Monthly Archives: November 2011

Kovalainen Finishes Season in Style

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Brazilian Grand Prix

Pre-Race

So one last race of the seemingly never-ending sleep-inducing Formula 1 season, and really, nothing was up for grabs anywhere in the pitlane. The only interesting battle was for 7th in the Constructors between Sauber and Toro Rosso, and if I can be unbiased for a moment, isn’t anything to rush to the blogs and write about.

New Teams Championship wise, the only thing to look out for was who would round out the top three, Timo Glock (who finished 3rd in 2010) or rookie Jerome D’Ambrosio.

In 2012 news, HRT surprised a few people by signing Pedro de la Rosa, who just won’t go away, for two whole years. It seems being old is quite ‘in’ at the moment.

Qualifying

Like with most races, Heikki Kovalainen outqualified Jarno Trulli for the 18th time this season. But the big shock of the weekend came at the expense of Marussia Virgin, who locked out the back row while facing the rear wings of Hispania. Vitantonio Liuzzi was ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, while Jerome D’Ambrosio started ahead of Glock.

Race

As is norm these days, Kovalainen flew off the line and shot up to 16th by the end of the first lap, however he struggled to stay their, and the slower starters in Alguersuari and Barrichello soon passed. It had been a bad start for Ricciardo, who had fell to last, while his team mate, for once, was having a half decent race.

Truth be told, apart from the retirements, very little happened for the six cars. On lap 24, Timo Glock was too quick coming out of the pits, and his rear left tyre was quick to dismantle itself from the car. This was crucial in the outcome of who would finish third.

A few laps towards the end, Vitantonio Liuzzi suffered from an alternator failure, forcing him to retire into turn one, even though he was ahead of Ricciardo at the time.

So, for the umpteenth time in a row, Heikki Kovalainen finished in first, in 16th which was also ahead of Bruno Senna, who had horrible luck at his home race. Trulli was 18th, and in second, ahead of D’Ambrosio and Ricciardo.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 16th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 18th 6
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 19th 4
4 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 20th 3
R Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania Ret 0
R Timo Glock Marussia Virgin Ret 0

Post-Race Thoughts

Heikki Kovalainen (Team Lotus – 16th): “All year we’ve kept on progressing and we’ve finished on a real high with that tenth place so we’re set us up perfectly for next year where we can take another step forward in the development of this team.”

Jarno Trulli (Team Lotus – 18th): “It was really just about getting the car home in one piece so we could seal our place in the championship. I want to thank the whole team for the work they’ve done this weekend and all year. We keep on progressing and it’s great to be part of something that shows real signs of where it can go.”

Timo Glock (Marussia Virgin – Retired): “A very disappointing way to end the season. It’s a real shame to have had to retire after losing the left-rear tyre after my first pit-stop but unfortunately these things happen. So it wasn’t the way I would have liked to end the season but, anyway, I want to thank the team for all the effort they have put in during the whole year. It has been great to work together.”

Jerome D’Ambrosio (Marussia Virgin – 19th): “We did a good job in qualifying yesterday and today was one of my best races so far. I’m happy this has happened here in Brazil, as I love this track. I’m also glad to finish ahead of HRT- definitely a very positive way to end the season. I want to thank the team for all their hard work. I have really enjoyed working together with them this year.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi (Hispania – Retired): “We wanted to finish the season with a strong result. It’s a shame because we could have achieved it. Now we have to work hard for next year and try to recover from this problem and make up for it in the future because we need to be strong and competitive in every race”

Daniel Ricciardo (Hispania – 20th): “It’s been a really good six months and I’m happy with how the season has gone, you always want a bit more but realistically it has been really good and I have learned a lot. I want to thank HRT and Red Bull for giving me the opportunity to come and do it.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

So that’s a wrap on 2011. Heikki Kovalainen finishes a whole 31 points in front of his team mate Jarno Trulli, who was agonisingly close to reaching triple figures. Kovalainen’s 128 points is a record, ten up on last year. He’s also finished the year with seven back to back wins, yes, seven. Vettel-esque.

For the second year in a row, Timo Glock has been beaten by a rookie team mate. Third goes to Belgian Jerome D’Ambrosio, who’s four points in Brazil provided to be crucial.

The trio of Hispania cars are ordered as expected, Liuzzi ahead of Ricciardo ahead of Karthikeyan, although arguably Ricciardo has looked the most impressive driver. Hardly surprising considering of all the drivers, he is tipped for bigger and better things in 2012.

And dead last is Karun Chandhok, with two solitary points from his pretty poor race in Germany.

