Thursday, July 31, 2008

News and notes: Thursday July 31

The biggest piece of news of the week is the release of the 2009 IndyCar season schedule. After a sort of disjointed and last minute created 2008 schedule, the 2009 season will be the first truly unified season schedule. The current version has 18 races to be run between April 5 and October 11, 2008. The most notable omission is Surfers Paradise, a staple of CART/Champ Car and a race that always draws huge crowds, it's only drawback being that it is in Australia. The IRL organizers had hoped to twin it with the race at the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan to reduce costs but some sort of complications with a major Rugby tournament in September has resulted in no deal being reached. The IRL are insisting that there is still a space available for a race in Australia if the two sides can come to an agreement, but seeing as the willingness to budge of the IRL side is limited there is very little chance that a race will happen in Australia next year, 2010 maybe but dear Aussie friends, don't get your hopes up. Toronto returns to the schedule which is good news as the Toronto race was always one of the best attended races in CART/Champ Car but one suspects that a high attendance will depend on the presence of Paul Tracy in an IndyCar next year. The one surprise that has had a lot of fans fuming is the choice of season finale venues, Homestead-Miami speedway. The Homestead race has been poorly attended the last few years and people were expecting that track to get the axe and be replaced by Las Vegas, which would be a more glamorous location for a finale, but alas it was not to be and so the IRL is going back to the empty grandstands at Homestead. There are also a lot of fans mystified at the lack of former CART/Champ Car venues that traditionally drew great crowds like Cleveland airport or Road America. There were also rumours that New Hampshire motor speedway and Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama were being considered for races next year but that did not materialize. In all the schedule has 10 ovals and 8 road/street circuits and here is the final(ish) schedule
April 5: Streets of St. Petersburg
April 19: Streets of Long Beach
April 26: Kansas Motor Speedway
May 24: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Indy 500)
May 31: Milwaukee Mile
June 6: Texas Motor Speedway
June 21: Iowa Speedway
June 27: Richmond International Raceway
July 5: Watkins Glen International
July 12: Streets of Toronto
July 26: Edmonton city centre Airport
August 1: Kentucky Speedway
August 9: Mid Ohio Sports Car course
August 23: Infineon raceway
August 29: Chicagoland Speedway
September 6: The raceway at Belle Isle Park
September 19: Twin Ring Motegi
October 11: Homestead-Miami Speedway

Next up is a bit of Formula One news and it has to do with McLaren's 2009 Driver Lineup and the fact that it will not change. Heikki Kovalainen has been confirmed foe next year despite him having a ratehr poor season compared to teammate Lewis Hamilton. Heikki has only been marginally slower than Lewis but has had absolutely rotten luck and finds himself well down in the standings compared to Lewis. This is good news for Kovalainen as there were many rumours surrounding his future at McLaren and hopefully the personable Finn can win some races soon as he deserves it.

There are rumours abound that Paul Tracy will race in the three final races of the IRL season at Infineon raceway, Belle Isle Park, and Chicagoland speedway. Hopefully this is true but one has to take such rumours with a grain of salt as his presence seems to rely solely on money at the moment, sad for such a great champion.

This week the F1 circus are at the dull Hungaroring in beautiful Budapest and the NASCAR nationwide series is racing at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, I will preview these two races tomorrow.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Morning news and rumour roundup: July 28

There has been a conspicuous absence of F1 rumours lately so this weeks edition will be more North American based, although I will mention Max Mosely and his lawsuits.

I will start with the dysfunctionality of Andretti-Green racing here in the IRL. This is a team that had absolutely dominated the IRL in 2005 with Dan Wheldon winning the championship and his teammates TOny Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, and Bryan Herta finishing 2nd, 4th, and 8th in the standings respectively. 2006 was not as good but in 2007 they rebouded with Franchitti winning the championship and Kanaan third. It wasn't quite the sueprteam it was in 2005, but they were good. Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti were the other two drivers who struggled but brought the headlines, but it was Dario and Tony, two long time soldiers of the team, two great friends, two of the best in the business who carried the team forward. But things came unglued somewhere between then and now. Partly because of the loss of Dario Franchitti to NASCAR the team unity has fallen apart, badly. Tony Kanaan is still the number one in the team, but he is extremely unhappy. He no longer has his good friend in the team to keep him motivated and has found himself in the thankless position of providing setup to Princess Danica and arrogant twat Marco while poor old Hideki Mutoh just bumbles around. Tony wants out, no question about it and it has to do with the fact that his teammates have taken to ignoring team orders to help Tony in his championship hopes because they don't feel like it, and the two of them (Danica and Marco) are becoming increasingly unpopular within the Andretti Green team. Marco has gone from the happy go lucky son of the team owner to trying to throw his weight around, trouble is that he doesn't have much weight to throw. He is accident prone and he has one race win to Kanaan's fourteen and oh yeah, TK won a championship for AGR in 2004 while Danica is trying to play the big star card and pushing people around but trouble is that she herself has only one win to show for it. Tony is tired of doing most of the setup for his teammates only to be flipped the proverbial bird by these two when he was desperate to get some precious points in his fading championship challenge. Michael Andretti called a closed door meeting with Marco and Danica after the Edmonton race where Marco blatantly ignored team orders over the radio and then collided with teammate Danica, and Danica was a little more subtle about ignoring the team orders by not responding. Nobody is divulging the content of this meeting but apparantly Michael was heard yelling and banging the side of the transporter. Maybe this will be seen as a sign that the team wants to keep Kanaan and push him forward and they will no longer cater to Marco and his young but growing ego, but who knows at this point. We will see but this may be the beginning of the end of AGR as one of the big three teams.

Now that we got the Andretti-Green problem out of the way it is time to address NASCAR, yes NASCAR. I am talking about their problems with tyres at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in yesterday's Brickyard 400. It is well known that the IMS diamond grinds its surfaces and so usually NASCAR tests there in order to prepare itself for his problem. Unfortunately this year with the much maligned car of tomorrow, NASCAR daftly decided against testing at Indy, and the result was that they got to Indy to discover that their tyres could not last more than 10-15 laps at top speed before they got ripped to shreds. This was a major situation for NASCAR and they set about coming up with a solution, albeit one that made the race even more boring than usual. Their solution was to throw a "competition caution" every 10 laps or so to allow people to change tyres. This was not a perfect solution but at least the fans got to see some racing. NASCAR and Goodyear screwed up in their preparation but at least they made an effort to come up with a solution, unlike F1 back in 2005.

Paul Tracy's brilliant run in Edmonton may see him race the rest of the year. Robin Miller of SpeedTV is claiming that Tony George is now actively trying to get something done for at least the last two races if not all four remaining races of the season. There is also a fan campaign to come up with the cash to get Paul on the grid for at least the next race at Kentucky in two weeks. Hopefully we will see Paul race soon because it would be a great shame for the IRL to let such a talent and personality go to waste.

That's it for the moment, the IRL schedule is set to come out this week so I will discuss that, also there will be a Hungarian GP preview and reaction to any major news that happens in the coming days.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Edmonton Race Report: Dixon wins, Tracy impresses.

A great afternoon was had by most yesterday as the IndyCar boys and girls (just one this time) took to the bumps of Edmonton's city centre airport. Scott Dixon won the race, which is not too surprising and he was followed home by Helio Castroneves. The two title contenders ran nose to tail in the later stages and were fortunate that they decided to call the race due to time four laps early, had that not happened they probably would have neeeded a splash and dash, which would have spiced things up a little, but alas they did not and so Dixon coasted to victory to extend his championship lead. The real story however was the man who finished fourth, one Paul Tracy. PT started fifteenth but quickly worked his way through the field to run solidly in the top ten, a result which would have been encouraging to the team, but due to a good pitstop under caution he came up and was running a solid sixth when there was contact between fourth and fifth placed Oriol Servia and Dan Wheldon. Both drivers had wounded cars and tried to limp home, this allowed PT to overtake them, including getting by Servia right at the line on the last lap. This result will be huge and Robin Miller is now reporting that Vision racing are working to get Paul in a car for two more races, Sonoma and the finale at Chicagoland speedway. Paul provided a lot of road course experience and knowledge to the team and was apparently very well received within the Vision team. If Penske, Ganassi, and Vision go home happy, Andretti green racing will leave Canada furious with the way things went. Team number one Tony Kannan had to change his engine and so started at the back while the other three drivers, Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick, and Hideki Mutoh could only manage to qualify in the midfield. In the race Kanaan worked his way up to a solid 9th but the other three drove like clowns. Hideki Mutoh was the first of the three to have difficulties when he crashed heavily on lap 27. The other two drove unspectacularly until late on when Marco Andretti commited a cardinal sin of racing by ramming Patrick damaging both cars. Both continued but their race was ruined. Marco was probably happy that he could keep going for more laps because it would protect him from the bullets that his team bosses were probably ready to throw at him. There were also some question marks about team work as Marco refused to let the faster Kannan by when ordered to and Danica's radio was mysteriously not working when she was asked to move over as well. There was a closed door meeting after the race and apparantly Kanaan was very grumpy afterwards not revealing the nature of the meeting, although it doesn't take a PhD to figure it out....... Down in the field the usual gang of idiots were up to their old tricks of causing trouble with poor Graham Rahal being in the wrong place at the wrong time, twice. At the start Graham was hit by Mario Moraes and had to make a lengthy stop for repairs. Graham rejoined and was minding his own business when EJ Viso tried to pass someone, locked his brakes, and punted into the side of poor Graham's car. Rahal was sent spinning into the tyre barrier, his day over. Back in the pits he was not happy with Viso (understandably) and did not mince words with his comments. Both he and fellow son of former champion Marco Andretti have been fast but have gotten into numerous incidents, mostly their fault, and maybe it was some poetic justice for Grahamm but this time it was truly not his fault. Many drivers have complained about Viso this year and EJ got a fifteen second stop/go penalty for his antics this time but I think that we will see more EJ caused accidents before the year is out. Other drivers had spins here and there, the most notable being Tony Kanaan going for a loop while leading the race and Helio Cstroneves having a big lock up late on while pushing Dixon, depriving us of a potential grandstand finish. Justin Wilson came home third for a very solid podium, proving that he is a very good road racer but needs to work on his oval skills. Marty Roth was painfully slow and got in the way as usual but he did not hit anything, although he ended the day backwards on the grass after spinning with two laps to go. The IRL should force him to attach a warning triangle to the back of his car as he is clearly not talented enough for this level of motorsport. The IRL's next race is in two weeks at Kentucky speedway where we will see the return of everyones favourite owner driver and hard worker Sarah Fisher.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Edmonton Indy, Qualifying report

