My View on the Lewis Hamilton Controversy

I think Lewis really needs to change something in the way he mentally tackles a race. He’s said before that he won’t change his driving style regardless of what happens because it’s just the driver he is. That’s all well and good, but he has to ask himself if he wants to win another championship. We all know that he does, and to do that he must use a bit more strategy to win. He can attack, but do it at the right time.

Jenson Button is the perfect example of this. He has the best F1 brain in the paddock. He judges tyres and wet conditions better than anyone else, and we saw the results of that once again last night. The same applies to dry weather racing and overtaking. It may be true that most of the time he’s not quite as fast as Lewis in normal conditions, but he makes the best of what he has at his disposal, and often out races Lewis after being more steady and calculating.

Lewis should stay aggressive of course, it’s who he is as a driver, but should just make sure an overtaking move is really on before diving down the inside. F1 is a non-contact sport, which, like in Basketball, doesn’t mean contact doesn’t occur, but unlike basketball, you can’t win if you get in tangles. F1 cars aren’t touring cars or Nascar stock cars. Their front wings for example aren’t built to withstand even light touches and you have to take that into account when overtaking. The tyres of course are also completely exposed and can be punctured by sharp wings or other bodywork very easily.

I don’t want to be really critical like some people online are being towards him. After all, it’s none of our business how he drives a racing car. No one can deny though that he’s been making himself look pretty foolish in recent weeks, and it’s a trend he’s going to want to buck very soon.


McLaren MP4-26 Launch

McLaren launched their new car for 2011 in Berlin today. At first, it was hard to notice any real differences between this car and the 2010 challenger. However, upon closer inspection, you can see that the car features very distinctive L-shaped sidepods, the likes of which we haven’t seen before. Whether or not they make a great deal of difference aerodynamically remains to be seen, but you certainly can’t fault the McLaren engineers on their ingenuity and originality.

I was however very surprised to see essentially the same front wing and nose as the previous model, which was evolved during the last campaign. They haven’t really got aggressive with the design of that part of the car in the same way that Mercedes have for example, which is surprising.

The rest of the changes appear to be under the hood, or are just waiting to be added to the car later on during testing or before the Bahrain GP. McLaren have the most experience with KERS of any team as they ran it at if not all the races in 2009, then the vast majority of them. Not only do they have experience with it, which many teams such as Mercedes and champions Red Bull don’t, but they also have what’s widely acknowledged to be the strongest and most reliable KERS unit. That combined with the also very strong and reliable Mercedes engine could put them right at the sharp end of the grid this year.

Jenson has said that the Pirelli tyre characteristics should benefit his gentle style which is another bonus for him and the team. I really think McLaren are going to be far stronger this year and give the other front running teams a lot to think about.


F1: Italian GP of Monza Thoughts

This year’s Italian GP ended up being a fairytale for Ferrari fans, who accounts for probably about 80% or more of the spectators that come to the track over the weekend. They got what they came for, a Ferrari win and double podium and as a bonus, they achieved it without any shady tactics being deployed, which I’m glad about.

The start of the race was exciting and eventful as always. Jenson got a great start to jump Alonso, just edging him into the second turn. He did receive some damage from Fernando’s nose cone in his rear wing which caused some pretty big damage which may have compromised his race pace. Massa was in third, while Lewis Hamilton was right on his tail coming into the second chicane. He made a mistake however and broke a steering column on his front right wheel that took him out of the race. This was a massive error which cost him serious points and his lead in the championship. With 5 races to go, it will be interesting to see how crucial that error will prove at the end of the season.

The battle at the front was really a two horse race right from the beginning to the end, with Massa not quite able to keep up the pace. The win seemingly came down to the pit stop phase when McLaren pitted button first because they were worried about the pace of Kubica on the harder tire. However, Ferrari were able to wait until the lap after to pit and had a fast enough in-lap to jump Button barely when Fernando emerged from the pit lane.

Button must have felt that if the team had somehow managed to pit on the same lap as Ferrari, then he would have been able to keep Alonso behind him and take the win, because in true race pace the Ferrari was clearly faster. The damage Button’s car suffered at the first corner may have added to the performance gap as well.

Further down the grid, it was a case of damage limitation for Red Bull. Vettel will be very happy with 4th after starting 6th especially with a short lived engine issue that cost him time. Webber started 4th and finished 6th and will be less happy after being cost the 4th place by Hulkenberg who continually cut the chicanes and didn’t get penalised for it. When he did get past, it was too late as Rosberg and Vettel were too far ahead. Singapore should suit their car though so both drivers will be feeling upbeat about that race. Especially Mark as he goes there leading the championship by 3 points over Hamilton.

Mercedes had a solid race with 5th for Rosberg who qualified 7th and Schumacher who qualified 12th and converted that into 9th. Williams also had another solid race, even if Hulkenberg’s 7th was a bit controversial. Barichello maintained his grid slot to finish with a point in 10th.

