Monday, 10 March 2014

Qualifying Changes

I'm pleased to see that the changes that have been adopted for Saturdays of Grand Prix weekends are not actually stupid. But (there always is a but, I'm afraid) they still don't make complete sense, and an opportunity to re-introduce parity throughout the field has been missed.

I'm very happy about the changes to the timings of the sessions. Q1 has become the least relevant session, although that may well be different this year if reliability issues means teams struggle occasionally to complete two runs (or even one). Back in my Marussia days, Q1 was the only session that mattered. Recently, Q2 has become the most exciting, and I'll confess I've not been worried too much about Q3; it's been far more important to make sure that you are in the top ten, rather than where you are in it.

But tyres - why make the top ten start on their Q2 tyres? The cars that don't make it to Q3 don't have to start on their Q2 tyres, so why should the top ten? Either remove the requirement for any cars to start on a particular set of tyres, or make everyone start on the tyres they used in either Q1 or Q2. It has to be unfair that the car in 11th can start on new tyres but the car in 10th has to use tyres that have gone through at least one heat cycle.

If you can explain it to me, please do.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

An Emotional Roller Coaster

To the Swiss Premiere of 50 Kisses last night, a community co-operation film initiated by Chris Jones of the London Screenwriters' Foundation.

I'd volunteered to host the Swiss showing, and although I couldn't find a cinema to show the film at relatively short notice, I did manage to find an ideal space to show it, courtesy of Peter Stevens, developer/marketer of the EeBee iPad feedback app.

We figured we could comfortably seat about 30 people and with only a few no shows we were 90% full.

Nobody really knew what to expect, but everyone was interested in the idea, and keen to see how it all fitted together.

Peter's space has a comfortable gallery attached, so to get people in the Valentine's mood we provided bubbles and snacks, before kicking off the screening at 20:45.

The first chapter "You used to bring me flowers" established that this was no ordinary movie, but as the segments unrolled it became clear that each would be generating a different emotion to the last.

Shock, sadness, laughter, quite a lot of laughter actually, joy, fear, happiness, sympathy and empathy. And more probably.

It was impossible to pick a favourite film within the film, some liked the zombies, some didn't but everything worked at multiple levels - we've all been rejected by the beautiful one, only to find love elsewhere for example. At least my arm didn't fall off when it happened to me.

For me it was interesting to spot names in the credits who I'd met at the LSF's Advanced Producers course last year (Phil Peel and Sebastian Solberg take a bow) as well as Chris Jones himself of course. We left the credits rolling while Sabine (Peter's wife) produced her marvellous brownies to round off the evening.

We handed round three iPads running Peter's feedback app, with the final feedback mainly scoring the film well at either 7 or 8 out of 10. This may well have been a bit higher if I hadn't had the sound badly adjusted for the first few minutes! Fortunately Swiss audiences are quite used to unexpected intermissions at crucial moments. At least I waited for a suitable break point.

Everyone in the audience was pleased they'd made the effort to support independent film, although many felt they would have liked to have seen some of the clips featured in the credits that didn't make it into the film. Fortunately a number of clips are available on the 50 Kisses website so all should be happy, and have hours of fun watching the extras - which I'm sure will also feature on the DVD.

50 Kisses - a great film, and a fantastic initiative. Thanks Chris, more please!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Martini Bianco

Great to see that Martini are coming back to F1. For me their definitive liveries were on the Porsche 935 and 936 Le Mans cars of the 70s, but these pics from look mega.

They were also sponsors at Brabham, on the lovely BT44 and Lotus (the real Lotus, not the current Toleman lot) although there they never had title sponsorship and the car was mainly green.

And just because I still love endurance cars, here's the fabulous 936 (from the sportscardigest website where you can also see some other Martini liveries):

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A bit too slow

When the "new" teams: Virgin (aka Marussia), Lotus (Green Lotus, that is, aka PGCs) and HRT, hit the track in early 2010, there were discussions as to whether their cars were any quicker than the GP2 cars that were supporting them on the race programme.

At Jerez, the same thought sprung to mind, but for all F1 cars this time, and while in general I'm in favour of the new rules (apart from the increased cost) the thought struck me that the FIA should also have made a change to the GP2 cars for 2014, to maintain the differential between them.

One paddock insider was referring to the new style of cars as a GP2 support race, and there is definitely a danger that on some tracks the GP2 cars may will record faster lap times than an F1 car in fuel-saving race mode.

Together with the idiotic nose designs and the stupid changes to the sporting regs, I'm again questioning if those at the FIA know what they are doing.

Again, can I have a job please?

TV Figures

First thoughts on reading Autosport's piece on how Seb's relentless performance has caused TV figures to drop, it appears to me (again) that the CRH is taking the F1 audience for idiots.

