Motor racing has a rich and comprehensive past, a history over 120 years in the making; a collection of events containing a varied spectrum of modern and decades since extinct vehicle types (and abilities). From that famous first ever race which wasn't a race, the 1887 2-kilometer Neuilly Bridge (Paris) event in which only one contender turned up, there must have been a general feeling of both apprehension and anticipation for the future of such an exciting spectacle - despite the disappointing turn-out. How the sport has progressed however, is beyond the imagination of anyone watching that very first race, and I'm sure the future holds even greater advances in viewer excitement, and driver complexity alike.
THE ULTIMATE FORMULA:
527 million global audience per race (2010) + 24 x 18,000 RPM, 220 MPH cars + 20 of the most challenging circuits on the planet + 24 of the worlds most competitive drivers = the famous title, 'World F1 Champion'.
To sit back and wonder at the amount of time, money and effort each team, each track, each individual driver, along with the governing 'FIA' body expend each day of the season is a monumental task - just imagine being involved. Every area of the sport requires crystal clear forward thinking and maximal development of ideas - the instinctive ability to advance the teams productiveness (both vehicular and organisational) in a way which beats (most of the time by the smallest of margins) the nearest competitor constructor. Across the board preparation and attitude towards the work-load must be maintained at the highest level, because if you slip up, you can be sure some other team (maybe even all other teams) won't have - and that's before the racing even begins. When it finally does, all tactical preparation can evaporate in milli-seconds as a result of one small (seemingly insignificant) error behind the wheel.
But what are the incentives for such a heavy ordeal? Is it solely about the pleasing of multi-million pound sponsors, or the obtaining of an 106 year old glory - to have your name scribed into the history books; or is it a combination of the two? Surely you can't doubt the teams joy when a win or a good final position is achieved (relative to the teams size, budget and ability)?
MY VIEW - THE POLITICS:
I think the commercial side to formula one has been its most dominant in recent years. Viewers seem to know as much about the financial and political battles of the teams and the sport (within its multi-billion dollar environment) as the drivers and cars recent performances. With such events as the battle to keep Bahrain on the calender for 2012 after cancellation the year before - in which we saw organised opposition to the 'elitist' spectacle from those suffering under the current regime - it seems as though the sphere of influence F1 now has is immense. It is now one which can sway national opinion and cause actions completely unconnected to the natural happenings of the 'sport' which we enjoy. I think the sport has become more about power, control and glamour than pure racing - though the next section will indulge further into my thoughts about the racing its self. This new persona about F1 is highlighted by the potential rich drivers now have to earn a seat for a season ahead of talented drivers without the funds - that in my opinion is not how it should work, and this occurrence could lead to the end of the sport (though it could equally lift it to higher ground).
MY VIEW - THE RACING:
Many people look back to the 80s and see a time of real racing excitement and true danger. They compare the safety features of the racing settings and the cars themselves, and they reminisce at the level of raw competitiveness achieved then in comparison to now. I partially agree with this view, but I look to now as a point of definite change for the better (despite the rich driver issue), and here's why:
New technologies coming into the sport in recent years include DRS (drag reduction system), KERS (kinetic energy recovery system), further aerodynamic improvements, and new Pirelli tires.
- DRS is the opening of the rear wing on cars at specific points to increase their top speed on straights by decreasing their down-force levels for that period (as it is not needed as much away from corners). Apart from during qualifying and practice, this system can only be operated when the car is within 1 second of the car in front on certain sections of the track - what this effectively allows for is more frequent overtaking and therefore a better viewer experience with a greater possibility of incident (only adding to the excitement).
- KERS allows for cars to collect energy used under breaking and release it to increase acceleration and speed at the drivers command when it might help overtake a car or complete a quicker lap time. This too increases overtaking opportunity, though the system is not operated by all cars due to costs and the weight of the device which needs to be installed.
- Aerodynamics are improving the look of the cars, the speed of the cars, whilst not disrupting the safety levels of the cars.
- After being challenged to increase tire degradation (tire wear) across softer and harder compounds, Pirelli have produced a batch of tires which all constructors are using which wear out quicker, and are therefore more difficult to drive under. This further increases the chance of error and mixes up the pack of cars even more to produce some more unpredictable racing!
I think that it is of direct result of these new technologies along with the introduction of some strong new teams and drivers that we have had five separate winners of the first five Grand Prix in 2012 - something which hasn't happened for some two decades. This is very promising stuff and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season with high hopes of drama and a fight to the finish.
Formula one remains the master of motor racing, but it won't always be that way if the giant spectacle carries along the path through commercialization - building bigger and bigger, disrupting more and more societies and political balances - and not producing racing which is entertaining and enjoyable. The coverage has definitively improved, with dedicated channels, HD viewing, red-button screening, but has the racing kept up? Has it become too predictable and too secure? It is my prediction that this season will reveal a lot more about the sport than most before it.
There was a certain irony on the grid in Melbourne for the first race of what looks like a very intriguing Formula One season. World Champion Lewis Hamilton sat 18th out of 20 cars, needing binoculars to see the lights go green, the position the previous golden boy in Jensen Button finished in the championship last year, the same Jensen Button who won pole position come race day in the Australian GP last Sunday, of course. Two months ago the playboy Englishman didn't think he would even have a job this season, let alone put his car on the front row in Albert Park after his team collapsed due to the credit crunch back in January. But he was, and not only that, but he won the bloody thing, the Ross Brawn-Mercedes team becoming the first debutants to win an F1 since Fangio's days, 1955 to be precise, ironically also Mercedes. Grand Prix Racing has been waiting for this refreshing upheaval.
Hamilton, alas, has gone from hare to tortoise in qualifying because of something called the 'diffuser', an innovative piece of streamlined bodywork at the back of the car that some teams are running, allowing the cars to go around corners much quicker. The three teams-Williams, Toyota and Brawn-who spotted and then exploited a loop-hole in the new rules to develop this technology were sitting sheepishly at the front of the grid, which resulted in the big teams lodging protests, the ones down the grid, throwing their toys out of the pram as they swallowed Force India fumes all weekend, the Ferraris a full second down on the Brawn-Mercedes pole pairing, McLaren a full two seconds down. Diffusers can also be found in hairdryers, very appropriate for Button.
Bernie Ecclestone asked the sport to be more innovative and less 'bling' in these current tough times and so ordered them to cut back on the budgets, helping the smaller teams back into the mix, exactly what the almost sponsorless Brawn-Mercedes achieved, only the sole squiggles of Richard Branson's tell-tale Virgin insignia on the ugly and big snow plough like front wings the money in the team. But the stewards had the last say in qualifying on this issue and demoted the two Toyotas to the back of the grid for having an illegal diffuser, more disqualifications sure to come on this one as the season goes on.
Melbourne's upside-down Grid after final qualifying...
1 Great Britain Jenson Button 22 Brawn-Mercedes 1:26.202
2 Brazil Rubens Barrichello 23 Brawn-Mercedes 1:26.505
3 Germany Sebastian Vettel 15 Red Bull-Renault 1:26.830
4 Poland Robert Kubica 5 BMW Sauber 1:26.914
5 Germany Nico Rosberg 16 Williams-Toyota 1:26.973
6 Brazil Felipe Massa 3 Ferrari 1:27.033
7 Finland Kimi Raikkonen 4 Ferrari 1:27.163
8 Australia Mark Webber 14 Red Bull-Renault 1:27.246
9 Germany Nick Heidfeld 6 BMW Sauber 1:25.504
10 Spain Fernando Alonso 7 Renault 1:25.605
11 Japan Kazuki Nakajima 17 Williams-Toyota 1:25.607
12 Finland Heikki Kovalainen 2 McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.726
13 Switzerland Sebastien Buemi 12 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:26.503
14 Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr 8 Renault 1:26.598
15 Italy Giancarlo Fisichella 21 Force India-Mercedes 1:26.677
16 Germany Adrian Sutil 20 Force India-Mercedes 1:26.742
17 France Sebastien Bourdais 11 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:26.964
18 Great Britain Lewis Hamilton 1 McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.964
19 Germany Timo Glock 10 Toyota
20 Italy Jarno Trulli 9 Toyota
It was a walk in the park for Button as the Brawn-Mercedes led from start to finish, it's un-racing like luminous police car livery jubilantly crossing the line in a one-two finish with Barrichello, just behind the omnipresent safety car, the Brazilian taking advantage of Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubicas late tangle three laps out, bizarrely handing Lewis Hamilton 4th, which was later upgraded to 3rd on race day when Trulli was demoted for yet more technical violations in a typically dramatic Australian Grand Prix. Sadfly the stewards dont like Lewis and he was disqualified from the race 6 days later for not telling the stewards the whole story on the yellow flag incident.
