Sunday, 6 November 2011

What next for Felipe Massa?

It's clear that the likeable Brazilian will not be beating Fernando Alonso any time soon. The Spaniard has been quicker, more consistent and has managed to get Ferrari to build the team around him.

Massa's performances over the past 2 seasons haven't been good enough to justify him continuing his career in a car that good. I think he will have 1 more year at Ferrari and then will be asked to move on. There are a few drivers that could be a good bet for that seat - Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica and Sergio Perez.

However, I can't see a career path that Massa will be able to take. Maybe he'll replace Kimi/Rubens at Williams, Ross Brawn might renew his relationship with him at Mercedes. Renault and Force India are also options. However, it's clear that he's unlikely to find himself in with a chance of winning a championship again and this is a great shame.

It's easy to forget that in 2007 and 2008 he had some performances similar to Vettel's domination this year. Of course he made a few mistakes at the time (I remember people wanting him to be kicked out of Ferrari after 2 retirements in the opening 2 races in 2008) but some of his drives were supreme and he could have been a champion. Maybe if he had managed to win the 2008 title then things would be massively different for him.

Unfortunately I don't think he'll win another race in F1, there are too many strong drivers around him now. His favourite circuit, Turkey, is no longer on the calendar either. 

No-one who has come so close to winning a title has never managed to make amends on another occasion. Unfortunately this is what will happen to Felipe Massa - so close, but not quite.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Felipe and Lewis Collide Again

There was another collision today between the seemingly magnetic Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton. However, this time it was the Brazilian who was punished with a drive through penalty. Both drivers are struggling massively at the moment – and these are the 2 drivers who fought over the 2008 title so closely.

They have similar issues at the moment – being soundly beaten by their team mates and appearing to lack confidence. I’m not sure why they look like pale imitations of the drivers who performed so admirably in their championship battle.

Personally I thought the collision yesterday was a racing incident. Lewis was being ambitious trying to pass there and Felipe could have taken a wider line around that corner. I was surprised to see Massa get a penalty but that may be because of the number of previous penalties that Lewis Hamilton has received this season.

The biggest concern for Massa’s race for me was his retirement. Having broken the suspension on his Ferrari during qualifying he then made the exact same mistake on a different corner. There is talk that Ferrari were running some experimental parts with an eye on 2012 but that is irrelevant – Felipe made the exact same mistake twice. A world class driver doesn’t do that.

Lewis was once again beaten by a teammate who was seen as inferior when he joined the team. He is now 38 points behind Jenson with only 50 points available. He is set to be beaten by his teammate for the first time since entering F1.

Damon Hill in 1995 was all over the place. He spent the winter sorting his head out and went on to dominate the 1996 season – winning 8 races and winning the championship by 19 points. Both Felipe and Lewis need to do the same and come back stronger and more focused on success in F1.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Inaugural Indian Grand Prix

In just over 12 hours we have our first race in India. It is a circuit that has been widely praised by the drivers and teams and will hopefully provide us with a good race.

With the Championships already won by Vettel and Red Bull we need an entertaining race. The circuit is incredibly dusty, as you would expect from a brand new circuit. Hopefully this won't deter drivers from going off the racing line to attempt an overtake.

Vettel is on pole yet again and Mark Webber locked out the front row after Lewis Hamilton suffered another penalty - this time a 3 place grid drop - which leaves him starting 5th, just behind his team mate with 2 time World Champion Fernando Alonso starting 3rd.

One interesting part of the race tomorrow will be the situation for the tyres. The expected pace difference between the soft and hard compounds is 1.5 seconds per lap. If I was a strategist for Sauber/Renault/Williams I would be insisting that at least 1 car started on the hard tyre to get it out of the way early. This may give an advantage at the end, especially if we have a safety car.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

F1 going to New Jersey

It was announced today that in 2013 we'll have 2 US Grands Prix, with New Jersey joining Texas on the calendar.

This is a great result for F1 and will hopefully replace one of the Spanish races. Spain has a short history of Formula One and with their devotion to Alonso, have no need for a second race.

