The European Leg!
The European Leg!!
Spain usually marks the start of the European leg of the F1 championship, followed by a quick race around the streets of Monaco. Since the season starts off in Australia and then heads to Malaysia followed by China and Bahrain – they are slotted as the ‘away’ races.
The away races usually are a logistical nightmare – since there is tons of equipment to transfer besides the cars and drivers – they also offer an interesting insight into teams performances and development programs.
The away races also mean that the teams don’t always necessarily travel in full attendance. The recession not being the only reason, but key personnel are needed back in the factories to develop the cars as they grow older through the season – race by race.
As a result of the distances away from their ‘bases’ in Europe the teams are not fully equipped to run their otherwise busy development cycles. The time zones too are not too friendly for constant development. Hence, if attempted, one could draw a chart showcasing a trend in team performance. I wouldn’t say it is a rule of thumb – but a team that usually doesn’t ‘perform’ in the opening round in Australia would usually not perform in the other away rounds.
So typically 2009 too – we have seen a similar trend. Brawns have come from no where [literally] and have blown the field away. If I could – I would coin a term – ‘if it’s dry, it’s Brawn!!’
We also saw the Toyotas pose a challenge time and again, but their qualifying pace hasn’t converted to a strong race pace. Tyre usage is increasingly important this year due to decrease in aero grip – the Toyotas clearly have struggled in this aspect. Their driver duo are one of the best equipped to develop a racing car – whether this duo can win Toyota their first GP win in F1 waits to be seen. But I would put my money on Glock rather than Trulli – just a gut feel!
Williams! One wonders what they need to do to perform. They have got the car right – well atleast the diffuser. They have been topping the timing sheets on Friday. But have clearly lacked performance when it matters the most. Nico has been on the pace time and again while Kazuki seems to be still finding his feet – Williams clearly is one team that hasn’t extracted the potential out of their machines yet.
Funnily, Brawns, Toyota and Williams have been slotted into one bracket this year – and not just by me. The Diffuser Three as they are called have clearly set the pace and benchmarked themselves against the rest. With the European leg setting in and most teams getting their new diffusers too – will these three still beat the others at it? Or will their dominance finally be challenged?
The only team that has posted a win this season with a conventional diffuser design has been Red Bull. Vettel and Webber have been in the thick of things. They have been pushing each other on track and off it! The Adrian Newey designed car has clearly been the talk of the season. They have proved to the entire paddock that the diffuser is not the ‘only’ way to make an aero efficient car.
Last years championship winning teams Ferrari and Mclaren have clearly struggled to extract pace from their cars, but is there really more pace in their cars? Personally I think that they are a long away from scoring a victory this season. The technical changes of the 2009 season wiped the slate clean for all teams and as Adrian Newey and Ross Brawn put it – the ‘intelligent’ teams are the ones that have made the most of it. For a change, the power of money has failed to work in the world of F1!
Ferrari and Mclaren are upbeat about their chances in the European leg of the season. They are working over time to fit the double deck diffusers to their cars. But will this hurried attempt work? Considering that there is an in-season ban in testing cars and new components the task of car development only becomes harder. Which also means that the teams will be using the Friday and Saturday practice sessions to test their cars. Quite funny considering that they could instead use the sessions to just make the cars go faster!
While the on-track has been fun to say the least – the off track too has made headlines and typically for all the wrong reasons. The diffuser saga was brought to an end and so was the lie-gate issue. McLaren were handed a suspended sentence – which in F1 terms is very funny. The team was penalized for ‘lying’ to the FIA and later pardoned because they were ‘fair and true’ during their interrogation. Funny ways of the FIA!
Amidst all the immediate decisions the FIA also released the rules and regulations for the 2010 season. While the press release carried that the ‘winner takes all’ will be re-introduced, the FIA further re-clarified by issuing another press release that it indeed was a mistake. This too is a ‘first’ for the FIA – claiming that they made a mistake.
The future of F1 is in jeopardy – and not necessarily due to external recession. The damage this time could be more internal. The constant changing of rules has not gone down well with the fans. Also, the FIA is keen on introducing a two – tier F1 championship from next year. Comically, the tier system is differentiated on team budgets and not on a technical scale. We’ll leave that for a later discussion. But the two tier system has raised many concerns by the participating manufacturers who have threatened the FIA that they could re-consider their commitment towards Formula1.
Unfortunately, in this war of words, power and ego – the one person who could be drastically left out could be the FAN! And did I mention a ban on re-fuelling next year? Err!! Lets just enjoy the F1 circus as long as it lasts…