The viewing figures dropped by 50 million, which is a chunk but I don't think it's solely down to Mr V. It would of course be convenient if it were true, a justification for the ludicrous double-points-for-tedious-Abu-Dhabi race (unless Seb starts at the back and then it's actually quite interesting). But there are other factors.

30 million viewers were lost in China alone, due to a change in the TV provider there. That's 60% of the loss explained in one hit. And why did we change the provider? So that the CRH can increase its revenue, with no care about the audience at all. And that in the most important economic growth area, where there is no history of F1 and where audiences need to be encouraged, not punished.

That happened recently in the UK too, and figures are unsurprisingly down there as not everyone will switch to Sky. Same story in France.

So it seems that the main factor in reduced viewing figures (which affect teams' abilities to attract sponsorship and thus actually race) is the CRH's desire to increase revenue at any cost. Stop it.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Predictions for 2014

There seems little point in making a forecast for the Brazilian GP, other than that an RB7 will win it. So I thought I'd go to print early with some probably disastrous predictions for next year.
  1. There will be more retirements than this year. New engines, new ERS, this simply has to be right - although teams these days really do focus on reliability as well as performance. I just don't think they will have the time to get both right.
  2. Williams will be back in the high second Division. With the move away from exhaust blowing, the aero guys there will find that they are losing fewer aero points than the top teams.
  3. Caterham and Marussia will also close the gap to Toro Rosso and co, for the same reason.
  4. Most races will have only a single stop. Pirelli will take solid rubber to the races because they simply can't have any more bad PR.
  5. There will be more wet races than this year. We haven't had one yet this year, so I can't be far off on this one.
  6. Red Bull won't have the dominance they have had in the second half of this year. They will be hurt more than most by the exhaust changes, and maybe Renault.will get the blame for not delivering as good an engine as Mercedes.
  7. Hamilton will win the Drivers' Championship. Mercedes will do a good job with the engine, and Lewis will outscore Nico.
  8. Kimi will outscore Fernando. No idea why, I just think Alonso will lose focus, especially if he does sign for McLaren in 2015.
  9. Hulkenberg will still not get a drive in a Top Four team. Criminal.
  10. McLaren will score infinitely more wins than they have this year. That is, at least one. They will be back. I'm assuming it will be Jenson, but you never know...
So, what do you think?

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

That's a freeze?

Interesting opinion piece in Autosport today about the end of the V8 era.

The one thing that stood out for me was the statistic that after the freeze on development was implemented in 2007, 95% of the parts in Renault's current V8 engine are different to the corresponding part from six years ago.

That's quite impressive, and excludes the changes to software maps, which change much more frequently than changes are made to the hardware.

The change freeze was implemented in an attempt to stop spending on engines get out of hand. To a certain extent it has worked, and with the requirement to have only eight engines per season, there is no longer a continual stream of shiny metal coming out of the engine builders' premises.

But that is only half of the story. Development costs more than building the same thing repetetively, so having a team of people looking for small gains (which arguably become more important when large change is banned) and working continuously can still be almost as expensive as not having a freeze.

The 95% statistic is a good example of how F1 teams push regulations. They are allowed to make changes for reliability purposes, so of course, a stronger con-rod would be allowed (oh, didn't we mention it's also 0.1 of a gram lighter?).

Curing vibration is a vital part of helping reliability of an engine, as is reducing friction. Which is why engine manufacturers work so closely with oil makers of course. And as there is no restriction on oil development, it is perfectly reasonable to modify your engine to benefit from improved lubrication. Etc etc.

And then there's the Coanda effect.

When faced with a barrier, engineers look for a different solution. Put a wall in front of them and they will try to go over it, under it or round it. Some might even try to build a time machine so they could still go through the gap that is no longer there.

With engine power frozen at 750bhp - in order to stop the engine being a performance differentiator (I always thought that was a daft concept) engineers had to think differently.

Of the fuel burnt in an F1 engine, only about a third of the energy produced by the explosions actually gets used to turn the rear wheels. Nearly half gets lost in the exhausts, both as heat and noise and pressure.

So the solution that the engineers devised, which I think has really hit the teams at the back of the grid, is to use the exhausts to generate downforce. We've had hot blowing and cold blowing and I pray to the Gods of Formula 1 that next year we do not get any blowing at all.

Engineers are clever, and the cleverest deserve to win, and be rewarded for winning. But when you have a situation where an engine manufacture can show that two engines,  with only 5% of all of the parts are shared, are essentially the same, things have gaot out of hand.

Wouldn't it be great if the teams could agree to limit the spending, instead of limiting power output?

But then, accountants are clever people too.