Friday, 20 March 2009

F1 ...

You watch the pitlane (to co-commentator Martin Brundell) while I stop the startwatch ...

Murray Walker



Murray Walker, or more correctly Graeme Murray Walker, was a Motor Racing Commentator for the BBC until it lost its franchise to ITV, at which time Murray switched over channels too. He is renowned for his 'Walkerisms' or 'Murrayisms', and the spoonerism I've quoted above is one of the favourites that people trot out when the discussion turns to Murray. A gentle and considerate soul, he rarely criticised drivers and preferred to give them the benefit of the doubt in attributing blame for incidents (read as cock-ups leading to accidents).

The Formula-1 season is almost upon us. The first race will take place in David McMahon's back yard, in Melbourne on the 29th of this month. This little post is meant to be a 'laymans-guide' to a fantastic sport that I have followed for all of my adult life. Most people that I know are quite indifferent to this spectacle, and that saddens me somewhat.

The pre-season testing phase for the cars, drivers and teams has just concluded in Jerez, Spain (15-19 March 2009). They even got 3 days of rain so that the cars could be rigged for wet weather racing, including the introduction of the new compound of Bridgestone tyres. This year, for the first time in a decade, the cars will be shod with 'slicks' that were discontinued in preference for tyres that were ridged. Drivers will still have the choice of two dry-tyre compounds and will still have to use both compounds during a race. A green band on the sidewall will distinguish the softer compound.

Also, this year for the first time, teams have the option of employing KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) to boost their car's performance. As its name implies, KERS recovers the normally wasted kinetic energy generated by the car's braking process. This energy is stored using a mechanical flywheel or an electrical battery and then made available to the driver, in set amounts per lap, via a 'boost button' on the steering wheel. Under the current regulations the power gain equates to around 80 horsepower, available for just under seven seconds per lap. This could be worth several tenths of a second in terms of lap time, but the additional weight of the system (roughly 20 kilos or 40 lbs) has to be taken into account as the 'allowed' overall weight of car and driver has not been increased. Several drivers have been reported to have lost up to 8 kilos in weight, not a good thing when one considers they are supremely fit in the first instance, and losing so much weight is obviously going to affect their physical effectiveness, and ultimately their overall performance.

Rule-changing prior to the start of each season appears to have become a standard feature, but for me the most incomprehensible rule change this year is the one that states that the drivers' championship will be awarded to "the driver with the most race wins at the end of the season". If two or more drivers have the same number of wins, the title will go to the driver with the higher points total. Points will still be awarded in the values of 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, for the first eight places.

Let us rewind to the 2004 season, only 4 years ago (hey, we haven't started this season yet, so put your shoes and socks back on!). Michael Schumacher and Ferrari dominated. These were Schumie's results:

| 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | Ret | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 2 | 2 | 12 | 1 | 7 |


Any driver with that sort of record in a season deserves to win the championship, but consider this - if this rule had been in force in 2004 - when do you think Schumie might have decided that he didn't need to race any more in the 2004 season? I think even a non-racing fan can work that one out from the results above!

Jenson Button and Reubens Barrichello get to earn a crust in 2009, something they hadn't expected to do with the demise of their racing team, Honda. Ross Brawn (pedigree: Williams, Arrows, Benetton, Ferrari and Honda, and from aerodynamicist to technical director to Team Principal) bought out Team Honda and they will be racing under the new title of "Brawn GP". Button celebrated this news by placing the Brawn machine in first place on day 3 of the Jerez pre-season programme!

David Coulthard retired at the end of the 2008 season. This allowed Sebastian Vettil to move to "Red Bull" from "Toro Rosso" (a Red Bull by any other name ... !) to partner Mark Webber. The empty seat at "Toro Rosso" has been filled by newcomer Sebastien Buemi, partnering Sebastien Bourdais. At least they both spell their first name the same way!

Newcomer Sebastien Buemi
Newcomer Sebastien Buemi

If you are confused, or even slightly intrigued by the apparent similarities, "Red Bull" is based at Milton Keynes, UK, partnered by Renault and uses the Renault RS27 engine. "Toro Rosso" is based in Faenza, Italy and uses a Ferrari engine, usually last season's cast-off. But they both share the same parent team, 'Red Bull Racing', based in Fuschl am See, Austria. Go figure!

Truly international.

Force India Logo
Force India Logo

For instance, "Force India" have their base at Silverstone in the UK. Their Team Principal, co-owner and head honcho is Vijay Mallya, and they retain the services of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella for the 2009 season. Despite impressive improvement in terms of pace in 2008, you can rely on the team bringing up the rear. However, the new technical tie-up with McLaren means Mercedes power from 2009. I wish them the best of luck.

That is all for now folks, but expect the odd 'rant' from time to time as the season progresses. I am a confirmed armchair race fan and I always manage to stay awake to watch the live TV coverage, no matter what time the race is held in the host country. This season doesn't look like it is going to be any different.

'Till next time ...



Hot off the press (today 20 March 2009, 20:15) ... It has just been announced by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile - the motorsport governing body) that the new rule for deciding Championship placing (i.e. the driver with the most number of wins) will NOT be introduced this season, the decision being deferred until the 2010 season - if it is introduced at all! Apparently this was forced on them by the teams and drivers who claimed that the implementation of the new rule, this late in the calendar, was 'unconstitutional'. Actually their bitch was they, the teams and drivers, had not even been consulted!


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