24/8/97 ….. Schumacher wins Belgian GP

Spa 1997 (f1-facts.com)

Thirteen years ago today …… Michael Schumacher scored his 26th victory at the 1997 Belgian Grand Prix. The racetrack was virtually flooded before the start of the race, and therefore it was too dangerous for a normal “standing start”. For the first time in F1 history, the race was started behind the safety car. Jacques Villeneuve was in pole position, followed by Jean Alesi in the Benetton, and Schumacher in third.

The cars followed the safety car for a number of laps, until the track’s condition had improved. Twenty-two cars and a safety car cleared the track surface of excess water quickly. Michael Schumacher quickly demonstrated that he was the “Rain Master”, passing Alesi into La Source with a very brave move. Schumacher caught and passed Villeneuve easily, and left his competitors for dead. Jacques was never a brilliant performer in the wet, and the Williams FW19 wasn’t a dominant force in those conditions.

Schumacher crossed the line 26 seconds ahead of second-place man Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan Peugeot). Michael would go on to challenge Villenueve for the Championship. It all ended in tears, as Schumacher would collide with the Canadian during the final round at Jerez, and was excluded from the entire Championship!

Danica Patrick – F1 Material?

In recent months, several F1 figures have expressed their surprise that Danica Patrick still hasn’t made it into F1. They point to her driving skills and her marketability. Bernie Ecclestone recently said:

“Regarding an American driver, we have tried that lately but obviously what’s missing is the right attitude. You can race successfully in the US without the huge effort you need to succeed in F1, but to have someone like Danica Patrick in F1 would be a perfect advert.”

(www.formula1.com)

Peter Windsor, the famous toaster manufacturer and ex-USF1 boss also supports Danica:

Why did no-one sign Danica Patrick a few years back? It’s beyond me. She’s probably the best female single-seater driver in the history of the sport, she’s attractive, she works hard – and yet no-one in F1 seemed to take her seriously. If BMW had raced Robert Kubica and Danica for the last few years, would they have been any less successful? For sure they would have sold more cars in the States…but that’s assuming America is still important to the F1 corporates. I assume it is, but you should never take anything for granted in F1 these days…

(GPWeek)

Although Patrick has the support of several F1-related figures, there is a question mark over her suitability. There is no doubting her ability to attract sponsors and new viewers to F1, but is that all a driver needs? I have been keeping an eye on her IRL performances this year, and I have noticed her lack of pace on non-ovals. Her performance at Mid Ohio was below-par, where she finished last. Danica’s performance at Sonoma (22/8/10) wasn’t significantly better … she finished 16th! The race commentators for yesterday’s race noted that she will be relieved there are no more “road courses” left on the 2010 calendar! F1 drivers must be able to drive at a very high level, on the most technical circuits in the World. Just look at most of Herman Tilke’s circuit designs: Sepang, Bahrain, China … they are technical tracks to drive, and I personally doubt that Danica has the ability to drive at the very highest level on these circuits. If she can’t handle Sonoma .. there is no way she could handle an F1 track.

I believe that Danica Patrick is a very skilled driver, but there are tens of thousands of skilled racing drivers out there! Attracting sponsors is one thing, but delivering the goods is another matter altogether! Just look at Peter Windsor and his USF1 team ……

Oh Dear ...

The Safety Car Issue

Sunday’s Monaco GP was a reasonably exciting race, but not a thriller by any stretch of the imagination. Mark Webber drove a strong race to beat his teammate yet again. Sebastian will not be pleased with this, and I’m sure we will see a resurgent Vettel for the rest of the season! Mark has added his name to the list of greats who have triumphed around the Principality. Victory in Monaco will probably be the highlight of his season, if not his career, and something that the Australian can be proud of.