So the dust settled on qualifying to find us with a Penske 1-2 with Ryan Briscoe on the pole this time. All the pracitce times and promising runs by some came to nought as the big boys in the Penske cars came to the front. This is not to say that the Big former Champ Car teams were disappointing, which they weren't as the KV drivers are third and fifth on the grid, veteran Oriol Servia being higher on the grid than Will Power this time. The Penske drivers have been great on the last three road courses as they scored a 1-2 last week at Mid-Ohio and Briscoe was the fastest man all day at Watkin's Glen only to lose the race as a result of the cruel hand of fate. Helio Castroneves has been the most consistent driver for most of the season but hasn't been able to get a win while championship leader Scott Dixon, who has not been as quick of late, has continually managed to pop up in the top five to limit the damage done by Helio. Dixon starts fourth while teammate Dan Wheldon will have another tough day, he starts 9th. The other top ten drivers are former Champ Car teams and a big shout out to the Dale Coyne drivers who were nowhere in practice but suddenly popped up in qualifying, both men made in to Q2 and Bruno Junquiera just missed out making final qualifying while rookie Mario Moraes will start a decent 10th. The Newman/Haas/Lanigan boys also did a good job with Justin Wilson making it into the fast six only to have a shunt on his first flying lap in the final session having to settle for sixth. One suspects we will see a lot of him at the front in today's race while teammate Graham Rahal was a solid 8th. If all these former champ car teams and Ganassi an Penske were in the top ten then it leads to the question of what happened to the Andretti-Green driver? The answer is that they had a woeful afternoon. Both Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan were fast enough to make the first cut but at the end of Q1 Kannan spun off and damaged his engine, unfortunately IRL rules dictate that an engine change means you have to go to the back of the pack and starting near Marty Roth can only be trouble. Marco ended up having a poor Q2 and was slowest in that session, so he will start 12th alongside the surprisingly quick Enrique Bernoldi, who is apparently fighting for his job, he surprised many by making it into Q2 and will start a very impressive 11th. Media favourites and resident hotheads Danica Patrick and Paul Tracy flattered only to decieve and will line up 14th and 15th respectively. Danica was nowhere in practice and so 14th cannot be considered to bad for her while PT was really quick in practice and will be disappinted with 15th although he is ultra agressive and will try to make it through the field, if he can make it through the first corner in one piece. The other Andretti Green dude, Hideki Mutoh was a rather poor 21st and will probably lose a lot of points to Will Power in the rookie of the year points. The rest of the grid is unsurprising with Ryan Hunter Reay 13th, Vitor Meira 16th followed by AJ Foyt IV, Darren Manning, Mario DOminguez, EJ Viso, Mutoh, Buddy Rice, Ed Carpenter, Townsend Bell, Marty Roth, Jaime Camara and the unfortunate TOny Kannan. A word about Marty Roth and his dreadful pace in qualifying. His time of 1:09.049 was more than 8 second off pole and five second slower than the next slowest Jaime Camara. His time is actually slower than the slowest qualifier in the Atlantic series race by 0.6 seconds and has been brutally slow all weekend. The IRL really needs to introduce time controls to weed out the field filling wankers like Roth to be taken seriously. The IRL needs to introduce some sort of time margin for qualifying so that Marty and company will be sent home. On suspects that the IRL may review his racing license at seasons end, not soon enough in this critic's opinion.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Edmonton Indy, Thursday Practice report

So day 1 in Edmonton is complete with things being dominated by two teams, Team Penske and, to the surprise of some, KV racing. The two teams shared the top four in both sessions today, the first one being dominated by Penske, with Castroneves ahead of Briscoe followed by Will Power and Oriol Servia, and the second session seeing that reversed with Power and Servia 1-2 followed by Castroneves and Briscoe. It was an eventful day with pretty much every driver having moments at some time due to the bumpy nature of the airport circuit. The plentiful amount of run off area meant that most drivers avoided hitting things with the exception of EJ Viso, who crashed in the first session and did not take part in the second one. Townsend Bell had the most excitment having an armful of spins and off track excursions, he was 25th in both sessions. Paul Tracy caused the most excitement by running well in both sessions of his first IRL race since the controversial 2002 Indy 500 when he finished second officially but many think that he had passed winner Helio Castroneves just before the yellow flags came out, but we digress. The other Canadian, Marty Roth was in his usual position at the tail end of the field, in the morning session he was 4.4 seconds slower than the next slowest driver, Jaime Camara, and in the second session he was "only" 2.3 seconds behind next slowest Townsend Bell. If the old 107% rule from Formula One was in force, these times would not be fast enough for Mad Dog Marty to qualify. Will Power's fastest time of the first day of practice is three seconds slower than his fastest time in last years first day of practice and highlights the need to boost the power of these cars on road courses. Qualifying should be itneresting tomorrow with so many cars being so close in time it could be anyone but Marty Roth's day. WIth the exception of the aforemention Roth, everyone was within 2.6 seconds in the second practice session. This could be an incident filled race, but with plenty of runoff there should not be too much need for the Safety Car, unfortunately the IRL will probably not figure that one out.

Race Preview, Rexall Edmonton Indy

The IndyCar sereis makes it's only visit to Canada this year with a race in Edmonton. The race track, a temporary one at the Edmonton City centre Airport is a great track and has been hugely popular since the race's inception as a Champ Car race in 2005. As the only points-paying race converted from Champ Car where all the field competes it could be a golden opportunity for some of the transition teams to score a win on a track they are familiar with, in fact Justin Wilson has won this race back in 2006. Eight drivers have raced here before and four have gotten podiums here including Wilson, who won in 2006 and was second last year, Paul Tracy, who was third back in 2005, Graham Rahal, who was third last year, and Oriol Servia, who was second in 2005. The other four who have raced here include Mario Dominguez, whose best finish was fifth in 2005, Bruno Junquiera. whose best finish was seventh last year, Will Power's best finish was sixth in 2006 and Ryan Hunter Reay was sixteenth in his only start here back in 2005. If I were to pick a driver among these few drivers to come through with a surprise victory it would be Oriol Servia. He has been consistently quick all year and has usually manged to bring the car home in solid points positions., he deserves a win as he has been one of the hardest working drivers over the past few years. This race will also see the much anticipated return of Paul Tracy to the cockpit. The aggressive and animated Canadian has a one race deal and will want to show well to convince his sponsors to pay for more races this year with a view to getting him a full schedule next year. In total 27 cars have entered the race with the only driver change of the 26 cars who raced last week is the re-emergence of Townsend Bell for Dreyer and Reinbold replacing Milka Duno, who was horribly off the pace last weekend (according to my calculations, had F1's old 107% rule existed she would not have qualified for the race). Bell is a decent driver who will be looking for a good result here in order to prove to teams that he would be a legitimate choice for a full time ride next year. At the front Newman/Haas/Lanigan will probably join the big three of Penske/Ganassi/and Andretti-Green at the top of the timesheets, although KV racing could also be up there. Both Penske and both Ganassi drivers are great road racers, as are two of the four AGR drivers (Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan) and so it should be a lively race up front, and with Edmonton being a track conducive to overtaking we should have some drama. Unfortunately the fans will not be treated to cars as quick as they were last year as it is estimated that the IndyCar Dallara is aproximately 5 seconds per lap slower than the Panoz DP-01 cars who raced here last year and there are calls to boost the horsepower of the Honda engines for the road courses. As some of the oval specialist drivers continue to get better on Road courses there will not be any real drivers but Marty Roth who will be off the pace. Hopefully this leads to a lot of good racing among the 27 drivers and qualifyuing could be very close, leading to some surprises among those knocked out in the earlier rounds. Qualifying is Friday and Saturday the race starts at 3pm local time, 5 pm eastern time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Morning rumour roundup, July 21

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, here is a quick round-up of the rumours circulating in the F1 and IndyCar worlds

We will start in F1 where Ross Brawn has insisted that he will keep the same driver lineup at Honda for 2009. While it is admirable that he wants some continuity in his team, Jenson Button and Rubens Barichello drove like idiots at Hockenheim and there could potentially be some talented drivers on the market. Ross wants to concentrate on next year and building a good car, but I can't see Honda winning a championship with their current drivers.

Last week I said that Forsythe was planning to enter Indy Lights next year and it appears that he may have bigger ambitions than that with reports that he is planning an IRL team and an American Le Mans series team. Plus he plans on running Indy Lights and Formula Atlantic. This seems very ambitious and although we know that Gerry has deep pockets, It does not make sense to be shelling out all that money for teams in four different racing series' He must have some sort of sponsor in mind at least for the IRL.

Tony Kanaan appears to be playing hardball with his Andretti Green Racing team. According to Robin Miller of Speed TV he has given his team until August 1 to sign him to a new contract or he will start talking to other teams. This does not make a whole lot of sense on Kanaan's part as he the other top two teams in the sport, Penske and Ganassi, appear unlikely to dump one of their drivers at the current time and a move to any other team would be taking a step backwards. He has the opportunity to win races and championships at AGR and if he wants to remain a contender he has to suck up any bones of contention he has with his team and, I guess, more specifically Marco Andretti and concentrate on driving.

