Sunday, 30 September 2012

What next for Schumacher?

Ross Brawn has cited Schumacher's indecision about what he wants for next year as the reason for taking the opportunity to sign Lewis Hamilton.  But why was he so indecisive?  Perhaps being torn between the overwhelming passion he still has for racing, and knowing the team would like to have a new, younger driver to replace him is a good enough reason.

A mock podium at Mercedes World in July.  Schumacher's first place waiting to be toppled by Hamilton.  Interesting...
Now Mercedes have used his knowledge, leadership, and experience to help build the team they are moving on. This situation does bear some resemblance to the Ferrari situation which led to his initial retirement.  New rules banning in - race pit stops, a measure surely introduced to halt the Ferrari dominance, resulted in Schumacher losing the World Championship to Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006.  Without this rule change, who knows how many more he could have won. For Ferrari and Michael, who had been so used to winning, two years must have seemed like a drought, resulting in the retirement seed being sown.  He doesn't admit it, but it is unlikely that decision was entirely his own.  A decision that was untimely because the following year Bridgestone became the sole tyre supplier handing the advantage back to Ferrari, gifting Kimi Raikkonen his World Championship. 

So what next for Michael?  Complete retirement from the sport doesn't seem like an option.  Being present at the test session at Magny Cours earlier this month suggests completely the opposite, demonstrating his total commitment to racing. 

If he is to get another drive, there could be a space at Sauber, especially as Kamui Kobayashi is also out of contract at the end of 2012.   With only Pastor Maldonado being confirmed for Williams and no drivers signed at Toro Rosso, there are endless possibilities, hence why it is called the silly season.  Any of these teams would benefit greatly from the wealth of knowledge and experience he would bring. 

It could be that he decides to stay in the sport, but not as a driver.  He maintains a good relationship with Stefano Domenicalli so there could be a possible role at Ferrari. 

Personally I hope he continues racing.  What would the stewards and pundits talk about if he left?!  I sincerely hope that Spa 2012 wasn't the last Grand Prix where I get to wave my flag and witness the racecraft of this legend.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Is He Worth It?

It comes as no great shock that Lewis Hamilton has signed for Mercedes for 2013, his edacity for wealth being the driving force behind the elongated contract negotiations and resulting decision. 

Lewis and new team mate Rosberg.

This could be the move that will expose Lewis as a driver whose success is largely down to having a good car.  The Ferrari is inferior to the McLaren this season but still Fernando Alonso leads the Championship.  That is the measure of a driver worthy of the ridiculous amount of money Lewis has deserted McLaren for.  

Five of Michael Schumacher's non finishes this year have been down to problems with the car.  Radio messages have shown him as a real team player apportioning no blame when things haven't gone the way he would have liked.  Liken that to the attitude of Hamilton who made several gripes about the team earlier in the season when they were experiencing pit stop problems.  How will someone who puts team telemetry on Twitter because his team mate outqualified him, cope with unreliability like the Mercedes shows?  

When Alonso left McLaren, the view that he couldn't cope with his team mate being faster than him was held by most.  Now, having seen the disrespect Lewis showed Jenson after qualifying in Belgium, makes me wonder whether it is Lewis who struggles to cope with having a competitive team mate.  After all, McLaren was a team built around Lewis making it an impossible environment for Alonso to be in.  

The most unharmonius team mate relationship since Prost and Senna.

Making the move to Mercedes has ensured that he will be made the number one driver.  For the first time ever, I will be rooting for Rosberg to win.   It would be extremely satisfying to see Lewis' over inflated opinion of himself burst in spectacular style.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

A lack of drive from the Lotus drivers

The dedication of the Lotus drivers seems rather questionable as we head into the Singapore race weekend.  In a press conference prior to the weekend Kimi Raikkonen announced that there are a lot of other nice things to do besides F1 and that he is not desperate for it.  We know that Kimi has never appeared outwardly passionate about his racing, but this attitude must be rather vexing for those trying to get into the world of Formula One or indeed for those at risk of losing their drive.

