Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Silly Season Roundup: Formula One

While there is less to talk about in terms of contracts on the Formula One front, there are still some interesting things going on. Following my Indycar roundup on Monday I will now do a team by team breakdown for F1

Both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are under contract for next year, but some question marks may be raised for 2010. Massa has outperformed Raikkonen most of the year and Raikkonen makes a heck of a lot more money. With Fernando Alonso clearly on the horizon for the Scuderia, one of these two may have to give, and it may just be Kimi if he doesn't pull up his socks. Thus:
Kimi Raikkonen
Felipe Massa

McLaren Mercedes
Both Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen are under contract for 2009 but Big Ron may look to someone different to be Hamilton's teammate for 2010 if Heikki does not start to be closer to Hamilton's speed. The Mercedes people are targeting a constructors championship and they will want someone who is more consistently fast than Kovalainen if current trends continue, Thus
Lewis Hamilton
Heikki Kovalainen

BMW Sauber
BMW has not confirmed either driver for next year but the word is that Robert Kubica is on the verge of extending his deal through next year. I see no reason why they would not keep him as he is obviously their driver of the future. Nick Heidfeld is a much more difficult case because for the most part he has been nowhere near his teammate. There are no rumours to suggest that he won't return, but with Fernando Alonso still unconfirmed there will always be that fruit of temptation for the Hinwil/Munich gang. I doubt we will see Alonso in a beemer next year, especially due to his previous record with young hotshot teammates, but Nick Heidfeld's job is far from secure. Thus
Robert Kubica
Nick Heidfeld

Toyota have placed themselves solidly as leaders in the best of the rest category thanks to solid drives by jarno Trulli and Timo Glock. Both men have been re-signed for next year and appear to have formed Toyota's most consistent partnership yet. This is not saying a whole lot as previous Toyota drivers include Ralf, "best driver on the grid one race and worst the next", Schumacher. Glock had a slow start to the year but since Montreal has really started to match trulli. The next Michael Schumacher he is not, but he could be on for a long and succesful F1 career. Thus:
Jarno Trulli
Timo Glock

Red Bull racing
RBR have confirmed both Mark webber and Toro Rosso Hotshot Sebastien Vettel for next year, a partnership which looks to be much stronger than this years. Frankly David Coulthard has been pretty poor all year, reminiscint of Damon Hill's final season and the rumour is that He may be out after Monza to be replaced by Vettel for the rest of the year. Given DC's poor performaces recently I think that this is all to likely, a sad way to end a Formula One career for one of it's best drivers of the last 15 years. Thus:
Mark Webber
Sebastien Vettel

The renault question is either simple or complicated depending on one man, Fernando Alonso. It is no secret that he will be gone for 2010, but the question remains about where he will be next year. Conventional wisdom suggests he ride out another year at mediocre Renault before jumping to Ferrari, but with Alonso things are rarely that simple. There are rumours that he will go to Honda, but that seems unlikely as why would he want to jumo from one average team to another. If Fernando stays then Nelson Piquet will probably stay as well. The Brazilian had a slow start to the year but has picked things up and seems to be in good shape for a drive. Flavio Briatore however is known to quickly change his opinion of drivers and so he will never be truly safe until he has a contract in hand. If Alonso leaves then there will be a gaping hole in their lineup. The team will want some experience, but there are no experienced free agents whose Renault Bridge has not already been torched. If Nick Heidfeld gets canned at BMW they maybe they will hire him, but that seems unlikely and I don't know if they will want to hire either a rookie or a has been like Takuma Sato. Bottom Line is that Renault"s lineup really hinges on Alonso, if he leaves then all bets are off. Renault also ahve a healty crop of talented young test drivers, but a revolving door of rookies is not the way to build a championship contender, something that renault management are aware of Thus:
Fernando Alonso
Nelson Piquet
Takuma Sato
Robert Doornbos
Lucas Di grassi
Romain Grosjean
Nick Heidfeld

Williams have confirmed Nico Rosberg and the man who was once considered the next Schumi will be desperate to have a better season next year. Kaz nakajima will probably be back alongside him, but his penchant for hitting things recently will not endear him to Sir Frank and Patrick. With a talented crop of youngsters available in GP2 they may just be tempted to borrow a driver, or even promote test driver Nico Hulkenberg, a move which would not impress engine suppliers Toyota.
Nico Rosberg
Kaz Nakajima
Nico Hulkenberg

Honda are in a peculiar position at the moment. The pump assloads of money into the team and they do nothing. Their current driver lineup is not exactly inspiring and their on-track performances this year have been pisspoor to say the least. Nick fry and Ross Brawn have flip-flopped on the job security of Button and Barichello, but Ross has openly admitted to be courting Fernando Alonso. Although Alonso is a longhot for them their is still a possibility, but with Honda's crop of yougsters looking a little dry at th emoment they may be stuck with their current drivers. The only other possibility would be to replace one of them with Anthony Davidson but that seems unlikely Thus:
Jenson Button
Rubens Barichello
Anthony Davidson
Fernando Alonso

Scuderia Toro Rosso
One thing is for certain, STR will have at least one new driver for next year and quite possibly two. Seb Vettel is definetly off to Red Bull and the leading candidate for his job appears to be Bruno Senna, who is second in the standings. There is also the possibility that Sebastien Buemi, the Red Bull backed swiss driver, will take the seat. The other rumour is that veteran japanese driver takuma Sato will take the seat. Gerhard Berger and Franz Tost want an experienced drivet and Taku may just be that man. They may also keep Sebastien Bourdais in the second seat, but unless the Frenchman shows significant improvement in the last six races his chances are slim. I think that Takuma sato will probably get one seat, and the second will be between Senna, Buemi, and Bourdais Thus:
Takuma Sato
Sebaastien Bourdais
Sebastein Buemi
Bruno Senna