The rumour mill will be churning about a potential return of Peugeot to the Formula One world. Peugeot chief Jean-Claude Lefebvre was seen in the F1 paddock at Hockenheim claiming to be on Holiday. Peugeot's last venture into F1 was not terribly succesful having never won a race having supplied the McLaren, Jordan, and Prost teams between 1994 and 2000. The Engines were known to be powerful but horrendously unreliable and they ended up deciding that they were wasting their money putting engines in the back of terrible Prost cars and left F1. I return does not make much sense from a business point of view in the current F1 economic structure as Peugeot are heavily concentrated on their 24 Hours of Le Mans effort which came up painfully short this year. I doubt we will see Peugeot Engines in the back of F1 cars for the next few years at least, especially with the future of the French Grand Prix in doubt.

Stay tuned for opinions and reviews of this weekends Edmonton Indy. I will be having in depth coverage without being there, but I will have reports on all days of the competition.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Race Report: All Penske performance at Mid Ohio

Ryan Briscoe managed to avoid Marco Andretti and Scott Dixon this week and won the Honda Indy 200. The Team Penske number two has been very good since the Indy 500 but has had some appaling luck in recent races. Briscoe was fast all weekend and was aided by some great strategy decisions from his strategist Roger Penske to romp away from the field after the last of too many safety car periods. He was followed home by teammate Helio Castroneves who was second for the fifth time this year (he has no wins) and Championship leader Scott Dixon, who stayed out of trouble to minimize the hit to his championship hopes. The KV crew of Will Power and Oriol Servia rounded out the top five to score some valuable points for the transition team, while behind them it was an overly eventful race with the usual gang of idiots getting into all sorts of trouble, sometimes taking frontrunners with them. The race started on a drying track and everyone started on wet tyres but switched to dries early, with the first to react being the benificiaries and those early leaders were Vitor Meira, Darren Manning, and Will Power running well, but as usual with some of the muppets at the back there will always be safety car periods to nix any sort of advantage. The most notable of the frontrunners who was bitten by the snake of bad driving backmarkers were the trio of Justin Wilson, Dan Wheldon, and Marco Andretti who ended up in a sticky mess at a restart when Wilson tried to go around the lapped Mario Dominguez only to be tagged by the Mexican (involved in his third incident of the day) and causing a traffic jam involving Wheldon, Andretti, and AJ Foyt IV who were all minding their own business (so was Wilson actually). Wilson, Wheldon, and Foyt ended up down a lap while Andretti retired, this incident happening shortly after the commentators pointed out that Andretti has a higher crash rate than Paul Tracy, not exactly high praise. In another race dictated by cautions and incidents I will do a quick rundown of the major red-face causing events. The first main incident happened when the usually talented Ryan Hunter-Reay tried a daft move down the inside of the usually crappy Enrique Bernoldi. Enrique was not exactly setting the world on fire at this point of the race, but he was unlucky to have been Kamikazeed in this way. To add insult to injury he retired while Hunter-Reay continued and ended up tenth. Then next incident involved Mario Dominguez, who went off and damaged his rear wing, this did not bring out the caution but he had to pit for repairs and the unfinished job resulted in the second caution when Mario's rear wing fell off at high speed and he was nerfed into a sandtrap. The caution came out and Mario was towed back to the pits where he was fixed up and sent on his way a few laps down where he was given the golden opportunity to screw things up for other people. He was fired by Gerry Forsythe for the same kind of antics a couple of years ago and these kind of shenanigans will not make his small, underfunded team very happy, although his sponsorship is the main reason this team is afloat. Things resumed as usual with the cautions resulting in a bevy of different drivers leading the race at some point as people ran different fuel strategy. Somewhere during the proceedings Marco Andretti dropped the ball and spun but could resume. The next yellow was a result of the incredibly incompetent Milka Duno spinning and not having the good sense not to park her car in the middle of the frickin' racing line!! She has been slow and bothersome all week and there will be many drivers relieved that she will not be in the 23 car next week in Edmonton. Duno was able to continue but the caution bunched up the field leading to the Dominguez and Wilson induced mess at the restart, which resulted in a fourth caution. That came and went and the race restarted on lap 48 at which point a light went on in the head of some of the IRL officials that maybe they don't need to bring out the safety car when someone is stranded a mile off course and both Graham Rahal and the other incompetent tool (after Duno) Marty Roth tested this policy. The fifth and final caution came when something happened to Mario Moraes and he was stuck near the Keyhole (which ABC announcer Marty Reid kept calling the carousel) and so the field was bunched up again with Briscoe leading Bruno Junquiera who was playing the fuel strategy and hope for enough caution laps game, which ended up not working as he had to pit for fuel with seven to go, dropping him to 13th. It was not exactly a classic, but it wasn't a terrible race. Mid-Ohio is tough on the drivers but not exactly conducive to overtaking so it was quite processional at times and the five yellows were excessive given the nature of some of the incidents that caused them. A good result for one transiton team, KV while another, Newman/Haas/Lanigan will be kicking themselves after their drivers cocked up chances at mega points with incidents, ending up 11th and 16th, Wilson ahead of Rahal. Dale Coyne also had a chance to do some grandstanding with Mario Moraes leading at one point and Junquiera running second for a while. Caution filled races often end up being decided by the strategists and unfortunately this one was one of them. Next up is Edmonton at the tricky and fast Edmonton Airport circuit.

