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F1’s new elite: not so elitist
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Posted By: James Allen  |  14 May 2012   |  9:54 am GMT  |  353 comments

Pastor Maldonado’s victory in yesterday’s Spanish Grand Prix as well as strong showings from Grosjean in the last two races and from Sergio Perez in Malaysia is highighting an important point about F1 and the relative state of the drivers.

Do we often not give enough credit to the drivers in midfield cars?

For years F1 races have been won by an elite of drivers from top teams with perhaps only 7 drivers managing to visit the F1 podium in the course of an entire season. In five races this season, we’ve already had 9 drivers on the podium and five different winners.

But this year with the performance of a number of cars so close and with the way the Pirelli tyres work, it is offering an opportunity for more drivers to shine.

Traditionally when drivers arrive in F1 they have usually won races and championships in junior categories, but then they find that in midfield teams they struggle to shine. Fans dismiss them because they aren’t able to fully evaluate what they are able to do, as they are lost in the soup of midfield.

However in 2012 we’ve seen some stunning drives from the likes of Perez and particularly Maldonado yesterday, which makes everyone realise that success has been more about opportunity and car pace rather than elite driver ability. Of course the cream rises to the top and the leading drivers are in top teams with big salaries for a reason. They become the elite because of the consistently high peaks of performance from Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton and other top stars.

They have always won because their teams build them fast cars, get them set up to maximise the tyres and then take advantage of the car pace to get the strategy right. That has always been the way of F1.

But the positive thing about the racing this year is that it shows that given a chance with a car which can use the tyres well, a wider range of drivers can shine.

It was a similar story in 2009 when Jenson Button showed that his poor results with Honda were to do with the car, not him and that he was capable of winning a championship.

Perez and Maldonado were dismissed as ‘pay drivers’ because they have strong sponsor backing from their home countries. But after Malaysia everyone was talking about Perez getting a Ferrari seat and Maldonado impressed even the most hardened F1 insider yesterday. Others like Di Resta and Kobayashi are surely capable of doing the same, given the opportunity.

The championship will be won by one of the elite, but it’s refreshing for the drivers deeper down the field to show that they should not be underestimated.

To keep up to speed with all the latest F1 news and developments use JA on F1 Connect to give you the full picture at a glance.

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353 comments

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1
Soumya Banerjee

Idk why the likes of Raikkonen and Button are not considered to be of the same quality as Vettel,Hamilton or Alonso. Hamilton had a disastrous 2011,much worse than Kimi's 2008,yet he has always been considered to be the better driver. We live in a strange world!!!

2

Agreed. I think Hamilton is super fast, probably faster over one lap than anyone (maybe Raikkonen can equal him though). They are all different, they all have different strengths. Button has been under-rated in my opinion since his championship.

3

I agree about Raikkonen, but not Button.

This year's format should be suiting Jenson perfectly but he's not really taking advantage like you would expect him to.

Also, I think the fact that he hasn't even managed one pole position since joining McLaren is a bit of a blotch on his CV. I know F1 isn't always about who's quickest over a single lap but he's consistently off the pace.

4

Ah. But Button has always been a driver to travel forwards in the race. And in the end that's all that matters. It's like Lauda/ Prost and Prost/Senna where the latter was the useful talent wth more raw pace but the former was better at racing and used tactical advantage. Really that's Button and Hamilton. Remember that Button was considered in the same light as Hamilton when he arrived except that he never got a chance to show his worth until 2004 and even then until 2009 to rise above the best. He's never been a qualifying driver and for that he can't be knocked. He hasn't got any poles with McLaren. Well it's only a 4:0 ratio as Hamilton hasn't been getting many poles either. yet the wins ratio stands at 6:6. Hmm... Button's has converted ZERO poles into SIX wins. Surely that shows how irrelevant comparing Button in qualifying is

5

Good points.

6

Hi David,

I feel there is a bit more too it than your analysis. The last win by Button in Melbourne was unique in the sense that it was him winning from pure performance. In the first four the weather played a significant role. In 2010 in Melbourne, Button was performing poorly on the intermediates, so he took a gamble on coming in early. He got away with going off, and only won because Vettel had a failure. In China 2010, he made the right call on not changing tyres, which put him in a race with Rosberg, who made an error.

In Canada 2011 he had a car that was dialled in to the conditions. He got away with several collisions and was played in by the safety car. In Hungary, he won because Hamilton made some mistakes. In Suzuka, he probably would have been behind Lewis if McLaren had sent him out in time for a second run in Q3. Jenson was behind Lewis when Lewis got a puncture.

In those first five wins, other factors applied, such as Jenson using his head, rather than race pace as such. Four of the six wins Jenson has had at McLaren should have been won by other drivers.

In the current Pirelli era, the position on the first lap is vital. Last year Jenson put himself in positions where it was impossible to win because of his poor qualifying and starts (Webber too). By then Vettel would be gone and could control the race.

Button would make late race gains, particularly passing Ferraris that he should never have been behind. Yes he can put together excellent races when he is happy with the car, but it is usually from too far back to win. The second half of 2009 was full of drives like that. Jenson would make huge gains after an average position at the end of the first lap.

When you consider that Malaysia, a wet race, is the only race the year where the winner hasn't started from the front row, quyalifying is still vital. The McLaren has the most downforce in the field. Since the engines are so close this make Lewis and Jenson favourites for pole. Jenson has been an abject failure in that regard this year.

When you compare him to Alonso, who can qualify and race smart, in this current era Jenson is starting at a large disadvantage and his tyres aren't likely to cope.

Cheers,

Martin

7

What? Moving forward in a race is all that matters? Not winning then? Seriosuly? It's ok to qualify seventh in a car that is capable of pole but as long as he moves forwrads (which he did not do on Sunday by the way) a couple of places that's ok?

"He’s never been a qualifying driver and for that he can’t be knocked." Why can't he be knocked for this? It's part of his game that lets him down reasonably consistently.

Button had his best season last year at a time when Hamilton had his worst - that is why he finished ahead in the wdc. Hamilton still won as many races as Button last year, despite Hamilton having his worst ever season.

This year Hamilton has been plagued by team errors more so than JB, and yet is ahead of him in the standings. Normal service will be resumed this year and the gap between Hamilton and Button will be wider with the advantage to Hamilton. Would anyone really bet a tenner of their money against this, bias aside?

8

Are we not agreed that if Button was better in qualifying he would get even better results in the race?

It's Jenson's biggest weakness that he HAS to move forward in the race, even when he has the quickest car. To be considered amongst the elite he shouldn't HAVE to pass 4-5 cars to win a race.

I've noticed a big change in Jenson's demeanour during this year. He won comfortably in AUS, and assumed that it would continue (hence the 'welcome to 2009' comment via team radio).

He's since realised that he isn't making the most of a situation he should excel in, and it's visibly making him tetchy in interviews. He was around 8 seconds behind Hamilton in Spain, despite Lewis having to start from 24th. I somehow doubt that would happen to one of the other 'elite' drivers like Alonso or Vettel.

9

hear hear

10

Lewis still had higher highs in 2011 compared to Kimi's 2008.

Kimi is a great driver but Alonso, Lewis and Seb are the cream of the crop imo.

11

Lewis took more points because of the new points system.

12

I'd also put these three drivers in exactly the order you happened to list them if I had to rank them! I'm still unconvinced about SV, but I'm realise i'm in a minority now.

13

@Kay - 2 seconds faster? Where did you pluck that figure from? The RB6 and 7 were a few tenths faster at most tracks.

14

That is off face value based off the results and the Red Bull is nowhere near a dog - relative to previous years it is.

Webber got lapped as his front wing cost him time and places (see when he was overtaken by four cars) + the wing change and being fed back into traffic. He wasn't able to clear Hulkenburg in much the same way Alonso was not able to pass Pastor in the final stint for the majority of the race otherwise his clear air pace was fine and would have finished in the group with the McLaren/Nico/Seb.

Pastor having a brilliant clean race vs. Webber where everything that went wrong did go wrong including qualifying is the reason why Webber was lapped. A bit of a big-up on Seb IMO not that he didn't drive a decent race recovery.

15

You are not in the minority.

Having a car that's 2 seconds faster and claiming WDC with that does not show he's on the same class as people like Alonso who outdrives his car than what it's capable of.

16
Jack Flash(Aust)

@DaveC: Webber's nose failed, and Vettel's nose failed. They both had to take 10-14 sec pitstops in at non-convenient tyre strategy times to get noses changed/fixed. They were loosing multiple seconds per lap otherwise. The forced tyre changes were not where they'd would have wanted them to be in lap strategies.

How is that a failing on Webber or Vettel? A poor start again for Webber, loosing four places off the line... again.. is a more pertinent differential.

Don't think Catalunya race performance defines RB8 as a 'dog of a car' neither. Off-pace at one race - Yes. Dog - No. JF

17

Still unconvinced about Seb? I believe he is the best, the Redbull this year is a bit of a dog look at Webber being lapped by a Williams that must be alarming but Seb kept his head and beat the Mclarens again even with drive throughs and nose cone change, the order is Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton.