Force India
Vijay Mjyalla has said that he will keep his current driver pairing, but recent performances by Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil have left a lot to be desired. Sutil in particular has been more and more accident prone recently leading to apparant second thoughts among the Force India team. They may keep these two for one more year just for the continuity's sake, as the team has gone through so much turmoil in the last few years, Thus:
Giancarlo Fisichella
Adrian Sutil

Monday, August 25, 2008

Silly Season Roundup: IndyCar Series

As the silly season gets sillier I will post a team by team breakdown of who will be driving for 2009 for both the IRL and Formula One. I will start with the IRL today and post Formula One later in the week.

Here goes
Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Scott Dixon, the probable champion for 2008 is a lock for Ganassi but the second seat is up in the air. Dan Wheldon is likely to stay, and has said he wants to stay but has not received an offer while Ganassi are saying that they want to keep WHeldon but have an alternative plan if he does not stay. With the news that Ganassi were courting Tony Kanaan it is understandable that Wheldon may feel unwanted, but realistically if he wants to keep winning races the only available seat is Ganassi at the moment. I expect him to re-sigh soon Thus:
9. Scott Dixon
10. Dan Wheldon

Penske Racing

Not much of interest at Penske as Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe are both confirmed to be back with the Captain's Crew for 2009 Thus:
3. Helio Castroneves
6. Ryan Briscoe

Andretti-Green Racing
This year AGR have been team turmoil, and Michael Andretti and Kim Green have spent too much time dealing with driver infighting and less time preparing race winning cars. Only two wins is not a good year for AGR and they will want to return to some degree of normalcy for 2009. Tony Kanaan has signed on to stay and Marco Andretti is the son of the team boss, so he will be back. Danica Patrick ain't going anywhere as long as Motorola keeps sponsoring her to the tune of $7 Million dollars per year. As the season has worn on Danica has been much better and yesterday's fifth place finish on a road course will boost morale for her. Hideki Mutoh is still unconfirmed but the leader in the rookie standing has heavy Honda backing so I see no reason why he would leave unless Honda decide that AGR are no longer their factory team Thus:
7. Danica Patrick
11. Tony Kanaan
26. Marco Andretti
27. Hideki Mutoh

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
We don't hear much about NHL's lineup for 2009 but there is no reason to believe that there will be any change. Graham Rahal has been fast but fragile this year while Justin Wilson has quietly gone about his business in the McDonald's car. The only reason I could see any change is if Sebastien Bourdais loses his job in F1 and NHL manage to court him back to the IRL, but that seems unlikely and if it happens they may just expand to a third car for him Thus
02 Justin Wilson
06 Graham Rahal
04 Sebastien Bourdais

KV Racing Technologies
KV are in an interesting position at the moment. They have proven to be one of the best, if not the best of the former Champ Car teams but they still may have sponsorship woes. Will Power's main sponsor is Aussie Vinyards wine and with Surfers Paradise probably not on the calendar for 2009 that sponsorship may disappear. Craig Gore insists that they will be able to keep two cars for next year and will have sponsorship for them, but that may mean losing number one driver Will Power to another team. It is a longshot that both current drivers won't be back so Thus:
5 Oriol Servia
8 Will Power

Vision Racing
Tony George's men have really been an all-oval team this year. They have been consistently in the top 10 on ovals but have been nowhere on road courses. This may have to do with the fact that their drivers have little Road course experience and so Tony may want to hire a road course veteran to compliment an oval specialist. Ed Carpenter will probably stay as he has been much better than Anthony Foyt IV most of the year but Anthony does bring sponsorship, although Tony doesn't really have money problems. AJ will probably stay on in a third Vision car, but if TG does decide to stay with two cars it may be Foyt that gets the boot. Vision have Bryan Herta as a "Road Course coach" and may just slide into the second Vision car or maybe Tony will hire Paul Tracy, who raced in a Vision owned car at Edmonton and had great success. I think Herta is more likely and so I reckon that Foyt will be out, Thus:
2 Bryan Herta
20 Ed Carpenter
22 AJ Foyt IV

Rahal-Letterman Racing

RHL will definetly be keeping Ryan-Hunter Reay as he comes with heavy sponsorship from the Ethanol alliance people. Meanwhile Bobby Rahal is talking up ambitions of running a second car should sponsorship materialize. Should this happen we may see a veteran driver joining Hunter-Reay and there had been rumours that man would be Dan Wheldon, although it is unlikely. They may end up bringing in a European-based rookie like Mike Conway, who is a Penske tester or even Anthony Davidson, although the latter will still be trying to resurrect his F1 career. There are plenty of young drivers in Indy Lights, Atlantics, and GP2 that could fit the bill but I give the nod to Conway if they do expand Thus
17 Ryan Hunter Reay
16 Mike Conway

Keith Wiggin's band of merry men are claiming that they will be running two cars next year and that EJ Viso will stay on in the number 33 car. I hope this is true but I would not know who to suggest as the second car, although someone from Indy Lights who has sponsorship or is marketable is likely. Thus I tip Ana Beatriz to take the second seat, she has bee a consistent top five driver in Indy Lights and has recorded a win thus year. She is third in Indy Lights points and oh yeah, is a woman, which will help Marketability Thus
33 EJ Viso
35 Ana Beatriz

