Mercedes Tyre Troubles

19 May
We’re 5 races into F1 2013 and so far Mercedes have really struggled, despite qualifying on pole 3 many times they have struggled in the races, only finishing twice on the podium, and recently had a dreadful Spanish GP where after qualifying 1st and 2nd they could only finish 6th and 12th.
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK’S THE PROBLEM?
Well for a team to have such a contrast between qualifying and the races it indicated that there is a problem with the way that they use their tyres, and with thus year’s Pirelli tyres degrading very quickly Mercedes are being left for dead by the rest of the top teams.
WHAT COULD THIS PROBLEM WITH THE TYRES BE?
Well all F1 teams have to do a compromise with the design of the cars when it comes to tyre degradation.
Qualifying is a vital part of a race weekend, if you can qualify high up you have a much better chance of winning the race and winning points, and for qualifying you want a car that can heat up it’s tyres quickly so that it can have the tyres at the optimum temperature for a qualifying run, but this erodes the tyres quickly.
Whilst in the races you want a car that is light on it’s tyres so they can last longer and you don’t have to do as many pit stops.
As you can see this means team’s have to compromise when designing the car, but almost every team will make a 70-30 split towards race pace since championship points are only available in the race.
SO MERCEDES HAVE FAVOURED THEIR DESIGN TO QUALIFYING?
It appears that way and this is giving the team nightmares in the race where they simply don’t have the tyres to race and compete.
IF THIS COMPROMISE IS THE CASE, THEN HOW COME THE TEAMS WHO WIN RACES ALSO GO FASTEST IN QUALIFYING?
I understand where you’re coming from, but since every team favours the compromise towards race pace then it evens out and so generally the teams fastest in qualifying are also fastest in the race.
Of course teams change the balance around occasionally and that is well shown by Ferrari this season, at Spain they were the fastest on race pace, but were off the pace in qualifying indicating that their compromise is even more set on race pace than other teams. This could potentially be a good decision for the team since points are only available in the race, but on the other hand they could struggle to pick up points at tracks where it’s hard to overtake e.g. Monaco.
CAN MERCEDES SORT THEIR PROBLEM OUT?
They of course can, but the time put in to sort out this problem is time which isn’t being spent on other important parts of this year’s car and also time being lost on next year’s car.
SO SHOULD MERCEDES PACK IT IN FOR 2013 AND CONCENTRATE ON 2014 WHEN THE RULES CHANGE?
That is of course an option for Mercedes and could be a great decision for the team as it will give them a big head start on the competition, and of course Brawn has taken this strategy before in 2008 when he quickly gave in on the 2008 Honda to concentrate on the 2009 car which was eventually branded as Brawn GP and dominated the 2009 season.
One problem with this though is that sponsor’s only want immediate success, they want the team winning now not in 12 months time, so by cutting their losses on this season they could lose sponsorship and funding which could leave them without enough to be as competitive next season.

How’s he doing? Jules Bianchi

10 May

We’re four races in to F1 2013 so lets see how the new drivers have been getting on.

Remind me, how did you rate him before the start of the season?

I rated Bianchi as the best of the new drivers, I touted him to be France’s next world champion and thought he would be all to good for his Marussia team mate (Max Chilton).

And has he fulfilled this potential?

Bianchi has more than exceeded my expectations, of his 4 races so far he’s been a star in three of them and has more than outperformed Chilton. He’s constantly been the best qualified and finished of the newer teams and has spent times racing against midfield cars. If this season continues like it has been so far Marussia could qualify for Q2 and if a high attrition race come along they could pick up points.

How have Marussia done so far?

Marussia have been one of the best teams so far, they’ve started the season strongly and are easily quicker than Caterham. It looks like it would take a miracle for Marussia not to finish 10th in the constructors standings.

So how do you rate his season so far?

9/10 easily the best rookie so far and it looks like he’ll just get better and better.

How’s he doing? Esteban Gutierrez

4 May

We’re four races in to F1 2013 so lets see how the new drivers have been getting on.

Remind me how did you rate him before the start of the season?

I rated Esteban highly (7.5/10) despite the large amount of money that he brings to Sauber. This high rating was given because of his strong performances at every level he’d driven in pre F1.

And how’s he got on so far?

Dismally, he’s been well and truly out performed by team mate Hulkenburg and has been knocked out of qualifying in Q1 three times out of four, and at the Chinese GP he ran heavily into the back of Adrian Sutil which saw Esteban receive a 5 place grid penalty.

How does that compare to his team mate?

