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Archive for March, 2013

Race Worthy: A Great Opportunity to Shine

On any given race weekend, it can be tough for even the most avid racing fan to keep up with all the racing related events happening throughout the world. Various time constraints and time zone differences often force people into choosing one race over another for that weekend, despite being a fan of both series. Missing out on undiscovered gems or devoting time to a lackluster race that really wasn’t worth watching relative to what else was happening that weekend can be extremely frustrating.

Enter “Race Worthy”, a weekly column dedicated to informing readers on what upcoming races or racing related events are worth prioritizing their time for and why. I emphasize why because that is where the true heart of this column lies. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the contributor, it can be very refreshing and interesting to discover what it is that makes that event, series, etc seem so valuable to that person. In some cases, this perspective may help cultivate a greater sense of enjoyment and appreciation from the reader whenever they do watch that particular racing series.

As stated above, we don’t want this column to be from our perspective alone. So we plan on including the opinions of fellow racing enthusiasts from all around the world as well. If you are interested in contributing your opinion on what upcoming race or event is worth watching, then email us at theracingedge1@gmail.com with the title “Race Worthy”. Be sure to include your name, affiliation (if any), and nationality. We plan to post on every Thursday or Friday leading into a race weekend.

Well with that out of the way lets take a look at what is going on this Easter weekend. Fans have been spoiled the past two weekends with races such as the 12 hours of Sebring, the controversial Formula One, dramatic NASCAR finishes, WTCC wet races, etc. It was exciting, but a complete overload at the same time. Personally, a break is welcome and that is what we are seeing this weekend. The major players are sitting out this weekend, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t which gives the opportunity for the lower tier leagues to shine. So without further ado, here are my top picks.

British Touring Car Championship @ Brands Hatch (Round One)
This is a no brainer folks. It goes without saying that touring car racing produces some of the most exciting wheel to wheel battles in auto racing, but the British Touring Car Championship steps it up to a whole other level in my book. I have been watching the BTCC since 2007 and I have yet to see a race that wasn’t exciting in some way or another. Personally, I find it far more exciting than the World Touring Car Championship. Don’t get me wrong, the WTCC has it’s own unique merits but the atmosphere of the BTCC beats it hands down. Perhaps this is due to the series possessing all the right elements that compose a great touring car championship: likable driver personalities, tense rivalries, top notch TV coverage, and a diverse field of cars from a variety of manufacturers and configurations (FWD, RWD, etc)

2013 will see a record 32 cars on the field

2013 will see a record 32 cars on the field

This weekend’s opening round at Brands Hatch Indy configuration will mark the start of a highly anticipated season that ushers in the third year of the cost efficient and turbo boosted Next Generation Touring Car (NGTC), although there will still be Super 2000 (S2000) spec cars on track as well. However,the most exciting thing about this season is the field itself. The entry list is at a record 32 cars consisting of 13 car models and 11 different manufacturers. Honda, Vauxhall, Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, SEAT, Toyota, MG, Chevrolet, Proton, and Audi will all be present at this race. For those of you who are new to BTCC, you should expect plenty of intense wheel to wheel battles with a very lenient penalty system that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Rubbing is racing.”  Some folks may be snobby towards that concept, but I find it to be exciting as long as it is fair.

So here is a quick rundown on why the BTCC will be the one to watch this weekend:

  • Opening round of the 2013 season
  • Record setting 32 car field with a variety of manufacturers and specification standards.
  • 32 cars at the Indy configuration of the Brands Hatch will ensure a consistent state of racing chaos throughout the race.
  • Exciting wheel to wheel battles
  • Each round consists of 3 races
  • Today’s qualifying took place during a brief snow shower (first time I have ever seen that!)

FIA GT1 Series @ The Nogaro Circuit (Round One)

The FIA GT series is one that is often forgotten, which is a shame, because the GT series is actually quite an exciting series that is very accessible. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to watch this because of my eagerness to see nine time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb try his hand at GT sports cars. The winners of the Gran Turismo GT Academy competition shall be competing in this series as well. In all seriousness, this is a fun series to watch that is also one of the easiest to access. Full races, previews, reviews, etc are available through the website and youtube channel. If you love high end sports cars of the GT variety, then this is definitely a series worth watching.  The cars are beautiful, the tracks challenging, and the racing top notch.