Panther Racing
I have not heard any rumour to suggest that Panther will expand to two cars next year so I don't expect much. Vitor Meira has been very good for them and I expect him to stay Thus
4 Vitor Meira

Dale Coyne Racing
Dale Coyne will be difficult to read as they are a small cash strapped team. Bruno Junquiera has established himself as the teams number one guy and I expect him to stay but the second car is anyones guess. Mario Moraes has done a decent job but his presence will hinge on sponsorship and if another young driver like one of the Indy Lights title contenders Rafael Matos and Richard Antinucci come up with more sponsorship money then they could bump Moraes. If Moraes loses his job he could end up surfacing as an Indy only entry or even at another small backmarking team Thus
18 Bruno Junquiera
19 Mario Moraes, Rafael Matos, Richard Antinucci

Conquest Racing
Eric Bachelart's boys have established themselves as solid backmarkers and both Jaime Camara and Enrique Bernoldi are obviously there for their sponsorship money. Camara has been the better of the two (which is not saying much) and so I reckon that if one of the two is to stay then it will be Camara. I would be surprised to see Bernoldi back as Bachelart has not been impressed by the ex F1 pay driver. There are rumours of who will be his replacement with Franck Montagny being the leading candidate. Montagny was very good at Long Beach and has sponsorship connections. He is driving for Andretti-Green in the ALMS but could easily be courted back to the IRL Thus
34 Jaime Camara
36 Franck Montagny

Dreyer and Reinbold Racing
Another cash strapped team who are hard to read. Buddy Rice has been impressive all year and they will be keen to hold on to him, but there are also rumours that Rice will go to the ALMS for next year. The second seat will go to the highest bidder and unfortunately for the talent level of the field, that highest bidder will probably be Milka Duno. Townsend Ball may still be able to come up with the cash to share the seat again so due to lack of concrete news I say that the status quo will reign Thus
15 Buddy Rice
23 Milka Duno/Townsend Bell

AJ Foyt Enterprises
AJ Foyt's team will continue to press on with Darren Manning and potentially a second driver. AJ Foyt is an old-school oval racer and I suspect that any second driver he hires would be someone with plenty of oval experience. His relationship with Manning this year has been a love/hate relationship as it appears that AJ was about to fire Darren after the Englishman parked his car due to fatigue at Iowa but alas, good results heal all wounds and a second place at Watkin's Glen has appeared to have secured Mannings position within the team. A potential second car could be taken by AJ's grandson AJ Foyt IV if the younger Foyt gets loses his job at Vision, which at this point is not all that likely, or maybe someone like John Andretti, who was impressive in his few starts for Roth Racing earlier in the year. Paul Tracy or Scott Sharp could still be in the mix as well, but they are longshots, Thus
14 Darren Manning
41 Aj Foyt IV/John Andretti/Scott Sharp

Roth Racing
Marty Roth is insisting that he will be back next year to run full time, but it is undetermined whether it will be him driving the car. He may just realize that he is not talented enough, or maybe the IRL will make that decision for him. Roth's presence will likely hinge on whether or not Marty can be the driver, as they don't need money, although they have come up with a sponsor for the rest of the year Thus
25 (cringes) Marty Roth

Luczo Dragon Racing
The Coolest named team in the paddock are hoping to run a full season for Tomas Schekter but as usual it hinges on money. Jay Penske has shown that he knows how to run a team and if they get money to run the full season Scheckter could deliver some solid results. I Think that they will be able to get the money to run the whole year Thus:
12 Tomas Scheckter

Pacific Coast Motorsports
A Good run at Infineon still does not hide the fact that this team is struggling for money. Mario Dominguez has his visit Mexico City sponsorship but that may not be enough to keep them full time next year. They will probably run Indy and trim back to part time for next year Thus
96 Mario Dominguez-Part Time

Sarah Fisher Racing

If anyone deserves to run full time it's Sarah Fisher. She has Dollar General on board for two races this year and if she can convince them to give her more money she may be able to run a full year, although a limited schedule including Indy is more likely Thus
67 Sarah Fisher-Part Time

Forsythe Championship Racing

After coming out and saying they will run in the IRL next year all has suddenly gone quiet on the Forsythe front. Their presence is a longshot at best at this moment unless they come up with some mega sponsors. Paul Tracy take notice

Walker Racing
Another one of these "we will be there if we have money" teams, but I think their chances are slimmer than Forsythe's at the moment unless a driver comes up with 5 million dollars or so for next year, and there are very few of those.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Indycar Race Report: Penske Perfection

You knew it had to happen, Penske scored a 1-2 finish at Sonoma with Helio Castroneves winning from Ryan Briscoe and with Scott Dixon having an uncharacteristically poor day. Penske if you recall have not had a great week with their transporter being destroyed by fire resulting in millions of dollars in damage (two race cars were in said transporter). The Penske boys however set about their business by locking out the front row with Championship leader Scott Dixon lurking in fifth on the grid. Sonoma is a track that is not known to be conducive to overtaking so the front was the place to be. KV racing were also up to their usual party tricks in Quali by grabbing third and sixth on the grid while the only other driver making it into the fast six was Tony Kanaan, who ended up fourth. After that it was the usual chaotic gaggle of drivers on the grid with some notables like Dan Wheldon struggling, Wheldon was 16th on the grid while Marco Andretti was 10th. At the back Marty Roth was painfully slow as usual but due to Enrique Bernoldi crashing and not taking part in quali and the bizarre rules, he started 25th, more on Mad Dog Marty later on.

