Double Jeopardy: F1 madness continues

Posted: December 12, 2013 by thevillainf1 in Uncategorized

Formula one found yet another way to make a mockery of itself by introducing a new rule awarding double points to a race for no other reason that it being the last one on the calendar (and hence supposedly keep the champ ship fight interesting for longer, but more importantly, enable you to charge the GP organizers more money). It’s not the first and it won’t be the last bogus rule change F1 throws at its fans  we slide down to NASCAR or even Mario Kart levels (since even a Chase like run of GPS deciding the championship would be a better idea).

 

Since as usual the combined F1 press corps can’t be bothered to look further than their nose tips and analyzed only the impact on the WDC, it falls down to backmarkers F1 to get a brief revival and investigate the true impact this bogus rule change would have had by looking at what would have  further happened down the grid and in the WCC as well , where a difference of one spot can mean a difference of millions of dollars for the teams.

 

I’ll only look at the past 5 years to see what would have changed. The premise is simple, we award double points to all top 10 (top 8 for 2009) finishers in the season finale, and see how the standings would have been changed, if at all.

 

2009: Buttons’ year in the sun

Button would still be a one time champion, but what would have happened to the rest of them? Would the Red Bull emergence as F1’s new powerhouse after they cracked the double diffuser have been enough to topple the Brawn monster of the first half of the season had the new rule been in place?

 

Table: 2009 official and revised standings.

 

  2009 WDC final gp result double points WDC official WDC
1 Button 3 101 95
2 Vettel 1 94 84
3 Barrichello 4 82 77
4 Webber 2 77 69
5 Hamilton DNF 49 49
6 Raikkonen 12 48 48
7 Rosberg 9 34 34
7 Trulli +1 7 34 32
9 Alonso 14 26 26
10 Glock DNS 24 24
11 Kovalainen 11 22 22
12 Heidfeld +1 5 23 19
13 Massa -1 DNS 22 22
14 Kubica 10 17 17
15 Buemi 8 7 6
16 Kobayashi 6 6 3
  no other      
  points scores      
         
  2009 WCC      
    official WCC Double pts WCC  
1 Brawn 172 183  
2 RBR 153 171  
3 Mclaren 71 71  
4 Ferrari 70 70  
5 Toyota 59.5 64.5  
6 BMW 36 40  
7 Williams 34.5 34  
8 Renault 26 26  
9 Force India 13 13  
10 STR 8 9  

The only changes in the standings would have been Trulli moving up one spot in WCC as he tied Rosberg on points, and Heidfeld would have jumped Massa.  Starting this off with a sizzle rather than a bang, you see in the table that very little would have changed in 2009, partly because the points awarded per race were lower to begin with (the 2009 season featured points for only the top 8, 10 for the winner, then 8, 6, 5 ,4, 3 ,2, 1 ), mitigating the impact of double points somewhat.

2010 The Bulls show their balls

2010 was the breakthrough year for Red Bull which Brawns double diffuser denied them the year before. Though Webber and Vettel did their damned best to throw away the title in a superior car throwing hissy fits (and their cars) at each other, a remarkable season finale saw the underdog come through to win what we know now was the 1st in a string of 4 consecutive titels. With Vettel the race winner in – again – Abu Dhabi, the WDC would have still belonged to him if double points were awarded, but how does the rest shake out?

Table : 2010 official and revised standings.

  2010 WDC final gp result double points WDC  official WDC 
1 Vettel 1 281 256
2 Alonso 7 258 252
2 Hamilton +2 2 258 240
4 Webber -1 8 246 242
5 Button 3 229 214
6 Massa -1 10 145 142
7 Rosberg +1 4 154 144
7 Kubica 5 144 144
9 Schumacher DNF 72 72
10 Barrichello 12 47 47
11 Sutil 13 47 4
12 Petrov +1 14 32 35
13 Kobayashi -1 6 35 32
14 Hulkenberg 16 22 22
15 Liuzzi DNF 21 21
16 Buemi 15 8 8
17 De La Rosa DNS 6 6
18 Alguersuari +1 11 6 7
19 Heidfeld -1 9 7 6
         
  2010 WCC      
    official WCC Double pts WCC  
1 RBR 498 527  
2 Mclaren 454 487  
3 Ferrari 396 403  
4 Mercedes 214 226  
5 Renault 163 179  
6 Williams 69 69  
7 Force India 68 68  
8 Sauber 44 44  
9 STR 13 15  
10 backmarkers on 0 points      

Once more we do not really see major changes, though Massa is again drawing the short stick in WDC standings, dropping another place as this time Rosberg would have jumped him. Hamilton would have been the biggest winner, jumping Webber and tied with Alonso for 2nd in WDC, though the Spaniard would still edge it thanks to his greater win tally.  Petrov’s feisty, Alonso championship losing drive would have seen him jump ahead of Kobayashi in the standings. While all the way down the standings , Alguersuari would have jumped Heidfeld in the points. However when it comes down to the all important constructors money, again nothing would have changed in 2010. None of the cars from the two only teams really close to each other in the standings at the final round managed to score a point, so the WCC positions remain the same. So 2 years in a row where the double points would only have had a minor impact on WDC standings at the ass end of the grid. Much ado about nothing then, or shall we continue and see if anyon would have been set to lose a few million dollars over the latest shenanigans?

 

2011 Vettel and Red Bull teabag everybody

The 2011 RBR was unstoppable in the hands of Vettel, reaching a level of dominance one would only expect to see once in a generation (only for Red Bull and Vettel to step it up a notch and really rub it in at the end of 2013). There is no doubt Vettel and Red Bull would have walked away with all the glory, but will we see some changes down the grid? The venue of the season finale changed in any case, as we returned to Interlagos for the final GP, where Vettel’s mysterious gearbox problem gifted Webber a win to lift his morale after another sound thrashing by the youngster during the season.

 

Table 2011 official and revised standings

 

  2011 WDC final gp result double points WDC official WDC points
1 Vettel 2 410 392
2 Button 3 285 270
2 Webber 1 283 258
4 Alonso 4 269 257
5 Hamilton DNF 227 227
6 Massa 5 128 118
7 Rosberg 7 95 89
7 Schumacher 15 76 76
9 Sutil 6 50 42
10 Petrov 10 38 37
11 Heidfeld DNS 34 34
12 Kobayashi 9 32 30
13 Di Resta 8 31 27
14 Alguersuari 11 26 26
15 Buemi 12 15 15
16 Perez 13 14 14
17 Barrichello 14 4 4
18 Senna 15 2 2
19 Maldonado DNF 1 1
         
  2011 WCC      
    official WCC Double pts WCC  
1 RBR 650 693  
2 Mclaren 497 512  
3 Ferrari 375 397  
4 Mercedes 165 171  
5 Force India +1 69 81  
6 Renault -1 73 74  
7 Sauber 44 46  
8 STR 41 41  
9 Williams 5 5  
10 backmarkers on 0 points      

The driver standings actually don’t see any changes, but there is a big, multi-million dollar whopper of a change in the constructors standings where Force India overhaul Lotus Renault  for 5th in the WCC thanks to a strong result for both Di Resta and Sutil (P8 and P6 respectively) while the Lotus boys picked up just one point courtesy of Petrov’s tenth, making only +2 points in our final tally as opposed to FI taking home a sizeable 12 pts for the weekends work. Considering the Lotus’ current financial plight, that one surely would have stung for Eric Boullier.

