Archive: practice

Paul di Resta 2012 Malaysia FP2

Twitter was alight with speculation during this afternoon’s qualifying session for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Force India pulled out of yesterday’s second practice session due to safety concerns. Since then, the team’s cars have been conspicuously absent from the television coverage, which is centrally provided by Bernie Ecclestone’s company, Formula One Management.

Despite the fact that at one point the Force Indias had set the two fastest times during Q2, they were nowhere to be found on the coverage. Viewers noticed. Knowing the way Bernie Ecclestone operates, it’s not difficult to imagine that he has decided to retaliate against Force India for their decision not to run in practice 2.

F1 journalist Adam Hay-Nicholls let slip that FOM have been ordered in the past to avoid filming particular teams.

He expanded on this point, saying that the repercussions for Force India could go beyond today’s qualifying session, and even beyond the race weekend.

What disgusts me about this is that Force India withdrew from yesterday’s practice session for legitimate safety concerns. Four of their employees were caught up in a petrol bomb attack while going about their normal business in Bahrain. In these circumstances, it really is not surprising that the team would prefer to pack up early in order to avoid travelling in the dark.

If Bernie Ecclestone really has decided to exact his petty revenge on Force India for this, it makes me feel sick to my stomach. He is putting his narrow business interests ahead of lives.

The only clue Adam Hay-Nicholls has provided as to the identity of the other team that has been ‘censored’ by FOM is that the team no longer exists in the form it did at the time:

This suggests that the team was effectively put out of business, or that the owner of the team had to leave the sport. Clearly, a lack of television coverage does not help on that front.

On the one hand, it’s incredible to think that FOM think that the viewers are mugs not to notice this petty behaviour by not filming Force India. But it’s also worrying that FOM have done this before, and we haven’t noticed.

I am considering buying some Force India merchandise in a show of support. The way they are being pressurised into neglecting their own safety is absolutely disgusting.

There is no way I will buy any merchandise from the official Formula 1 website, but this Force India flag available at Grand Prix Legends looks quite good.

This is part 2 of 4 in the series 2011 Formula 1 driver rankings

19. Pedro de la Rosa

Super sub or what? De la Rosa was in Canada as an employee of McLaren, and found himself being bundled into a Sauber for Practice 2 at the last minute after Sergio Pérez felt unexpected after-effects from his Monaco qualifying crash. De la Rosa acquitted himself excellently, finishing 12th in a car he had never driven before.

18. Bruno Senna

Senna has shown flashes of promise in the Renault GP car. It was not an easy situation. The car having tumbled down the order as the season progressed, and the team was seemingly in a state of disarray (as evidenced by the presence of Dave Ryan as a consultant at the end of the season). The manner of Senna’s entrance was controversial too.

But Senna put all that behind him, and put in some solid performances. He also had some worryingly poor performances. But I think he has done enough to prove that he is not in F1 merely because he is a Senna. Whether it was enough to earn a seat in 2012 is another matter.

17. Vitaly Petrov

Petrov had a more solid 2011 than 2010, but you would expect this. He can really pull a great performance out of the bag sometimes. His 3rd place finish in Australia was a clear stand-out result, but this may have been largely as a result of how well the car was performing at the time. Petrov is still too mistake-prone, and I am not sure I would place him in a car for 2012.

16. Sébastien Buemi

I find it difficult to tell which of the two Toro Rosso drivers is better. Buemi has a better qualifying record and has overtaken more cars than Jaime Alguersuari. On the flipside, Buemi has scored fewer points, although he has suffered from more technical problems.

My feeling is that Buemi should be achieving more after two full seasons in F1. Although he has put in some seriously impressive performances from time to time, I wouldn’t blame Red Bull for choosing to dispense with Buemi, particularly with two super-talented individuals (Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne) waiting for a decent race drive.

15. Jaime Alguersuari

Similar to Sébastien Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari should be achieving a bit more by this stage of his career. He is capable of putting in some brilliant performances, but not consistently so. On the plus side, he has generally better race results than Sébastien Buemi, and has proved that he can make a difficult strategy work on the odd occasion.

14. Kamui Kobayashi

A quiet season for the person Speed TV calls ‘Mr Excitement’. Kobayashi has generally performed well, as his solid results indicate.  But it’s difficult to escape the notion that he has gone off the boil. Where were all the overtaking moves that made him such a popular figure in previous seasons? Nowhere to be seen.

13. Heikki Kovalainen

I am having to seriously reconsider my opinion on Heikki Kovalainen. I used to think he was next to hopeless, who lacked the motivation to really win (his one race victory was inherited by accident after Felipe Massa’s engine expired).

But at Lotus,  he has seemed like a totally new driver. His pecker is up, and he seems genuinely enthralled at the challenge driving for Lotus presents. He has a better qualifying record against his team mate than anyone else in the grid (16–3 against two different team mates). And whenever you see a Lotus beating an ‘established’ team during the race, it is almost always Kovalainen.

12. Paul di Resta

Paul di Resta started the season exceptionally strongly, with an impressively consistent run of results right from the word go. But worryingly, as the season progressed his performances became less consistent and he began making clumsy, avoidable errors. In the end, it has been a learning year for Paul di Resta, and he shows every sign of learning from these mistakes.