The Race was unusually clean for an Indy Car race with very few incidents considering the reputation of some of these drivers. It appears that the Usual Gang of Idiots (but MR) went to school to learn how to play nice together. From the beginning the Penske boys led, although they were unable to pull away. The just contented themselves to control the pace from the front and let the others sqaubble amongst themselves, obviously hoping that one of the accident prone drivers would take out Dixon. There were some slower drivers that made some great starts who started to get in the way, the most notable being Enrique Bernoldi who ran in and around 20th in the first stint. This mix of cars led to some unusual pit strategy being employed by the bigger team drivers caught in the midfield. The first of these was Hideki Mutoh who pitted for fuel on lap 9. He was followed by Dan Wheldon and EJ Viso who went off pit sequence hoping for some Safety car interventions to propel them up the order. This strategy ended up biting them a little as when they emerged they were quickly stuck behind the rolling chicanes named Roth and Bernoldi. Marty Roth was the first they encountered (as he was painfully slow) and there were some hairy moments as people tried to get past. It ended with Marty getting scared or stressed or something and spinning, which according to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio announcers resulted in cheering from the fans. Marty duly stalled his car and thus the Safety Car came out. Most of the leaders pitted aside from Briscoe, Danica Patrick, Mario Dominguez, and Ed Carpenter who became the new leaders, this allowed Briscoe and Dan Wheldon (who had managed to avoid the Roth train) to lead and duly rocket away from the third placed Patrick. From there it became a fairly uneventful race as through the pit stop shuffle Castroneves re-emerged ahead of the pack and stayed there until the end as there were no further safety car interventions. Tony Kanaan drove a steady race to finish third ahead of WHeldon, who was very aggressive and exciting all day, and Patrick, who had a quiet but solid day to pick up some big points. After an up and down season Danica is starting to find some consistency, unfortunately she has not been consistently on the podium. EJ Viso came home sixth after a very good run. He led some laps, drive aggressivly, and the big thing, did not run into anyone as he has been prone to do this year. After an incident filled year he is showing some promise and speed. With team boss Keith Wiggins planning to upgrade to a two car team next year he could be a man to watch in the future. The top ten was completed by Vitor Meira, Graham Rahal, Justin Wilson and Mario Moraes. And what of the KV you ask? Well they had far too many adventures for their own good and were let down by strategy, again. Oriol Servia and Will Power both ran strong early on but strategy relegated Servia to 15th and Power ended up dropping back slowly, then was busted for cutting the chicane and had to serve a drive through penalty and then on the penultimate lap he had chicane-issues again and crashed into the tyre barrier, not exactly the way to capitalize on a top three grid placing. Scott Dixon ended up finishing 12th, and with Castroneves winning and getting bonus points for leading the most laps the title race is definetly still on as the two protagonists are now separated by only 43 points, breathing new life into the final two races. The only retirement of the race was Tomas Scheckter for jay Penske's Luczo Dragon Racing team, who plan on racing at Detroit and Chicagoland as well after having missed much of the season. They are hoping to get the money to run the whole season next year, but mechanical failures like this won't help. The other part time entry in the field, Mario Dominguez, also had a good day, although he faded near the end. This is another team hoping to put together a full schedule for next year but it seems less promising than the Luczo Dragon entry. Both Schekter and Dominguez are quality drivers who deserve to be in the IRL, let's hope it happens.

This was by no means a classic but there was some hard clean racing throughout the field and there was a very popular winner. Hopefully the last two points races of the season are good races.

F1 race report: Massa wins at Valencia

OK so Felipe Massa won the European Grand Prix from pole. That is not surprsing in itself because Felipe has been pretty damn good recently, easily much better than teammate Kimi Raikkonen, the bad news for Felipe is that his main championship rival Lewis Hamilton finished second, reducing the impact Massa's win has on the drivers championship.

Everyone seemed really excited that this new and beautiful street circuit would produce an incident filled and thrilling race, with lots of passing, but unfortunately that was not the case and we were stuck watching a boring processional race. Had it not been for Ferrari's rather poor job at pitstops there would not have been much really to talk about. The fans on television were let down by the show, and the fans in the stands who came to see Fernando Alonso were let down by Kaz Nakajima on lap 1 really turning what had promised so much into yet another boring F1 race. Felipe Massa dominated from pole and never looked like being caught while Lewis Hamilton settled down in second and stayed there all afternoon while Robert Kubica did the same thing in third place, scoring a much needed confidence booster for the Hinwil-Munich men. One thing this race did do was confirm that this year, barring a miraculous turnaround, the world championship will be contested between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa, not Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was off Massa's pace all weekend, and had a far too ordinary race until his second pit stop. He was jumped at the start by Heikki Kovalainen and just sort of trundled around in fifth and ended up battling with Jarno Trulli's Toyota when his calamities happened. Kimi's troubles revolved around the Ferrari Mechanics, who had an uncharacteristically mistake-full race. Their first big problem came on Felipe Massa's second stop when someone in the Ferrari crew were not paying attention and released Felipe right into the path of Adrian Sutil. Felipe nearly collided with the Force India car and had to cede the place, only to pass him again on the track immediately. The Ferrari crew had no reason to force the issue with Sutil and Massa should have been paying attention himself. This was very nearly a spectacularly embarrassing way to throw away a victory and in cases where you are leading comfortably you don't need to do things like this. The stewards agreed and slapped Felipe with a $10,000 fine for his brain-fade. If this little incident was the end of it for Ferrari's pit crew then I would have no need to continue talking about it but no, the events continued, this time with a more serious incident. When Raikkonen came in for his second stop everything started well, but he was a little to over excited and tried to go when his fuel hose was still in the car and a mechanic was still holding on to the hose. The result was that the poor mechanic (Pietro Timpini) was run over by Kimi's rear wheel. This led to much scrambling and Kimi was sent on his way only for his engine to blow up a few laps later. The incident looked bad as Timpini was wheeled away on a stretcher but we hear now that he is not seriously hurt. Being off the pace and running over mechanics is not something we normally see from Raikkonen and if he wants to have any shot at the world title he will need to be much better in the final six races. He had a spectacular end to last year so it is still possible, but he will need to start performing immediately.

