The Streak has Ended

Sebastian Vettel may now be a double World Champion, but RedBull Racing’s streak of 15 consecutive pole positions, has come to an end just one pole short of William’s record from 1992-1993. Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren snagged McLaren’s first pole since the Canada last year. The pole will serve as a big boost to Hamilton has been put under the media microscope due to a string of poor results, in particular having four separate collisions with Felipe Massa this season.

Massa, another driver having a tough time will see his spirits lifted, having out qualified his much vaunted team mate Fernando Alonso for the second race in a row.

The real test however is yet to take place, whether Hamilton, Felipe or any of the drivers will enjoy the Korean sunset tomorrow, depends if they can follow the example of Jenson Button and truly take the fight to RedBull Racing.

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Brilliant Button

Jenson Button was brilliant today during a chaotic and often rainy Hungarian Grand Prix. The British driver celebrated his 200th F1 start with a superb victory, the 11th of his career, which puts him on level with former Honda team mate Rubens Barrichello, and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.

Button held onto his third place grid position at the start, later moving up to second after going around Sebastian Vettel who was struggling for pace.  He then began reeling in team mate Hamilton who had pressed Vettel early on and taken a commanding lead. Good communication between he and his crew saw him later come in for the softs, with the intention of them lasting the race distance. A dice with Hamilton and a further smattering of light rain showers that seemed to catch out most of the field only proved temporary hold ups, as Button kept his head and claimed a historic victory.

Much is made of an F1 driver’s wet weather ability, as sort of a litmus test to differentiate the good from the great. In the pouring rain, this race would have been Hamilton’s to lose, in the dry it would have been Vettel’s or Alonso’s, but in mixed conditions Button is the new standard, some calling him the “moistmaster”.

Vettel and Alonso rounded out the podium followed home by a hard charging Hamilton who secured 4th, despite an ill fated stint on intermediates mid race and a drive thru penalty. Webber and Massa rounded out the rest of the top guys, giving us a McLaren, RedBull, Ferrari, McLaren, RedBull, Ferrari top six. Paul di Resta drove a superb race taking “best of the rest” honors away from its usual title holder of Nico Rosberg. Sebastian Buemi drove a fantastic race climbing from 23rd to 8th, nearly taking 7th off of di Resta at the line.

The most unusual moment of the race was a glimpse at the softer side of Michael Schumacher. Being pressed hard by former team mate Massa, Schumacher’s gearbox let go, in order to avoid taking out the Ferrari, Schumacher deliberately put his Mercedes W-02 into a spin, exiting the race in dramatic fashion. Despite the help from his former mentor, Massa once again had a difficult time at the Hungaroring. Dominating the 08 race saw his engine let go 3 laps from victory and in 2009, the fallen spring from Barrichello’s Brawn hit Massa head on, nearly taking his life and forcing him to sit out the remainder of the season. Two years on from the tragic event and Sid Watkins believes Massa should only now be fully recovered, time will tell if it shows later in the season, but one can only imagine the difficulty of being team mate to Fernando Alonso whilst not being 100 percent.

Formula One now begins its mandatory month long summer holiday until competition returns August 28th at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Sadly,  for the first time in a long time it will be without former king of Spa Kimi Räikkönen who has four wins, including three in a row from 2004 to 2007 (there was no 06 race) at the famed low downforce circuit.

The season is now set to heat up dramatically with McLaren having 4 wins to RedBull’s 6 and Ferrari’s 1. The low downforce circuits of Spa and Monza have been difficult for RedBull of late and their competitors will likely relish in that fact in a month’s time.

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The Mark Webber-Ferrari Connection

The future of Mark Webber has been one of the most hyped and discussed aspects in the Formula One world of late. Many feel he has grown tired of the Sebastian Vettel show at RedBull and will jump ship to partner Fernando Alonso at Ferrari next year. Whereas Webber is on a year to year basis with Redbull, Felipe Massa has a contract for the 2012 season in place at Ferrari. Though they were keen to pay off Kimi Räikkönen to get Alonso into the team for 2010, Webber is no Alonso, and in this new era of resource restriction paying Massa to leave early would be both costly and foolish. Despite these facts, fuel has been added to this absurd fire by the fact that Alonso hitched a ride on Webber’s sidepod back to pitlane at the end of last weekend’s German Grand Prix.

The image of friendly competition echoes the famous ride Nigel Mansell gave to Ayrton Senna after winning the 1991 British Grand Prix, but in no way highlights any sort of agreement between Webber and Alonso’s boys back in Maranello.

About the only connection between Webber and Alonso is that they are managed by the fiery and controversial Flavio Briatore. Choosing to stick by Briatore, disgraced and banned from the sport after the race fixing scandal in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, was a gutsy choice by both drivers, but Alonso and Webber are two drivers who don’t give a hoot about the outside world’s opinion of them.