18

Really? Kimi had 2 wins that season. Drove a great race in Spa until it rained. Was catching Kubica in Canada until Lewis ran into him in the pitlane and would have won the French GP if not for a exhuast problem. Set 10 fastest laps as well that season. And yes i am a Kimi fan (and Alonso). Alonso is the best driver i've seen, Kimi is the fastest.

19

Agreed, just can't help feel Kimi's underachieved. When you say that about a world champion, it's a bit silly I agree, but it show's how much I rate him. This season for example, shoud have had two wins and be leading the championship!!!

20

Totally agree with this.

Kime then went on to drive a terribly uncompetative car in 2009 (which was so bad that Ferrari decided to abandon its development exactly half way through the season and focus on the 2010 car) but that didn't stop him from going forward in nearly every race except for the very last GP's of the 2009 season where obvioulsy the development of the other cars was too great for Ferrari's underdeveloped 2009 car and Kimi's speed. Not to mention that Kimi won in Spa that season...

21

agree totally~~~ ppl that bash kimi based on 2008 nvr really watch that seasons~~!!

22

I must admit I mistaken with Kimi's 2009 season.

You can't judge a driver by one season.

He still had great races last year!

Things just didn't go his way.

Look how he pulled victories out of his 2009 horrible car!

And his Silverstone victory in the wet.. Not many who can top that drive imo.

23

Agree 100% with you. They all world champions doesnt matter how they won it.

24

Nope after a few years it really does not matter how they won their wdc, except to the minority that have a long memory and a taste for stats. I still recall the dubious way Schumi, Prost and Senna won the odd wdc for example.

My worry about this year is that everything seems inconsequential. Nothing has happened this year of consequence because everything appears to be completely random. By now someone should have managed a couple of back to back victories to give us all something to ponder, to worry about, to shout about or to be joyous about! But right now it all really does not matter. Teams are going from race winners to also-rans in the space of a single GP.

It’s a lottery thanks to the tyres. Think about it – I mean really think about it… Is this what we want from F1? No we do not want a season where the wdc is effectively awarded with five races to go, but do we really want a lottery without any theme or thread? What is the coherent story of this season? Every season has a theme and a story with a beginning, middle and an end. There is no story this year, it’s just random, disconnected chapters - not even obviously from the same book!

25

@Wayne, mate you've described everything that is exciting about sport, or competition. These are the reasons we love it. I don't understand the complaint.

If you new the whole story after a few chapters what a terrible book it would be

26

In the words of a Rolling Stones song. You can't always get what you want.

27

The way I see it is an engineering challenge and at the moment the tyres are winning not the engineers but when one of the teams over comes that challenge a pecking order will become evident. I'm hoping McLaren are close with those new brake ducts and the way Hamilton was able to 2 stop while driving aggressively through the field.

As other people have commented just look at WDC order and the usual suspects are on top - which are the best team/driver combo. It is just much closer and variation in different car characteristics is more evident at different tracks and allows the other teams to get a look in, which in my opinion is a really great thing

28

Is it a lottery? Look at the driver-standings after 5 races:

1) Vettel

2) Alonso

3) Hamilton

Seems like a perfectly normal top 3! The elite teams (including Lotus nowadays) will end up-front. After all they're the only one that consistently score points. So, it's all okay.

29

the lottery is with who's fast or not at each GP, not with where on the grid the winners come from. Jag the right setup and almost any car can be on the front row, because the tyres are the limiting factor of performance this year not the cars.

Once the race starts, as long as you have tyres of similar age as the guys behind you, there's not much danger of being passed.

I've been calling it the Pirelli Lottery for a few races now. Its not GP racing anymore, its a game of chance. This might sound dreaadfuly old fashioned, but I don't see anything wrong with the best car/team winning...

30

the theme is the team which can manage the tires best under a range of different circumstances (track/track conditions)... just as before it was the team which managed to get the most out of a car's aerodynamics under the established regulations. It's still the best team that wins.

31

Super aguri

32
Paul du Maitre

Actually, it is not that much of a lotery: the differences in performances among the big teams and the small teams having been reduced, the big teams such as McLaren or Red Bull cannot get away with it any longer when they make strategy or pit stop mistakes. Last year they had such dominant cars that those mistakes cost them perhaps the victory, but not the podium. Ferrari have done it quite ok strategy wise which, along with great drives from Alonso, has given the spaniard the lead in the championship.

Anyway, just an opinion 🙂

33

Is it also worth considering that all races so far, apart from Malaysia's curve ball, have been run from the front row?

34

+1

It's too early to judge for now though.

35

Super agree

36

Yeah I would have similar concerns about the lottery effect the tyres are having.

However, if we look at the current championship standings, the drivers in the top 4, would be in in my pick for the 4 best drivers in F1. Not neccesarily in that order, but I think most people would have these 4 drivers in their top 4 list.

It's early in the season I admit, but the best while not winning every race, are still on top and getting the most out of situation from race to race. Hopefully over the course of the season the best can remain consistant enough, so that the championship does not turn into a lottery.

37

I don't believe it's as much as a lottery as everyone thinks.

Last year up to and including Barcelona, if a driver qualified in the first 2 rows of the grid, they had a 68% chance of finishing in the top 4 in the race.

This year to date it is still a 55% chance of a top 4 finish.

Of all these 9 races, the pole sitter has

5 wins

1 2nd

2 3rds

1 4th

Fast cars qualify well and win races - even with Pirelli tyres.

This makes Vettel's decision not to post a Q3 time highly questionable.

Of course if you mess up Q2 and fail to get into Q3 you get extra tyres and as Kimi showed can take advantage of this - but this is not a strategy that should be persued as ideal.

Qualify well and you'll more than likely end up well placed in the race.

It will probably be the most consistent driver this year that wins the WDC.

38

James - I don't know about yourself, but I'm not liking this new formula 1. I think there has to be that little bit of elitism - that little bit of exclusivity, to the title of "grand prix winner." I feel that it cheapens drives and drivers.

Fans love the Alonsos, Vettels and Hamiltons because they're special. They stand out in terms of talent to the field. It's like if being an F1 driver was having a credit card, the rest have gold cards, while these three have the more premium package - the platinum card.

Thing is, if everyone starts winning races and everyone has the platinum card - then we're back at square 1. If everyone in this world had a billion dollars, then... there's nothing special about being a billionaire. Not to mention that the economics would probably mean money devalues quite a bit.

On a separate note James - now with the flyaways done, and with the European leg starting, whodo you think will be the primary title protagonists? Would love to get what you think on that. Maybe an article? Personally, I'm of the opinion it will be between Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton for the title. Button, Webber and Raikkonen will be dabbling it out for P4 IMO.

39

Thank you all for your comments. I can see where all of you are coming from, but I still do not share your views.

My issue is not that the cars have become equalised - it's that the tyres are overcompensating, and are masking driver skill. Those drivers who can't get their tyres switched on are relegated to fighting for their lives because of it, while lesser drivers who are able to switch their tyres on can romp away.

Take for example the last race - Maldonado was lapping quicker than Alonso, despite Alonso doing qualifying laps and Maldonado cruising and managing tyres. I don't believe that that really has shown driver skill - it's that the car has skewed it in Maldonado's favor.

The Alonsos and the Vettels impressed back then because even with tyres that everyone could set up for and switch on - they produced stellar drives outperforming their machinery.

Had Alonso, Raikkonen and Maldonado been in the same car on Sunday - Maldonado would probably have finished behind both.

40

Great piece!

Agree with you.

41

As an add-on. People always hail rain as the great big car equaliser, and shows car skills. But that doesn't even seem to be the case anymore, because the tyres are too big a factor.

Take a long hard look at Friday practice in Malaysia again. Two teams were consistently overheating their front tyres on the long runs. Guess which two? Clue: one is an Italian team, and one is a Swiss team.

One team was beautifully in the window on any sort of run on Friday - Mercedes. Guess what happened in the race? They couldn't heat their tyres up. In fact while everyone had long since switched to inters, Rosberg was on the wets and was producing similar laptimes to the inter runners, when earlier on he had put on inters and was nowhere.

42

Interesting points. I agree. As much as it was great to see williams win again, its hard to believe that alonso wasn't be able to get close in spain or win

43

You don't need to have elitism just for the sake of having elitism. The fact is many drivers are very good. You also need to define a great driver. The tires are difficult this year. This doesn't mean the drivers cannot drive around it. Maldonado didn't win because of some fluke. He won it because he set his car up and managed to play the tires well, better than others.

44

Disagree. If Alonso had had to remain at Minardi and Vettel at Toro Rosso, they wouldn't have had the chance to consistently shine to be granted this 'gold' status of yours.

One of the reasons my non-F1 friends dislike the sport is the elitism of the machinery; that only drivers with the best equipment can win. I'm happy with that cos the sport is about the teams and the engineering and technical competition as well.

But it's really fantastic right now to have so many teams that have built top flight cars, with differing strengths (great aero, or great tyre preservation, or forgiving to drive, etc) that allow so many drivers to shine.