 

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Categories: Touring Cars

The Racing Edge #2 – Malaysian F1 GP Podcast

March 25, 2013 Leave a comment

This is our second podcast and we take a look at the antics that went on between the Red Bull and Mercedes team mates along with a brief review of the race. We are looking to get as many people involved and round table discussions open. Please like and comment below and we look forward to reading your comments out on the next show.

The Racing Edge #2 – Malaysian F1 GP Podcast.

The heat is on… at Red Bull!

March 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Searching for the right words to describe what we saw at the Malaysian is really very tough. Eventful comes to mind as being the main one but many others would apply fittingly also.

Before we get on to the chaos of the race, let us review qualifying. Sebastian Vettel once again showed he was class of the field by pitting for fresh inters and set a blistering time nine tenths quicker than Massa and a second faster than Alonso. Australian GP winner, Raikkonen was not so clever and also fell foul to a three place grid penalty for impeding Nico Rosberg.

Twenty-four hours pass and the race is started on intermediate tyres after a down pour of rain prior to the race. Lights out and Alonso’s Ferrari got a quick start but Massa was not as quick as in Australia and was passed by his team mate with relative ease. Alonso saw an opportunity to capitalise but locked his brakes on entry to turn two, clipped the back of race leader Vettel and damaged his front wing. Incredibly he battled and held second place until the line of the first lap, but going down the pit straight his front wing collapsed underneath the front tyres and sent him spearing off in to the gravel. Ferrari had told him to pit and were ready with a new front wing but the Spaniard did not and paid the price. Reminded me of Raikkonen at the Nurburgring in 2005 for McLaren where his front right tyre exploded on the last lap of the race.

Alonso’s wing disappears under his car

The first laps unfolded and as the track dried, Vettel was the first to dive in to pit lane for a set of slicks. Turns one to four were still very wet, too wet in fact and Vettel was left battling cars on inters and trying to get his slicks up to temperature. Webber pitted two laps later and benefited massively by jumping his team mate and coming out in the race lead. With Massa’s relative lack of pace it allowed both Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg to capitalise and close down the Red Bull pair. Hamilton in particular in the mid part of the race had some excellent pace but it was too much too fast, he had to settle in to fuel conservation mode which allowed Rosberg to close up even further but he was also managing his tyres better.

The turning point of the race came for both Red Bull and Mercedes. Webber had been controlling his pace, tyres and engine management to the point where Vettel came out just behind him after the final round of pit stops. Vettel then engulfed in an all-out battle with his team mate chopping and changing positions for two laps which saw the young German get pushed right up against the pit wall. Vettel had earlier moaned in the race that Webber was too slow but knowing how the Pirelli rubber works, Webber was simply controlling his pace. Vettel eventually threw the car around the outside of turn four and took the lead of the race. While Webber’s earlier battling was valiant he was not too forceful to push his fellow Red Bull driver off the circuit.

Behind the Red Bull pair the battle raged on between Nico Rosberg and, not Hamilton, but Ross Brawn. Hamilton was in pure tyre and fuel conservation mode but settled in to a third place and podium finish. Brawn clearly having understanding of the situation told his drivers to just settle in to their respective positions. A wiley fox like Ross Brawn is not going to be told by anyone, if Schumacher could not then Rosberg is definitely not going to be telling him.

The chequered flag dropped with Vettel crossing the line first, an angered Webber in second and a disappointed Rosberg in third. You can imagine at this point this podium is going to be a rather feisty place. Before the drivers stepped on to the podium and furious Mark Webber walked in to the post-race room, steam pouring out of his ears, glaring looks at Vettel and with a deep Aussie boom voicing the words “Multi 21, Seb. Mutli 21” This is code from the Red Bull team indicating team orders and stay in your positions. On the other side of the podium we had a glum looking Hamilton almost scratching his head and wondering what had just happened.

