Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Italian and the Indian

chandeuro I don’t like Team Lotus at the best of times. I can’t stand Tony Fernandes or Mike Gascoyne, I hate the fact that they decided they had to enter Formula 1 using the Lotus name and the battle with Danny Bahar has done my head in hoping they would both just shut up for once.

But now, they’ve given me a pile of ammunition to stick in my gun and fire at them. They have decided that the best course of action for the German Grand Prix would be to drop Jarno Trulli and replace him with Karun Chandhok.

Now call me cynical, but I don’t think this is a racing matter.

The decision, as said by Team Lotus themselves, is for Chandhok to prove himself in the car. Most likely for, wait for it, this will shock you, the Indian Grand Prix in October. In theory it is a fair idea, if he does well, the seat will pretty much be secure for him come the race, but what if he performs poorly? What if he is further off Kovalainen than Trulli ever was? What if he struggles in the race? It does sound like a lot of what if’s, but they are all plausible, because for me, Karun Chandhok is nowhere near the racer Jarno Trulli is, or ever was.

Jarno Trulli is a race winner, one time only at the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix. Of course there were many more races he had won in the junior formulae, as well as proving himself to be a one-lap specialist in qualifying, often given a midfield car a position it didn’t really deserved. His race pace wasn’t the greatest, leading to the infamous Trulli Train’s which plagued many tracks in the 2000s. But ultimately he was a good driver, good enough certainly to have raced in 15 full seasons (and half of 2011 as well).

Karun Chandhok obviously hasn’t really had the opportunity yet to show himself in Formula 1, half a season in the slowest car of the grid at Hispania before being replaced by the slowest driver on the grid Sakon Yamamoto. He has won championships in the junior series, but this against considerably weaker opposition. Take for example the 2006 Formula Renault V6 Series, which he eventually won. The second place driver, New Zealander Matthew Halliday, is now struggling in the Porsche Supercup. The third place driver, Ananda Mikola, doesn’t seem to have anything about him since 2009. The only time Chandhok has come across any decent competition aside from F1 is his three years in GP"2, where he won two races overall and never finished higher than tenth in the Championship. This despite the fact his team mate in 2008, Bruno Senna, went on to finish as runner-up that year. Realistically, Chandhok has shown nothing to prove himself, he’s capable of getting fair results in GP2, that is clear, but not enough to show he can cut it at the big level, unlike, say, Jarno Trulli.

Yes, I understand that the Italian is having probably his worst season. His one-lap pace is being obliterated by a talented Heikki Kovalainen (who does deserve to be in a faster car than the Lotus), he is making complaints about the car left, right and centre, which I can’t imagine is pleasing the team and especially the mechanics. I do feel Trulli should be realising that he is well past his peak and his performances are only hampering the progress of Team Lotus in the long term. If Chandhok ends up taking the seat altogether from Trulli (at this stage it is only a one off, but if he somehow manages to have a good race for example) though, the progress would only be further hurt. It would give a chance for both Virgin and Hispania to see a weak link in the Lotus armoury and give them some hope they can go after that all elusive tenth place, which gives them a lot of money. All Hispania need is another 13th and their best finish will be equal to Team Lotus. And imagine that, being beaten in the Championship by the team everybody laughs at for being awful. I wouldn’t count it out either, give it a bit of rain and anything can happen.

So why do this then? Chandhok isn’t going to be the driver that will get you results. He also is going to give some hope to Virgin and Hispania. And while he is at it, for the second year in a row, he’s ruining my New Team’s Championship.

Again, there is a massive chance this is a massive marketing ploy by Team Lotus. India is a huge market. Huge. The potential to make money from there is spectacular, and so far very few teams have opted to use it. The big and prime example is Force India, but have ultimately failed to gain much of the market, mainly because of the struggle for good Indian drivers. I don’t see one coming in anytime soon either, especially after Vijay Mallya said that Karthikeyan and Chandhok weren’t good enough for Formula 1. After some brief research, the next best Indian is Armaan Ebrahim, who is currently 15th in the Formula 2. Which isn’t that great a series. So the options are limited really between Karthikeyan and Chandhok, which is odd, because I still wouldn’t touch them with a stick. There are better options out there, of course they aren’t Indian, so Fernandes would go for them if he wasn’t trying to appease this large Indian market.

