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  • #206075
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
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    I do see what you mean about Alonso’s approach to fans, and I think it can look that way especially to English speakers. But I do generally feel that he gives good interviews, often speaks honestly, and has a really positive attitude when he speaks about the team which seems totally genuine rather than a PR man’s answers.

    He’s also, if you follow him on the likes of Twitter and Instagram, quite a funny and quirky guy. It’s not something which will come across so much in interviews made pre and post race, but when he speaks in a casual situation a much more easy going side of him emerges. But of course, he loves his Spanish and Italian fans, and I don’t think that’s something to be derided, any more than you could blame someone like Hamilton for paying more attention to the British fans.

    #206071
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    Difficult one to answer. Of the current crop I’d say Alonso. I’ve been a fan of his since the Renault days, and in my opinion he’s equal in terms of ability to any of the greats of the sport’s history. If he wins this year’s championship it’ll be a masterclass on how to extract the maximum from what you’re given, and he’ll have used the tools available to him to devastating effect.

    My childhood hero, when I started watching F1, has to be our Nige. The hype and following for lewis Hamilton is nothing compared to the mansell mania of yesteryear. He embodied everything that’s great about the british sportsman – dogged, determined, relentless, indefatigable. And he had a sweet ‘tache.

    Favourite driver of all time? Probably james Hunt. The playboy image belied a talent which should have been able to shine much brighter than it did, and his witty, insightful commentary was among the best that F1 fans have ever enjoyed. What a guy.

    #204950
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    It’s a tough call. As someone else said, it’d be nice to have a sort of utopian wishlist where the best tracks could host for free, and all fans would be able to attend races for a nominal fee, and TV coverage would be totally unrestricted, while at the same time giving a much wider level of access to the track and technical features. Yeah that’d be great, but it’s not in the slightest bit possible in a world where money exists.

    In my opinion, the first, and most important thing, would be to considerably reduce the amount of money taken out of the sport by the CRH and his partners. Partners who do literally nothing in relation to the sport other than cream off the money. This would mean either more money for the teams, or reduced hosting fees for the circuits, allowing better investment into facilities and reducing ticket prices.

    While I do like the idea of free to air coverage, I actually think that the model in the Uk isn’t a bad one. I’d take it a little further though, and say that in each country, one TV channel can have the rights to the FOM video feeds, which will include access to all the races and every session, plus all of the support races. This will be on a subscription channel (most likely, but not necessarily Sky. Eurosport, Speed TV, etc, may all be viable). I’d establish media areas around the circuit for a number of other broadcasters to put their own cameras up and broadcast their own feed from a number (not all) of races in the season, for a nominal fee. The more races they want to broadcast, the more they’d need to pay. A reduced rate would be offered to those just putting out highlights shows.

    With a reduced level of involvement from the commercial partners of the CRH, this would free up the possibility of opening up other avenues of advertising revenue. FOM are well known for their harsh stance on non approved advertising around circuits, not to mention hospitality areas. I’d open it up so that the teams and the circuits would be responsible for organising plenty of hospitality and media areas around the track where they can advertise their products. Similar to ‘the village’ at Le Mans, where you have all sorts of stands showing off the various manufacturers and commercial partners. It means that there is more incentive for the sponsors of the teams, since they will get increased exposure, and it’ll give something extra for the fans to see and do over a race weekend. I’d then make sure that a certain percentage of the advertising space at the track (billboard, etc) is set aside for various commercial partners of the teams, rather than the main sponsor of the race. These spots would be sold at a very high price, but would offer the opportunity for significant commercial exposure.

    The FOM feed would then be significantly expanded to include much more information and interactivity, such as live telemetry, continuous radio transmissions when watching in-car feeds, and so on. To give some extra value to those paying for the full service with the pay-per-view broadcasters.

    There are many other changes I’d make, but the crux is to offer more value for those buying into the sports, to encourage greater investment, and give a sense of improved returns for that investment. The current business model for all of the money for the sport coming from hosting fees and broadcast rights, with a large chunk of the money siphoned off and never reinvested, is totally unsustainable.

    #205839
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    Ah so it was. I missed that one. Sadly it didn’t get the attention it deserved thanks to a minor technical clarification regarding the red bull

    #205772
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    I don’t know that it’s strictly true about Massa. When he joined it was effectively as understudy to Schumacher, with the intention being that he would potentially carry forward that level. And in fairness, he pretty much did that, winning races and challenging for the championship.