Race Report: Lewis Dialed in to Deutschland

Lewis Hamilton absolutely dominated the German Grand Prix. He was on pole, he was the fastest man on track, but due to some questionable strategy when the Safety Car came out he had to work harder, but he did the job and recorded his fourth win of the season to take a four point lead in the world championship. Second was Nelson Piquet, and third was Felipe Massa. The race was really one of two halves. At the start Lewis led from Massa and Kovalainen and Lewis proceeded to pull away comfortably from Massa. The race settled into a rhythm with very little overtaking, although there were some close battles, when the safety car came out on lap 35 for Timo Glock submitting his entry for biggest crash of the year which really spiced things up. While the safety car seemingly ruined Lewis's race, it fell right into the hands of the one stopping Nelson Piquet. Piquet pittted the lap before the Safety Car and so did not have to pit again while most of the frontrunners did. The only notable frontrunners not to stop were Hamilton and Nick Heidfeld. The decision not to pit Hamilton puzzled many, including this blogger because it seemed as though McLaren were throwing the race away needlessly. Martin Brundle and James Allen theorized that it had to do with tires, seeing as Lewis had to use soft ones for his final stint and the McLaren is harder on those tyres than the Ferrari is. Either way Lewis had a lot of work to do as his main rival in the race, Massa, was fourth in the queue behind Hamilton, Heidfeld, and Piquet. When the race restarted Lewis had to put the hammer down Schumacher style to attempt to pull out a 22 second lead in approximately 10 laps. Lewis was helped by the fact that Massa was stuck behind Piquet, but the Ferrari man was never really in position to challenge Piquet and so Lewis rocketed away in the distance. Nobody outside of McLaren knew how far Lewis could go and the answer cam with 17 to go and Lewis pitted with a 15.4 second gap over Massa. The Englishman emerged behind his teammate Heikki Kovalainen in fifth place and everyone wondered, has McLaren screwed this up or are we on for a grandstand finish. The answer, fortunately for the spectators, was the latter as Lewis was quickly released by Kovalainen, moved up to third when Heidfeld pitted from the lead, and then closed on Massa. The move on Massa came with 11 laps to go as Lewis got into Felipe's slipstream on on the run towards the Hairpin. Felipe looked as though he was going to stay to the inside but then suddenly went left, opening the door for Lewis who proceeded to bravely out0brake his rival. Massa tried to defend but Hamilton had the optimal line at the exit and Massa went wide, Massa tried to retake Hamilton around the outside two corners later but Lewis was having none of it and Massa was forced wide and dropped back. From then he had no hope of winning as Hamilton rocketed off after Piquet, who was driving brilliantly out front. Hamilton closed rapidly and two laps later he was right on Nelson's tail at the same spot and out-braked the Renault driver. Piquet sensibly did not put up too much of a fight and slotted into second. From then Hamilton cruised to victory and Piquet came home a comfortable second ahead of Massa, who was too busy holding off a spirited charge from Heidfeld to try to challenge Piquet up front. It was a fortuitous podium for Piquet, but when he senses it was a possibility he drove brillitantly, like the Nelson Piquet we were hoping to see from the start of the year and this just may have been a job saving performance. Massa on the other hand will leave Germany with even more question marks over his head after a ratehr limp performance, especially after the restart. If Lewis's drive was one that wins world championships, Felipe's was one which loses them. Massa is now four points behind Hamilton and the momentum seems to have shifted towards Mclaren after a slowish start to the season for the silver cars. Hamilton is driving with all the confidence in the world while the Ferraris seem to be looking a little frustrated and bewildered, Luca di Montezemelo will not be a happy man. Fourth place was a good result for Nick Heidfeld. The German has been out-performed rather badly in qualifying by his teammate, but in the last two races he has shown that he still is a very cagey racer. He started 12th with a heavy fuel load and pitted for plenty of fuel. He did not stop behind the safety car and then drove away from Piquet at the restart. When Hamilton made his final stop Heidfeld was less than five seconds back and managed to emerge ahead of Kovalainen after his stop. He finished the day right on Felipe Massa's rear wing but in the closing laps he decided not to press the issue too much, preferring to bring the car home for some quality points. Teammate Robert Kubica was not as good but stayed out of trouble to come home seventh and collect two points. One senses that his world championship aspirations are slipping away. Kovalainen was fifth in the second McLaren and will probably be disappointed by the result. He was third for most of the pre-safety car period but he was undone by the caution as both Heidfeld and Piquet emerged ahead of him. He had to yield for Hamilton but was decidedly ordinary after the restart in general and Heidfeld managed to stay ahead of him. Kovalainen ended up fighting with sixth placed Kimi Raikkonen at the end, but Heikki is now 30 points behind his teammate and the rumour mill is churning about him possibly being out of a job at Mclaren for 2009. Sixth was not exactly where world champion Kimi Raikkonen would have wanted to be, but the Finn was really in no-mans land for most of the weekend. He only qualified sixth and lost a place at the start and was stuck in seventh until he made up a place at the pitstops but on a track where overtaking is possible we should have seen him really challenging the slower cars ahead of him. The safety car came out, putting Kimi down to ninth and it was like a light switch was turned on somewhere as Kimi suddenly decided he wanted to race again and set off passing people. First he got by Fernando Alonso (more on his adventures later), and then by Sebastien Vettel, and finally swooped by Kubica to take sixth. He could not get by Kovalainen in the end but he was mighty exciting to watch in the final laps. Kimi is still only seven points behind Hamilton and as we saw last year he can really turn it on late in the season and he is definetly still in the running for the World Championship and judging by his fighting spirit in part of this race he looks to be a better candidate for the title than Massa is. Torro Rosso had a pretty good day with Sebastein Vettel getting a point for eighth and with Bourdais bringing it home in twelfth. Vettel had an exciting afternoon, spending much of it battling with Fernando Alonso, drawing the ire of the two time champion by pushig him wide at the exit of the pits during the safety car period. Vettel also was in the way as Raikonen passed Alonso and was then passed by Kimi on the following lap and was also passed by Jarno Trulli along the way. He got his eighth back when Trulli ran wide with a few laps to go and so scored his sixth point of the year. Bourdais had an unexciting afternoon and that seems to be his problem at the moment as the pressure mounts on the Frenchman. Trulli ended up ninth to finish a rather disappointing afternoon for Toyota. Trulli had started fourth but lost a place on lap 1. He was only average considering that he did not have the low fuel load in qualifying that we all had assumed he had. He ended up eighth but threw away a point with a silly error while teammate Timo Glock had the most dramatic accident we have seen in a while when his rear suspension failed on the exit of the final corner pitching the German into the pitwall at high speed. The Toyota was smashed and Timo speared across the race track leaving debris everywhere and coming to a rest on the outside of the track. Timo was winded and stunned but otherwise unhurt but it was obvious that the safety car was needed to clean up the mess. It was an unfortunate end to what had been a pretty good race up to that point with Timo running third at one point due to running very heavy and pitting late, he probably could have gotten a couple of points. Williams were equally disappointing althogh Nico Rosberg brought it home tenth while Kaz Nakajima having a much more eventful afternoon than necessary with a spin and running wide once, he ended up fifteenth of the seventeen runners. Red Bull also did not have a particularly notable afternoon. Mark Webber seemed to be up to his usual trick of quietly getting a point or two until his engine expired behind the Safety Car while David Coulthard was racing all afternoon with the Hondas. He was involved in the second most dramatic incident in the race when he collided with the overly excited Rubens Barichello, which broke both their front wings. DC continued and finsihed thirteenth while Barichello's damage was too much and he had to retire. The Incident was probably Rubens's fault, but it was hard to say really at that point. If Red Bull were bad, Honda were awful with both Barichello and Jenson Button well down the order. They did make it onto the screen a few times for their battles with each other and with Coulthard but while Rubens ended with an accident, Jenson ended up last of the runners having not taken the opportunity to get his lap back for some reason and was the only man a lap down while the Force India cars were slow as usual but stayed out of trouble (and off the TV screens) to come home fourteenth and sixteenth, Fisichella ahead of Sutil. Finally a word about Fernando Alonso who had an overly eventful day and ended up finishing eleventh from fifth on the grid. He spent the first part of the race squabbling with Trulli over fifth place. He lost out to Raikkonen and Heidfeld at the first round of stops and found himself fighting with Vettel. The nearly collided at the exit of the pits under the safety car, making Fernando a very angry boy. after that the Irate Spaniard seemed to have lost concentration and slipped down the order. He was so concerned with Vettel that he did not pay attention to Raikkonen who swooped past, unfortunately Fernado was so frustrated that he went wide at the exit of the hairpin and let Rosberg slip through. From then the demoralized spaniard cruised home under pressure from the other Toro Rosso of Seb Bourdais. This race ended up being really exciting, but it took a safety car to make it so and due to the nature of the track, being one where you can pass, there was some passing. Lewis Hamilton seemed determined all day that he would not lose this race, despite the adversity of having to pass people on the track. He has all sorts of momentum in the second half of the season and Ferrari will need to find something or Lewis will rocket away with the world championship.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

F1 and IRL qualifying round up.

So qualifying is done and everyone will get a clearer picture of who is fast and who is not at Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix and at Mid Ohio for the Honda Indy 200. In Germany it is Lewis Hamilton on pole from Massa and Kovalainen. We don't know how much fuel Lewis has, but judging by the first and third place grid spots for the McLarens they are making progress in relation to Ferrari. World Champion Kimi Raikkonen was a rather disappointing sixth on the grid, but at least Hockenheim is a track where one can pass. Fourth on the grid is an impressive Jarno Trulli, but we all know that Jarno is a great qualifier and an average racer, while he may be grandstanding a bit with a low fuel load. Teammate Timo Glock is a more realistic eleventh. Fifth was Fernando Alonso in his Renault, many believe him to be the best driver in F1 and so fifth place is probably out-performing is R28, while Nelson Piquet was disapointing 17th, one suspects that Flavio Briatore's patience may be running out with the Brazilian...... BMW were not great with Robert kubica seventh, after having an accident while Nick Heidfeld was 12th, despite claiming that his qualifying woes were over. Mark Webber, Sebastien Vettel, and David COulthard are 8th through tenth, highlighting a pretty good day for the Red Bull teams, Sebastien Bourdais is 15th. Williams and Honda were pretty dismal all things considering. Nico Rosberg was the best of the lot in thirteenth, while Kaz Nakajima is sixteenth. The Hondas are fourteenth and eighteenth with Button better than Barichello on this occasion. With Ross Brawn claiming that both men's jobs are probably safe for 2009, they don't seem to be overly motivated. The Force Indias occupy the back row as usual, with Sutil faster than Fisichella. With this being a home race for most people in some capacity (ze germans are everywhere!!!) this race should be very close.

In the IRL it was a Penske kind of day at Mid Ohio with Helio Castroneves taking pole from teammate Ryan Briscoe. Both men have been dialed in all weekend and I would not be surprised to see one of the Marlboro but not Marlboro cars in victory lane tomorrow. Penske's brilliance highlighted Ganassi's futility with Scott Dixon only managing to be sixth and Dan Wheldon missing out on the Q1 cut to start thirteenth. Both men will have their work cut out for them and it could be an opportunity for Castroneves to make up some points in the standings. Third is Marco Andretti who will start alongside Justin Wilson in a great performance for Newman/Haas/Lanigan. Justin Wilson will be very pleased with this result but the bad news is that he has to start next to Marco, who in recent races has shown us that wherever he goes there is a risk of an accident. The third row will be occupied by Tony Kanaan and the aforementioned Dixon. Missing the Q3 cut were an impressive Buddy Rice, who blew teammate Milka Duno out of the weeds (again), Oriol Servia, Bruno Junquiera in a great performance for Dale Coyne, Hideki Mutoh, Vitor Meira, and Will Power. Of the fourteen cars who missed the first cut, the most surprising are thirteenth placed Wheldon and twentieth placed Danica Patrick. Danica has not had a good weekend having gotten very angry with Milka Duno in this mornings practice and having gotten into it with the her in the pits. Reports vary of the exact nature of the altercation with some claiming that Danica spat in the face of Milka, and others claiming that it was more verbal with Milka throwing a towel at Danica. Either way it appears that Danica is into it again with the other drivers and there are some who are growing tired of her antics. Love her or hate her, her flare ups are good for publicity, but if in fact the did spit on Duno then she really has crossed the line. Getting into it verbally and even shoving people is one thing, but spitting on someone is one of the most degrading things someone can do and if this is true she should be punished by the IRL in some way. She will never be suspended as it would be terrible for publicity, but a fine or a grid penalty are possible. The cynics will say that Danica is immune to punishment from the IRL, but it would be worse for publicity if she got away with such an incident. Speaking of Duno she has been woefully slow all weekend and has really gotten in the way of people, including blocking and nearly colliding with Danica, the reason why Patrick was so irate. She is 1.3 second slower than the next slowest car, Marty Roth (which is saying something) and she has been farther off than that in most of the practise sessions. She is nothing more than a rolling chicane at this moment and if she didn't bring a truckload of money to the team she would have been fired long ago and replaced with the infinitely more competent Townsend Bell, but money talks and so Milka gets to drive and get in people's way. Milka came up through the road racing ranks, so being this slow is inexcusable in my mind. If the IRL was more financially secure both she and Marty Roth would have their racing licenses revoked. Hopefully she does not cause an accident while being lapped. The Mid Ohio people are expecting record crowds for this years race and hopefully it will be a good one.

Edit 6:20 PM EST It turns out that Danica did not spit on Milka, the story goes that she went down there to confront Duno about her driving and Milka told her to go away, things got a little heated and Milka through a towel at Danica. This did not go down too well and Danica proceded on a profanity laced tirade before being escorted away. If this was any other driver there would be fines handed out but because it is Danica nothing will happen. 8 drivers apparantly complained about Milka's driving, so maybe the IRL will talk to her.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Weekend Racing Preview

There is lots of action in the racing world this weekend with Formula One at the one legendary not average Hockenheimring in Germany, the IndyCars at the brilliant Mid-Ohio sports car course, and with MotoGP at the Awesome Laguna Seca circuit.