 

2012 Alonso gets close, but no cigar

2012 was arguably Alonso’s finest year to date, dragging the third or even fourth best car within a whisker of the championship was a near superhuman feat but alas it was not to be, as Vettel got lucky with Grosjean being an idiot at Spa, the Brazilian weather, surviving an accident and car damage to drag home the sixth place he needed to secure his fourth title. Were the double points rule active at that time, Alonso would have been a triple world champion, which obviously is a major shake-up of the history books due to one silly rule. I suspect it is probably why a  team like Ferrari went along with an idea as stupid as this, as they were blinded by the success it could have brought them (the 2008 title would have also been Massa’s were this rule implemented at the time), forgetting it is of course a double edged sword.

 

Table: 2012 official and revised standings

 

  2012 WDC final gp result double points WDC official WDC points
1 Alonso +1 2 296 278
2 Vettel -1 6 289 281
3 Button +2 1 213 188
4 Raikkonen -1 10 208 207
5 Webber+1 4 191 179
6 Hamilton -2 DNF 190 190
7 Massa 3 137 122
8 Grosjean DNF 96 96
9 Rosberg 15 93 93
10 Hulkenberg +1 5 73 63
11 Perez -1 DNF 66 66
12 Kobayashi 9 62 60
13 Schumacher 7 55 49
14 Di Resta DNF 46 46
15 Maldonado DNF 45 45
16 Senna DNF 31 31
17 Vergne 8 20 16
18 Ricciardo 13 10 10
         
  2012 WCC      
    official WCC Double pts WCC  
1 RBR 460 480  
2 Ferrari 400 433  
3 Mclaren 378 403  
4 Lotus 303 304  
5 Mercedes 142 148  
6 Sauber 126 128  
7 Force India 109 119  
8 Williams 76 76  
9 STR 26 30  
10 backmarkers on 0 points      

Also near the top of the standings, Button would have leapfrogged his teammate Hamilton (outscoring him 2 years in a row) as well as Raikkonen to secure third in the standings with his win. Hamilton’s DNF after his accident with Hulkenberg would also result in Webber passing him for fourth in the standings, edging it by 1 point. While the top 6 in the drivers’ championship would have seen some serious upheaval, the gaps in the WCC were too big between all teams for anyone to profit from the double points, though again Force India came within nine points to steal a spot from Sauber. It could have been so had Hulkenberg not crashed while dicing for the lead, but at least the fifth place he salvaged would have seen him jump Perez in the standings.

 

2013 Not this guy again

A strong start for Ferrari and Lotus gave everybody some hope that this would be the year in which Red Bull would be brought down back to earth, but once the shocking level of incompetence demonstrated by Pirelli really came to the fore with some spectacular blowouts in Silverstone F1 had no choice but to change tyre compounds and then the Red Bull wings took off again. Vettel’s total domination would have ensured him the WDC either way, and a win in the final GP just capped off a near perfect year for the German,

 

Table: 2013 official and revised standings

 

  2013 WDC final gp result double points WDC official WDC points
1 Vettel 1 422 397
2 Alonso 3 257 242
3 Webber 2 217 199
4 Hamilton 9 191 189
5 Raikkonen DNS 183 183
6 Rosberg 5 181 171
7 Grosjean DNF 132 132
8 Massa 7 118 112
9 Button 4 85 73
10 Perez +1 6 57 49
11 Hulkenberg -1 8 55 51
12 Di Resta 11 48 48
13 Sutil 13 29 29
14 Ricciardo 10 21 20
15 Vergne 15 13 13
16 Gutierrez 12 6 6
17 Bottas DNF 4 4
18 Maldonado 16 1 1
         
  2013 WCC      
    official WCC Double pts WCC  
1 RBR 596 639  
2 Ferrari +1 354 375  
3 Mercedes -1 360 372  
4 Lotus 315 315  
5 Mclaren 122 142  
6 Force India 77 77  
7 Sauber 57 61  
8 STR 33 34  
9 Williams 5 5  
10 backmarkers on 0 pts      

The only change we would have seen in the drivers’ championship would have come from Perez leapfrogging Hulkenberg. However another multi million dollr change in the WCC standings would have seen Ferrari jump ahead of Mercedes courtesy of Alonso’s second place ( 36 pts) and Massa’s 7th (12pts) v Rosberg’s fifth (20 points) and Hamilton’s ninth (4 points), in the ends the red team outscoring the silver arrows by 3 points. Just looking ath these figures really hit home how absurd this new rule is. Rosberg’s 5th place is worth more than a 2nd anywhere else on the calendar. A crap race with a penalty from Massa still bags him 12 pts, as much as a 4th anywhere else!

 

 

Conclusion

 

Proponents of the double points season finale Bernie extravaganza could look at this and say it would have barely had any impact. The three biggest difference would have of course been Alonso taking the 2012 title, and FI stealing a WCC spot from Renault in 2011, and Ferrari doing to same to Mercedes this year. However, looking at the amounts of money involced in one constructors spot difference in the standing the ramifications can be huge. Cost cutting will take another hit as teams even all the way down the grid will be forced to keep car development up until the very end, as we see, even a fifth place is worth 20 points. In a tight WCC this can make the difference between tens of millions of dollars, and one fifth place should not have this kind of impact. The ramifications are just too big, and there is not a single sporting reason for this double points system to be awarded. Supposedly ‘the show’ benefits from it, and so does FOM’s wallet, as F1 continues its slide down from motorsport into mere entertainment.

 

While it was fun contemplating all these ‘what ifs’ during the long off season, my voice – or that of F1 F1 fan for that matter – won’t have an impact in the fight to get this ridiculous new rule kicked to the kerb. But the voice of the reigning, 4 time WDC should have some weight to it. If the rest of the drivers do not succumb to the PR machines of their respective teams, they should voice their opposition too an then just maybe F1 may still take this out of the 2014 regs. However, while I love to bash the FIA for its incompetence, once again we should wag a finger in the face of teams, as they too had a voice in this matter, and from the reports we read, several of them even accepted this daft proposal. Shame on you.

Why Hulkenberg should not go to Lotus

Posted: September 24, 2013 by thevillainf1 in Insights

As the entire F1 paddock is still reeling from the knockout punch delivered by Vettel and Red Bull during the Singapore Grand prix, it was the minor stories which took the headlines. Some people booing Vettel on the podium and Webber’s taxi ride on Alonso’s Ferrari… who cares! I promise, I will NOT get into that malarkey and try to steer the debate back towards the real serious stuff: Silly season of course!

Almost as soon as the initial fervor about Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari had died down, all eyes turned to the next piece in the 2014 driver market domino set: the now vacant Lotus seat, and the first name that popped up was Nico Hulkenberg.

Now Nico’s career is a bit of a conundrum. Year on year he has delivered those special kind of performances which would normally set off alarm bells at any major F1 team to pick him up, yet he is still mired in the midfield. After a pole in his rookie year in an uncompetitive car and a respectable showing overall against Barrichello, he was dropped for some Venezuelan petrodollars.  Last year, he missed out on Lewis Hamilton’s vacant Mclaren seat to the Telmex money of Sergio Perez. This year, he was tantalizingly close to a Ferrari seat until Maranello decided to clutch its lost son Kimi back to its bosom.

Since he missed out on a top drive last year, he figured the logical thing to do would be to look for the next best car, but the Sauber turned out to be a dog while his former Force India became a genuine top 5 contender – at least in the beginning of the season.

Having missed out on a top drive again for 2014, one would assume that once more he’d be looking to at least move one more step up and jump ship to a more competitive team, and at first glance that would be the now vacant Lotus seat next to Grosjean, who will probably be retained unless he tries to kill world champions again before the season is over.

But here’s the rub: nobody knows what the balance of power will be in 2014. Why does everyone seem to assume that the Lotus is going to be a competitive package next year? Is it better to end up with a Merc engine? A Renault? A Ferrari? Will Newey be able to work his chassis magic or will it be all about the engine? Even the best placed insiders do not really know how things will pan out.

