Archive for April, 2010

Engines – Interim

April 30, 2010

(With the Snooker World Championship semi-finals and final on the box until Monday, I am not going to find time to write part II about engines until next week – I hope to put it up by Tuesday but no promises. So until then some bits and pieces I have come across.)

There have been wins with engines with 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 cylinders with only one win for a sixteen cylinder engine for Jim Clark in the Lotus-BRM at Watkins Glen in the 1966 USA GP. The 3·0 litre H16 BRM was essentially two flat-8 1·5 units (derived from their previous V8 engine) one plonked on top of the other and the crankshafts geared together. It was initially so heavy it took six men to carry it into the Lotus workshop and although very powerful was horrendously unreliable. Lotus planned to use it whilst waiting for the Ford Cosworth V8 but mostly stuck with the 2·0 Climax V8s.

The Repco name was a contraction of Replacement Parts Company. The engines supplied to the Brabham team in 1966 for Jack Brabham to win his third title were basic with aluminium stock-blocks, single-cams and off-the-shelf parts but were light and reliable with many other top teams struggling to source suitable 3-litre engines. In 1967 for Denny Hulme’s title with the team, the engines had been upgraded to some extent by more specialist tuning and upgrades.

Ayrton Senna won all three of his titles with McLaren-Honda but won in 1988 with the 1·5 litre Honda V6 turbo , in 1990 with the 3·5 Honda V10 and ’91 with the 3·5 Honda V12.

Not many associate steam-power with Formula One. In the early ‘eighties, Renault and Ferrari were injecting water into the fuel entering their V6 turbo engines in order to cool the engines, improve fuel consumption and aid combustion. According to a technical report presented to FISA and both teams before the 1983 French GP, presumably paid for by one or more of the Ford Cosworth teams, this illegally raised the octane levels of their fuel to above 110 when the limit was 102. It seems crazy that adding water would make fuel more powerful but thinking about it, during combustion, the water would have instantaneously turned to very, very hot steam, hugely increasing in volume, adding to the power of the fuel exploding in the cylinder-chamber and the power of the engine. The report did not have it’s desired effect as by 1984 water-injection was commonplace. Such water injection is now banned. So much for green F1. (I came across this story in a 1983 edition of Grand Prix International.)

There is similarity between steam-technology and turbochargers. The triple expansion steam-engines heated water into steam in high-pressure boilers. The high pressure steam then first powered a narrow cylinder, but exited with pressure left in the steam. Next it went into a wider cylinder – less pressure than before but a bigger surface area to push against. Finally the steam went into an even wider cylinder before being released. A petrol/gasoline engine expels fumes from the cylinders that still have pressure left to give and turbos are driven by that leftover pressure.


Engines I – The History

April 29, 2010

(This article gets technical at times. I want to write something that as many people as possible find helpful so if it stuff you already know, apologies if it seems patronising. Just in case anyone is unaware of the basics of the four-stroke combustion engine, have a look at this.)

It is emerging news that from 2013, Formula One engines are likely to be 1·5 litre turbo-charged engines, with fuel injection and KERS. Before I wrote about this, I decided to go over the history of Formula One engine rules which turned into a separate blog.

The Formula One World Championship started in 1950 with a maximum of 4·5 litre engines or 1&middot5 litre if supercharged. (In an engine, the capacity is the total volume of displacement of all the cylinders, so, for example, if one cylinder moving from it’s top position to bottom position increases the volume of the chamber by half-a-litre and the engine has six such cylinders, then it’s capacity is 6 x 0·5 = 3 litres.)

Supercharging involved a device powered off the engine that pre-compresses the air before it enters the cylinders of the engine. Of course, the air/fuel mixture will be further compressed within the cylinder before ignition. The more fuel the engine can explode in each combustion, the more power it can provide, but only as much fuel can be ignited as oxygen present allows. Air is about 20% oxygen so the more air that can be forced in by the supercharger, the more fuel can be mixed with it to provide more power. Power is taken off the engine to drive the compressor but supercharging makes the engine significantly more powerful without using a larger, heavier engine.

Alfa Romeo drivers, Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio won the first two titles with straight-8 supercharged engines providing over 400 hp. Due to the difficulty of putting together good fields of F1 cars in post-war austerity-stricken Europe, the World Championship was run to Formula Two rules in 1952 and 1953.

From 1954 to 1960, the rules allowed 2·5 litre engines. Also allowed were 0·75 supercharged engines but no one bothered. Engine power during this period was up to about 290 hp.

Then for 1961, engine capacity was reduced to 1·5 litres knocking engine power back to about 150 hp. This left F1 cars under-powered. Although engine power had increased by about 50% by 1965, and with other technological advances the cars became faster than with previous engine rules, sportscar racing had bigger engines, more speed and was becoming more popular.

Three-litre engines (or 1·5 supercharged engines) were allowed in 1966. It says much about how Formula One back then was a much more backwater sport that many top teams could not get suitable engines. In ’65, Jim Clark had won the title for Lotus powered by Climax V8s but the team went into ’66 with a bored-out two-litre version instead. BRM similarly increased their engines to two litres, Cooper had uncompetitive Maserati engines, Ferrari had a decent engine but the car was too heavy. Hence it was that Jack Brabham won the title in a Brabham-Repco (followed the season after by team-mate Denny Hulme) despite a rather agricultural engine built from a stock-block by an Australian spare-parts company.