11. Felipe Massa

I’m afraid to say that I think Massa has had quite enough time at Ferrari and he is now taking up a seat for someone that could deserve it more. Massa has had a handful of impressive qualifying performances, but beyond that his season has been defined by clumsy errors and a generally below par performance. Alonso has scored more than double Massa’s points — an almost unacceptable difference. 2012 will be his last chance to prove himself to Ferrari.

This is part 1 of 4 in the series 2011 Formula 1 driver rankings

28. Karun Chandhok

A very likeable personality and a brilliant commentator, but on the few occasions he has been in the car has demonstrated why he struggles to get a full-time drive. Chandhok started the season inauspiciously by crashing straight away in practice for the Australian Grand Prix. A full race weekend in Germany was only a little less embarrassing.

27. Jarno Trulli

Trulli has done little to demonstrate that he deserves to be in F1 in 2012. Trulli may be 27th in my driver rankings, but he does go straight to the top for most pathetic excuse, as he constantly blamed his poor performances on a power steering issue that appears from the outside to be imagined.

26. Vitantonio Liuzzi

This season has been one chance too many for Liuzzi. What might have been a promising career has ended in virtual disgrace. His season has been typified by clumsy errors and a general lack of pace. His rookie team mate Daniel Ricciardo often had the upper hand.

25. Jérôme d’Ambrosio

I found d’Ambrosio to be disturbingly anonymous throughout this season. It is mighty difficult to tell when a driver is in such a poor car as the Virgin Racing car. On the one hand, d’Ambrosio has not made any bad mistakes, which must be a good sign. But I would have liked to see him achieve a bit more.

24. Narain Karthikeyan

Karthikeyan almost certainly should not have been racing in F1 this year on merit. His first clutch of races were nothing to write home about and he was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo. But he gains 24th in my rankings on account of his solid one-off appearance at the Indian Grand Prix.

23. Pastor Maldonado

It has not been a happy season for Maldonado, who has had to answer accusations that he is only in F1 because of Venezuelan oil money that is handy for the Williams coffers. The 2010 GP2 Series Champion has largely been unable to answer.

There were one or two stand-out performances — particularly at Monaco (a circuit he has excelled at in lower formulae), where he was in line to finish 6th before being punted out by Lewis Hamilton. But this has been marred by a deliberate crash during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, and some lacklustre driving at Abu Dhabi.

22. Timo Glock

I feel really sorry for Timo Glock. He deserves so much better than this. But in a car as poor as the Virgin, it is difficult to place him any higher. He did not outperform Jérôme d’Ambrosio often enough to justify a higher position.

21. Rubens Barrichello

I feel bad for placing Rubens Barrichello this far down the list, but he has not had a good season. Two 9th place finishes in a row were impressive, but most of the season was typified by uncharacteristic errors. Sadly, I think Barrichello’s career has run its course.

20. Daniel Ricciardo

Has the Red Bull driver development programme found its next Sebastian Vettel? It’s tough to impress in an HRT, but Ricciardo has done just that. His qualifying performances need a bit of work, but his race results have been nothing short of spectacular in comparison with his much more experienced team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi.

But Ricciardio will have to ensure that he keeps up the good work, or Liuzzi — a former Red Bull protege — is what he might become. Jean-Éric Vergne breathes down his neck in the Red Bull sausage factory.

It does not seem to have been a good year for the Formula One Teams’ Association.

One of Fota’s mantras has been about improving the show. The biggest Fota initiative to this effect has been the drag reduction system, originally suggested to the FIA by Fota. I feel quite strongly, along with most other F1 fans I speak to, that the DRS has ruined the racing.

Moreover, it has been clear for some time that there have been significant tensions surrounding Fota’s other major initiative, the resource restriction agreement. There have been constant innuendos that this team and that have been breaking the agreement, which have never conclusively been put to bed one way or the other.

Important meetings have been called, with team bosses even missing one of the practice sessions for the Brazilian Grand Prix to try to hammer out an agreement. But the silence after these meetings was deafening.

It seems as though today the rift has finally caused Fota to split, with Red Bull Racing and Ferrari having resigned from the organisation. They join fellow Fota outsider HRT, which was thrown out for not paying membership fees.

Decreasing relevance?

It has seemed as though 2011 has been a significantly less successful year for Fota. In 2010 it was almost impossible to deny the organisation’s influence. It was even at the point where it was virtually dictating the Formula 1 rules to the FIA, when DRS was introduced. But this year has been very quiet in comparison.

Perhaps this is in part because the FIA is a much less controversial organisation these days. Its provocative former President, Max Mosley, effectively necessitated the existence of Fota. In Mr Mosley, the teams had a common enemy. Fota gave them a collective voice, enabling them to express their point of view against him.

But the current FIA President, Jean Todt, has been disarmingly low key, against everyone’s expectations. He seems to have little to no influence on the day-to-day running of Formula 1, in direct contrast to Max Mosley’s meddling mentality. Fota’s enemy has gone, and it’s almost as if the organisation no longer needs to exist.

So is the apparent departure of two of Formula 1′s biggest teams the beginning of the end for Fota?