The Lotus seat would look like a tasty prospect indeed; after all they have been genuine podium contenders throughout the year. But Kimi has left because they would not pay him on time, and rumors about the team’s dire financial straits just won’t die down. Aside from their star driver Kimi , they have lost several key senior figures over the past few months, people who would have been leading the 2014 car development.  Lastly, a deal with Infinity has been announced long ago but has still not materialized.

At this key moment in the development race for 2014, all these elements combined do not bode well for Lotus F1 teams’ financial future and competitiveness next season. I believe they are even the only team left to not have finalized an engine deal for next year! As the former Renault works team,  that must sting a bit. While there are rumors of a Renault buy-in of their old Enstone based team, a recent autosport article pretty much ruled that option out as well.

Should we really be rooting for Hulkenberg to go to Lotus? Would he not be better off to sign another one year deal with Sauber, and keep that Ferrari link intact just in case the Kimi and Alonso relationship blows up next year? Would it not be better to choose continuity for once, and show he team he is working with some faith? Of course Sauber has also had its share of financial troubles this year, having had to resort to dubious Russian money and a teenage pay driver (talented as he may be) to secure their future on the grid. But with the Russian money secure (supposedly), who is to say Sauber will not be able to build a nifty car next year? Surely they would recognize the value of continuity by keeping the hulk, and after four seasons in F1, he should have the experience to lead the team as well. It can also boost his CV if he can show to be a true team leader, not just an opportunist who jumps ship every year as soon as something supposedly better arrives.

Going to Lotus or staying at Sauber, either choice is a bit of a gamble considering next year’s sweeping regulation changes, but I for one do not assume that the Lotus seat will necessarily be more competitive next year and believe it is best for the Hulk to show he can truly lead a team at Sauber.

In the end too many variables are at play to determine the 2014 running order and it’s up to Hulkenberg to roll the dice again… With his luck he’ll probably end up in the gutter no matter which ride he ends up with.

What do you think? Should he stay at Sauber? Go to Lotus? Chase another drive perhaps?

Having been an F1 fan for most of my life it was a bit ridiculous that I had never gotten around to watching an actual F1 race when my home country boasts one of the most beautiful racetracks in the world. To add insult to injury, I even went and married a local girl whose parents live about 10 minutes away from the track, so my excuses were running thin. Then again, Bernie always serves as a good piñata, so I’ll just blame it on the exorbitant ticket prices F1 charges.

Pic: Hellooo Franchorchamps! – entry ‘la source’ on Friday

Image

The Package

Thanks to the aforementioned wifey, I finally got to see my home GP live, and when we do something, we do it in style, so she took the “Gold 9 VIP package”. It isn’t quite the paddock club yet, but at Spa it was definitely worth it, including nice breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack (read: booze) package at the Hotel de la Source, which is literally at 50 meters of the la Source entry. Another nice perk of the VIP package was the parking spots, instead of queuing for an hour or two trying to get into the track, with this ticket you can gain entry to a separate – not in use out of GP weekends -  highway exit, where traffic is very light, it took us maybe 15 minutes to get to our parking spot from the highway. The parking itself (P15 in our case) is about 200 meters from the hotel de la Source again…so no queuing, and no walking..gooood.

Breakfast included some croissants and such, but was nothing too fancy. I did watch the GP3 action mostly from the TV screens installed there as wifey wanted to savor the moment a bit before I dragged her out to the track in the mornings.

Pic: Chillin at the hotel

hotel de la source

After going out for watching some track action, it’s a 5 minute walk from the grandstand – the white colored one in front of the pitlane – back to the hotel for lunch, where a ‘traiteur’ prepares some nice warm dishes. Nothing spectacular, but sure as hell beats living off greasy fries and burgers all weekend! The evening snacks after the race action usually involved lots of beer and wine in my case, so good times were had – had to make sure to recover the ticket prices in ‘free’ booze .

Pic: VIP Style baby

vip table

Sights and Sounds

So enough with the food review and on to the seating: the Gold 9 grandstand is very well placed right opposite the lower end of the pitlane – we were directly in front of the Williams pit, with goods views on the grid and la source entry, and even a bit of the exit as well as the track rises up again towards eau rouge. It is also mightily impressive to ear the cars come roaring around Blanchimont onto the chicane and the pit straight.

Pic: View from the grandstand left and right – Its the white covered one in 3rd pic

view left view right grandstandfrom top

All in all, a good viewing position, but there are two downsides: it is a bit of a shame that the pitlane slopes down a bit, so you can’t really see the cars when they are coasting through the pitlane because the line of sight gets blocked by the higher pitwall. You can sort of catch the pitstops of the teams directly in front of you, but not of the rest for the grid. You can however look into quite a few garages. Here you see Bottas preparing for FP3 with his engineer.

Pic: Bottas gets ready for FP3

bottas get ready

Of course, you are free to wander around the track with these tickets as well, so during the FP sessions we took a walk down to Blanchimont and the chicane, where as you can see here, a Williams can actually find the pit entry without running into someone during practice.

Pic: A William finds the pitlane entry without crashing (probably Bottas ;) )

Iwilliams enter pits

During FP3, my wife and I also walked down to eau rouge and the fan village behind it. As they always say, television really does not do justice to the elevation changes on this track..eau rouge is really steep lol. We saw a few cars zoom past there and while the speed was impressive I wasn’t taken aback as I thought I would…maybe eau rouge has indeed  lost a bit of its ‘je ne sais quoi’ in these days of taking it flat out.

Pic: Amour a l’eau rouge

eau rouge

The fan village is your typical consumerist affair, where you can buy lots of overpriced official merchandise. I found it disappointing though that it was all the top 5 teams, and it was near impossible to find some merch from the lesser teams. Thousands of RBR, Ferrari, Lotus, Mclaren and Mercedes stuff, but I had to look long and hard for my Williams hat, and only saw a few caps of our beloved backmarkers Caterham and Marussia. Walking around, it was fun watching what people were wearing to gauge which teams had the most support.  Somewhat surprisingly, It was a close call between Lotus and Mercedes at Spa, with a bit less of Red Bull and Ferrari, and Mclaren sort of between those. Looking at the stuff people are wearing, you’d be forgiven for thinking there are only 5 teams on the F1 grid..then again nobody wants to support a loser – which did make me contemplate switching my Williams hat to the Mercedes one after the team had another torrid weekend..(I did stick it out with Williams though ;) )

Pic: GP2 feature race grid

GP2 grid

The racing program is pretty packed during the day with GP3 , GP2 and Porsche supercup sessions keeping the action going. To their loss, not many people watch the junior series, so you can pretty much go sit anywhere to experience the track during those moments. Even the F1 practice sessions aren’t that busy. In Qualifying attendance evidently picks up, but still quite a few seats next to me were free, the only time the place was jam-packed was during the F1 race. It was disappointing to see my man Nasr take himself out at la Source, but at least it gave me an opportunity to take this snap of hm walking back to the pits in a thundery mood.

Pic: Unhappy Nasr

nasr

With Romain Grosjean deciding not to try and kill a world champion this year, the F1 race was mostly without incident, though I did catch Di Resta’s Force India bouncing around after Pastor had run into him like the idiot he is. (you can just about see the exit of the chicane from Gold 9 grandstand). Luckily, there’s always the young guns of GP2 and GP3 to see some carbon flying. GP2 was surprisingly civil this weekend, but the GP3 boys made for plenty of cockups to la source. You can watch the race from behind the stewards’s position at la source, and gives a good opportunity to see a GP3 car up close as it is being craned away to safety.

gp3 car wreck

F1 madness

So you’ve now had my tripadvisor like review, now I’ll let you onto my F1 fan’s view on the race weekend. From a technical point of view, one thing really stood out, and that was the insane popping and blowing that can be heard from the Red Bulls as they braked into turn one. No other car made the kind of popping noise the Red Bull did. With extreme engine maps and off throttle blowing supposedly banned since last year, it really is shocking to hear the difference in sounds under braking between an RBR and pretty much the rest of the field. The Merc does quite a bit of poppin’ too, but nowhere near the level what the Red Bull is doing.  In fact, it sounds like the further down the grid you go, the less popping there is to hear.