I will start with F1 and the German Grand Prix. This was one the race track where power was everything with the long straights through the forest, but in 2002 someone decided that it was a good idea to shorten the course and the champion of making mediocre race tracks, Hermann Tilke, was called in to neuter the track. The current circuit is OK, one can overtake better, but the charm and character that made Hockenheim so unique is gone. The German fans have shared a similar opinion and with the track struggling to draw good crowds the circuit's financial fortunes have dimmed. Hockenheim used to be a place where the wealthier would sit in the nice stadium section while the average Fritz would be out camping in the woods, drinking copious amounts of beer and cheering on their Hero, Michael Schumacher. Now with the shortened circuit there is no opportunity for camping and the drinking time has been cut because you can see more of the track, and with that crowd you should never mess with the drinking time. The formula one people, who are rather detached from the reality of regular people, like the track and so the show must go on leaving the average German fan with an empty wallet (not conducive to heavy drinking) and with a second circuit they don't really like. This year at Hockenheim it appears that the McLaren's have a slight advantage over the Ferrari's, this judging by the first two practice sessions, and if we get another wet race it could be Lewis Hamilton's race to lose. The Englishman was awesome in the wet at Silverstone and with Ferrari falling over each other to screw things up there, he coasted to an easy victory. If conditions are similar this weekend one hopes that Ferrari won't pull the same ridiculous antics they did at Silverstone and may allow Kimi Raikkonen to compete with Lewis, as Felipe Massa's lack of wet weather skills are well documented. If the cock things up here as they did at Silverstone I imagine that heads will roll, as the Italians have never had much patience for this sort of thing. With the championship so finely balanced as it is, any little mistake can cost a driver big time at the end of the year, and one wonders why Kimi and Felipe are not on their team management to get her done they way that Michael Schumacher used to. In dry conditions I expect it to be much closer. The Ferrari is still the better car over all and in my mind Raikkonen is still the fastest driver in F1, so in dry conditions we may see a close battle at the front. It will be hard so tell because of the changing weather, but this should be an interesting battle. After the top two there comes BMW. Robert Kubica will want to rebound after having thrown away an armful of points at Silverstone while Nick Heidfeld swears his qualifying woes are over, honest! Unless something happens to the top two teams, I would be surprised to see a beemer on the podium here. Toyota and Red Bull appear to be pulling away slightly in the battle for best of the rest, although the Williams in the hands of Nico Rosberg has been high up on the charts recently. The tight nature of the midfield with Renault joining those four should make for some exciting racing and with Honda starting to show a little speed, there will be a tight battle for the minor points. Even Toro Rosso can challenge, but they tend to need chaotic races to do so and Force India, well are drifting even farther away from being ninth fastest. Could be a good race in Germany, but one gets the sinking feeling that it will be another average race.

On this side of the Atlantic the Indy Cars are racing at the Historic Mid-Ohio sports car course. 26 cars will take the green flag (hopefully, although Marty Roth may not get that far) and this will be another opportunity for the Chap Car transition teams to pick up points at the expense of the more oval oriented teams. Despite this I don't expect a whole lot of change at the front, as the top guns all have plenty of road course experience. I might suggest that this will be Helio Castroneves' opportunity to get his first win of the year, although those Ganassi boys will be tough to beat. They can't seem to do anything wrong and even at races like Nashville when things appeared to be going wrong for them, they come up smelling like roses. You have to be lucky to be good and you have to be good to be lucky, and everything appears to be going Target Chip Ganassi's way this year. AGR will also be a force to be reckoned with, as Tony Kannan and Marco Andretti have shown their abilities on road courses in the past, although Marco will have to get over his penchant for hitting things in order to get a good result. But when you consider that both Road Course races where the full field were competing have thrown up first time winners, we may see a surprise come through the field. If that happens my pick would be either Justin Wilson or Will Power. Both men were stars in Champ Car and both men have shown themselves to be very quick on road courses this year. Justin was running very well at both Long Beach and Watkins Glen when he suffered mechanical issues and one senses that this may be his time, while Will dominated at Long Beach and has shown to be very quick on road courses. This could be interesting as the men at the front will have to deal with much more competition than they are used to.

MotoGP will make it's first of two stops in the United States with the Red Bull USGP at Laguna Seca. One of the best motorcycle tracks in the world will be the venue and with things being very close at the front this race could be very exciting. Valentino Rossi is leading the standings, but third placed Casey Stoner has won the last three races and will be looking to continue his streak, while second placed Dani Pedrosa will be looking to rebound from his disappointing DNF in Germany last week. Couple that with Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden looking to impress on home soil, this could be a close race.

Lots of Good racing on offer this week, stay tuned for analysis here at Disgruntled racing critic.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

News and Notes, July 17

It has been a busy week in rumourmongerland with some interesting rumours, silly rumours and actual signings taking place as the silly season heats up.

We will start with an actual signing in F1, as one of the dominoes falls into place, and this one will come as no surprise to anyone who follows F1, and that is of course the announcement that Sebastien Vettel has signed to race for Red Bull racing starting next year, replacing the retiring David Coulthard. This has been one of the worst kept secrets on Formula One recently as it was obvious to anyone that Vettel would be a Red Bull driver next year, even before Coulthard announced his retirement. This should come as no surprise to anyone, seeing as Vettel is obviously extremely talented, and has been a Red Bull protege for a long time. The Vettel signing leads to the next obvious question, who will replace him at Toro Rosso next year? Gerhard Berger has already said that it is likely to be a rookie driver. The Obvious candidate has to be Bruno Senna who is doing very well in GP@ this year, is only 24, and oh yeah, he has that name. I am sure that Mr. E is salivating at the prospect of having a formula one series with names like Rosberg, Piquet, and Senna racing, although there is very little prospect of the Mansell name re-appearing it seems as the Mansell boys are not doing very well in Formula Atlantics, and at this point if you are struggling in that series your chances of making it big anywhere in open wheelers is pretty much shot. The other rumour, which in my mind seems rather silly, is a rumour that Giorgio Pantano will replace Sebastien Bourdais and partner Senna at Toro Rosso. Bourdais has not been bad in F1 this year, but he has been beaten rather badly by Vettel, who is tipped as the next German superstar by none other than Michael Schumacher. Pantano is leading the GP2 championship, but his first go at Formula One with Jordan in 2004 was a bust and he is 28, which is old in Formula One years. I have yet to be convinced as to why this is a realistic possibility, but I could be proven wrong.

Farther up the grid some interesting rumours are starting to come out as to who will partner Lewis Hamilton next year at McLaren. Current McLaren man Heikki Kovalainen has been blown out of the weeds by Hamilton most of the year and ROn Dennis has made it no secret that he wants Nico Rosberg in the seat and the Mercedes-Benz folk want someone a little more German than Kovalainen, although many people forget that Rosberg is actually German. Rosberg has a contract with Williams through 2009 and Sir Frank Williams has publicly stated that Rosberg ain't going anywhere. On the other side Rosberg has publicly said that contracts don't mean a whole lot and that he wants to go to Macca as it would obviously be his best chance at winning races. This promises to end messily with either a fistfight between Ron Dennis and Patrick Head (which I would pay big money to see), or a protracted legal battle that will end at the mysterious contract recongition board. If McLaren do manage to poach Rosberg from Williams then it would probably cost them a ton of money in compensation and would make them look very bad indeed. Stay tuned for this one as it promises to get really interesting.

Finally another tidbit of information, the on and off again NASCAR racer and ex world champion Jacques Villeneuve will be back in the cockpit of one of those beasts at the Nationwide series event in Montreal. This will obviously help marketing the event, but knowing Jacques' F1 record at his home track, I don't expect much to be honest.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mondayish news and rumour roundup, July 15

Sorry for posting a day late readers, I am sure that both of you are disappointed. Here is my roundup of news and rumours from the past eight days.

I will start with the most important piece of news, that is that of the return of a legend to the cockpit of a race car. I am talking of course of the one and only Sakon Yamamoto, who will replace Luca Filippi at the ART GP2 team. Yamamoto will bring a small fortune of experience to the team to replace the rather lackluster Filippi, who is a Honda F1 test driver as well. We will see how this pans out for Super Sakon, but one hopes it will be a springboard for a return to F1.

In other news Paul Tracy's comeback to IndyCars is confirmed with the announcement that he will run a Subway sponsored car for the Grand Prix of Edmonton in two weeks time. His car will be owned by Tony George's Vision racing program but Run by Derrick Walker with a view to run more races. What is more significant is that the car is sponsored by Subway, a huge corporation who may be convinced to up their sponsorship to allow Paul to run the rest of the season. Paul is a great character and someone that the IRL needs for PR purposes, even if he is washed up and accident prone.

Elsewhere fellow canuck Alex Tagliani appears to be on the verge of joining Conquest racing to replace Enrique Bernoldi. Conquest team owner Eric Bachelart is said to be unhappy with Bernoldi's performance and attitude and maybe the Ex-Arrows man has let the fact that he was once an F1 driver get to his head.

Gerry Forsythe is returning to open wheel racing as a team owner with the announcement that he will be running an Indy Lights team (the IRL equivalent of GP2) starting in 2009. This could be good news for the series as it may be seen as the start of an Indy Car team sometime down the road.

In F1 the future of the Honda driver lineup remains ever in doubt as Ross Brawn has been blatantly trying to avoid the issue recently, allowing the regular rumour mongers to have a field day trying to tell us who may not have their contract renewed. Rubens Barichello has been surprisingly quick all season while Jenson Button has been decidedly crap. At the start of the season it was assumed that RUbens would be out and Jenson the main man at Honda, but this season has clouded that.