You have to remember that the majority of the drivers in the field are the best and there for a reason, and given the chance can compete with the established elite.

I'm afraid your view smacks a little of an old man who wants to keep tradition for histories sake, even if it's not actually for the better.

45

"Disagree. If Alonso had had to remain at Minardi and Vettel at Toro Rosso, they wouldn’t have had the chance to consistently shine to be granted this ‘gold’ status of yours."

It's because of their performances in those cars that they were picked up by better teams in order to earn the gold status

46

No one really complained when Senna came from no where to win Grand Prixs. No one complained about Schumacher doing the same and Prost and Lauda and Clark and Brabham. All the greats suddenly came up from the midfield.

I agree on some elitism just to get some kind of solidity in how the races are going but that's my personal opinion, others like the thrill of anyone could be anywhere.

In F1, tides have turned all the time randomly and a new influx of new drivers have arrived and top teams have fallen down - if this isn't the case then Williams wouldn't have just had their worst year, Team Lotus would still be here, Tyrrell, Brabham, Benetton etc. This just appears to be one of these turns, so bring it on. McLaren and Ferrari will always pull back. I don't see them disappearing ever but Red Bull's time at the top might have come to an end quickly like Tyrrells.

To be honest I'm glad these drivers get a chance to arrive at the top and say, 'I am a future world champion!'. Which is what will always keep happening. It's just happened with a massive influx of new drivers all at once. To be honest it's good as the F1 elite are starting get old but not retiring like they used to and they need to get kicked off as soon as possible so we can enjoy new faces

47
Robert in San Diego

Jim Clark was never a mid field racer. He started with Lotus and never looked back until that awful F2 race at Hockenheim.

48

You know Benetton are still here, don't you? Just changed their name a couple of times.

Some argue that's true of Tyrrell too (bought out by BAR, now Mercedes - but since BAR set up on a new site, with different leadership and staffing and an overt "year zero" attitude, I don't quite see it, even if many of the staff were recruited in when Tyrrell closed.

49

I agree with you! I feel that F1 is becoming a bit of a lottery to winning a grand prix rather than the best of the best winning, this may be down to the tyres or other influences. I read an article on the bbc from Andrew Benson and he says

"Nevertheless, there is also a growing sense of unease - largely unspoken publicly until now, apart from Schumacher's comments after Bahrain - that it's somehow not quite real.

The tyres, some feel, are introducing too much of a random element that demeans the sport in some ways. That F1, whisper it, may have gone too far the other way."

I feel the tyres may have gone too much the other way, I am enjoying the races but while I'm watching I feel that this isn't real/the true form of the teams. There seems to be no front field, mid field anymore its just random.

50

I don't have this randomness feeling that some of us are talking about. I feel that there are several variables to control and the team/driver that solves the equation of the weekend goes to the podium.

Saying that it is random does not give the hard-working winners the due credit. Instead, I think that James is correct when he says that the performance of the teams are VERY close. Did we have a random season en 1983?

Personally, I'd rather see 5 different winners in 5 races than Seb opening a 1.2 sec advantage in one lap.

51

I agree.

The deciding factor a few years ago was aero (1990ish-2010). Now it's tires. It used to be engines (60's & 80's). For a while it was suspension (F2 era)

It's always something different... now it's tires. I don't see a problem.

52

It's still aero too

53

Exactly. I twigged what Williams were doing when they let Alonso chase Maldonardo and all the radio messages were "Fernando! Hurry up!" and oddly nothing from Williams... It was obvious they'd worked out that the best thing to do was let Alonso waste his tyres while they sat there in front.

Not that I want to detract from Pastor's incredibly mature driving under intense pressure at all.

But that's how you win F1 races. Get a good driver and a good strategy and you win. Miss out on one, and you miss out on the points. Hence it's a team sport.

54

+1. I have a feeling that if Alonso was driving the Williams that he would be more than a minute ahead. It's really down to getting the perfect setup and tyres. Alonso or Hamilton meanwhile can really drag the car even if the setup if far from ideal.

55

I think there has to be that little bit of elitism – that little bit of exclusivity, to the title of “grand prix winner.” I feel that it cheapens drives and drivers.

We now have the same number of winners as we ended last season with. Barricello and Trulli (past winners) lost their drives. Rosberg and Maldanado have won races.

Don't forget that Alonso started with a Season at Minardi, followed by one as tester at Renault, and Renault wasn't a winning team when he signed for them. Raikkonen proved himself at Sauber before getting a McLaren drive, Button had been here there and everywhere and was close to being written off and Vettel won a race for Torro Rosso. Schumacher came in mid season and got pinched from Jordan by Bennetton who weren't winning races at the time either. Hakkinen raced for the (old) Lotus team and initially uncompetive Mclaren. Damon Hill drove for Brabham when they were on their way out, and was a Williams tester, Mansell, Prost and Senna all served time in uncompetitive teams....

If you go back over the last 30 championships I think only two drivers have come into F1 in a top team - Villeneuve and Hamilton. Both nearly won in their first season and did win in the second.

At the same time there have always been drivers who made up the numbers... you never know who is destined to be the filler and who's the next champion. Even now we don't know if Mandonado is the new Jarno Trulli, or the next Fernando Alonso.

56

Many F1 fans as opposed to the real enthusiasts write off certain F1 drivers who are slower than their peers as "rubbish" or "slow".

This is plainly not the case because the difference in speed between them is often measured in a few 10ths of a second or less over a 2-3 minute lap.

Anyone getting a seat in at least the top 10 F1 teams has to be one of the fastest drivers in the world and deserves our respect.

Hardly surprising then that we have had so many different drivers and teams do well in a season where the tyres and conditions in the races so far have been so variable

For me, F1 is so fascinating is that, even though the regulations control the design of the cars very tightly, the top teams each produce a totally unique car with many variations in engines and gearboxes yet the drivers achieve lap times in qualifying that are so incredibly close to each other.

These are extraordinary feats of engineering which rarely get a mention.

57

"Anyone getting a seat in at least the top 10 F1 teams has to be one of the fastest drivers in the world and deserves our respect."

This is plainly not the case, F1 history is littered with examples of 'pay drivers' whose wallet and sponsorship deals we should respect not their tallent.

"the difference in speed between them is often measured in a few 10ths of a second or less over a 2-3 minute lap."

That is all it takes in F1 to seperate the genius from the average (it's all relative, you can only compare F1 drivers against other F1 drivers and, most directly, against their team mate). Often team members destroy their team mates, why? Because they are better F1 drivers.

Does Massa deserve as much respect as Alonso?

Does Senna (whose financial supporter is the richest businessman in Brazil and declared that he would 'do whatever it takes' to keep Senna in F1)deserve as much respect as Hamilton?

Does Webber deserve the same respect as Seb?

F1 needs superstars just like all other sports. These guys are special, they fire the blood and are a rally point for supporters. They are capable of feats of genius that others are simply not. The current rules in F1 conspire to eliminate that extra 5% magic from the best. Unless you find tyre conservation magical.

58

Barrichello could equal Schumacher on several occasions. Button beat Barrichello handily in 2009. Fisichella dominated Button back at Renault. Does that mean that Fisichella is on par with Schumacher? Probably not.

Some drivers are suited to some cars better than others. Fisi almost won in a Force India, but then couldn't escape the back of the grid in a Ferrari at the next race. Did he lose all of his talent?

Maybe last year's Williams hid Maldonado's talent, and only this year is it really coming to the fore. Maybe Alguersuari's talent was hidden and it's only a really good Toro Rosso (and a worse Red Bull) that is making Vergne and Ricciardo look that much better.

It's hard to say, and like I said above, the only acid test is when a driver can win repeatedly and be in contention for a title.

If Senna can win a bunch of races this year, putting Hamilton in his place, then yes, he should get equal respect. If Massa can figure out what's wrong and fight for a title again, then he should be respected alongside Alonso. In those two examples, that's not currently the case, so based on results we should surmise that they aren't doing a good job and should ship up or ship out. Ferrari has recently been producing cars that only exceptionally talented drivers can handle (Kimi and Fernando, specifically). It seems like every other driver that steps into one (Fisichella, Massa lately, and Badoer) just can't figure it out and make it work. Maybe that says more about the car than the driver, but the truly exceptional driver should master a tricky car.

For a while, Webber had the Red Bull figured out when Vettel didn't. Vettel figured it out and started winning again. There are countless examples of this.

All of the current drivers needed money to get to F1. Some got more than others, but once they're here, it's their results that matter, not their sponsors.

59

This is exactly the point. The WDC leaders are still the best drivers. In roughly the order you might expect from their driving performances this year.

Rosberg won a race but is 7th. He had a lucky weekend. Like the old days of a Jordan victory when it rained. A mediocre driver finds the conditions and the setup that suits them, and off they go.

The WDC Champion this year probably won't have won that many races, but will have put in some astounding performances - I'm not a fan of Alonso, but his pressure on Maldonardo on Sunday and his driving under pressure from Perez a few weeks ago just proves what an excellent driver he is. As with Vettel - he gets knocked constantly, but he makes some excellent manouvers, and fully deserves to be joint leading the championship.