Unfortunately, the race will be remembered for two quite ridiculous events. The first one was Jarno Trulli’s collision with Karun Chandok. I have never watched a crash live onboard before … Jarno’s car literally chopped the T-cam off Chandok’s car! The wrecked cars partially blocked the track at the Rascasse corner, leading to the fourth safety car of the race. The safety car stayed out until the end of lap 78, after which it pulled into the pits, and the green flags/lights were shown … surely the cars were under racing conditions? Think again. Apparently, the green flags didn’t mean “all clear”, but Michael Schumacher interpreted it that way, and overtook Fernando Alonso into the very last corner. Michael would later be demoted to 12th position, as a direct result of the overtaking move. To be honest it was ridiculous! How can the marshalls wave green flags, and the green lights be shown WITHOUT the track being “all clear”? The rules as they stand are confusing and even contradictory. Green flags mean all clear! The F1 rules should be changed to the ones similar to IndyCar i.e. full course yellows. That way there would have been no misunderstanding, and no controversy.

Williams FW14 vs Red Bull RB6

Back in 1991, the Williams team used the Renault-powered FW14 car, which was designed by Adrian Newey. Initially the car suffered more than its fair share of reliability issues. Some would argue that Williams lost the 1991 Championships because of early season car problems. In 1992 the car’s reliability was significantly better, and the FW14B went on to dominate the season, winning ten out of sixteen races, and clinching both titles very early in the season.
Photo by StuSeeger
Photo by StuSeeger

Fast-forward to 2010 and Red Bull are using the Renault-powered RB6, designed by Adrian Newey. The car suffered with reliability issues during the first couple of rounds, and there is evidence that the car is still unreliable (Webber’s engine failure during practice). If the RB6’s reliability issues are sorted it could be very ominous for the competition. The car is clearly faster than McLaren and Ferrari. The RB6 and RB7 could go on to dominate in a very dramatic fashion … just like the FW14 did nearly twenty years ago!
Photo by cotxe87.com
Photo by Cotxe87.com

Malaysian Grand Prix 2010

Photo by Nik Aizu
Vettel celebrates his victory! (Photo by Nik Aizu)

Yesterday’s Malaysian Grand Prix was more entertaining than the doom-mongers were predicting. There wasn’t a drop of rain during the event, but there were some close battles, incidents, and drama. Here are some memorable points:

* Vettel overtaking his team-mate to take the lead into turn one
* The Virgin and Lotus cars fought battles on more than one occasion
* The Toro Rosso drivers impressed me with their racecraft
* Hamilton vs Petrov. A very good battle .. quite dramatic!
* Alonso passing Button into the first corner, and then retiring with a blown engine!

It was nice seeing Vettel winning his first race of the season, especially after what happened seven days beforehand! Hamilton drove a strong race to finish sixth, though I felt his tactics against Petrov were a little aggressive! The McLaren’s F-Duct “stalls” the rear wing, reducing drag and improving the straight line speed of the car! Expect to see these devices on other cars before mid-season.

I rate the race a solid 7/10! More pictures will follow in the next few days!

14/03/93 – South African GP

Ok, this one is a couple of days late, but the 1993 South African Grand Prix was seventeen years ago!

In 1993 in-race refuelling was banned, and the cars were limited to 190 litres of fuel for the entire race.

Kyalama 1993 was exciting, but not a classic by any standards … similar to the 2010 Bahrain GP! Alain Prost won the race.

What’s All The Fuss About?

Everyone was excited about the 2010 F1 Season, and with good reason. With four champions on the grid, the return of Michael Schumacher, Mercedes and Lotus …. the prospects are great! However, the first round at Bahrain provided a fairly average spectacle, with a the occasional overtaking manoeuvre, but nothing out of the ordinary. The F1 world immediately started to react, saying that the “show” needs to improve, but I’m aghast at people’s reaction! Sure, the race wasn’t a classic by any length of the imagination, but you would think F1 was on the brink of collapse as a result of ONE race! Bernie Ecclestone has even waded into the discussion, saying that the race wasn’t all that bad.

The 2010 F1 rules have prohibited in-race refuelling, so we are in a similar situation to 1984 – 1993. Throughout that decade there were quiet races, and limited overtaking during some Grand Prix. Nobody really complained. In fact, the period gave us some of the best racing in F1 history. Here are just a few of the best battles:

Piquet vs Senna at Hungary ’86
Mansell vs Piquet in ’87
Senna vs Prost at Estoril 1988
Prost vs Senna at Suzuka 1988
Suzuka 1989

This season will turn out to be a good one. It just requires a little patience! The fuel strategies may be gone, but we will see some incredible action later in the season … you mark my words!



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.