Posts Tagged ‘ F1

The new tyre war

Formula 1 personnel are incorrigible competitors, so now that pit stops have been freed from the shackles of refuelling it’s not surprising to see teams attacking the length of the tyre change. Williams announced on Twitter last week that their pit crew have beaten the three-second barrier.

This intelligence coincided with me joining Red Bull Racing’s mechanics for a two-day team building exercise. The full story will appear in the Red Bulletin at the beginning of March but you can see a news snippet (and pictures) on the RBR site here.

Red Bull’s target time is aggressive, but they’re confident of achieving it by improving the crew’s physical conditioning and doing a number of bespoke exercises to improve on co-ordination. No doubt other teams are trying to achieve the same result through subtly different means.

Who will win out? It’s an interesting counterpoint to the technical battle that’s played out every year.

2010: the ‘to do’ list

I’m rubbish at the whole new year resolutions thing, but here goes:

1) Attend more grands prix. For various reasons (hosting at Renault, working in other series, not being organised enough to sort accreditation in time, etc) I only went to one GP in 2009. Yes, the travel is expensive, but going to races and keeping busy during the weekend is the only way to properly keep up with what’s going on.

2) Watch Michael Schumacher in action at a big-balls corner, preferably during qualifying. Love him or hate him, MS is a fabulous sight on a hot lap.

3) Read a Thomas Hardy novel. Mrs C suggests Jude the Obscure.

4) Learn how to do a bow tie. May just be a very useful life skill…

5) Comment on more blogs. It’s the polite thing to do.

6) Finish reading A Man In Full. This is a failed resolution from 2009 (in my defence, although I’ve had the book 10 years, I bought it in large-format hardback from remaindered stock and it isn’t very portable).

7) Deliver my second book on time.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of these throughout the year…

Schumacher: Back for (no) good

Later this morning Mercedes GP will announce that Michael Schumacher will drive for the team in 2010. There is a certain delicious irony here; since Mercedes already has Nico Rosberg under contract, many outlets carrying today’s news are describing Schumacher as the team’s ‘second driver’. It will not be so.

Michael Schumacher is the most rapacious competitor ever to stalk the Formula 1 paddock. Anyone who thinks he is coming back just for one last run around the block, or to add to his already considerable wealth, is kidding themselves. He’s here to win the 2010 world championship or die trying.

This hasn’t stopped some people soft-soaping the idea of Schumacher’s comeback. My colleague Ed Gorman wrote in The Times yesterday:

The impression gained is that the German wants to pick up where he left off with Ferrari when he retired in 2006. Those suggesting that he may see his role more as a mentor to Nico Rosberg, the 24-year-old who would be his team-mate, than a team-leading championship contender, are wide of the mark. He is said to be looking to add not only to his record 91 grand-prix wins, but also to his unparalleled haul of seven drivers’ titles.

Ed is pulling his punches here. Only a serial dingbat would imagine that Schumacher is going to play the avuncular mentor role to Rosberg. Michael wouldn’t have signed up unless he was confident he could blow young Nico’s doors off – and he will, by fair means or foul.

For Mercedes this is a PR coup (of sorts), plus some belated ROI after easing Michael’s path to F1 through the junior formulae. For German TV stations it’s good news for viewing figures. For anyone who views Formula 1 as a sport, rather than a crushingly cynical exercise in winning at any cost, it is utterly depressing.

People often ask me what Michael Schumacher is ‘really like’. I say it’s tricky to tell. In many ways he is perfectly normal. He has an extraordinary talent behind the wheel but he is also a family man and he adopts stray dogs. He’s also a shameless cheat.

I say ‘shameless’ advisedly. Michael has a feline quality. Cats have no guilt; a tiger will maul its keeper and then half an hour later wonder where they’ve gone. It’s the same in the business world. Robert Maxwell, Kenneth Lay and Bernard Madoff didn’t view their behaviour as fraud, but simply as a different business model.

It is this mindset that has driven Michael to avail himself of any means necessary to win, whether that be spinning deliberately to spoil an opponent’s qualifying lap (Monaco 2006), punting opponents off the circuit altogether (Australia 1994 and Jerez ’97), or compelling his team-mate to move over (Austria 2002). Let’s not get into the business of illegal traction control systems, although there is a story that Juan Pablo Montoya was moved to such fury at the Brazilian GP one year when he heard the Ferrari’s engine stutter (signifying the presence of TC) that he drove into Schumacher’s car.

For all these reasons I hope Michael Schumacher’s return to Formula 1 is a brief and inglorious one. There is good reason to hope: word reaches me that Sebastian Vettel has already signed a contract with Mercedes in 2011. Let’s drink to that…

F1′s single launch is dead

During a convivial lunch yesterday, conversation turned to the matter of January’s single launch for all the F1 teams. It was going to save the teams a packet because the local government was going to underwrite the whole shindig, reckoning on a big payday for the local facilities.

But there were several problems, not least of which was that some of the teams won’t have cars ready in time. Others – well, pretty much everyone except Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren – were unhappy that they would be swept off the news agenda. There was no PR value in it for the smaller teams.

Since they couldn’t even agree on a single catering supplier to dish out the bacon sarnies, it’s hardly surprising that the single launch has now been cancelled. Expect an official announcement in the Friday evening graveyard slot.