Whilst Esteban has struggled to make it out of Q1 team mate Hulkenburg has comfortably made it to Q2 every week and in China made it through to Q3. Hulkenburg has also picked up points (unlike Gutierrez) and has performed well, at times competing with those drivers at the front.

Sauber’s car for this season does not appear to be as good as last year’s car, this one is already losing out to Force India, but it may be that Sauber have already started work on the 2014 car which would explain why they haven’t performed so strongly this season.

How would you rate his performances so far?

3/10 So far the least impressive of the rookies.

How’s he doing? Max Chilton

1 May

We’re four races in to F1 2013 so lets see how the new drivers have been getting on.

Remind me how did you rate him before the season started?

I classed Max as a driver who’d got to where he was due to his father’s money, but said that he was clearly talented and deserved his place in F1. I rated him 7/10.

And has he lived up to those expectations?

He’s been no where near them, he’s been thoroughly outperformed by team mate Jules Bianchi and does not appear to be taking his Marussia to the level it can compete at.

How’s he done in comparison to his team mate?

Dreadfully, in qualifying Chilton hasn’t been far off Bianchi, but the gap’s been larger during races where Bianchi’s regularly been fighting with midfield teams whilst Chilton’s had to try to beat Caterham.

This year’s Marussia has been much better than last year’s and appears to be more than capable of beating the Caterham’s week in week out.

How would you rate him so far?

6/10 A let down so far, maybe it’s just his lack of time in a Formula 1 car before this season, or maybe he’s never going to be good enough.

How’s he doing? Valtteri Bottas

29 Apr

We’re four races in to F1 2013 so lets see how the new drivers have been getting on.

Remind me, how did you rate him before the season started?

I expected him to pick up points and classed him as one of the most exciting new talents into F1 in a long time.

And how’s he got on so far this season?

No where near as good as everyone expected him to be, he hasn’t qualified higher than 15th and has failed to score points at every race so far.

How does that compare to his team mate?

Pastor Maldonado has also struggled to get pace out of his Williams he also hasn’t performed well in qualifying and has failed to pick up points, but Maldonado has had to retire from two races so he has got more excuses.

Since both drivers have really struggled to put in good performances in the Williams it appears that it’s more the car’s fault than anything else, but Bottas will need to really up his game if he’s to remain in F1 next season since he’s one of the few drivers not their due to financial backing.

How would you rate his performances so far?

5/10 I expected more of him and so far he’s been rather unimpressive.

DÉJÀ VU IN THE DESERT FOR RED BULL AND LOTUS

21 Apr

The Michael Report- 2013 FORMULA ONE GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX

POLITICAL controversy overshadowed last year’s running of the Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir. Thankfully, this year, there was little, if any, disruption, and with Pirelli providing the tyres, this year’s race was made truly unpredictable, it was set to be an exciting race, and apart from the top three, this was achieved.

From the start, Nico Rosberg fought bravely hold on to first place, but unfortunately, the Mercedes car struggled to maintain a suitable grip, and began to slow down, allowing the field to begin overtaking the pole sitter, and once Sebastian Vettel took the lead, he stormed off into the distance and was never to be seen again until he took the chequered flag an hour or so later, only stopping for routine tyre changes, and taking care of the rubber that threw spanners into the works of the other cars, unless your car was a Lotus.

Kimi Raikkönen and Romain Grosjean demonstrated the durability of the harder compound tyres, and managed to outperform the other cars, who may have been quicker, but they weren’t able to cope with the thermal degradation that took place under the roasting heat of the desert sun. In a full replication of last year’s Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel received twenty five points in first, Raikkönen eighteen in second, and Grosjean fifteen in third.

Paul Di Resta demonstrated a superb Force India car today, and if it weren’t for the degrading rubber in the closing stages in the race, he could have achieved his first Formula One podium. Alas, he finished fourth and received twelve points. Neverthelss, it was one of the best races Di Resta has ever had, and paves the way for a possible challenge to the top teams, and securing Force India as the main mid-field team by far. Team-mate Adrian Sutil, however, suffered badly following contact in the early stages of the race, and finished thirteenth.

Technical gremlins wreaked havoc for Ferrari today. Felipe Massa clipped his front wing with the Lotus of Kimi Raikkönen, and had to struggle throughout the race, suffering a puncture in the process, finishing fifteenth. Team-mate Fernando Alonso started promisingly, but his rear-wing flap remained open, and he had to pit twice to have it shut again, meaning that he lost time as well as the use of DRS. However, the Spaniard proved his worth with sublime driving, and finished in a respectable eighth with four points.