For 1967, Ford paid Cosworth to build an F1 engine for Lotus. The engine was late but won on it’s debut at the Dutch Grand Prix. After Jim Clark’s death in 1968, team-mate Graham Hill won the F1 title. The Ford Cosworth DFV with numerous teams won 155 races (including clean sweeps in ’69 and ’73), powered twelve driver World Championships and Michele Alboreto took the V8’s last win in a Tyrrell at Detroit in 1983. During this time, it had been developed from about 400 to 500 bhp (no, I do not know the difference between horse-power and brake-horse-power either). Three driver titles in this period were won by Ferrari with a flat-12 engine.

Jean-Marie Balestre, Max Mosley’s predecessor when FIA was called FISA, had a reputation for being pro-French over F1 matters. This may be why Renault were able to enter Formula One in the second half of 1977 employing the loophole of the supercharger rule to race with a turbocharged 1·5 litre V6 engine.

Turbochargers are superchargers except instead of the compressor being powered directly off the engine, the mass-flow of exhaust gases drives a turbine that drives the compressor. This uses the energy of exhaust emissions, that would otherwise be wasted, so gaining the advantage of pre-compressed air to make the engine much more powerful without taking some of that power from the engine to achieve it.

Obviously, history shows that turbos were the future but Renault masked this by struggling to build a good team or cars, and suffering myriad engine and turbo failures. By ’79 they won their first race, the French GP at Dijon, with Jean-Pierre Jabouille first, and the famous late-race battle for second between his team-mate, Rene Arnoux, and Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari. In the early ‘eighties, they were fast, could turn up the turbo-boost for qualification, and won races but often led until breaking down. Ferrari quickly won races with their new V6 turbo in 1981 and only lost the drivers’ title in ’82 after Villeneuve’s horrific death and Didier Pironi’s leg-smashing Hockenheim crash. In 1983, it was Nelson Piquet in a Brabham powered by a BMW turbo engine that beat Renault’s Alain Prost to the first turbo title by two points.

By then, all the teams had turbo engines, or were very keen to get a deal, with turbos winning exclusively 1984 to 1988, titles going to McLaren-TAG Porsche (made by Porsche, paid for by TAG), Williams-Honda and McLaren-Honda drivers. Fuel limits on race-fuel were introduced to curb speeds (although not in qualification) with fuel-strategy for the turbo-teams becoming an important element. The limit was 220 litres in ’84 and ’85, down to 195 the following two years. In 1986, only 1·5 litre turbo-engines were allowed with Tyrrell and Minardi during ’85 being the last of the field to go turbo.

By the end of ’86, the top turbo engines were giving around 900 bhp in races and perhaps as much as 1500 bhp in qualification (I once read that one manufacturer did not know what power they had in qualification as their dynamometer only went up to 1000 bhp). Drivers had knobs to adjust the turbo-boost but would not run at maximum for the race distance as not only would fuel run out but the engine would have blown up. A turn of boost could be used for starts or overtaking. Martin Brundle described the phenomenal acceleration available in qualification as, “the horizon moved towards you”.

In 1987 and 1988, FIA moved to phase out turbos, limiting boost to 4 bars and allowing normally aspirated engines of 3·5 litres. For the first year, separate points championships were created for non-turbo entrants with Jonathan Palmer (Tyrrell-Ford) winning The Jim Clark Trophy and Tyrrell winning The Colin Chapman Trophy. The extra titles were dropped in ’88. The fuel-limit was reduced to 155 litres, and turbo-boost limited to a measly 2·5 bar. Whilst turbos still ruled the roost, the playing field was much more level with normally aspirated results lead by Thiery Boutsen (Benetton-Ford) collecting five third places to finish fourth in the title-hunt, and Nigel Mansell getting two second places for Williams-Judd.

For 1989, turbos were banned and the 3·5 litre engines were adopted by all with power climbing to over 800 bhp by 1994. In 1995, displacement capacity was reduced to 3 litres. With development spending escalating this century pushed by manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes, Honda and Toyota, engines of over 19,000 rpm were developed capable of over 900 bhp. All the engines were V10s with manufacturers and the sport keen to avoid the spending war of a possible step to V12s. In 2005, V10s were mandated with a maximum of five valves.

2006 not only saw 2·6 90° V8 engines introduced but a raft of rules covering maximum bore of cylinders, minimum weight of engines (to avoid spending on lighter exotic metal components), maximum of four valves per cylinder, and many other stipulations too numerous to list. STR used rev-limited Cosworth 3-litre V10s for one season as a transition compromise.

(Each cylinder only needs two valves to work, one to let the air and fuel in and one to let the exhaust gases out. However, having, for example, two inlet and two outlet valves would enable easier flow in and out, just as one breaths through one’s mouth as well as one’s nose when exercising. When Cosworth were squeezing the last bit of development out of the DFV in the ‘eighties, they created a short-stroke version (DFY) that had wider-bore cylinders that moved up and down by less (to maintain the displacement capacity) so wider valves could be used to increase engine performance.)

