Zurich Gnome

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

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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Engine supply

I was reading on a rival website about the likely distribution of engines next year. Obviously the manufacturers: Ferrari, Renault, Toyota, Mercedes, BMW and Honda will use their own engines, but there seems to be the possibility of change for many of the more independent teams.

Williams (Cosworth) change to Toyota/Lexus
MF1 (Toyota) change to Cosworth (assuming Toyota don't want to supply more than one other team)
Red Bull (Ferrari) change to Cosworth V8
Squadra Toro Rosso (Cosworth V10) change to Ferrari

which just leaves Aguri remaining with Honda, no surprise as they are the Honda B team after all.

Now this isn't a real issue, but given that changing engine supplier means a lot of change - it affects weight distribution, cooling characteristics, gearbox design etc: it's easy to see that a significant cost is involved.

And bearing in mind that it's the independent teams that are all changing engines, for one reason or another, it sort of makes a mockery about the insistence of Max Mosley that costs must come down. Just a thought.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Silly, Michael

I'm not going to enter the debate on whether Mr Schumacher deliberately parked his car or not. I have no evidence to add, and I think it's all been said. OK, I am going to say something.

I don't think he did it deliberately, as in pre-meditated. If you understand the difference between murder and manslaughter, I think that's what happened. Michael entered the corner and braked a little harder than he intended, and realised he'd screwed his lap. And at that point, in a micro second, he considered stopping the car and before he knew it, he'd done it. He had no intention of doing that before he entered the corner, it was an automatic reaction to a set of circumstances. It was too late to complete getting the car round the corner without damaging the front wing, and he couldn't get reverse (it is difficult). He knew if he'd damaged the wing that the car couldn't be worked on before the race, so he couldn't go forward. That's the rules for you. So he had to stay where he was.

That said, it's no different to a football player, let's say the Arsenal goalie, Lehmann, during the Champions League final - taking down a striker when they are clear. It's not intentional, but happens in an instant and must be punished.

Thanks to all who commented on my predictions. I was wide of the mark as always. But was I? Montoya finished second, not first, and Webber was running well when his engine let go. So I don't feel bad about that. And I had Michael down as finishing fifth(!) only one place away from Rubens. Add the prediction that "On raceday, we'll see a clean-ish start, just a broken front wing near the back of the field" and I'm inclined to think it wasn't so far out. Maybe I should take up writing horoscopes!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Monaco GP Forecast

There's probably going to be a few clouds in the sky on Sunday, but nothing likely to turn into rain. So as far as teams are concerned it's mainly about selecting the softest tyres that they can get to just over half distance with. Monaco is a one-stop race as passing is nigh-on impossible now. We usually use "difficult" to mean "impossible", but at Monaco, it really is the case unless someone has terrible tyre trouble, like Trulli did a few years ago.

Qualifying is, as always, vital and we're likely to see both McLarens and both Renaults fighting for the first two rows of the grid. Ferrari and Honda will be disputing the next two rows with Williams potentially able to get onto the third row. Their car looks good and seems to be working the tyres better than the Ferrari. I'm backing Coulthard and Trulli to be the fastest of the drivers not to make the final session, with Ralf and Heidfeld running them close. Monteiro will make the second qualifying session with an impressive performance in the MF1.

On raceday, we'll see a clean-ish start, just a broken front wing near the back of the field, Villeneuve perhaps, but nothing to trouble the safety car. Montoya leads away having suddenly decided he'd better do something this year and Monaco might just be the place to do it. Then it's Kimi, Fernando; Fisico, Webber, Schumacher, Rubens, Jenson and Felipe, who had a nightmare of a start, just ahead of Rosberg. As always at Monaco the race seems to be settling into a pattern but after ten laps Webber surprises Fisi with a successful move at Ste Devote. The Renault is slow out of the corner and Schuey drags past too. Trulli seems to be struggling with his car and heads a train of cars, with an agitated DC unable to do anything to get past.