McLaren are back on the rise, it seems. Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were tussling and pushing each other to the edge, quite literally, several times. The two cars from Woking were challenging the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber. Unfortunately for Jenson Button, he lost his war of rubber, and was forced to pit four times, instead of his planned three, but did manage to finish tenth with one point. On the other hand, Sergio Perez demonstrated why McLaren signed him, and pounced at every opportunity, eventually overtaking Mark Webber on the last lap to finish in sixth place, and received eight points. Lewis Hamilton finished fifth, and took home ten points, and team-mate Nico Rosberg finished ninth, and got two points.

Mark Webber had an average race, and maintained a good pace, but dropped back at the very last minute. In the space of the two last laps, he dropped from fifth to seventh, and finished with six points for Red Bull.

In the conflict between Caterham and Marussia, Caterham fought back today, since Charles Pic finished seventeenth, ahead of Sauber’s Esteban Guttierez, whilst Jules Bianchi only managed to finished nineteenth for Marussia, ahead of his team-mate Max Chilton, who turned 22, and his present was not finishing in last place!

Overall, it was an interesting race plagued with inter-team competition, overtaking and the tyre strategy once again dominated proceedings in today’s race, and the ‘finger’ stood atop the podium for the second time in four grands prix. Sebastian Vettel  has scored points in every race so far, and as the first fly-away leg of 2013 comes to a close, the other Constructors will need to do something to act as a constant threat to Red Bull dominance.

OFFICIAL STANDINGS UPDATE

After Bahrian, Sebastian Vettel now boasts a ten-point lead in the Drivers’ Championships, with 77 points to his name, with Kimi Raikkönen in second place with 67 points. After battling with his tyres today, Lewis Hamilton leapt into third place for Mercedes, with 50 points. Fernando Alonso has dropped down to fourth place with 47 points, and Mark Webber is fifth with 32 points.

A mere two points behind, we see Felipe Massa in sixth place with 30 points, and Romain Grosjean has jumped two places into seventh, now with 26 points. Paul Di Resta received twelve points today, and now has 20 points to his name. Nico Rosberg is eighth with 14 points, Jenson Button ninth with 13 and Sergio Perez tenth with 10.

In the Constructors’ Championships, Red Bull have broken through the century barrier, and now have 109 points in first. Lotus have retaken second place, and now hold 93 points. Ferrari have only gained 4 points, but are third with 77, and Mercedes are now fourth with 64 points. Paul Di Resta’s fantastic performance has meant that Force India have surged back into fifth place with 26 points, ahead of McLaren with 23, who drop back into a lowly sixth place. Toro Rosso have no more points to add, and remain seventh with 7 points. Sauber are eighth, and keep 5 points.

Williams lead Marussia who lead Caterham, but they are still yet to score.

I will be back in three week’s time, when Formula One begins its return to Europe, at the Circuit De Catalunya in Spain. Last year, Williams’ Pastor Maldonado was triumphant, but if they have any chance of emulating their success this year, serious work will need to be done. McLaren, showing baby steps towards improvement, will also be bringing upgrades to Spain. These two teams are probably the most in need of a boost, and we will wait and see who will reign supreme in Europe.

Michael

ALONSO WINS THE CHINESE RUBBER BATTLE

16 Apr

The Michael Report- 2013 FORMULA ONE UBS CHINESE GRAND PRIX

THE CHINESE Grand Prix this year was won by the driver who could best manage the tyre degradation, make the best pit stops and pick the right tyre compounds to achieve maximum potential, and today, Fernando Alonso drove brilliantly, overtook carefully and took great care of his tyres to fend off the competition and win Ferrari’s first victory since Germany last year.

Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel were the two big name drivers who began the race on the harder compound tyres, deciding to wait until the very last moment to switch to the softer, and less durable, tyres and one could argue that on the whole, this strategy delivered reward. Vettel chased down Lewis Hamilton to the very last second in the closing stages of the race, and was only denied a podium finish by two tenths of a second; Jenson Button also fought off Felipe Massa to finish fifth with ten points; Vettel received twelve points and finished fourth.

However, although both Button and Vettel both improved upon their qualifying positions, the vast majority of drivers today began on softer tyres, and changed to the harder tyres to finish off the race on much more durable tyres- Kimi Raikkönen collided into the back of Sergio Perez, damaging part of his front wing, but somehow managed to survive and remained competitive until the end, finishing in second place with eighteen points. Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes may have been quick in qualifying, but it didn’t quite have the pace to fend off Alonso or Raikkönen. Nevertheless, it shows that Mercedes is capable of challenging for the podium and possibly even a race victory this year. China has always granted rewards for Ross Brawn’s team, and this trend continued for Lewis, but not for team-mate Nico Rosberg, who was forced to retire with a suspension failure.

