Posts Tagged ‘suzuka’

It’s that time of the year every Formula 1 fan dreads (well in England anyway!) . The nights are drawing in, it’s cold, usually wet and there’s no more racing until March. All we have is the intrigue of testing, waiting for the new cars to launch and the memories of the season just gone.

This year has been brilliant and I’m not going to sit here and repeat everything that’s already been said about the championship and having five drivers competing for wins on a regular basis. It’s been done by everybody else. So here are my moments of the season aided with a few pictures and videos thrown in for good measure.

I’m too bitter to accept my own failings

Fernando Alonso. I know he’d just lost out on the world championship and he wanted to win it for Ferrari in his first season and it’s been four years now since that last triumph with Renault. But is there really any need to gesticulate towards Vitaly Petrov on the slow down lap because he didn’t let him through? Petrov had arguably his best race in F1 so far and Alonso’s Ferrari only came close to overtaking once in 30 laps. That’s not the Russian’s fault so there’s no need to through toys.

I’m going to overtake you no matter what

Kamui Kobayashi is a man who isn’t afraid of a good out braking manoeuvre and he was at his best in Japan. He performed many daring moves going into the hairpin at the back of the track, but his first on the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi was without doubt the clumsiest. Coming from a long way back he slid sideways towards the Swiss and bumped his way past. However he learnt his lesson and later pulled off three excellent manoeuvres including one around the outside of Buemi’s team-mate, Jaime Alguersuari. But it’s this move where he slides and bumps his way through which winds this round.

Worst track alteration

Organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix decided that the best bit of the Bahrain track needed removing. So gone were sweeping corners of five and six to be replaced by a slow, fiddly, bumpy series of corners. The drivers hated it, the fans hated it and it did nothing to the race except make what was already a very tedious grand prix that little bit longer. After the negative criticism of the new section a statement was put out saying the extended layout was only to celebrate F1’s “diamond jubilee of the oldest and most prestigious racing series”. For some reason, I’m not sure I believe that…

Biggest over-reaction

Everybody, after the Bahrain Grand Prix. “That is the action we are going to have with this kind of environment of race strategy,” was how Michael Schumacher described the new regulations following the opening race in Bahrain. Lewis Hamilton was equally negative. “You start with fuel, you do one stop and it’s pretty much a train all the way.” But Bahrain has never thrown up an interesting race so the chances of 2010 being any different were slim and the racing improved as the season went on a teams and drivers got used to the new rules. Bahrain wasn’t the place to showcase that. You may notice that I don’t like the Bahrain Grand Prix very much and there’s a good reason for that. I don’t.

Karun Chandhok did well to drive the Hispania for the first time in qualifying at Bahrain

Bravest moment of the year

Karun Chandhok going out to qualify in Bahrain was probably the bravest thing he’s ever done. A car that he’d never tested and, in fact, his car had never even turned a wheel before he took it out to qualify in Bahrain. In fact he’d never even driven an F1 car in anger before. The car was slow, hard to handle and completed just minutes before the session. An accident on lap one ended his race but nevertheless Chandhok had shown courage to get out there and drive an F1 car for the first time in the heat of qualifying showed some major courage.

Scariest moment of the year

There were three incidents in 2010 which stood out in my mind as potentially scary moments. First of all was Sebeastien Buemi in practice for the Chinese Grand Prix. If you can remember all the way back to April, coming down the long back straight into the hairpin Buemi’s front wheels shot off and he was left just sliding helplessly off the track. Now if my Ford Fiesta did that at 30mph I’d need a change of underwear so I dread to think how he felt after that! One thing though, why did he try and steer when both wheels had both flown off?

Second up was Mark Webber in Valencia in an incident which had a resemblance to Ricardo Patrese and Gerhard Berger at Estoril in 1992; which saw the Italian launched over the back of Berger’s McLaren and try to become an aeroplane. The same happened in June when Webber misjudged the closing speed between him and Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus and went hurtling into the air, thankfully without harming Mark.

