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European GP preview 2012

16 Jun

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The dilemma of the F1 tracks!

12 May

As with the start to every season we’ve already experienced lots of press reports about where the ‘next’ F1 track will be. The strongest case so far has been for a return to the French GP, but since the change in leadership of France this report has been suppressed some what. To me this is a good thing as France was going to alternate with Spa and in my opinion Spa should have a place on the calendar to the end of time and doesn’t deserve to have to share a slot.

News has also come recently to the idea of Valencia and Catalunya alternating as the Spanish GP. I have feelings on this one as on one side the less we see of Valencia the better and on the other side I believe Catalunya should have the sport and Valencia should just be dropped completely.

If this does happen then it would mean there wouldn’t be a track hosting the European GP, and in my opinion there are only a few tracks that should be considered to host this GP. They are any French GP track as I think a return to France would be a good move for F1 and could let us see the return of a great track with either Paul Ricard or Magny-Cours or it should go to the Nurburgring which would let us have both the Nurburgring and Hockenheim on the calendar, two tracks that well deserve to be hosting a GP every year as apposed to it alternating between them.


13 Apr

Spa is one of the most iconic F1 tracks in the world with it being surrounded by forests. The 7km track with 19 corners has been used for motorsport since 1947 (although the track layout has changed dramatically in that time) and is the home to one of the most challenging and famous corners in the world with turns 3,4,5 section of Eau Rouge and Raidillon where the track rises 24 metres and would you believe it Spa use to be directly on the Belgium-Germany border, and I mean directly as the border ran along the stream which divides the track in two leaving Eau Rouge on one side and the pit complex on the other.

During the Easter Holidays my family and I went to Spa for a day (11th April 2012) and it was an amazing experience. While driving towards the track you can easily be taken in by the tranquility and quietness of the area surrounding the circuit and with the first view of the track came the feeling that this is nature and man working together with amazing results. But it doesn’t only just combine nature and man the paddock for the track features buildings built both in the modern themes and also to look like old buildings.

The mix of new (pit building in the background) and old (the public medical facility in the foreground)

All it would require to get onto the track is to walk through the fence and then walk across the tarmac.

On the day we visited Spa there was a testing day for formula 3 and we saw the drivers of the Lotus F3 team: Kimiya Sato, Artem Markelov, Sheban Siddiqi and Jimmy Eriksson. Due to the event being a public event access to the park was open and free even (although in some cases it was too open and twice we saw ways to get on to the track without having to climb over fences or open gates).

Before the tour we had time to explore the paddock which meant we could go to all the major points of interest, the old pits, the pits that are used for GP2 events and to get a look at the main building.

The old pits.

The view of Eau Rouge from The Old Pits

The tour was a must (details are on the Spa website) and took us to the areas that require keys to enter like one of the teams garages, the podium, the press rooms  (the one where the press spend their time and also the one where the interviews happen) and the commentary boxes. Not only that but also the tour guide was an amazingly knowledgeable person who had many anecdotes and jokes about all the areas. Our tour guide was called Gaetan Plein who is someone who you can’t help but admire and his photo is just below this. Gaetan has his own website ( ).

I promised the guide I’d put his photo on the blog

Due to the sheer number of photos I can’t put them all on the blog here so I’ll try and set up a flickr account today to put the rest of the photos on.

Rookie Racing

17 Sep

One of the biggest problems with F1 at the moment is the lack of track time that new drivers can get before they start a season and although there are things like young driver testing at the end of the year there are still problems with that. The major problems with these ideas is that no team wants to have their car destroyed by a rookie and they also want as much track time for their race drivers as possible, but I have a solution.

If on the Thursday on the race weekend (Monaco would have to be an exception) there was a couple of hours long session solely devoted to drivers who had never started a race at that circuit then it would encourage the teams to use a rookie to gain more info on the track and if there was a crash the engineers would have enough time to repair the car or get someone to come out with spare parts. If this was arranged correctly then you’d have complete rookies and you could have drivers like Paul Di Resta and Sergio Perez taking part too as that was they’d gain some valuable experience on the track. To make sure the teams aren’t concerned about the tyres if Pirelli gave each car a pair of options and a pair of primes (or inters and wets if it rains) which can only be used in the thursday session, and if teams like Ferrari couldn’t bear letting their drivers destroy the race car the session could be made to allow the previous years cars as well as the current years so the drivers get the practice and the teams could let them do there worst.

Thursday could also be made into a day where the circuits try and attract children to the circuits to try and drive up the interest in F1 by doing offers like kids go free and aim it at schools for school trips where pupils could do some extra curricular work, maybe Art students doing some photography or maths and physics student running investigations into average speeds or at a track like Spa you could have geography students looking at the geography of the area as well as letting them see the cars.

I believe this system would work as it does many things at once, it drives up the interest in motorsport with children, it lets rookies have valuable track time and it lets the teams have the assurance that they can repair the car in time for the race team.

How many races are we going to have?