This whole tyre issue has made F1 fairer. The good drivers will always float to the top.

60

Yet the magic ones are heading the championship. Who wins a single race may have gotten more randomized, who goes for the championship hasn't.

61

There are some fans who simply enjoy good racing without the need to become a fan of a single driver.

If this season continues as it is, I think it will be a good thing. The football fan attitude is gaining traction in Formula 1 - in that it's not enough to have a favourite driver but a fan has to actively hate all other drivers. Now that things can be mixed up, the drivers in midfield teams now have a shot at a podium and those fans with a simplistic view of competition are being challenged.

The elite drivers will always be challenging for titles - Alonso and Räikkönen were 2nd and 3rd and Hamilton's fantastic drive from last to 8th showed what might have been possible had he not been penalised.

We've had 5 races with 5 different winners but the top 4 in the drivers' standings are Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton and Räikkönnen.

Inevitably, the tyres will play less of a role as the teams understand them better but until then we're being given a rare opportunity to see that the difference between the elite and the rest is not as large as the team budgets make it.

62

I totally agree. I like football as a game, always have, but I will never be a fanatical supporter because of the insane, irrational hatred that football seems to bring with it.

This trend has crept into some of the more rabid F1 fan sites - this site being the shining exception!

We are F1 fans because we love motor racing, and in particular we love the history, speed, glamour and thrill of watching the highest echelon of motorsport. We may be a fan of Alonso or Hamilton for example, but not to the point where we hate their rivals, denying the obvious talent that exists.

Back to James's original point, every driver in F1, no exception, would make us mere mortals look like incompetent fools. The gulf between the ordinary person and the elite (and by elite I refer to every F1 driver in this context) is massive. None of us could get in an F1 car and drive a lap straight off, let alone be anywhere near the pace, and yet some F1 fans dismiss a driver because he's a couple of tenths away from the best. A blink of an eye of 90secs, over 3 miles!

Of course, I do also realise that comparisons are just that: comparative. So that means we're all safe in saying that Massa is really rubbish now lol!!

63
john wainwright

I'm so glad that someone else has noted the recent trend of F1 going the way of football tribalism. Personally I'm a big fan of Hamilton purely because I love his driving style. I have never met him and only have a media constructed image upon which to 'judge' his personality. I have no animosity towards any driver (Including Schumi' and I was a big Damon Hill fan!!). All of these guys are supremely talented and intelligent elite athletes and deserve every plaudit. I have no objections to having a favorite driver but sometimes the hatred shown towards others is a bit much for what I consider a sport of elite athletes.

As regards the tyres, I fall into the purist camp and find this lottery somewhat misleading. One week the headlines are Perez for Ferrari, the next it's Pastor. Fair play to these guys, I certainly don't begrudge them their place in the sun but the results do feel somewhat 'inflated' (no pun intended) by an over emphasis on tyres.

66
Andrew Carter

Well said.

67

I am utterly fed up of every conversation about F1 being about the tyres, 'handling the tyres', 'managing the tyres', 'coping with the tyres', 'understanding the tyres' and on and on and on. James' above article is an example of this.

The tyres are a glass celining which limits the potential of the great drivers and mushes them all together in a great grey midfield. Every sport has superstars that polrise opinion and drive friendly debate among fans. Why do we want a grey band of indistinguisable talent in F1?

So many of the so called overtakes in yesterday's race were 100% made possible because of the lead driver being defenceless on older rubber or being defenceless in the breaking zone because of DRS. Yet people still salivate over it all and laud the 'number' of overtakes as if that were the most importamnt factor.

F1 has decided to focus on the casual viewer who tunes in, see's cars whipping past other cars and completely fails to understand why it is happening or does not even care. That's F1's choice. Football might as well follow and make the goals bigger to provide more opportunity to score. I look forward to F1 of 2016 where we have The Undertaker and The Rock in a pair of pink Chevy's driving round tracks littered with sprinklers and fireballs.

68

Having followed F1 since roughly 1992 (I was 8 at the time, so I can't say I followed it too in-depth), I remember drivers having to look after their tires before refuelling was introduced in 1994. I remember drivers having to look after their brakes up until the 2000's when technology exceeded the demands of a GP. I remember drivers having to look after their engines up until 2008 or so, when they started to impose more and more limits on them.

Looking back, drivers had to watch their shifts (most engine failures up to the 1980s were due to missed shifts).

We've taken a lot of things out of the hands of each driver; moving to sequential gearboxes, then allowing active suspension, then automatically-controlled gearboxes, traction control, and then when Bridgestone became the sole tire supplier, they made the tires rock hard and of a construction that made them 2.5 kg heavier than the current Pirellis. Bridgestone's move took any sort of tire management away from the driver, and rewarded the least sensitive of drivers.

I agree that the Pirellis degrade too much. Personally, I think the strategy should be between having to stop once, or not at all; do you try to make your aging tires last the distance, or come in for a quick stop to slap on some super-softs and chase down the leader? That would be exciting, rather than having to stop after 40-50 km to change a set of tires. 10 laps for a set to be totally wasted? That's a bit much.

Like Martin said, the top guys are still doing well. It's not like HRT is battling for wins when the temperature is between 26.5 and 27.2 degrees C... it's still the best teams fighting for wins. Sauber has won a race before and they've had periods of competitiveness (they still have much of the infrastructure from the BMW days). Williams has undoubtedly proven themselves many times over as a team; they just needed to claw back from the dark Mecachrome/Toyota/Nakajima/Cosworth years to reclaim the competitiveness they had in the 80's and 90's. Those teams are no slouches.

I certainly don't think I am a low-brow F1 fan, and I am definitely enjoying the current F1 races. Finally, one car can follow another through a corner (remember how you couldn't get within 1.5 seconds of a Toyota due to the excessively turbulent wake?). Finally, the tires are soft enough that drivers can go off-line and pass each other (remember how Alonso couldn't get past Petrov in Abu Dhabi, simply by staying on the racing line?).

Here's your comment from the last race of the Bridgestone era:

"Why is everyone (pundits included) ignoring the fact that the race was another dull procession? I spent 20 minutes listening to EJ and other singing the circuit’s praises because of the flashy lights and great facilities before the race. Is this what modern F1 is about – all style over substance? Money over Sporting achievement and thrill? Why am I even asking when I know the answer to this – a huge resounding yes! If Alonso cannot pass Petrov for 30 laps then the circuit is utter garbage, period."

I totally agree with you about the track, but simply switching to Pirellis has proven that the racing improved. Same with the passes at Catalunya, and last year in Turkey. In non-DRS areas of the track, we're seeing passes where we wouldn't have in previous years. In 2010, it was all about the first corner, and then the order was set. Now, it's thrown it up in the air. Yes, it's way up in the air and difficult to follow, but at least it's not a procession.

I don't want to say that you are intentionally taking the position of being unhappy no matter what the outcome, but I hope that you are at least a little less unhappy seeing a bunch of passes rather than another procession that "wasted your time" back in 2010. 😉

I don't know about you, but Kobayashi's lunge at Webber (I think?) was pretty awesome. Sure, he may have had a tire advantage, but you'll never see a pass unless the car behind has an advantage. Is Pirelli's answer the right one? Like I said, it's a bit much, but I am much happier now to tune into a Spanish GP and not expect to fall asleep.

69

Well said, time to ditch DRS!

70
James Clayton

I've made my opinions on the tyre issued clear here before, so I'm going to take a different slant of speculation:

2 drivers have voices concerns publicly about the Tyres (MSC and Webber). 2, presumably different drivers, have apparently voiced concerns in private.

I imagine there are drivers around who want to criticize, but would really like to get a couple of wins under their belt first, so they are not viewed as sore losers by J Public.

Of course, if they'll still have the same opinion once they're on a roll is another issue all together...

71

‘understanding the tyres’

This particular phrase is tiering and boring me. It sounds like I am hearing my geology professor talking about how to understand the movement of the earth. The Pirelli guys must be feeling like gods by now.

72

agree with you completely.

To me, these Pirelli tyres are mid-fielder's excuses from being branded as 'crap'.

73

Re: Football

The rules and instructions for interpretation to the referees has been designed to provide more goals and attacking football for the past 10 years. A few examples.

Nobby Stiles would get more red cards than Joey Barton and Mario Balotelli put together. Tackling has been consistently restricted in what's allowed.

The UEFA ball has been redesigned at least twice to swerve in the air far more, making it difficult for keepers to follow the line.

The offside rule has been changed to favour the attacking team.

Red cards are now awarded for players who deny an opponent a clear goal scoring opportunity.

And there are others.

74

Totally agree, no longer racing more a lottrey. As for Vettel in Q3, sums it up, a joke. Refueling was stopped to end a series of short spints, now we have a series of short go slows.

75

Wayne, TM..agree with you both. Absolutely spot on. I have a lot to say about the new F1 , but I have sort of given up. I've been watching F1 for 28 of my 34 years on this earth, but I have never imagined it would get to this. Either way, I care less and less every day. Sad but true. If they want casual viewers. They'll get them.