The last one came just second into the final race of the year. When Michael Schumacher spun in front of the pack there was only likely to be one outcome. What he probably didn’t expect was the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi use him as a ramp to park his car, and nearly wallop the German in the head with his nosecone/front wheel/suspension. When the seven-time world champion came back to F1 many people questioned the reasoning as Formula 1 is still a dangerous sport and it was accidents like that which show just how strong these cars are keeping the drivers relatively safe.

Most stupid name of the season

BMW Sauber-Ferrari. I don’t get what the reasoning was for making Sauber keep the BMW part of their name for this year when the German manufacturer pulled out at the end of 2009. I suppose it was because they designed the car. But still they left and Peter Sauber retook control and got customer Ferrari engines. So we were left with this name which had two car manufacturers in it.

BMW Sauber: good season, silly name

Clumsiest overtake of the year

Jarno Trulli on Chandhok at Monaco. The streets of Monte Carlo have never been renowned for offering overtaking opportunities, especially going into La Rascasse. Despite this though Trulli optimistically went for it in closing stages of the Monaco race to get past the Hispania of Karun Chandhok. The result was not what he was hoping for as he careered over the top of the Indian and into the barrier; an incident which nearly took out race leader Mark Webber.

So there you have it. Some of the things from the 2010 F1 season which caught my eye. It’s all my personal choice. Whether you agree or not feel free to leave comments about what were your moments of this season and if there’s anything you feel I’ve missed off from this list.

Images courtesy of Alex Basnett and Nelson Wu

Twelve months ago Kamui Kobayashi made his Formula 1 debut in the race which saw Jenson Button claim his maiden drivers’ championship.

And while the man from Frome revelled in the victory celebrations, debate started to rumble about the Japanese driver making his debut for Toyota. Both the new world champion and Williams racer, Kazuki Nakajima, were subjected to his aggressive blocking tactics during the race.

Indeed his compatriot ended up out of the race as he clipped the Toyota’s tyre and lost his front wing, sending him flying off the track at turn four.

This incident was the one which made people think that he was too aggressive and broke the unwritten rule of one move to defend a position rather than weave across the track.

Now, having followed Formula 1 for 15 years I’ve seen plenty of Japanese drivers come and go. Ukyo Katayama, Taki Inoue, Takuma Sato and many others come and go, and more than their fair share of crashes too. So when Kobayashi took out his compatriot you can see why I thought that another fast, but overly aggressive Japanese driver was in F1.

Two weeks later though a calmer, more mature Kobayashi climbed into the Toyota in Abu Dhabi and once again raised eyebrows, but for all the right reasons.

Kobayashi is turning into a real star

He was just as racey, just as aggressive as in Brazil but stopped his dangerous defensive driving as Kimi Raikkonen found out on the opening lap and Jenson Button discovered later on when the two battled it out.

Not only that but his hard yet fair overtaking manoeuvre on Button had heads turning as the rookie powered onto a sixth placed finish in only his second Grand Prix, ahead of veteran team-mate Jarno Trulli.

But then came the news that Toyota were pulling out of F1 and Kobayashi, who everyone expected to be in their team for 2010 was left unemployed

Thankfully, Peter Sauber was back after he bought back the team he sold to BMW, and he knows good talent when he sees it.

As the season has gone on, a string of stunning overtakes and hard, aggressive driving has seen Kobayashi being talked again as one of the most exciting prospects in Formula 1. The cheek in Valencia to overtake Fernando Alonso on the very last lap was a bold move and was fantastic to see, as was his last corner move on the unsuspecting Sebastien Buemi; that it’s not over until the chequered flag approach that may have been missing from F1 in recent years.

Last weekend’s drive in his home race at Suzuka was however perhaps the best of the lot so far and included some stunning manoeuvres at the hairpin. Pick of the bunch was a brave move around the outside of Toro Rosso’s Jaimie Alguersuari despite the young Spaniard’s best efforts to ruin his car on the exit.

All of this though has meant for the first time in my F1 history, there is a Japanese driver who I actually enjoy watching. His race craft is very good, he doesn’t crash and he has a car which manages to last a complete race distance.

Over the years many a Japanese driver has come and gone, with various amounts of success.