It was very noticeable, even to a tech layman like myself, and I wonder why not more fuss has been made about it this year. In not a single article have I noticed this being referenced. It would be interesting to get a detailed analysis of one of F1’s resident tech geeks on how it’s possible for the Renault in the RBR to sound so remarkably different under braking to all the other cars, when off throttle blowing is supposedly banned. Maybe Webbo and Vettel are giving it a squirt of gas under braking??

I missed the first practice session, but managed to watch the rest of it pretty much throughout. I was pleased to have bought a good set of earplugs prior to coming there as even the sound of a GP3 car gets really painful after a while. I definitely do not recommend sitting through a GP without earplugs! It was fun to be seated on the grandstand where you could see all the preparations going onto the grid, the activity in the pits during quail, etc. I was also sat right in front of a giant TV screen so could follow all the race action pretty well. It also helped in that respect that it was a fairly boring, straightforward race without too many stops. Anyway sitting on the pit straight basically gives you something to look at after the cars have passed by you, after all Spa is a very long lap, so sometimes- early on in the race before the field gets spread out, you don’t see a car for a minute and a half.

Pic: view of the big screen in front of grandstand, listening to Lewis interview during parade

driver parade lewis interview

Qualifying was very exciting, as you could really feel the weather shifting. While Sunday was disappointing and gave us one of the most boring races of the season, Saturday was one of the best qualifying sessions we’ve seen. For a while, I was convinced Di Resta got pole, as when the others went out for their last dash effort, rain was still streaming down on the pit straight. Therefore there was a good amount of shouting in excitement as we saw the times topple at the very end, and a good roar came from the many Hamilton supporters as he pipped Vettel to pole. They also showed the lap again on the big screen which was a nice touch.

The starts were of course always the most spectacular sight of the weekend, there really is something to hearing  22 cars revving up and unleash as they dive into la Source. Before the F1 race starts there’s a bit of a driver parade, this case they individually went into classic cars as they were driven around. Some drivers made an extra effort and sat up, where others really just sat there in the car out of sight. JB seemed to be the most accessible one, doing interviews as he had finished his lap. They also interviewed Hamilton and Van der Garde on the Kemmel straight which I could follow on the big screen as you saw in the pic above.

Pic: Hamilton talking to his engineer on the Grid..quite a bit busier than GP2 and GP3!f1 grid hammy interview

The race itself as said was a largely dull affair. I saw Hamilton get away well and thought ‘Good, at least Vettel won’t run away with this’…only to see him blow past on the big screen at Kemmel. The fun part of watching a race from the stands is that you can also follow the backmarker battle a bit – which is impossible just watching the world feed who’d make you think only 5 cars run in every GP. So I saw the Caterhams fight the Marussia’s, and Van der Garde holding off Pastor in the dying laps. It was also striking how Chilton kept losing time lap after lap on Bianchi, until the picture got a bit skewed when the pitstops started. At front nothing really changed once Alonso got passed Hamilton, which I could see from my position, after that they were pretty much trailing each other along, with some minor scraps for position into la Source nearer the back of the grid, none with too much drama. Mid- race I did start noticing the Williams team bring out the pitboards every lap – something most teams don’t seem to do anymore (and why would they if the radio is working) – but later we heard that the Williams radio did cock up (and now you see what you get when you can’t remind Pastor to stay cool about 17 times per lap).

Pic: Greenpeace banner from behind – at the time I thought it was just shell promo lol

greenpeace

To be honest I had not noticed a thing of those Greenpeace hipster protests, and, since I was standing behind it I could not read the banner, at firs I even thought it was just a shell promo stunt. I did see some security guys wrestle someone trying to descend onto the podium too, which is when the worst booing happened, during the Vettel interview. So clearly people were booing the hippies, not blondie.

While it may not have the same notoriety as the one in Monza, there was a bit of a track invasion as well after the race, as they opened the gates at La Source. I went down the pit straight to take a loo into the garages, and was suprised that barely 20 minutes after the end of the Grand Prix, all the cars were gone except for the ones of Charles Pic and Di Resta, as evidently those still needed some work after having retired from the race. The speed of the packup was quite impressive.

Pic: the remains of Di Resta’s Maldonated Force India

Di Restas car

It was a pretty amazing experience to be walking down the straight where the cars had been gunning through just moments earlier, and it really was fun to feel the atmosphere, though I think anyone other than Vettel winning woul ave probably made it more fun. Nonetheless here is my attempt at making the Vettel finger look cool on the straight,

Pic:  the finger

pit straight finger

After years as an F1 fan, I absolutely loved taking in the racing during the whole weekend. The wifey and I are already planning to do some other races, Monaco and Monza being hot on the wishlist. It may cost a lot of moolah but damn you Bernie, this sport is just so exciting it’s worth it!

Aside  —  Posted: September 12, 2013 by thevillainf1 in Uncategorized

The silly season starts now…

Posted: July 31, 2013 by Matt Ruda in Uncategorized

Well we’re halfway through the F1 season and that means two things are upon us. The first is the hellish month we face without a Grand Prix. The second is, of course, the increased chatter, rumors, and guesswork as to how the field will shape up in 2014. Some places are cemented by contract, others by logic, others by utter s*** loads of money thrown at a team.

Still, changing tides and the departure of some old names means this could be one of the better silly seasons. It’s only fitting that the biggest w*nkers in F1 journalism opine on who will go where. This will be a joint article, and a living one. It will be changed and updated as time goes on, and in a year y’all can come back and mock just how wrong we were about everything.

Three people will lead this discussion, and you, the reader, can give us your ideas on Twitter, via e-mail, or snail mail if you somehow have any of our addresses.

I, Matt, am not as in touch with the feeder series as my co-authors, so I’ll pretty much exclusively evaluate potential of current or trying to return F1 drivers. My comments will be in black.

Valentin is the Backmarkers Bridge so to speak. His work for Paddock Scout gives him an eye for the feeder series, and he writes some stuff for us when he’s not paying homage to his [DRIVER NAME REDACTED] shrine. His comments will be in red.

Pete Allen, head of Paddock Scout will be called upon to give us his in-depth knowledge of the feeder series drivers with an eye on immanent F1 entry. His comments will be in blue.

A final note, as of now McLaren and Mercedes are not going to see any movement, and as such will be excluded from this list.

Let’s do this!

Red Bull Racing

Sebastian Vettel is contracted to stay with the team and, baring some sort of divine intervention, that’s where he will stay. However, Mark Webber’s departure from the sport has everyone in the F1 world polishing off their CV. Who will take the seat? Most think there are only two remaining contenders for the spot, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen. Both are obvious choices, one being a world champion and the other being the best of the two Red Bull Junior Team (aka Toro Rosso) drivers. One brings amazing race pace and only marginal qualifying prowess, the other brings the opposite and room to grow. What says the panel?

