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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

A View From Down Under

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Rather than writing a full review I thought I would do a round up from Melbourne as I suspect most of our readers watched the race.

After a couple of difficult Free Practice sessions it was interesting to see that the McLaren’s had the outright qualifying pace. It has been documented that Jenson Button made a mistake on his flying lap and still was only a tenth of Hamilton highlighting the speed he had.

It was surprising to see Red Bull not deliver, Vettel made an uncharacteristic error along with Webber having no KERS. It is evident that the car is quick though even without KERS.

Shock and delight rolled in to one for position three. Romain Grosjean showing the magnificent work the Lotus team has done over the winter. The Enstone based team shook the entire field with the Frenchman’s lap, not least Mercedes.

Mercedes backed up their pace from winter testing with fourth position from Michael Schumacher.

Early hours in Europe and bleary eyed race fans were rolling out of the bed in anticipation for the first race of the season. Jenson Button won the McLaren battle in turn one after making a not so great start himself, but his team mates was even worse. The early pace from Button and the McLaren had shades of Red Bull from last year.

The unfortunate Grosjean went out early doors after a collision with Pastor Maldonado, the Venezuelan keen to show his ability immediately in 2012 trying to silence his critics. An early shower was also required for Michael Schumacher after hydraulic issues plagued him in to turn one where Vettel would capitalise.

Safety car out and the pack is closed up, Petrov’s Caterham grinded to a halt on the start/finish straight. Quick thinking McLaren pits their cars back to back but due to regulations they had to meet a specific delta behind the safety car gifting second position to Vettel.

Ferrari’s poor winter testing had gone from bad to worse in Qualifying but the skill, talent and ability of Fernando Alonso allowed him to greatly improve on his qualifying position in the race but he was hunted ferociously by Maldonado in a Williams that has some very encouraging pace about it.

Sauber’s regular vendettas towards the top echelons of the field in the early season were prominent again as both Perez and Kobayashi secured top ten finishes. Perez again only doing one stop in Melbourne this time though thankfully both cars not disqualified unlike 2011.

After the restart Button showed his raw pace again and from the sounds of his race engineer had plenty in reserve in terms of engine mix. Button drove a faultless race and looks to be in a very good position for the season. He appears settled and has little pressure on him as it is expected that Hamilton will beat him.

It is clear to see Hamilton is still not at one with this current era of Formula 1. If refuelling was still here and he could get rid of the tyres then arguably he would be controlling the McLaren. Currently he is not as there are underlying issues that he still is currently unhappy with. Red Bull is still an option at the end of the season with Webber likely to leave. Hamilton appeared to be more surprised at Button’s pace than his own.

After a wonderful race for Williams hearts sank as Maldonado crashed off of Turn 8 spearing in to the wall on the final lap. The Williams showed awesome pace and Maldonado was on to pass Alonso for fifth position, so unlucky for the team from Grove.

What have we learnt?

McLaren have built a very good car and the drop nose has little to no effect as it has been stated recently it is more what goes on at the rear of the car than the front.

Red Bull has a little bit of work to do but they are there and they will be challenging with both drivers and Webber looks to step his game up to Vettel.

Sauber looks to have a built a good car but it will need continued season development to secure a good championship finish.

Ferrari has issues. It has been reported that Stefano Domenicali and technical director Pat Fry both flew back to the team’s Maranello factory on Monday for an emergency meetings.

Lotus need a competitive race run at the front and not from the rear. Therefore it will be easier to call after Malaysia.

Toro Rosso surprise package and both Vergne and Ricciardo look closely matched on pace, like Sauber will need a full season of development.

Force India lucky with a point. Race pace is required as it lacked in comparison to testing.

Mercedes need to work on degradation but signs are that they have a good car.

Williams nearly were on for one of their best results in a few seasons just a slight mistake from Maldonado cost the team a sixth place finish. Commitment required from the team to update it but potential surprise package of the season.

Marussia finally got some running and Glock performed well, Pic had issues but clear that the car needs work.

Caterham will be disappointed. Car did not show a great deal of pace and reliability has hindered them.

HRT. Little to say, hugely disappointing but it is expected when you change 80% of the team members.