Monday, 11 November 2013

America: early discussion

News broke last week that Raikkonen, whose back problems are apparently flaring up again, is to miss the final two races (here and Brazil). He’s having surgery. The replacement isn’t yet clear. Most seem to think Valsecchi, Lotus reserve drive, will get the seat, though a fair minority reckon they’ll try and move Hulkenberg (assuming he’s there next year) a little early. What is certain is that this will damage the team’s hopes of progressing from fourth in the Constructors (which was a bit unlikely anyway, as they’re 26 points off third-placed Ferrari).

Since Abu Dhabi Ecclestone’s been making more negative noises about New Jersey. Mexico also looks unlikely, and Korea could well drop off the calendar (which makes one wonder why the first two were on it in the first place).

On Thursday it emerged that McLaren were actively looking at taking on reportedly talented youngster Kevin Magnussen to replace Sergio Perez in 2014. This would be a big setback for Perez, not just because he’d be axed, but because he hasn’t (apparently) been talking to any other teams, limiting his 2014 options to driving a McLaren and not driving in F1.

On the same day Newey stated that the 2014 regulation changes (whilst including aerodynamic changes) were very much engine driven. It’d be nice to have engines rather than aerodynamics as the key dividing line for once. Here’s a quick rundown of how things will stack up next year (NB not an exhaustive list, I’m just briefly looking at it from a title perspective):
Mercedes - Mercedes, McLaren (McLaren will change to Honda in 2015)
Ferrari - Ferrari, Sauber
Renault - Red Bull, Lotus

If Mercedes is best I think the team of the same name will be best-placed. Rosberg and Hamilton are a great partnership, and almost certainly better than Button and Perez/Magnussen. If Ferrari is best it’s hard to see anyone but the Prancing Horse taking the Constructors’ title. Renault could be most interesting. A Vettel/Ricciardo and Grosjean/Hulkenberg (if the German gets the seat) battle could be very close.

Earlier mutterings I’ve heard suggest that (in power terms) the Mercedes is far more powerful than its rivals, and the Ferrari is more powerful than the Renault (albeit by a smaller margin). Reliability (I think fewer engines are available next year and there are bound to be teething problems with new technology) and efficiency will, of course, also be critical.

Anyway, back to America. The circuit had its first race last year, and it was pretty bloody good. The circuit has tight, twisty sections, faster-paced bits, hairpins, undulation. I wish all new circuits were like it. (That said, an inaugural race can often be a bit weird, so it may or may not be as entertaining this year, given Vettel’s driving the Starship Enterprise and everyone else is in a 2CV).

In pace terms I was surprised last week how competitive the Ferrari became in the race. The general theme of Mercedes moving backwards from a strong qualifying and Lotus doing the reverse is something I expect to see continue.

I don’t think there was a safety car last year, and the last 3 races have had a total of just 7 retirements, so it’s perhaps unlikely we’ll see one this year. The Winner Without Vettel (Betfair) and Winner Without Vettel Or Webber (Ladbrokes) markets should be interesting to watch.

As always, thoughts, tips, and F1-related haikus are welcome in the comments below.

Morris Dancer


  1. Massa moves to Williams, Maldonado leaves:

  2. Not surprised Massa went to Williams, though I thought the Lotus announcement would come first.

    Sadly, my spidey sense is tingling and I'm thinking Maldonado might get the Lotus seat after all.

  3. It's official - Perez is out at McLaren. It was the lead topic watching the shortened FP1 today. No word yet on who replaces him.

    Speaking of FP1 it was odd. First delayed by fog and shortened to an hour, then red flagged for a while because someone suddenly realized that the emergency chopper wasn't there.

    Two of the folks my wife works with left for Austin today for the race. (Envy, envy).

    This is a challenging weekend for the F1 watcher here - FP1 and FP2 were on NBC Sports Network, qualifying is on CNBC and the race itself is on NBC.

    But at least the race - for once - is at a reasonable time! :-)

    Tim B

    1. Magnusson replaces Perez - completely forgot....

      Tim B

  4. Anyone in any doubt as to the extent to which F1 is no longer motor racing as such but rather a procession, need only look at the winner's odds for this weekend's Texas Grand Prix.
    Vettel is priced as short as 1/4 in a 24 strong field, whilst Grosjean, probably currently the 3rd or 4th strongest driver/car combination, is on offer with Betfair at 37/1 net - just how one-sided is that?
    Unless some real competition to Red Bull is introduced and soon, fans will lose interest, in fact they are probably already doing so. After all who wants to spend a couple of hundred pounds plus all the other attendant costs involved to watch what is essentially a foregone conclusion? This state of affairs is also killing off most of the betting interest in the sport. Not good.
    A little humility from Vettel wouldn't go amiss either - OK he doesn't have a great deal to be humble about, but he could at least try.

    1. You're preaching to the choir on this one, Peter.

      I've been turned off by the Vettel processionals for years, as Morris can attest.

      Once he does one of his zooming starts and leaves the field behind at the first turn, the only interest is whether he breaks down, and I'm not going to watch a race willing someone to break down. So usually if the field is eating his dust after the first turn, I just turn off.

      I've loved F1 since I was a kid and Stirling Moss was still racing, but this is just tedious.

      Morris - I hope - has a good point: maybe the changes next year will be big enough to shake things up.

      Tim B

  5. With Magnussen, Sirotkin and Kvyat there'll be plenty of young guns next year. One imagines the rate of safety car appearances may increases as noses get lost.

    Mr. Putney, there's dominance and there's dominance. I have memories of 2011 being an utterly one-sided affair in the title race, but the actual races themselves being very entertaining. This season has, as you said, devolved into a procession. Vettel's winning, by miles and with ease. Whilst midfield racing is pretty close and entertaining, and the battle for 2nd-4th in the Constructors is close, the lack of competition at the sharp end is not good for the sport.

    It might be different if it were someone else (Rosberg, for example) enjoying some triumphs and breaking the run of Vettel titles, but it isn't. The manner of his victories (pole by miles, retaining the lead at the start, breaking the 1s DRS gap immediately and then cruising away).

    Things could well get shaken up a lot next year. We have aerodynamic changes and a very substantial change to the 'power units' as they're now called (engine, turbo and souped-up KERS). If Vettel keeps winning viewing figures will probably decline sharply.