Other race casualties in the Chinese Grand Prix today were Mark Webber, Adrian Sutil and Esteban Guttierez. Mark Webber was unfortunate in that he regained places after starting from the pit lane, but he was involved in a collision with Jean Eric- Vergne, and damaged his front wing. After limping back to the pits, Red Bull decided to change his tyres as well as the front wing, but one of his tyres wasn’t affixed properly in the rush to get him back out onto the cricuit, and he ended up retiring, with the tyre rolling onto the track, nearly hitting Sebastian Vettel in the process! Next, Sauber’s Esteban Guttierez was travelling too fast, missed the ideal braking point, and crashed into the back of Adrian  from Force India, and both cars were forced to retire from the race.

Felipe Massa finished in a comfortable sixth place, earning eight points, and Daniel Ricciardo achieved his best ever finish, seventh place, for Toro Rosso, building on a spectacular qualifying session yesterday. Six points is a great achievement for the Australian, considering that he only received ten points in twenty races last year, and he will be hoping to build on his success in Bahrain next week.

Paul Di Resta finished in eighth and received four points, which is something that he will be pleased with after nearly being pushed off the track by his team-mate in the opening stages of the race. Romain Grosjean continues his ‘average’ performance of late, finishing ninth and getting two points and Nico Hulkenberg, who led at one point, finished tenth for Sauber. Unfortunately, they gauged the tyres wrong for him, since he switched from hard to soft to hard again, and that middle stint cost the German dearly, compared with Button and Vettel who switched from hard to hard to soft.

Sergio Perez under performed again today, scoring nothing by finishing eleventh for McLaren, and Williams finished thirteenth and fourteenth, and are still yet to score points, with three races now completed. Jules Bianchi once again won the battle of the back markers, finishing fifteenth ahead of Charles Pic, team- mate Max Chilton and Giedo Van Der Garde.

Fernando Alonso will be pleased with his driving today, and Ferrari certainly proved that they chose the best strategy in terms of tyres, and will be chasing down the Red Bulls in the coming week as the Championship battles tighten rapidly in this early stage in the season. Mark Webber will be wallowing in pity this evening, whilst McLaren, or at least Jenson Button, can feel somewhat relieved after managing to score a satisfactory position, and are glimmers of hope beginning to shine through? Martin Whitmarsh will hope so, but work still has to be done.

OFFICIAL STANDINGS UPDATE

Before the European leg of the Formula One season gets underway in one race time, the leaders in the first fly- away leg in the Drivers’ Championships are engaged in a true scrap to the top. Sebastian Vettel leads with 52 points, followed closely by Kimi Raikkönen with 49 points. Mark Webber has been usurped from third place by Fernando Alonso with 43 points, Lewis Hamilton with 40 points and Felipe Massa with 30 points. The Australian now lies in sixth place, after receiving nothing from China, and just showing how one mistake can cost drivers significantly. Thankfully with sixteen races to go, there will still be all to play for. In seventh place, we see Nico Rosberg with 12 points, and Jenson Button in eighth, who also has 12 points. Romain Grosjean has 11 points in ninth, and in tenth, Paul Di Resta with 8 points.

In eleventh place, Daniel Ricciardo has six points, as too does Adrian Sutil in twelfth. In thirteenth, Nico Hulkenberg with 5 points and McLaren’s Sergio Perez resides in a lowly fourteenth place with just 2 points. A solitary point is held by Jean Eric- Vergne in fifteenth.

In the Constructors’ Championships, Red Bull still lead with 78 points, but only five points ahead of Ferrari, who are second with 73 points. Lotus have continued their point scoring to great success, as they are third with 60 points. Mercedes are fourth, and they have 52 points. McLaren have recovered, and are now fifth with 14 points. Force India’s poorer finishing positions mean that they are sixth, despite also having 14 points. Daniel Ricciardo’s race has meant that Toro Rosso are seventh with 7 points, and Sauber are eighth with 5 points. Williams lead Marussia who lead Caterham, but none of them have scored any points thus far.

I will be back next week as Formula One heads to the desert in Bahrain- with (hopefully) no political upheaval due to overshadow the action, we look forward to the front- runners battle it out to see who will take the next chequers flag. The desert normally means high temperatures and an endurance test for the drivers, and it should hopefully be as interesting, if not more so, than today’s rubber dominated race in China.

Michael