Fisichella and Rosberg are the first to pit, but of the leaders Kimi manages to only stay out one lap longer than Alonso and Montoya and so the first three positions look set to remain the same. But Webber is still out and after fantastic pit work by the Williams team the Australian comes out second. Michael and Rubens are running Fifth and sixth, with Fisi and Jenson looking to make the last points positions.

Reliability has been amazing so far, nobody is out yet. Speed is the first retirement, he's been looking increasingly more ragged and finally gets it wrong at the swimming pool, and unfortunately Albers gets caught up in the melee. Twenty laps to go and the safety car is out. But everybody has already stopped and nobody manages to gain an advantage. The order remains the same to the flag, which gives us an unusual podium, with Montoya and Webber taking the first two places. It's looking good for Alonso though, as he's still picking up points over his rivals. Not a great race, but close and exciting. Kind of equivalent to a finely balanced 0-0 draw.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Anyone for Moscow?

If it's Wednesday, it must be time for a new GP rumour. Apparently Moscow is back in the frame to hold a race, with the news that billionaire Abramovich (of Chelse football club fame) is talking to the mayor of Moscow about a Grand Prix.

It's bad enough that rich individuals can buy success by purchasing a team and throwing money at it - Chelsea has so many world class players that many regularly fail to get a game.

But I really hate this "I have the money and want a Grand Prix" approach. I think valuable prizes should be earned, not bought. And sure, it's an opportunity for Mr Ecclestone to add more scheckels to his already overflowing coffers. But he doesn't have to sell the family silver on day one.

Please, please, make them build a circuit, host other races to show that it can be done and then apply for a race.

Why is it fair to say that all teams that want to race in 2008 have to apply by March 2006, and yet circuit organisers can come along when they want? We need stability, not new circuits.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The thoughts of Flavio

In recent Q&A Session, Flavio Briatore talked about his vision for the future of F1. To me, it makes so much sense and I can't believe why there is all the fuss about the regulations for 2008.

I really thought the point he made that at a GP weekend, the GP2 cars are only six or seven seconds slower than an F1 car, but cost less than a hundredth to run. When F1 started back in 1950, there were regularly cars that were 20 seconds off the pace. And nobody complained. It was still great. And having established that competetive race cars can be built at reasonable prices, isn't it sensible to do it? I know GP2 is a one-make series, but it must be possible to use the cars as a basis for design, and allow F1 teams to make more changes than is currently allowed. It would be more expensive than GP2, but perhaps by a factor of ten rather than 100-200.

A few years back, I used to think that Flavio was as mad as a bucket of frogs. But he's won championships with both Benetton and Renault in different decades, so he clearly is doing a great job. And he clearly has sensible ideas about cutting costs. Obviously there are team owners with their own political agendas, but the FIA needs to rise above that, instead of introducing further political issues.

In a recent interview for a friend's travel blog, flyaway cafe, I said that if I had to choose someone to sit next to on a transatlantic flight, it would be Max Mosley. But of the team owners, I'm sure that Flavio would be someone you could learn a lot from in a short time.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mad Max 3

It seems that Max is back on one of his hobby horses again. He'still advocating the idea of swapping drivers between teams, and getting each driver to race a car from each manufacturer.

I can actually see the point in this, because it means that the driver with the best car does not necessarily win, There would be complications obviously, and it doesn't seem to fit in with the spirit of F1, and that's what puzzles me.

Max seems to want a championship that puts the emphasis back on the driver, but the proposals that are going through for 2008 don't appear to do this. And by introducing fixed spec tyres, he's establishing the validity of freezing development of at least part of the car.

Which is why I find it hard to understand why Max isn't limiting aero progress. Wind tunnels run with three teams of people, 24 hours a day analyzing small changes. Limit the flexibility of those changes and a manufacturer can rent out the wind tunnel to road car or aircraft manufacturers and make the aero dept change from cost-center to profit-center.