Best Chance:

Matt- Kimi Raikkonen

Spoiler alert, saying that I’m a massive Kimi fan is a severe understatement. That said, purely on objective reasoning, I still think he’s the best fit for RBR. Red Bull want the strongest drivers to win WCC championships. Yes it’s great that Sebastian is faster than a lawsuit in America, but the team make their money in the constructors championship. Kimi doesn’t have the qualifying prowess of Vettel, and probably won’t be able to pop out purple laps on a whim, but he has the consistency. His racecraft and pace retention is, in my opinion, only equaled by Fernando Alonso. Unlike Vettel, he doesn’t need the strongest car to have a successful campaign, and unlike Mark, he’s not prone to sudden cliffs in form.

He also is a known quantity. While Ricciardo has shown promise, not every successful mid-tier team driver can perform as well or better in higher end machinery. Look at Hekki to McLaren for evidence. In other circumstances, with major technical changes incoming, Red Bull could afford to take a risk, and if Ricciardo underperforms, move on to a new driver. However with a world champion driver obviously on the market, and with the ability to pay his wage, Red Bull won’t want to pass this opportunity up.

The unfortunate side effect of recruiting Raikkonen is the final nail in RBR Junior’s coffin. In a program designed to find new talent to bring to Red Bull, in its entire history, only one driver has made that leap, the Great Fingerboy. You could argue that the strongest should prevail, and I respect that, but when you create an atmosphere of “bring it or die” and recruit these kids with the promise that they’ll get a shot if a seat opens up, throwing them by the wayside to recruit a champion seems disingenuous.

Wildcard:

Matt- Fernando Alonso

I really doubt this will become more than a rumor. Still, it’s worth a mention. The recent telling off Fernando received for remarks about the team/car might not seem like much from most teams, but from Ferrari it could be a whole lot more. This is a prickly, almost childish team. They fired the great Alan Prost for saying his car was slow (spoilers, it was… very…) and payed off Kimi Raikkonen to grab a certain Spaniard.

Additionally, this isn’t the sort of thing I could see Alonso doing. Webber, Raikkonen, and to an extent Hulk may shy away from the PR-centric scripts their team hand them, but Alonso always seems to put Ferrari first. He’s always out front trying to keep team spirits up, to drive them forward when their car only wants to go backwards, and for him to strike out seems out of character.

But then again, maybe that’s the very reason he came out against the team. Alonso is a double world champion come to the most prestigious team in F1, and in his three years what does he have to show for it? Three lost championships. One to pitlane incompetence (2010), once to inability to keep up with rivals’ development pace (2011), followed by inability to create a car that was worth a damn (2012). While not as dramatic as 2012′s machine, the 2013 Ferrari isn’t that fast either, and perhaps Fernando is tired of watching title chances melt away when he’s putting in world class performances.

My inclusion of him here isn’t to say I think Fernando is going to sign with RBR. We don’t have enough information to determine that. However, if this developing rift between driver and team is real, I can’t see Alonso going anywhere else.

Ferrari

For the sake of the article, let’s assume Alonso stays put at Ferrari for 2014. We still have one Felipe Massa to take care of. While many (myself included) thought we might see a return of the old Massa after some great opening performances, Felipebaby has gone back to his usual terrible driving. But is is replacement a guarantee?

Best Chance:

Matt- Nico Hulkenberg

With Nico’s departure from Sauber joining death and taxes as one of life’s certainties, I think he could be a perfect candidate to back up Alonso at Ferrari. He’s quick, consistent, and has deserved a sharp end seat for a long while. I’m no fan of his personality true enough, but i would rather have a quick, slightly prickish driver in a top slot than a nice, slow one.

Ferrari are a risk adverse team to a fault. While Bianchi or some feeder kid may be a more exciting prospect, excitement keeps Luca and Stephano awake at night. Hulkenberg has proven time and again he’s up for the challenge, and I think it’s past the point where the risk of a new driver outweighs Felipe’s poor form.

Wildcard:

Matt- Felipe Stays

Like I said above, Ferrari are risk adverse to a fault. Just look at the 2012 machine and you’ll see that in the flesh (or I guess in the carbon… whatever). As we enter a new Formula there are already many, many unknowns at play. Hell, the regulations still haven’t been completed. The very thought must have Ferrari management s***ting bricks. Even with Felipe making the Ferrari look like an HRT in red, I suspect a certain element would rather see him stay on. The guy does have a fanbase from his glory days pre-2009, and I’d rather have Brazilians on my side than against me (I know what they do to football refs over there…)

Lotus

With Lotus we arrive at the first team who could potentially do away with their entire 2013 lineup. As previously mentioned, all indications are that Kimi is on the move onward and upward. As for Romain, he continues to be F1′s resident bipolar driver. He can be extraordinarily quick over a single lap, and has a qualifying edge on his teammate. However, we all know what happens in the race when Grosjean finds himself having to actually race. Hungary featured the Frenchman throwing away a podium spot due to a stupid overtaking attempt (shock) and exceeding the track limits to pass a la Vettel in Germany. While he has been less dangerous so far in 2013, one has to question how many WCC points Lotus will let him blow in the future.

Best Chance:

Matt- Valtteri Bottas / Lower Formula Young Driver

I’ve already gone on record saying I think Kimi will be donning Red Bull blues this time next year, so who better to replace him than another Finn? Obvious nationalistic purposes aside, Valtteri has done very well in his rookie season to match, and sometimes beat, his teammate. This is even more impressive considering Bottas’ lower formula cars probably handled better than the 2013 Williams.

Also, seeing as their are a team strapped for cash, I could see Williams wanting to follow Sauber’s lead and taking on some moneybags from Russia. Lotus offers the young Finn a chance to move to what is virtually the Renault works team, having spent a year under their power already. Bottas deserves the chance to prove himself in a proper F1 car, and Lotus are shaping up to be consistent title contenders in a few years time.

As for the second seat, I think it should go to some young junior formula talent. I defer to my other two authors on this one, since I have very little knowledge in that area. Grosjean is becoming a more reckless version of Felipe, that is, his flashes of talent are overshadowed by some utterly terrible driving. At least Massa only takes himself out of races, instead of others. After a disastrous ’09, a disastrous ’12, and so far mediocre ’13, it’s time to move on. Give some budding young talent a chance, and let Grosjean go to NASCAR.

Force India

Toro Rosso

Sauber

Williams

Caterham

Marussia

BackmarkersF1 Episode 20: W*nkers Try PR

Posted: July 12, 2013 by Matt Ruda in Uncategorized

We’re back!

After a long hiatus from the casting world Matt, Valentin, and Ilya cover the British and German GP. Between Pirelli rants, Bianchi lolz, and Ilya’s silence it was an interesting one to be sure. We ignore a few GP along the way, and discuss where Ferrari go from here following Massa’s utter fail.

Hope you guys enjoy. :)


Click Here To Download

About the download link, I dunno if this is just my computer or a WordPress thing, but the download links now bring up an audio player. To get the audio, right click on the player and select “save audio” option.

While you would think F1 would be used to having to deal with fading tyres after three years of ‘Pirelli spec’ racing, criticism on the Italian tyre manufacturer has never been so loud. It is painfully obvious, even to the untrained eye, that Formula 1 cars and drivers nowadays no longer push on the limit of what they and their vehicle are capable of. Webber famously called it ‘racing at 7 tenths’.  While precious few would like to see Red Bull and Vettel sweep to a fourth consecutive title, which is what Pirelli would have us believe if we’d bring back ‘Bridgestone spec’ racing, it also does not sit right that the fastest cars can’t actually exploit their prodigious speed because the tyres are such a severely limiting factor.

While Hembery shows great weakness with his often snappy and overly defensive attitude, we cannot lay all of the blame squarely at Pirelli’s feet. Sure, it does look like they went a step too far this year, with not only tyres degrading faster than an appearance on Jersey shore, but there have been a raft of suspicious tyre failures this year which Pirelli has not fully addressed yet. However, even that is not the point I want to make here.