When interviewed about missing the Italian GP at Monza, Romain Grosjean said it was quite positive to miss a race because he got to see the race from an outsider's perspective.  When asked whether he would be more calm in the first few laps from now on, his reply was that he hasn't made the same mistake every time so it is more complex than that.

Immature, or just cocky?

Regardless of whether the opening lap smash at Spa was his fault or just a misjudgement, he shows a remarkable immaturity in that he doesn't appear to have learned from his ban, or show the ability to reflect on himself as a driver.  His over positive slant on the whole incident seems rather misplaced.

With two drivers showing such a lack of dedication, it is no wonder that Lotus still haven't achieved a victory, despite having a car worthy of a win. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Lewis' Big Gamble

The circus surrounding Lewis Hamilton and a possible move to Mercedes during the Monza weekend can't have been positive for relationships within the McLaren team.  Contract negotiations like this should be held behind closed doors, not aired for all to see.  Lewis' lifestyle is becoming increasingly celebrity driven and being managed by XIX Entertainment, who are responsible for the Pop Idol phenomenon, has made this possible move hugely public.

Lewis hanging out with Nicole and celebrity friends.

Despite the distractions, Lewis won in Monza, and McLaren have taken the chequered flag in the last three races.  Clearly, they have the most superior car at the moment.  Why is Lewis considering a move to Mercedes, who have showed glimpses of what they can do, but are nowhere near the title fight?  It can only be the lure of money. 

Over the past two years he has shown less and less respect for the team who have nurtured him since the age of 13.  Petchulant messages have been heard over the team radio when things haven't gone to plan and he often doesn't hide his opinions regarding the team in post qualifying or race interviews.  Putting telemetry on Twitter shows a huge lack of respect and intelligence. 

If Lewis thinks he is bigger than the team, then maybe they should just let him go.  There are plenty of other talented drivers out there, and it seems that Sergio Perez is at the top of the list, no doubt following his second place at Monza.  Lewis' decision might be made for him if McLaren decide they are fed up with the wrangling and choose to sign the young Mexican. 

Lewis sprays his possible successor with champagne on the podium at Monza last week.

Under the guidance of a high profile manager in Craig Pollock, Jacques Villeneuve left Williams after winning the 1997 World Championship for the new BAR team and a pay rise worth millions of pounds.  Look what happened there.  Maybe Lewis should learn from this sad tale. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Parting of the 'Prof'

A unique personality and legend in the world of motor racing, Professor Sid Watkins will be missed by all involved in the sport.  Many drivers and ex - drivers owe their lives to him, including Mika Hakkinen and Gerhard Berger, but with the opinion that it is better to prevent rather than cure, he will be remembered more for being an ambassador for safer racing.

His tireless crusade for safety in motorsport was sparked by Ronnie Peterson's crash at Monza in 1978.   Professor Watkins, race doctor at the time,  was prevented from gaining access to the scene by Italian police, resulting in a delay in medical help reaching the injured drivers.  Believing Ronnie's was a death that could have been prevented, Sid campaigned for improved medical facilities at races, including use of helicopters and the employment of a medical car to trail the Formula One cars until the end of the first lap.  Well equipped medical centres took the place of the ineffective tents.

Medical car can be seen in the distance following the crash at Spa.

He also advised changes to circuits to make them safer, and was responsible for a multitude of changes to the car.  Eliminating the inevitability of a burst fuel tank and engulfing flames following a crash was a huge step in bringing more safety to the sport.  He also brought about the use of the HANS device, energy absorbing foam around the cockpits and more effectual helmet design. No fatality since Senna and Ratzenberger in 1994 is a major accomplishment and shows that he really did 'do himself out of a job' as put by Bernie Ecclestone.

