Thursday, 20 December 2012

Formula One Travels to Thailand in 2015

As Formula One continues to spread its wings further afield, the possibility of losing classic European races becomes ever more tangible.  With Bernie Ecclestone announcing that Thailand are set to host a night race around the streets of Bangkok in 2015, in addition to the Russian and New Jersey Grand Prix's already scheduled for 2014, it is clear that spaces on the calendar are becoming increasingly sought after and difficult to retain.  Earlier this month Bernie issued European venues with the following warning, "Maybe we'll get the Europeans to wake up instead of thinking that it (a race) is a God-given thing.  When Europeans perform and do their job we are happy to stay."

Mark Webber showcases the Red Bull in a demonstration run around the streets of Bangkok.

The loss of Monaco, Spa or Monza is probably most unlikely due to the historic nature of the tracks.  Silverstone is also steeped in history, but this season the fiasco with swampy fields and turning away of fans could be perceived as not performing well enough.  Changes have been made at the British track in order to ensure these difficulties aren't repeated and, organisers will be hoping these changes are enough to secure its position as a long term Formula One venue.  

Modifications are also planned at the Hungaroring to make the circuit more conducive to overtaking.  Hopefully these are successful as it would be a great loss to the calendar if this Grand Prix were to make way for Thailand.  Its status as the only race in Eastern Europe could hold some weight, but the Polish, Finnish and Russian fans it usually attracts will have other options from 2014.  

Proposed circuit layout for the Russian Grand Prix, built around the Olympic complex.

Considering there will be four German drivers on the grid in 2013, it seems important to retain their home race. Barcelona is one track that wouldn't be missed,  but the Circuit de Catalunya has a contract to host the Spanish Grand Prix until 2016.  

So how is a street race in Thailand to be accommodated?  There are currently six races held in that part of the world: Malaysia, China,  Singapore, Korea, Japan and India, with Bangkok making it seven, a total which seems a little excessive considering it is an area relatively new to Formula One.   The gap for this new race should be opened up by relinquishing one of the Asian races and Seouless Korea seems a good place to start.   

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Legacy of Michael Schumacher

So F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone believes that the second coming of Michael Schumacher is cause for regret. This recent admission is in stark contrast to opinions expressed when the comeback was announced in 2010,

"Forget about winning races- I have him on my bill for winning the Championship.  It is fantastic for Formula One that he has turned into a 'comeback kid' but at the same time it's good for Michael.  Now he has all his strength together and has 100% motivation that will give us many exciting races in 2010."

Alongside Schumacher's hotly anticipated return to Formula One, came increased interest from viewers and the media, followed by an accession of ratings and revenue, ultimately lining the pockets of Mr Ecclestone. The rise in income facilitated by the German's comeback with Mercedes gave him reason to defend Schumacher when he didn't deliver as expected at the beginning of the 2010 season.  

"Anybody who criticises Michael is wrong." said Ecclestone.  "He deserves better.  I would say don't underestimate Michael.  Give him time to adapt to the new car and the new tyres."

"At the moment he is something of a newbie and needs to get accustomed to the trade again.  Michael would never have returned had he not been convinced he could do the job.  He is not a tourist in the paddock, he is here to win.  And he will win again."

Surely it is no coincidence that following Michael's departure at the end of the 2012 season, with his homecoming being unsuccessful in terms of points, that Bernie Ecclestone has now done a complete U turn regarding his thoughts on the matter.  Did the return not yield the expected revenue?  Not being in the position to win races meant that the hype and interest hoped for by Bernie  never materialised.  

Although his comeback scarcely made an imprint in terms of results, his expertise and experience will no doubt have been of huge benefit to Mercedes in terms of development, a legacy that will bear fruit for Lewis Hamilton.  His second parting leaves the world of Formula One with  memories of a different Michael Schumacher to the one who left in 2006.  During his first stint in the sport, Michael was thought of as robotic in his approach to racing.  His unrelenting desire to win was often misconstrued and mistaken for arrogance.  His second stint and not being in the position to take victories, has created an air of gracious humility with an ever increasing touch of the personable.  Bernie Ecclestone may think that his comeback was a mistake, that "it tarnished his legacy," but the truth is that he leaves with a greater amount of love and respect, which can only decorate his existing achievements further.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Ferrari Tarnish Alonso's Gracious Nature

Sadly, Ferrari’s invite to the FIA to investigate whether Sebastian Vettel overtook under yellow flags during the Brazilian Grand Prix has tarnished the gracious way Fernando Alonso accepted his loss of the 2012 title. 

The controversy began when it was suggested that Vettel had passed John Eric Vergne on lap four under yellow flags.  The rules state that waved yellow flags are an indication of a danger on the track therefore the drivers are required to slow down and are not permitted to overtake.  It has been confirmed by the sport’s governing body, the FIA, that although the yellow flags and lights were clearly evident, there was also a less visible green flag shown allowing drivers to resume normal racing.  As a result of FIA investigations it has transpired that Vettel saw the green flag, therefore making his move legal. 
Yellow light visible to the right.
Had it been a different decision resulting in sanctions for the Red Bull driver, the title could have been handed to Alonso, the knowledge of which fuelled the Maranello team’s desire for the matter to be looked into further.  A move which leaves them looking bitter and unable to accept the loss with a gracious manner, which is in complete contrast to the way Fernando reacted following the race in Brazil.  Having remained positive about their chances all year, this calm mindset continued as he maturely explained that the team have to make a faster car for the 2013 season.
Fernando on the podium in Brazil
It is Alonso’s belief that his battle for the title this year has earned him more respect.  The Spaniard said, “I feel satisfied with the job, I feel proud of myself, proud of the team.  Obviously we lost the championship in terms of three points but I think I gained this year so much in respect from everybody and I gained other things apart from the points.”  His ability to conjure up the illusion that the Ferrari was a decent car, when it was far from being the best on the grid is magical and warrants him huge respect.  This respect undoubtedly earned, however, has been in danger of being sullied as a result of Ferrari’s bitter reaction.  Alonso did back the team’s decision to contest the yellow flag incident but that is what is required of you when part of the Ferrari family.  Would someone as mature, professional and gracious as him really want to win by default?

Ferrari president, Luca Di Montezemolo, also criticised Michael Schumacher’s subordinate effort at keeping sixth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix, which allowed Sebastian Vettel to inherit the position.  It was his belief that the seven times World Champion should have shown more loyalty to a team he won five of those championships with.  But who is to say that Schumacher would not have done exactly the same for Alonso?  The Maranello chief’s comments reek of desperation.  A team as rich in history and stature as Ferrari, should be standing tall and proud, not scuttling around in the shadows waiting for crumbs of compensation.  The team should follow the lead of Fernando Alonso.