And gearboxes - manual ones please, with a clutch that you press. No auto, or semi-auto boxes so that the driver really has to drive the car, not just point and squirt.

Now here's an idea for you Max; by all means have a drivers championship, where they swap cars. Why not make it into a support for the Grands Prix race. I'm sure that the GP2 teams or F3 squads would welcome some extra income. And the crowds at the racetrack deserve to be entertained, and an extra race like this would do just that.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


After the Barcelona race, I started questing the whole concept of predictions. Quite frankly, my race was much more exciting than the real thing. Once the first stops were over it was clear what was going to happen. And quite frankly that doesn't make for good reading. I may, as one reader pointed out (thanks) that I do tend to assume that Rubens will stop somewhere o the circuit. But it does actually happen tio him quite a lot, so I feel vaguely justified. And until the racing starts to get more interesting, my predictions may well become ever more outlandish. I hope you don't mind!

I'm back to the UK to play golf for a while, so no posts until next Tuesday. Have a good weekend!

PS I'm predicting I'll come last in the golf!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Power mad

The news that Max Mosley is determined to run roughshod over anyone that crosses his path isn't exactly surprising. But when the Sporting Working Group rejected Mad Max's proposals, the president responded by overruling them.

If he's entitled to do that according to the procedures of the FIA, I suppose that's fine and, as always with Max, his argument for doing so sounds reasonable in the extreme. Of course you can't go around changing regulations at will, but the point is that the regulations we're talking about are for 2008 and aren't agreed yet. And to say that the teams have signed up for those regulations is somewhat disingenious, because they only signed up when he announced that the deadline for entering the 2008 championship was the end of March, and if he didn't he would give their places to anyone else that cared to register.

I am the only one that thinks that as he gets older, he gets more like his father?

(Oswald Mosley was the leader of the British Fascist Party in the run up to World War II)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Spanish GP Forecast

Montmelo is a circuit where overtaking is difficult (why do we bother saying that) and as everybody tests there so much there's very little scope to suddenly pull speed out of the bag or find a new sneaky way to pass someone. So the focus will be on long first stints, with a decision taken on the number of laps planned for the second stint depending on traffic and track position.

Consequently all the cars will be running very heavy, except Toyota, whose management insists they try something different (but wimp out from four stops). Alonso takes pole, with Michael alongside and Kimi third. Massa does well to take fourth ahead of Button, Fisichella, Montoya,Trulli, and Barrichello. JV will be starting from the back after the "dropped engine" incident and isn't lookinh happy, but then neither is Heidfeld, 13th behind Ralf and DC. Inexplicably, Rosberg had problems and only lines up 14th.

Predictably, Alonso scorches off into the lead, Michael aggressively tries to hold Kimi back but doesn't manage it, but Massa holds back to let him stay third, which throws the quick starting Webber; there are clouds of tyre smoke but all the front runners make it through turn one: Fernando, Kimi, Schuey, Fisi, Massa, Trulli, Webber, Button, Montoya, Rosberg and Rubens. There's long faces in the MF1 camp as neither car makes it to the end of the first lap when they touch unnecessarily.

Schuey seems to be struggling to keep up and is five seconds behind after 10 laps. A small gap to Mass who is holding up the rest of the train. Five laps later and the Toyotas are in, there won't be any points for them today. Schuey gradually seems to be making progress, and his lap times are coming down. Only two seconds behind when the two leaders stop, and Schuey stays out for a couple of laps. As he exits the pit lane it's going to be close, and Alonso is alongside as they go into the first turn. Schuey uses all the tarmac, forcing an irate Fernando on to the grass allowing Kimi through into second place. Webber got passed Massa in the first round of stops and is making good progress until the Cosworth cries enough. That could have been a good result for the Australian.

The second stops pan out pretty much the same, afterwards it's Schuey, Kimi and Alonso, not looking like he'll win his home race this year. Fisi is running by himself ahead of a lonely Jenson then Rosberg, Montoya and Ralf, who gets the last point when Rubens stops out on the circuit, apparently a sudden hydraulic failure.