Button was not surprisingly ecstatic, the car just three weeks old, outrageous for it to do so well with no wind tunnel or track testing time under the bonnet. Rather ironically, because one of the new rules is no in season testing for the teams, it's that regulation that will stop the other teams without diffusers being able to redesign their cars in time to catch up. The next GP, Malaysia, is even better suited to Buttons car. The good fortune won't last though and I'm sure Ferrari and McLaren will soon dominate. But racing really needed this shot in the arm and the 'credit crunch' could ironically save the sport that was getting too flash and self-important for its own good. Richard Branson's grin was twice as big as Ross Brawns and Jensen Buttons put together as his very public eco concerns were thrown out of the window as yet another erroneously ethical millionaire is seduced by the glamour and girls of Grand Prix racing. Greenwash that one goofy!
We can't discount anyone at this stage of the season is that when FIDA meet on April 18th to discuss these diffusers the next two GP results ad points could be scrubbed for the offending teams as the big boy's lawyers kick into gear? Alonso finished the championship brilliantly last year and finishing 5th in Melbourne then maybe he too could be a contender. There are so many good young drivers in the mix that if the diffusers are allowed then we are in for a stunning season as power tries to catch up with glide, the option to run this 'KERS' power boost system also an interesting variable. Buttons win also proves that an average driver in a good car is just as good as a good driver in an average car. Now that the most wins ruling is discarded for 2009 to decide a tied championship we could have at least eight different race winners over the season and every team earning points.
-How they finished-
1 Great Britain Jenson Button 22 Brawn-Mercedes 1 1:34:15.784 10
2 Brazil Rubens Barrichello 23 Brawn-Mercedes 2 1:34:16.591 8
3 Great Britain Lewis Hamilton 1 McLaren-Mercedes 18 1:34:18.698 6
4 Germany Timo Glock 10 Toyota 20 1:34:20.219 5
5 Spain Fernando Alonso 7 Renault 10 1:34:20.663 4
6 Germany Nico Rosberg 16 Williams-Toyota 5 1:34:21.506 3
7 Switzerland Sebastien Buemi 12 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 13 1:34:21.788 2
8 France Sebastien Bourdais 11 Toro Rosso-Ferrari 17 1:34:22.082 1
9 Germany Adrian Sutil 20 Force India-Mercedes 16 1:34:22.119 0
10 Germany Nick Heidfeld 6 BMW Sauber 9 1:34:22.869 0
11 Italy Giancarlo Fisichella 21 Force India-Mercedes 15 1:34:23.158 0
12 Italy Jarno Trulli 9 Toyota 19 1:34:42.388 0
13 Australia Mark Webber 14 Red Bull-Renault 8 1:34:23.158 0
RET Germany Sebastian Vettel 15 Red Bull-Renault 3 retired, 56 laps 0
RET Poland Robert Kubica 5 BMW Sauber 4 crash, 55 laps 0
RET Finland Kimi Raikkonen 4 Ferrari 7 retired, 55 laps 0
RET Brazil Felipe Massa 3 Ferrari 6 retired, 45 laps 0
RET Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr 8 Renault 14 crash, 24 laps 0
RET Japan Kazuki Nakajima 17 Williams-Toyota 11 crash, 17 laps 0
RET Finland Heikki Kovalainen 2 McLaren-Mercedes 12 retired 0 laps 0
01 FORMULA 1 AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX (Melbourne) 27 - 29 Mar
02 FORMULA 1 MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX (Kuala Lumpur) 03 - 05 Apr
03 FORMULA 1 CHINESE GRAND PRIX (Shanghai) 17 - 19 Apr
04 FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX (Sakhir) 24 - 26 Apr
05 FORMULA 1 PREMIO DE ESPANA TELEFONICA 2009 (Catalunya) 08 - 10 May
06 FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2009 (Monte Carlo) 21 - 24 May
07 FORMULA 1 ING TURKISH GRAND PRIX (Istanbul) 05 - 07 Jun
08 FORMULA 1 SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX (Silverstone) 19 - 21 Jun
09 FORMULA 1 SANTANDER VON DEUTSCHLAND 2009 (Nürburgring) 10 - 12 Jul
10 FORMULA 1 ING MAGYAR NAGYDIJ 2009 (Budapest) 24 - 26 Jul
11 FORMULA 1 TELEFONICA GRAND PRIX OF EUROPE (Valencia) 21 - 23 Aug
12 FORMULA 1 ING BELGIAN GRAND PRIX (Spa-Francorchamps) 28 - 30 Aug
13 FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO SANTANDER D'ITALIA 2009 (Monza) 11 - 13 Sep
14 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX (Singapore) 25 - 27 Sep
15 FORMULA 1 FUJI TELEVISION JAPANESE GRAND PRIX (Suzuka) 02 - 04 Oct
16 FORMULA 1 GRANDE PREMIO DO BRASIL 2009 (Sao Paulo) 16 - 18 Oct
17 FORMULA 1 ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX (Yas Marina Circuit) 30 Oct - 01 Nov
Unfortunately the Formula one section does not have a specific area for an opinion like this, and I have already taken up the other sub-categories. Therefore, find it here...on Motor Racing in general. Sorry if this is somewhat out of place, I hope the content makes up for that. ------------------------------------------ Mention Formula One and most people immediately think of three things: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, and the boring dominance that their partnership is currently enjoying. In mainstream Britain at least, this dominance is frowned upon, and apart from the recent glimmers of impending brilliance from Juan Pablo Montoya there is little to capture the general public's imagination. Formula One remains one of the most popular sports in the world, but all too often people regard it as a one-horse race. There have been many recent 'what-ifs' in Formula One circles regarding what-if Michael Schumacher were not racing'who would pick up his crown, who would be the next big thing. Of course, unless you've been living under a rock then the obvious answer would be the aforementioned Mr. Montoya, but I for one am more excited about the young-guns who are packing the Formula One mid-grid with a great amount of talent; talent that is ready to explode as soon as the driver market opens itself up. One man holds the key to the driver market; Michael Schumacher. All things ultimately revolve around his contract, and with Mika Hakkinen out of they way the only other 'big seat' has already been rocked. This year there is the wonderful prospect of several big names all potentially available for musical chairs; David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello, Jacques Villeneuve, and even Ralf Schumacher is under threat at Williams. So, what am I getting at? Basically I hereby offer my opinion on the rookies who I believe are going to, or at least should be, making up the front of the grid by the next th
ree or four seasons. If you don't like Formula One then maybe this won't excite you, but if you do, then I'd be interested to hear your feedback because it seems nobody else has written this sort of opinion so far. Sadly I do not have room to go into detail about all of the drivers, so please forgive me if this is a somewhat superficial analysis of the drivers I mention. KIMI RAIKKONEN: Finland The obvious place to begin, as he is the first of the young pretenders who has contracted his race services to one of the big three teams. In joining McLaren in only his second season Raikkonen has secured for himself one of the most promising and consistently successful race-seats on the grid. He aims to become Formula One's youngest ever world champion, and at the age of 22 (March 2002), and in perhaps the most organised 'business'/team in Formula One, he could come good on his potential within the next three seasons or so, providing the team does a good job. McLaren consistently produce the best chassis thanks to their aerodynamic guru, Adrian Newey, and if Mercedes can deliver the goods in the engine department then Raikkonen should be at the sharp-end of the grid for a long long time. I personally rate Raikkonen very highly. I was very pleased last year when I heard he had signed for McLaren, although in many ways I would have preferred him to head towards Ferrari, the team he was widely tipped to join, as it would have left the McLaren door open for Nick Heidfeld (see below). What impressed me most was Kimi's ability to learn new circuits and be immediately competitive (remember, before his first F1 race he had only ever competed in 23 motor-racing events, excluding karting). His confidence and determination to succeed may be perceived by some as having an air of arrogance to it, but then so did that of Ayrton Senna, and Michael Schumacher. I am not making outright comparisons, but Kimi already sh
ows the traits that make 'great' racing drivers. Already at McLaren he has scored fastest lap and a podium finish on his debut, and outclassed David Coulthard in only his second race for the team. If he doesn't win a grand prix in 2002 I will be surprised. If he never wins a World Championship I will be flabbergasted! NICK HEIDFELD: Germany Raikkonen's teammate at Sauber in 2001 and the man many believed would be driving for McLaren this year before they opted for the young Finn instead. Despite the praise I have just lavished on Raikkonen, above, I am of the opinion that Heidfeld is the driver who has the most potential of any of the youngsters. Although he is technically not a rookie, because he is now in his third season, Heidfeld's talent is only really now becoming apparent to everybody, and I would hope to see him in a race-winning car before 2004. In 1998-99 he dominated the International Formula 3000 championship like nobody has ever done before or since, taking 7 wins along the way, whilst being McLaren Mercedes test-driver. It was here that Heidfeld's enormous talent was noticed, and he was quickly signed to a long-term contract for McLaren before driving for Prost in 2000, and Sauber in 2001 and 2002. Sadly, as I mentioned above, Kimi Raikkonen pipped him to the vacant McLaren seat for 2002, which came as a massive disappointment to Nick and his growing contingent of fans. Unfortunately Heidfeld found himself at the mercy of McLaren's long-term plans...they already had Nick under contract, so rather than let Ferrari steal Kimi Raikkonen for 2003 they signed him up too. Ultimately both of them now have McLaren contracts...and Ferrari currently have neither of them. It was a tactical masterstroke from Ron Dennis, but it was disappointing that Heidfeld was made to sit around in Sauber for at least another year or two. His natural speed is unquestionable, and he combines thi