  Driver Team Points
C Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 128
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 97
3 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 70
4 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 68
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 36
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 27
7 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 16
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

As expected really. Team Lotus and Virgin both improve on their points from last year, but Hispania have fewer, no doubt because of better reliability from the arguably two quicker teams.

  Team Points
C Team Lotus 227
2 Marussia Virgin 138
3 Hispania 79

2012

All but one seat for 2012 has been confirmed. At the former Lotus Racing/Team Lotus and now Caterham team, two time New Team Champion Kovalainen continues alongside two time New Team not quite as good as his team mate, Jarno Trulli.

Former Virgin Racing/Marussia Virgin and now Marussia keep Timo Glock (presuming no bigger team don’t come in and buy him out of his contract (one can hope)), but drop D’Ambrosio, who beat him this year, for Charles Pic. You could say though their line up for 2012 looks pretty as a Pic-ture. Ahem.

Hispania, as previously mentioned, have brought in Pedro de la Rosa, and their second race seat could, frankly, go to anyone who has ever touched a car before. Logic would suggest someone with a bit of cash could get it, or the could keep Liuzzi, or they could bring in a Formula 1 driver who is desperate to stay in the sport at all costs, like Nick Heidfeld, or even Chandhok, just so he can claim to have driven for all three new teams. A unique achievement.

What about the performances, well, I expect Marussia and Hispania to fight with themselves at the back, while Caterham (this will need some getting used to) should be at worst, amongst the weaker midfield cars. Next year is their big test, an improvement is needed, they’ve talked the talk, and a bit more, now the walking of the walk needs to occur.

Final Thoughts

Another year over and I’m rather glad for it. While the first two thirds of the season were something spectacular, the end of the year was an immense disappointment. Once again though, the new teams, or whatever they should be called now, provided some entertainment. Whether its upsetting the odds (Liuzzi’s 13th in Canada), or some insane, crazy decisions (Chandhok in Germany), they do tend to provide most things.

I do think Kovalainen should be racing at a team better than Team Lotus, but with they way they are progressing, soon he might be where he deserves. If Renault fancy forgetting Grosjean and Petrov, they could do a lot worse than bringing the Finn back in. Sadly, it will never happen.

So, once again, a massive thank you to everyone who has commented and read my New Teams updates each race weekend. I’m unsure of its future, part of me is tempted to wait until Australia and see how close Caterham are and if its worth continuing for a third year.

I would like to continue doing something that I can update at the end of each race next year, I’ve had a few ideas for a BBC/Sky Championship, and one or two thoughts that aren’t quite there. If anyone has got an idea, please do leave it in the comments. Or, you could keep it to yourself, do it yourself, and gain international recognition while I struggle on here. Whatever is good for you.

Thank you once again, and I promise, a lot, that I will do more ‘proper’ blog posts soon. I’ve had a little less enthusiasm of late to do any.

Kovalainen Continues Dominance in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Pre-Race

Pretty much any meaningful battle in the Championship is over, with only the battle for third up for grabs. Heikki Kovalainen secured his title back in India, and is in the form of his life, easily the quickest of the six drivers in the new teams and even some in the more established teams.

In the two week gap since India, the only news of note has been name changes. For the third year in a row, Team Lotus will be called something else. Having settled the seemingly never-ending battle between Tony Fernandes and Danny Bahar, Team Lotus will be renamed Caterham F1 from next season, with the Lotus name going solely to the team currently known as Renault. Elsewhere, Virgin Racing will also be changing name, dropping the Virgin branding and now simply to be known as Marussia from 2012.

In the two week gap following the race and Abu Dhabi comes the Young Drivers Test. For Team Lotus, American Alexander Rossi will be driving all three days for them. Dani Clos will be driving for Hispania, while Virgin are opting to choose three different drivers, in Charles Pic, Robert Wickens and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs.

Qualifying

There was little surprise at the front, Kovalainen once again outqualified his team mate for 18th place (with Barrichello not opting to set a lap time). Behind them it was Timo Glock, Daniel Ricciardo, who had set an impressive lap time, Jerome D’Ambrosio and Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Because of the grid penalty handed to Pastor Maldonado, all six moved up on position.

Race

Optimism for a good race was slim, but the race start was enthralling. Kovalainen flew off the line, jumping up to 14th after all the pitstops from the contact on the opening lap. For once, he wasn’t the only driver doing well, with Timo Glock in 16th, notably ahead of Maldonado, who hadn’t stopped. Liuzzi had jumped up to 18th, ahead of Trulli, D’Ambrosio and Ricciardo.