Schuey is delighted to make it three in a row on a circuit where he didn't expect to win, and takes four points out of Fernando'd championship lead. Things are looking good for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


It was interesting to read Daniel McCalla's piece on pitpass on his ideas for a new formula. It's great to read something that deals with a lot of the issues in motorsport at the moment and proposes a potential way ahead. Of course, one man's meat is another man's poison, and I suspect my taste isn't the same as many other people's.

I'd like to think I have an idea about some of Daniel's points, having helped run a professional Formula Renault team in the 1990s, and even got involved with racecar construction. But let's have a look at Daniel's suggestions - I think that there may be issues with some of the points, but it's an interesting way of highlighting the problems within the sport, and maybe giving a better understanding of how the sport works to a wider audience. So thanks to Daniel for throwing down the gauntlet!

1. Central Preparation

No, no, no, no, no. I am not interested in watching single make series, and I am definitely not interested in centrally prepared cars. In fact I think the Parc Ferme regulations at the moment are a disgrace and help nobody. I used to love being at a GP circuit on a Saturday evening, walking down the pitlane, looking at the cars being worked on and hearing an engine being started every now and then. But that's gone now.

Race mechanics love three things: cars, women and beer. It's bad enough trying to find something for them to do to a one-make car over a weekend without telling them they aren't allowed to do anything. There are only so many times that you can clean wheels. Go to a BTCC meeting and wander through the paddock where the support series are. There's loads of mechanics standing idly around waiting for their thirty minutes of action. They all have to be paid for this too, so in my view they may as well do something useful. But with no work being done on cars, there's no punters so there's no women for them to look at, so they'll all end up down the pub.

Central preparation is fine for rich businessmen that want to play at racing Minis or Lamborghinis. I never really liked it when Jonathan Palmer was running Formula Palmer Audi. For a top level sport it's a disaster. No two race cars are the same, adjusting the setup is a complicated business and you need to have all the people working as a team. A key part of a driver's job is motivating his mechanics. If all cars are prepared by the same mechanics, who decides which drivers get the new bolts and which ones get the re-used ones? Who gets the best engine or the new set of shock absorbers? Even if there isn't a best engine, someone will believe there is and the best drivers will want it. Remember the story of "Patch", the Formula Ford engine? And if racing cars are so over-engineered that they won't break at all, then they're too heavy to be called racing cars.

And there's another point that nobody seems to consider. Today's racing cars are the historic cars of the future. If all series are one make series, there'll be much less interest in them in 30 years time. One of the joys of the Goodwood Revival meeting is the variety of machinery on offer. I want to see different solutions to engineering problems, V6s, V8s and flat 12s. If we had a fuel based formula we could have rotary engines too. Of course, today's F1 cars are currently too difficult to maintain for that to become a reality, but there's no reason that needs to remain the case.

2. Children are the future

I think this is a really good point. I was taken to Goodwood when I was about four, and the bug bit. I still have my Grandstand tickets from F1 Grands Prix at Silverstone in the 60s when Grandstand seats were more affordable. They cost around £2.50 which, adjusted according to the Retail Price index, is around £30 in 2005 terms. So a family of four could sit in relative comfort for about £120. And there was an impressive series of support races too. Formula 3, BTCC (except we called it saloons in those days) and even the big Sports Cars of the day. A good value day out.

But then there was no need for the promoters to hand over all their cash to Bernie, so they could afford to charge sensible prices. What we need is a benevolent commercial rights holder and as we'll see below, that will not happen. Because one day those rights will be sold to someone who knows their true worth and is keen to extract maximum value from them. If you don't believe that, I have a second-hand car I'd like to sell you.

3. Racing on the Sabbath

Another interesting thought. Again, at Silverstone in the 1960s, GPs were held on Saturdays, so maybe it's not quite so radical. When Nicola Foulston was running Brands Hatch, it was mooted that races could be run mid-week, behind closed doors, thus getting rid of the need for expensive insurance. Most people watch sport on television these days, so why not go the whole hog and hold races in the evenings under floodlights. And instead of using the trucks that Daniel wanted to move the cars around, they can carry the lighting equipment!