There is the fact that this isn’t really for Chandhok at all, rather a rather large hint towards Jarno Trulli saying ‘buck your ideas up kid or this will happen again’. As I’ve said, he has been very poor this season, and probably does deserve some warning that his future at the team is at stake. I don’t think he should be replaced mid-season however, despite his constant complaints, he has managed to get the car to the finish line all but twice, compare this to his team mate Heikki Kovalainen who has retired four times. So something is obviously working on his car, and something on it wants him to do well. Why does he complain all the time then? Is he really expecting perfection from a team in their second year chasing the back of the midfield, it’s insane, this is a long term gain not short term. And with his years running out, why is he bothering then? Go, ultimately then you’d be better off without them, I’m sure the mechanics are giving it hell trying to make the car the best and all he does is complain about their work basically. It’s hardly the right thing to do to keep team harmony at a high level.

But it looks almost as if he is staying, for a bizarre reason, talks with Trulli staying in 2012 are apparently at an advanced stage and looking likely to happen. So why Chandhok, now? If you are happy enough with Trulli do you really have to replace him with Chandhok for one race. It is just a odd decision to make, why Germany? Why not the race before the Indian Grand Prix, to give the fairest indication about Chandhok’s frame of mind before what would effectively be his home grand prix. Why do they even need to take another race out? He has experience with this car thanks to his Friday practice sessions, and if they have trust in him so much for him to drive in one race, then why not just for India. Is this some attempt from Fernandes to save face and make the decision for him to race in India look less like a blatant marketing ploy? And does he plan on using Chandhok further in 2012? No doubt he’ll want to keep Heikki Kovalainen, the only driver in the entire team who looks of any ability to catch the Toro Rosso’s and Williams’ of this world. Then Chandhok for the Indian market and Trulli for some other reason. Three drivers into two doesn’t work, ask Red Bull in 2005, which ended painfully for Vitantonio Liuzzi.

So let’s put it simply. Trulli isn’t driving well enough to continue driving for Team Lotus, Chandhok has never shown he is good enough to drive for Team Lotus. But for some reason, they’ll both be staying, both will end up racing and some good up and coming talent will be totally ignored by Team Lotus by Tony Fernandes. I’m not sure Team Lotus can come out looking good from this.

You’re having some good Day’s

The boy wonder, Rory McIlroy, the guy everyone is talking about in golf. After his sensational opening round 60 at St. Andrews one year ago, to his brilliant three and a half rounds at Augusta, to his unstoppable performance at Congressional, he has been on the lips of every single person in golf right now. Labelled so high, and at such a young age.

And McIlory is at the tip of a pyramid of promising young golfers. There’s the 18 year old Italian Matteo Manassero, the 19 year old Japanese golfer Ryo Ishikawa and the American Rickie Fowler, all of whom are coming into the public view point, and without doubt will become bigger threats in the years to come.

But, like these golfers, there’s another one who has almost flown under the radar. Lets set the scene, in four majors, he has finished in the top ten three times, and made the cut all four times. He is now one of the top ten golfers in the world, number eight to be exact. Ahead of Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, as well as Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and every single other Australian on the board.

So why is no one talking up the chances of Jason Day then?

Jason Day 140th Open Championship Previews K-uAZahcmE3l His first major came at last years Open Championship, and after making the cut in difficult conditions he finished back in tied 60th. Then, he improved to 10th in the USPGA, and then tied 2nd in the Masters, two shots behind the champion Schwartzel, level with compatriot Adam Scott. Then decided to follow that with another 2nd in the US Open, two shots ahead of four others, but of course well behind McIlroy.

Day certainly has the record so far in the major events, and is looking like a serious contender for any future major championship. Certainly at least, he is far more consistent than McIlroy. And he’s a pretty decent golfer, with a more laidback approach to his golf, and a good relaxed style which works well under the immense pressure you will be under at a major championship.

Links courses won’t be his cup of tea, of course not. His style of attacking golf will struggle at what will be a difficult Royal St. Georges golf course, he can’t afford to attack every single hole, otherwise he will be punished with the thick rough and impossible-to-get-out-of bunkers. But on a strong day, while the others struggle, he can certainly go out and threaten the current big boys of golf.