Would they make good team mates? Possibly. Will it happen? Don’t count on it.

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Senna Coming to the U.S.

In breaking news the new award winning documentary on Ayrton Senna, that has been wowing audiences across the globe and nabbed the award for best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival will finally be premiering in the U.S. Details are sparse at the moment but point to a release date in July.

All I can say is that it’s about time 🙂

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A Possible plan for Piëch

Bugatti has just given the go ahead for the elegant $1.4 million, 16 cylinder Galibier super sedan. Confirming that Bugatti in its latest iteration is more than a one car make, and is here to stay.

The point of Bugatti’s place in the Volkswagen group hierarchy is to build the best of the best. The fastest, the most opulent, the most powerful, the most elegant cars in the world and to a standard that leaves all the other manufacturers gasping for breath. They achieved this with the Veyron, dusting off the likes of Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini  and with the Galibier they seem destined to dust off the likes of Rolls Royce, Bentley and others as well.

At the same time there have for sometime been rumors of Volkswagen wishing to enter F1, especially once the 2013 regulations take effect. This has caused many to speculate on which brand of their vast armada VW will use. The logical front runners are Porsche and Lamborghini and to a lesser extent Bentley, brands already steeped in racing history.

Bugatti however, dominated grand prix racing in the late 1920’s through the early 1930’s and this gives the VW group a really unique opportunity to reach back into the history books and revive a long lost team of glory. Not only will it be a more exciting and glamorous choice, it will evoke a grand sense of nostalgia and lend a helpful dose of legitimacy to Bugatti’s claims as the world’s ultimate car maker. A plan Ferdinand Piech would no doubt love.

Update: With the new regulations pushed back a  year and changed to turbocharged V6 engines, Audi’s interest in F1 gone for the time being, Bugatti may well be VW’s choice, but recently a top VW executive hinted that their entry into F1 would likely not take place until 2018.

Posted in Design, Formula One, Future Cars | 2 Comments

And so it begins

This past weekend has seen the beginning to the real heart of the motor racing season with the opening rounds for Formula One and Indycar still fresh in our minds I will look back on some of their finer points.

Indycar’s opening race, The Honda Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg was plagued by the new double file restarts, resulting in four caution periods in the first 15 laps! By the time the race got itself sorted out Chip Ganassi’s Dario Franchitti, fresh off of winning last season’s championship prooved he is still the man to beat by dominating the race.

There was a similar story in Formula One, current World Champion Sebastian Vettel, dominant in qualifying simply ran off and left the field to win by 20 seconds. At times Lewis Hamilton matched his pace and incredibly so did Sauber’s rookie Sergio Perez. Perez, amidst all the drama and degredation of the Pirelli tires managed to stop only once, astounding his team, the Pirelli engineers and no doubt the entire paddock!

Sauber and Scuderia Toro Rosso led the midefield whilst the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were curiously off pace, allowing the podium positions to be occupied by Vettel, Hamilton and Renault’s Vitaly Petrov who gave the drive of his career to achieve his first podium in only his 20th F1 race. Not only was it his first podium in F1, but the first podium of any Russian driver in the sport. It was a proud day for him, for his country and for Renault who seem to have the pace to compete with the big boys.

Sadly absent from that big guns competition were the Mercedes W-02’s of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Rosberg punted out of the race by an overly enthusiastic Rubens Barrichello, and Schumacher likewise suffering damage too great to repair after being rear ended by STR’s Jaime Alguersuari at the start. Despite the lacklustre start by Brawn’s boys, one statistic of incredible and temporary stature cold not escape my mind:

Until the next race in Malaysia, Michael Schumacher will have won as many grand prixs as all the other winning drivers currently on the grid combined. Even if 2011 follows suit and proves a dissapointment for Schumacher like 2010 did, we should all turn an appreciative eye to history and marvel at all the man has accomplished.

Posted in Formula One, Indycar | 2 Comments

Firestone does the right thing

Firestone, has just announced they will stay on with Indycar as the series tire supplier through the end of 2013. This after earlier announcing their exit from the series. Team bosses united and spoke with Firestone’s Al Speyer and an agreement was reached.

This is a spark of wonderful news for Indycar as next season they will debut an all new car and group of technical regulations. Having the stability of Firestone intact will make the transition all the more likely to succeed.

Indycar is a great series and offers wonderful access for their fans, here is a photo I took of Danica Patrick’s car going to the garage after the Bombardier-Learjet 550 at Texas Motor Speedway last summer. My Dad even got the set of valve stems off her car right after the race!

I bet she and her fellow drivers will be glad to see that logo on their tires when the season begins!

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