Monthly Archives: April 2009

You Spin My Car Right Round

sato 

It was a sad day in Formula 1 when Super Aguri were turned away from the gates of Istanbul and became bankrupt a few days later. The team were loved with the underdog status they had gained, most notably with the heroic Canadian Grand Prix in 2007 (pictured) with possibly one of the most famous overtakes in this decade of Formula 1, with Takuma Sato using the slipstream perfectly to pass the then current world champion, Fernando Alonso.

But Takuma Sato had more of a reputation of crashing into things, be it the wall or other cars. That reputation has possibly cost him expanding his career further than the Honda spectrum, considering the fact that he was within the same setup, British American Racing (BAR), Honda and the team Honda created for him, Super Aguri.

But the fact was, despite the occasional lapse in concentration (with the inclusion of two disqualifications for an avoidable crash with Jarno Trulli and disobeying blue flags), he was a solid and quick driver. He became Japan’s first podium scorer for fourteen years in the USA GP of 2004 (since his then future team boss, Aguri Suzuki, scored a podium in Japan, 1990). With a strong car under his belt in that year of 2004, he finished half of the races in the points, including that podium. He only crashed out once, with a first lap collision involving three other drivers, the other four reasons for retirement that year was engine failure.

In fact, out of the twenty seven races he has retired, only nine have them been involving crashes, not all of him his own fault. These include the horrific crash in Austria, 2002, involving himself and Nick Heidfeld, where the German lost control of his car and slammed into the side of him, he required medical help after suffering minor concussion.

Now lets swipe the card clean here, this is where I admit, the current Takuma Sato love in will inevitably end. Lets start with some of the crashes then. He does have a bigger crash to retirement ratio compared to other drivers. He does tend to spin off a lot, of course the last time he did so was the USA Grand Prix of 2007, where could have again surprised the odds by ending up in the points for the second race in the row. Albeit early on in the race. He also caused the crash between himself and Michael Schumacher in Belgium 2005. Which may cause him to be a hero to all Schumacher haters, however he is still at fault, which his aggression and often simple minded approach to some overtakes cost him.

He was also comprehensively thrashed by his team mate at BAR, Jenson Button. The records stand up for themselves:

  • 2004: Button – 3rd, 85 points. Sato – 8th, 34 points
  • 2005: Button – 9th, 37 points. Sato – 23rd, 1 point

To only score one point when your team mate scored thirty six more is clearly unacceptable, hence why Honda got rid of him. But the only reason he stayed in Formula 1 for the next two and a bit years was because of Super Aguri. There, he scored all of Super Aguri’s points in the career of the team, a grand total of four, scored in Spain and Canada of 2007. Anthony Davidson was of no match for him in the twenty one races the two competed against, Sato performed amazingly well in what was a poor car at times.

He lasted the rest of the 2008 season without a drive, probably cursing the fact that there were no mid-season changes. But he had the opportunity to get the Toro Rosso drive after Sebastian Vettel moved to its big brother Red Bull. Sadly for Sato, it occurred at the same time as a certain credit crunch. His personal sponsors lost the money, Toro Rosso said hello to Buemi with his better sponsor opportunities.

What now for the sun of Japan? The best opportunity now is to wait for a mid season drive. There is more than likely to be an available space opening up when an underperforming driver, such as Piquet or possibly Bourdais. But there is a chance he won’t get this seat. Renault are most likely to go with Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso go for one of the debutant Red Bull Development Project. He can wait until 2010, but by then he would have spent almost two years without a drive, rusty around the edges. He could go for A1GP, but the fact there is no Team Japan is a hindrance, GP2 is a massive step down as is any feeder series. The only option to keep at a high standard is endurance racing, but that is all booked up for the year.

I loved watching Takuma Sato drive in Formula 1, he is such an exciting and unpredictable driver. Unpredictable doesn’t specify how, he could have a heroic race in a Super Aguri, or an awful one in a BAR. I hope he gets back into Formula 1 very soon, Kazuki Nakajima needs help flying that Japanese flag.

