Mercedes sort of Punished

The FIA took Mercedes up on their offer and have excluded them from this years young drivers test along with a reprimand (Pirelli also received a reprimand) after they undertook a 3 day tyre test using the 2013 car and current race drivers.

However the tribunal noted that they had been given indication that the test would be legal and acted in “good faith”. So the three day test will replace their young drivers test allocation..with accusation that Ferrari tested in 2012 and 2013 with an almost current car. However this was a car that was 2 years old which while maybe not being the legal definition it had been a gentleman’s agreement that a 2 season old car was not classed as current.

Tires save the day but no tunnel DRS

So the grand prix at the weekend turned out to be a interesting race mostly down to the tires. There was on track overtaking and overtaking in the pits (im someone who enjoys a mixture of the two) and the FIA even allowed the cars to go two abreast down the pit lane as its so wide at Catalyuna!!

Sebastian Vettel won but was hounded to the line by Lewis Hamilton with Jenson Button recovering from a poor start (he dropped down to 10th place) with a different strategy (3 stops) to take the final place. All 3 men ended up on the podium by overtaking on the track as well as great work by the pit crews. As expected however the DRS was not very succesful at this track, and it comes with the announcement that in Canada and Valencia there will be 2 DRS straights, which in Canada especially could be nothing short of mental. DRS however has this morning been banned in the tunnel for practice and qualifying at Monaco, which I personally think is wise for the first year of the system. If the FIA decides that its fine to use then we can ammend that next year, better than someone having a Hulkenberg esque crash.

Despite his incredible start Fernando Alonso finished 5th at a circuit which is regarded as the most car dependant on the calendar and by that I mean the difference the driver can make is smaller due to the aerodynamic dependance in the corners. He drove a spectacular home race taking the lead from the start, reminding everyone (if they needed it) that he is world world class in any team. But it highlighted how far behind Ferrari really are as Massa really struggled on the hard tire and Fernando dropped from the lead to finish a lap down.

McLaren and Red Bull seemed very equally matched in race trim despite the rediculous qualifying advantage however Mark Webber looks resigned to playing number 2, completly dejected after last years title upset by his young team mate. Despite gaining pole he finished 4th and 47 seconds off his team mate. With the two title contending teams way out in front its essentially a best of the rest competition with only Alonso attempting the odd upset. Ferrari are 3rd quickest (they did try and bring a cheeky new wing design that was turned down by the FIA), Mercedes seem to have overtaken Renault who have lost their way a little. Schumacher also out-raced Nico Rosberg (although he had DRS issues) which will be some tonic.

At the back of the grid HRT are now evenly matched with Virgin which is a major dissapointment for the all-digital squad (although that moniker is in doubt after rumours that the car last year saw a wind tunnel and this year they could well be heading the same way). Team Lotus however continue their march towards the mid-field with another impressive displaying with Kovalainen getting into Q2 and the team have still yet to extract maximum performance from their new upgrade.

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Circuit de Cat”ch up on sleep”alunya

In recent times the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya has been something of a snore fest. The tracks main overtaking oppurtunity has been ruined by modern aero dependance as the cars can’t follow closely through the last corner and go wheel to wheel (a la Mansell and Senna circa 1991) down the main straight. The addition of a chicane before the corner has done little to help the problem (other than spoil a good series of corners)

To me it makes more sense to tighten up turn 10 to make that straight into a real on the brakes overtaking shot. Would love to hear your thoughts on what ammendments could be made!

But to highlight the problem the race has been won from pole for the last 10 years, so many are saying this will be a real acid test of the new tires, KERS and DRS 2011 rules as the track is so aerodependant due to the fast corners. Charlie Whiting has picked the main straight and all of the main straight as the DRS zone, which is even longer than Turkeys which produced 112 overtakes during the race, 40 of which were DRS (thanks to James Allen and Merecedes F1 for that!) so it should produce some overtaking. How exciting it will be however I dont know, the reason ovals never took off in Europe is the constant meaningless changes of position.

But finally on the subject of DRS the teams have yet again failed to tackle the real problem head on. The move to ground effect and a massive increase in aero efficiency (IE reducing drag and the turbulence issues) has been thwarted by FOTA as they basically dont want to risk it. DRS only exists because the cars are creating massive wakes, which create turbulence for the cars trying to follow. Its a real shame as it could see a huge amount of downforce for very little wake, which really now has to be the challenge for the sport to come up with aero efficient rules.

Farewell dear new friend?

This weekend see’s the F1 circus roll into Europe (even though Istalbull Park is in Asia) for the main meat of the season. With the exception of the little trip to Canada, this will see the teams in the motor homes and trucking across the continent until the Autumn. This will be the first major upgrade package that the teams bring, as its the first non flyaway race.

However this weekends action at Istanbull Park could be the last for F1, the Turkish simply dont turn out of the race and the country doesn’t want to pay the high fee’s. Its a shame, the track is already regarded as a vintage track and certainly Tilke’s best. Even the Germans harshest critics have to conceed that the undulating, fast circuit is a classic track including the awesome turn 8. Tilke has made some awful tracks but this is certainly his finest hour and worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Monaco, Silverstone, Monza, Spa etc.

With this years new rules (which I’ve said far too much about in this blog) it could be a thriller and definatly a tire killer with Pirreli bringing the same compounds as the previous 3 races despite the high tire wear at Turkey. Read on for some catch up and preview stuff.

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So close but yet so far (no sir I wasn’t copying – see)

Details have emerged that the DRS straight will be the pit straight again in Sepang (note the most expensive tickets) but with back to back drags it will be interesting to really see how much difference it makes this weekend.

Second up is the details of the differences in the cars, with Renault and Red Bull using 10% more fuel to make their diffusers effective, which goes someway to explain their one lap pace compared to their race pace. The other teams have got blown diffusers that do not use extra fuel and McLaren especially seem quite close.

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Hold on in Jerez as we head to Sepang!

Last weeks Moto GP was pretty epic, the on track over taking was not massive by Moto GP standards but it was a thrill a minute with Rossi taking out Casey Stoner, then leader simoncelli having a high side. Colin Edwards, Cal Crutchlow and Ben Spies all slid off into the gravel allowing Nicky Hayden to pick up a podium for Ducati with Lorenzo taking a home win.

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