Engine power crept over the 700 bhp mark, and with manufacturers spending astronomical millions to keep up with each other, in 2007, development was frozen to 2006 spec with a 19,000 rpm limit reduced to 18,000 in 2009. Additionally, teams were restricted to one engine a race-weekend, then had to make them last two weekends, before currently being allowed eight engines per driver to last the season.

In 2009, kinetic energy recovery systems were allowed, but more about that next time. Also, more about the engine ‘freeze’ and that which this article was initially about, the possible new engine regulations.

More on superchargers and turbochargers, and much in this piece was gleamed from this Wikipedia article.

Ego Veho (I Drive)

April 26, 2010

I was very puzzled when Robert Kubica signed for Renault in October. At that point, Fernando Alonso was confirmed at Ferrari but the second drives at McLaren and Brawn/Mercedes looked up for grabs. The outspoken Kubica had previously commented that he did not care what he was paid if the car was competitive but he then signed for a team that finished behind Toyota, Williams and BMW that season. Renault, following the Singapore crash-gate scandal, had lost team principal, Flavio Briatori, and technical chief, Pat Symonds, so did not even have the architects of their past success.

Perhaps recent comments throw more light on this. Kubica made no secret at the time of the fact he was deeply annoyed that after winning the 2008 Canada GP, he considered himself a championship contender, but BMW Sauber seemed happy to tick off the win as their target acheived for that year, thereafter to concentrate on their plan to win the title in 2009.

This quote needs to be treated with caution as it is translated and from a certain news service that has it’s critics: “When I was the championship leader in 2008, they helped Heidfeld to make up his gap rather than concentrate on me. It was amateurish.” (The translation of, “amateurish”, I suspect may be stronger than what he said.) Kubica conveniently forgets that obvious team-orders in Montreal for Heidfeld to let him past, as Heidfeld had made his last stop and Kubica had not, were almost certainly why he won the race instead of his team-mate.

After the Canadian win, Kubica did lead the World Championship with 42 points after seven of 18 races over Hamilton (38 points), Räikkönen (35), Heidfeld (29) and Massa (28). He finished 23 points shy of Hamilton’s title-winning 98 points.

This next quote from Autosprint in Italy (also given a similar translation by Autosport): “Today I feel the team’s confidence in me and I feel like I have more energy than in previous seasons. I feel better, even though it is not the car of my dreams.”

Kubica’s plain speaking unfettered by corporate PR-correctness I find refreshing. (It may well be why a seat at McLaren was not a likelihood.) One notable thing about Renault is they are a team who know how to treat a number one driver. It seems apparent that above all, even above a faster car or money, Robert wants to be loved.


I know by now, Jenson Button’s move to McLaren is ancient history but back then I did not have a blog. Button could not agree financial terms with the Brackley team, and whereas it was initially much assumed that his flirting with McLaren was a negotiation tactic, that was where he went.

Although denied that it was a pecuniary decision, on the grounds that the amount he signed to move to Woking was less than he was offered to stay, I still have a theory that it was about money. At Brawn, he had taken a severe pay cut for 2009, and now the team survival-crisis was over and Button had won the championship, he wanted his financial reward for his success and loyalty.

He may have felt hurt and insulted by what he was offered, especially bearing in mind how well management were to do from the Mercedes take-over. On the other hand, McLaren had a star World Championship driver, did not owe Button anything, and were still willing to offer big bucks to sign him. So even though the figure was a bit less, perhaps it meant considerably more to Button’s need to feel valued how much McLaren were offering.


April 24, 2010

(I was too busy on Thursday writing two entries about tyres to notice that Pirelli had thrown their hat into the F1 ring that day.)

Pirelli was founded in Milan in 1872. In 1974, Pirelli developed a wide radial tyre for the new Lancia Stratos rally car. Before that, racing tyres had been wide cross-ply with shallow sidewalls and radials were narrow tyres. These wide-radials have been the standard for motor-racing and sportscars ever since.

Pirelli are the World’s fifth biggest tyre supplier by turnover, their market being premium tyres for high performance cars and motor-bikes. They supply the control tyres for the World Rally Championship, the British Rally Championship, the Superbike World Championship and the British Superbike Championship.

In 1958, there were 38 F1 World Championship Pirelli-shod Maserati starts, probably customer cars, netting one pole position but no podiums.

After Goodyear’s withdrawal for much of 1981, Pirelli helped fill the gap supplying Fittipaldi and Arrows for some races and the debuting Toleman team all season. Pirelli was very much the third-choice tyre-supplier behind Goodyear and Michelin. In 1983, a one-year partnership with Lotus-Renault netted a pole position, a fastest lap and one third place. By 1985, Michelin had departed but Pirelli were still with second-string teams now including Ligier-Renault and Brabham-BMW. Pirelli began to have some better results and picked up their first victory at the ’85 French GP at Paul Ricard with Nelson Piquet taking Brabham’s last ever win.

Whilst other teams generally came reluctantly and left at the first opportunity, Toleman stayed with the supplier throughout. In 1986, the team was re-christened Benetton, and with BMW power, in Mexico, Gerhard Berger gave Pirelli their second win.

