism, Karun Chandhok could get back behind the wheel of his car, switch the mode on his steering wheel to PlayStation 3, and go out and kick Bruno Senna’s butt…

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