First was Ukyo Katayama. The Australian broadcaster Clive James was said Katayama impressed so much in races that he was often allowed to leave them early. It was said in jest but out of 95 F1 races between 1992 and 1997, Katayama retired from 63 of them only scored five points, all in the 1994 season for Tyrrell.

As you can see from this video, you can see why he scored so few points.

However during his time in Formula 1 there was another Japanese driver who was far, far worse.

Taki Inoue, somehow, competed in 18 races and the whole of the 1995 season for Footwork retiring in 13 events. Of those 13 retirements, six were due to spins and collisions; meaning he crashed out of one third of Grand Prix he entered. A record surely.

Despite his atrocious driving and the inability to drive in a straight line, he somehow managed to conjure up a drive for the 1996 season, with Minardi. Thankfully though one of his sponsors pulled out and Giancarlo Fisichella took his place, much to the relief of Minardi’s mechanics no doubt.

And that was it for a few years apart from some unspectacular,  and slow, performances of Shinji Nakano for Prost and Minardi plus Toranosuke Takagi for Tyrrell until 2002 when Takuma Sato turned up, mainly backwards, in the yellow of Jordan.

Admittedly the biggest accident of Sato’s career was not his fault but he earned himself a reputation with unnecessary accidents in Monaco, Italy, Spain, America, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, France, Canada, Bahrain, Belgium…

It’s a shame that by the time he had calmed down as a driver and could pull of moves like the one he did on Alonso in Canada when driving for Super Aguri, he was in a team who were struggling for cash and alas when the team disappeared, so did Sato.

So it’s refreshing to finally see a Japanese driver who is fast, entertaining and above all, skilful. When watching F1 this season I find myself looking forward to the next shot of Kobayashi in anticipation of drama and excitement, something not all drivers can provide on a regular basis.

With Toyota and Honda having pulled out of the sport in the last two years, Kobayashi has found himself as Japan’s sole representative in Formula 1. It’s a role he appears to revel in though and as he goes from strength to strength I sincerely hope he stays for many years to come.

In a sport which is notoriously difficult to overtake in, he’s proved that it can be done and that he is a real talent who can go on to the Japan’s greatest F1 driver, and I think he will.

Image courtesy of bobthemelbournian

“Not bad for a number two driver.”

Anyone who follows Formula 1 will recognise this quote from Mark Webber aimed at Christian Horner and the rest of the Red Bull team after taking victory at the British Grand Prix on Sunday. A simmering anger that has been building up for some time towards a team who appear to treat him at times as a rear gunner for Sebastian Vettel; something which first came to attention in the aftermath of the pair’s collision in Istanbuland came to a head on Saturday after the team took Webber’s front wing off his car and bolted it to Vettel’s.

Do you think it means much to Mark Webber? (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Red Bull aren’t the first team to have this problem though. Formula 1’s history is full of teams who have two drivers going head to head or a de facto number 1 driver with a second hired to support his team mate’s championship challenge.

1957: How do you think Webber would have reacted to this?! In the 1957 British Grand Prix, Stirling Moss was going for victory in the Vanwall when his car suffered from mechanical troubles and was forced to pit. A few laps later, team mate Tony Brooks was called into the pits to hand his car over to Moss who went on to win the race. Although the pair split the points for victory, you can’t imagine any Formula 1 driver today being so willing to give up their car (even if their team mate was able to fit in and drive it!).

1978: Possibly the fastest driver of the 1970s, Sweden’s Ronnie Peterson won 10 races between 1973 and 1978 for Lotus and March. In 1978 he signed for Lotus from March as team mate to Mario Andretti. Despite being renowned for his speed, Peterson spent most of 1978 following his American team mate, coming second in four 1-2s during the year with both his wins coming when Andretti ran into difficulty. It worked with Andretti claiming the 1978 championship. Sadly Petersen died the day after a startline crash at that year’s Italian Grand Prix and is now regarded as one of the greatest drivers to never win the world championship.

Petersen was a loyal number 2 until his death

1979: An almost identical situation occurred the following year at Ferrari. South African Jody Scheckter and young Canadian Gilles Villeneuve headed the drivers’ championship as the Formula 1 circus arrived at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. Despite knowing that a win could help him put one on the championship, Villeneuve faithfully obeyed team orders and followed Scheckter home to allow the South African to take his only title.