s talent with a technical mind that rivals any of his predecessors (again, leading to the clichéd comparisons to Senna and Schumacher). What's more, Heidfeld has shown superb leadership skills at Sauber?being the lead driver for two seasons despite being just 24 (March 2002). He is performing admirably at Sauber, but deserves more than the occasional fifth or sixth place finish. Hopefully one of the big-three teams will notice him sooner rather than later. McLaren have his signature on their books at the moment, but already BMW Williams have expressed a keen interest, and the rumours are growing that Schumacher and Ferrari are looking in Heidfeld's direction as the man to replace Michael when he eventually retires. Nick Heidfeld should be the next German superstar- regardless of what Ralf Schumacher might be doing at Williams right now. JENSON BUTTON: Great Britain I find it hard to make up my mind about Jenson Button. He had a brilliant debut race, and a very good debut season with Williams (despite the obligatory rookie mistakes), but in 2001 he was amazingly unfulfilling at Benetton. A large extent of this can be blamed on the car, as the 2001 Benetton was never a race-winning contender, but a large amount of blame can also be placed at Jenson's feet. He appeared to lack the motivation to achieve, something that was not evident in his teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, who consistently outshone the young Briton. There were occasional flashes of high-standards (sorry, I cannot bring myself to say brilliance) towards the end of the season as the car improved, but all-in-all 2001 exposed a weakness in Jenson's character that I found hard to accept - a seeming unwillingness to commit to resolving problems. Perhaps he was resting on his laurels of a very impressive debut season and of the long-term Williams contract that he has in his pocket. Perhaps he just found it hard to have so much internal p
ressure put on him in only his second season. Or, perhaps more likely, he was carried away by the Formula One lifestyle that he found himself in and was simply distracted from his real duties. If I am being unduly harsh on Jenson then I apologise, but I know for a fact that I am not alone. I was very impressed with his ability to learn new circuits in 2000, although perhaps a telling weakness was his inability to master the Imola circuit- which is unequivocally regarded as the toughest circuit for rookies to get to grips with. He has certainly got the natural pace, and his feedback is competent to a professional level. But he appears to lack the sort of commitment and devotion, in good times and in bad times, that mark out the special talent like the Heidfeld's and the Raikkonen's (see above). Hopefully Jenson will prove me wrong in 2002, and he has already looked very promising after a, yes I admit, brilliant drive in Malaysia. He certainly has promise, and given a good car he can definitely race with the top runners (just ask Ralf Schumacher, circa late 2000 season). I cannot, however, shake of my doubts about his commitment. 2002 will be a very important season for Jenson, and I hope he can come-good on his promise that he showed in British Formula Three and in Formula Ford. A world champion of the future? Maybe- but it will take a lot more effort than Jenson appeared willing to commit last season. TAKUMA SATO: Japan When I heard Jean Alesi was not going to be driving for Jordan in 2002 I had mixed emotions. Sad...because Alesi was then destined to retirement. Over-the-moon...because it meant Takuma Sato could step up into Formula One. Having followed his progress with a keen interest since seeing him in the British Formula Three championship, it came as little surprise to learn that he was making the move into the big-time. Sato has been dubbed the "greatest racing driver Japan has ever produ
ced", which may or may not be taken as a brilliant accolade, given that Japan has not had a mass of Formula One greats so far. However, nobody can doubt his immense ability and speed. Watching him throw his Jordan through turns 12 and 13 at Sepang, Malaysia, was proof enough of his sublime car control and outright pace. Critics have doubts about whether he can tame his wild race nature, though, and they will have certainly been justified to this when Sato slammed into the back of team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella in only his second race. I think Sato has the potential to be very very good indeed. He has won every major honour that he has contested in his road to Formula One, and not one of the current Formula One drivers, not even Schumacher, can claim that kind of consistency. I find it hard to accept the mumblings from those who claim he is only racing this season because he is Japanese, and Honda want a Japanese driver in one of their cars (they supply engines to BAR and Jordan). Sato is clearly a talent to be watched, and those that believe his promotion to the Jordan team is based on politics rather than ability should have a look back over his racing CV before jumping to such conclusions. I admit to being a big fan of Sato, and so I am worried that Fisichella could pummel him out of recognition in 2002, something that the brilliant Italian has a habit of doing. In the long-term, however, Sato's natural speed and race-craft should shine through and he should establish himself as a talent-in-his-own-right. Watch this space. FELIPE MASSA: Brazil I am not going to offer a long-winded opinion of Felipe Massa just yet...mainly because I admit to not knowing too much about him. Like everyone else who is up-to-date with Formula One, I first heard of Massa last season when he sat himself in a Sauber and lapped Mugello faster than the Ferrari's of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. However, before that
day he had already established a racing name for himself, winning the Brazilian Formula Chevrolet championship in 1999, the Italian Formula Renault championship and the European Formula Renault championship in 2000, and the Euro Formula 3000 championship in 2001. I confess here, to being somewhat dubious when I first heard about Massa. Despite his testing times I could not help but feel pessimistic when the press claimed that "the new Raikkonen" had arrived (i.e. another Sauber prodigy). In his debut he impressed me by qualifying eighth, and he was competent throughout pre-season testing. However, he hasn't ignited the Formula One paddock in quite the way Raikkonen did in 2001, or like Button did in 2000, even at this early stage. Give him time though, he is still only 20 and has only (at the time of writing) contested 2 grand prix. Already, indeed even BEFORE his debut, he was tipped as the man to replace Barrichello at Ferrari in 2003. This could well happen, as it is common knowledge that Ferrari are very keen on the young Brazilian and are favouring him as a rookie to develop as a replacement for Michael Schumacher. Only time will tell. So far I have been impressed, but I think it would be wrong of me to make predictions just yet. He will definitely go a long way...but regarding just how long, I haven't made up my mind yet. FERNANDO ALONSO: Spain Not racing this season, instead opting for the long-term sensible option of a Renault test-drive, Fernando Alonso is one of the rare breed of Formula One drivers who have managed to survive beyond the Minardi team. Alonso was sensational in his first season, 2001, regularly performing beyond the limits of his back-marking Minardi and often qualifying as high as 18th on the grid in a car which should not really make it past 21st and 22nd. He has immense speed, a brilliant technical mind, and determination and commitment that mark him out as one t
o watch for the future. He has been contracted by Renault and Flavio Briatore for several seasons, and in 2002 both Jarno Trulli and, in particular, Jenson Button will have to be watching their performance closely. Either one of them could find their drive in jeopardy for 2003 as Alonso is one of the most highly rated youngsters of recent times. I know it is hard for casual viewers of Formula One to get excited about drivers who never scored a point and spent the weekend at the back of the grid...but trust me, anyone who knows enough about Formula One knows that Fernando Alonso has got masses of potential. If he survives the pitfalls of Minardi, and of test-driving, then he could find himself with one of the more competitive seats in 2003 at Renault. MARK WEBBER: Australia He became a hero overnight in Australia after finishing fifth in his Minardi on his debut/home grand prix. Such hype around a rookie could be put down to one lucky drive, let's face it most of the front runners were eliminated in the first race. However, Mark Webber is not a flash in the pan success and I think he should, like Alonso, go on and survive the usual trap of Minardi and make it into a higher ranking team over the next few seasons. He was very impressive as Benetton test driver in 2001 and it came as something of a suprise that he was not promoted to full-time Renault driver for the 2002 season. As it happens he "swapped" places with Alonso, and now both of them will have their sights set on a Renault drive next season. Webber is immaculately strong and consistent over a race distance, and is the strongest of all the drivers who have been tested at Renault's Human Performance Centre. This stamina will come in handy later in the season, and may see him drive his Minardi to the flag to pick up the pieces when the front runners fall of the road. Don't expect too many points from him at Minardi, but do expect to see him i
n amongst the big-boys over the next few years. OTHERS: I respect the talent of all of the youngsters I have mentioned above, but of course we should also consider the future of Formula One in terms of drivers who are already established and look threatening to the Schumacher top-spot. Mainly, of course, Juan Pablo Montoya promises to be the next big thing, but I reserve my opinion on him here because he has already been established in the general Formula One mind. I think he can certainly be a World Champion, and am still annoyed that he didn't sign for Williams in 1999 instead of going to dominate the CART championship in America. Ralf Schumacher looks his ever threatening self in the other Williams, but I feel that Montoya has stolen a lot of his shine. This is a shame for Ralf, and it looks unfortunately like his brilliant career at Williams is under-threat despite his superb and consistent performances. Frank Williams, team manager, has described 2002 as a "crucial year" for Ralf, implying that he either performs admirably, or he will be out of the door. I think Ralf has the potential to be a world champion also, but of all the men at the top who look likely, I cannot help but feel that he is the one who will go unfulfilled. Bigger brother Michael is an immovable shadow, week-in-week-out, and with Montoya being showered in praise there looks little else for Ralf to do than put his head down and keep working in the hope that his consistency, success and talent will be remembered when the contracts come around. Giancarlo Fisichella, in my opinion, is currently the most wasted driver in Formula One. What do I mean by that? Basically, I rate Fisichella very highly indeed...putting him only second to Michael Schumacher, or at worst third behind Schumacher and Montoya. It pains me every time I look at his career, so far, to see that he has a best championship finish of 6th (in 2000), and has onl