76

Completely agree with al you have said. Expect a few more drivers to voice their discontent with the tyres - Webber has already said that he is not a fan of this type of racing, Jenson clearly wants to blame the tyres, but has stopped short of actually doing so. Even Rosberg who thought they were "great for F1" was less than happy with his tyres all weekend.

77

Hi Wayne,

This might helps you rationalise watching this seaons. The first five races have all been won by a driver starting from the front row. With the exception of the Renaults in Bahrain with its high temeperature and sandy surface, few drivers have really come through the field.

Starting at the front is vital to winning as it means you can look after your tyres, rather than fight with slower cars. This means qualifying is vital.

Therefore, run your own Saturday championship, base on drivers who out-qualify their cars and negative scores for under performance. Use Sundays to verify your scores based on car performance.

This system does mean that Hamilton is on zero points as he has the fastest qualifying car, but Button is on about -20.

Talent is still relevant. Accuracy and precision are still vital to achieving competitive lap times. Reflexes less so until the tyres go away. In one sense greater skill in anticipating the grip levels is required as the drivers cannot settle into a pattern of incrementally increasing the speed as the fuel weight comes off. Now if anything the skill of tyre management has been re-introduced to the sport. The other skills are still required, but yes flat out driving for 90% of the race is no longer needed, but now at least we get some variety rather than only two chassis winning.

I disagree with you that there is no difference between the drivers now. Look at Alonso vs Massa, Vettel vs Webber, Rosberg vs Schumacher, Maldonado vs Senna, Verne vs Ricciardo. In each of these cases of intra-team battles, there have been clear differences.

Cheers,

Martin

78

Excellent reply, as always, martin. Thank you.

79

I 100% agree with you Wayne!

Formula 1 insiders (including I would say almost all the journalists as well) are absolutely completely and utterly obsessed with getting new viewers.

Well WHAT ABOUT US?!?!?! They have absolutely no interest in those of us who have been loyal followers of the sport for years, because they know that we are the cash-cow, as most of us will watch whatever happens (being loyal fans), and so they can completely ignore us and just obsess over 'new markets'.

I am really happy for Williams, and Maldonado. But the circumstances (i.e. tyres) that have lead to five drivers from five teams winning the first five races just illustrates that the results are almost completely random. The driver who happens to be in the car that happens to make the tyres work best for that particular 2 hour window wins.

Your football analogy is spot-on. I don't like football, and I don't expect FIFA to continuously change and cheapen the sport to try to lure me in at the expense of loyal football fans. Why? Because that would surely be completely unfair to them.

80

you couldn't have put it better.

81

Exactly.

This is hardly sport any more, and with every year it's been shifting more and more to entertainment. Very cleverly organized, but still just entertainment.

Thrills are there and in abundance, but they feel cheap.

But of course, that's what the almighty television bosses and bean counters at CVC need: easy to absorb, unsophisticated, yet glamorous entertainment for the masses.

Current F1 is that!

82

If Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel are so special then they should be able to beat the mid-table drivers. In fact James is totally right, these tyres and these cars are enabling us to evaluate actual driver ability and not just a car-driver-team package. The fact that the cream rises to the top is proven by raikonnen, who was out a few years, is back now and doing very well with a half decent car.

In the end this season proves that most of these F1 drivers are truly talented and they deserve to be there.

Apart from those who have given up... like Massa.

83

"If Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel are so special then they should be able to beat the mid-table drivers."

They are kinda 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the championship standings...

84

Haha exactly. It's not a lottery at all. Just the best are having to work harder to stay on top

85

exactly...

I was not trying to belittle the leaders, but rather give what is due to them to the other guys...

86

Disagree, i think anyone who sits in an F1 car should be considered elite, it's in the upper echelons of Motorsport.

I think James is point is completely valid, fans don't get to see what the Perez's and Maldonado's are capable of doing.

It's giving the midfield teams an opportunity to do what they take part in F1 for - fighting for Victories and it's giving champions of lower formuli to show why they were allowed to race in F1 to begin with.

To use your analogy, race winning is getting the gold card, getting the world championship should be the platinum. You'll still have your likes of Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso standing above everyone else because they're world champion (and it's unfair to dismiss Raikkonen and Button). But you'll finally see them working hard(er) for it.

87

Hmm.. so those like Trulli, Jan Magnussen (can't spell his name), Luca Badoer etc.. these are elites?

LOL c'mon!

Or maybe you are just a communist and everyone are equal and fair?

88

Disagree, drivers often buy their way into F1. Why should they be considered elite?

89

Drivers should only be considered elite or not based on their performances in F1. One of the reasons Alonso is at Ferrari is the Santander deal. They already had a WDC there (Kimi), but they could easily put in someone of equal talent *and* get a rich sponsor out of it.

If Maldonado wins a few more races this year, and takes the championship, I'll be forced to accept that he's an elite driver, no matter how much money he brings. If you or I showed up to Williams for 2013 with bags of money and they gave either of us a seat, we'd be pay drivers; however, we could still be elite drivers if either of us got seven or eight wins in the season.

These days, you need boat-loads of money to even look at F1. You think anyone is getting paid in GP2? How about Renault 3.5? F3? All of these kids are either bringing their own money, or someone like Red Bull, McLaren, Marussia, PDVSA or Telmex is footing the bill for them. If a company or team is footing the bill, it's because of one or more of three things:

1. The driver is likeable and fits well with their image (e.g. Danica Patrick).

2. The driver has good connections and gets hooked up with the cash to race (e.g. Narain Karthekeyan).

3. The team/company thinks they have what it takes to be a future world champion (e.g. Alonso, Schumacher, Vettel, Webber, and any other driver on the grid with talent)

Where do Perez and Maldonado fit in? Clearly they both have good connections, and the nationalistic side of their sponsorship deals are very strong. PDVSA clearly backs anyone Venezuelan (Milka Duno is clearly not backed for her talent), but Telmex has chosen two drivers with clear potential; they want Mexicans who will win, rather than Mexicans that will simply be on the grid. Schumacher's first seat was paid by Mercedes - does that automatically relegate him to pay driver status for life? Obviously not - he's proven himself to be elite. Maldonado and Perez could also prove themselves to be elite, despite their backing.

Fact is, everyone on the grid is well-backed, financially, and could not have made it to F1 without that cash behind them to buy rides up the ladder. It's their performances in F1 that really separate the elites from the gentleman drivers.

90

People buy seats in cars, but they still need a modicum of talent & experience to be granted a super license by the FIA.

91

Driving an F1 car is no easy task. I don't know if "elite" is the correct term, but these guys are somehow special indeed!

92
Andrew Carter

Drivers need substancial financial backing at every stage of their career and in most cases into F1 as well. That doesnt mean they arent elite drivers.

93

Well, they may have personal sponsorship that opens doors but that doesn't mean they don't deserve to be in F1. How big is the pool of talent capable of driving these beasts in anger at any given time? Maybe 125 people? This is a very elite group.

As Perez, Maldonado, and even Petrov show, that a driver comes to the table with personal sponsorship shouldn't cloud the fact that they are extremely capable.

94

You forget that your Platinum card holder, Alonso bought his way into F1 back when he drove for Minardi.

Yes there are some genuine "pay-drivers" (I'm look at a certain Indian HRT driver in particular) but others who have gained the sponsorship backing that gets them into F1 through having the talent to succeed in lower formulae...

95

Or mistakening buy there way in as the Article suggests people believe that Senna and Maldonado are pay drivers because they bring a large pay packet with them, the fact they're race winners in previous catagories and in some cases, race winners in the upper catagories suggest that's not always the case.

Would you tar former drivers like Adrian Sutil with the same brush? What of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button when they both sort personal sponsorship when they were racing for Brawn (Duracell and Monster) respectively.

What about Sergio Perez? He's part of the FDA but i'm fairly certain TelMex is on the Sauber because of him (as well as the other mexican brands that have followed suit).

These guys are all in F1 because of Talent, if money secures the seat, it secures the seat. But they wouldn't be permitted to sit in those seats without being capable (just ask Sebastian Loeb - after his 7th Rally title, he still couldn't get a superlicense to compete for Toro Rosso at Abu Dhabi)

96

Commenting on your final point, I'm beginning to get a feeling that this season will be Alonso's to lose. He's driven the wheels off the Ferrari so far, is the only driver to score in every race and is, IMHO, in the form of his career. This could be the first season in a long time when consistency trumps race wins and I firmly believe (hope?) that Alonso is the man to provide it even if it is one of the other teams who are able to take the lead in development in the second half of the season.

97

Could be, although IMO it is too much to say that is Alonso's to lose, Ferrari is still too far off the pace, as both Domenicalli and Alonso admitted yesterday. If he does win this Championship it will be an enormous achievement that will put him definitely among the greatest (in my eyes he is already).

98

@Elie

How to explain Massa's performace then?

1 point vs Alonso's 61, P17 vs P2 is Spain Qualifying, 1 second slower on average during the race...

Oh yes! surely he forgot how to drive an F1 car.

99

Er I think the car really is that bad, look at Masssa, he use to be a race winning And championship contender yet he qualifies 17th and can't get anywhere near the points, if that's not a sign of a bad car I don't know what is.