Martin Brundle joined them on the podium for the post-race interviews and, as ever, Brundle doing an excellent job tried to defuse the situation but Webber was quick to jump and say “Vettel took it in to his own hands, and as ever will be protected by the team”. Sure enough the ears of Dr Helmut Marko and Christian Horner pricked up at that point and knew they were in for a tough evening, the team already in a hot environment the pressure cooker seemingly getting ever hotter.   Hamilton explained how he thought Rosberg should be up there will probably not go down well with Mercedes bosses as it was Ross Brawn’s call. We very much see two different dynamics of team and team mates appearing in both camps. Dr Helmut Marko was quick enough to say that there is a “Clear number one” in Mercedes trying to deflect the attention away from his own team.

Webber’s anger at Vettel © Sutton Images

More was to come yet though as Vettel and Webber had a chat after the podium and before the press conference, Vettel sat down and apologised to Webber but the Aussie was having none of it and did not accept his apology. Webber’s interview with Natalie Pinkham of Sky Sports was the most revealing though. Webber stated that he wanted some time off to head back to Australia and also that he was “questioned things” in the last ten laps of the race. That is quite a bold statement to be saying and while it may be heat of the moment you have to wonder.

I think all Formula 1 fans will have opinions and likely differing opinions on this. Team orders have always been in Formula 1, whether that be a blatant as radio communication or a pre-race agreement. Webber was clearly under the impression that he had the lead, conserve tyres, engine and control the pace to the flag. Vettel was even told “This is silly Seb” by the pit wall but still persisted to pressure and eventually pass Webber. Now, the one big thing here that has been broken is trust. Webber can not only trust Vettel, probably ever again, but also the team. How does he then trust the team that tell him one thing and then another thing happens? Not only that but they still had another ten laps or so to go that they could have swapped the positions back around and never did! This is sour situation to be in and Webber will be left wondering and questioning his own position but also the position of the team. Webber only has this year left on his contract which I am sure he just wants to enjoy racing. After the antics we saw from Vettel today you have to wonder if he will stay.

So let us look at the other side of the garage. Red Bull clearly know that Vettel is the stronger driver and the most likely to challenge for the title. After seeing Alonso drop out of the race they must have been rubbing their hands together. Vettel was behind Webber though after the stops and it took a forceful pass to get back the top step of the podium. The team stated that it was ‘silly’ and that he should be careful. Vettel even said during the race “Get him out the way, he’s too slow” about Webber who was actually looking after his tyres. A lot of comparisons have been drawn with Schumacher in the post-race aftermath and, sure, correlations can be drawn but the things that still stands out for me is Vettel’s immaturity. The youngest triple world champion but hardly the maturity of a world champion. Vettel was booed on the podium in Australia, and even as a triple world champion is far from a fans favourite. Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton all with fewer titles hold a better fans reputation than Vettel. After the race today, you can see why.

Flip over to Mercedes and Rosberg got out of the car, fully understood the situation, knows that the same would happen if that roles were reversed and gave a very dignified and diplomatic response to the media, an excellent showing from the German and, if anything, gone up in peoples estimations and I suspect has gained a lot of respect. Hamilton clearly unsatisfied himself, Mercedes almost have a luxury on their hands because they have two friends that want to fight, properly, but also both play the team game.

Fans may be disgruntled by what has happened but I think Red Bull actually have a greater issue on their hands. They have a driver that has clearly disobeyed team orders. Now while Schumacher, Senna or Alonso are/were rarely on the receiving end of that, I do not remember them disobeying the team quite so directly. Argument could state that it is early in the season and they should be allowed to battle, but outright disobeying the team that pays you? That is not something you want to be doing, even as a triple world champion.

Three weeks now until China and a lot of damage has to be repaired and a lot of conflicts to be resolved. Question is, can Red Bull do it or maybe, just maybe was that Mark Webber’s last ever Formula 1 race?