y got a handful of podiums from his first six seasons in Formula One. Fisichella is THE underrated man in F1, and I hope and pray that he will one day be rewarded for his hard work by getting a car that is worthy of his immense talent and one in which he can win world championships. Ideally he would be the perfect replacement for Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, but already well into his late twenties, the top teams may opt for long-term stability by signing a young-gun (see above), rather than opting for someone like Fisichella. He has never been beaten by a team-mate?defeating Ralf Schumacher in 1997, destroying Alexander Wurz's promising career between 1998 and 2000, making Jenson Button look decidedly amateur in 2001, and threatening to silence Takuma Sato in 2002 before the Japanese star ever gets a chance. As the best judge of performance is against your teammate, nobody can deny Fisichella the respect he deserves from his first six seasons. ------------------------------ There you have it, my quick opinions on some of drivers who I feel could and should be packing the front-end of the Formula One Championship over the next four or five seasons and beyond. Formula One is changing, a lot of "the old" are starting to look insecure and already their seats are being reserved for the young-blood. Just for clarification, here is how I would rank the youngsters I have mentioned above, based upon what I have seen so far. Feel free to disagree, but I hope this opinion rings true with the general sensible Formula One fans that recognises the talent that will be making the headlines over the next decade. 1. Nick Heidfeld 2. Kimi Raikkonen 3. Fernando Alonso 4=. Takuma Sato 4=. Jenson Button 4=. Mark Webber 5. Felipe Massa (reserved judgement) Let me just end by saying, despite their immense collective ability, I hope Fisichella beats them all to it!
I have been a big fan of the sport for over 20 years and thought it would be interesting if I were to post a running commentary on this years contest. I will be writing about every Grand Prix, depending on feedback so please leave a comment. I aim to write in a slightly different style to most commentators or journalists. A bit of humour and fun-poking. I should thank robwriter for giving me the idea for this, I nicked it off him but he doesn't seem to post updates any more. 1st Race - Melbourne - Albert Park ---------------------------------- After just pipping Michael Schumacher to pole by 5 thousandths of a second, Rubens Barrichello started the season with an excellent pole position. In fact he was slightly lucky to do this with the qualifying session being very wet and he chose the right time to go out on track. All the other teams were made to look ordinary by the old Ferrari last years model the F2001. Melbourne is a high downforce track which was always going to suit Ferrari and their Bridgestone tyres, their main rivals Williams and McLaren using last years Michelins after the new tyre was declared illegal. At the start there was drama for both Arrows which failed to get going for the parade lap and so both drivers had to watch the race from the pit. At the start proper about 8 cars were out at the first corner. This was caused by Ralf Schumacher, who got a great start from 3rd on the grid, running into the back of Rubens Barrichello as he broke for the corner. It was a spectacular crash, Rubens helmet had skid marks on it as Ralf's car was launched into the air and almost landed on the Ferrari. I wonder if there were skid marks on any other item of his clothing? It was funnier if you had heard the conversation between Ralf and his pit crew on their radio. Apparantly as soon as they saw what was happening, the pit crew said &
quot;Ralf, what's happening". Ralf's reply "Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh!!!" Both drivers were totally unhurt and ran back to the pits for the spare cars, with so much carnage behind them it was obvious that a red flag would be thrown so they could all restart. But no, the officials put on the safety car for half a dozen laps so they could clear the track. Now we had David Coulthard leading, after a decent start and managing to avoid the debris with Jarno Trulli in the Renault just behind then Michael Schumacher who had a poor start and then Juan Pablo Montoya (Monster). The safety car departed and David Coulthard began to pull away from the field, Michael Schumacher couldn't get past the Renault of Trulli who seemed very quick on the straights but not so through the twisty bits, maybe a heavy fuel load? Michael's problem seemed to be the high level of wing he had making his top speed insufficient down the short straights to get by the Renault. Further back Juan Pablo Montoya could do little about Michael and a few seconds back was Kimi Raikkonen on his McLaren debut, staying out of trouble. But then, just as Michael was getting frustrated by the Renault, Trulli lost it coming out of the first chicane. It looked like a mechanical failure, the back end stepped out as though the traction control had failed and that was the end of the race for the Renault driver. Safety Car back on track and David Coulthard lost his 6 second or so lead whilst they cleared the debris again. At the restart, David Coulthard ran wide and onto the grass just before the start finish straight. It looked like a silly mistake from the Scot initially but later he retired with a gear-box problem. Apparantly he was using the new system which automatically shifts down the box for the corners but it got stuck in a high gear which meant he was going too fast to mak
e the turn. So Michael Schumacher led over the startline for th 11th lap but not for long. The king of the restarts, Juan Pablo Montoya made a great move, outbraking Michael into the first coner after slipstreaming him down the straight. The Colombian using his CART experience to good advantage, they have a lot of restarts in CART! Initially it looked like Montoya could actually pull away from Michael, but once his tyres were up to temperature again the German was all over the Colombian. Montoya made a mistake, locked a wheel into the first corner and ran wide allowing Schumacher back into the lead and he never looked back. It was a good battle for second though. Kimi Raikonnen was always in touch with Juan Pablo and even set the fastest lap of the race, after the team told him to push just before his pitstop. He actually regained the race ahead of Montoya after their stops but made an error into the first turn and Montoya took the place back. Inexperience from Kimi on new/cold tyres with a full tank of fuel that time. He should probably of finished 2nd rather than the third he got but a decent debut all the same. Further back due to the high losses caused at the first corner Eddie Irvine hung on for a good 4th place for the awful Jaguar and home favourite Mark Webber score a stunning 5th place at his home track. The last point was scored for Toyota by Mika Salo, a great result for the new boys to F1, it could of been better as Salo had a chance to take the 5th place on the last lap. But he tried to take a wide line through one of the tight right handers and went onto the dusty line before losing grip and spinning. Much to the delight of the Aussie crowd! Malaysian Grand Prix - Sepang ----------------------------- After qualifying Michael Schumacher lined up on another pole with Juan Pablo Montoya in second, the pretender to Michael's crown. The start
was not quite as eventful as at Australia, but interesting nonetheless. Michael veered straight over to Montoya's side to block the Colombian, who had to back off to avoid a collision, Undetered he pulled towards to centre of the track as was soon level with the German. Rubens Barrichello got a good start and gave Juan Pablo no room which in turn meant that Michael could not take up the correct line into the first corner, a tight right hand hairpin. Juan Pablo had the more natural line into the corner and both drivers were level at the brakeing point. Montoya squeezed Michael, who had to take to the kerb to avoid a collision. Taking a very unorthodox line and riding the kerb meant Michael understeered into Juan Pablo, who was forced wide to avoid a serious collision. This touch caused Michael to lose his front wing and he was last after the first lap as he pitted for a new nosecone. Montoya was down to 12th after running wide but was able to continue on track. Rubens Barrichello benefitted most and was now leading with Ralf Schumacher close behind. The two McLarens followed with Kimi Raikkonen leading his experienced team-mate David Coulthard. Amazingly a few laps later Montoya was called into the pits for a drive through penaly, for what later turned out to be causing an avoidable accident. I would say it was a racing incident and if anyone was to blame it was Schumacher. The on-board from Juan Pablo provides a few choice words on what the Colombian thought to the penalty! The drive through is a new penalty, not as severe as a stop go but it still causes about 20 seconds of lost time. Juan Pablo came back on track in 12th after working his way back to 5th. Michael Schumacher meanwhile was up at around 14th, about 15 seconds further back. Ralf Schumacher took the lead as Rubens Barrichello pitted, about 6 seconds ahead but obviously on a two stop whilst Ralf was on a one stop strate
gy. Rubens came back on track in second but soon blew up with engine failure, to join the two Mclarens with the same problem. Mercedes (Ilmor) need to get their acts together quickly! At the finish Ralf was comfotable, Juan Pablo was comfortable having overtaken Jenson Button with a great move about 12 laps from the finish and Michael Schumacher drove well to get onto the podium. He was a touch lucky as Jenson had a suspension failure with a couple of laps to go, managing to bring the ailing Renault home in 4th, a good result really. My Man Of The Race - Juan Pablo Montoya, a great start with a gutsy move which didn't quite pay off. Some really good driving to recover to second. Move Of The Race - Juan Pablo Montoya on Jenson Button. Lined the move up about four corners before outbraking the Briton into the fourth corner. Idiot of the Race - The Stewards for penalising Montoya. Conspiracy Corner - See above! Next race is 31st March from Brazil. The Interlagos track tends to throw up some good racing. The weather if nothing else is unpredictable.