The Italian tyre company left Formula One for two years returning in 1989. The biggest impression made in their first two years back was due to their qualifying tyres. Pierluigi Martini in the last four races of ’89 qualified his Minardi-Cosworth 5th in Portugal, 4th in Spain, missed Japan, and qualified third in Australia. In the first 1990 race at Long Beach, Martini put the Minardi on the front row second to pole-sitter Berger. 1991 was Pirelli’s last year with the highlight being their third win when Nelson Piquet won the Canada GP with Benetton-Ford.

(With the Cooper/Avon article, I found a very good shot of their racing tyres but try as I might, I could not find a similar picture for Pirelli. However, Pirelli are sometimes best known in Britain for their annual calendar which is not sold but only given away as a corporate gift to important customers and VIPs. Whilst many of the pictures are of young attractive woman who have neglected to remember to wear their tops, the models are fashion models and actresses photographed by respected fashion photographers in expensive exotic locations, therefore the calendars are artistic, absolutely not soft porn. I am sure readers will understand it was purely artistic curiosity for which I spent half-an-hour with Google image-search investigating this (I may not know much about art…). Anyway, this picture was modest enough to be usable and about the least anorexic I could find.)

Ban Intermediates Now

April 22, 2010

With road cars, we use all-weather tyres and such was the case in Formula One in the early days. It was not until the second race of 1971 at the Montjuïc street circuit in Spain that Firestone introduced slick tyres to F1 for the first time. Tyres are obviously the only part of a car in contact with the track and their effectiveness is probably more important than any other performance factor.

That Spanish race in ’71 was the beginning of specialist modern tyre technology which soon saw Firestone and Goodyear pushing Dunlop out of F1. Conversely, since slicks were hopeless if it rained, specialist wet tyres were developed. These rain tyres were treaded to dispel water and softer than slicks to grip at the lower temperatures the wet track caused.

In wet-dry conditions, the anguish for drivers and teams was when to switch from wets to drys or vice versa. Stay out too long on slicks as the rain came down and a driver could easily crash or lose 10-20 seconds in a lap. Stay out too long with wet tyres on a drying track and they began to melt, but stop too soon for slicks then stray off the dry line forming on the track and a visit to the scenery quickly followed.

Ayrton Senna is best known for his wet-dry prowess (except maybe Michael Schumacher) with perhaps his most renowned victory at the 1993 European Grand Prix. This was not just a result of his ability in the wet on rain-tyres but also his ability to stay out on slicks, as he did later in the race, when the rain returned, and still be fast when others had to pit unable to cope without wet tyres.

In 2001, Bridgestone introduced the intermediate tyre to combat the return of Michelin and tyre-competition to F1. The intermediate was a lightly treaded tyre, harder than a wet tyre and slightly softer than the slicks. (In fact, into the ‘eighties, especially if a race was starting on a drying track, teams sometimes hand-cut grooves into slick tyres but the practice was banned.) At the second race in Malaysia, the skies opened early in the race. Rubens Barrichello had just overtaken Ferrari team-mate, Michael Schumacher by taking a shorter route across the gravel trap as they both slid off on oil. The safety car was deployed and both Ferrari’s ended firmly at the back of the field having been fitted with inters whilst even the other Bridgestone runners thought full wets the way to go. Ferrari finished 1-2 with Schumacher lapping five seconds a lap quicker as the track dried and able to stay on his inters outpacing everyone when all the drivers on wets had stopped for slicks. When he did finally make his only fuel stop and switch to slicks, the battle was over.

The current intermediates are softer than they used to be hence in China a lot of drivers having problems with the treads going bald. Indeed, Button gained from earlier on staying out on slicks when most pitted for inters and preserving his inters better than others later in the race. No more can drivers stay with inters onto a dry track before being absolutely safe to move to slicks.

However, my proposition is to ban intermediate tyres altogether. They were introduced for tyre-company competition that no longer exists. It will save money for any company thinking of becoming the F1 tyre manufacturer. Above all, it will make wet-dry races even more dramatic and exciting. Who will dare to stay out longest if it rains a bit? When it is drying out, who will dare switch to slicks first? Will it be too soon? The gap between wet and dry tyres will really test the drivers and the team calls. I remember watching Indycar in the ‘nineties before the split and the excitement of wet-dry races without inters was epic. Let’s bring that back to Formula One.

(One of the best finishes I ever saw to a race was the 1997 CART race at Portland when Mark Blundell out-dragged Gill de Ferran after the last corner with Blundell on slicks on the wet part of the track and de Ferran on the dry line on wet tyres. See a 50-second clip on YouTube. Also for UK users only, 12-minute highlights of the 2001 Malaysian GP from the BBC.)


April 22, 2010

Recently, the possibility of Cooper/Avon becoming Formula One’s 2011 tyre supplier was mooted. Cooper Tires bought Avon Tyres from Avon Rubber PLC in 1997.

Avon Tyres started business in 1885 and have been making pneumatic tyres since 1901 at Melksham in Wiltshire. In 1911, they started making tyres for motor-cycles and sidecars. Avon started producing motor-cycle competition tyres in 1957 winning every motor-cycle World Championship Grand Prix, 1958 to 1963, with riders including Mike Hailwood, John Surtees and Geoff Duke. The Aston Martin team won the 1959 Sportscar World Championship, lead by Stirling Moss, with Avon tyres.