If Ferrari had an inconsistent day, it was BMW and McLaren who had a normal type race, McLaren saw Lewis Hamilton finish second, unable to compete with Massa and Kovalainen finish fourth, a very normal result for Heikki. The Finn has found some consistency, unfortunately he has been consistently slower than Hamilton and although he is staying at McLaren, one suspects that Ron Dennis is grooming him to be the next incarnation of Rubens Barichello. Robert Kubica finished a fine third and in what has become far too common, teammate Nick Heidfeld finished ninth and out of the points. After a great start to the season, the beemers have tailed off badly and it looks as though Kubica is overdriving the car while Heidfeld in underdriving it, something that may not be great for Quick Nick's job security. Toyota put together another solid performance to consolidate their fourth place in the drivers championship with a fifth place for Jarno Trulli and a seventh place for Timo Glock. Six valuable points for the men from Cologne will go a long way because both Renault and Red Bull had absolutely woeful days, suffering from the ills of Renault's weak engine. Sixth place went to the impressive Sebastien Vettel who was great all weekend in the Toro Rosso, obviously benefiting from the Horsepower advantage that the Ferrari has. Teammate Seb Bourdais was equally good with a solid tenth place finish and considering that Red Bull racing finished a terrible 12th and 17th, this will boost morale at Faenza. Nico Rosberg earned a much needed point for Williams who have both Honda and Toro Rosso breathing down their necks. Nico drove quickly and managed to avoid trouble (quite the accomplishment for Nico this year) and got his point while teammate Kaz Nakajima will be public enemy number one in Spain tonight as it was he who rammed the back of hometown hero Fernando Alonso's Renault and taking him out. Kaz limped back to the pits with the telltale sign of guilt on his front wing (or what was left of it) and had to get repairs. He reemerged and trundled around the back until he finished in 15th place, not a red letter day in his career that's for sure. Renault's day was pretty dismal with Alonso being the victim of Nakajima's Takuma Sato impression and Nelson Piquet being unspectacular to finish 11th. The Renault engine has a rather pronounced lack of horsepower and with Spa and Monza next on the calendar it could be a long couple of races for them. Red Bull and Honda were really awful in the race. Red Bull were nowhere near the pace and Mark Webber did decently to finish 12th while David Coulthard had another bad race, colliding with Adrian Sutil early while attempting a daft overtaking manouvre and needing repairs. DC finished 17th and last with the rumour mill churning that he may be canned before the end of the season. Honda were as bad as it gets really being nowhere near the pace and staying off the radar. There was no real reason to explain their lousiness, they were just slow and a 13th and 16th place finish is what they deserved. Force India were slightly less crappy than usual with Giancarlo Fisichella scoring a solid 14th place (he beat another team for a change) while Adrian Sutil was on television for all the wrong reasons (again), first for his close call with Massa and secondly with a lazy accident after locking the wheels, not exactly great driving.

Overall this race promised much and delivered little. At least our next race is Spa which has a habit of producing great races. Ferrari and Massa appear to have some momentum, but if Lewis continues to drive smartly he will be tough to overtake in the standings. The close title chase is exciting, too bad the on-track racing isn't.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Weekend racing preview

Ok race fans we are back up and running.

After three weeks off the formula one funny farm is back at the brand new street circuit at Valencia for the European Grand Prix. It is a street circuit, a circuit type that, aside from Monaco, F1 does not frequent very often. The track is a little unlike most street circuits in that is is fast and relatively wide with opportunities to overtake. This track could very well see some accidents and the appearance of the safety car, so reaction to this will probably be what determines the winner of the race. McLaren have proven recently that they have been very good at this and Lewis Hamilton has proven to be good at tight and twisty circuits so I tip him to be the favourite for the win, although Ferrari will be very strong as well, the red machines are just too good this year. Of the others so far Fernando Alonso and Renault will probably be best placed to be best of the rest as BMW are struggling on tyres and Renautl have figured it out recently. Fernando will really want to impress his home crowd so don`t be surprised to see Renault do a little grandstanding in final qualifying to get Fernando on the front row. If there are some surprise points finishers on Sunday look to Torro Rosso to be there, Sebastein Vettel has been impressive all season and was fastest in first practice while struggling teammate Sebastien Bourdais was fourth. Of course in reality first practice means very little, but it could be a sign that Torro Rosso are still improving as the season progresses. We will see in qualifying what happens, but this points to being a very entertaining race, and we won't even need rain!!