As with all the best sports, the basic rules of speed hillclimbing are very simple. The driver's task is to get his machine from start to finish in as little time as possible. As none of the courses are over a mile in length, British hillclimbing is a very different beast from that displayed on the longer courses of Europe and the USA, such as Pikes Peak. Here, one mistake can make the difference between a course record and midfield mediocrity. It all sounds a bit like a drag race, doesn't it? But. *But*. Have you ever seen a drag race which is contested over 1000 yards of country lane with a gradient sometimes approaching 1 in 6, with sheer drops on one side, unforgiving trees on the other, and the spectators often separated from the action by no more than an earth bank and a hedge? No, I thought not. Although the British Hillclimb Championship has rounds all over the British Isles - including a couple on closed roads in the Channel Islands - its heart is the English Midlands. Here we find not only the magnificent, challenging Prescott course in Gloucestershire, but also my local course, Shelsley Walsh in the rolling Worcestershire countryside. If you've never been, imagine a stereotypical picture-postcard English scene - the area around Shelsley really does look like that, complete with welcoming country inns (The Hundred House is highly recommended for meals!). But Shelsley has far greater importance than merely being one of the prettiest venues in the world. Founded in 1905, and run on the same track ever since, the Shelsley Walsh Speed Hill Climb is the world's oldest motorsport event. There was a break for World War Two, and the original dirt track was Tarmacked in the thirties, but the famous 1000 yard course is the same as it was in those far-off days when the likes of Dick Seaman and Raymond Mays tested their skills there. The organising body, the Midland Automobile Club, recently celebrated its centenary with a sp
ecial meeting at Shelsley, which included cars from every decade of the last 100 years, including such rare beasts as Tyrrell's six-wheeler and Jaguar's XJ13. One of the great glories of the speed hillclimb is the enormous variety of cars (and bikes, and sidecars) that compete there, thanks to the large number of classes hosted. Dipping into the programme from Prescott's May 2000 meeting, we can find an enormous variety of vehicles attempting the ascent. Minis? Yup. Caterhams? You got it. Ducatis? Check. Tiny 500cc 1950s Formula Three machines? Present. Group B rally monsters? You heard the growl, matey. Single seaters? Ooooh yeees. The sight of an eight-litre CanAm machine climbing in the rain is quite breathtaking. 'Class L', the place where the big single-seaters hang out, is, unsurprisingly, the glamour category of hillclimbing. Unsurprising, when you consider just what it takes to pilot a 3.5-litre car (and one, please note, that can out-accelerate an F1 machine) at 130 mph and more up a winding, bumpy road barely twelve feet wide. Names such as Roger Moran, David Grace (now more concerned with running Rockingham) and Roy Lane have become legendary on the hills. Graeme Wight Jr, though, has turned out to be something rather special. I was privileged to be at Shelsley this June, when Wight Jr finally erased Richard Brown's outright hill record with a stunning drive, taking just 25.28 seconds to cover the 1000 yards. That's an *average* speed of over 80mph, with his top speed closer to 130mph. Wight Jr is a tremendously exciting driver to watch - although he didn't break any records, his driving around Orchard bend at Prescott this summer had to be seen to be believed. Let's hope he stays on the hills, and isn't lured away by circuit racing, as was a previous wunderkind, Andy Priaulx, now a very competent British F3 pilot. The fact that drivers of such varied age can mix it as equals, tho
ugh, illustrates another good thing about hillclimbing - because of the extremely specialised nature of the discipline, experience counts for as much as raw speed. The aforementioned Roy Lane, though now in line for his free bus pass, can still mix it with Graeme Wight Jr, almost forty years younger. In fact, Tony Marsh, one of the sport's all-time greats, competed in Formula One in the fifties but still climbs competitively today. That's staying power. This longevity among the top men (there are female competitors, some very accomplished, but none has ever reached the very pinnacle) has helped contribute to hillclimbing's friendly, clubby atmosphere (as, I believe, does the almost complete lack of TV coverage - almost no hillclimbing fans would welcome greater commercialism). At the smaller tracks, such as Loton Park in Shropshire, you will find yourself queueing for your lunchtime burger alongside sweaty forms in half-peeled Nomex race suits, chattering away to each other about timing struts, tyre choices and the angle of the sun. This last plays a major role at some tracks - so much so, in fact, that Roy Lane often wears a full-face helmet with a peak, an uncommon combination. Of course, it would not be honest to neglect the fact that hillclimbing is a relatively dangerous form of the sport - how could it be otherwise, when drivers are racing through woods and past brick walls? One accident that sticks in my mind is that of Graham Hickman, driving his Jordan 194 (yes, an actual F1 car) at Shelsley. For whatever reason, the car flew off the road and rolled down a bank into undergrowth. The worst thing was the utter silence - there was no sign whatsoever of movement from the bushes. Thankfully, Hickman escaped with "only" a broken pelvis, but it could have been so much worse. Out of darkness cometh light, however, and in recent years hillclimbing has embraced the latest safety technology - I believe that Shelsley Wal
sh was the first track anywhere in the world to employ Recticel foam barriers to cushion an impact. This is also an appropriate place to pay tribute to the marshalling contingent - hillclimbing, and indeed motorsport as a whole, would be nothing without the men in orange. You can't really appreciate the extraordinary atmosphere of a speed hillclimb without seeing one 'in the metal', which I strongly urge you to do. Tickets are generally about £10, which includes access to the paddock (don't, on any account, miss that!) and parking (inside the grounds, so you can get to and from your car without hassle). It's often worthwhile having a stroll around the car park field at lunchtime, as you may well find some very interesting vehicles. Wear strong shoes that you don't mind getting muddy - by the nature of the sport, you'll spend a fair amount of time trudging up some very steep hills! And *DO NOT* take a dog under any circumstances. They are forbidden at all motorsport venues, and if you leave one in the car the officials *will* notice, and *will* get (justifiably) angry, even to the extent of calling the RSPCA to break into your car (I have been at an event where this happened). I've listed a couple of relevant websites to whet your appetites. Believe me, there isn't any other form of motorsport quite like it, and once you've been bitten by the bug it'll never let go. http://www.shelsley-walsh.co.uk - Where it all began. http://www.prescott-hillclimb.com - Prescott's official page. http://www.top12runoff.co.uk - Toby Moody provides a superb results and reports service, including a fine action gallery of the Class L single seaters.
