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Posts Tagged ‘kimi raikkonen’

Red Bull, Green Heaven

It has been a little while since I have written a blog but I thought I would now as it was appropriate timing.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to go to the absolutely majestic track that is the Red Bull Ring. It firstly must be stated at just how absolutely beautiful a country Austria is. It has the most outstanding landscape and scenery you could wish for. No wonder they are crazy about their skiing with the size of the mountains they have! (Congratulations Anna Fenninger)

I arrived with friends on Friday with a sense of anticipation. I have become very eager to see and hear these new generation of hybrid cars. After casually walking around the F1 Fan Village and purchasing some Ferrari and Williams t-shirts we proceeded to the grandstand along the straight between turn one to turn two.

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We hit our first problem trying to actually get in the grandstand when they said our passes were not valid which made no sense considering Friday was “meant to be” access all areas even on a general admission pass. Apparently not. Luckily we were able to peer around the grandstand and see our first glimpse of turn two. Initially I was a little underwhelmed, it looked less of an incline than I thought.

All of a sudden I could hear a rogue whistling sound followed by a large thud of booming. Sure enough FP2 had started to my absolute amazement. I did not hear them coming, I did not hear a single thing until the braking of turn two. I didn’t even need ear phones and I have a dodgy right ear!

As we ventured to the top of turn two we looked back and the landscape to centre stage. This wonderful, sweeping valley of greenery with vista’s that could only dream of. It also made me realise “Oh, turn two is rather steep.” It wasn’t until we were at the top I truly appreciated just how steep the run to turn two was or how much the track dips between one and two.

We found ourselves a spot high up on the grassed banking at turn two and took in an afternoon of sunshine and loud whistles. That really is all I can describe these V6 hybrid turbo engines. Loud whistles. I had the privilege of going to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 2013 and remembering how my ears would ring all night long before going to the track again the next morning for them to be absolutely obliterated again with screaming V8’s at 18,000rpm. My chest would vibrate with the noise reverberating around the trees. It was pure magic. Absolute magic.

I realise and understand that the car industry and modern life itself is in a flux of trying to save the environment but I struggle to see the relevance of these engines in road cars. I thought that’s what the WEC boys were doing, oh and doing it better may I add. I have been a Formula 1 fan all my life but never have I been let down so much by the cars. They are woeful, truly woeful.

We returned for day two bright and early because one of us in the group had a press pass – the lucky bugger! So as he ventured off we took to walking around the track and taking more in until Qualifying. We were fortunate enough to find a nice little spot between turns two and three which gave us not only a spectacular view across the circuit but a demonstration of what these cars can do in to turn three.

Qualifying comes and it is fascinating to see when they turn the wick up on these cars, SORRY! Batteries, we see just what the can do. Both Mercedes were braking barely before the 50m board. Incredibly late braking in qualifying trim and even with the fly-by-wire braking systems they seem to work quite nicely. The transition from wet to dry caught Kimi out and we were left with a regular story come Q2 and Q3. Mercedes up front on their own with little interest from the others and a lockout even though they both through away what would have better laps.

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Post qualifying we ventured off in to the wilderness as the track cuts from turn three up to around the turn 8 area. This is where I captured a fantastic video through the fencing, wedging my phone between two bars and seeing the Porsche Supercup. They never cease to amaze. Wonderful machinery cascading down the hill and the drivers having to deal with both curb and camber changes. Sublime area to see cars fly through.

Race day and another early start. We arrived at 8.30am with cappuccino in hand waiting for the support races. We had found a bench the day before and being with a German we had to make sure we got our beach towels down early to avoid disappointment. The vantage point we had though was fantastic. I honestly could not have hoped for a better setting to sit and enjoy a day’s racing. I have often raved about the view from Knickerbrook at Oulton Park and the view you get there, this was better!