6 Sep

With Austin coming in next year (2012) and a 5 year contract for Sochi starting in 2014 there is a huge influx of tracks coming in and unless tracks start to be dropped there is going to be just too many. In this and last seasons we gained two new tracks – South Korea and India – and every month we hear about places considering to host tracks, this week it’s Bangkok (capital of Thailand), last week it was France who are considering updating one of there tracks to draw F1 back and there is that recurring theme of a New York GP. So what exactly can be done to make sure the season doesn’t become too big.

1. Drop all street circuit GPs except Monaco and say no more can come in: So we’d lose Singapore and Valencia which no one would lose sleep about.

2. Tell the Chinese authorities that unless they manage to fill over 75% of the stadium with paying spectators: Every year when the circus comes to China we see huge grandstands covered in adverts to try and hide the empty seats.

3. For new GPs give them just a 1 year contract: This way you can see if it’s any good or not and if it is give it a better contract and if not just drop it.

4. Let the teams choose which track is dropped: At the end of the season all the teams name a bad track and the following years GP there is cancelled and if they get offered bribes then the track trying to bribe them also gets dropped: This would get rid of the rubbish tracks like Bahrain  and introduce another layer of strategy as teams try to drop tracks that don’t suit their car.

My favourite corners of the 2011 tracks.

6 Aug

Sakhir (Bahrain):

Turn 14, the braking point is very important as if you get your foot on the accelerator too late and you won’t have the speed on the longest straight of the track. Not many other interesting corners except for turn 1 where the line is important as it will affect your speed between corners 3 and 4.

Melbourne (Australia):

It’s between two. Turn 3, the car comes into it at 275KM/H and has to be brought down perfectly to 105KM/H, otherwise the car will go off and probably end up skipping turn 4, which will not only get you an inquiry from the stewards, but also ruin your floor as the speed bumps there have done in the past. Also, Turn 12, not a normal choice I know but as the tracks so wide it’s very easy to not brake enough, also it’s important  to hit the kerb as otherwise you’ll lose a lot of time.

Sepang (Malaysia):

The turn 1/2 complex, it’s an amazing curving line that goes 180 degrees right then almost 180 degrees left, it’s a very important corner on all laps as varying from the racing line could leave you in the wall. On the lap 1 the corner is especially important as it’s after quite a long run up and then having to get through a tight corner so it’s where drivers are fighting for position and risking going wide to get a better line thought turn 2.

Shanghai (China):

Has a very similar start to Malaysia but has 4 corners in it rather than 2. My favourite corner though is turn 14 as it’s where the overtaking usually happens especially with DRS, the corner is quite wide as well so it’s possible to overtake on the inside or the outside or equally likely you can brake too late and run wide off the track.

Istanbul (Turkey):

Only 1 corner is worthy of the title, the legendary triple apex turn 8, even Sebastian Vettel crashed there in practise this year. The corner is especially tricky as if you miss an apex or the racing line then you lose a lot of time, the corner is also -after the first apex- taken without braking again which means the driver will suffer a huge amount of G-Force which increases the drivers likelihood  of making a mistake.

Barcelona (Spain):

Again it’s between two corners, turn 1 and turn 10. Turn 1, a place where overtaking happened this year, mainly due to the DRS and tyres but also chosen for the way the track then starts to go uphill, also it is amazing on the first lap due to the massive run up to the corner which is how Alonso managed such a good start at the race this year. Turn 10, it’s after another long straight and yet again is going uphill, the corner is also a place that if you risk it enough you can gain time.

Monaco (Monaco):

Turn 6, such an iconic corner that is the slowest corner in the season and requires it’s own special gear ratios, not usually a point for overtaking although this year Schumacher overtook Hamilton at it.

Montreal (Canada):

Turn 11, it’s the make or break corner it’s between the two longest straights on the track and the wrong line means a slower speed on the longest straight which will let drivers past especially if they use DRS.

Valencia (Europe):

Not many great corners at this track but turn 8 is a picturesque corner with the bridge coming into view, isn’t so important from a race point of view but offers a great oppertunity for the cameramen. Did you know that during the race weekend the bridge is opened every evening to allow boats in and out.

Silverstone (Great Britain):

Turn 1 (Abbey), A great first corner which can produce an amazing spectacle with the drivers all fighting to overtake and get the better line through turn 2. Having said this almost any corner could be chosen as all have such a history and provide excitement as the high speeds needed to put in a good lap you’d think are mad with between corners 9 and 15 the car doesn’t go below 200KM/H.

Nurburgring (Germany):

My favourite track this season with some amazing corners, my favourite of which is the turn 8/9 complex as it is two followthroughs going left then right where taking your foot off the pedal would be useless the corner is also great for the way that the car has just come out of the slow hairpin and then hits the high speeds as the driver has to get over the feeling of expecting to hit the walls.