4. King of all circuits

Jack of all trades, master of none. A road racing car will need to be compromised if it is used on an oval. And vice versa.

In the same way that I'm interested in watching the 100m sprint at the Olympics, but don't even know if there is a sprint in the decathlon, I am not interested in compromise in motorsport. I want to watch sport at its highest level, whether that sport is football, golf, skiing, rallying or motor racing. I simply do not bother watching anything else. That includes A1 GP, Champ Cars and the BTCC. If one of the four Golf Majors is on TV I would rather watch that than a Champ Car race. If it's not one of the Majors, I do not watch golf. I watch the European Champions League Cup final. I do not watch the UEFA Cup final. I watch Arsenal, I do not watch Spurs. I do not have time.

And that, in essence is the problem with creating a market for a new series like Superformula. There is so much choice in the leisure industry there is no room for second best. The cult of the celebrity means that only the very best drivers will be known. A series like Superformula would need to have "name" drivers, but they'll all be in F1. Millions of people watch F1, how many of them could name three GP2 or A1 GP drivers? Come to that, can I? It is impossible for any series other than the leading one to compete. If F1 and NASCAR do not shoot themselves in the foot, Europeans will watch F1, Americans will watch NASCAR. F1 is just about managing not to shoot itself in the foot at the moment. NASCAR is doing a fantastic job. The FIA should watch and learn.

5. Qualifying

I never had a problem with the old 12 lap qualifying. Actually that's not true; before it was limited to 12 laps I thought it was even better. If there's a dull point during the TV coverage, switch to pre-recorded interviews with drivers and team owners. Show technical explanations of how various bits on the cars work. Don't ruin the sport because the TV presenters and journalists don't have the ability to present an interesting and reactive programme.

To be honest I really don't bother watching qualifying these days unless I'm in the house not doing anything. If they scrapped it completely it wouldn't worry me. Let everyone out of the pit lane 30 minutes before the race, as they do now, and give them fifteen minutes to set the grid. Cut out the middle man and scrap Parc Ferme. Finish qualifying and line up on the grid. That would actually get me watching the TV 30 minutes before I usually do. Isn't that a thought for the TV presenters?

6. Commercial Breakdown

I believe in market forces. I also know from bitter experience that a significant number of people that are involved in motor racing are crooks. It is the nature of the beast. Send three racing drivers into the pub. The one that buys the drinks will be the slowest on the track. He will brake first. Motor sport is about competition and getting someone else to pay for everything is part of the game. Fixing prices for sponsorship cannot happen. Deals will be done. Let's say a race seat for a series costs £100,000. Some teams will extract more from gullible drivers, some drivers will get race seats for much less. And still not pay the bill. Deals will be done. Ask Mike Lawrence about this. You know what he will say.

7. Points and Prizes

Back to Silverstone in the 1960s. The race programmes used to list the distribution of prize money for each position. Round about 1971 that stopped, simply listing an overall prize fund (in Swiss Francs) that would be divided according to a predefined formula. Now the Concorde agreement covers those arrangements but we are not allowed to know what's in it. But we do know that the higher a team finishes in the championship, the more cash it receives. So I guess F1 fits in with this view of Daniel's. Is there any prize money for GP2 or F3. I don't think so. A team that gets better results is able to charge more for its race seats. Market forces again I'm afraid.

And the powerboost button? It's an artificial fix. I don't want to see easy overtaking, I want to see racing. Of course, overtaking moves are the goal of racing and there's nothing better than seeing a skilful driver hounding an opponent into the tiniest of mistakes so that their exit speed from a corner is compromised. Casual viewers do not understand about racing and think it's just about putting your foot down more. It's not. I think TV coverage is partially to blame for this. When I see a great overtaking move, I want to see a replay of the two corners before, not just the bit where the cars are alongside each other. At that point it's job done. Kimi passing Fisi in Japan last year was a great example. When you saw them going through the chicane, you knew that Kimi had won the race. Passing Fisico at Turn one was academic at that point. I want to see the chicane, not turn one. Racing, not just overtaking.