Both GP3 and GP2 were great to watch. Viewing the rising talent through the ranks and the drivers wanting to get the elusive F1 prize. It must be said at this point at the phenomenal talent that is Stoffel Vandoorne. The guy is breath-taking to watch on track. The speed and control he has with a GP2 car and the way he controls the Pirelli tyres is awe inspiring. If he does not secure an F1 seat then it would a travesty. How do you replace Alonso or Button? Easy. Vandoorne for Button and wait for Honda to sort their engine out.

On the point of Honda. Engine? Well, none of these engines may sound particularly great but where they do come alive is a low speed. A deep gargle and splattering of fuel as it tries to pull away and then it’s gone as they crank through the eight gears. The Honda engine though sounds like it’s like an extra cylinder down than any other manufacturer. It gargles, spits, pops, it has been a long time since I have heard something quite that throaty. Do I like it? Not really but many will.

Before the F1 race we were enticed by some old machinery from the 80’s and the 90’s along with a plane from the Red Bull Air Race which was very impressive and finally a giant Austrian flag was helicoptered in. When you can hear the noise of the engines from the far side of the track, blast along the start straight with the sound bouncing off the paddock that is when the blood rushes. That thrill of the sound and noise the feel of speed rushing through your body.

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Five red lights go out and with all cars on the grid you can hear the engines but only for a lap or two until they have filtered out. That was proven after the safety car came in after the Alonso and Raikkonen had their bust up on the exit of two. Unfortunately did not get a glimpse of it but did get to see the truck take the Ferrari the wrong way turn round and go back the other way. Alonso and Kimi also going their separate ways on bikes back to the pit lane.

Once they were back to full speed it truly shocked me at just how much they lift and coast prior to a corner. They do brake incredibly late but because the aerodynamics has done most of the work by then it was makes little differences. They cars look incredibly easy to drive and not a great challenge for the driver. One thing of note though was how the Mercedes cars turn through turns three and four. They pitch the car in on the nose, let the rear slide and power on. This was actually the issue they had a few years ago with Schumacher and Rosberg with the rears overheating. By the looks of it they have not got rid of the issue but due to the longevity of the Pirelli’s the tyres heat up in to an operating window and keep them well enough to stretch their legs.

At all times the Mercedes looked like they could just turn the boost up and run away as and when they needed to. All very calculated and controlled and gave no openings or opportunities to other teams. Ferrari are coming though, the car looks very strong at the rear with little movement which could help in the future.

My overall conclusion though is one of disappointment. These cars are terrible with absolutely no heart or sole about them. Quiet, easy and just all round dull racing. There is a lot to be sorted in Formula 1 but something has got to be done about these cars. I would like to thank the Red Bull Ring for a phenomenal venue and support package though. Tremendous effort and I fully endeavour on returning to the track soon. I hear you have MotoGP coming…

Adaptability

November 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Yes that wonderful word that seems to sweepingly take Formula 1 these days in a climate where adapting to your surroundings is just as important as being fast.

The US GP failed to live up to the hype of last year. Pirelli’s continued ultra-conservative route still being taken and the lack of Sebastian Vettel looking vulnerable in any situation. Some interesting points did come from the US GP though if you look a little deeper.

For the first time in a good while we saw some of the rawness of drivers and not just their media fronts. This was firstly noticeable with the brash statement of Pastor Maldonado claiming that the mechanics of his number sixteen Williams were tampering with his car. In any circumstance or situation, even if you are leaving, you do not make such comments or statements. It is hardly an appealing factor to any new employee that you may be going to. In this case it looks like Lotus unless Quantum Motorsports cough up some money and, rightly, take Nico Hulkenberg.

We then have other examples of drivers just simply not adapting. Lewis Hamilton was contradicting himself for fun from what we heard of the team radio messages between himself and his engineer. Firstly claiming he knew what he was doing with the tyres, followed up by wanting to know a plethora of information, massive respect to Peter Bonnington for having the patience of a Buddhist monk. Hamilton once again showing he has speed but not the full package.

