Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Winner Takes It All

This is, to avoid all confusion, nothing to do with the proposed, then delayed championship deciding system. It’s a grand old season preview.

Formula One Testing 

2009 is set to bring change to the world of Formula 1, the rules and regulations feel like they have been completely rewritten. Silverstone embarks on what looks like its last grand prix for a while, but Abu Dhabi makes a rather quiet entrance as the last race of the season. And we say hello to Honda’s replacement, Brawn GP.

For Australia, it looks like it could go either way, it seems rather silly to make a prediction on something which could any of six ways. But where would the fun in that be? As I mentioned on the latest Sidepodcast Debrief Show, I said the top 3 would go in the reverse order of Kubica, Glock and Webber. Risky strategy y’say. Not when I think it could all end up like a mass murder on CSI. Metaphorically speaking of course in their being lots of incidents. Think 2008 but bigger. Think Ralf Schumacher going over Rubens Barrichello, but bigger. I’m going for only six finishers. Those front wings will never manage to go through turn one without one skidding across the gravel accompanied by a few cars and loose wheels. Who’s going to go? Well defiantly one of the big guns, Ferrari or McLaren, shunt between the two Finns. That will inevitably see a backlash of cars spinning and tangling. It’s all going to be too much fun. Unless you’re the team’s accountant of course.

The season as a whole now, it right now seems tough to decide the strongest cars from the weakest. My almost certainty is that Force India will finish last again, but I do think they will manage to steal a few points in a race, possibly Australia. I doubt Toro Rosso will be able to match last year. They simply don’t have a Vettel in that car and Bourdais and Buemi are unlikely to be consistant point scorers.

That is possibly the only certainties. Who knows the rest, McLaren as far as we know could be sandbagging that car, or they could genuinely be in deep trouble. I don’t think it is as bad as they are making out to be, but they will not be as quick as a championship winning car like last year. Unlike Williams and BrawnGP, who have set some unbelievable times in testing to date. BrawnGP’s results could be excused however for quite a few reasons, running light to attract sponsors, generating the big boys in for finances. Recently, Virgin announced they are going to be Brawn’s sponsors, so does that mean the car will suddenly drop down in pace? Likely.

Formula One Testing.
Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
12th March 2009.
Rubens Barrichello, BGP001. Action. 
World Copyright: Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic 
ref: Digital Image_H0Y9585.jpg

Real surprises this season could be in the wings of Red Bull and Toyota. Both have looked reasonable in testing, and we know what Sebastian Vettel can do. It may sound horrible, but Mark Webber’s broken leg must surely be a good thing. It can give him that boost, that extra determination again and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a clean battle going on between the two drivers. Toyota are looking strong too. With Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli you have consistency, perhaps not spectacular, but defiantly two drivers with racing experience. This is definatly the year that Toyota need to prove that they are worthy of a place in Formula 1. A win is a must, nothing this year could see the team disappear similar to Honda. The weakening of the global economics and especially the car manufacturers put Toyota along with Renault in a good chance of the big bosses wiping the floor underneath them.

The real contenders in 2009 will consist of the Ferrari, BMW and Renault cars. Kimi Raikkonen has a point to prove this year, 2008 was simply a year off in his mind and he needs to show that he is still capable of good results. If he doesn’t, it could be a good excuse to let him go and bring in Alonso for 2010. Felipe Massa needs to show that last year wasn’t just a one off. He needs to get rid of those sloppy errors that cost him in Malaysia and Britain and show he is a good quality consistant driver. The two BMW drivers will know they have a reliable car under them. Heidfeld defiantly needs to push, show some aggression that Kubica shows week in, week out. The German needs that vital edge to challenge his team-mate, if he is up to it, then the guy will certainly grab his first victory. And with Mario Thiessen’s long term plan working perfectly so far, the championship is the next on the list. As a fan, I really do hope that box will be ticked this time next year. World Champion Alonso now needs to show them how to bring that little extra from a weak car. Last year the Renault was appalling, but he grabbed two wins. If the car is anywhere as near as good as it was at the end of the year, Alonso may just walk it.

Then you have to deal with KERS, the teams who use it from the start, which at the time of writing is looking to be Ferrari and Renault, with BMW a possibility. This will make it easier for them to pass the non-KERS users. So I wouldn’t be surprised if those two/three are the strongest pace wise in the first few races.

So who is going to win it? For me, Fernando Alonso. Without doubt he brings something special to that car, I wouldn’t mind him being on that team, you know you have a shout in something each race weekend. One of the BMW drivers will finish behind him, most likely Kubica, similar style to Alonso. In third will be a respected Felipe Massa.

