I’m currently in the process of updating a few things and, shock horror, writing – so stay tuned!
It’s no secret that Will Power is fast. It’s not a coincidence that he’s managed to finish 1st; from 9th, 12th and 1st on the grid with 3 wins so early in the season. He’s been road race champion for 2 straight years, but why has this success not translated to ovals? Is the championship leader NOT the favourite for the Indy 500? What’s the deal? How many more QUESTIONS CAN I FIT?
Firstly I want to address the different driving styles of road racing compared to ovals: it doesn’t exist. Both styles are GO FAST! Sure, you need different setups, but this is the same for every track and every weather condition. Good drivers know how to adapt and find the limit, whether it’s in their shoe or under the couch. My favourite part of oval racing is how close together the cars race each other, it becomes less about pure car speed and more about outsmarting and outplaying other drivers. The scary thing is: this is Will Power’s strength. Look at all the different situations the guy has managed to win from, the bloke knows how to play the game. Look at his restarts, the passes, it’s been absolutely flawless this year. Other drivers have crashed because they got distracted by Will Power’s amazing driving and their jaws got in the way of the brake pedal.
All easy assumptions to make, but he’s always had the speed on ovals. His debut race at Indy in 2009 landed him in 5th place with the fastest lap of the race, since then there’s been a few incidents and some bad luck, but it’s all part of the learning curve. A single oval win in Texas isn’t much compared to the more seasoned Indycar drivers, including his own team mates. Helio has won the event 3 times, and while Briscoe hasn’t tasted victory at the Indy 500 he’s claimed a good handful of oval wins over the years. Nevertheless, Will has beaten both his team-mates in almost every race (including ovals) since he joined the team. Penske aren’t as bulletproof as they once were, with Helio finishing a staggering 11th in the championship standings last year. Ryan Briscoe finished 6th and hasn’t won a race since Texas in 2010 (Will has won twelve races since then). The juxtaposition is staggering. If a Penske is going to win the Indy 500, it’s very likely to be Will!
To conclude, I think Will Power is the favourite to win Indy, because quite simply he’s the best driver out there with unmatched determination, and the Indy 500 will reward that. It’s easy to shrug him off based on previous oval results, but fools make the easy choices. If you’re one of these people then I have a message for you.
On the 18th March there will be four drivers lining up on the grid at Albert Park for the first time in their careers. For two of them, though, it’s not the first time they’ll await the changing of lights and the making of dreams after qualifying for their first Formula One race. Between them, Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo practically have a full season of F1 experience. So why bother calling them rookies at all? Some certainly wouldn’t.
It’s perhaps time to reflect and appreciate that the issue is no longer black and white, like many aspects of Formula One; it’s a grey area and open to interpretation. Making the step, getting one foot in the door, has become increasingly difficult in recent years for young and talented drivers. It seems Formula One is not immune to the wider problems we currently face and certain risks are just no longer acceptable forcing drivers to produce results quickly and consistently. In this vein, Grosjean and Ricciardo have essentially previously kept somebody else’s seat warm.
With just seven races remaining in the 2009 season, Grosjean had little time to adapt in what was a difficult year for Renault. An insight into the pressures of Formula One, but a far cry from the environment where most rookies begin their journey. It’s doubtful many people would take issue with the Frenchman still being considered a rookie, but then where is the line drawn. Competing in eleven races last season, Ricciardo surely has gained valuable experience despite HRT’s poor reliability. Yet, thinking forward to Silverstone this year, with launches and some testing already completed, you begin to appreciate how much a driver may miss by jumping in a car mid season.
Therefore the only way to really draw a line is to do so with the first full season a driver competes in. Pic and Vergne are fortunate enough to make a smooth transition into Formula One; learn how to walk before they run. Sure the more ‘experienced’ of the rookies will start with an advantage, but we rarely consider the advantages of the routes different drivers have taken pre-F1 and how that may help their transition. Some food for thought.
Thrown in at the deep end by replacing Piquet at Renault mid season in 2009, struggled against Alonso and was unsurprisingly unable to make his mark in just the seven races he was given. Best finish was 13th. Last year won the GP2 and GP2 Asia series.
Had a somewhat impressive showing in the 2010 Young Drivers Test as well as 2nd place in the Formula Renault 3.5 series. After being a Toro Rosso feature during Friday practice, Red Bull loaned the Australian to HRT in 2011. He competed in all 11 races from Silverstone where he soon matched and outpaced Liuzzi.