Well… that was awkward…

Now that the Malaysian GP has ended a new race has begun, one which isn’t exactly overt but is sure to be happening. The race I am speaking of is the one where the viewers are all racing towards their computers in order to duke it out on their favorite F1 sites, facebook pages, group forums, etc over the controversy witnessed at today’s race within the Red Bull and Mercedes camps. While a race to express your opinion isn’t one that can really be won, the anxiety still exists to get an opinion out there as if it could. Unfortunately I fall under that group and as I begin to hear the birds chirping in my rural midwestern town that morning has come, a part of me wishes that I was racing to my bed. However, unlike some of us out there, I am honoring my team orders and keeping up the good fight.

The title of my post pretty much sums up the race for me.  From Alonso’s decision to stay on track in order to test unique front wing designs to Hamilton’s exemplary lesson on how subconscious desires override common sense, I couldn’t help but think how awkward this race was. Don’t get me wrong, the excitement was there. This was a proper Malaysian GP with it’s changing conditions, retirements, epic wheel to wheel battles, and dramatic turn of events. Yet I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the race just felt off in a lot of ways. I just knew that some bullshit was right around the corner.

Unfortunately, I turned out to be right. The podium ‘celebration’ and subsequent interview said it all. Even if things had went smoothly and the drivers decided to just toss their champagne bottles aside and take a piss on the crowd before them, I still don’t think it would have been as awkward as to what we witnessed.

I wouldn't be surprised to see this happen

It needs to happen

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see Mark Webber yet again receive unequal treatment and support (i.e. get screwed). One only needs to take a look at the 2010 season to confirm such things. Now before you naysayers stone me to death, I am not saying that Webber’s troubles and inability to secure a championship are down to just faulty team mechanics. He certainly has a variety of weaknesses that he has to take responsibility for (which he does). However, when a driver gives 110 percent effort it isn’t asking much to receive at least 90 percent support from his own team managers. You can get it all right and then some, but if those calling the shots aren’t fully in your corner, then there isn’t much you can do to overcome those odds. Webber wasn’t kidding when he responded to Helmut Marko’s criticism and said that “.. everyone at this level has their own agendas and it’s been evident for a long time now that I’ve never been part of Marko’s.” Oh how the anger rises inside me when I think about the final round in 2010 at the Abu Dhabi grand prix where Helmut Marko spouted off a bunch of fluff regarding the team’s views on honoring the spirit of competition and how drivers should have equal treatment as long as they still have a mathematical chance to win a championship. All talk and no walk.

Look, I understand the purpose of team orders and can accept that they happen in racing. I even support the implementation of them to an extent. However, it speaks volumes when Webber has always played the honorable role and is denied the same respect he has given countless times in the past. Some people out there may think that this is what makes Vettel one of the greats, that he will do everything it takes to get that win. But I would contest that what makes one great isn’t simply winning, but how one goes about achieving such a win. There is a reason why the ideas of honor and sportsmanship are highly praised.

Mark Webber knows that the odds have always been stacked against him. I only hope that history eventually shows this to be true. Simply put, I am not convinced that Vettel is superior to Webber as much as I am convinced that Vettel has received the greater support in both covert and overt form. Vettel’s on track actions seemed to express a belief that he can ignore team orders and act with impunity. The sad thing is that this is probably true.

The crazy thing is, this wasn’t even the most awkward thing that happened in today’s race. I think that award goes to Lewis Hamilton. Pit stop antics aside, did anyone catch how Lewis Hamilton openly admitted that Nico Rosberg ought to have been on the podium rather than himself? Kudos to Hamilton, he nearly killed me from the shock that overwhelmed my body from hearing that. It was the last thing I expected to hear from him but was certainly a pleasant surprise. At least we were able to witness some form of honorable action to help balance the dishonorable ones that took place.

The Racing Edge Podcast is Launched!

March 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Welcome to the first ‘The Racing Edge’ podcast. This is something Brandon and I have wanted to do for a while but due to life in general it has taken longer than anticipated  We want to try and get people involved as much as possible whether that be simple commenting or joining on a show in the future. Any ideas, feedback and general show comments are welcome. You can post either here or on our YouTube channel and the option to email us at: theracingedge1@gmail.com

We hope you enjoy the podcast and look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

Follow me on Twitter: @Nico888

‘Easy’ win for Kimster

March 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Well it is a while since I have written a blog here but I thought I would make my grand return for 2013. I had planned to write consistently but as ever life seems to interrupt along the way and it gets broken up. Along with writing I hope to be able to bring a podcast to the site also.