1982: Ferrari and Villeneuve again, however very different circumstances. One of the most famous on-track duels between team mates as Villeneuve and Frenchman Didier Pironi battled for victory in the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix. Expecting Pironi to obey Ferrari team orders, Villeneuve expected his team mate to stay behind him. He didn’t and Pironi sweeped past the fuming Canadian on the last lap to take victory. The pair never spoke again and Villeneuve was killed 13 days later whilst attempting to beat Pironi’s time during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.

1987: Two team mates who again never spoke to each other but helped to enthrall crowds during 1986 and 1987. Williams drivers Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet were both in the running for the 1986 title but mechanical problems during the last race in Australia allowed McLaren’s Alain Prost to retain his crown. In 1987 though it was a straight fight between the two Williams drivers. That year’s British Grand Prix saw a classic fight as Mansell closed down the Brazilian’s 20s lead in 20 laps to sweep past in one of the most famous overtaking moves of all time, despite running low on fuel. A crash during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix ended Mansell’s challenge as the Englisman suffered a back injury and handed the title to Piquet.

1988-89: The most famous fall out between team mates in motor racing history. Double world champion Alain Prost was joined by Ayrton Senna at McLaren for the 1988 season and the young Brazilian quickly set about attempts to beat his team mate. There isn’t anything that hasn’t already been said about the two drivers. Senna won the 1988 championship whilst Prost won in 1989 after the infamous collision at Suzuka before leaving for Ferrari.

The moment the 1989 championship was decided

2000-2004: The Schumacher era. Despite having Eddie Irvine as number two from 1996-1999 at Ferrari (and numerous number two team mates at Benetton), it was the German’s five year championship winning streak which is most famous with one incident symbolising the whole era. The 2002 Austrian Grand Prix saw Schumacher’s team mate Rubens Barrichello out qualify the German and lead virtually the entire race when radio orders came through with eight laps remaining to let Schumi by. Arguments raged over the last few laps until Barrichello moved over on the start/finish straight. And for what? So Schumacher could extend his lead over Juan Pablo Montoya to 27 points rather than 23 points. The crowd booed. Ferrari got fined and criticised. Team orders were banned. And everyone was very embarrassed.

Woops!

2007: Perhaps the most recent dispute between team mates before Vettel and Webber. Fernando Alonso arrived at McLaren from Renault expecting to be number 1 whilst his rookie team mate, Lewis Hamilton, found his way into the sport. What Alonso didn’t count on was Hamilton matching his speed and becoming a championship contender. In Hungary Alonso became fed up with what he saw as preferential treatment for the young Englishman and deliberately mucked up his team mate’s qualifying and ensured he got pole, however he was later demoted five places and Hamilton took pole and the win. Alonso returned to Renault for 2008 whilst Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came up and nicked the title away from Hamilton and Alonso in the final race in Brazil.

So what has history told us? Well for the fans it will be far more interesting and exciting for both Webber and Vettel to battle it out on the track rather than have Red Bull decide who will be number 1. Although the team have been hinting at favouritism towards Vettel (who is effectively their answer to Lewis Hamilton), Webber makes it impossible for them with strong drives when it matters to retake the German in the championship standings.

However history suggests that this form of rivalry will lead to trouble and could potentially missing out ono one or both championships in 2010. With a fragile car and evenly matched team mates, there is the danger that they’ll just take points off each other, as well as front wings!

Since the infamous collision in Turkey, Red Bull appear to support Vettel more in the heat of the moment then attempt to come out more even handed a few days later, which does nothing for their PR machine and creates unnecessary tension.

Guys, watch where you're going! (EPA)

One thing the recent wing saga has done though is raised Webber’s credibility in F1 circles and he proved a popular winner at the weekend and proved that this will be settled on the track rather than on the pitwall. Three wins this season to Vettel’s two so far shows that the Aussie means business.

For Formula 1 and to be fair to both drivers, Red Bull must allow the two to race each other until one of them cannot win the title.. But they can’t pick a number one, so they should stop hinting at one otherwise they could lose more than just a championship.