    There are many factors in the downturn in form for Massa. The accident which put him out of the car left him, and the team, in a bit of turmoil. The change in tyres has meant that the driving style he shared with schumacher which was so successful in the days of grooved Bridgestones, suddenly stopped working for him. And of course, he was comprehensively blown apart by a teammate who is regarded as one of the greatest talents F1 has seen in decades. Yes, this has lead to a situation where Ferrari regard him as a clear number two, but it’s his own lack of performance which has caused that, not the other way round.

    Disasterous moves in F1? Surely the most disasterous has to be Ayrton Senna’s move to Williams.

    #205373
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    It would have to be sportscars and prototypes for me. I do love F1, but I hate that it is becoming effectively a spec series these days, with ‘innovation’ being limited to finding a loophole in the rules, and then everyone systematically copying it. By contrast, P1 class cars are hugely diverse, with their own technologies, aero concepts, and so on. Look at the Audi e-Tron Quattro and the Toyota TS030 – radically different concepts and yet closely competitive, and both with the freedom to innovate their cars in the direction they want. P2 class is also in something of a golden age, with teams no longer just there to try and see out the duration, with the class winner being whoever’s car managed to hold together long enough to see the chequered flag. And with the new Mazda SkyActiv turbo diesel engine set to become the standard engine of the series, it looks like the competition is going to get even hotter.

    Plus, while I respect the driving abilities in F1, I do think that WEC drivers face a much tougher challenge, both mentally and physically. F1 drivers struggle to negotiate traffic with cars all within 7% of each other on pace, in the dry and bright sunlight, whereas endurance racers have to deal with closing speeds of around 50kph, in the middle of the night, in the rain, with severely limited visibility, while also doing stints nearly twice the length of your average GP several times in a 24 hour period.

    It has always confused me why sportscar racing regularly looks to F1 as a source for its future stars, rather than the other way round.

    Oh, and plus, WEC teams can afford to pay their drivers, and they’re not in a situation where a huge amount of money is being squeezed out of the sport by an unscrupulous and corrupt commercial rights holder. The future of sportscar racing is looking increasingly bright, at a time when F1 keeps tripping over itself.

    #205078
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    This is a pretty complex issue, and one which doesn’t have a simple answer. With regards to knee jerk reactions, it’s worth pointing out that this is at least the third time in recent memory that this question has come up, where there has been an incident where a close canopy or cockpit would have given a radically better outcome to an accident. That in itself suggests to me that it’s a question which needs taking seriously. Of course we could say, sure, move that truck further away, improve that catch fencing. These things should be done too. But what it highlights is exactly how exposed the driver’s head is, in an open-cockpitted racing car. Lots of isolated incidents, all with their own causes, and all with their own distinct means of avoiding that particular ‘one in a million’ accident. But all with the common factor of severe head injury, or injuries caused by impacts to the head.

    If we ignore the debate about aesthetics for a second. The post-2009 rules have generated pig-ugly cars anyway, so I hardly think that aesthetic arguments are valid. And if we wanted something traditional then why not go back to the days of driving cigar tubes on wheels?

    The biggest argument against a closed cockpit is the one of driver extraction when the car is inverted. It’s worth looking to the world of Le Mans prototypes here, and asking how often has this caused a problem for them? While a jet-fighter style canopy has its own potential problems, I can’t see why you couldn’t have an LMP style cockpit, with hinged doors which extend into the sidepods. The tight sides of existing head protective areas wouldn’t be needed with a closed canopy, meaning the driver would have a lot more freedom of movement in the cockpit, to get a hand to a doorhandle. Equally, the door would be easy for marshals to open up, and access to the driver would be improved for the most part. If you wanted to significantly improve access, then you could also relocated the air intake to the tops of the sidepods to allow access to all sides of the driver. In this way, you would actually have better access to a driver in an inverted car than you would if there was no canopy. It’s easy to forget that there is a fear on tracks with gravel traps, that the driver’s head could be buried. And instances where cars have speared through a tyre wall, trapping the driver and making it impossible to extract them until the car is moved. These problems, as well as the larger ones, would all be solved by an LMP style cockpit.

    There’s another argument in favour of it as well, and that’s one of aerodynamics. The driver is probably the second biggest problem, aerodynamically, after the tyres. Changing this would force the designers to go back to the drawing board and work on making cars which are radically different in their aero concepts than the cars we see at the moment. With much less dirty air, making the racing even better. Closed cockpits could be looked back upon as one of the best things that ever happened to F1 racing, if people were brave enough to allow for radical designs.