Sarah Fisher racing has found a sponsor for two races this year, and that sponsor is Dollar General Stores, an American chain of Cheap-stuff stores with over 8,000 outlets across the US. This is great news as everyone's favourite hard working owner-driver (I do not consider Marty Roth hard working or a driver) will definetly be able to race in two races this year, Kentucky and Chicagoland, and she may be able to line them up as a sponsor to run the whole season next year. This is great news for her and for the IRL as the series continues to bring in big name sponsors like Subway and Dollar General. Sarah Fisher is a great ambassador for the sport and an inspirational story of hard work paying off.

Stay tuned for more news and rumours here as preparations get underway for the German Grand Prix and for the Indycar race at Mid-Ohio.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Indycar snorefest at Nashville

I am going to start by saying that I am not the world's biggest fan of Oval racing, especially not the four hour snoozers of NASCAR, but I do occasionally watch an IndyCar series oval race and find it genuinely exciting, Texas this year was an example, but last nights processional at Nashville was definitely not one of those races. The track is notorious for being tough to pass on because it has a concrete surface, making it extremely slippery. This race was also coupled with the fact that there was a threat of rain the whole night, something which ultimately stopped the race 30 laps early and so the winners were the ones who gambled late on and this time it was the Chip Ganassi drivers Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon, who elected not to pit for fuel and tyres 60 laps from the scheduled end under caution when everyone else did. This gave them vital track position and on a track where you can't pass they ran 1-2 when the race restarted and prayed for rain. They got it just in time as they would have had to pit within five laps of the red flag coming out, which would have handed the race to third placed Helio Castroneves. The rest of the race was one which was relatively incident free with only two crashes taking place, the first when the over eager Marco Andretti lost it on lap four and collided with the unfortunate Ryan Briscoe and the other when Ryan Hunter-Reay got bottled up in traffic, went into the marbles, and smacked the wall hard. The rest of the time was a procession of cars following each other with the only passing coming as a result of drivers losing momentum in traffic. On lap 135 or so the Safety Car came out because of slight moisture on the track and when the race restarted the only real pass took place all night when Helio Castroneves in fifth place got a great jump on the restart-challenged Danica Patrick to swoop by into fourth and then carried that momentum down the back straight where he got a tow from a backmarker and swooped into third in front of Tony Kanaan. Brazilian taxi drivers would be proud the way he cut TK off like that. Unfortunately despite a faster car all he could do from there was hope that the rain held off long enough to force the Ganassi cars to pit, which did not happen. So Scott Dixon won his third straight race at Nashville to extend his lead in the championship over Castroneves to 63 points but it was all due to sheer luck of the weather. Dixon and Wheldon played the Gambler at Nashville and came up aces, Kenny Rodgers would be proud.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Weekend racing Preview

There is no Formula One this weekend, but there is IRL racing in Nashville and MotoGP in Germany to speak of. I will start with the Indy Cars and they will be back on another oval track, this one with a concrete surface, making it more difficult to drive. There will only be 24 cars taking the green flag this weekend as Mario Dominguez's Pacific Coast team has not shown up, EJ Viso has contracted the mumps, yes the mumps, and in such short notice HVM will not field a replacement driver while Marty Roth's antics continue as he has decided not to field a second car for Jay Howard or John Andretti and he will be the only driver for his team. Assuming he crashes sometime in practice, the odds he will start the race are low and we may only see 23 cars at the start of the race as opposed to the 26 we have seen in the last few races. Roth's antics have really made an ass out of himself and his team. He has been black flagged for dangerous driving, he has been painfully slow, and he has crashed numerous times. Three DNS's from 9 races he entered due to accidents is simply unacceptable if the IRL wants to be taken seriously and although the best efforts of Brian Barnhart, the chief steward of the IRL, to sit him down, he is still allowed to race due to the fact that he has an IRL license. The problem facing the IRL is that they want to have as many entries as possible and if they revoke Mad Dog Marty's license he will probably take his toys and go home (aka close down his team) and the IRL does not want to lose an extra entries. Marty's midlife crisis of racing in the IRL appears only to be stoppable by a serious injury to Marty or the death of a fellow competitor due to an accident caused by his bad driving, which is a black mark against the lead (fancy how his car is all black). Roth has the business sense and racing experience to run a succesful race team without him driving, but his arrogance and desire to "live the dream" will hold ROth racing back. I would be surprised if we see much more of this team in the future and would be surprised to see them on the grid full time in 2009, although we may see him at Indy again next year. Let's just hope he doesn't qualify. On the track in Nashville I don't expect to see many surprises up front with Ganassi, Penske, and Andretti-Green taking the top few positions. One of the small teams like Rahal-Letterman, Panther, or Newman/Haas/Lanigan may get a top five, but with the big three so strong on the ovals I would be surprised. After a disastrous race at Watkin's Glen I tip the Ganassi boys, Dixon and Wheldon, to win this week, although the perenially strong, but unlucky Helio Castroneves could contend, not to mention Kanaan and Marco Adretti at Andretti-Green who could be right there.

On two wheels the MotoGP riders will be challenging the hills of the Sachensring in Germany. The humerously named Casey Stoner arrives with the momentum of having won the last two races but still trails championship leader Dani Pedrosa by 29 points, who has been on the podium in 8 of the 9 races this year, and in the other race he was fourth. Gazillion-times world Champion Valentino Rossi is second in the standings only four points behind Pedrosa and the "old man" of motorcycle racing (old being relative as he is 29) has plenty of experience and can never be counted out. He hasn't won a title since 2005, an epic drought in Rossi terms, and he will be Jonesing to get the number 1 back on his bike and after having finished a season worst 11th at Assen two weeks ago he will be hard charging to get his championship lead back. The race should come down to those three men, although rookie Jorge Lorenzo could pull a surprise, should be interesting.

In Indycar news and notes it appears that Paul Tracy is all but confirmed to race for Vision racing in a car run by Derrick Walker. The car is ready, sponsorship is there, PT just has to put pen to paper on the deal. The stumbling block appears to be money and Paul's ego (surprise, surprise), but the deal is expected to be done very soon. Another Canadian, Alex Tagliani, also appears to be close to making a return to open wheel racing. The Champ Car veteran has been in the motor racing purgatory of the NASCAR Canadian tire series and has been linked with a move to Conquest racing to replace the perenially useless Enrique Bernoldi. Team Owner Eric Bachelart is apparantly unimpressed with the ex Arrows-F1 man's performances and his attitude. Tag also claimed he had recieved offers from two teams. although it is unknown if one of those two was the Vision deal or if it was from someone else. We will see how this plays out, but the Edmonton organizers will want a big name Canadian driver, with all offence intended to Marty Roth.

Oh, and there is a NASCAR race somewhere in the US, I think Chicago.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday Morning news and rumour roundup: July 7

The big new to come out of this weekend was that Donington Park appears to have nicked the British Grand Prix from Silverstone for 2010. This seems all very nice and dramatic but one has to sound a note of caution as the "mystery backer" who was going to give 100 million pounds appears not to exist and so the folks at Donington have a plan to finance the venture by pre-sale of seats and by bonds. The DOnington people also say they do not have the planning permission to do the work, and with these British planning committees seemingly ultra slow in deciding things, a British GP and Donington park seems at this moment still unlikely. I do hope that they get things done in time because F1 really needs to keep the British GP safe as it is one of the classic races along with Monaco, Italy, Belgium, France, and Germany and if the Axe does fall on the British GP then I reckon F1 will be in serious trouble, as most of the teams are based in England.

There are rumours that Honda's Ross Brawn may try to court Fernando Alonso away from Renault. It is no secret that the Spaniard wants to go to Ferrari and that he is not exactly happy with his return to Renault, but a move to Honda seems a little far fetched. There are some upsides to a move to Honda for Fernando, most notably the deep pockets of Honda and a potential mega salary, and secondly Ross Brawn appears to be getting the team back on track after a horrendous 2007, but they are still a long way off from being championship contenders and Alonso has made no secrets about his unwillingness to rebuild a team, he wants to win NOW!!!!

According to reports, Ferrari are willing to shell out the cash to pry Sebastien Vettel from Red Bull, and a sum of 60 million euros has been bandied about by some members of the German media. There is no question that he is a star of the future and will probably be a Red Bull driver next year alongside Mark Webber, who re-signed for 2009, but Ferrari are looking ahead and the prospect of a Kimi Raikkonen retirement. This report may be pure speculation about the value of Vettel by the German media, who are desperate for a new Schumi, but realistically Ferrari will want Vettel to get another season or two under his belt before moving on, and with the rumours of Alonso already signing at Maranello there could be no space for a young hotshot wanting to win a championship as we all know how well Fernando deals with teammates who are close in talent to him and his precious ego.

On this side of the pond the big story is that Dario Franchitti's go at NASCAR has ended prematurely after team owner Chip Ganassi pulled the plug on his number 40 NASCAR team. Dario has been underwhelming all year in Sprint Cup and the team has no sponsors of note. The rumour mill is now churning as to where he will go, with most IRL fans wanting him back in IndyCars while the smart money is on him going to the American Le Mans series. Ganassi racing has not had a great time of it of late in NASCAR with Juan-Pablo Montoya up to his old tricks of crashing and blaming everyone else but him and with Dario and the other dude (whose name eludes me) being well down in the standings (thank you wikipedia for helping me with that one). Hopefully Dario will end up back in the IRL to improve the talent level and squeeze out some of the crappy pay drivers, but realistically he will probably go a different route.

In other tidbits of news from the IRL, Helio Castroneves has re-signed with Penske on a long term deal, although details were not disclosed. This is good news for Helio who had a weekend right out of a Monty Python sketch at Watkins' Glen and is second in the championship. Tony Kanaan injured his wrist in a practice crash at the Glen, he raced through the pain and finished third while Mario Dominguez and Pacific Coast motorsports returned to the grid and finished a solid 13th, a good morale boost for the under-funded team.