Problems for Kobayashi helped Kovalainen into 13th, ahead of both Williams and on good pace, even within sight of the Toro Rosso ahead of him. However problems for D’Ambrosio forced him to retire with faulty brakes.

Meanwhile further behind, the two Hispania cars were scrapping out with each other, which helped both Sauber cars past them, while D’Ambrosio lurked just behind. Not even pitstops would hinder Kovalainen, coming out in 14th, which was ahead of Barrichello. Glock was running as high as 16th before his only stop of the race, where he emerged back in 18th.

The race began to peter out however, with Kovalainen once again flying. His second stop would be when he was in 13th, however he began to fall back on the medium set of tyres, losing out to Alguersuari eventually and ended up in 17th, ahead of Trulli, Glock, Ricciardo and Liuzzi. However another decent race for Ricciardo was to end six laps from the end, with the car coming to a stop.

But once again it was Kovalainen who recorded his sixth straight victory, Trulli finished behind his team once more, and Glock will benefit massively from his team mates retirement in third. Liuzzi was the last finisher in fourth. Ricciardo was only one lap away from being a classified finisher before his retirement.

  Driver Team Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 17th 10
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 18th 6
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 19th 4
4 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 20th 3
R Daniel Ricciardo Hispania Ret 0
R Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin Ret 0

Post-Race Thoughts

Heikki Kovalainen (Team Lotus – 17th): “What seems to be happening is that in the first couple of stints, as the race sort of settles down, we are able to keep up with the cars ahead, and that’s obviously a sign of how we have progressed, and that’s again what happened here. When we went onto the primes for the last stint the pace obviously dropped a bit but we had another strong push to the end, with Senna losing time on his final set of tyres, and that points to us being able to fight much more closely next year.”

Timo Glock (Marussia Virgin – 19th): “Overall it was quite a good race today. I had a strong start, the speed was not too bad and I was in front of a couple of quicker guys, even though in the end they caught us up. I just drove my race and my engineer kept me updated about the gap to the guys behind, which was quite easy to manage.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi (Hispania – 20th): “The car was suffering from the same balance problems as yesterday. The team worked on the issue all night to try and fix it but, unfortunately, the car wasn’t perfectly balanced today. There was understeer on left turns and oversteer on right turns which meant that it was hard to achieve a good race pace.”

Standings

Drivers Championship

Bad news everyone, Ricciardo simply can’t catch Liuzzi anymore, and that leaves only one battle left in the New Teams Championship, and it looks very exciting. Once again, the two Virgin drivers swap places, and now its Timo Glock who is in prime position to finish third. Two points are in it though, and in Brazil anything could happen.

Amazingly, Kovalainen, with one race to spare, is already on the same number of points he scored during the 2010 New Teams Season. An amazing feat considering he hadn’t led the Championship until Singapore. Timo Glock has also scored more points than last season, which goes to show the mass improvement in reliability from all the three new teams.

  Driver Team Points
C Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus 118
2 Jarno Trulli Team Lotus 91
3 Timo Glock Marussia Virgin 68
4 Jerome D’Ambrosio Marussia Virgin 64
5 Vitantonio Liuzzi Hispania 36
6 Daniel Ricciardo Hispania 24
7 Narain Karthikeyan Hispania 16
8 Karun Chandhok Team Lotus 2

Teams Championship

Team Lotus smash their points record from last year. That’s all that is interesting.

  Team Points
C Team Lotus 211
2 Marussia Virgin 134
3 Hispania 76

Next Race

Form

Sad news everyone, one race left, and that is in the fantastic Interlagos circuit in Brazil, which means at least we should see an interesting race, hopefully. Right now it would be insane to bet on anyone but Kovalainen to win in Brazil, his performances at the moment are extraordinary, far better than his team mate, and only bad luck would see him not finish this season on 128 points.

In terms of the inter team battle between Glock and D’Ambrosio, it couldn’t be more difficult to guess who will do better, The form in the last six races sees D’Ambrosio pick up 17 points compared to Glock’s 16, so this one could go all the way down to the wire.

You Can Always Break The Chain

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I was on holiday when I heard the news. And in Italy, it was an oddly rainy morning. I say oddly, to be fair, there was a surprising amount of rain in that week. The rain gave me an excuse to check my phone, twinned with trying to watch NCIS in Italian, and see Twitter full of fury and rage.

And it wasn’t about the Greek’s failing to pay up (again), or Harry Redknapp trying to pursue Phil Neville (again), but the fact that the coverage of Formula 1 would be shared between its current providers, the BBC, and the pay per view service, Sky.