Like Dan I have my own ideas. One thing I would do would be to allow the use of regenerative energy. Brakes currently generate so much heat it's not true. Wasted energy. Which is pretty criminal when you think about it. Why not let the teams build devices that slow the car and retain the energy so that it can be used again. Like a powerboost, but with no limit on how often it's used. Competition will develop these devices amazingly quickly and we'll start to see them on road cars, which will help to cut CO2 emissions and give F1 a more responsible image. Why do I have to think of this? What is the FIA up to? Why have they not offered me a highly paid consultancy job?

That of course is just one thought. We need Dan's ideas and many other people's too. It's clear that Formula One is too expensive, but it's a market place and teams will spend what they want to. Personally I'd like to see free development of engines, but with the proviso that a manufacturer must sell them to any registered team that wants them. And set a maximum price, say $10 million for a supply of engines for the season. If Ferrari or Toyota want to sell them at a loss for marketing reasons, fine. The FIA would distribute the engines at the track so that there is no preferential treatment and if a manufacturer leaves the sport, no problem, just call those nice people at Cosworth.

We need to get rid of artificial regulations that penalise drivers when their engines blow on the slowing down lap. We need to allow drivers to show their skill. But the best road-racing drivers will always gravitate to F1. And while that means that a series like A1 GP or Superformula will struggle to attract cash (and therefore top drivers) there's no reason why we shouldn't think about how the sport works and showing that we care. Thanks to Dan for doing just that.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Confession Time

I admit. I set the video wrongly at the weekend. And yes, I'm ashamed to say that I still use video, no R/W DVD, No Hardrive. Unforgiveable.

So the story is I didn't see the race, and can't comment other than to say that it looks like Ferrari might be back in the hunt, and the the current scoring system sucks. Another five Schuey Alonso 1-2's would still see Fernando leadin the title race. And Kimi stands virtually no chance now. One day I'll stop griping, but not today.

Friday, May 05, 2006

European GP

Time for the traditional pre-race forecast. (Obviously it's pre-race, but you know what I mean).

Alonso runs lighter than usual in qualifying, in order to get ahead of Schumacher's Ferrari on the grid. But Kimi puts together a blinding, if somewhat ragged, qualifying lap and snatches pole.

From the lights, Kimi leads from Fernando and Michael. Webber sneaks into fourth, avoiding the mistake he made last year, with Button, Massa, Montoya and Fisi in pirsuit. The two Toyotas are running eighth and ninth, with Barrichello, Rosberg and Coulthard hot on their heels. The two BMWs are up next with the rest of the stragglers safely getting through turn one. Sato and Montagny both manage to get ahead of the MF1s

Kimi and Alonso pull a substantial lead out over Michael, who has a train of cars behind him. Of the front runners, Alonso stops first, with Button also coming in on the same lap. Fernando gets out in Front of Massa, Button is back with the BMWs which will lose him pace and see him lose out to Massa. Five more laps, then Kimi is in, Michael's pace is picking up now, and after the first stops the first three are as before, but Kimi now has a cushion over the Renault. The Toyotas seem to be trying a three stop race and have fallen back, and poor Rubens seems again to have got the duff Honda parts, his car is parked in the garage.

Rosberg seems to be the most aggressive, pulling off a great move to pass Fisico only to be thwarted by a smoking Cosworth. Elsewhere not much is happening. A fluurry of activity around the second stops, but no change up front. One feels Kimi will avenge the spectre of last year. And that's exactly what happens.