I like to think of myself as a cultured person. I enjoy classical music. I've seen both Baryshnikov and Nureyev perform. I enjoy a glass of good, mellow wine. So, when I moved south from Chicago to North Carolina, I felt it totally appropriate to look down my nose at people who suggested that I watch a NASCAR race on the television. What enjoyment would anyone get from watching a car go round and round? What skill is there in that? Does anyone REALLY believe that it's a "sport"? Being an accommodating person, I watched a race anyhow. Afterward, my thoughts were along the lines of what enjoyment would anyone get from watching a car go round and round? What skill is there in that? Well, you get the idea. However, one fateful day, a friend of mine dragged me to a race track, Charlotte Motor Speedway, to be exact, so I could see the race in person. We sat in bleacher seats, the sun beating down on us, surrounded by boisterous fans eating lunch, drinking beer and enjoying the afternoon. Just about everyone, with the exception of yours truly, had on t-shirts, hats or other such advertisements, for their favorite drivers, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby Labonte, etc. It was as enjoyable as being at a baseball game, but to this point, I still couldn't understand the attraction. Then came the famous words, "Gentlemen, start your engines." In an instant the rumble of pure power poured over the stands. It was matched by boundless enthusiasm as the crowd rose as one and cheered the cars circling the track. I was hooked. I don't know much about Formula 1 racing, or any type of open-wheel racing, for that matter. I'm still relatively new to NASCAR and stock car racing, but the power, adreneline and excitement of being at a live race have made me a fan. There are 43 cars in Winston Cup racing. They qualify to obtain the best starting spot on the track a
nd line up two-by-two. The starting spot is called the pole and points are awarded for that spot, for leading the most laps, leading the race at the halfway point, and a variety of other combinations. From what I can tell, there are three main differences between open-wheel and stock car races. The first is speed. Open-wheels have the ability to go so much faster then stock cars. However, the second difference is what make stock car racing so exciting (to me). It's the fact that the open-wheel cars can't be touched by another without putting the car into a disasterous spin. In stock car racing, trading paint is half the fun. The third difference seems to be the difference in what people cheer for in each type of racing. In open-wheel racing people cheer more for the car type than the driver. The majority of the fans in NASCAR cheer the driver. My driver is Bobby Labonte. He won the Winston Cup championship this past year and is known for his stability and consistency. It would be inappropriate to talk about NASCAR without taking a moment to mention the greatest driver that sport has seen, Dale Earnhardt. I was not an Earnhardt fan. Indeed, I was one of the ones that booed him. However, he was the best and he is sorely missed. I still like a good glass of wine and good classical music. However, now I also like to watch cars go round and round and raise a beer to Bobby when he passes by.
EEyy-up, here comes that lunatic again...Is this the talk of people walking past the nearest asylum ??? No, it's spectators at a motor race meeting talking about the guys on the other side of the fence - those unpaid volunteers - the marshals. I first decided to take my life in my hands and become a marshal when I owned an MG Midget, about 27 years ago. My intention then was to get into racing, but that never happened !! The first way to marshal is to join a club, such as The British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC) or The British Automobile Club (BARC), both of which have marshalling sections. You have then learnt the first aspect of the activity, it costs money . The next thing the aspiring idiot has to do then is to volunteer for meetings, in my time I was a member of many clubs and volunteered for most meetings prior to the beginning of the season, this is sensible for another reason "Motor racing is dangerous ", and the earlier one applies the more insurance cover can be arranged. Are you getting the idea of this ?? Then, about ten days prior to the meeting you get your only bonus, the free tickets for your days marshalling. On the day, pack all your kit and food very early, you will need to arrive at the circuit at about 7.00a.m on a weekend morning. There you sign on, another important event, the organisers don't want to collect your signature, they just need it for insurance purposes. There are many levels of marshalling, and to progress is actually probably harder than becoming an F1 driver. Level 1 - Paddock Marshal If one wants to progress as a marshal there is a grading system where you have to obtain 12 qualified persons signatures at that level before going on - Trick no.3, it's not often possible to work with a qualified person !! However at Paddock marshal level you also encounter trick no.4 - you don't see any cars on the track, you are just ensuring that the racing
cars park in their allotted slots. Level 2 - Pits Marshal Having progressed, here is the next trick _ you still don't really see any cars on the track, you are really logging cars into and out of the pits for safety purposes, and also to keep the pits clean and safe. Level 3 - Course Marshal Once you have endured the previous tasks, you are then allowed onto trackside. Bad news, you've now got to go and pay out for fireproof safety overalls. Once your money has been taken from you, your task is to clear up after accidents, such tasks as sweeping the track and dragging broken cars around. However, at this point the adrenalin starts flowing, you get cars flying towards you from all angles, and must learn to take avoiding action -- which takes experience I can tell you. I've had cars flying upside down towards me at 150mph - the driver got out of that one and said "Don't think I'll be racing that one to quickly !" (or words to that effect !). I once had three trucks coming at me at 100mph , I made a funny face and climbed the fence .Marshalling still gets a lot of volunteers for some reason (and you do meet the drivers ) You also make friends with the marshals and here I'll tell you about my good mate Les. He suffered from stammering, and one day he was in charge of a post during a truck meeting, well two trucks decided to have an accident at Les's post, and totally demolished his hut. Well, Les reached for the emergency phone but.....it was up a tree!! We said (imitating Les) "S.s.s..s.tttop tttthhhhe...... Oh forget it they've gone by now".(He was intending to stop the race by the way) Level 4 - Fire Marshal More money, you are not going to progress without actually putting car fires out, and for this there are training days - generally the marshals club together and buy old cars and petrol, set fire to the cars in a pool of water and when it is well alight - put the f
ire out ! The time I did this at Farnborough Airfield I successfully put the fire out, took my helmet off - and burnt my hand on the helmet as you have to really get close to the fire to put it out. Maximum time allowed - 30 seconds or a racing driver would have been incinerated by then. Excellent feeling though once you can put fires out quickly and well. Funny story here - I was at the Belgian Grand Prix once and the late great Ayrton Senna came up to me with his Lotus on fire , which I promptly put out. Ayrton said to me "You b***t***". My dad said to me "He's not a very nice man is he ?" Apparently he wanted to use the car again that day !! Level 5 - Flag Marshal This job is actually very hard to do well, the main requirements being to face the racing and use the blue flag to warn oncoming drivers of overtaking manouevres, this is VERY , VERY diificult to do and requires years of experience. The other task is to face away from the racing, and when there is an accident , get that yellow flag out as quickly as possible, I DID this, I was marshalling Paddock Bend for the British GP at Brands Hatch when Jacques Laffitte had his big one and I'm there on TV with my flag !!The guy on the blue flag who, of course, is facing the action is meant to warn you of any imminent danger and jump for your life! Level 6 - Observer . Another unpaid job. Here one is in charge of a sector with a team under one's control . Me, being me, was quite laid back about this task, but it was important to control the team and make sure to brief them about keeping safe and not putting themselves in danger when attending the scene of an accident and never to cross the track during racing etc. However one did have a phone in the marshal's hut to phone the wife and friends - eeerr no sorry to ring race control with all the relevant events in that sector including stopping the race if there was a serious event which req
uired the assistance of race control vehicles, such as more powerful fire trucks, ambulances etc. Level 7 - Examining Observer After 20 years at trackside one arrives at this level, the main difference from that of above is that one is able to sign the grading cards of everyone in the above grades . Before this becomes a book, I think I will finish here. There it is then, I visited every track and every corner in this country and some abroad, drove my car on most of the circuits (another small bonus as long as one is careful ...but Paddock Bend at Brands Hatch is grrreaat at speed .) Spent several thousand pounds and lost many hours of sleep but met many, many previous and current racing drivers. Would I do it again - PROBABLY.
The famous Goodwood Estate near Chichester in West Sussex holds two incredible racing events each year: The Festival of Speed and Revival Meeeting. Festival of Speed. A rather grand hill climb that has featured many famous (old and young) Grand Prix Drivers in their cars or those that their peers raced. I will remember for a long time seeing Johnny Herbert race Ayrton Sennas Lotus and then donutting at the finish, plus Colin McRae and Richard Burns battling it out in their Rally cars round the narrow twisting road through the Goodwood estate. The event is held in early July every year (Friday 6-Sunday 8 July 2001) and features not only serious racing, but lots of historic cars, displays from major manufacturers and suppliers. The weather has had its moments - scorching sun and pooring rain, but it's great to get so close to the cars. You can even walk around the paddock and bump into well known non-professional enthusiasts like Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) and Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) to name just two. Revival Meeting A throw back to the 1950s which was Goodwood Circuit's famous hayday. John Surtees, Sterling Moss, Damon Hill and many more battling in cars that are worth millions. Believe me, they are really racing! Most people dress in period costume and the advertising hordings are of that time too. The pitcrew wear simple white coats. It's glorious even for one born only in 1970 myself! Members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club are able to walk around the paddock and pits, everyone else can wander or take an historic tractor and trailer ride around the outside of the circuit. The Revival meeting takes place on 14-16 September See www.goodwood.co.uk for more details.
