Thoughts as we head to Spa

It seems like an age ago that there was an F1 weekend, and this year the races have come and gone thick and fast while having to compete for headlines with the Olympics and the European Championships. Truth be told, the recent break at times, has felt far too long. But, there is a positive, it has given me reason to pause and contemplate something I believe a lot of of us F1 had taken for granted, that we are in the middle of what could potentially be a magical year.

Who would have thought in March that Fernando Alonso would be sat on top of the championship come the half-way point? What odds would you have given for there being 7 different winners in the first half of the year, with the promise of maybe more to add to that list? And as we turn in to the final 7 races of the series there are at least 5 drivers who have a possibility of the title.

There are 7 more rounds to go, 2 more in Europe before the long haul races wrap up the season. Writing this sounds like we are in to the final throws of the championship, but in reality that’s nearly 3 months away so much is yet to happen.

What the title contenders must do is leap-frog Ferrari and in particular the amazing Fernando Alonso. The contenders have to as a group, force Alonso off the top 3 places in the majority of the races to come. To use a cycling analogy: they have to form a high speed leading peloton that puts Alonso out of contention for the big points, and that must start this weekend in Belgium.

Lotus will be bringing their DDRS, McLaren will be hoping that Lewis Hamilton’s return to form in the Hungarian Grand Prix is there to stay for the remaining 8 races and Red Bull with the super team of Vettel-Webber-Newey will be able to find consistent race pace to put them back at the front.

So many questions left to be answered, so many more thrills and spills, incidents and accidents before we crown surely the most deserving world champion in what has been a golden era of F1.

Thank you summer break, for rekindling my love of F1 again!

Australian Grand Prix Preview

The F1 circus makes its way from the low key desert of Bahrain to the hustle and bustle of the F1 crazy city of Melbourne, Australia.  For some this is the natural starting place for the F1 calender and we will see if many of the questions that were raised after the first round of the season can be answered.

The Circuit

The race is held on public roads that form the perimeter access roads to one of the city’s most enjoyed points of interest: Albert Park.   Set around the lake, the tree lined 5.3km track is a curious track that offers just a few natural places to pass, but often produces interesting and surprising races.  Most of the tracks pits complex are temporary and what is permanent is a sports hall  used as a basket ball / indoor football facility.

The track winds its way past parking lots, a cricket and soccer ground, a sailing club house and also runs parrallel to the cities busiest roads that link the bustle of the city centre to the relaxing and vibrant St. Kilda area.

Questions from Bahrain

The most obvious and most over debated subject from Bahrain is the question over F1’s excitement factor.

  • Can F1 cars pass each other?
  • Do the new tyre rules create a stalemate over strategy?

Unfortunately with Albert park not being a “typical” F1 track, it is had to say if we will be able to come to any better conclusions this weekend.

Questions marks over drivers

Michael Schumacher will be going in to this weekends race feeling a bit of pressure.  He was beaten handsomely by his younger team mate Nico Rosberg in Bahrain, and Michael will need to put him in his place if he is to avoid being asked questions all the time about if he has lost it and if he was right to return to the sport.  Of course, this is doing Rosberg no harm at all and his stock will continue to rise while he is seen to out perform the 7 times world champion.

Jenson Button, like Schumacher will want to correct the balance of power between him and his team mate.  7th place compared to Hamilton’s 3rd, highlights the 2009 Champion has some catching up to do.  Jenson will be hoping the team can find him some more downforce at the front of the car, and he will also be pushing for more flexibility on the tyre strategy after having the rug pulled from beneath him last time out in Bahrain.

Mark Webber is on home ground this weekend and while this usually brings added pressure, the Aussie will be looking for a more consistent qualifying and practice to give him a better chance of fighting at the front on Sunday.

The teams under pressure

Mclaren carries a fairly large question mark at this time over the cars ability to generate enough down force as compared to their rivals.  Both drivers struggled in the race last time out, but the team have said that they lost their way slightly in Bahrain buy not putting enough wing on both drivers cars. With their car enjoying the highest top speed down the straights, the team will be hoping that a simple set up fix will bring them closer to Redbull and Ferrari.

Will Ferrari’s engines that seemed to get a little hot under the collar in Bahrain manage to see out another race.  While the temperature levels will be nowhere near as high as Bahrain, Ferrari might have to limit revs during practice and the race to see them through to the end.

Vettle will be hoping that Redbull have confidently fixed the engine problem that the car suffered in Bahrain in the closing laps that robbed the German of 25 points.  They won’t have to use the same engine here but it will put a lot of pressure on the team should reliability strike them down again.

A word for the new guys, Virgin will be looking to get to the bottom of their dreaded hydraulic problems that dogged both drivers in Bahrain, and HRT will be looking to get Karun Chandhok out for first practice on Friday morning.

Ones to look out for

My tips this weekend are for Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.  Webber now with the confidence of winning races in 2009 he should have the best ever chance for a home win on Sunday.  Lewis Hamilton goes really well on this track. Even last year when he was driving a pig of a car was he able to get the car up in to the top points positions (less said about the lie-gate post race the better) I just feel even without a truly competitive car the Briton can deliver a result here.