The same year saw Aston Martin enter Formula One using Avon rubber for eight of their eleven starts. Avon did not reappear in F1 until 1981. In 1980, the grid had been supplied by Goodyear and Michelin but Goodyear quit at the end of the year. Michelin had only been supplying the Ferrari and Renault teams and were willing to expand to the better teams but not all fifteen teams. Pirelli supplied two or three teams starting a six year involvement in F1. Avon were paid in a deal put together by Uncle Bernie to avoid the backmarker teams having to drive around on their wheel-rims. Just to confuse matters, Goodyear were persuaded back before the end of the season to supply Brabham, Williams and Lotus and such were the musical chairs scrabbling over tyre-deals that Fittipaldi raced with Avon, Pirelli and Michelin during that season. After ’81, the stop-gap Avon tyres were not seen again.

Avon were building up to being the major tyre-supplier on a commercial basis for series that had to buy their tyres, and now supply over 150 championships World-wide including Caterham, Formula Ford, Formula Palmer Audi, FIA Historic Formula One, Supersports, Hillclimb, Sprints, Historic racing, Rallycross and Historic Rally. They have been providing tyres for British F3 since 1982 and used to supply F3000.

Cooper Tires (no connection to past F1 constructor Cooper) is based at Findlay, Ohio. The Cooper Corporation started making tires in 1919, merging with other tire companies and becoming a major producer of rubber-related products for the military during World War II. They sell tires for cars and trucks and in the USA are second largest to Goodyear. 25% of their sales are in China in partnership with Chinese manufacturers. It seems they are keen to expand their position in the Asian market in particular. Cooper-branded tires, made by Avon, were used for A1 GP and Formula Atlantic before both series became victims of the financial recession (now they want to supply F1 – ‘third time lucky’ or ‘bad things happen in threes’?).

Despite their own motorsport experience, if successful in their tender, the suggestion is that Cooper/Avon will take over Bridgestone’s technology. Personally, I think they should supply the same tyres as for 1981. Now that would make Formula One interesting.

What’s The Points – China Update

April 20, 2010

(Addendum: I keep getting occasional unexplained visits to this out-of-date entry, and have no idea why. If you are a new visitor, please be kind enough to leave a comment to explain how you got here. A much better article to sample this web-log is The Races Ferrari Missed.)

This is an update to What’s The Points comparing the World Championship positions for this year’s points (left), last year’s points-system (middle) and the older 10-6-4-3-2-1 approach (right). Ties are decided by countback.

1      Button   60      Button   23      Button   20
2   Rosberg   50   Alonso   20   Alonso   16
3   Alonso   49   Hamilton   20   Vettel   14
4   Hamilton   49   Rosberg   20   Hamilton   12
5   Vettel   45   Vettel   18   Rosberg   12
6   Massa   41   Kubica   17   Kubica   11
7   Kubica   40   Massa   16   Massa   10
8   Webber   28   Webber   10   Webber   6
9   Sutil   10   Sutil   4   Sutil   2
10   Schumacher   10   Schumacher   3   Schumacher   1

The official points saw Massa drop five positions with his ninth position finish. Unsurprisingly with two wins and two minor places in four races, Button is top by all three systems. Differences between this and last year’s points positions are little. Rosberg’s consistency with two thirds and two fourths put him in a stronger position than would be the case under 10-6-4-3-2-1. Under the new points, Rosberg would need to gain a fifth place to catch Button but under 10-6-4-3-2-1 would need a win to overhaul Button.

RG already has his scores updated for China in his championship for new teams.

China Snippets

April 20, 2010

The first section of qualifying has become tiresome since with seven cars to be knocked out, obviously (at least in dry circumstances) six of them will be the new teams’ drivers. It is hence twenty minutes to work out which one of the other eighteen drivers will not make it through. I think I would favour only sixteen allowed into Q2. This would also make Q2 less congested and easier to follow. It would be fun to have devil-take-the-hindmost qualifying whereby it is a one hour session, and after fifteen minutes the slowest car is excluded, then another car knocked out every two minutes. Then with five minutes to go, the last four cars would have time for one last run.

“Who needs ride height adjustment?”, we all heard Red Bull’s Christian Horner exclaim over the radio after Vettel put himself on pole. I was also amused by Sebastian Vettel joking about a big lever in the cockpit. The latest clarification by FIA does not rule out Red Bull having some way of raising the ride-height between qualification and the race. (Teams gain performance by running the cars as low as possible to the ground. Too low and the car will bottom out on bumps potentially lifting wheels off the ground so they go as low as they dare. The ride-height will sink a bit when they put in all the fuel for the race and they are prohibited from adjusting the ride-height between qualifying and the race. This means they have to run the cars in qualification slightly higher than they would like, so it will not be too low when they plonk in the fuel for the race.) This article on ScarbsF1’s Blog describes ways in which Red Bull might be getting around this. The most interesting, which might detour around the regulations, is the use of highly chilled gas in the anti-roll-bar damper. For those that remember Boyle’s Law from school, this will cause the gas to lower in pressure sucking in the damper which will lower the ride-height. Overnight, the Red Bulls will sit in the garage watched over by FIA’s closed-circuit security cameras and the gas will warm up to ambient temperatures raising the ride-height for the race! It might even be feasible the team have remotely controlled heaters to boost the temperatures in the garage if felt necessary. It is a cute theory and obviously only conjecture but if true, it would explain why their cars seem to have a qualification advantage that they do not seem to match in race-pace. On the other hand, Mark Webber had a big reputation as a one-lap specialist before Vettel showed he was even better so perhaps they are just both phenomenally good qualifiers. However, I have a suspicion that Horner’s outburst and Vettel’s joke are in the nature of a smokescreen and the chilled gas theory might explain how they are doing it outside the regulations.