100

Omg please stop this crap of Ferrari being "off the pace". It's all bs. As much as Fernando is brilliant he was there or thereabouts in quali and same in the race. Clearly it ain't that bad is it!!!

101

FYI...Hamilton is also another driver who has scored in every race of the season.

102

I think this season could boil down to a 2 way fight between Hamilton and Alonso and I think that it will be a spectacle to behold..!!

103

Dave C - 0.5s per lap lap quicker on raw pace, but .025s per lap slower when you take into account their pit stop flaws and strategy mistakes. Hopefully they can get it together!

104

Dave C Good points you make Seb remember had front wing replaced as well as drive through also manage to pass jensen and hamilton and wasn't lapped like Weber who also had front wing replaced but did not have drive thru to contend with It is strange how underated he is and especially considering his age. Even Shumi never had a record like Sebs at his age

105

spectacle? the Mclaren is about 0.5 sec a lap quicker, hardly a fair fight, and you are writing off Vettel, who is the best driver and leading the championship! anyone writing off Seb needs their head tested, the Redbull is not quick enough but Seb is a good equaliser.

106

Not completely true, Hamilton scored in every race and is in top form as well.

107

I completely agree with that comment. Raikkonen is perhaps the most naturally talented driver on the grid. Even in the worst car's Kimi has had some outstanding races... And Button also is an outstanding driver, you don't win a WDC on luck.

108

MMM, maybe the team doesn't win a wdc on luck but the driver might. If the driver is given the best car on the grid by some way either they or their teammate IS going to win the wdc - that's luck of a sort for the driver. Brawn and RBR were not lucky to win the WDC as they designed a fantastic car but it is possible to make an argument that SV and JB were fairly lucky to be gievn those cars compared to the rest of the field. It's a spirious argument but there is a grain of truth in it.

I don't see Seb or Jenson driving arguably beyond the ability of their cars this year in the way that Alosno routinely does.

109

I'll agree with you on that last part. Although Vettel was pretty impressive in the closing stages of the race yesterday. And yeah, Alonso is doing an astonishing job this year, who would have thought after testing that he would be leading the championship by the 5th race in that car?

110

Seb got into that Red Bull by driving beyond the expected capability of the Toro Rosso, and didn't win two titles on luck- rather on his ability to extract the most out of his cars, like anyone else given a title winning car, as well as in every year since his debut.

Button, while unimpressive for a few years, was very unlucky to be booted out of a soon-to-become championship team despite easily beating Trulli in 2002.

111

It is not physically possible to drive beyond the ability of a car. The fact is that we do not know how good the Ferrari is, and therefore how well Alonso is driving relative to the others mentioned, and we never will.

112

ferrari engineers full of praise of Kimi about his 2009 season~~ claiming that they dont understand how he manage to get some of his podiums ~~ i guess it was quoted by James himself !

113

+1 on Stewart

Engineers have all the data and numbers to them available in calculating how the car may perform on track, then it's up to the driver to meet those expectations according to the data (or exceed the expectations in cases like Alonso / Raikkonon etc)

114

While that's true by definition, it is possible to drive beyond what the engineers think is the ability of the car. Alonso can do it, Kimi can do it and Lewis too. As for the rest, I'm not so sure.

115

I understand the comments about Alonso, but the only evidence we have of him driving beyond the abilities of his car is the comparison to Massa, how is cleary driving well below the abiliteis of his car. Impossible to quantify how good Alonso currently is until he gets a decent teamate.

116

And he's picked it up again remarkably quickly after 2 years rallying. His start on Sunday showed that, compared to Grosjean, for example

117

James, I picked Kimi to be elite from his first races. Same for MS.Do you see anyone of the young guys as being exceptional. I don't see it . I'm sure Riciardo , jean Eric will be stars but I don't see anyone being in the mould

118

Yes, definitely! But I suppose Kimi's always been there right away, even in his first race with the very little experience he had. Finishing in the points when many people doubted he'd even finish the race!

119

Speaking of di Resta, I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been surprised by Force India's lack of impact so far this year.

If anyone had told me that this year's races would be a lottery due to crazy tyres and un-predictable conditions, I would've put my money on Force India and both of their drivers getting some impressive results. (To be fair di Resta has had one, but Hulkenberg has struggled)

Their car looked solid in testing and given their competitiveness last year they have to be disappointed with how 2012 has gone so far. One look at the constructors table shows how far they are from the pack already.

Having said that, if they manage to 'understand' the tyres in Monaco, it wouldn't surprise me if they had a 1-2 finish. That's the way it's going this year unfortunately.

120
Andrew Carter

If you ask Mark Webber, I think he'll say Hulk had quite an impact on Sunday.

121

Lol, before I read your last paragraph I was going to tell you not to worry, as they'll probably win the next race!

122

Hahahha so true

123

Hulkenberg has almost made an impact so many times this year but something has always gotten in his way

124

Well that's unfortunate for him. I really rate him as a driver.

To clarify, my disappointment lies with the team who have seemingly not improved enough, not with either driver. I think they're both World Champion material.

125

It's because others like Sauber, Lotus, Mercedes and Williams have improved by more, clearly

126

Not to mention FI lost key people to Caterham.

127

"and with the way the Pirelli tyres work, it is offering an opportunity for more drivers to shine"

Couldn't agree more. Despite the naysayers, the current tyres are good for F1.

128

Good short term maybe to attract all the magpies, but long term? I sure as hell hope not.

129

It's interesting how the mandated weight distribution has changed F1. Now there are less factors separating the teams because from a tyre point of view they all know the goal, when in years past, like Mercedes struggles because of weight distribution, the teams that could make lighter and therefore more adjustable cars had the setup advantage. Of course the tops teams will always have better aero, ect, but the gap is smaller now.

130

Whilst I agree that it is making this season very interesting and unpredictable so far, I tend to believe that this is merely a 'technical blip' and that, even as soon as the second half of this season we will see the bigger teams getting on top of these regs and a more predictable form developing. Who this will be I could not say, but I'm confident that one team will begin to dominate as the cars develop.

I'm even prepared to believe that it could be the likes of Williams or Lotus who achieve this, but it seems more likely to be one or two of the Big Four who make the crucial breakthrough first.

131

I think Monaco is a total sure bet for Hamilton to win. And Ferrari and lotus don't have the best traction so they could struggle alot there. It's brilliant to watch this year.

132
Andrew Carter

Dont forget, Maldonado is a Monaco specialist, running in the top 6 last year in a Williams that is the complete opposite of this years car.

133

It doesn't cheapen it at all, it shows reality. Which is, if you put a Maldonado/Perez/Rosberg etc in one of the best cars then then they will be at the front.

If you give Button the best car (Brawn) he will win. If you give him the worst car (Honda) he'll be at the back. Its the same for every driver. There is very little difference between the drivers and the difference is often not about speed but how they solve set up problems with the car.

It amazes me how so few people seem to understand this.

134

Not really.

Many years pack put Alonso in a Minardi he wasn't at the back.

2009 Spa Fisi was fighting it out at the front with Kimi, but Ferrari put Fisi into the F60 and immediately Fisi couldn't keep up whereas it stood out Kimi doing a great job in a difficult car.

135

Alonso was at the back in the Minardi.

I agree that Kimi is one of the best drivers. Like Hamilton and Alonso he can win without the best car and he is amazing at Spa.

136

Which makes the fact that Alonso scored 61 points and Massa only 2 in this season so far really stand out.

137

Andrew with respect, we all understand (it's not that complicated). But I think that you confuse not liking something with not understanding. Also I do not completely agree with the finer points of what you and James are saying.

I agree that all F1 drivers are close in general-world terms. But I don't believe that they are all equal or even almost equal in F1-terms. Yes, in equal cars, two drivers may be within, let's say 0.3 seconds of each other. That is pretty close in normal world terms, but in F1 terms it's a huge amount of time. We see this when comparing Alonso with Massa or Fisichella, or Hamilton with Kovalainen, or Schumacher with Herbert or Barrichello, or Hakkinen with Coulthard. Every one of these drivers is world-class in normal-world terms (i.e. they would obliterate you and I), but in comparison with each other there is a significant F1-world difference. The records of these drivers when in the same equipment speaks for itself.

I guess my point is that I do not completely agree with James. I think that in the past excellent drivers in lowly teams have in fact been able to shine. Take Alonso at Minardi, or Schumacher at Jordan, or Vettel at TR. His example of Kobayashi only backs up my point because he shone from his first race at Toyota and ever since, despite never yet having had a race like Perez in Malaysia, or Maldonado in Spain.

I'm not saying that Maldonado and Perez are definitely not great drivers (in F1-terms). What I'm saying is that we just don't know, because the current tyre situation is in fact making it MORE difficult to recognise true greatness in lower teams, not easier. This is because the tyres are offering an opportunity for random events giving all drivers an opportunity to 'shine' with a great result, whether or not they are great in F1-terms.

138

"the current tyre situation is in fact making it MORE difficult to recognise true greatness in lower teams, not easier."