When we look at the performances of the second half the season it is clear to see that Red Bull have regained their advantage from last season with the 2012 Pirelli tyre construction being brought back. Even when the 2013 tyres were on the car, Vettel still won Malaysia, Bahrain and Canada. This reflects how he is able to adapt to the car and tyres given to him. Arguably, Fernando Alonso is doing an even better job considering the lack lustre Ferrari he has two wins to his name. But what Alonso portrays is firstly confidence and ability within him but also the mental capacity to be able to adapt. The car is not as good as the Red Bull but he is extracting everything from the Ferrari and has now finished runner-up to Vettel. He learns how the tyres work during the race and uses that to his advantage.

Jenson Button is loved by many in the paddock and many fans, but I am not one. Even during his 2009 championship campaign there was this snide character to Button that came across. Button moans about any given situation with the car. He does not understand or learn what the car is doing; he immediately proclaims something is wrong. McLaren have opted to release Sergio Perez from his contract. Over time it will come out if this is on performance or the Telmex money drying up. Have McLaren released the wrong man? No. Both need to go.

Perez in the second half of the season has done a better job than Button. He has understood the team, his engineers and also the simulator and McLaren are now seeing the rewards. I do not believe Perez is the ultimate driver but he is certainly more adaptable than Button. With Kevin Magnussen now joining the team, I believe in 2014 Button is going to get over shadowed by his young Danish team mate. Experience is a tremendous trait to have, if you know how to use it.

The driver that has been impressing most of late is Romain Grosjean. In 2012 he was erratic, reckless and arguably dangerous at times. In 2013 he has calmed down a lot by seeing a psychologist and learning more about himself. I am not a father but they say fatherhood changes you and while he claims it has not changed him, subconsciously I suspect a change has taken place. I have no end of respect for Grosjean to even mention the fact he sees a psychologist. In modern day sport that could be viewed as a sign of weakness to some. He and Lotus identified the issue and dealt with it. Grosjean has learnt the car and the tyres and is now beating one of the Red Bull’s, mighty impressive.

So where does this leave 2014? Currently you would say on driving adaptability alone the title fight will be between Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen and even Grosjean. With the amount of changes Formula 1 will go through in 2014 it is vital to be able to adapt. But for me Nico Hulkenberg is the star of the future as long as he gets a drive. He is a driver of raw talent, adaptability and speed. I first saw him in A1GP and knew then he was on for greatness.

If Britain has any hope in Formula 1 in the future, it is coming from lower categories. The current crop of drivers are near write-offs.

Follow me on twitter: @nico888

Battle of the Strategies

April 14, 2013 Leave a comment

After a three week gap and the dust settling over the Red Bull saga, the Formula 1 circus rolled in to the Jiading circuit in Shanghai, China. After the practice sessions it was evident to see that the Lotus and Ferrari’s were quick on the long run pace. Tyre degradation was the biggest concern though as the soft compound was degrading at such a high rate.

Qualifying was uninspiring due to the teams conserving tyres for the race. Only seven drivers setting Q3 times with Button, Vettel and Hulkenburg settling for slow times or no times to optimize strategy on the Medium compound tyres. Lewis Hamilton made the most of the soft tyres and taking pole position.

As the five lights dropped the Mercedes of Hamilton had a good jump and pulled away from second position Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus who in turn was swamped by both Ferrari’s of Alonso and Massa. A clean start for the rest of the field behind as Kimi settled in to fourth position.

Fernando Alonso wanted to make an early impression and lay down a marker and on lap three with DRS enabled swept around the outside of Hamilton in to turn one and with a great run out of the final corner, Massa took second spot off Hamilton going in to turn one. The soft tyres, as predicted, dropped away after just six laps. Mercedes gambled and stacked their cars on pit entry, but thanks to some slick pit work Hamilton had a quick stop and Rosberg was serviced in quick sharp time also. Ferrari opted not to stop both cars and Massa lost out massively by staying out one lap longer and dropped to fifth and never recovered from that position.