Sid and Bernie

There will always be more work to do regarding safety in Formula One.  The issue of closed cockpits is constantly rearing its rotten head.  Putting a cockpit over the drivers head will prevent the medical team from being able to get the driver out while they are still in their seat, which was another of Professor Watkins' improvements.   Any new safety features introduced in the future should not infringe upon or undo those made by the 'Prof'.  Let his legend live on. 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Penalties - again

Maldonado deliberately makes a false start, takes out Timo Glock, and receives a ten place grid penalty for Monza.  Grosjean makes what appears to be an accidental misjudgement at the start of a race and is banned for the following one.  Granted, Grosjean's misdemeanour did result in the biggest opening lap crash at Spa since 1998, but it was not intentional.  Maldonado's, on the other hand, as with his other 'mistakes', appears to have been deliberate.

Crash caused by Grosjean

The incident with Maldonado and Glock

Both drivers have history in causing the end of the race for fellow drivers.  Grosjean has made contact with another driver on an opening lap six times so far this season.  Maldonado has made various dubious moves causing other drivers to retire.

Maldonado has received various penalties, but like an impetuous child, he refuses to learn from them.  Maybe he needs to be given a harsher sanction, like the one handed out to Grosjean, in order to have any effect.  Pastor missing a race would surely mean that we would see Valteri Bottas enter his first race in Formula One.  That in itself should be a reason for him to consider reforming his character and think about the consequences of his actions. 

Although Romain Grosjean has caused a lot of first lap incidents, they seem to be down to inexperience rather than deliberate manoeuvres.  Maybe, rather than being penalised, he should be supported in the form of some focused coaching.  The stewards must have considered his history when contemplating the penalty he was to be given, as it seems very harsh.  Why do they never take Maldonado's history into account when dishing out his?  Only a very cynical person would think it could be anything to do with the PDVSA sponsorship he brings ...

Vettel Shows His Mettle

The 2012 season has shown a different side to Sebastian Vettel.  Striving to win three World Championships in a row, a feat previously only achieved by Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher, he has encountered a few more obstacles than he has been used to.  At times he has not appeared as jovial as he has in previous seasons. 

In 2011, the dominance of Vettel and the RB7 resulted in  a new record for most laps led in a season, meaning that the only obstacles he encountered for much of the year  were back markers.  When a driver spends a lot of time leading from pole it can lead you to wonder how good they really are, and coupled with the fact that the Red Bull was clearly the best car on the grid last year, we could be forgiven for wondering whether he really  is a baby Schumi or just reaping the benefit of superior machinery. 

Two fingers for two world championships.

This season seems to be revealing the former is the case. Watching Vettel having to slice his way through the pack has been far more interesting and is a reminder of why he became the youngest race winner ever in Monza in 2008, something he achieved in an uncompetitive Toro Rosso.

A fresh faced Vettel takes an unexpected win.

So can he become only the third driver to win three championships in a row?  His chances of winning in 2010 looked slimmer at this point in the season but the car was performing a lot better.  This year he has to contend with a car that is not the best in the field, not to mention all the other drivers who keep snapping up all the victories.  If he does accomplish that elusive third, consecutive title this season, it will be his most deserved and will stop any question about the ability of Sebastian Vettel.

Michael Schumacher's Spa

Last year Michael Schumacher celebrated twenty years in Formula One at the Belgian Grand Prix, and this year saw another celebration in the form of three hundred races, or three hundred beautiful moments, as he poetically, if not a little cheesily, put it prior to the race. 

The setting for his debut race, first victory and seventh championship, the seven times world champion has an enormous affection for the classic circuit in the Ardennes forest.  Now he has been awarded honorary citizenship of Spa.

So now he has had this honour bestowed upon him, in addition to already having a road and karting circuit bearing his name what more is there to achieve?!

Michael Schumacher road

Outside Michael's kart circuit in Kerpen, Germany. 
Inside the kart centre