This is what I'm struggling with too.

139

Just a correction, that Best car was Honda as well, built on funds of Honda.

If only the Japanese management had put up with it for one more season. But then again, if they had continued the key stone cops would have been let loose by the line management in Brackley to throw another egg in face of Tokyo.

140

LOL well according to that, then the Honda was a BAR, which in turn was a Tyrrel...

141

Honda footed expenses of Brawn team in 2009 season, based on their exit strategy. So it was a car designed since 2008 season (at Honda's expense). So like it or not it was Honda's money all the while.

It was not as if Brawn and Fry dipped in their retirement funds and paid off Honda Management and the staff that was made redundant. It was Honda/Tokyo money all along.

142

Then F1 is the most pointless sport in the world. If I do not watch F1 believeing that there is a possibility that the likes of Alonso or Hamilton might at any moment do something magical then I might as well not watch. But the thing is, they can, you and I have seen it happen.

143

Alonso IS being "magical". Las race Hamilton came from last to P8. There's still plenty of space for them to shine!

144

That's very true the car was the determining factor, but now because of the tyres, it's to do with car set up and balance as well as the car. It's become a black art.

145

Spot on, i agree completely.

146

+1

148

Try to give Massa any car you want.

Hamilton and Kimi the most natural gifted drivers. Alonso clearly, and by far, the most complete driver.

149

[mod]
If the 2008 Ferrari was that superior why didnt he clinched the title before brasilian GP?

Some circumstances may have led Massa to be a title contender in that specific year. The true is that he was an average driver before Hungary accident and a poor driver after the same accident.

Disclaimer: I'm a Ferrari fan.

150

2008 is just bad luck~~ he was heading victory at france...but exhaust pipe failure handed the win to massa~~!! And spa 2008, the car was a dog under damp track...again car slides on the very last lap to victory~~ at the end, the team forced him to support massa and he did ~!! He came so close and yet so far.....Massa was pretty lucky man benefitting from others 's failure to earn wins in that season....which explained why now he achieved nth~!! And i enjoy watching kimi pushed the dog F60 to wins and podiums at 2009, when his teammate (baddouer and Fisi) failed to score 1 point in that season~~ proved that he is on diff league, same as alonso, vettel~!!

151

He won the teammate war against a naturally gifted driver / reigning world champion / teammate!

152

I'm sorry, with the 2008 Ferrari he won what?

153

leave hamilton out of these~~~ he won many crown in lower feeder series b4 entering F1 ~~ kimi just finished 23 races while joining F1~!! And two years out of F1 he is immediately on top of the pirelli~ to the extent that his teammate is learning kimi 's driving style to compensate his own driving style according to trackside officer Alan Permane~!! In terms of natural talent alone, Kimi totally outclass anyone on the field right now!! His ability to feel the car and the surface allowed him to provide excellent feedbacks to the team, telling them where to improves and push the team forward!!

154

EXACTLY ! Well said

155

Lets see, give him a 2008 Ferrari?

156

Well, there are drivers and...drivers. You put wrong foot naming elite drivers. Not the same those drivers who are struggling all his life step by step to get the same stuff than privileged ones that they had the chance to begin F1 in a big red carpet. Remember Minardi? You are pointing out a driver after a great race, what a discover? Nope. An elite driver is a guy who are ready to maintain peak levels all season. A privileged brain with a natural skills to defeat the others all his career. Justice with drivers skills is another story. Marketing, publicity, media interests, Ecclestone "touch" for the spectacle, etc. A large number of things very far from the sport. The elite guys are products. The left guy of the photo is a real warrior, he fight & fighetd with FIA (Tony Scott Andrews, Max Mosley, Charlie Whiting), English Media lobby, Ron Dennis, even Bernie Ecclestone & his biased FOM. Please talk to me pf "elite drivers" but begin to named correctly and avoid this photo as an example.

157

F1 has always been as much about the car as the driver. This year it's about the tyres, the car and the driver and that third variable has really evened out the playing field.

158

I agree with Raymond - whilst it is interesting to have different drivers winning races occasionally, 2012 just seems to be a tyre lottery with races being won almost randomly by those who happen to have lucked in on a set-up that suits a given set of tyres and track temperature. I want to see a tightly fought championship with a few teams vying for the top spots, trading different steps of the podium each week as driver performance and the team development race ebbs and flows. Whilst a driver and team still need to do a solid job to secure a win or podium, there seems to also be a large slice of chance involved with teams, drivers, pundits and fans seemingly unable to understand why a driver has done well or badly at a given venue.

159

Red Bull/Dietrict attempting to infiltrate the media as well?!

160

Kay, No influence from Dietrich over me. I just happen to run an unofficial Red Bull Racing fan website and have an email address related to that which James picked up on. I am am first and foremost an F1 fan who just happens to enjoy following a particular team. I'm only became a Red Bull fan as they took over my previous team Jaguar Racing. My views are my own and not paid for, endorsed or influenced by the team.

161

F1 has been a lottery of sorts in recent years.

It was not as if rest of the field was on level playing field with McLaren which handled well under all conditions in 2008 season

In 2009 it was about Brawn's trick double diffuser.

2010-11 has been about RedBull's blown diffuser and flexible wings.

Not to mention the fake overtaking assisted by KERS, DRS, mandatory tyre compound changes and since last year its about unpredictable tyres.

Just FIA chooses to play along, change affiliations and keeps the circus interesting.

So nothing really new. Just the matter of whom we like and who are doing good at the moment

162

I find this 'lottery' argument very disrepectful to the teams and the drivers. You think it's luck that Williams and Sauber have developed competitive cars that can fight it out at the front? You think it's luck that Maldanado and Perez drove fantasticly calculated races to get on the podium.

The problem with F1 is that most viewers don't understand the physics involved in race cars or the principles of design engineering. However, I agree that the tyres and banning of the EBD has squeezed the pack up a bit because the difficulty rating in F1 just got pushed to eleven.

I personally think it's too early to judge whether the tyres are influencing the results too much. Once the teams have a better understanding of the tyres (hopefully by Canada) the form guide between the drivers and cars will become clearer.

163
James Clayton

It's GREAT that a lot of teams have developed cars that can run at the front.

I also think they'd still be there or thereabouts if we didn't have the issue of tyres. I'd love to see William, McLaren, Ferrari, Lotus and Red Bull all fighting it out in this year's cars, with some proper rubber. I have no doubt it would be just as close, but in a different way.

164

It's a convenient argument. Too convenient and easy.

When a team you like does well, like MacLaren in qualifying, it's down to skill and engineering and not going with the stepped nose. When a team you don't like does badly, like Ferrari, it's down to botched management. When a team you don't rate or don't like wins or does well "it's a lottery".

Some tracks suit some car designs better. And some drivers are better at setting up the car within those teams. It's always been this way. Over the season patterns will develop. We may see that the Mercedes only does very well on high speed circuits similar to the 2009 FI which looked great in China and in Spa and was out of the points everywhere else. We may see that the Williams will do well on twisty slow speed sections and this may flatter them on some circuits.

The first few GP are so different from each other you can expect to see a few different teams at the front but add to that penalties to Hamilton in both China and Spain knocking him off the front row both times and it makes it look even more chaotic to the casual observer.

The way I see it is front row for MacLaren in every race this season so far (pole, pole, 2nd, 2nd, pole). How is that a lottery?

165

Exactly. That problem is, people just can't accept that Sauber and Williams have a very sound car.

This is my brief analysis to prove that it isn't a lottery. McLaren definitely have the fastest car over one lap, and if they get the set-up right, have the fastest race pace too. Button has struggled with set-up except in Melbourne and there have been team mistakes that have cost them dearly.

Barcenlona is seen as the ultimate F1 track in that it comprehensively tests the aerodynamic efficiency of cars. From this, we know that Williams, Sauber, Lotus and McLaren are aerodynamically sound. Ferrari have made some progress but will need to push their development further still. Red Bull are clearly lacking from the massive amount of downforce the EBD afforded them last year.

Also, you really think teams don't understand the tyres at all! The tyres aren't fundamentally different from last year. I think only the soft and super softs have a different chemical structure to last year whilst the performance levels of the tyres have been closed up. When the teams say they are struggling with tyres, what they mean is that theya re struggling to work out how their cars should be set-up in order the maximise the performance from the tyres.

I'm disappointed that talk of the EBD has been muted slightly this year because the banning of it has had a massive effect on tyres. For example, the smaller teams such as Sauber and Williams didn't really get the most out of their EBDs and therefore the tyre performance from last year to this year is largely the same. Red Bull on the other hand (who pioneered the EBD) are almost having to work from scratch in terms of finding the right set-up for the tyres.

Engineering is not luck. It's complicated, I can grant you that, but it can take a long time to fully understand the relationship between aero, mechanical grip and tyres.

Was it luck back in 1983 when there were also five different winner/car combinations in the first five races? So lets look at how each driver won.

Melbourne - with McLaren clearly having the fastest car from the start, all their drivers needed to do was find the right set-up for the race, which Jenson did (as he usually does).