So at the end it's Kimi, Fernando and Michael. The rest of the points go to Webber, Massa, Montoya, Button and Fisi. Not a great race, but at least the rain held off!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Ring Cycle

The Nürburgring was the last circuit I watched a race at. It was also the last circuit I drove on, although I must confess that was just a few laps round the infamous Nordschleife in the road car.

As for the race, my brother was driving in the historic Formula Junior race as part of the Oldtimer GP last August. As often happens, it rained, and as he'd never raced either at the circuit or in the rain, we'd have been foolhardy to expect a brilliant result. But the memory of the circuit stays with me, and although the new circuit isn't as exciting (terrifying would be more appropriate) as the old classic version, it's still a great circuit. The sort of circuit you'd love to drive on. Swooping corners, hills and dales. Fast corners, slow corners. It's actually got the lot, and it's possible to marshall the circuit and maintain high levels of safety.

In a week when there have been some serious accidents in motorsport around the world, mainly in rallying, it's important to remember that motor racing is dangerous. People can get killed or maimed. So the trend to race at modern circuits is understandable, but that doesn't mean that circuits have to be boring. The 'ring shows that, and if there aren't many overtaking moves there this weekend, just as there were so few at Imola, maybe we should be looking at the cars, rather than the circuits. The Formula Junior race finished with the first three cars line abreast, and the same chassis, albeit with different engines, were eligible for the F1 race later in the day.

Everybody knows we can learn a lot from history. I can't help thinking there is scope for that in motorsport.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

World Championship

I'm not generally in favour of countries hosting more than one GP. But the news that Japan may have a race at Suzuka next year gave me a warm feeling. And it made me think that we currently have really is a World Championship, albeit with a heavy European bias. I'd like to see Argentina back to host a second South American GP though and that made me wonder what would be the ideal mix of GPs.

The real problem would be which European GPs to axe. Personally I'd base it on the circuits which generate the best television, so Spa would be in, as would Monaco and Monza, and for some reason, Silverstone. But what about the Nürburgring and Hockenheim? Barcelona and the Hungaroring? Hungary doesn't really qualify as an Eastern European GP any more, so scrap it. Magny Cours? Get rid of it just because of that stupid change to the last corner they made a few years ago. And because it's in such an inaccessible place in the middle of nowhere. Sorry, in the middle of France. Imola? Just give Ferrari ten points and don't bother going.

It's a shame that Kyalami has been rebuilt as an African race would be great, maybe they could have a street race at Durban like the A1 GP had? And much as I don't like the trend towards Tilke designed circuits, it does at least allow us to claim it is a championship of the world, not just part of it.

Flexing Muscles

I must confess I'm intrigued by the current fuss about the Ferrari wing. I really think it's impressive that someone can actually make a wing that changes its shape when a certain speed (load) is reached.

But as usual, the point is the regulations. First of all it's important to understand that even steel girders flex. There is no such thing as 100% rigid. So a regulation that specifies that a wing must be rigid is pointless unless it contains the constraints within which it is allowed to flex. For example, the crash test regulations specify that the car must not deform by more than a certain amount when a certain load is applied at a particular speed.

And as the idea of changing the shape of wings has been around for a while, there is no excuse for not having a reasonable test specified. They could insist that a car is taken to the MIRA wind tunnel (it's independent) and specify that the wing may not deform by more than a certain amount at wind speeds of 180mph (If the tunnel generates that). I'm not an expert, but it could be done. Or just say that a certain force will be applied, and it should not deflect by more than a predefined amount, say 2mm

Ferrari say that they have video evidence that all cars have wings that flex. Of course they do, because every car's wing will flex (see above). What someone is upset about is that Ferrari seem to be getting a benefit out of their deflection. But that's not explicitly banned, so fair play to them, and I would say that even if it were McLaren or Renault.

The FIA should make a clear statement on this and issue a revised regulation. It'd need all the teams to agree but I don't believe Ferrari would block it, as it would imply guilt. Nett result: no drama. Which is exactly what we need in the run up to the US GP. Can you imagine what will happen if teams get excluded at Indianapolis? Unthinkable.