With thanks to © Getty Images and ESPN

Mark Webber started from pit lane after his car stopped out on track in qualifying without fuel due to a fuel rig bowser error meant that his car was not carrying the required fuel sample putting him to the back of the grid. Red Bull decided to start the Australian from pit lane to break parc fermé and allow for setup changes. This all came undone on lap fourteen when Webber tried to pass the sister team car of Vergne in to turn six but the door was firmly slammed in front of him and it damaged the front wing. After his stop there was an issue with the rear left wheel at it popped off in turn fourteen forcing him to retire from that race.

Story of the opening part of the race was how Hulkenburg was able to get past both Button and Vettel and had great pace in front of Vettel. They pitted on the same lap for new medium tyres but a slow stop for Sauber allowed Vettel through. Sauber on the second stop switched the soft compound but left Nico out for too long and his race pace fell away and dropped backwards through the field.

Due to the strategic warfare playing out it allowed for plenty of overtaking but the DRS zones were too powerful and allowed for relative easy overtakes unless you are Kimi Raikkonen. The Lotus with clearly more grip tried to go to the outside of turns four and five to negotiate a slower Perez at the time but was pushed way out on the grass and speared in to the back of the McLaren damaging the front wing. The Iceman opted not to pit and to battle on, to his credit considering the understeer he still maintained great pace.

If it was not for that damage it would have been likely that Kimi could have made an impression on Fernando Alonso who at this point was romping away to an emphatic victory. Controlled, patient and calculated allowed the ‘all-round’ best driver to secure his first win of the season in front of Raikkonen and Hamilton.

The Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel was on the mirror strategy by starting on the mediums and running them all race until the last five laps where he pitted and came out thirteen seconds behind Hamilton’s Mercedes. Vettel’s imperious driving qualities once again prevailed by holding on to those tyres but also smashing the lap times and came right up behind Hamilton going in to sector three of the final lap. On the approach to turn eleven both cars had to negotiate a Caterham and Vettel ran too deep in to the corner, he ran under the one second marker required for DRS but could not make the impression in the final couple of corners and Hamilton took another podium for Mercedes.

One week now before the chaos resumes in Bahrain. This race will hold special regard for me after visiting the track in 2011 for the race to be cancelled and also my parents living in the volatile country for three years. Protesters have already started to use the F1 as leverage to make their voices heard once again for the human rights campaign. It is likely tyres will again be at the forefront of the teams minds. I for one sincerely hope the tyres are the only issue and the Grand Prix is not over shadowed by politics as the teams head to the Middle-East.

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

Youth in Sport

January 15, 2012 Leave a comment

These past few weeks have been about making a comeback. None more so than in the Sports I love, Motorsport and Football.

Formula 1 has already welcomed a great back to its grid in the shape of Michael Schumacher, two years ago. Recently Formula 1 welcomed the return of Kimi Raikkonen and Pedro de la Rosa. There are still some unknowns to be answered when it comes to F1’s old boys of Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli.

In Football, Thierry Henry graces the Emirates pitch and Paul Scholes embraces the Theatre of Dreams once again, while Robbie Keane turns up at Aston Villa.

This led me to the question of – why? Why is that we are seeing these older drivers, older players and even retired sportsmen being brought back out of their cosy arm chairs. We live in age where the pinnacle of sport is pushing every boundary possible. That statement I would agree with on a physical level but on a mental level, I think we are just at the tip of the iceberg.

Recently one of England’s most loved and adored Cricketers, Freddie Flintoff, made an incredible documentary on depression in sport. Depression is often looked at in different ways but many people but it’s the person inside us that takes the most convincing. Nobody wants to appear weak or vulnerable in any situation, especially on a sporting and national scale. There is no hiding the fact that when you are a professional sportsman you take on more than just playing the sport you loved as a child. Sports men and women have to overcome a whole raft of pressures that can take its toll and can lead to depression. It is too easy to say just go talk to someone or “man up”. We have to realise that this is fundamental and these people need the support and guidance of all around them.