Jean Eric Vergne
Last year was practically a mirror image of Ricciardo’s 2010 year for the Frenchman. Securing 2nd in the Formula Renault 3.5 series and taking part in the Young Drivers Test for Red Bull. A somewhat reoccurring theme as in 2009 he became the British Formula Three champion, like Ricciardo and Alguersuari before him.
The least accomplished driver of the four prior to entering F1. Featured in the Young Drivers Test last year and finished fourth in GP2, albeit just 3 points away from 2nd and the same number ahead of his team mate (Van der Garde).
Number of races entered pre 2012:
de la Rosa: 87
di Resta: 19
There are many races on the F1 calendar which we look forward to, but in recent years, with only the odd exception, no race is more eagerly awaited than the Australian Grand Prix. After the long winter months, starved of adrenaline and many hanging onto the finest threads of hope, the five red lights at Albert Park could not extinguish fast enough. While its position on the calendar and indeed its location may have changed, the Australian Grand Prix has rewarded our passion and drive with some great duals, incidents and races. With just over a month before she plays host to the 2012 season opener, what better time to indulge in some of these great moments?
It was not until 1985 that the Australian Grand Prix featured on the Formula One calendar, where it was held at Adelaide and remained so for 11 years. However, Australia was no stranger to motorsport. The first 100 Miles Road Race dates back to 1928. Ironically, while we may occasionally whimper back to the ‘good old days’ whenever race starts are delayed or, worse still, started under the safety car, this first encounter had to be rescheduled due to rain. Mother Nature the only ‘Champion of the Day’ and still enjoys reigning supreme; now there’s a dedicated motorsport enthusiast.
The race was a success and a fitting end to the 1985 season. It would to be another pole for Ayrton Senna in the Lotus-Renault, but come race day it was the Williams FW10 that would notch up the first win at the temporary circuit with only 9 cars finishing and only 8 with all four wheels on their wagon. Philippe Streiff damaged the front of his Ligier tripping over his own team mate, yet had enough of a gap over 4th place Capelli to maintain his podium position. The race was also to be the last career win of 5 for world champion Keke Rosberg. This year his son will arrive at the Australian Grand Prix still pursuing his first win despite his race tally fast approaching that of his fathers.
The circuit would not disappoint the following year, and more than earnt its place as the last event on the calendar with a spectacular championship battle between Piquet, Mansell and Prost. This, thankfully one of the few remaining races where good quality footage remains accessible. A time where issues with fuel were not synonymous with coded orders; with Streiff once again on the receiving end. This time finishing in the points despite running out of fuel. Unfortunately the following year the Frenchman’s luck was up, spinning out early on.
After a couple of dry races in 1987 and 1988, rain was certainly a theme the following year, with many discussions arising amongst the drivers whether they should race at all after a very difficult warm up and conditions only getting worse. The race, however, was to give us some truly memorable moments, including Senna famously running into the back of Brundle while attempting to lap both him and Piquet. Unsurprisingly only eight cars finished the race with Belgian Thierry Boutsen winning in his Williams-Renault after qualifying in fifth. Although with such dangerous conditions finishing at all was an achievement in itself.
Adelaide was to deliver more torrential rain in 1991, and despite improved drainage, the race resulted in what is still the shortest Formula One race to date. The race was eventually abandoned on lap 17, but there were some attempts by officials to restart the race. However driver objections were strong and most evidentially valid, the logic in their protests winning out. Even when the racing had finished, there were still problems and controversy to be dealt with which meant that the official results counted back to the end of lap 14 rather than lap 16.
Yet mention controversy to many Formula One fans and most will recall a defining moment in two, now world champions, careers. Adelaide 1994 and a split second decision by Michael Schumacher to turn in despite already sustaining damage against a wall, while Damon Hill attempted to overtake him. Schumacher retired instantly, but many watched in agony as Hill limped into the pits desperate to continue in what had been an incredibly emotional year for the Williams team. Neither scored any points and so this meant Schumacher became the first German world champion. The German’s later actions in 1997 during the European GP as well as his faux pas during qualifying in Monaco 2006 have kept this controversy raw.