After all ‘F1’ did ask Pirelli to re-create Canada 2010, where crazy unpredictable tyre degradation made for quite an exciting race in what for the most part were fairly boring spectacles during Vettel’s first title winning year. Pirelli was asked to deliver what are in essence crap tyres, in order to spice up the show. The number one point F1 tried to address with this was the severe lack of overtaking. For at least 2 decades now, F1 development has been dominated by aerodynamics. As the aero got stronger, so did the effect of the wake of dirty air behind the cars, which in turn made it even harder to overtake. At its peak, it was not uncommon to see those processional races Pirelli is now threatening us with – anyone remember the Schumi years? I don’t, I was asleep through 90% of the races then. I don’t think anyone wants to go back to those days where the finishing order is basically decided on Saturday, especially with today’s’ reliability records.

But are the rapidly degrading tyres really the only way forward to ‘spice up the show’? It is undeniable that the tyres do produce overtaking, but people are becoming more disillusioned with it. How many times do we hear drivers and engineers on the radio that it’s no point to defend position against a car on fresh rubber lapping 2-3 seconds per lap quicker than you? Is that really the show we are looking for. While I have my criticism on Pirelli and do not think they are doing an awesome job as some would suggest, I think the elephant in the room here is that F1 made a colossal mistake turning towards to tyres for spicing up the show, instead of looking at the root cause of F1′s overtaking problem.

The number one reason we did not see much overtaking anymore in the Bridgestone era (and before) was not the rock hard rubber, it was the aero wake making it nigh impossible to follow a rival car close enough in order to set up an overtake. When the number one cause for the lack of overtaking is well known to everybody, why do we turn to artificial measures which treat the symptoms, but not the cause. DRS, KERS, Pirelli, all would be unnecessary if F1 would just curb its dependence on aero performance.

This brings me to that other ‘artificial measure’ introduced to treat the symptom: DRS. Many purists still cry themselves to sleep thinking of the latest DRS pass where someone sails by a powerless opponent on the straight, slotting in in front of him before the next corner, and I cry with them. Again, we can fine-tune DRS to make sure that it does what’s intended: allow a car the chance to overtake by bringing him alongside in the braking zone. Still, we are only just treating the symptom. Nonetheless, DRS could go a long way to alleviate fears of processions. After all, we have never tested a ‘Bridgestone spec’ race with DRS enabled. It may very well already be enough to overcome the dirty air effect and bring overtaking back to F1 without relying on trick tyres which have the drivers cruising around 90% of the race in a desperate effort to eke out some extra tyre life, rather than fight the other guys around them.

F1 missed a crucial appointment in developing its 2014 rules. While the focus on new engines is probably a good thing for the sport in the future, and adding in another key performance differentiator other than aero, a bold F1 should have tackled aero dependence as well. Now you might say I want to ensure backmarkers F1 own Matt Ruda doesn’t end up getting a job in F1 when he graduates by banning aero altogether. While it would make me chuckle, such extreme measures are not needed. Back in the sixties teams did start bolting on wings as they discovered aero effects, but the first phase of true aero dominance in F1 focused on a whole different kind of aero to the one we are so familiar with today: ground effect…and it is effectively banned in F1 by the current rulebooks.

Ground effect sucks to cars down to the tarmac – rather than pushing them down with wings- but more crucially significantly reduces the impact of driving into a rival car’s dirty air. This way you can have the best of both worlds: the aero still ensures that cars go around corners at unimaginable speeds, retaining F1′s reputation as the pinnacle of motorsport, but it does not penalize the guy trying to overtake you behind. Sure, it would still drive up temperatures if stuck too long behind a rival car, but your grip levels would still be largely the same, opening the door to some pure overtakes again. You could see it clearly in the Spanish grand prix, the high levels of understeer generated from following close to another car in an attempt to set up an overtake. Pirellis do overcome this challenge by creating such huge lap deltas depending on where in the tyre’s life cycle a particular car is running at, but again, it’s treating a symptom, not the underlying cause.

I do not like what Pirelli was asked to bring to the sport, and I do not think Pirelli is doing the best job it can, even within the detailed brief they got from F1, but the real problem here is still being ignored. Let’s stop bashing Pirelli and attack the root cause of F1’s problems:  reduce ‘wing’ aero dependence, re-introduce ground effect aero,  return to ‘normal’ racing tyres. We can even keep DRS as an intermediate measure just to make sure processions do not occur. Maybe then F1 will be a real show again, with drivers pushing 100%, all of the time, rather than a Cirque du Soleil fantasy piece it is becoming.

Ok, so I didn’t make any predictions nor did you receive a foul mouthing podcast from us after the Chinese GP. After all, there was not much bashing to do except for maybe Gutierrez mistaking Sutil for a hot blonde he decided to hump from behind, and a lap before that, the Force India pair coming together.

There is clearly no love lost between Sutil and Di Resta, though Paul should probably be a bit more careful going against Adrian when the last time he was in China he glassed a rival team boss, so who knew what he’d be ready to do against his team rival.. Anyway both got away from that one  fairly unscathed until Karma caught up with Sutil in the form of a rear end assault by aforementioned Mexican. Hope he didn’t bring the hot salsa!

Alonso stormed to a dominant win – the first Ferrari win in normal, dry conditions on both Saturday and Sunday in about 3 years saying much about the teams overall competitiveness in years past – Raikkonen couldn’t care less about a broken nose while Hamilton salvaged third from a charging Vettel. In any case, the podium trio was a lot more chirpy compared to 3 weeks ago in Malaysia.

Qualifying was a quite disappointing experience, with lots of dead air – Bernie will have surely taken note – because of the tyres basically dominating proceedings. With everybody frantic to save sets, and in the knowledge that the soft tyre had the durability of Vanilla Ice’s career as a rapper, q1 saw like 10 minutes of empty track, when q3 devolved into a classic 1 lap shootout which did have its merits…for the full 2 minutes that it lasted.

When the 1 lap wonderboy, polesitter in previous 2 races, defending triple WDC doesn’t bother to even try to grab pole because of the tyres, something is fundamentally wrong. Turn it however you want, it is not right nor good for f1 to have a top team believing their best chance is to skip quali to save a set of rubber instead of going for pole. Ok, it turned out Red Bull was wrong this time, but the fact they considered it their best strategy says a lot about the mindset about qualifying in 2013. Button was another one who took that call, although in his case one could argue that going oddball on strategy was his only chance of a good result keeping in mind the poor pace of his car.

Anyway on to Bahrain, F1s miserable lot of failed journos with ego’s the size of the Pulitzer they will never receive will get their chance to play real journalism as they watch Bahrainis getting tear gassed. Frankly I’m over it already. If we are brutally honest, I do not think many people, fans and personnel alike, have any interest left in Bahrain’s political situation. Should Bernie stop taking F1 to moneyladen countries to tracks with no soul, sure. Should F1 care about the political situation in the country? Let the UN handle that one to make strong objections against the inadmissible actions of a repressive government all the while continuing to monitor the situation closely without ofcourse ever bothering to do anything except send some high paid emissaries to be wined and dined… 

On to the racing then. As said by Wollf and Hamilton, Bahrain will be a good acid test for Mercedes to see if they can really be an outsider for the title. The key question is whether they can get their rear tyres to survive longer than a black man in a horror movie. Contrary to China, and much like Big Dickus in Girls Gone Wild 532,  this track gives a serious pounding to the rears, which has been the Merc’s biggest weakness in past years. Th high temps, nature of the corners and sandy track will make tyres yet again a key talking point of the weekend. It will also be interesting to see how the Red Bulls fare after slipping up a bit in China with some stupid pitcrew fumbles on Webbo’s car (who else) and a bad strategy call for Vettel. Are we really starting to see chinks in the Red Bull armor following the Multi21 controversy?