The IRL is in California this week at Infineon raceway (sears point) a twisty and hilly track that is tough on the drivers. Scott Dixon has to be the early favourite as he has run well in pretty much every race and with the Penske team scrambling to get cars ready after a fire destroyed their primary cars and with Andretti-Green racing just starting to sort their affairs out there appears to be little competition for the big red (target) machine. Some of the former champ car teams like Newman/Haas/Lanigan and KV could compete for the win, but in the end it always just seems that despite leading and being fastest they struggle with strategy and end up giving the race to A Ganassi or Penske driver. Dixon has a commanding lead and could concievably clinch the title on sunday if he wins and Helio Castroneves has a particularly poor day. All of the top teams tested at Sonoma this week so it may end up being a case of the have's beating up on the have nots and so a Ganassi, Penske, or AGR win seems the most likely. There are 27 cars in the field for the race and so there could be quite a few cautions, especially with a trigger happy race director and the number of accident prone muppets in the field so strategy may be the deciding factor, something again that the big teams do best at. Infineon has not been a track prone to surprises and so don't expect one here, hopefully we at least get a good race.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Disgruntled critic is back on track

Hi all

After a hectic couple of weeks when I have been run ragged by life I now have some quiet(ish) time coming up so I can concentrate on blogging again. Both the IRL and F1 are racing this weekend at Sonoma and Valencia respectively and I will be previewing those events. The F1 race at Valencia will be held on a cracking street circuit that promises to provide some excitement, whoever designed the track really knows how to design street circuits, someone should hire him over here to redesign some of the street circuits used in the IRL, as most bar Long Beach and Surfers paradise are absolute shite (see Belle Isle Park). My good friend and co-operator in the blogging business Pete DaSilva has a great first post about the street circuit on his new blog here:

In news and notes, it appears that things aren't going so hot (or perhaps too hot) for Penske racing in the IRL as their transporter carrying their race cars and pit equipment for the Sonoma race caught fire last night en route to the race. Team manager Tim Cindric estimates that the losses will be a few million dollars, which will hurt the team. Penske has no shortage of money do to their Marlboro connections (they are essentially still Marlboro Team Penske they way that in F1 Ferrari are still essentially Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro), but with the championship push still technically on, this is a really unfortunate disaster for them. They do have backup cars that they can fly in from their base in North Carolina but apparantly they are Oval configured cars for the twisty sonoma track. If Penske get a significant result this weekend it will be a great performance from their drivers.

In other IRL notes, the entry list for the Sonoma race has been released with sadly no Paul Tracy, but with the return of the fast but accident prone (not another one!) Tomas Scheckter for Luczo Dragon Racing and with Mario Dominguez racing because it is a road course. Unfortunately Marty Roth is still entered as the driver for his own team, so there is one extra hazard on the track this weekend. If the IRL wants to be taken seriously, this dingus and his ego have to go, they can't keep letting Mad Dog Marty putz around getting in the way and expect people, especially Europeans, to take the league seriously. Marty's presence just makes the league look amateur and unsophisticated at the same time that Tony George is trying to make people believe that the IRL is a major motorsports series. If revoking Roth's racing license means having one less car each weekend then it is a risk that Tony should be willing to take because he no longer needs these lousy backmarkers to make up the field. Right now there is a solid 20-something serious entries per race with talented drivers in the cars, but Roth and sometimes Milka Duno are still there miles off the pace bringing the whole series down. In 1992 F1 banned the Andrea Moda team for bringing the sport into disrepute and maybe it is time that the IRL do the same to Marty Roth.

Friday, August 15, 2008

rumour roundup: friday Aug 15

Fisrtly I would like to apologize for the lack of posting. I have been super busy this last week and I did not even manage to see the Kentucky Indy race. I will try to fuind a replay to watch it and publish a report, but I don't know when. But I do have some interesting rumours to talk about and potentially create.

I will start in F1 where all does not appear to be well in Sebastien Bourdais-land. The four time Champ Car champion has been trounced regularly by his teammate Sebastien Vettel (who according to some is the next coming of Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, or Jesus) and is now suddenly finding himself in a spot of bother when it comes to his future. Seabass as he is sometimes annoyingly called over here could find himself on the outside looking in next year as team co-boss Gerhard Bergercould be looking at replacing him with Super Aguri refugee Takuma Sato. berger has said he wants an experienced driver with a talented rookie and Taku appears to be considered as the best experienced free agent out there. I am a bit skeptical about this as Taku never really had that great a career. He had some spectacular runs but he also was extremely accident prone and it doesn't seem logical to have a leader by example who runs into others habitually. Bourdais has said he is not fully comfortable with the car but I hope he gets to keep his job as he is a talented driver who was in the North American motorsports environment for too long, which is much different than F1. We will see but I hope it ain't true.

Continuing with my Toro Rosso theme, the race for Sebastien Vettel's job is heating up with various rookie drivers trying to stake their claim. The two frontrunners are Bruno Senna and Sebastien Buemi, but scottish DTM driver Paul di Resta is now insisting that he deserves a chance at the seat. Di Resta has been racing in German tin-tops for a couple of years now and has been impressive, but is the DTm really a good feeder series for F1? The only driver to have come from the DTM to f1 recently was Christijan Albers who had two and a half unsuccesful seasons with Minardi, Midland, and Spyker. If Di resta does get an f1 seat it would be a cruel kick in the groin to Gary Paffett who has been on the cusp of getting into F1 for years now but has never gotten the call. I highly doubt that Di resta has a shot and I think it is jut a young ego with delusions of grandeur talking as opposed to something really serious.

Coming back to the IRL there have been some interesting faces appearing at a test session at Sonoma this week. One of the most interesting is Mike Conway testing for The panther team. Conway has Honda backing and has tested for the Honda f1 squad but his time in GP2 has been less than succesful. If Panther were to expand to two cars they hay be able to get some Honda running for Conway, who is no slouch behind the wheel and could impress, although he would need to learn how to race ovals. A larger car count is always good, especially when they are filled with talented drivers like conway as opposed to hacks like Duno and Roth.