McLaren’s one-two is their 45th, their first being at Canada’s Circuit Mont-Tremblant in 1968 when Denny Hulme won followed by team-founder Bruce McLaren (also the only one-two for New Zealand drivers). It is the eighteenth 1-2 for McLaren-Mercedes, the last being Italy 2007 when Fernando Alonso led Lewis Hamilton. Of the five one-twos Hamilton has been in for McLaren, he only won one at the 2007 USA GP.

The first British one-two was sort of Monaco 1956 when Stirling Moss won in a Maserati, with a shared drive for second after Brit Peter Collins handed over his Lancia-Ferrari to team-leader, Juan Manuel Fangio (Argentina), with an identical description for the top two at Monza that season. The first full British one-two was on the old 8·7 mile Spa circuit at the 1958 Belgium GP. Indeed it was the first 1-2-3-4 by any nation with winner Tony Brooks (Vanwall) followed by Mike Hawthorn (Ferrari), Stuart Lewis-Evans (Vanwall) and Cliff Allison (Lotus-Climax). The last British one-two before Button-Hamilton was Austria 1999 when Eddie Irvine won for Ferrari in front of David Coulthard’s McLaren-Mercedes. There have been forty British 1-2s including the two split-nationality shared drives. The last national 1-2 before China 2010 was for Germany at Suzuka in Japan in 2004 which Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) won over brother Ralf’s Williams-BMW.

Vitaly Petrov’s seventh placed finish for Renault is the first F1 points finish for a Russian driver. He is being compared favourably to Nelson Piquet Junior and Romain Grosjean, but not having Flavio Briatori there to threaten and psychologically undermine the rookie number two at critical times possibly might help; call it a hunch.

Whilst in recent years the stewards have seemed too interfering to the flow of racing, this season it is looking to be as if anything goes. I plan a separate post on this.

What’s The Points

April 15, 2010

I thought it would be interesting after three races to look at how the new scoring system compares to the previous two systems. On the left is the current top ten, in the middle as for last year’s points and on the right for the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system that preceded both:

1      Massa   39      Massa   16      Alonso   13
2   Alonso   37   Alonso   15   Vettel   13
3   Vettel   37   Vettel   15   Button   10
4   Button   35   Rosberg   14   Massa   10
5   Rosberg   35   Button   13   Kubica   9
6   Hamilton   31   Kubica   13   Rosberg   8
7   Kubica   30   Hamilton   12   Webber   6
8   Webber   24   Webber   9   Hamilton   6
9   Sutil   10   Sutil   4   Sutil   2
10   Schumacher   9   Schumacher   3   Schumacher   1

The new 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 system essentially scales up the points for the higher places by a factor of 2·5 or thereabouts but is more generous with the lower places:

Pos.   New   Old   Factor
1st   25   10     2·5
2nd   18   8     2·5
3rd   15   6     2·5
4th   12   5     2·4
5th   10   4     2·5
6th   8   3     2·66666…
7th   6   2     3
8th   4   1     4
9th   2       Infinity
10th   1       Infinity

Under this year’s system compared to last season’s, Hamilton and Button both pick up a position due to more kindness to lower positions. With the old 10-6-4-3-2-1 system, the three winners would be at the top, followed by Massa with two podiums and then the other four drivers to get podiums, which to me seems more right. (Tied points are separated by countback, who has the most wins else the most seconds, et cetera.)

The current points system seems to be a mish-mash of questionable decisions. In olden days, the emphasis on outright results rather than bullet-proof consistency was aided by only so many best scores counting. For example, in 1958, only the best six scores from ten races (plus the Indianapolis 500) counted, although this did not stop Mike Hawthorn with one win beating Stirling Moss with four wins despite Hawthorn dropping three scores! In 1991, dropped scores were abolished and 10-6-4-3-2-1 introduced. With increasing reliability, dropped scores had become a regular occurence at the top of the table and this was felt to confuse the public.

In 2002 in Malaysia, Michael Schumacher had a bad weekend; he finished third which was the worst result for his Ferrari that season. Otherwise he won eleven races with five seconds, sealing the World Championship in France with six races to spare. In 2003 in a reaction so kneejerk it was astounding Max Mosley did not break his own nose, the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system was implemented. After 15 of 16 races, this meant Kimi Räikkönen, with one win and six second places, still had a shout against Schumacher on six wins (Kimi needed to win with Michael not even getting a point for eighth; Kimi came second and Michael did get a point for eighth.)