USA has a proud history of motorsport and hasn't been utilised enough by F1 over recent years, specifically following the Indy shambles of 2005. It is great that we are having more races in nations that will have packed grandstands and a desire to embrace the weekend as opposed to countries that have the most money.

With New Jersey and Texas being on the schedule there is the possibility of more Americans becoming more involved in the sport in terms of support but also in terms of drivers. F1 might once again become a valid alternative to IndyCar and NASCAR.

The race in NJ will also have a stunning backdrop of the New York City skyline. It should make for a fantastic race.

I may even have to add it to my schedule of races to visit - I imagine a lot of Europeans will look at combining a weekend in NYC and a trip to the GP.

Friday, 21 October 2011

A strange season for Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton has had a very strange season. He is no longer seen as the same driver that both wowed and surprised in equal measure. Some of his performances and overtaking moves of the past need to be seen to be believed.

However this year he has been outclassed by his team mate which came as a surprise to both a lot of the viewers and also to himself. Japan was a particularly bitter pill for him to swallow, being out qualified and outraced in a manner that is not associated with Lewis Hamilton.

Contact in Monaco, Spa, Montreal, Singapore and Japan haven’t helped his cause, despite them not all being his fault.

The recent headline news is that he has split with Nicole Scherzinger. His relationship with his father has also been clearly strained. I believe these have negatively impacted his performance this season. Previously he always had the strong bond with his father who was always there to look out for him.

I am hoping that he will regroup over the winter, similar to Damon Hill in 1995. After a difficult season he came back fitter, stronger and more focused. Lewis Hamilton needs to come out firing in Australia next year if he is to have any hope of becoming a double world champion in 2012.

Vettel and Red Bull have raised the bar, Hamilton and his McLaren team have to step up.

The End of Nick Heidfelds F1 Career

Nick Heidfeld is a wasted talent in Formula 1. It appears as though his career is now finished in the top level of motorsport and I can’t help but think it’s a shame that he didn’t ever get a chance in a top car.

The only time in his career that the team he was in won a race was Canada in 2008 when Hamilton took himself and Raikkonen out. Kubica won that race after Heidfeld let him through. Ferrari also ruined Felipe Massa’s race at this time.

In his 3 years as a team mate to Kubica, Heidfeld finished ahead twice. He also beat Raikkonen, Massa and Webber as teammates. All of these are multiple race winners. Despite his consistency and speed, things never fell quite right for him. Maybe it’s because he isn’t the most marketable driver around, perhaps it’s his timing as the number of German drivers continues to increase.

Jenson Button almost missed his chance to show how good he can be, Nico Rosberg is in danger of it happening to him but it definitely has happened with Heidfeld.

Heidfeld made some great overtakes including some double overtakes. He finished on the podium 18 times and showed remarkable consistency. He hasn’t driven in the past 5 races and yet is only 2 points behind Petrov.

It’s a shame for both Heidfeld and F1 that we never got to see what he could do.

Monday, 17 October 2011

What If?

I want to give you some thinking to do regarding some recent history in Formula 1 with some what if scenarios.

If Michael Schumacher had failed in his attempt to take out Damon Hill at Adelaide 1994? Hill wouldn't have had the mental problems during 1995 and could have won a 2nd title and potentially even a 3rd title in 1996. Knowing Williams during this period, he would have probably still been removed from the team, but it's the impact on Schumacher's career that is more interesting. Without being a double champion, would Ferrari have been so keen to sign him on a long term deal? How many titles would he have won? Would this have opened up a chance for Coulthard, Montoya and Raikkonen to become champions?

My next one is what would have happened if Schumacher had succeeded in taking out Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 at Jerez. Would the FIA have still disqualified him? What impact would it have on the rest of his career?

Time to jump forward a few years. What if, in qualifying for Hungary 2009, Felipe Massa had gone out for his lap 10 seconds later? Would Ferrari still drop Raikkonen for Alonso? Would Massa be fighting for last years title?

If you have any of your own that you'd like to bring up, I'd love to hear them.