Archive for the ‘ f1 ’ Category

Alonso to race in the 2017 Indy 500, but what is the Indy 500? – all explained here for the uninitiated

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Hello F1 fans, you’re probably here because you’ve heard the news that Fernando Alonso is missing this year’s Monaco Grand Prix so that he can do the Indy 500. And you’re also here because you’re wondering what all this means, whether it is cool or not, and having established that it is cool, because you want to know exactly how cool.

Let me help. It is very cool.

In this article I will do my best to explain a little bit about the Indy 500, Indycar, and American Open Wheel racing in general, so you can begin to get excited about the Month of May 2017.

Let’s go racing!

What is the Indy 500?

The Indianapolis 500, or Indy 500, is the premier event in american open wheel racing, the flagship event of the Indycar series, and the largest annual sporting event by attendance in the world.

It is run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Which is not an oval.

Yes it is

No it isn’t, it is a 2.5 mile rectangle with rounded corners. There are four very distinct corners, each presenting its own unique challenge.

OK then, how long has the Indy 500 been going? 

This year will be the 101st Indy 500 race, but the first race was held waaaay back in 1911, by comparison the first Monaco Grand Prix is a relative newcomer, the first race being held in 1929.

Will Alonso score F1 world championship points?

No, but it wasn’t always this way. From 1950 to 1960, points from the Indy 500 counted towards the F1 Drivers Championship.

What’s the Triple Crown of Motorsport?

The Triple Crown is the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Fernando Alonso wants to win them all one day. It’s his own personal bucket list.

What’s the Quadruple Crown of Motorsport?

Well, it doesn’t exist, and if it did, many people would make a strong case for the 24 Hours of Daytona, but let’s be charitable and point to the Coca Cola 600, a NASCAR race which happens on the same day as the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.

The same day?

Yep, and the timing means that you can watch the Monaco Grand Prix, followed by the Indy 500, followed by the Coke 600, if you can stand it.

Can you do Monaco and Indy on the same day?

Not any more, but I think when Concorde was still operating it was theoretically possible.

Can you do the 500 and the 600 on the same day?

Yes, and it’s done quite regularly which gives Indycar some good publicity with Nascar fans. (Nascar being way more popular than Indycar in the US, sadly)

How has this whole thing happened?

Simple. McLaren has Honda engines, Japanese ones. Many Indycars also have Honda Engines, American ones developed by Honda Performance Development. Since Fernando wants to do the Triple Crown, he needs to run Indy. And he isn’t getting any younger so he has to do it while he is still at the top of his game. These cars run 220 MPH and don’t have power steering.

220 MPH? I thought F1 was the fastest form of open wheel racing?

Nope. Although F1 cars are faster through twisty corners and can brake later than anyone, Indycars are the ones with the highest overall top speeds. So an F1 car would easily beat an Indycar around Spa, but the Indycar would leave it for dust at Indy.

What team is Alonso driving for?

He is going to be driving for Andretti Autosport, run by Michael Andretti, as a team mate of Marco Andretti. So, Andretti basically.

I’ve kind of heard of Andretti

Yes, you’re thinking of former F1 and Indycar driver Mario Andretti. Marco’s grandfather and Mario’s dad. He won the 1978 F1 world championship.

Did he drive for McLaren in F1?

Nope, but his son Michael, who is the team owner of Andretti Autosport, did. It was a bit of an ill-fated partnership though.

But McLaren has never raced in Indycar?

Yes it has, they even won the Indy 500 in 1974.

Shame they’re not racing this time

Agree, but as a half way house they are going to sponsor the car, so it will look like a McLaren.

But wait, you still haven’t explained how the whole thing happened

Well, F1 has changed ownership and is now american owned. McLaren has also lost Ron Dennis and now has an American Zac Brown in a senior position. Zac was for a long time expected to become some sort of boss of Indycar. A combination of Zac, Honda, American F1 owners, Andretti and Indycar have made this all happen.

Should we be excited?

I am. Put it this way. Indycar hasn’t been having the best of times over the past 20 years, because it has lacked a Bernie Ecclestone character to pilot it. Whilst the Indy 500 has remained strong, the same can’t be said for the rest of the Indycar season, which suffers from low viewing figures and poor attendance at some races.

Should I watch?

Absolutely, but make sure you do more background reading so you understand what’s going on. The racing is very different in style to F1, but it is no less exciting. The cars are not protoypes, they are pretty much stock vehicles, set up by each team, but don’t underestimate the strategy and the bravery which goes into making an Indy 500 winner.

How can I watch? 

If you’re in the UK, you can watch the F1 on Sky, the Indy 500 on BT Sport, and the Coke 600 on Premier Sports. In the US the F1 is on NBCSN, the Indy 500 on ABC, and the Coke 600 on whatever channel is showing Nascar that week.

Enjoy! I know I will.

 

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The ‘truth’ behind #refuelcaterhamf1 crowdfunding

Well it appears at least to be true. (UPDATE: And I’ve given it a go! though I doubt the team will reach its target)

Caterham Sports Limited’s administrator seems, on the face of things at least, to be running a crowdfunding effort on UK based crowdfunding platfrom Crowdcube.

Details on the front page are scarce, but Crowdcube does appear to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The full terms and conditions only appear when pledging, and are as follows: Caveat Crowdfunder!

Abu Dhabi Don’t

According to Daniel Johnson of The Telegraph, the Marussia F1 team has ceased trading and staff are being made redundant. He reports that the team will not make it to the final race in Abu Dhabi.

This then appears to constitute the liquidation of the team, making it hard for any buyer to do much more than restart from scratch.

