Zurich Gnome

The journal of a Swiss-based motor-racing enthusiast.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Street Parade

Time to don the glad rags and get down to the lakeside. One of Europe's biggest dance festivals is on this weekend in downtown Zurich.

Hundreds of thousands of techno-fuelled revellers will be heading for Burkliplatz by the lake in Zurich, and will be accompanied by almost as many spectators curious to know what all the fuss is about. And since you're asking I'll be in the later category!

Around thirty articulated trucks drive at about 2mph around the lakeside, pumping their own special brand of dance music out over massive PA systems. And male and female dancers (invariably scantily clad) provide visual entertainment for the watching masses.

The convoy finishes around 18:00, at which point it's time for a quick nap by the lake before moving on to one (or more) of the 100 or so parties that burst into life as the sun goes down.

And no problems about getting home either - the public transport system runs through the night until 4am.

Please don't phone me on Sunday morning...

Photo credits streetparade.ch

Friday, July 07, 2006

Standard CPUs

There's been a lot of talk about MES getting the contract to make the standard CPUs for 2008 onwards.

Personally I don't mind the fact that the contract has been awarded to a subsidiary of McLaren. What I object to is the fact that there is a standard CPU at all!

Sure, companies spend a lot of cash developing in this area. But it is trivial compared to the amount they spend building and running wind tunnels. And the aerodynamic advances are so specific to an individual F1 car that it is a complete waste of money.

At least reserach into new engine mappings is something that can vaguely be translated into road cars, or reduces the amount of fuel used, which is the sort of goal the FIA should be looking at.

And a wing is not likely to break. I can imagine how a team will feel, the first time a CPU goes wrong while their car is leading a race.

It's a stupid decision and does nothing for the spirit of competition.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

US GP Forecast

Great to see that we're starting to inspire other people's forecats, but sadly, the combination of incompetence and alcohol fuelled sedation mean that I'll have to wait until tomorrow to write a proper appreciation.

My Forecast?

Well I missed qualifying - it clashed with the ballroom dancing on our local BBC channel, and sadly, that's the way it goes these days. Bernie, take note.

However, I know that there's a Ferrari front row, and stopped reading the times at that point. I assume the Renaults are close behind, and I also know that Rosberg has to start from the back.

Lap 1: Schuey and Massa both get off to a good start, but Massa soon turns into a defensive angel, protecitng Michael from the yellow and blues. There will be a lareish accident after five laps or so, and although I hesitate to predict that Ralf will go into the wall at turn 13, that is what wil happen. Montoya will make up places after the SC goes in, he really undertsands rolling starts. Most GP drivers don't and I ask myself why they don't watch more races on TV.

But Monty is nothing if not a nutter. He will not finish the race, having tried one move too many. Kimi will finish, Ron will wonder why he is letting him go. But I digress.

Lap 12: Schuey pits. Very early and it's a short stop, and he gets out in front of Alonso. Amazing! Massa carries on for another two laps but rejoins way back, his job done. The lamb has been scarificed.

Lap 18: Alonso is in. And out just behind Schuey. Kimi is doing well, having demoted Fisi to third. Sadly, that's about it.

SChuey, Alonso, Kimi, Fisi, Massa make up the first five.

Overall: The Hondas will do better than in previous races. Rubens will finish and Jenson will stop for no apparent reason. The team can only build one decent car, and the dynamic has changed. Rubens gets it now. 3-5 points is my predictiona.

The Aguris provide the most entertainment. Opting for a low downforce setup, Sato is blindingly fast on the straights and all over the shop in the infield. They score their best result ever.

MF1: I simply do not care, end result is that the drivers pay the cash and the team make money.

BMW: JV and Heidfeld drive their hearts out and look like they are starting to make an impression. One point is scant reward.

Williams: Webber moves up the field, has to stop and says good things about the car while showing body language of one who is clearly lying. Rosberg makes fantastic progress from the back, but one move too many at turn one is too much.

Toyota: Ralf hits the wall. Trulli goes backwards. That's all you need to know.

Which just leaves the two Red Bull teams. 10th thru 12th, with one retirement. Liuzzi probably.