Ferrari will be keen to get some momentum going for Nando’s title challenge, who clearly dismissed any doubts to who was boss by convincingly outperforming Massa again. Though Massa has finally got on top of qualifying, his race pace has vanished mysteriously in the past 2 GPs, and now that Ferrari have a keen eye on the performances of Bianchi, the situation is not like last year where his seat was saved more by lack of a suitable Ferrari replacement rather than his little resurgence. With Bianchi in the wings, Massa needs to show he can be Alonso’s ideal wingman. To be that, he really should have been there with Hamilton and Raikkonen to take more points off Vettel, but his race pace was just not there as he finished behind even Button.

Raikkonen shot out of nowhere during q3 in China, and if he can keep that sort of qualifying performances up he will have eliminated Lotus’ biggest weakness since last yr having compromised races from lap 1 due to always starting 6-7th. Grosjean has not been doing the silly things he did last year, but has also shown none of his sometimes prodigal pace. Coulthard put it best in his BBC column when he said that soon Romain should start crashing in a race for us to even notice he’s there. Blaming his woes on a mysterious car issue is also not doing him any good, he should look inward, knuckle down and get back on track after the slide which really started after he tried decapitating Alonso at la Source.

Further down the grid Sutil and Di Resta will continue their war which seems to get edgier with every race, Gutierrez will continue to be eaten alive by the Hulk in a largely disappointing Sauber, Williams will continue to suck while Pastor loses his marbles having been beaten 3 races in a row by a rookie teammate. Ricciardo seems to finally be showing he’s got the goods to take Mark’s seat while Vergne should probably start fearing the Marko axe, especially if Da Costa pulls of another of his stellar performances in his first full season of WSR.

The last interesting tidbit to come out this week was Heikki Kovalainen returning to Caterham as a reserve driver in a role reversal with Van der Garde. It seems like Caterham are only now realizing that ditching an experienced hand like Kovi (and to lesser extent, Petrov) and replacing them with a rookie and a 2nd year guy from another backmarker team when you are trying to climb up the grid is not conducive to great performances. Taking back Heikki is a clear admission of the team that their current drivers don’t cut it, at least when it comes to developing a car. The distance between Pic and VDgarde suggests the Dutchman can’t cut it at all. Sure he is an F1 rookie, but he has had many years of experience in powerful machinery nonetheless and did some practice outings last year, so he is better prepared than most rookies. Anyway, should either of their drivers hit financing troubles, Heikki is now right there to slot into the seat, and that won’t help the pressure being already felt by the drivers in the Caterham team, who went from ‘we’re about to catch the midpack’ to ‘damned those Marussia’s are stomping us’. Mind you, Marussia still has the crap Cosworth to fight Caterham’s Renault with, making their season start all the more impressive.

Anyway quick prediction for Bahrain pulled out of my arse:

Quali:

1.Webber

2.Vettel

3.Alonso

 

Race:

1.Raikkonen

2.Webber

3.Alonso

Go ahead and share yours below, am sure I can find a perfectly cringeworthy picture of Valentin eating da poopoo on some obscure Russian site as this year’s prize: The Wanking Webbo

BackmarkersF1 Podcast Episode 19: Malaysian Malaise

Posted: March 27, 2013 by thevillainf1 in Uncategorized

BackmarkersF1 gets back on track for the 2013 season with a review of the first two Grand Prix of the year, interrupted by rantings, ravings and general obscenity with Matt, Marvin, Valentin; and back after a very long hiatus, myself. We dig deep into the Multi-21 controversy, we wonder where Mercedes’ pace came from over the winter, Matt took some time off from worshiping at his Adrian Newey shrine to join us,  I drool over Bianchi, Marvin renounces his German nationality and turns Swiss while Valentin eats da poopoo.. I may have mixed up a few things in the description but whatever. Join us now for the low down on the start of the 2013 F1 season!


right click and save as to download as mp3

F1 Fratricide! Teammate Wars Predictions

Posted: March 13, 2013 by thevillainf1 in Insights

We’ve had our mouths full about F1 teams over the past few months. First we got all giddy for a few car launches – seemingly less flashy every year – of this or that team, then we were happy to just see some cars going around a track in Jerez and Barcelona. The tech experts were analyzing every minute detail to be found on the teams’ 2013 contenders, trying to unravel what 2013s special innovation would prove to be. But in all that excitement to see what the design teams have come up with this year, we almost forget to look at that most captivating of components in a formula 1 car: the drivers. When talking about who is the greatest: Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso or Raikkonen, there is massive fanboyism guiding people’s view, but the one nagging problem remains: you will never really know who is the best unless they are pitted against each other in equal machinery. Top Gear is a cool show, and I love watching the laps in the ‘reasonably priced car’, so while it was fun to see Hamilton get a lot of pleasure ousting Vettel from the n1 spot recently, it can never really be an accurate measure of speed. What we want is to watch F1 drivers battle each other in F1 cars on the limit. While we are robbed of this in most cases, we can still cherish those wonderful teammate rivalries, where – unless you drive at Red Bull or Ferrari – two drivers are given an equal chance to go out there and see who’s best without the car coming into play. With this post I want to dive back into the F1 season here at backmarkers F1, and in a first installment of 2013 predicitions, predict the winners of the teammate wars!

 

1.Red Bull

No surprises here. Webber is just not as good as Vettel over the course of a season so one kind of has to agree with Marko (shocking, I know), that while Webbo can have his gifted moments when he’s unbeatable, they are much too rare to make him into a world champ anytime soon, especially with the triple world champ at his side. Nobody is in any doubt as to who the number 1 is in this team, and whether both drivers really do get an equal chance is therefore debatable.

 

2.Ferrari

Even worse than Red Bull, Ferrari only knows 1 leader, and that’s Nando. Felipe can just about tie Alonso’s shoelaces when it comes to comparing skill, and is just happy to still be driving an
F1 car (and so he should after last year’s horrifying performance)

 

3. Mclaren

Here it gets interesting. Losing their wonderboy Hamilton, Mclaren thought to have landed a coup by signing young hotshot Sergio Perez, who caught the eye with some great podiums last year, but also raised some eyebrows with lesser inspired events, especially during the latter part of the season. Button has been a quick and reliable hand for Mclaren, but he has never shown that outright one lap pace needed to be able to fight at the front at every GP. The same problem befell Perez last year, so one must wonder how much Mclaren will suffer not having that ace qualifier up their sleeve. That said, with Button’s experience Perez should be easy pickings for the most experienced driver on the grid, and if he does get beaten by the Mexican many will wonder whether he still has a place in F1. Anyway, I predict Button to rather comfortably beat Perez, all the while squandering another great Mclaren car mostly due to poor qualifying performances.

 

4. Lotus

Raikkonen and Grosjean are quite an exciting pairing. While Grosjean  seemed to have the upper hand in qualifying last year – no mean feat against the iceman – Kimi’s superb racecraft ultimately made him beat Grosjean quite handily over the course of the season, topping it off with an emphatic (though inherited) win. Having been given another chance by his team to prove he can turn that blistering speed into something worthwile when there are others on track around him, Grosjean could put pressure on Kimi. However, while we granted Romain a second rookie year in 2012, we shouldn’t forget that Kimi was also coming back to F1 after a long absence, and having seen Schumi struggle with the vastly changed formula this was no mean feat. In his second year at the team, it is clear Kimi has galvanized the team around him, fully acclimatized back to F1 and I predict to see more stunning performances of the Fin this year, leaving Grosjean behind in the dust…but hopefully not in the gravel trap..