    #202653
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    @matt90 Hubris, isn’t it. I think most manufacturers don’t really understand F1. They see the smaller teams competing in the midfield on comparatively small budgets and think that with all their resources that they should be able to beat them easily. Unfortunately they learn very quickly that F1 is not a problem which can be solved by throwing more and more money at it. The knowledge and expertise required to be halfway competitive are so specialised that it’s almost impossible to find anyone outside of F1 who would be any use at it. Let’s face it, most manufacturers just think of F1 as a good PR opportunity, and go into it with frankly no idea what they’re getting themselves into. It’s not to say that none do, and ironically the remnants of what was once the struggling Honda team now have a manufacturer backer who seem to understand the game and are prepared to put in place everything they need to be able to compete. But it has come at the expense of being able to use their own personnel. Effectively they just have a well designed F1 car paid for with their money, with their badge on its nose. But it certainly wasn’t built by Mercedes!

    #202611
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    I think it’s a bit of a sweeping statement to say that the tyres are “unquestionably” the biggest influence on racing this year. In fact, I’d definitely question it.

    For a start, Monaca is a good comparison, since the super soft tyre was the same tyre they used last year. A tyre which last year nobody had any issues with. It’s also worth looking at the qualifying times and race durations for the races this year compared to previous years, where you will notice something interesting – that the pole times are broadly similar, and the race durations are also about the same. Meaning that the pace of these tyres is not as compromised as people are making out. At most, it’s a case of a few seconds over the duration of the race. Hardly the two or three seconds a lap people are suggesting. In fact, when you think about it, most people managed a one stop strategy in Monaco on the super soft, while the car is at its heaviest. A set of tyres which can do that, is a durable set of tyres, especially when the pace is good, which it was.

    No, I would suggest that actually the biggest influence on racing this year, has actually been the banning of blown diffusers. This has had the effect of significantly closing the gap between the teams. There is a situation now where being half a second off the pace in qualifying may put you out in Q2. The result being that qualifying is now far more dependent on individual performance, which has mixed up the grid significantly. It has also put more pressure on those at the front to maintain their lead, and to maximise strategy, leading to some interesting blunders from teams and drivers, where in the past the leading teams could generally play to whatever strategy they chose and still comfortably win or at least get on the podium. Even the slowest cars are finishing just one lap down by the end of the race, which is practically unheard of.

    As well as closing the pack, banning the blown diffusor has also had the effect of significantly reducing the cars’ stability mid-corner, which means that the cars are now more prone to generating higher slip angles and wheelspin; two things which are guaranteed to significantly reduce the life span of your tyres. Again, this doesn’t point to a problem with the tyres, it points to the banning of the blown diffuser as being the culprit for higher levels of tyre degredation as the drivers struggle to find the best balance to extract the maximum performance.

    There is clearly a reason why the drivers don’t feel like they’re driving to the limit, but the times being set in the race don’t seem to suggest that they’re really that far off. It seems to me that with the banning of the diffuser, the pace has naturally dropped off a little, and the characteristics of the cars have fundamentally changed. In such a way, that the car feels to the driver like it has a potential which is significantly higher than the race pace, however if the driver actually tries to achieve this potential, they simply over-drive the car and damage the tyres while not gaining any performance advantage. I’m sure it must be frustrating having to hold off the throttle that little bit longer in the corner, and being unable to attack the corners like they could last year, however these changes aren’t because of the tyres, but rather because the cars have a fundamentally different balance this year caused by the banning of blown diffusors.

    To compound the problem, where in previous years the teams would have used ballast to help bring some balance back to the cars, the weight ratios of the cars are set and can’t be altered, meaning that this characteristic is pretty much fixed for now. The best thing the drivers can do is stop moaning about tyres, and acknowledge that the best way for them to win races is to learn to drive their slightly unbalanced cars, and hope that the engineers can come up with something a little bit more driveable next year.

    #202645
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    @Girts No, you’re right, Massa’s dip in performance is down to more than just the pressure of being a Ferrari driver and the expectation of fighting for victory. There are lots of factors at play. One which hardly ever gets mentioned has been the transition between different manufacturers of tyres, and going from the grooved to the slick control tyres. I’ve seen it said that Massa’s style of taking a lot of braking into the corner apex worked really well on the older Bridgestones which had soft sidewalls, but not to well on the stiffer control tyres. A technique he learned while serving as understudy to Schumacher, and something Schumacher seems to struggle with as well.