25 minutes to the start now, so I'd better get ready to watch...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

1982 and all that

On pitpass today, the editor puts forward an interesting scenario, comparing the political struggles of today with those of 1982.

Not only are the differing musical abilities of the Villeneuve family apparent, but the quality of the racing has suffered immensely. When I write a forecast for the outcome of a GP now, it's very difficult not to put Alonso's name up there first. If I were writing in 1982 however, my forecasts would be considered perfectly plausible. Not mad enough even.

In 1982, no driver won more than two Grands Prix. There were eleven different winners. The championship was won by a driver that had scored zero points the year before. The reigning world champion leapt out of his car at Hockenheim to punch another driver. Nobody seemed able to win the Monaco GP, with five drivers sharing the lead over the last few laps. Switzerland held a Grand Prix, even if it was in France!

But we lost Riccardo Paletti and Gilles Villeneuve that year in fatal accidents. So while I'm glad that today's F1 cars allow the sort of crash that Ralf Schumacher seems to have annually at Indianapolis to be survivable, we have lost much of the entertainment. Safety must be the priority. But wouldn't it be great to see a repeat of the 1982 US GP (East) at Detroit? John Watson won from 17th on the grid with a series of fantastic passing moves.

I'll publish my forecast tomorrow, but I suspect that I will put my money on Alonso winning from pole. Not very racy is it?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Brickyard here we come

Well, I'm back again after a couple of unexpected absences, so apologies to any of you that missed my ramblings over the past week or so.

I feel bad about not doing a forecast for the Canadian GP, but it strikes me now that there's no reason not to do it after the race, so here's a condensed version:

Renault will line up first and second on the grid, but Fisi will shoot himself in the foot by jumping the start (incurring a penalty) and still lose a place. JPM will brave it out with Schuey and will be so fired up by getting past that he suffers red mist and tries to get past a fast starting Rosberg on the second lap. Nico, won't use his mirrors though and both will suffer. Schuey will run long stints, moving up the field and will benefit from a silly mistake by Kimi, allowing him through into second. Nobody will look like getting near Alonso all weekend though.

This weekend, the circus moves down to Indianapolis, one of those must see sights. If you ever think of going there, don't forget to check out flyawaycafe for up to date travel tips. Actually, have a look evenif you're only going down the road to the shops.

Indy is, of course, the scene of last year's fiasco, of which we do not speak. So let's just hope that the boys put on a good show, and there's plenty of out-braking attempts into turn one.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Prediction revisited

I should have mentioned that the Gnome crystal ball was a little fuzzy on Friday. Definitely not running in full HDTV mode, which meant that some of my predictions were a little out.

For example, the qualifying on the CB (Crystal Ball) stopped just as the session was flagged, and Kimi's time came in after that. And Michael and Kimi did get very close, although I now see it was on the straight up to Abbey, not Hangar straight. What a great piece of TV though, the shot from the cockpit of the Ferrari showed just how brave these guys are. Kimi moves over (legitamately) to within a few inches of Michael at well over 100mph and neither even flinches. I'd have dived off onto the grass! (I did that once at Cadwell Park in an FF2000 race but got the bas**rd back, later in the race)

And the Fast starting Williams causing mayhem? Well, there was a Williams involved in the first lap accident but I couldn't see the helmet colour on the CB. I thought Webber was unlucky to be taken out, and the bad pitstop was Heidfeld (unlucky after such a great start) instead of Fisi. Rubens did much better than Jenson as predicted, but as Carl pointed out in his comment, there are still some braking points so Rubens wasn't quite as much at home as I'd thought.

So, In true F1-press-release-style I'll suggest that I made serious progress with the CB, and that I'm working really hard to polish the performance and that by the next race I'll have new parts on board and should be turning in really respectable predictions.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Silverstone Prediction

Just like Saturday, Silverstone is warm and sunny on race day, quite a few of the spectators in the public enclosures are sporting pink shoulders in the classic British tradition. On the grid, Alonso is on pole next to Michael. Fernando's looking confident, as though he's carrying lots of fuel. Kimi and Fisico are on the second row with Rubens lining up fifth. Apparently there's not much need to brake for much of the circuit and so the car is much easier to drive for him. Jenson though, could only manage ninth, behind JPM, Webber and Massa.