I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Has Gone

19.04.2009 Shanghai, China, 
Robert Kubica (POL), BMW Sauber F1 Team, F1.09 - Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Sunday Race - www.xpb.cc, EMail: info@xpb.cc - copy of publication required for printed pictures. Every used picture is fee-liable. © Copyright: Davenport / xpb.cc

Once upon a time, Formula 1 fans would crave rain to come down to spice up some rather dull races. Rain dancing was common in the hope of seeing the pit crews come up with daring, mad or stupid strategies, shake up the drama, hope for the underdogs to have their day.

But as the famous expression goes ‘It never rains, but it pours’. We have had three races this year, two of them have had to get the safety car out because of the awful weather, Malaysia of course even red flagged and not resumed. 2009 has seen the tide turn, rain is now a foe rather than a friend. Light rain is good, brings out the drama, but what we are seeing in Malaysia and China is heavy rain. Verging on impossible to drive in.

I’m glad we are going to Bahrain now, the inevitable sun, thank you god. I’ve seen too much rain this year to enjoy it anymore. Last year, 33% of the races had some sort of rain, whether it be the light sprinkling at the end of Brazil or the pouring rain of Britain. It’s annoying to know we can’t control the rain, it always strikes in at the worst moment, like in Malaysia with some just simply awesome racing going on before hand. But it never comes in at the best moment, say during the European Grand Prix.

Rain is not helping the cars performance either, we don’t really know how good the Brawn is compared to a Toyota on a proper circuit. How poor are those Ferrari’s, more questions are coming from these than answers, and it isn’t helping at all. I want to watch real racing here, not a lottery. If I wanted to watch a lottery, I’d put a tenner on car 8 coming out first. (Well, maybe not number 8, that’s Piquet).

Despite the fact that the rain is out of our control, we can still blame someone for it. Lets bring in the 2009 calendar into evidence and Bernie Ecclestone into the Interrogation Room. Malaysia, we all know the story, started later to suit European viewers, basically during the monsoon period, the rest as they say, is history.

He is also at fault for China, basically swapping it at either ends of the calendar, moving it from the hot period to the cool time of the year. The time of the year that is most frequented by our old friend, the rain. Is this what they mean by making the racing more exciting? Can they not make the cars better so they bend the loophole in Mother Nature to find rain.

What next, last grand prix to be held in Finland in December?

“So Does That Mean Brawn Will Suddenly Drop Down in Pace? Likely.”

brawngp

Those were the words that I said in my season preview about the new Brawn GP. Not going to be quick, they were going to be as bad as Force India, just to bring in the sponsorship of Virgin and Richard Branson’s cash. And then disappear off down the back of the grid.

How I have massively wrong.

Since that season preview, Brawn have won twice, got two poles, three podiums and a fastest lap. That is with only two races gone and the realisation that they are quick, very quick and that they can easily turn the power down and still pull away easily. Ross Brawn has managed to pull off an absolute corker of a car. You know how good this is, so I will not bore you with superlatives about them.

This is a confession on how horrendously wrong I was. But I now have the feeling of, I really want them to get beat, it gets boring when a team win two in a row, hence my hate of Ferrari. I don’t hate them like Ferrari, but do want the other teams like Red Bull, Toyota to step up to the mark, show their true pace. Brawn will be caught up by Turkey, with all the teams improving the cars by then. Then it will be a real cat and dog fight, we could have eight teams looking for a really good result. This will be a close fight for the championship come the end of the year. Unless Brawn sweep the races until Turkey anyway.

How to Make the Race of Champions Better

rocbutton  Today, the Race of Champions decided to move away from Wembley Stadium in London to the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. Needless to say doesn’t seem to be a wise move, with the Formula 1 event in China most likely to be chopped because of dwindling crowds. Then the fact its during a weekday, most people will be at work or school and don’t have time to watch it.

So I’ve been thinking, how should the Race of Champions event be run? So lets start with location.

Logistically, Europe seems the prime location, with massive stadiums and the main focus of motorsports around the world. However a North American location could also be considered. A venue here could see NASCAR and Indy Car drivers compete and make the racing more exciting. I listed potential and suitable venues with pro’s and con’s.