Not a lot of racing this week with no F1 on the schedule, but the IRL is back in action at Nashville Speedway and MotoGP is racing at the Sachenring in Germany and the ALMS are racing at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut and NASCAR somewhere in the USA, I don't know or care.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

IndyCar excitement at Watkin's Glen.

After watching an epic F1 race this morning, it was the Indy Car boys and girls' turn to put on a show at Watkin's Glen this afternoon. This race did not need rain, all it had were a few incidents, close racing, good passing, a great circuit and a first time winner, a recipe for an entertaining afternoon. There was plenty to talk about with some controversial incidents, and not just involving the usual gang of idiots at the back as usual, this time some big names made big mistakes, as well as the cock ups by the incompetent backmarkers. The former champ car drivers and teams were hoping to get some valuable points and it looked promising in qualifying with Justin Wilson lining up second and Oriol Servia fifth on the grid. Penske's Ryan Briscoe was fast all weekend and duly took pole from Wilson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Championship leader Scott Dixon, and Servia. The start was particularly exciting with Justin Wilson making a poor getaway and Dixon getting a good one, passing bot Hunter-Reay and Wilson to be second and right on Briscoes rear wing, a place he would stay most of the afternoon. Further back poor old Dan Wheldon had all sorts of trouble, being hit by Darren Manning and breaking his suspension, Wheldon would pit for lengthy repairs and emerge for a sunday drive 18 laps down to collect some points before getting bored and retiring. Second place man in the championship Helio Castroneves had the weekend from hell and it continued in the race. He started 26th and last after breaking down in qualifying and was working his way through the riff-raff when he had an electronic glitch and had to try to limp back to the pits, he almost made it when his car stopped at the pitlane entrance and he had to be pushed back to his pit to get a new steering wheel and to be restarted. This process became a comedy of errors of sorts and a furious Castroneves had to wait for first an attempt to borrow pit crew guys from Roth racing, who had nothing to do as Marty Roth had a stroke of genius and decided not to start. So poor Helio was in the Roth pit with the dollar store pit mechanics from Roth racing trying frantically to do something, which they could not do and Helio was frantically waving his arms for someone competent to come and help him. By the time this happened the hapless Helio was two laps down and had to spend his afternoon racing drivers he was not used to racing, hoping one of them would not screw up and take him out, a legitimate concern. Helio's dramatics unnecessarily brought out the Safety Car and it appeared to make little difference, but for the fact that the AJ Foyt team and their driver Darren Manning pitted and put themselves out of sequence. When the race restarted Briscoe and Dixon rocketed away once again and ran nose to tail for a while. After some green flag stops the order remained Briscoe, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, and Tony Kanaan with Manning doing a good job to stay out of trouble, more on him soon. On lap 39 the Dunce caps started to come out. The first incident causing a Safety Car occured when EJ Viso and the horrendously unlucky Vitor Meira collided, an accident that was decidedly Viso's fault. While Meira ended up in the wall furious Viso continued and was the recipient of some harsh words back in the pits by the livid Meira. This caused the Safety Car to come out (the only legitimate caution in the race) and everyone pitted, except for Darren Manning who had gambled on fuel. He had pitted on lap 30 and the Safety car came out just in time for him to try to save fuel and go to the end while the Ganassi pit got Dixon out ahead of Hunter-Reay and Briscoe, who found himself down in fourth. Meanwhile in the pits Danica Patrick looked decidedly amateurish by spinning in the pits and nearly taking out some of Dixon's mechanics. She lost her front wing and had to pit again, and to add insult to injury she was dinged with a drive-through penalty for hitting pit equipment, a forgettable day for Danica. At the restart there was trouble at the back when Enrique Bernoldi, being up to the same old tricks he got up to in F1, crashed on his own at the first turn. He was well out of the way and there was no need for a safety car but lo and behold it came out again and kept the field slow, with Manning leading from Dixon, Briscoe, Hunter-Reay and Kanaan. This safety car period was when the real action began. It first started down in the boot on the lap that we were supposed to go back to green when at the back the horrendously incompetend Milka Duno decided to ignore her mirrors and swerved and slowed right in front of the only slightly more talented AJ Foyt IV, taking both drivers out. Foyt was furious, Duno ran and hid, and we were stuck with a few more laps behind the Safety car to clean up this mess. We were still under caution two laps later when there was more drama, this time at the front where Dixon had a major brain fart and spun while heating up his tyres and collecting the luckless Briscoe who broke his front wing. Both men were able to continue but had to go to the back of the pack. A sheepish Dixon was man enough to take the blame and apologize to Briscoe after the race while a disappointed Briscoe nobly took the "shit happens" approach to the incident and went about his business, noble sportsmanship. All these shenanigans resulted in more sleep inducing caution laps as the order was now Manning, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Buddy Rice, and Marco Andretti who for a change managed to stay out of trouble. The race restarted with 10 laps to go and speaking of sleep, Manning must have dozed off during the protracted safety car period and was jumped by Hunter-Reay who just blew by him and built up a 1.8 second lead after just one lap while Manning had to fend off Kanaan. The green flag running lasted all of one lap before rookie Jaime Camara fucked up and crashed in the boot. He probably could have been moved without a safety car, but this being the trigger happy IRL the caution flew once more. It was only for two laps before the safety car peeled off and Hunter-Reay peeled off in the lead leaving Manning in his dust. Hunter-Reay duly cruised to victory from Manning, who had to deal with a mirror full of Tony Kanaan, an impressive Buddy Rice, and Marco Andretti, who tried desperately to get by Rice in the final laps. Ryan Hunter-Reay duly won his first race in the IRL (although he had two wins in Champ Car in 2003 and 2004) and Rahal-Letterman's first win since Buddy Rice won at Michigan back in 2004. Darren Manning recorded his best ever IRl finish with a second place and the only driver from the big three to get to the podium was Tony Kannan with a third place. It was an exciting race with some great battles and a great turnout ensured that Indycar racing is slowly making a comeback. Hunter-Reay has had a great season and the marketable American driver is just what the series needs to help publicity, it's just too bad that he isn't a woman in that regard.

British Grand Prix Review: Hamilton Creams the field

It's amazing what a little rain can do to spice up a Grand Prix these days. The weather separated the men from the boys in terms of the drivers and most importantly for the changing conditions, the strategists and in that respect Ferrari got it spectacularly wrong while Honda, McLaren, and BMW got it impressively right. It seems to me that the strategy woes we saw from Ferrari today would not have happened a few years ago when Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher ran the show and despite the fastest car in F1 this year they are throwing points away needlessly with silly strategy mistakes and in Felipe Massa's case, absolutely awful driving in the wet. But at the front, one can't go anywhere without heaping praise on Lewis Hamilton and McLaren. Lewis was simply brilliant right from the getgo making a great start going from fourth to second and then sweeping past teammate Kovalainen, the polesitter on lap four and setting off on his way. World Champion Kimi Raikkonen drove very well and closed right on Lewis coming up to the first pitstops, where McLaren got it right and Ferrari got it horribly wrong. The conventional wisdom was that more rain was coming and that new Inters was the way to go. ITV had talked to Ross Brawn who predicted rain and numerous radio contacts were predicting rain, which logically should have meant that new Tyres were the way to go. McLaren went for it, but Ferrari reckoned that it would dry out and kept Kimi on the same tyres. The result was that two laps later it started to rain (as predicted) and Kimi was suddenly left horribly screwed on worn out tyres lapping 6-7 seconds slower than those on new rubber. This led to the next strategy error on Ferrari's part where if they pitted again for new tyres then Kimi could start to recover, but instead they kept him out as he continued to lose truckloads of time before his stop. Martin Brundle reckoned that he lost forty seconds in the course of this. Kimi later pitted and drove brilliantly to recover to fourth, but without those crucial strategy mistakes a podium was probably on offer for the world champion. While Ferrari were tripping over themselves to lose the race, the door was opened for other drivers to step up to the plate, something that both Nick Heidfeld and Rubens Barichello did. Nick did not have a good first few laps and has not been great in the last few races but here he was awesome, scything through the field with some brilliant passes to get up to second by the end, just the confidence boost Nick needs. Rubens was, after Hamilton, undoubtedly the driver of the day who started from 16th and cut through the field with the help of some strategy genius from Ross Brawn pushed him up to the podium, and he could have been second had he not had a problem with his second stop and had to make a third. Rubens' first podium since 2005 was just what the doctor ordered for Honda. With Rubens dialed in this year at Honda and with Jenson Button spinning off again, the pressure may be getting to the Englishman and he may find himself on the outside looking in at the end of the year....... After Raikkonen came polesitter Kovalainen, who had a much more eventful race than he and McLaren would have liked. He had a couple of spins, he had to battle his way back, including a ding-dong battle with Fernando Alonso at the end, ultimately winning out over the two time champion. Jarno Trulli ended up seventh, after another solid performance. Jarno kept out of trouble and passed Kaz Nakajima at the end to take the two points. After years of inconsistent driving and of drivers stuck behind the "Trulli train" Jarno has really settled in this year and has kept picking up the points. Kaz Nakajima kept the car in one piece and ended up eighth to score a point. The Japanese driver had a few hairy moments with a few spins but didn't hit anything and ended up in the points at the end, beating his teammate Rosberg again (who made mistakes and DID hit something). Nico is supposed to be the undisputed star of Williams, but he has continually blotted his copybook with mistakes and shunts while the supposedly wilder Nakajima has kept the car on the road and keeps picking up minor points. Maybe everyone just assumed that Nakajima would be a wild driver due to the reputation of other Japanese drivers over the years, but Kaz has really shown himself to be a good choice this year. With Rosberg and Nakajima tied on 8 points, Nico's star is waning badly at the moment. 10th place went to Mark Webber, but that could have been much better had the Aussie not made a series of errors. The first and most dramatic was on the first lap when he spun in front of the field and was lucky not to have been run over. He was then last and proceeded to drive spectacularly through the field, overtaking drivers left and right, but another spin and some strategy issuses left Mark back in the pack, battling still with Seb Bourdais. Speaking of Bourdais, the Frenchman had another unremarkable afternoon to finish 11th. He only had one spin, which in such circumstances should have helped him get to the points but the fact is that he was just plain slow. Maybe his time in Champ Car and limited wet weather running was a real detriment in the race or maybe Vettel has just been that good and overdriving the car. He did finish ahead of Timo Glock, who had numerous spins and Felipe Massa, the championship leader. Where does one begin with the horror show that was Massa's race. OK, so we all know that Felipe is not great in the wet, but he was spinning more times than I can remember from him since he was driving a Sauber in 2002. Felipe, in my mind, drove absolutely terribly and it was not just a case of bad tyre strategy that hampered him, he was simply slow and error prone all day. This type of off day is one reason why most pundits, myself included, don't rate his chances of the World Championship very highly. Felipe is brilliant when everything goes his way, but facing adversity he still often collapses like a house of cards in a hurricane and with Kimi working hard to recover and with Lewis driving the balls off his McLaren in adverse conditions, the Brazilian seems to find himself on the back foot again, despite being still tied for the championship lead. He will need to be better in wet weather and adverse conditions if he ever wants to be World Champion. The fact that only seven drivers retired despite all the spinning race cars is a credit to the safety of silverstone. The first out were David Coulthard in his final British Grand Prix, and Sebastien Vettel, who qualified an excellent ninth. These two collided on the first lap in an incident that looked to be DC's fault. Not the way the Scot wanted his final British Grand Prix to end. The only contender to retire was Robert Kubica, who spun off on lap 39, but he was being beaten by teammate Heidfeld. This was a chance for RObert to pick up some quality points but he threw it away. He has been virtually mistake free all season while the other top guns were busy screwing thing up so he can be forgiven this time, but this is the kind of race that Robert needs to capitalize on if he wants to compete for the championship. Nelson Piquet and Jenson Button also went off, with no-one really expecting the rookie Piquet to do well in such conditions, but spinning off will do nothing to ease the pressure on him while Button threw away a potential points paying position in a silly manner, with Rubens now on 11 point so his 3, Jenson may be starting to feel the heat. The less said about Force India the better. Sutil, who thrives on these conditions, was up to 12th, before having a dramatic spin that could have led to a massive accident with Bourdais had Seb not reacted well, while Fisichella had a lazy spin while being lapped by Lewis. A chance at potential valuable points wasted.