Alternatively, it is possible (though less likely) that an incoming buyer does not wish to inherit the existing team’s payroll, and is waiting until liquidation before jumping in to buy the entry and IP, before re-hiring staff.

Given that the current crop of F1 team owners aren’t exactly building a reputation for integrity, this wouldn’t be a complete supprise.

Time will tell…

Why is F1 broken? – a simple analysis

Why is F1 in a mess?

Well it is a simple equation – cost can improve performance but the rewards of performance are not sufficiently high to justify the costs.

Required Costs: 

  • increasing massively (engines, tyres, logistics)

Discretionary Costs: 

  • stable if you don’t care about performance – increasing if you do care about performance

Guaranteed Income from FOM:

  • unbalanced favouring bigger teams

Performance based income from FOM:  

  • low if discretionary costs are kept low, but not high enough to warrant increasing discretionary costs

Sponsor income: 

  • declining and linked to performance, but not high enough to warrant increasing discretionary costs

 

What is the solution?

Required Costs:

  • don’t cap engine development, but do things like capping charges for engines to customer teams.

Discretionary Costs:

  • mandate lower numbers of pit crew, restrict passes, abolish back to base comms (close factory on race days)

Guaranteed income:

  • rebalance

Performance based income:

  • rebalance – award points all the way down to last place

Sponsor income:

  • ensure transparency and governance to lessen ‘dodgy’ image of the sport and attract more sponsors, enable them to advertise trackside

 

And we haven’t even talked about the economics for the race promoters, which are also comprehensively broken!

Why Joe Saward is wrong on Bianchi aftermath

Joe Saward has just publised an article which refers to people ‘banging on’ about tractors on race tracks. The article reeks of complacency.

Since someone has been nearly killed by hitting a tractor I’m not sure why his tone is so dismissive.

At the risk of ‘banging on’ it is worth reflecting on the fact that Charlie Whiting himself has said the FIA is investigating whether the impact protection on tractors (which is currently non existent) can be introduced.

Objects in harms way on a race track CAN be protected, that’s why tyre barriers, tecpro and SAFER exist.

As Charlie himself said, lorries in Europe have bars to stop cars going underneath, and emergency motorway response vehicles have large deformable impact cushions. Both are possibilities for a tractor on an FIA Category 1 circuit.

It’s even feasible to design and mandate a bespoke removal vehicle specifically for this purpose, designed to absorb impact if struck by a race car.

So with apologies to Mr Saward, whose opinion I usually respect, I’ll reserve the right to go on ‘Banging on’ about safety in motorsport, since people ‘banging on’ and demanding change has led to every safety improvement he now seem to take for granted.

When is a street circuit not a street circuit?

Street circuit? Hmmm. Let’s see.

Wikipedia has a definition for us: “A racing circuit composed by temporarily closed-off public roads of a city, town or village, used in motor races.”

That seems fair enough.

Then there’s Korea, and Valencia.

Street circuits that aren’t really street circuits really annoy me. The pinnacle of motorsports deserves to race on decent tracks. Street circuits have their place when they create an exciting downtown event, think Monaco or Long Beach.

But Korea – a street circuit in the middle of nowhere – surrounded by a technology city only in the crazed imaginings of a pre-credit crunch property developer. All the safety compromises of a street circuit with none of the reasons for the safety compromises.

And Valencia, now thankfully gone – a street circuit so false that we hear it has been vandalised. How can a street circuit be vandalised? Surely by definition they are dismantled and put into storage every year after the race.

But not Korea and Valencia, because they’re not real street circuits – just cheap tat left to rot. Monuments to the modern day state of F1.

2013 F1 Season Preview

Now that we are mid way through the pre-season car launches, and with testing fast approaching, I’m starting to look forward to the 2013 F1 season.

It’s the end of an era – the final year for the current car and engine regulations. The 2014 cars will look and sound very different so the only certainty is that the sport will change a lot in 2014. The handling of the 2013 cars will favour and hinder different drivers in ways we can’t yet anticipate, so this year is the final one in which we can accurately predict which drivers are strongest in the pecking order.

So with all the changes on the horizon won’t 2013 just be a damp squib, a case of going through the motions until the big bang of the ‘new F1’ in 2014?

Well there is certainly a risk that we will see teams, once they realise they don’t have a competitive 2013 package, switch their attention to 2014 at the expense of their 2013 performance. I actually expect this to affect some of the biggest budget teams, particularly Ferrari and Mercedes.

Although the team structures are different – as corporations Ferrari and Mercedes both have to design an engine and a car for 2014, whilst almost everyone else will be either an engine customer (Red Bull) or a specialist engine builder (Renault).

That division of labour may favour the customer teams in 2013. And when it comes to engines with few manufacturers left in F1 almost everyone is a customer.

We will see some races limping along (Germany, Korea) even as others have finally been consigned to the scrap heap (Valencia).

We will see how Lewis Hamilton copes with internal management bickering and a poor car whilst Sergio Perez flys in the McLaren.

We will see how a disturbing number of drivers cope with being referred to, accurately, as pay drivers whilst past stars sit on the sidelines.

We will see how many new sponsors arrive, and how many leave.

We will watch for signs of consolidation in the US market, and see how Bahrain copes second time around.

We’ll wonder whether Bernie is enjoying (enduring?) his final season at the top of the F1 tree.

We’ll wait to see whether Force India makes it to the last race, and whether Marussia makes it to the first.

It’ll be fun, and it won’t be predictable. Until Vettel starts winning everything in sight again.

Bring it on!