Other notable test drivers driving at Sonoma were Laex Lloyd for Ganassi and Romain Dumas for penske. dumas drives for Penske in the ALMS and knows the track very well, he is a sports car specialist so we are unlikely to see him in an IndyCar but Lloyd is a different case. Lloyd drove the Indy 500 and did a decent job and has been linked with various full time rides. Testing for Ganassi probably won't open up a seat for him for 2009 but it could definetly lead to a seat somwhere elseo, potentially with Rahal-Letterman racing. Both Lloyd and Conway would be great additions to the IRL.

Speaking of Ganassi, Dan Wheldon is still without a cotnract. The 2005 Champion is one of the highest paid drivers in the field but he has not been great last year and this year, being soundly trounced by teammate Scott Dixon both years. Wheldon is not stupid and he knows that he won't get anywhere near the reported $3 million per year he is making now but he may be chafing to get out of Dixons shadow. Wheldon is one of the ebst on the ovals but has been decidedly average on the road and street courses, which will hamper his value. Unfortunately for the Englishman the only place to be if he wants a top ride is at Ganassi and his ego may take him on a Jacques Villeneuve-esque move for big money to a smaller team with disastrous consequences for his career. He is still one of the top oval drivers in the IRl (witnessed by his two oval wins this year) but with the ever increasing number of road and street courses his value is dropping. A move to rebuild his career at a newer or smaller team is a good idea on paper, there is noone out there but Ganassi who has the money to pay him what he will probably ask for. I expect him to sign a one year contract with Ganassi while he actively seeks something else.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Preview and Rumour update.

The Indycar funny farm is off to Kentucky this weekend for another race on a 1.5 mile speedway. This is a race where the big three of the old IRL will probably dominate so surprise winners are unlikely. There are 26 cars entered in the race this weekend, the oncl changes to the line-up from Edmonton are the addition of Sarah Fisher driving her own car to be sponsored by Dollar General and the lack of mario DOminguez and Pacific Coast motorsports. PCM are going to run the two remaining road course races this year as Accidents there tend to be less expensive than accidents on Ovals (Mario is good at doing both) and the team is just barely staying afloat as it is. The other change is the return of the much maligned Milka Duno at Dreyer and Reinbold racing to replace Townsend Bell who raced at Edmonton. The old Oval specialist teams like Vision and Panther will be ebtter while Newman/Haas/Lanigan and KV racing will be poorer, although the ex champcar teams are getting closer, leaving only Marty Roth to be an uber-backmarker. Speaking of Mad Dog Marty, the Torontonian will still be driving his onw sponsorless car this weekend, let's just hope he stays out of the way and doesn't cause too many accidents. In looking at the front of the grid this will probably be another Ganassi-Penske duel with the Dixon-Castroneves-Wheldon axis probably going to be at the front of the field. Ryan Briscoe has not been as strong on ovals as he has been on road courses so he may end up battling with Andrett-Greens band of not-so-merry men (and women) for the top five. Tony Kanaan will probably run well here and potentially could steal a victory, but witht the current turmoil surrounding his team it seems a tad unlikely. Marco Andretti will probably run failry strong before he crashes, which at his current rate is more of a when than if situation. Marco got quite the tongue lashing from his father/boss after his foul-ups at Edmonton and will be looking to stay out of trouble this weekend so we may see a more cautious Marco this weekend, but then again we may not and the accident will ensue. Danica Patrick will probably loudly slip into the top ten as usual. Normally one would say she was going quietly into seventh or eighth, but with Patrick nothing ever happens quietly. The only other notable entry that may have a shot at a good finish is Ryan-Hunter reay for Rahal-Letterman. Ryan has been effective all year and had a real shot a t a podium in texas before being in the wrong place (close to Marco Andretti) at the wrong time (anytime during the race really) and ended up in the wall. He and Vitor Meira may be the frontrunners for best of the rest. After these there are the usual gang of idiots in the midfield who will be squabbling over 15th place or so, thse include the Dale Coyne and Conquest cars, both Vision cars, both Dreyer and Reinbold cars (although Milka will probably be battling for 25th), The HVM and AJ Foyt cars and Sarah Fisher, who although she will try with all her heart she is driving an underfunded car with very little practice time and a skeleton crew. I sincerely hope she can avoid some of the menaces posing as race car drivers in the midfield to finish the race solidly so she can at least race again at Chicago in September. Sarah is a smart driver who is good at staying out of trouble and she was so unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time at the Indy 500 and with larger fields this year there are a lot more wrong places and wrong times this year. Fisher is a class act and deserves a good break or two.

The Rumour update surrounds Tony kannan. Yesterday Robin Miller reported that TK was set to sign for Chip Ganassi and I posted that here, but then late last night it was announced that he was NOT going to Ganassi but will stay at Andretti-Green for another five years. This is great news for AGR because TK is the only real veteran they have and his input is invaluable for their continued success. It appears that TK may have wily used ganssi's interest and Robin Miller to increase his bargaining position and get himself more money, if this is the case then kudos to TK fotr that. He is one of the best drivers in the field and deserves to be paid accordingly.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Indy Car rumour mill running over time