There won’t be a lot of pressure on him. Far more so on the English on making sure they are the first Englishman to win the Open since 1992 (Faldo in Muirfield) and on English soil (Tony Jacklin at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in 1969). Pressure on McIlroy to continue his dominating form, on Oosthuizen to return it, for any of the Americans to prove that their dominance isn’t over.

So it could prove useful for Day, he’s under no pressure, and neither his his Australian compatriot Adam Scott. Who has also somewhat of an improvement inside the last several years. But once again the difficult links conditions will provide impossible to guess realistically who can go out and do well. Should it suit Day though, he could do very well indeed.

Virgin Take Advantage of Team Lotus Woes

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British Grand Prix

Pre-Race

Last time out, Leigh in the comments said that it was about time Hispania would decide to change their driver line-up, I, just wrote it off. Of course, a few days later, it was announced Australian and Red Bull protégée Daniel Ricciardo would replace Narain Karthikeyan for the British Grand Prix onwards.

Qualifying 

Crazy weather saw a huge shock in Q1, as Heikki Kovalainen set the 16th fastest time, ahead of both Toro Rosso cars and Nick Heidfeld. He would eventually start on the grid in 17th, well ahead of his team mate Jarno Trulli. Timo Glock also created a notable surprise, also ahead of the German in 19th. Ricciardo would start his first race in 24th.

Race

It would be a disastrous start for Team Lotus. Despite Kovalainen making up a few places from the start, his gearbox would only last for three laps, before he was forced to come into the pits and retire.

Jarno Trulli failed to last much longer, mechanical problems causing him to stop out on track, which basically allowed Timo Glock to have a clear drive out in front.

Jerome D’Ambrosio was under some pressure from Vitantonio Liuzzi for a while, but was never close enough to make any sort of move. Ricciardo pounded around the back, well behind his team mate.

All that left was that Glock took the 10 points for the first time this season, and for the first time this season, Team Lotus has had a double retirement (something which has not yet happened for Virgin).

  Driver Team Race Pos. Points
1 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 16th 10
2 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 17th 6
3 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 18th 4
4 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 19th 3
5 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus Ret 0
6 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus Ret 0

Daniel Ricciardo (19th): “I guess that was the main aim for this weekend to see that [Chequered flag]. So that was good. it started off quite difficult with the other, started quite close to the others but they pulled away from me.”

Heikki Kovalainen (Retired): “I had a really good start but then lost fourth gear and had to retire the car. The conditions out there were exactly what they should be for real drivers – a mix of two types of circuit, one wet, one dry, exactly what I love racing in and the type of race we could have taken advantage of.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

Although there has been no movement, everything seems to have closed up a little bit. Trulli retains his 13 point lead over his team mate, but Kovalainen must now be weary of both D’Ambrosio and Glock, who are within a race victory of him. Glock also reduces the gap to the Belgian to just four points. In some what similar fashion to Bruno Senna last year, Liuzzi is plodding along safely enough in 5th, while Ricciardo only has to get 10 more points to catch up to Karthikeyan.

  Driver Team Points
1 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 55
2 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 42
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 37
4 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 33
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 23
6 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 12
7 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 3

Teams Championship

A perfect weekend for Virgin sees the gap to Team Lotus now only 27 points. I’m not going to lie to you, I could try and make this sound really interesting now, but it will still probably require some sort of miracle for Team Lotus not to win.

    Team Points
1 Team Lotus 97
2   Marussia Virgin 70
3   Hispania 38


Next Races

Because of fantastic timing, one of the few back to back races this season and I will be missing them both because of a scheduled holiday. The fact the FIA don’t organise their F1 calendar around mine is simply outrageous.

Anyways, the next update will be a bit delayed, probably coming in the week starting Monday 8th August.

But, there are still races going on at the Nurburgring in Germany, and Budapest in Hungary.

The last time we visited the Nurburgring, back in 2009, when the new teams were bidding to be involved in F1, Kovalainen would finish 8th, with Timo Glock just behind him.

Of course with Hungary, we can actually have some precedent for a change, with the same layout and the new teams as last year. It was a first as well, as all six cars would go on to finish the race. Typically, it was a Lotus 1-2, with Kovalainen coming out on top.

I’d love to predict but I fear it may be a bit obvious, Kovalainen will shockingly out-qualify Jarno Trulli and assuming both cars work, will win both times. I know, I’m such a risk taker.

And of course, if last year is anything to go by, Karthikeyan will return in place of Liuzzi.

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