The youth of today are faced with increasing pressures of gazing media eyes, public interrogation and who is the latest person they are dating. No longer are the days where you can be 18 years old, play in the youth team and progress to the first team without anyone noticing. Young South American starlets are snapped up as early as 14/15 by clubs in Europe with the prospect of being “the next Lionel Messi”.

The same applies in Motorsport. Unless you have a contract when karting, it is very unlikely you are going to progress through the ranks without substantial cash investment behind you. The Motorsport industry is trying to change this philosophy and promote youngsters to just go along and enjoy the sport for what it is, fun.

Week-in, week-out, I often see young protagonists sitting on the bench for top line Football clubs waiting for their chance. Season-by-season I see the lower formula categories with teenagers that have phenomenal speed that could be utilised. So why is it we still have to revert back to the “old guard”?

Sport goes with the nature of modern life, especially in Britain. We have become more conservative and reserved, quicker to protect ourselves than consider others. We live in a culture whereby we make sure number one is looked after first than consider the consequences it may have on others. Formula 1 and Football teams are more likely to protect their investment of millions of pounds, dollars, euros than leave it to some young un-tested hot shot. The investment also needs sustainability and longevity though.

So much so that we look to those that have established themselves in the past to help a club or team to become stable rather than move forward. You are never going to move forward if you are standing still. I for one do not like this outlook. This again reflects society in being selfish and wanting everything now than building youth and consistency for that future. I would prefer to see the youth been given the chance to learn, build and develop. The only way they will learn is by playing or driving regularly so that they become familiar with their surroundings and become better athletes. The pressure put on youngsters to perform so early on is staggering when in reality they are growing as people.

I have no problem with youth being mixed with experience, but there is a difference between experience and retired. Hispania Racing Team (HRT) has recruited Pedro de la Rosa for the 2012 season. On the front it looks like they are trying to mix youth with experience. Vitaly Petrov has just led Renault for the entire year after Kubica’s accident while seeing two different drivers alongside him. Petrov was thrown in at the deep end and I am sure that a years’ experience in being a team leader would have helped him as a driver and a person. Currently Petrov has no drive for 2012 and I find that a shame considering he would be significantly more eager, keen and quicker than de la Rosa and can build with him for the future.

Buemi and Alguersuari have been dropped from Toro Rosso to be replaced by two drivers of a similar age. Both drivers are still in their very early twenties and even with three years’ experience under their belt they are still developing. Personally I would have at least kept Alguersuari who was improving race-by-race at the end of 2011.

In complete contrast we have a club like Barcelona and the driver development system of Nissan. The GT Academy that is run on Gran Turismo 5 for Playstation is an incredible route way in to Motorsport for any youngster. Just this weekend, Nissan had four GT Academy winners in a Nissan GTR at the Dubai 24 hours claiming a podium in class. That is an incredible accomplishment for those young men along with an outstanding commitment from Nissan.

La Masia, the home of young, talented football players of Football Club Barcelona. Nurtured and schooled all in one environment. Brought up with their friends around them playing the game they love and developing from childhood in to adulthood while becoming some of the world’s greatest footballers. Barcelona is a team that took Lionel Messi out of his native land, knowing how tough it would be for a young man. They invested in bringing his entire family to Catalonia along with paying for his growth hormones. Barcelona knew they found someone special and did everything they could to make him feel happy and wanted. Pep Guardiola continues to believe in his youth and just this week fielded players such as Cuenca and Sergi Roberto. The latter scoring two goals in four games and this is a youth player from Barcelona ‘B’.

We live in two very different cultures and they provide with two very different outcomes. But it teams like Barcelona and motor companies like Nissan that make me feel and believe that the sporting youth of our world is not lost and that there are people willing to give youngsters a chance. Unless youth is given a chance how do we expect them to get better and improve? University students walk about with plush degrees but cannot get a job.

Give the youth of today a chance… they may just surprise you.

Follow me on Twitter: Nico888