Stade de France (Paris) – 75, 959. Pros – Has experience of hosting the event. Cons – Has hosted the event before.

Olympiastadion (Berlin) – 76, 065. Pros – Big capacity, includes athletics track so the circuit can be bigger, country has good race drivers to help capacity. Cons – None.

Luzhniki Stadion (Moscow) – 84, 745. Pros – Massive capacity, includes athletics track. Con’s – Will be cold in November, it is an old stadium and has not been renovated since 1956. Russia is not known as a massive watcher of motorsports.

Athens Olympic Stadium (Athens) 71,000. Pros – Has experience of hosting massive events (2004 Olympics), Won’t be cold in November. Cons – Crowd may not be massive due to not being a big motorsports nation.

Soldier Field (Chicago) – 61, 500. Pros – Expand American interest, will allow US drivers to compete, recently built. Cons – Small stadium, circuit must be small.

After thinking about it, I felt that the Olympiastadion in Berlin is the best option, prime location for European viewers and will get a good crowd. There are loads of possibilities for a stadium to be used, and too many in the USA and Canada, but for the purposes of this blog, I’ll keep the number low.

olympiastadion

So we’ve sorted out the location, so when are we going to do it? The RoC will be held on two separate days, just days after the end of the Formula 1 season. This will ultimately cause too many problems, the drivers coming from F1 will be shattered and wanting a rest, the other drivers from other series coming all the way to China for a one off event.

I would instead have it on a Saturday, more useful for fans to go and watch instead of missing work/school for it. However, lets note that the Olympiastadion is used in football for both Hertha Berlin and the German national side. Lets be realistic here, we can’t reorganize a regular football fixture, the fans are not going to be best pleased. So we really need to wait until the fixtures for the Bundesliga to come out in June. Now this might not be ideal, but there is a winter break at the end of December, and whilst drivers may want to have a break then, its a good opportunity and best time for it. Plus people are on holiday anyway with the Christmas breaks.

Then who would I invite. Primary invitees would be the champions of the following events:

  • Formula 1
  • GP2
  • World Touring Car Championship
  • One winner of Le Mans
  • One winner of the Le Mans Series
  • World Rally Championship
  • NASCAR
  • IndyCar

That means eight drivers, say if the champion couldn’t do it, it would be offered down to the next driver in that championship. In an ideal world, 8 different nationalities will win each event, but that is highly unlikely, so if say two Brits win, then another nation will be allowed to choose two drivers for it to compete in the Nations Cup. For the Nations Cup there will be 8 teams, all from different countries.

Now the cars, of course you have to have the RoC buggy.

roc buggy

It is an unique car only for the Race of Champions, massively symbolic towards it and I find it great to watch as well. The other cars vary, you can’t have anything Formula 1 fast as you’d lose control way to early, but a similar car to the Abarth above and perhaps a rally car could work as well. Say a reliable Honda Civic and a Ford Rally car, so not biased in favour of the inevitable WRC champion Sebastian Loeb. For an open top car, how about an historic one. A classic 1960 style racer to suit just about everyone.

These I believe are the main details in attempting to make the racing, the viewing and most importantly, the enjoyment of it more better. Sadly I don’t thinking putting it in China will help one bit, but hopefully they will have seen sense for 2010. If you have your own improvements, please do share in the comments.

It’s All About the BBC

We’ve now had two races to analyse and watch the BBC coverage live in front of us (or for me, from the iPlayer) and see how the Beeb have done in regards to the last eleven years of poor ITV broadcasts.

You sit down and there it is, the irreplaceable theme of Formula 1 on the BBC, The Chain. Everyone knows it, everyone loves it. But I don’t think the title sequence matches up to the music, its CGI, and I would much rather have shots of cars blasting through forests, spectacular moments and the odd grid girl. ITV defiantly produced some of the better intro’s, my favourite coming from 2003.