The flop of the year will once again be handed out to Heikki Kovalainen. He won because of the leader’s engine blowing up last year. This year won’t be much different, the team’s preference to Hamilton and the fact I don’t think he is quick enough will probably see him back down to Renault to replace Alonso in 2010.

First one to get the sack. Impressively no one managed it last year, but with the immense rule changes someone is bound to struggle. Nelson Piquet jr. survived it last year mainly because he was crap enough not to bother Alonso. My fear is that if Alonso does walk it, Piquet may still be lounging around the lower points or spinning off.

First win this year to the following people, Nick Heidfeld and Timo Glock. Heidfeld has been in Formula 1 non-stop since 2000. BMW is his first real chance of getting that all exclusive first win. 150 races without a win, a few more years without one and he could ultimatley beat Andreas de Cesaris. The lad is consistant mind, could be a major factor in one of those crazy races.

So thats my predictions and previews, what do you think then? I will be taking part in a prediction league over at sofaf1.com. Otherwise post a comment or catch me at sidepodcast.com

First Time Winners Marathon : Germany 2000

I’m a big fan of the podcast Filmspotting, which as the name suggests, talks about films. Now, how do two people talking about stuff on the big screen relate to Formula 1? Well, by borrowing the idea of Marathons. The two guys who do the shows pick a specific subject, right now they are doing about Angry Young Men, and watch 6 movies based on it.

I, at The F1 Waffler, will instead watch 6 races based on a Formula 1 theme, and the first one at that is First Time Winners.

I will be watching some races of when a specific driver has won his first grand prix, it could be the first of many, it could be his only one. The idea of this is to have a review every week on this day, and will happen at opportune moments of the season, during longer breaks for example.

Today, we will be looking at Rubens Barrichello and his first win back in 2000 at Hockenheim.

rubens Barrichello storms to victory

The race had everything, overtaking, crashes, rain, television meltdowns and even a man crossing the track.

The first major incident was the the collision between Giancarlo Fisichella and Michael Schumacher. Schumacher had cut across the track right in front of the Italian, who had no where to go but into the back of the Ferrari. Talking to Louise Goodman after the incident, he blamed Fisichella for the crash. Initially it seems obvious to blame the person who crashed into the back of him, however in this instance, this is not the case. Schumacher cut in front of Fisichella before Fisi could have had any time to react. Schumacher’s fault possibly, but he would have been unaware of the Benetton behind him. Not on purpose, unlike Jerez 1997, but could have been more aware of the cars surrounding him.

I liked the first half of the race, entertaining, plenty of overtaking, especially by Barrichello as he tried to rescue himself from a poor qualifying start (18th), he made light work of several cars in a clearly quicker Ferrari down the long straights in the woods of Hockenheim. It is such a shame that racing no longer continues down the old track, since Tilke shortened it two years later.

But then, with such a big track, things can get on it, say, a rather drunk man. Displeased with Mercedes, he walked alongside the track, even crossing it at one point, where a pack of four cars led by Pedro de la Rosa shot past just seconds later. The man, without knowing it, had single handily changed the course of the race. The Safety Car comes out, it all goes manic in the pit-lane and horribly wrong for McLaren.

Hakkinen and Coulthard were flying at the front, massively clear of the third placed car of Trulli. But a mistake presumably by the strategy guys saw only Hakkinen pit, Coulthard went around the track again, and picked up the safety car. You can’t deny that McLaren should have took charge and let him queue up behind Hakkinen, that way, he’d still be reasonably at the front of the grid. However, in this case, he ended up out of the points and with challenging cars to pass ahead of him. Still in the year 2000, strategy should be at a place where that is the logical option for the team, and ultimately defiantly cost them a dead certain 1-2 finish.

And then of course, their was that rain. Several drivers braved it, decided that the soaking stadium section was nothing compared to the dry forest section. Most drivers failed, Zonta losing a decent points finsh, but one made it work, Rubens Barrichello, and took advantage of Hakkinen coming in to pit. The wet tyres failed to work on the straights, this was where Barrichello managed to build a gap over Hakkinen. Button had tried the same technique, and it had worked. Managing to pass Salo for fourth and then pull away into the distance, making that result his best at the time (Previously was 5th at Britain and Austria).

So Barrichello had to be helped by some large extremes to win this race, Schumacher being took out at turn 1, the man wondering onto the track and the rain falling at some points of the track. No doubt without these, he may have just finished inside the points, or have got none at all. But in the end, he would have still most likely won a race in more comfortable surroundings anyway, but it will feel more special that you did it from 18th, and in McLaren’s back yard.