 

5.Mercedes

Perhaps the most exciting battle to look forward to.  The back story works perfectly: good friends and teammates in the old karting days face off again with equal weapons. While nobody would label Rosberg a slouch, there has always been that reluctance to count him as a truly great driver as he has never really been measured against a known quantity within a team. While he did easily have the measure of Schumacher in their years together, there will always remain the doubts of whether Schumacher was more than just a shadow of the 7 time World Champ he retired as the 1st time around. This is a huge opportunity for Rosberg to finally prove what he is really worth against Hamilton in his prime. If Rosberg can make life difficult for Hamilton then it is already mission accomplished for him in 2013. While I do think Rosberg will keep Lewis honest I do not think he will be a match for the Briton’s blinding pace.

 

6.Sauber

The Swiss team has an all new driver line up for 2013 after seeing Perez swooped up by Mclaren and mercilessly sacking Kamui Kobayashi. 2012 was the best year for the team since the BMW days, and they look keen to build on that success with an innovative car which raised some eyebrows in testing. With the field looking so close again this year, we shouldn’t be surprised to see Sauber take a few more podiums again. The signing of Hulkenberg was a major coup for the Swiss team, however their n2 driver for the year is a bit of a doubt. To keep the Mexican backing going Gutierrez was almost a shoe in for the team to replace compatriot Perez, and he has some pretty big shoes to fill. I’d think another year in GP2 would have probably served him better, and going up against the Hulk he is just going to get eaten alive.

 

7.Force India

While a bit of a shock decision, the return of Adrian Sutil is after all a fairly conservative choice as he had shown in testing that he has not lost much of his edge during his 1 year of forced leave. With the team in financial trouble – though nobody within the team is ready to admit it, the financial woes of the two main backers Mallya and Sahara are well documented – the Medion sponsorship money brought by Sutil will also have played a part. After all, Bianchi’s backing is down to Ferrari support, not necessarily  the cold hard cash the team would have needed. Sutil is a known quantity and a safe pair of hands capable of a good turn of speed on his day, as he has shown on the final few GPs before his sacking in 2011. Di Resta came into the sport on a wave of hype but has largely failed to deliver. Having been severely trounced by Hulkenberg in the latter half of 2012 his reputation – and probably his confidence too – has taken a hit. If he does not show anything special again, he is likely to remain stuck in the midfield for eternity..like Sutil.  With an extra year under his belt, and Sutil despite his strong showing in testing probably a bit rusty still, I do believe Di Resta will edge him out, but the FI this year doesn’t look competitive enough to allow either of them those eye catching performances which lift you out of the midfield.

 

8. Williams

If you’d ask me about Williams around this time last year, I would have told you about the most embarrassing pay driver line up  in the history of F1. Maldonado the 30 million dollar crash baby and senna the 15 ish million dollar ‘cousin of..’ was truly an embarrassing line-up for such an iconic squad. You’d expect something like that from a backmarker team but Williams? But low and behold, Maldonado proved that when he is alone of the track and stays focused, he does actually possess talents beyond the hard Venezuelan cash by winning in Barcelona and pulling off a few remarkable qualifying laps throughout the season in proper balls hanging out of the cockpit style. Senna on the other hand continued to disappoint with lackluster weekends all around. Sadly the weaknesses of their driver line up resulted in the team ending up ridiculously low on the WCC standing despite having had a pretty damned good race car all year long. This year they are bringing in the hottest new F1 talent in a few years with Valterri Bottas. With 15 practice outings last year he should be better prepared than most rookies, but we should not expect miracles from the next flying Fin in the first half of 2013. After all he has never raced anything bigger than a GP3 car, and has not competed in a Grand Prix since then. However once he gets the hang of it he will have Maldonado fuming at the wheel by being bitchslapped by a younger – unfunded – driver with the same equipment. #BOTTAS ftw oh, and also #PERRRKELE

 

9. Toro Rosso

Red Bull’s bitch squad had a pretty torrid 2012 after unceremoniously sacking its previous crop of wannabe Vettels. Having two rookies at the wheel of a difficult car will always keep you on the backfoot, and the STR team never really seemed to get their head round the 2012 season. Having now had their rookie year, the excuses will be running thin for the Red Bull juniors if they don’t want to end up like Buemi and Alguersuari. Like their predecessors and their internal fight, there was not much to choose between them last year. While Ricciardo did largely edge Vergne due to his much superior qualifying pace. Vergne will really need to get on top of quali to fulfill the great potential I do believe he has. The car doesn’t look like it will be much more competitive than last year so either one of their drivers will have to trounce the other one to stand any chance of survival in Helmut Marko’s madhouse. His qualifying needs to be sorted but in terms of racecraft he more often than not had the upper hand on Ricciardo last year and we all know that in the end it’s only the result on Sunday which counts.. Ricciardo did show glimpses of greatness last year so this is a fight that will be very hard to call. Still,  I tip Vergne for this year.

 

10. Caterham

…..Meh…

 

I guess with this being backmarkersF1 and all I should be exited when talking about the backmarkers, especially the lovely Caterham team.. and then they had to go and drop Heikki ‘PERRRKELE’ Kovalainen (boooo) and Vitaly ‘InRussiaCarDriveYou’ Petrov  (applause). They have pushed Williams off the throne for 2013’s ‘grab the cash and go’ driver line-up award by signing Guido Van Der Garde and Charles Pic. While Pic did show some proper ability in last year’s Marussia, where he showed more than respectably against experienced hand Glock, Van Der Garde is someone who has ended up in F1 just because he had the biggest sack of money available at the time. Sure he was WSR champion about ten decades ago. Then he spent a few lightyears in GP2 being mostly just not good enough to consistently compete with the top guys. Pic will handily beat him this year, and may just be able to get me excited about this team again if he continues the way he ended last year.

 

11. Marussia

While their lineup was looking dire as well with Max ‘MyDaddyhaslotsofmoney’ Chilton and Luis ‘HeresaCheckbutdonttakeit tothebankjustyet’’ Razia, the latter’s last minute funding trouble gave un unexpected chance to Bianchi to finally grab an F1 race seat after a few years of waiting in the wings. In the end, it is probably even better for Bianchi to start at the back of the grid where there is little pressure than there would have been at Force India. The guy has speed but has shown a remarkable weakness under pressure and this low profile entry into f1 might just be the ticket to unlock his full potential. The Marussia team is looking better than ever, having already largely caught up with Caterham last year, which is no mean feat considering they had the crummy Cosworth engine and no KERS. With KERS coming onboard for 2013, Pat Symonds fully into the team having served his crashgate ban and a technical partnership with Mclaren ongoing, I think this year Marussia will beat Caterham on merit. As far as the teammates go, Bianchi will easily dispatch Chilton to go crying home to poppa. I’s official:  my backmarkersF1 support now goes to Marussia instead of Caterham.

 

Share your take on the 2013 teammate wars below, just a few days left now for us to start finding out!

Wazzup everyone? It has certainly been a while. Sure, we’ve been doing Bortz videos and covering testing here and there, but we finally got together to do a podcast. In the process, a random Australian showed up.

That’s right! Long time listener and awesome dude @darthcookied a.k.a. Adam joined Marvin, Valentin, and myself in going through our predictions for the 2013 season. We go team by team, we fight, we love, we get offers of woman’s chest promotion, and more! Adam will be going to the Australian GP, taking loads of photos, video, and buying us all tons of souvenirs and stuff.

I hope y’all enjoy the first 2013 episode of BackmarkersF1. We’re back baby!

Oh, and if anyone out there wants to join me in an awesome gaming group, check out gbuclan.com. We’ve undergone a bit of a renovation and have big things planned for the future. Check us out, play games with me, and yell at me for bashing your favorite team. ;)


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