Force India will be disappointed following their success at Monza last year, as will Renault who could only manage 7th with Kubica. Sauber also had a race to forget with Kobayashi retiring on the first lap and no points for De La Rosa who has now been replaced by Nick Heidfeld. It’s a harsh decision I think but Nick has experience with the tires for next year so he may have an advantage at the start of next season if he maintains this drive.

At the back of the grid, Virgin overcame Glock’s 5 place penalty for a gearbox change to finish ahead of Lotus in what would be considered a small victory for them.

The Singapore GP weekend starts in about 8 days time. It’s always an incredible spectacle and it should be an exciting race.


F1: Spa GP Review

Spa Francorchamps track original layout
Spa Layout. Image via Wikipedia

Spa is known as as being one of the most exciting circuits of the season each year. The track itself is very high speed, has good overtaking opportunities and the weather in the Ardennes Forest is known for being erratic and often very wet, leading to unpredictable, exciting races year on year.

2010 was no exception. The race started with light rain which caused confusion as to whether or not to switch tires based on how long it would last. Webber had a terrible start from pole with a clutch problem, he ended up benefiting from what happened to Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel later on in the race. At the end of the first lap, everyone had almost no grip coming into the bus stop chicane and many of them went off. Rubens came off worst in his 300th race. He locked up completely and barrelled into Alonso who had made the corner fairly well. Somehow the Ferrari didn’t seem to take any major damage and was able to carry on after the big impact. The williams car didn’t escape and lost most of the front of the car in the hit.

Because of Webber’s poor start, Hamilton was able to take advantage and lead from there pretty comfortably. Button pulled off a great overtake on Kubica for 2nd on to be taken out by Vettel at the end of lap 17, also at the bus stop chicane. Vettel was slipstreaming behind, had a look up the inside but had no room, then darted across the track which caused him to lose control as there was not enough grip on the damp tarmac. Button was understandable annoyed after taking a huge dent to his championship defence, especially because he was minding his own business.

Sebastian also ruined his own race, after sitting fairly comfortably in 3rd, he lost time pitting for a new wing and tires, and then had to serve a drive through penalty for causing the collision. To add insult to injury, he then picked up a puncture from Liuzzi‘s Force India on an overtake just after the pit entry. He had to crawl around the long circuit back to the pits on just 3 tires.

He did get back out on fresh rubber, albeit in 20th place. I think at that point the team were just hoping for a downpour and a lucky strategic decision paying off. The shower did come on lap 35 but the lucky strategic decision didn’t. They opted for full wets when the track wasn’t damp enough. It was a risk that didn’t pay off as he had to come in for another set as he wore out the first ones as the track wasn’t wet enough at that time. He ended up 15th in what must have been one of the most frustrating races of his career.

He wasn’t the only one of course. Barichello had his crash of course, Button got taken out and Fernando Alonso crashed in the wet conditions on lap 37 after being spun around at the start by Rubens. He’s had plenty of these terrible days so far this year, and could have another if Ferrari are stripped of their points from Germany this week when they attend the world motorsport council.

Eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton had a scary moment on lap 35 when the rain started coming down hard. He took a bit too much speed into one of the turns in the second sector and went off into the gravel. He came within about an inch of losing his front left wheel. Luckily, he had built up such a lead though that he was able to carefully get back to the pits to get the wet tire and still come out back in the lead. It was relatively plain sailing from there. Sailing being a pretty relevant term.

Summing the race up, I would say that Hamilton has given himself a real boost in the driver’s championship, especially with monza coming up next, another track where they should be at the front of the pack. Mark Webber did well to avenge his clutch issue off the start with a second place. He was lucky that the two ahead of him took each other out but you have to maximise your luck in this sport, and he achieved the most the car was capable of.

Button and Vettel are going to be hard pressed to make up for the points lost today. They are both now considerably behind their team-mates in the standing now and with only 5 races to go, they’re going to have to pull something special out of the bag in the next few races to get close to the front. Jenson has been quoted recently as saying that Vettel has made too many mistakes to win the championship. While it’s not over yet, I have to agree. He’s just too accident prone at the moment. He needs to be more consistent with points finishes to get right up there.

As far as the midfield teams are concerned, Renault had another great result with 3rd, but it should have been second if Kubica hadn’t overrun his pit box. Williams had a race to forget along with all three of the new teams, despite finishing.

Force India had two points finishes with 5th for Sutil and 10th for Liuzzi which was a great result for them. Ferrari had the wrong man finish 4th with Massa who drove pretty well, and Mercedes GP had a brilliant strategy to hold off their stops as long as possible until it rained. It worked and propelled them both right up to 6th and 7th, which for them is a great result considering where their car is.

I’m really looking forward to Monza this week. Practice starts on Friday morning.