The worrying form of Jenson Button

May 16, 2010 - Monte Carlo, Monaco - epa02159167 British Formula One driver Jenson Button of McLaren Mercedes chat with team members in the paddock prior the Monaco Grand Prix at Monte Carlo circuit in Monaco, 16 May 2010.

This is a worrying time for all the F1 drivers, all except the two Red Bull drivers.

For it seems that unless you are in a Adrian Newey designed car your chances of winning a race at the moment are slim. That is why those that have serious plans to be in this championship are having to maximise every opportunity that presents itself to score well to keep in touching distance of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettle.

In recent races we have seen strong performances from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Both who been able to show that during the race they potentially can keep the blue cars in sight at least. But there is one driver that despite two wins in the championship so far, is starting to worry me about his ability to demonstrate true race pace in “normal” dry conditions. This driver is Jenson Button.

Button who superbly won in Australia and in China when the weather flummoxed 90% of the drivers, was able to demonstrate excellent intuition and decision making when there was no definitive tyre choice to be on. I still stand by the praise and credit Jenson received after these two wins, but lets be fair, we are going to see less races in conditions like in Melbourne and Shanghai throughout the rest of the 2010 season.

If we look at Jenson’s performance in dry races then it indicates a worrying statistic. In dry races Jenson just isn’t fast enough to take the battle to the front, and this will mean he will be out of the championship battle before too long if he is not too careful.

In dry races this season Jenson has finished 7th in Bahrain, 8th in Malaysia and 5th in Spain. This gives Jenson an average dry race finishing position of about 6th place. Jenson retired from this weekends Monaco Grand Prix through no fault of his own, however, a poor qualifying put him down in around 8th, and with no significant retirements, it would be fair to expect Jenson to have finish 6th or 7th.

This means that Jenson is potentially losing 17 points to the championship runners at this stage in the season. As we are entering summer, we are approaching a critical time for the 2009 World Champion, despite him being some 11 points ahead of his team mate Lewis Hamilton and only 8 points off the lead of the championship.

Whereas Button has struggled in dry races in his Mclaren, his team mate has put in solid performances, non more so than in the Spanish Grand Prix, where he was able to force his Mclaren to split the two Red Bulls until a wheel rim failure took 18 vital points from him and it’s this form of his team mate will also add pressure on Jenson, who has yet to look stellar in normal conditions. While Lewis isn’t having a perfect season himself, he is driving really well, despite what Bernie Ecclestone says.

I might sound mad by addressing concern to Jenson’s form and perhaps as the season moves towards a string of races based in Europe where, as we all know the weather could help Button out, it remains to be seen if Jenson can demonstrate true pace in his Mclaren without having the rain gods smile down on him. It seems that this “Hope” for rain is his only chance at the moment, and as I have always been told – Hope is not a strategy!

F1 2010 Season Preview – Driver News

This weekend marks the long awaited return of the FIA Formula One World Championship.  When the red lights go out on Sunday it will mark the start of the 61st Championship.  The new season is eagerly anticipated for many reasons and the winter has seen an unprecedented amount of news.  Here is a preview of how the start of the 2010 season will look a lot different to the end of 2009.

Firstly Jenson Button moves from his old team to join fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton at Mclaren. Jenson’s motives for leaving Brawn have been much debated, and whatever the reason, he will face a terribly tough time up against Hamilton who has pretty much built the Mclaren team around him. How Button settles in to his new team and performs against Hamilton will be one of the season long plots that will add constant pressure to the team despite who is performing best.

2 times World Champion Fernando Alonso leaves Renault, where he endured a horrible 2 years that was dogged with terrible cars and controversy, to join Ferrari to try and resurrect the Italian teams chances of returning to the front of the pack. He will join Felipe Massa who returns to the cockpit after suffering serious head injuries during the Hungarian Grand Prix and having to miss the second half of the season. Will the Brazilian be able to return to his good form or will the edge have been taken off the 2008 runner up, remains to be seen, but testing seems to indicate he will be fine.

The biggest headline since the chequered flag fell in Abu Dhabi in November is that 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher makes his return to the sport.  He joins the team that helped win last years World Championships and which was Brawn but is now called Mercedes.  In fact Michael joins pretty much an all out German team, with Nico Rosberg taking Rubens Barrichello’s seat.

Despite the driver changes at Mercedes, Mclaren and Ferrari, Red Bull have kept Mark Webber, and Sebastian Vettle, who will be hoping that consistency along with the Adrian Newey’s new car design will help them kick off the new season on the front foot, as they seem to be the team to beat during the second half of the 2009.

2010 will see one of the most competitive fields in decades.  There will be 4 different former World Champions on the grid, sharing 11 different championships between them.  However there are easily 8 drivers with a realistic chance of winning this years championship.  We have lost 2007 Champion Kimi Raikkonen, who left Ferrari to drive rally cars this year, which is a shame to lose a talent but it seemed his heart just isn’t in it at the moment.

Other noticeable driver moves sees Rubens Barrichello move to Williams, where his team mate will be promising young German Nico Hulkenberg.  Timo Glock move to Virgin, ex Mclaren driver Heikki Kovalainen move to the new Lotus team with F1 journeyman Jarno Trulli.

The legendary name of Senna returns to F1 this year, with his nephew Bruno Senna.  It will be an emotional and evocative image seeing the yellow helmet in racing again, but we will have to get used to seeing it at the back of the field for a while at least until Bruno is given a better car as his HRT Cosworth has a lot of catching up to do.

Red Bull keeps the F1 world waiting

For the second year running the Red Bull team have elected to skip the first official pre-season test  held at Valencia on February 1st-3rd

Like last year the team are saying that they would rather have extra time in the wind tunnel to further improve the cars areodynamic efficiency rather than on track running.  However, that was a understandable justification last year when the rules and regulations had been turned upside down and the more time the teams spent in the factory seemed the best idea.

Red Bull where one of the last few teams to launch their car last year and when they did it came with widespread acclaim that Adrian Newey and his team had brought along some interesting design details, many of which the rest of the F1 teams seemed to acknowledge as superior to their own.  Detail like the high raised nose and pull-rod rear suspension. The RB5 is thought to have been the best overall design in 2009 despite the Brawn getting a 6 race advantage with the double defuser, and many teams are expected to replicate some of the RB5 designs in to their 2010 cars.  Already there is gossip about Ferrari having a car that looks very similar, as reported on James Allens F1 Blog and with an image on The Art of Formula 1’s website

Is there more to the story here or is wind tunnel running better than actual physical testing?  I suppose the more you prepare the better results will be, but by missing Valencia the team will only give themselves 12 full days of running, and with the current climate in Europe being so cold and wet, one wonders how many full dry days the team might get in before travelling to Bahrain.  A Cynical view could be that Red Bull are trying to keep wraps on their RB6 design for as long as possible allowing the teams even less time to catch any of the new detail on the Red Bull and have their own interpretations on their cars ready for the fly away races in mid March.

An interesting game of cat and mouse, or is F1 moving away from days of testing at circuits to days in the wind tunnel running complex equations? Being a bit of a traditionalist I hope it’s the former.