If you go to Silverstone for the qualifying for the British Grand Prix, you’ll get to see the closely fought Formula 3000 championship race. Formula 3000, or F3000, is designed to be a feeder category for Formula 1. All the cars are made by the British company Lola, with 450bhp Zytek engines. Before 1997 the teams had to either build there own chassis, or sub-contract the work and sort out there own engines. But the FIA, who run’s the worlds top racing categories, decided to change the formula. They wanted the category to be less expensive with the emphasis on driver talent. Formula 3000 really delivers this. With all the drivers in the same cars it takes something special to dominate the championship. F3000 has many links with Formula 1. After the qualifying session for most of the European F1 races, the F3000 boys hit the track. Also, F1 teams such as Benetton, Williams and Minardi have close links with F3000 teams as a way of finding new talent. That’s how Williams came to sign Juan Montoya, before he went to CART in America. Even though 26 drivers share the same type of car and engine, the racing isn’t always close and frantic. Take Imola, after the start no one in the top seven or eight gained or lost a place. Its worth staying around after the F1 qualifying and seeing if you can get close to ‘The stars of the future’, though in truth I can’t think of anyone of late who’s come straight form F3000 to F1. Actually, most F3000 stars go to CART like Montoya, with most present day Formula 1 drivers coming from Formula 3. F3000 is definitely worth saying around for, even if it is at a wet cold Silverstone! More info, visit www.f3000.com
Formula one is a great and trilling sport to watch even without much overtaking. It is properly better to watch on TV as the commentary helps keep the action going. I've never been to a Grand Prix but can imagine you can't always see what's happening. The Cars are state of the art speed machines that can break 200 mph and come to a stop in just yards with the Ferraris and McLarens dominating. These cars are also used as a test bed for road cars. It is said that the wings on these cars would keep the cars on the ceiling when at full speed. I wish they would prove it one day, that would be thrilling to watch. The Drivers are as colourful as there cars, Eddie Irvine the international playboy. Micheal Schumacher the Formula One hard boy. J Villeneuve the Canadian go getter. And the up and coming youngsters all trying to prove a point. The Teams, Ferrari and McLaren are the rich teams with all the technology, And you have Prost and Minardi struggling to get cars made, and to cross the finishing line. Jordan, Williams and BAR all fighting for 3rd place. The Tracks range from the spectacular Monaco, a street circuit surrounded by the rich and famous to Silverstone, surrounded by mud and more mud. New ones like Malaysia and old ones like Monza .The famous Indianapolis in America. In 2002 or 2003 we may even have one in Russia, But would they have the weather foe a grand prix? They are good to watch and other different challenges. These days everyone is worried about safety in formula one, But motor racing is a very dangerous sport and all the people know the risks. I know its not acceptable for people to be hurt in any way but unless you slow the cars down, or make them look like Volvo's there will always be a danger. But that's what they keep doing, altering the cars. This year that seems to have gone wrong as the cars are 2 seconds faster. Cars have been made a lot safer for the driver, but now we also ne
ed to make it safer for the public and the Marshall's. Better fences are needed and set further back and away from possible danger zones, i.e. where the cars head for if they go straight on at a corner. The Marshall's should be in a safe bunker or behind a concrete wall all the time but with a good view of the track so they can get out to help drivers in a crash. Maybe also widen tracks for easier overtaking. All in all Formula One is an exciting motor sport to watch and its always nice to see the smaller teams beat the big boys. The one bad point is the expense, the tickets and the memorabilia are all so expensive and out of the price range of many fans. But at least its still free to watch on TV.
For two years Bridgestone have ruled the roost as the teams' sole tyre supplier, but now their cosy monopoly is about to be put to the test by F1 returnee Michelin. Yes that's right Michelin is back, and all for the better in my opinion, the more the competition the better. An extra rivalry element in the teams is just the kind of competition F1 needs. The World Champions are sticking with Bridgestone, but not all of the pack have followed suit, Williams, Benetton, Jaguar and Prost have all gone with Michelin, which opens up a whole new 'mid-field' battle, but who knows with Benetton having a Renault Engine this season maybe there will be changes further up the field too. Although having a rivalry between tyre suppliers, the effect on F1 won't be overly apparent. F1 has moved on so much in the past years that tyre manufacturers develop their tyres to such a great extent that the end product is of the same high quality and standard as the rival. Which means neither supplier will overthrow the other, but instead they must solely rely on development to occur faster and more efficiently. But then there's the question of the grooves. This year the FIA is tightening up the tyre groove regulations. The depth of the groove must be at least 2.5mm and should be at least 2.0mm by the end of the race, groove width must be 10mm and tread pattern (length between grooves) should be 14mm. Myself and many of my friends agree that FIA should, scrap the grooves all together. The lack of overtaking in F1 has decreased dramatically since the rule has been implied. The FIA say that safety comes first, and I agree but soon the situation will be so bad, Drivers and teams will have to rely on an engine failure or another failure to move up in the field. That is where F1 crosses the border between racing and driving. Overall a great prospect for the 2001 season. I cannot wait!
I have just received a ticket order form for the 2001 British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone. Having purchased tickets for various motorsports events at the circuit in the past I am automatically added to the mailing list. If you have attended the event in the past you will be aware that tickets to the race are not cheap. Yes the GP is an International sporting event attracting huge TV audiences and crowds at trackside, however regular attendees at the circuits will also have noticed the ever increasing number of corporate marquees springing up in what used to be key spectator viewing areas, leaving fans limited options for watching the action close up without paying extra. If you want to attend the circuit JUST for the race, no qualifying days, the lowest price will be £95.00. This gives access to the outer perimeter of the track, no seating, if you want access to the centre of the track to find another view or to see the support paddock add £30.00, so thats £125.00. Add on £10.00 for a programme, maybe a souvenir cap £15.00, and you are £150.00 lighter off even before you buy lunch! If you think you will get tired opt for a grandstand seat at £165.00 (this includes outer perimeter access). Of course a new ruling at the track means that car parking passes are limited to 18,000 a reduction of 50% on previous years, so if you are not one of the lucky ones to get allocated a pass the circuit suggests you either come by organised coach? or helicopter! Is Joe public able to afford helicopter transfers (of course you NEED a centre transfer for helicopter arrivals so no skimping on your race tickets there)! And if you attend all 3 days thats 3 helicopter rides to finance. Incidentally for £390.00 you can have a Paddock premier pass (this does not give access to the F1 paddock), it is a 3 day general admission, centre transfer, a seat by a TV screen?and a programme, whayhay!! The sad thing about the high pr
ices of attending GPs is that it is alienating families from enjoying the action. A family of say 2 adults and 2 children will have to find £470.00 MINIMUM for the 3 days, excluding centre transfers any seats to sit in, a programme, any souvenirs or snacks. OUCH! Lets hope they get car park passes for the 3 days. Sadly F1 is becoming even more elitist than before, its as if they are trying to exclude the general public in favour of the corporate guest, yes we are aware that F1 is a business and needs to attract big companies, but what about the sports side of it, isnt sport supposed to be accessible to everyone who wants to enjoy it? The costs of putting on the GP are phenomenal unfortunately the excessively high entrance charges are alienating the average sports fan. **Tickets are non-refundable or exchangeable, so if you do decide to go be 100% sure you can get there! ** *There is a £5.00 registered delivery fee for tickets*
Ever wanted to take your own car onto a race track and go as fast as you can? Or take your own car onto a deserted ex-USAF airbase with as much tarmac as the eye can see? Then try Easytrack.. I went to USAF Bentwaters back in July and am hooked. The days are totally safe - overtaking is by dual consent only, and there are only ever about 10 cars on the circuit at one time. It is not a race, so you shouldn't need extra insurance, but check with your insurance company first. The beauty of somewhere like Bentwaters is that you can drive your car to it's limits without worrying if you are going to hit anything apart from the sheep - just think of them as fluffy armco, as Jonny would say. I managed to spin my car three times, and each time I knew that everything would be ok, because all there was around me was miles of tarmac. Be prepared to need a new set of tyres after a couple of airfield days though - luckally, Easytrack also sell tyres very cheap (not sure which business supports which!) on the day to get you home safely. More information is available from www.easytrack.co.uk I'm not affiliated with them at all, I just think that they are the only way to safely learn how to drive your car at its limits.
Slip stream is a word bandied about a lot by commentators, but how many of us actually know what it means. The basic premise of the slip stream principal is that when your travelling at speeds of 150mph plus, air resistance plays a big part in slowing the car down. Infact it is the air resistance that limits the cars speed, when the force of the air resistance is equal to the force of the engine the car can not increase its speed anymore. However, a car travelling at high speed punches a big hole in the air, leaving an area where there is little air behind it. Therefore a car travelling in this position would have a much reduced level of air resistance, allowing it to greatly increase its speed. Using this fact drivers can get in to the slip stream of another car, use it to increase their speed to one higher than normally possible, then pull out and due to their greater speed should sling shot past the car in front. This technique is extremely effective and allows drivers an easy opportunity to overtake, especially where a track features a very long straight.