Of the championships since, only 2008 would have spawned a different result under 10-6-4-3-2-1 scoring. Felipe Massa would have beaten Lewis Hamilton, 83 to 80 points. Without the controversial Belgium penalty, which demoted Lewis to third for Massa to inherit the win, it would have been Lewis’s title, 84 to 81. Personally, I thought that was a marginal decision by the stewards, some sound arguments for and against the penalty, but I think it best that and other decisions of similar controversy that season did not decide the title.

The two questions that should shape the points system are how many finishers should score and what should the ratios of points rewarded be?

The argument used for many years to resist giving points for more than the top six was that F1 is about the cream. However, in the old days, Formula One cars were a lot less reliable and mid-field teams could pick up decent point-finishes here and there because of that attrition. With modern reliability, the mid-field teams were struggling over the scraps behind the then big four of Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Renault. So eight points positions, yes, but not ten. There are only six or seven reasonably competitive teams and ten points-positions is just too many. I know the argument is it is difficult for smaller teams to appease sponsors without getting any points but this is F1, not school sports day, and no place for consolation prizes.

Ratio-wise, the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system seemed about right. Generally the driver with most wins should get the title, but not to the extreme of Uncle Bernie’s medal system. In 1982, Keke Rosberg won with one win (which he almost did not get) and under the most-wins-gets-the-title would have been fifth behind four drivers that achieved two wins. Rosberg got five other podiums and four additional top-sixes whilst others had more occasional good results and there has to be some balance between outright speed and consistency winning titles. (Note: back then it was 9-6-4-3-2-1 but would hardly have made a difference that year.)

My conclusion is the points system should be 20-12-8-6-4-3-2-1. I do not hold with drivers needing more incentive to win, these guys want wins so badly it hurts, but a points-system that gave more reward to speed over reliability would encourage designers to take more risks than they do now pushing the performance of the car, and more cars not making the distance would surely make F1 just a bit more interesting.

I will try to keep updating the title-chase positions according to the different points systems during the season. I did start this entry about a week ago but I have been a bit ill recently. The readers reader may be interested in this blog which (amongst other stuff) scores the new teams in their own championship.

Drivers’ Wins For More Than One Team

April 2, 2010

During Malaysia FP1, Ted Kravitz raised the question of which two participating drivers had won races with three teams. The answer is Alonso (Renault/McLaren/Ferrari) and Button (Honda/Brawn/ McLaren). I thought it would be interesting to look at the limited list of drivers that have won for more than one team or constructor.

Stirling Moss (GB)         
      Vanwall 6 Incl. shared drive
      Lotus-Climax 4 Entrant: Rob Walker
      Cooper-Climax 3 Entrant: Rob Walker
      Maserati 2    
      Mercedes 1    
      Total 16    
Alain Prost (FRA)      
      McLaren 30 McLaren-TAG
      Renault 9    
      Williams-Renault 7    
      Ferrari 5    
      Total 51    
Juan Manuel Fangio (ARG)      
      Mercedes 8    
      Maserati 7    
      Alfa Romeo 6 Incl. shared drive
      Lancia-Ferrari 3 Incl. shared drive
      Total 24    
Jackie Stewart (GB)      
      Tyrrell-Ford 15    
      Matra-Ford 9 See notes below
      BRM 2    
      March-Ford 1 Entrant: Tyrrell
      Total 27    
Nicki Lauda (A)      
      Ferrari 15    
      McLaren 8 McLaren-Ford
      Brabham-Alfa Romeo 2    
      Total 25    
Nelson Piquet (BR)      
      Brabham 13 Brabham-Ford
      Williams-Honda 7    
      Benetton-Ford 3    
      Total 23    
Fernando Alonso (SPA)      
      Renault 17    
      McLaren-Mercedes 4    
      Ferrari 1    
      Total 22    
Carlos Reutermann (ARG)      
      Ferrari 5    
      Brabham-Ford 4    
      Williams-Ford 3    
      Total 12    
Gerhard Berger (A)      
      Ferrari 5    
      McLaren-Honda 3    
      Benetton 2 Benetton-BMW
      Total 10    
Jody Scheckter (SA)      
      Tyrrell-Ford 4    
      Wolf-Ford 3    
      Ferrari 3    
      Total 10    
Jenson Button (GB)      
      Brawn-Mercedes 6    
      Honda 1    
      McLaren-Mercedes 1    
      Total 8    
John Surtees (GB)      
      Ferrari 4    
      Cooper-Maserati 1    
      Honda 1 ‘Hondola’
      Total 6    
Dan Gurney (USA)      
      Brabham-Climax 2    
      Porsche 1    
      Eagle-Weslake 1    
      Total 4    

Only thirteen drivers have won for three or more different constructors. Stirling Moss tops the list with five. His wins with Cooper and Lotus chassis were customer-car entries by the R.R.C. Walker Racing Team so Moss ties with Fangio and Prost on wins for four teams. Juan Manuel Fangio won World Championships with all four teams he won races for (or indeed raced for) whereas no other driver has had title-success with more than two teams.