The Indy Car rumour mill is in full swing and the big story revolves around Tony Kanaan. The 2004 Series champion has made no bones about being unhappy at current team Andretti-Green Racing and wants out. The big rumour now has him going to Ganassi Racing, possibly to replace Dan Wheldon, possibly in a third car. This year Ganassi and Penske have proven that a two car team is the way to go and have largely dominated the season and both teams have great drivers currently. A move to replace Wheldon seems more likely but it would be an unfortunate slap in the face for poor Dan as he has been pretty good this year but has been outclassed by Scott Dixon, his teammate. Wheldon has still managed to win two races this year and is third in the standings. The problem Wheldon may be facing is where to go next year? Wheldon will not want to go back to AGR, he didn't exactly leave on good terms after his 2005 championship and there are no other teams with vacancies in position to fight for victories and championships. One rumour suggests that he could be in a second car for Rahal-Letterman racing, but he would probably have to bring some sponsorship and would not get anywhere near what he is making in salary this year. He could go to Vision racing, Tony George would love to have a major star in one of his cars (apart from Paul Tracy) or maybe even a small team like Dale Coyne or Panther racing, but both options would probably require Dan to bring some sort of sponsorship money. If this is true, and it probably is (it was first reported by Robin Miller) then it could have some serious ramifications for Andretti-Green. Kanaan was the workhorse and undisputed number one and has really kept that team in contention to be considered a top team, without him AGR will probably struggle to maintain such a record with four cars. The rumoured replacements include Ex-F1 and current AGR Sportscar driver Franck Montagny and current Atlantic series star Rafael Matos. Both driver are good, but it would be a long way down for the team to have someone with very little IndyCar experience filling TK's shoes and being thrown into the circus that is AGR. Maybe Marco Andretti will suddenly mature and become a legitimate number one, not likely, but one never knows. The only other potential option may be Sebastien Bourdais if he is not re-signed by Toro Rosso in F1, but he may not want to come back to North America as one senses his ego tells him he is too good for the series. He would be a great pickup for the new IRL and he could probably start winning races immediately, although he may look at the AGR shit show and cringe.

The other big IRL news is that they have a new TV deal with........ Versus!!!! Yes the former outdoor life network will be adding the IRL to it's lineup of hunting, fishing, and Hockey. This move leaves one really underwhelmed as Versus has become the abyss that has consumed the NHL and left it a niche sport with very little coverage. One fears that this will be a disaster for the IRL and waste all the good effort of unification. So far unification has not really brought about the rating increases that were hoped, although more arses are in the seats at races (this weekend's race at Kentucky is close to sold out) so there is promise, but the chronic lack of exposure on Versus could undo that. I hope I am wrong but I have a bad feeling about this whole thing.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Race Report: Massa all but wins in Hungary

Dear readers.

I apologize for the lack of posting in the previous few days but I have been constantly on the go. I will also be the first to admit that I did not get a chance to see the whole race so this will be a shortened report so here goes

Poor old Felipe Massa. Here is a man who is supposed to be second best at Ferrari behind last years world champion, he is supposed to struggle to win from back on the grid, who is supposed to be inconsistent, and is not supposed to be a legitimate contender for the world championship. Massa qualified a so-so third (three places higher than Raikkonen) and with a McLaren dominated front row this was supposed to be another Lewis Hamilton victory. The Hungaroring is a track where passing is difficult but it still throws up the odd surprise and this time it was no different. At the start Massa had a dynamite getaway and was alongside Hamilton on teh outside going into turn one, It was man to man and Felipe held his outside line, braked late, and swooped around Hamilton on the outside to take the lead. From tehre it appeared to be all over. Hamilton could not keep up with Felipe and it looked to be Massa-Hamilton finishing 1-2 until Lewis had a puncture and pitted for a new tyre, he would finish fifth. Meanwhile Timo Glock was driving a storming race in his Toyota and inherited third behind Heikki Kovalainen who stayed out of trouble. Massa was cruising and was on for ten points to Hamilton's three and Raikkonen's five. This result would put Massa into first in the world championship with seven races remaining, everything was looking great for Felipe and Ferrari when with three laps to go everything went horribly, horribly wrong. On that lap there was some smoke coming from the back of the Ferrari and on the start finish race there was a mighty bang behind Felipe and he coasted to a stop and one could hear the cruel laughter of the racing gods. This cruel twist of fate gifted the race to Heikki Kovalainen, who duly won his first ever grand prix. It was a great result for Heikki who seemed to be in danger of losing his ride in recent weeks before it was announced that he would be retained for next year. Heikki responded in the best possible way and deserves a first win, although Massa will feel as though he really deserved this win, but hey, Heikki crossed the line first. Second was Timo Glock with his first career podium and his best career grand prix weekend. He qualified a brilliant fifth and drove a consistent race to inherit second after Massa expired. There were some eyebrows raised when Glock was hired by Toyota and he had a slow start to the season but has been getting better and better and deserves this good result. Toyota are now up to fourth in the championship with Glock's second place and Jarno Trulli getting points for seventh and with Red Bull failing to score yet again the men from cologne are cruising to fourth in the championship. If they do get fourth then their main competition appears to be Renault. The 2005 and 2006 constructors champions had a woeful start to the year but have rebounded impressively to collect some mega points yesterday with Fernando Alonso fourth and Nelson Piquet sixth. They have scored 19 points in the last three races compared to Red Bull's 0 and are now seven points ahead of RBR and looking good. If Toyota and Renault had great days then BMW Sauber had a dismal one. Robert Kubica started fourth but faded badly to eighth while Nick Heidfeld started fifteenth and finished tenth. BMW were contenders for the constructors championship four races ago but now find themselves in third and struggling while the likes of Toyita and Renault are getting much better. Their position of third is under no threat, but they are not in contention for the top two spots anymore, after a promising first half of the season they have faded badly indeed.

The next race is in three weeks in Valencia with Lewis Hamilton five points up on Kimi Raikkonen and eight ahead of Felipe Massa in the championship standings. This has been one of the most competitive F1 seasons in a long time and it is anyones guess who will do well in Valencia. It is a street circuit and it could create a surprise or two. Congrats to Heikki Kovalainen and McLaren for the win, but Ferrari will be rebounding in Valencia you can be sure.