I am writing this opinion following the announcements this month of the intentions for each of the various British Motor Racing Packages for next year.Ive focused on each package and have written my opinion on how each one will fair next season. The TOCA Package --------------------------------------------- I was last week dismayed reading Richard West`s(New TOCA boss)visions for the 2001 TOCA package in Autosport magazine.The TOCA package`s support line up has already been drastically cut for next year following the move of the Ford Fiesta Championship and the Slick 50 Formula Ford Championship to the Powertour package leaving just three permanent support races at each TOCA event and one of them(the Lotus Elise Championship)is set to miss three or more meetings next season aswell as both the other two support races of the Renault Clio`s and Formula Renault missing the trip to Ireland when the BTCC will race at Mondello Park.This leaves the prospect at some meetings next year of there only being five races on raceday.Richard West`s answer to this problem is that rather than bring new championship`s into the support package that instead he`s focusing on off track entertainment to draw the crowds next year.Weren`t BMP(who own the TOCA package)last year complaining about Powertour`s lack of on track entertainment when they had only five races on race day?.But they have now replicated what Powertour was last year with only having 5-6 races on a Sunday.Does Mr West honestly think that Internet Cafe`s and fayre ground rides will seriously attract crowds back to the circuits?I think not,What will bring crowds back to the circuits is good,back-to-back racing with good quality championship`s. I think he`s taking a massive gamble doing this and I for one are seriously considering moving elsewhere next season.With the new Touring Car Championship at a very uncertain stage with people speculating on if its going to be succesfull surely M
r West should be trying to attract the crowds by offering them a good quality support package not by offering them trackside entertainment.People go to Alton Towers to go on fayre ground rides and watch live shows not a motor racing meeting.I agree there should be some off track entertainment at race meetings don`t get me wrong but not so that it get in the way of what most people a principally there for,TO WATCH MOTOR RACING. 2001 TOCA calender April 16 Brands Hatch(Indy) May 7 Thruxton May 20 Oulton Park(Island) June 2 Silverstone (International)(Night Race) June 17 Mondello Park July 1 Donington Park(International) July 22 Knockhill August 4 Snetterton (Night Race) August 26th Oulton Park (Island) September 9th Silverstone (International) September 16th Donington Park (International) October 7th Brands Hatch (Indy) Races 3 x Touring Car Races 1 x Lotus Elise Race(Set To Miss three meetings) 1 x Renault Clio Cup (Set to miss Mondello Park Round) 1 x Formula Renault 2000 (set to miss Mondello Park Round) + 1-2 from Junior FFord,National Supersports,Mini`s,BOSS Formula at most meeting`s. Powertour Package --------------------------------------------- This is the package I believe will be most succesful in 2001.This package is what I believe a motor racing package should be and thats one with no gimmicks,just pure back to back racing.The package has took on major changes from last year when it came under much criticism for having a lack of racing.This package should entertain the motor racing purist and many people who used to be keen TOCA fans may have to think twice about which package they should follow next year.For starters it has the two most renound championships for nurturing young talent in the British Formula 3 and the Formula Ford Zetec Championships.Both always offer huge grids and close raci
ng.They are both also very competitive championships with great rivalry`s between teams which can only lead to better racing.In Formula Ford theres a huge rivalry between Van Diemen and Haywood Racing teams and in Formula 3 between the Stewart(next year to become Jaguar)and Manor Motorsport teams.All in all you will be watching many talents on show that given 2-3 years will become stars in Formula 1.Most drivers currently in Formula 1 have passed through at least one if not both of these championship`s and Jenson Button as we all know was plucked from the British Formula Three Championship straight into Formula 1 where he has done so well,thats the pedigree of the drivers in these championships.There will also this season be a double dose of Formula 3 as instead of there being one 30 minute race like last year which did become boring after a while there will be two sprint races each lasting 20 minutes. For the tin top fans you will have the Ford Fiesta Championship.Anyone who`s visited a TOCA meeting before knows how entertaining these can be and will certainly take the place of the now defunct National Saloon Championship which has merged in with the BTCC.These guys put on some awesome close racing and at some tracks the top 10 will be split by only a second.Also look out for some spectacular crashes aswell. For the sportscar fans the package offers a real treat with the British GT Championship and the TVR Tuscan Championship.The British GT Championship is to have huge grids next year as its popularity has sored since the rule changes last year.In the GT category you will see marques like TVR,Porsche,Lister,Saleen,Marcos,Chrysler Viper,Ferrari and Ultima and in the GTO class you will see the stunning new TVR Tuscan R,Porsche,Marcos,Ferrari and Chrysler Viper.The 60 minute race is always exciting and closely fought with a pit stop mid race for driver and tyre changes anything can happen.The Tuscan Challenge also attracts huge grids and also has close fraught
racing.The cars tend to have more power than grip so the racing is often very entertaining with lots of overtaking and plenty of excitement.The series is normally a starting point for many espiring sportscar drivers and series winner last year Michael Caine has just signed a deal to race for the TVR factory team in the British GT Championship next year so its certainly a championship full of talent. The Porsche Cup is also a welcome addition to the package.The championship is getting a major overhaul next year with cars from the FIA Porsche Cup which supports Formula 1 meetings being allowed into the championship.The racing is always close and the cars look and sound stunning. And for the Club Racing fan the package will feature 1-2 guest races at each meeting with championships such as the Mini Miglia`s,Sevens,National Supersports and Junior FFord Zetec which always offer close,competitive racing which is what the racing purist wants.The championship is also venturing to some new circuits this year with Knockhill and Castle Combe being added and also there is a prospect of the championship running at the new Rockingham oval in August but that is yet to be confirmed.A night race which has proved hugely succesful with the BTCC has also been added at the last race meeting of the season at Silverstone.All in all this is the package I would reccomend as a racing nut as it offers every form of racing and good value for money somethingthat Powertour didn`t really do last year.So my advice is give this package a second chance if you didn`t enjoy it last year and I am sure you won`t be dissapointed. Calender April 1 Silverstone International April 15 Snetterton April 29 Donington (International) May 7 Oulton Park May 28 Croft June 10 Knockhill June 24 Castle Combe July 8 Brands Hatch (GP) July 22 Donington Park (International) August 9 tba (likely to be Rockingham Oval) September 2 Thruxton
September 16 Brands Hatch (Indy) September 29 Silverstone (International)(Night Race) Races 2 x British Formula 3 1 x British GT 1 x Porsche Cup 1 x TVR Tuscan Challenge 1 x Slick 50 Formula Ford Zetec Championship 1 x Ford Fiesta Championship + 1-2 from Junior FFord,National Supersports,Mini`s,BOSS Formula at most meeting`s. Others --------------------------------------------- Eurocar Not a huge amount can be said about the Eurocar package.Its very much aimed at the club racing fan.I have to say I have never attended a Eurocar meeting but have watched several races on TV and the racing does look good close racing but there was alot of trouble last year attracting competitors because of the high costs.This year a new prize fund and several rule changes have been made in the hope of attracting larger grids in both the V8 and V6 series.The main championship to watch in the package will be the legends.You may have seen or heard of them before but they are very strange looking cars but offer great racing and with 4 short races at each meeting of these car the meeting will be worth going to just to see them.I for one will certainly try to get to the Eurocar meeting at my local circuit Oulton Park this year but it isn`t really a package you would follow around the country like the two above. Radical and Formula Palmer Audi Neither are really packages but both come together with European packages that will be coming to Britain next year.The Palmer Audi package will come together with the FIA GT series and the ELMS sportcar championships when they visit British shores but it will mostly team up with the new ISC Sportscar Championship.The Palmer Audi slicks and wings Championship always offers good racing and is looking at becoming the main steeping stone for drivers looking to progress into Formula 3000.The
ISC GT series has come under alot of scrutineering for trying to become a competitior to the British GT Championship but it says its principals are different.Many manufacturers have already commited to the new series although it is still waiting to be confirmed as a series by the FIA. Finally the Radical series will be one many of you havn`t heard of,its really two championships the Bi-Duro and the Enduro.Its a cheap way to start in sportscar racing and offers drivers alot of tracktime and a good standard of racing.The two championships run in different lengths and both include driver and tyre changes.The championship last year was part of the now defunct Premier Package but this year has gained a support slot with the FIA Sportscar Championship aswell as having many stand alone club racing meetings accross all the British circuits. Anyway I hope this review has helped all Motor Racing enthusiasts with what will be going on accross all British circuits next season.Here`s to a good season of national racing. thecoin