    But crucially the biggest issue for Massa I think is his teammate. Alonso has been absolutely dominant, not just in terms of the performances he’s been putting in which Massa has struggled to match, but also in the way Alonso has managed to get the team fully behind him. That’s something he never had to worry about with Raikkonen, who just wanted to turn up and drive the car every other Sunday. It has created a situation where Massa no longer has the full backing and support of the team, which has put a focus on his driving like never before. The benchmark he’s being measured against is close to perfection, which has left him in an impossible position.

    I honestly feel that Massa, in another top team, with a bit of friendly encouragement, could well get back to his previous best, and could still be a contender. I don’t think there’s any way he could possibly do it in Ferrari, unfortunately. Not while Alonso is there. Alonso has well and truly broken him, and I think he’d do that to pretty much anyone who was his teammate. Even if Schumacher returned to Ferrari, I think Alonso would still be the number one. Not because they’ve nominated him to be number one, or anything silly like that, but because he’s shown a level of dedication and delivered a level of performance to back up all of the effort they’ve put into backing him.

    Anyway, that’s getting off topic a little. As I say, this year could well be the year for Rosberg, especially while the championship is wide open. Personally, I think this championship will be a fight between Vettel and Alonso, but as you say, it wouldn’t take an enormous shift in the order of things to throw it open to a new champion. That’s what is making this year so exciting.

    #202642
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    I think it’s important to stay a little bit grounded. Yes, there are lots of drivers in the mid field (and below) who are making good impressions with the occasional flash of good driving. This doesn’t mean that these drivers would be capable of coping with the pressure of driving for a front running team, or that they would be able to consistently deliver that level of achievement when it counts. It’s easy to look good in the mid field, because generally you get praise for your good races, and your weaker ones are ignored. Compare that to the drivers in the top teams, where a poor showing can result in a huge amount of negative press. Look at how the pressure to succeed has all but killed off the career of Felipe Massa, and that’s a man who a few years ago was beating Raikkonen and challenging for a championship.

    It’s not to say that the likes of Hulkenberg and Perez wouldn’t be able to do it, but I think it’s too early to tell for sure. To pick logically, you should really consider the drivers who are already in the top teams, who might be in with a shout of winning the championship this year. Namely, Webber, Rosberg, Grosjean and Massa. The latter of which I think can probably be discounted. Webber does seem to have all the credentials, but it’s hard to see him realistically beating Vettel over the season. That leaves Rosberg and Grosjean. Rosberg being a former race winner, and having a wealth of experience to draw upon, not to mention a good network of people around him to help him deal with the pressure of mounting a challenge. Grosjean has proven in GP2 that he certainly has the speed, and has a reasonably mature approach, but is perhaps still a little bit wet behind the ears for this year to be his year.

    So, what I’m saying is, the most likely new champion is Rosberg. This year. Who knows how the driver line ups will shuffle next year.

    #190114
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    Two of the R18s are hybrid, 4 wheel drive machines, but for reasons which escape me they are classified under the ACO rules as eligible for the P1 class. The diesel engine drives the rear wheels while above 100km/h power is sent to the front wheels via an electric motor, boosting power. They also travel down the pitlane under electric power I *think*. Check out their funky lighting system they use, by the way, to identify the car as it comes down the pitlane. The LED chaser strips around the lights strobe different colours for each driver.

    Anyway, yeah it is always worth considering that testing times aren’t usually that representative. However they do at least compare favourably with the qualifying times set last year. The pole time in 2011 was a 3:25.7, with the fastest testing time in 2012 being 3:25.9. That’s fairly consistent, and at least shows you that the TS030 is able to get into the same performance ballpark with a low 3:27, even if it’s unclear what the true potential of either it or the Audi R18 might be this year.

    It’s also interesting that the eTron Quattro cars (the hybrid Audis) appear to be the faster cars. Perhaps there is something about hybrid systems which will act as something of a performance leveller this year. You could certainly imagine Toyota using their hybrid system to make up for the torque defecit the petrol cars suffer coming out of the slower corners, where the diesels tend to hold the big advantage.

    #190110
    Avatar of MazdaChris
    MazdaChris
    Participant

    It looks like this car is going to make more of an impact than I really gave it credit for. I didn’t really give them much of a chance of impressing any more than Aston Martin managed a few years ago, especially after they were forced to sit out Spa, losing precious race mileage. However the times they set in the Le Mans pre test put them just a second or two off the pace of the leading Audi. That’s a lot closer than I thought they’d be, and puts them within striking distance of a good podium finish, even if the win is out of their reach.

    Toyotas efforts certain make them seem like viable contenders in the future, to have produced a car that fast in such a short space of time and with such little testing.

    Of course, you have to question just how much faster Audi would be going if Peugeot were there to push them..

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