Hungaroring (Hungary):

Turn 5, I know it’s an unconventional choice but in the build up to the recent grand prix I did some laps of it on F1 2009 for Wii and when I went in tutorial mode on the track it was the only corner where the guy who speaks said I did amazing at and didn’t say that I was too slow or needed to stay on the track. If it weren’t for that it would be turn two as it was so devastating to the drivers in the rain with both Ferrari’s and Vettel as well as a few others going off there.

Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium):

The corner to watch this year will be turn 5 as I’m expecting (just a guess) that the DRS will be on the straight going up to it, this could make overtaking interesting as turns 5 and 6 are quite narrow and are likely just going to be the drivers confirming their overtaking as the straights long enough for the driver to fully overtake. Favorite normally though would have to be Eau Rouge as despite being made easier in recent years is still a corner that would make your heart thud.

Monza (Italy):

Lesmo 1 mainly because of the Wii again as it’s a corner where I am surprisingly quick. Favorite non-Wii corner though would be Parabolica it’s the best named corner ever as the name parabolica just conjures up an amazing image, as well as that it’s important as it leads up to the longest straight on the track and I suspect that straight will be the DRS one.

Singapore (Singapore):

The chicane of turn 10, it’s a corner which if done well looks amazing and if done badly makes you look an idiot and badly damages the underside of the car as Jaime Aguersuari will testify (I think it was him who came off last year in one of the practices) it’s also a very tight chicane which makes it harder.

Suzuka (Japan):

So many great corners, turns 3,4,5 and 6 are an amazing spectacle with the even numbered ones being the ones you brake into, Degner 2 or crossover (turn 9) an amazingly important corner where braking point is vital, as Hamilton proved last year, turn 11 now making the grade after Kobayashi’s antics their last year overtaking almost everyone there, turns 13 or 14 or the legendary  Spoon corner which tests both car and driver as the exit it vital to a good run along the longest straight (most likely a double DRS with both straights at the entry and exit to turn 15 -or 130R-). Turn 15 is also a great corner in it’s own right as if you turn the steering wheel as either just the wrong time or at the wrong angle can see you seeing wall rapidly advancing on you and finally the title deciding 16,17,18 or Casio Triangle where Prost won the 1989 championship by taking both himself and Senna off the track just for Senna to carry on and get disqualified.

Yeongam (South Korea):

This year it’s going to have to be turn 3 already a very tricky corner that I expect will have a DRS zone going into it and maybe another going out of it, so it’s going to be an important corner for every driver as drivers will take their battles for position to it.

Jaypee Group Circuit (India):

Having had no race previously I’m just going to go on where I expect overtaking to take place and envisage it being turn 4 as it comes after the longest straight (likely DRS zone) and before another straight so line through the corner will be vital as well as a bad run off it could see a driver losing the place he’s just taken from the DRS on the next straight .

Yas Marina (Abu Dhabi):

Turn 1 (from a pitlane point of view), when the Abu Dhabi track was constructed many people commented on the way the pitlane went under the track, it’s a stupid idea really as there would be nothing wrong with ending the pitlane on the outside of turn 1, instead we end up with a difficult corner which is too narrow in a place where no one should crash and if someone did the race would have to be black flagged.

Interlagos (Brazil):

Turn 1, there’s something majestic about the way the corner just goes downhill and the overtaking opportunities there will be on lap 1 as it’s a place where you can overtake. Also, it’s named after the great Ayrton Senna which has to make the corner better.

The Nurburgring

21 Jul

One of my favourite tracks ever made due to it’s history, it’s challenging style and that it was the first ever GP circuit I’ve visited (although not for the GP but actually for a Old Timers Grand Prix held there). The original Nurburgring was an untamed beast which is one of the longest (14 miles) and most dangerous tracks with 174 corners. But after boycotting the track in 1970 and hosting one race in 1976 (in which triple world champion Niki Lauda only just managed to keep his life after crashing) the track never hosted another GP.

But that wasn’t the end of the circuit as a new purpose built track was built in 1981 being built around the old pits. Having been opened in 1984 to host the European GP the circuit got a regular position from 1999 and has since been known to be challenging, due to it’s very challenging first corner, a slippery surface and a lack of overtaking (which could be improved by widening both the Shell and Bit Kurves, or alternatively by using DRS). Since 1999 been a Ferrari stronghold having won 5/10 times, oddly enough no other team has won it more than once with Stewart, Renault, Williams, McLaren and Red Bull winning there once each. Another thing to note it that half of the races there have been won by Germans – although it was 4 times by Michael Schumacher and the other one was won by his brother Ralf.

As far as my prediction for the race goes I’d say that the majority of the corners are low speed with only a handful requiring high downforce, because of this I’d say that the track would suit Ferrari more as Red Bull specialise in the High Downforce corners. Having said this Ferrari have looked strong and even won at tracks which Red Bull have been given the favourites title for.

If you want to know what the old circuit is now used for you can pay to do a lap of the track in your own car (although your insurance doesn’t count if you crash) and is still used for the Le Mans Series race held there each year.