All in all it was an exciting and dramatic race and everyone seemed to have a good time, everyone except Ferrari that is. The modern Ferrari team is not the dream team that we were used to seeing under Michael Schumacher. This team is one that lets it's Italian emotions get ahead of cool heads and sound decisions. Since Brawn and Schumi left the team we have seen a marked increase in strategic errors from the Prancing Horse while Ross has taking his strategic genius to Honda, who despite a lousy car are picking up valuable points when the come on offer and now Rubens has a solid 11 points and the team has 14, one behind Renault. I still reckon that Kimi Raikkonen is the championship favourite, but Lewis and McLaren can still pinch it if the team continues to throw away points like this, exactly in the way that Kimi pinched the title from McLaren last year. With three driver tied at the top on 48 point we could be in for another grandstand finish to the world championship. F1 has not been this exciting since the days of Senna, Prost, Piquet, and Mansell.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Weekend Racing Preview.

Hi there Race fans, time to preview this weekends racing action. We'll start with the British Grand Prix at the venerable Silverstone circuit in England. Ferrari will come into this race as the favourites (surprise, surprise) with Kimi Raikkonen determined to get a win after having a rather poor run of things lately, scoring just 8 points from the last three races, and he could have won the last race in France had there not been a problem with his car. McLaren will also be desperate to claw back into the title hunt with the formerly flawless now just slightly distracted Lewis Hamilton eager to win his home race and reap the rewards (that being a marriage proposal from James Allen) of a win on home soil. I am not looking forward to watching the ITV coverage because I reckon we will not see the race at all, it risks being all-Hamilton all the time which is unpleasant for everyone bar the Lewis Hamilton fans. Heikki Kovalainen will also be hoping for a good showing as he has only one podium and has generally been stuck racing cars a McLaren should not have to race. With the rumours coming out that he was McLaren's second choice one gets the feeling that he may not be driving the silver cars for much longer, unless he starts to comprehensively beat Lewis on a regular basis, and I can't see that happening at the moment. Speaking of drivers being trounced by their teammate and that could be fired, Nick Heidfeld will want to record a good result, or at least get into Q3. The German has seemed dazed and confused by teammate Kubica's pace and although he has been a BMW man for a long time now, his job is far from secure. He needs to step up to the plate here and get a good result because the BMW car should not be racing against Toro Rosso's as was the case for "Quick Nick" in France, and it was not due to any sort of penalty or mechanical problem, Heidfeld was just too slow in qualifying. The battle for best of the rest will be interesting with Red Bull, Williams, Toyota, and Renault all very close in pace, with the Adrian Newey designed RB4 being a regular points scorer in the hands of Mark Webber. David Coulthard, who announced his retirement, will want to get a good result in his final British Grand Prix. The Scot claimed he wanted to retire before he was to uncompetitive, but judging by this years results he may have already missed that boat. While Webber has scored points in six of the 8 races so far, DC only has one top 8 finish, and although it was a brilliant podium in Montreal, he has generally been much slower than Webber all year. Williams will hope to reverse their trend of qualifying well only for their drivers to screw things up in the race. The FW30 is a quick car, but Rosberg has not shown the consistency he showed last year and silly mistakes like his boob in Montreal do nothing for the team's confidence while Kaz Nakajima has increasingly looked to be a closer match to Nico's pace for the German's comfort. Toyota appear to have found some life that has been missing since pretty much 2005. Trulli's brilliant podium in France will do wonders for morale and they will be hoping to continue their good run of form here. Timo Glock was great in Montreal, but then slipped back to his usual ways in France, being beaten rather badly by Jarno. He looks increasingly to be a stand-in driver for 2008 while Toyota look for someone more permanent. If he wants to keep his job he, like Heidfeld, will have to pick up their pace in a hurry. Renault will probably be farther behind this group than they usually are. It is well documented that the Renault engine is down on horsepower, something that is needed at Silverstone. No matter how good Alonso is, he probably will struggle to get points, unless it rains while Nelson Piquet is still under the gun to start performing. His 2 points in France will help his case, but he needs to start doing that regularly in order to prevent himself going the way of the Michael Andretti. Honda will probably have another lousy weekend and if this trend continues heads may start to roll in Brackley. Jenson Button has been positively shit in the last two races and no matter how well liked he is within the team he will need to start performing like we know he can. Racing Toro Rossos and Force Indias for position is not something that the folks in Japan are keen to see and seeing Jenson make stupid mistakes like he did in France will have some executives wondering why it is they pay him so much money. He is another driver whose job is far from safe, as he is supposed to be the faster of the two Honda drivers. Toro Rosso will be looking to continue their improvement record with Sebastien Vettel doing very well lately, leaving his teammate Seb Bourdais somewhat in the dust. We all know that Vettel is supposed to be the next big thing, and he will probably get Coulthard's seat next year, but Bourdais has seemed to be a little out of touch at the moment. He had a great debut but since then he has been beaten consistently by his teammate. I don't think his job is under threat as he seems to be keeping out of trouble, but as Scott Speed and Tonio Liuzzi found out last year, Franz Tost has a very short fuse and Bourdais may find himself on the outside looking in if he doesn't start being more competitive. Last and pretty much least there is Force India, not a whole lot to say here as they are clearly the slowest cars on the grid and although Adrian Sutil tends to stay out of trouble, he has also been slow and Giancarlo Fisichella seems increasingly bored as a backmarker. One suspects that Fisi may be the next person to retire. With rain forecast for the weekend (rain in England, never!) we could see a lot of action, but the rain gods will probably be dicks like they were in France and not rain during the race, which is sad because rain is the only thing that can make a modern F1 race really exciting to watch.

Now that my really long winded F1 preview is over it is time to preview the upcoming IndyCar race at Watkin's Glen. 27 cars will take the green flag (assuming some don't smash up their cars in practice) with Mario Dominguez and the Pacific Coast team making a return. The only other lineup changes from Richmond will be the return of Jay Howard at Roth Racing to unfortunatly replace John Andretti and NOT Marty Roth while the second worst IRL driver after Roth, Milka Duno, will return at Dreyer and Reinbold racing after Townsend Bell raced at Richmond. Watkin's Glen is a good race track and one that the former Champ Car teams will really want to use to get some decent points in the championship. Grahal Rahal won the only Road Course so far that featured all the teams and drivers and will try to repeat that here. Graham has been very fast all year, qualifying very well, but has ended far too many races in the wall. Newman/Haas/Lanigan will probably be able to join the big three at the top by next year even and Graham will have to calm down a little to be a serious contender. Justin Wilson will need to step up his game, he has been generally slower than Graham all year, but has more points due to a much better finishing record. NHL appear to be the only team capable of challenging Andretti Green, Ganassi, and Penske out front so this race will probably be another one dominated by those three. With Six drivers fairly evenly matched in terms of speed in the top three teams the racing should be pretty good. Marco Andretti has started to test the patience of some fans with his accidents and his moaning to the media, one senses that he figures that he is untouchable because he is driving for daddy. Had he been driving for Penske one suspects his ass might have been out the door long ago.

Oh and by the way, there is a NASCAR race somewhere, I think Daytona.