At the start, the leaders get away in grid order, although Michael does try to squeeze Kimi onto the grass. Kimi doesn't lift but Michael's line means he has better exit speed onto Hangar straight. But by now the race has already been red flagged. Rosberg had a mega start from close to the back of the grid after his qualifying problems and was over optimistic at Stowe, taking out Klien, both STRs MF1s and the Aguris. Wreckage all over the place!

At the restart, Kimi does get the drop on Michael, So it's Fernando,Kimi,Michael,Rubens, Fisico, Webber. Rubens is clearly flying and coming out of Club he's hassling Michael. At Abbey he's alongside and Michael has to take to the grass, victim of his own tactics. Webber is doing the same to Fisi, and the Italian is blocked by Michael, but Webber manages to get through by bridge. What an amazing first lap!

After that things begin to settle. Alonso is smooth and doesn't seem to be trying to pull out too much over Kimi. Rubens catches and pressurising Kimi, but to no avail. After 16 laps, Rubens is in, but manages to get out ahead of the Coulthard and the BMWs, there's not many cars left at the back end of the race. A few laps later Kimi is in, then a couple of laps later the leading Renault stops, rejoining in the lead apparently having taken more fuel than the McLaren. It's looking good for Renault.

Fisi has a minor problem in the pits, his stop was a dreadful 16.782 seconds! He's still eight, but behind JPM and Button. Schuey managed to get back out in front of Webber at the first stop, although the Australian is still looking quick.

The second round of stops come and go without change, meaning that Alonso's championship lead grows a little bit more. It definitely looks like a McLaren will be carrying the number one next year.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Off the record

I met up with the pitpass editor, Chris Balfe, for a few beers last night. I was working in London, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to catch up on all the F1 gossip.

Sadly, most of the gossip has to stay off the record, after all we don't want to be sued to high heaven like Tom Rubython, proprietor of Business F1.

I came away from the meeting thinking two things. The first is that Chris certainly knows how to drink beer. The second, and more important aspect, is that pitpass is an amazing site, especially given the resources available. Chris has built two of the ten most popular F1 sites, and pitpass is probably the most respected of the independent sites. It's also become the de facto source for A1 GP news, although Chris does not receive a penny for this.

And although pitpass has had up to 190,000 readers in a month (not hits, readers!) we're struggling to find a way to generate cash from the site. If anyone has a business model that might work, please let us know.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Technical Commission meeting

Apologies for the lack of posts, but I've been out of the country and accessing the blog was just too slow.

But still not much has happened, and my main interest at the moment is to see what comes out of today's F1 technical commission meeting. They're discussing the regulations for 2008, but frankly I'm not hopeful. I still suspect that even if the members do reach agreement, then Max Mosley will simply turn round and overrule any changes that do not fit in with his ideas. I could be wrong, and I usually am when it comes to predictions, but we'll know more tomorrow.

Hopefully, we'll be allowed to have engine development. I really do not want to see fixed engines. If that's the case we may as well spec the current GP2 car as a basis for F1. That might not be a bad idea, after all, the FIA put the design of the GP2 car out to tender, so it must be able to specify a car fairly accurately.

But I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Oh dear, Jenson

I know that the media demand statements and opinions from sportsmen and women, and it seems the question on everybody's lips is 'When will Jenson Button win a Grand Prix'?

Well, I think 'never' could well be the answer, because although he has the talent and speed, he doesn't have the car. And simply put, it is incredibly difficult to get to the stage where a car is capable of winning.

It's not like the 1970s when Chris Amon would regularly lead an F1 race, only for his car to let him down at the last minute. F1 cars are currently incredibly reliable. So for Jenson to win a race he needs to be regularly leading races, and not just in between pit stops. Even then the master strategists as discussed by Mike Lawrence in his latest article could still pull something out of the bag for Ferrari or Renault.

Jenson has effectively tied his colours to the Honda mast, and although it doesn't look like his car will match the performnce of the Ferraris, Renaults or McLarens anytime soon, he should not be making comments to the press about it, especially downbeat ones. If you say you won't win a race, you won't. I alwasys used to imagine ludicrously complicated scenarios where rivals would knock each other out of the race, and although that didn't work either, it has be be better than giving out negative vibes.