It is a couple of hours after the race down under around Albert Park, Melbourne and many fans and viewers will be stepping away or back to bed with very wide smiles on their faces. I for one I am exceptionally pleased to see Kimi Raikkonen win for Lotus.

© Sutton Images

After the initial washout of qualifying before both Q2 and Q3 were run on Sunday morning prior to the race I think most people thought this would be a stroll, quite literally, in the park for Red Bull after what can only be described as a stunning pole position lap from Sebastian Vettel, such commitment in very challenging conditions.

Start of the race actually felt quite tame in some respects. Usually the season opener is drivers dusting the cobwebs away from the winter break and the race craft is not quite there but from turn one onwards it all seemed relatively clean other than new boy Chilton in the Marussia having to pit for a new front wing after contact with van der Garde’s Caterham.

The front of the field squabbling for position all the way down to turn three after negotiating the mobile chicane of Mark Webber after a software failure did not allow for a correct bite point for the clutch, the drivers escaped and the race started to unfold.

Fernando Alonso made a wonderful sweeping move around the outside of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes around turn three and hunted down his team mate in quick smart fashion. Come the end of lap one Vettel had calmly created himself a two second advantage. That would whittle away quite sharply as both the Ferrari’s came tearing up behind him quite menacingly.

Ferrari initially appeared to show equal fairness to the drivers whereby Massa was allowed to pit first and have the luxury of strategy advantage over his team mate who was behind. Were the tables turning at Ferrari? No. Come round two of pit stops Ferrari pitted Alonso earlier to take him out of the traffic and Massa was asked to push to see if he could two stop. He could not and was left tucked up behind Adrian Sutil.

Force India have quietly gone about their business in pre-season, turning many laps and appearing to have a car capable of at least fifth in the constructors at the moment, Adrian Sutil though had other ideas. After starting from twelfth on the grid he quickly made his way up the field starting on the medium compound tyre which proved a great strategy call for the first two stints which put him right in with Vettel, Alonso and Massa. The quad group all running together for many laps as the strategies unfolded.

While this was happening Kimi Raikkonen was carefully lurking off the back of them controlling his pace and his tyre management and in doing so put himself in the window of a two stop strategy. This was quite a surprise as many had foreseen it to be a three stop race but Lotus got excellent longevity out of the super soft compound in the opening stint allowing the ‘Flying Finn’ to only stop twice in the race. It would appear Lotus have an advantage of a car that is very kind on its tyres and looks after them well.

It has to be applauded the valiant effort of Fernando Alonso though. The Spaniard setting fastest lap after fastest lap trying to bring the gap down between the two and the three stop strategies. It was not to be though and other than a moment with a Caterham he could not close the gap and Raikkonen conveniently set the fastest lap of the race with just a few laps to go just to let Alonso know he was not winning today.

Kimi has been quoted as saying “It was one of the easiest races I have done to win. Hopefully we can have many more of these races.” and quite honestly it was. He was flawless in his drive and kept the measure of his competitors when he needed to and turned the wick up just at the right times. He seems to feel at home with the Lotus and the freedom he has. His latest interviews we have even seen a more open smiling Kimi which is rather nice but his cool character approach was always a winner with those that liked him.

Raikkonen wins in Melbourne © Sutton Images

So what have we learnt from Melbourne? Kimi is up for it, Fernando wants it and Vettel is not really sure what to think. Red Bull have made improvements to what is already a good car but have they over done it and now have degradation issues? I doubt it and I think Malaysia may see Red Bull come to the front again but now more than ever they have a big challenge on their hands and it’s not just from one team it could be anything up to three teams currently.

And just to round my first piece of the season up, a word on Mercedes. Qualifying looks be a strong point for them but similar to the past few seasons, add the fuel in and the balance of the car changes. They tried their best to two stop with Hamilton but they could not and while Lewis is happy with the base clearly the overall package is missing something. Work to be done but definite promise for the Silver Arrows.

Follow me on Twitter: @Nico888