The following year would be much kinder to Hill, who secured pole and went on to win the 1995 Adelaide GP in a dominant manner, although losing the lead with a poor start, he finished two laps ahead of 2nd place Olivier Panis. The French driver starting from 12th place on the grid and finished the race nursing an oil leak. He was far from the only driver to suffer with issues during the weekend, David Coulthard suffered from race ending embarrassment after misjudging the pits. Thankfully two of his fellow Brits; Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, have now joined him in notching up unforgettable pit lane blunders.
With a change of circuit in 1996, came a change of season. The Australian Grand Prix would no longer conclude the year’s battles at Adelaide, but begin them in the setting of Albert Park. The Melbourne circuit had previously held races in the 1950s, albeit in the opposite direction, but has seemingly remained in Adelaide’s shadows with a comparative lack of overtaking.
Nevertheless, since 1996, Albert Park has brought us some unforgettable moments, be it the reality of the uplifting story that was Brawn in 2009, less than desirable start line antics and an Australian underdog in 2002 to name but a few. For all the criticisms, Albert Park deserves to feature strongly here too. So keep an eye out for the Albert Park edition next week.
The real problem is not necessarily with current circuits, but how difficult it is to come by any meaningful footage of many of these earlier races. Forcing them to be nothing more than statistics in the history books. As the years roll on by it becomes more and more absurd that a sport renown for being the pinnacle of motorsport keeps leaving its fans behind in such a manner.
I’d like to thank everyone who has helped contribute their favourite moments and video clips so far. Where the sport fails, passionate fans prevail. When both fail, fortunately there is bacon.
With the quiet off season finally taking a hold on the amount of F1 news, I decided to take a little inspiration from those who have taken the time to read my thoughts on F1 in 2011. It was then to my surprise to see that a large amount of my visitors originate from one particular country; Australia. So here is a little something for you!
Just under a month ago it was announced that Daniel Ricciardo would race for Toro Rosso in 2012 and therefore join Mark Webber in being the second Australian with a full time race seat and indeed part of the Red Bull camp, albeit 13 years younger. The journey through the ranks to F1 is a particularly difficult one for Australian hopefuls, yet despite all of this and many other differences the two Australians find themselves looking at the same seat for 2013.
The end to their 2011 campaigns were quite literally poles apart. Webber secured his first win at Sao Paulo, benefiting from Vettel’s gearbox problems, in what appeared to be his only dash of luck all season. Meanwhile Ricciardo recorded a 20th place, last of the classified drivers in a weekend where he was convincingly overshadowed by his experienced team mate for the first time since Germany. Interestingly, this was also the case in the first competitive session that they both took part in, Silverstone qualifying, when Webber secured a much needed pole while Ricciardo struggled to get to grips with his HRT, qualifying last.
Yet this impression was not the true reality of 2011. Webber struggled to get to grips with the RB7, the new tyres and his starts. These problems made it difficult for the Red Bull strategists who often appeared to compound Webber’s problems through badly managed pit stops and tyre strategy at pivotal moments. From the outside it appeared this, and Vettel’s dominating form, had dented his motivation and focus which will undoubtedly make his all important victory at the final round an important stepping stone to an improved performance in 2012.
On the other hand, despite a disastrous season end, Ricciardo translated the promise he had shown at Tech 1 Racing, in the Formula Renault 3.5 series, into strong race weekend performances. The only part apparently lacking was an aggressive edge, but with the amount of blue flags waving, HRT is perhaps not the best team to try to hone this skill. After just three races, the young Australian began out performing Liuzzi with increasingly consistent pace.
Looking back at the season, his race performance against Narain Karthikeyan who finished ahead at India is the most highlighted as a thorn in his otherwise great season. However, a quick look at the lap times show that before problems and an extra stop, Ricciardo’s race pace was indeed quicker. This highlights the main issue of driving for a back of the grid team. It’s almost impossible to impress but so easy to gain criticism.
Yet soon 2011 will be a distant memory and the 2012 season will be under way. It is unlikely that last year’s performance will have much bearing on future decisions in a team culture where there is always pressure to perform and no let up when you don’t. The biggest problem then seems to be that one of the driver’s advancement may very well be at the expense of the other’s career, especially in light of how readily Toro Rosso and indeed Red Bull will drop their drivers.
An interesting watch for 2012 no matter where you tune in from.