I’m sure everyone who gives a damn about this knows about the deal inside out. Sky get coverage of all twenty races from next year, from Australia through to Brazil, and covering the new race in Austin, Texas. The BBC only get to show ten races, these including the season opener and finale, as well as the British Grand Prix. They will also show either full race re-runs or extended highlights several hours after the chequered flag on the ten races exclusive to Sky.

To those outside it should seem fine, however to watch content on Sky, you have to pay. And this on top of the enforced BBC license fee. For some, Sky isn’t an option, it just costs too much. And you can’t really argue about that, there is no alternative for what is a sizeable chunk of viewers of the current BBC audience.

But that isn’t my argument. I’m not here to discuss the inside and outside of the deal, I’m not here to defend the decision, I’m not even here to feel sympathy. All I’m saying is thank God F1 is going to Sky.

One of the first feelings I had when reading the reactions of people, is what right did Formula 1 have to be on terrestrial television? I’ll answer that for you, none. It isn’t part of the listed rights Group A sports mentioned in the 1996 Broadcasting Act. The Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, and of course, the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final, all have to be aired on either the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 or 5. Formula 1 isn’t even mentioned in Group B, which forces highlights to be aired on the five channels (this list includes the Commonwealth Games and the Six Nations). Formula 1 is given no divine right to be on terrestrial television, it isn’t special, or any better than any other sport at the end of the day. Should Sky want to, they could easily just take it all away from the BBC. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the BBC happily accept.

I’d be glad to. For me, the BBC coverage, something which started so fresh and promising after years of dire we were subjected to from ITV, has become stale and repetitive. It is fraught by smug, poor, and downright annoying people glaring into the camera each week.

The coverage has few redeeming features. Martin Brundle stepped up this year to replace the ever unpopular Jonathan Legard, and has fitted into the role superbly alongside David Coulthard. Part of me is disappointed, if the rumours are true, that the duo won’t be able to continue and develop into their respective roles. There are few genuinely good commentary partnerships in the UK, this could have been one of them. Should David Croft and Brundle go off to Sky like reported, then I remain to be convinced. Both are fine individual commentators, but together I don’t feel convinced about it just yet.

I can’t yet believe how Eddie Jordan is still employed. Between reminding us how he discovered half of the current F1 field (that includes Narain Karthikeyan people), he offers up far too many cringeworthy moments that litter the coverage. Lee McKenzie has also failed to add to her one standard question in her interviews. I feel bitterly disappointed for her. (Cheap and poor, I know.)

Jake Humphrey has provided to be no better, especially after the announcement. His loyalty to the cause is admirable, but each little mention of the viewing figures and clear moments where he wants Formula 1 to have all 2012 races on the BBC have made him virtually unfollowable for me, at least.

And realistically the only thing saving the BBC right now is the fact there is no ad breaks. Something which Sky promise to deliver when they air their first race. The BBC could have developed their coverage into something spectacular, something worth keeping. And while it is still much better than ITV ever achieved, it lacks the ambition of going further. Since 2009, very little has changed in terms of coverage and personnel, and I’m equally tired of hearing the tiresome voice of Christian Horner every race. In some regards the quality has gone down. At the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix, I remember Peter Sauber, who speaks poor English, doing a rare interview in the English language. I feel you wouldn’t get close to that now. I can’t pull myself to watch the coverage anymore, it isn’t worth it. Although this could be well down to my current view of Formula 1 at the moment, or at least qualifying. On purpose, instead of watching the qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, you could find me lying in bed dreaming about scoring the winning goal in the Europa League Final. Sort of.

With the BBC only getting ten races from next year, the coverage will only go downhill even further. The lack of drive, and the ‘talented’ Humphrey no doubt becoming one of the faces of the highly anticipated Olympic Games, and potentially other things, the last shred of decency is fading. The potential new commentators to replace Martin Brundle don’t sound so exciting. I’ve yet to see a favourable review of Leigh Diffey, who just sounds like a foreign Jonathan Legard.

I’m not going to say Sky is going to be perfect. It does cost to get the coverage to start off, and expected anchors and pundits are so far less than inspiring. But the potential is there, the same potential that the BBC had. If they do something similar to their shows in terms of rugby, an extra show to discuss events in more detail, then it will only be an improvement.

Yet Sky will throw money and effort into their coverage, something similar to what they do for the football, both codes of rugby, the cricket. Assumptions based on their over motorsport events are unfair, IndyCars and Speedway don’t attract the same audience, they don’t get the same money that F1 will get.

The BBC could have done so much with Formula 1, but it didn’t, and for me, it has left me very disillusioned with the coverage. Roll on Sky, I can’t wait to see what you can do.

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