The Jackie Stewart-Ken Tyrrell partnership netted three titles and confusing statistics. Stewart won his first title in 1969 with Matra-Ford, for Matra International, which was run by Ken Tyrrell. Unfortunately, Matra had a quaint idea the team should use Matra’s engines so the Tyrrell Racing Organisation ran customer March-Fords in ’70 until the Tyrrell cars were ready to race. So Stewart won with four constructors but two or three teams depending how one counts it. Similarly, some would argue Jenson Button has only won with two teams. Jacques Laffite won the 1977 Swedish GP and two races in ’81 for Ligier-Matra so Matra have the unique distinction of winning as a constructor and as an engine-supplier but never as both together.

In 1967, John Surtees persuaded Honda their chassis stank. It was replaced with the Honda RA300 which was designed by Lola and won on it’s debut at Monza, and was thus nicknamed the ‘Hondola’. Lancia withdrew from racing in 1955, and facing financial trouble, handed their cars and designer over to Ferrari. So Fangio won his 1956 title driving a Lancia-Ferrari.

These drivers won for two teams:

Michael Schumacher (Ger) 91 wins              
   Benetton-Ford, Benetton-Renault, Ferrari
Ayrton Senna (BR) 41 wins              
   Lotus-Renault, Lotus-Honda, McLaren-Honda, McLaren-Ford
Nigel Mansell (GB) 31 wins              
   Williams-Honda, Ferrari, Williams-Renault
Damon Hill (GB) 22 wins              
   Williams-Renault, Jordan-Mugen Honda
Kimi Räikkönen (FIN) 18 wins              
   McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari
Jack Brabham (AUS) 14 wins              
   Cooper-Climax, Brabham-Repco
Emerson Fittipauldi (BRA) 14 wins              
   Lotus-Ford, McLaren-Ford
Graham Hill (GB) 14 wins              
   BRM, Lotus-Ford
David Coulthard (GB) 13 wins              
   Williams-Renault, McLaren-Mercedes
Mario Andretti (USA) 12 wins              
   Ferrari, Lotus-Ford
Alan Jones (AUS) 11 wins              
   Shadow-Ford, Williams-Ford
Rubens Barrichello (BRA) 11 wins              
   Ferrari, Brawn-Mercedes
James Hunt (GB) 10 wins              
   Hesketh-Ford, McLaren-Ford
Ronnie Peterson (SWE) 10 wins              
   Lotus-Ford, March-Ford
Denny Hulme (NZ) 8 wins              
   Brabham-Repco, McLaren-Ford
Jacky Ickx (BEL) 8 wins              
   Ferrari, Brabham-Ford
Rene Arnoux (FRA) 7 wins              
   Renault, Ferrari
Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) 7 wins              
   Williams-BMW, McLaren-Mercedes
Tony Brooks (GB) 6 wins              
   Vanwall (incl. shared win), Ferrari
Riccardo Patrese (ITA) 6 wins              
   Brabham-Ford, Brabham-BMW, Williams-Ford
Michele Alboreto (ITA) 5 wins              
   Tyrrell-Ford, Ferrari
Giuseppe Farina (ITA) 5 wins              
   Alfa Romeo, Ferrari
Clay Regazzoni (SWI) 5 wins              
   Ferrari, Williams-Ford
Sebastian Vettel (GER) 5 wins              
   STR-Ferrari, RBR-Renault
John Watson (GB) 5 wins              
   Penske-Ford, McLaren-Ford
Bruce McLaren (NZ) 4 wins              
   Cooper-Climax, McLaren-Ford
Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) 3 wins              
   Jordan-Ford, Renault
Heinz-Harald Frentzen (GER) 3 wins              
   Williams-Renault, Jordan-Mugen Honda
Johnny Herbert (GB) 3 wins              
   Benetton-Renault, Stewart-Ford
Didier Pironi (FRA) 3 wins              
   Ligier-Ford, Ferrari
Patrick Depailler (FRA) 2 wins              
   Tyrrell-Ford, Ligier-Ford
Pedro Rodríguez (MEX) 2 wins              
   Cooper-Maserati, BRM
Jo Siffert (SWI) 2 wins              
   Lotus-Ford, BRM
Maurice Trintignant (FRA) 2 wins              
   Ferrari, Cooper-Climax

Although differently named, Sebastian Vettel’s win with Scuderia Toro Rosso before his Red Bull Racing victories was with a different team but the same constructor, and the only example of this.

Mika Hakkinen holds the record of twenty wins with one team (McLaren-Mercedes) without ever winning for another. Other World Champions that have won races only for one team are Alberto Ascari (who never finished a race for another team), Mike Hawthorn, Phil Hill, Jim Clark (who only raced for Lotus), Jochen Rindt, Keke Rosberg, Jacques Villeneuve and Lewis Hamilton.

In 1954, Juan Manuel Fangio was due to drive for Mercedes but the car was not ready. So he drove and won two races for Maserati before joining Mercedes to win another five races and the title. In 1958, Stirling Moss won the season opener in Argentina in a Cooper-Climax winning three more races that season with Vanwall, but was runner-up to Mike Hawthorn despite Hawthorn only winning one race. John Surtees won his last race for Ferrari at Spa ’66 before leaving after one dispute too many, subsequently winning the last round of the season in Mexico in a Cooper-Maserati.

Jim Clark is the only driver to win races with one team and three different engine makes, Lotus-Climax, Lotus-BRM and Lotus-Ford.