The music is very modern and uses footage that matches the clips. Its a very good intro, and with catchy music similar to The Chain. They did falter after that, but in the long run, ITV did well in this area. The BBC’s uses classic music with modern CGI, and sadly it doesn’t work. They now have 50-odd years of footage available to them, surely the odd clip of Ralf Schumacher going over Barrichello or Alonso bravely overtaking the other Schumacher. Or even from last year, too many highlights to mention. If you haven’t yet seen it, take a little look at it.

And on the theme of Intro’s, can I just say that the new FIA one is very good, much better than the previous bland one I feel. Very vibrant and modern, nearly as good as the classic one used in the 90s and early 00s.

So with the intro out of the way, we are greeted by Jake Humphrey. Lets be honest, who thought the guy would be any good at the start of the year? Not many, but Humphrey has shown to be very well suited for the role. A prime example is him filling for 75 minutes during the red flagged Malaysian Grand Prix. He managed to analyse the first part of the race with Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard. Jake seems suited brilliantly to the role and I think he is been the surprise of the bunch, he is much better than Steve Ryder, well it wasn’t going to be hard now.

The two pundits are also very good, in Jordan and Coulthard. The good thing compared to ITV is that there is two of them, while ITV stuck with Mark Blundell answering Steve Ryder’s questions all the time. With one your only going to get one opinion, however with two, you’ll get contrasting thoughts on some topics which can make it more entertaining and balanced, often giving the audience new opinions on the subject. The two the BBC picked to pundits aren’t too bad either. They know what they are talking about, quite enjoyable to watch as well.

Then we have the roving pit-lane reporters, Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie. From Ted I think we know what we can expect from what he did at ITV, solid work, finds out some important information and defiantly a useful addition to the team. Lee McKenzie I think is brilliant from her interviews, but that’s the problem, I think I’ve only seen her in pre-race interviews. She needs more airtime in terms of talking to people in the pit lane and not having Kravitz hog it all of the time.

The commentators, Brundle is great as usual, I don’t think we need to talk about him as much. However, I have noticed over the internet some severe criticisms with main commentator Jonathan Legard. Over at sidepodcast.com, one of the hosts who calls himself ‘Mr C’, recently claimed that Legard was the ‘Weakest Link’ and feels it is a step backwards from James Allen.

Jonathan Legard is better than James Allen, he didn’t get excited, over the top in Australia than when Button previously won in Hungary, which I think we are all aware of. He makes mistakes for sure, but so does Brundle and so does the majority of commentators in whichever sport they are covering, its called being human, I’d like a perfect commentator, but those people are rare. Legard is knowledgeable, considering he has radio and journalism experience in covering Formula 1. My only problem with him is that he is rather bland. Nothing spectacular by any means, not the greatest out there but my is there far worse. It’s still a young term for the BBC, way to early to judge him in his first television gig.

Which leads nicely onto the interactive forum, which is fantastic. Brilliant analysis of the race, gets interviews with many drivers, team owners and so forth. Great service and something which the ITV lacked. They use the red button to good effect as well, from what I’ve heard anyway, still yet to see it. Obviously there is a limited use for Freeview viewers, but SKY audiences can experience I think 6 different screens. Don’t hold me on that though.

The website is alright, not breathtaking, but its good to see the BBC have given it its own mini site instead of a standard news site they have for the rest of them. Its a bit of a mess to be fair, their is long lists of news items. What I wouldn’t mind is something similar they do in the football section, and give each team its own ‘page’ what have you of news archives. The space on the website is narrow to be fair so they can’t have everything they want without it being 10 kilometres down. I do like the background, makes it feel its a different place to the rest of the BBC Sport section and I love Darren Heath’s Big Picture. They’ve borrowed a few ideas to be fair, The F1 Mole is similar to an ITV attempt for example.

The 3D guides are very handy and interactive, and Mark Webber is talking you through it so you know what’s going on there. My only concern is that they only have the first three races, and the fourth round is only two and a half weeks away. Out of the pick of the blogs, I do enjoy Jake Humphrey’s, very good insight of how the BBC are dealing with things and how he is coping in the different country’s he visits.

Its a good start by the BBC, at least they have no adverts for a start, feels very strange when a long silence comes and you expect to hear ‘Rocket, yeah’ in your ears. Thumbs up to the BBC.