Malaysia - bit of a freak result. Rain always closes the gap a bit because aerodynamics plays less of a factor. Ferrari have always had good mechanical grip and Alonso just showed why he is the most complete driver here. Sauber and Perez showed they too have a competitive car here.

China - a track made for Mercedes here. With two long straights and excellent grid position, Rosberg simply had to get round turn 1 first and not make any mistakes. McLaren just don't have the straight line speed to catch Mercedes on the straights.

Bahrain - Jenson had set-up issues here and both were hampered by poor pit-stops. Red Bull clearly work better in the hotter conditions.

Sorry, too long. F1 is a very calculated and intricate sport. You don't get lucky deflections but you might get lucky contact with another car. Lucky race set-up though? Unlikely.

166

With respect, it's not 'disrespectful' at all.

It is the teams themselves who are saying that they don't understand why they are fast or slow from race to race. Clearly, therefore, there is quite a large element of chance as to whether a particular car is fast on a particular track on a given day.

That doesn't for a moment undermine the need for a good car and a good driver to take advantage of this luck.

167

Make that 2 in 100, 000, 000

168

I agree, it seems a lottery. I would like it to continue in a similar way but without the feeling of it being random who wins, maybe the tyres last year was the correct balance and this years tyres have gone slightly to far the other way!

169

Agree completely. The tyres last year were close to being perfect, hence there was very little criticism of Pirelli.

The racing was great but ultimately the fastest driver/car package came out on top.

170

If we have a diffrent winner in the next two races, surely we'll have to question the tyres further... There has to be at some point a select few leading the charge.

171

I think I should have made myself clearer & not said someone else, but another team. I do see your point &with the execption of Lotus, there has been inconsistency with the race form of all teams- not qualifying. You are right, no one understands these tyres, but's exaclty the problem there paying too larger part, hence the randomness of what's unfolding this season.

172

Really? What if it's Lewis & Kimi? What if the next race after that it's Grosjean? And then Schumacher?

The Newey quote someone posted in this thread says it all. Saying it's a lottery is like saying "if I don't understand it, no-one else can either, they're just luckier than me.". That's either self-delusion or an attempt to pull the wool.

173

Your email address with its affiliation with Red Bull hints at the reasons you feel this way.

But the sport is enjoyed worldwide by hundreds of millions of people. Your view, though 100% valid, is only one person in 100,000,000s

174
James Clayton

Are you saying that the people who feel this way are a minority? Are we sure about that?

I, like Ian, feel the same way about Tyres. That doesn't stop me being 1 of the 1,000,000,000 people who still watches, and enjoys, every race. I wonder how many more of us there are who still enjoys the races, but also still wishes it was more 'pure'?

Maybe the percentage is high? Or maybe it's just the two of us. Does that make us 'Elite'? 😀

175

James add me too to the list of those that think like Ian. And I am not getting carried away by Ian. It was my opinion but I hadn't voiced it and was going to voice it anyway.

And I am not English or Austrian.

176

James, you write "Hundreds of millions of people watch the races and some feel unhappy while others are loving it." -

is it any more relevant how many are happy with the sport, if the majority of people watching don't even care for 1% of the technical aspect of the sport? My point being - with these new Pirelli tyres, the sport is becoming more mainstream as they are dumbing down the sport. Great if more people are watching - but what's left of the sincerety of the sport if all it is, is an artificial spectacle and the reasons many people have watched the sport the past 20 years (to see how drivers race each other) becomes a mere sidepoint?

IMO - there's a limit to how big a sport like this should grow - or what should be done to attract more viewers. If we follow on this trend, perhaps the idea that artificial rain will one day be included is not all that far fetched...

177

Well more people weren't watching on Sunday in UK, audience was down from peak of 6.2 to 4.6 mill on BBC.

178

I'm saying that if you have a view and others in a space like this share that view, it's easy to get carried away and think you have the majority view.

Hundreds of millions of people watch the races and some feel unhappy while others are loving it.

Some unhappy people voice their concerns, many happy people don't - that's the way of the world.

179

Add me to the list of people that agree with Ian Lockwood. I have no doubt the average fan that makes up numbers loves this season, in some ways I do as well, but that doesn't mean I'm blind to something obvious, in my humble opinion. The tires are proving so complex that teams that spend hundreds of millions of dollars are basically unable to figure them out well enough to be consistent this year. Name one team that has been consistent in the first five races? The only team we can think of is Lotus, and guess what, they were fast from the start. If you asked the Lotus owners to put their money on the best car this year before the season started, I would bet they wouldn't have put money on them having the best car.

And really, Maldonado and Perez did perform well. To me, they basically had the fastest cars on the day. Perez had the fastest in Malaysia, and Maldonado did in Spain. They did a great job, but this is what is expected...if Alonso, Vettel, or Hamilton had the fastest car, they are expected to win. This is not the case with Maldonado or Perez, but maybe now we think they might get there with a few more good performances. Would I be surprised if someone told me Alonso, Vettel or Hamilton won with the 2nd fastest car? Not really. And I am certain Maldonado will not win a race again in his career without having the fastest car. Just a hunch.

I am not complaining, I kind of like that this season is a wacky one. Would I like next season to be such? Absolutely not. It is telling that team bosses are basically all saying, after 5 races, that they don't really have a complete idea on what the pecking order of the cars are. This isn't because Maldonado and Perez were so awesome. This is because no one can predict how consistent their car will be on raceday, and even if a team owner could predict it, changes are both drivers in his team will have completely differing performance despite having the same car.

180

"only one person in 100,000,000s"

To be fair, if you look at the results of your recent reader survey on the tyre issue, it's a view which seems to be quite heavily represented amongst fans.

It is also instructive that one of the leading and best funded teams in F1 seems unable quite to understand how the tyres work. I would have thought that re-inforces the 'lottery' argument rather than detracts from it.

Equally, to be fair, I think the Pirellis were the best they've been all season in Barcelona. The options had the usual problem of degrading far too rapidly, but I thought the primes provided a quite decent balance between tyre preservation and ability to race.

181

James, with respect, I don't think tha Ian's opinion is "one person in 100,000,000s".

Your poll on this website indicated that almost 47% of people agreed with Schumacher's view on the tyres being too much of an influence. This would suggest that Ian's view is more like that of almost 1 person in 2 (or 47,000,000s in 100,000,000s).

182

James, I'm not sure why someones background should matter, if there's a valid point to be made.

I see the point that the sport in its current form is being enjoyed by more people - but I'd also argue that the people interested in the technical side of the sport are feeling let down. How much good is it to the sport to become more mainstream and enhance the 'spectacle' if it isn't true to its identity?

By this very logic - why not have artificial rain in our races as well - maybe we'll achieve 15 different winners in 15 races then. As long as it enhances viewing figures and those that kept watching the sport for the last 20 years become a minority - who should care?

183

James, to respond specifically to the "lottery" claim - is it true as Ian says that getting the setup right is about lucking in?

If it truly is a lottery, then I'm all for changing it. If on the other hand, no-one understands the tyres completely, but different teams have more or less understanding, and over time (on average) those who understand a bit better will do best, then let's keep it. And the best teams will rise fastest to the challenge of getting on top of the tyres.

Several people have said Lotus in particular are "consistent" as opposed to saying they're quick this year, suggesting that either the car is somehow more able to keep the tyres sweet, or that the team understands the tyres better than some of the others. I don't know if they've just been lucky. But it doesn't sound like it, from the way that the team and it's rivals seem to expect them to be quick every time out, where Mercedes for example seem to have higher highs and lower lows. If those kinds of pattern are real (not just random), then there may be an element of chance, but as the man said, those working hardest will be the ones who get luckiest...

185

Make that at least two James.

186
Craig @ Manila

I agree with the "lottery" term/view and I have no affiliation or business-relationship with Red Bull or, for that matter, Pirelli...

I acknowledge that I am just another "one" of the hundreds of millions.

187

Better make that 2 🙂

188

I'm rather glad that it's showing that the 'elite' are better but are having to work for it. It's actually helping their reputations in the long run. Before if they won 9 races you could say it's all the car, this season anyone who wins two or more GPs we will at least know they can adapt and conquer and that they really are great all round racing drivers.

In an odd way more winners and more opportunities shows that all F1 drivers are super talented individuals - even those that get a buy in, so whoever wins the WDC will be seen as a true champion. If Seb won this year for instance I can't imagine anyone calling it the Adrian newey trophy again.

I understand people disliking the 'show' being mixed up by tyres and set up fluctuations but given how much fans have screamed for years about people 'buying' a championship through vast budgets, I'd much rather have the technical challenge mixing the grid up than return to the sole best wallet wins.

189

The current climate within F1, although not perfect, is much more representative of what F1 should be...motorsports toughest arena. Now we have more than 50% of the field able to use their resources (including driver) to compete and beat the normal title contenders. Reminds me of the late 80's early 90's....

Now James with your cred in the paddock if you can convince the FIA to bring back the turbo's and manual shifter it would be PERFECT.

190

Strange....

It makes e laugh that so many want to lose modern concepts like KERS and DRS yet still hark back to the days of turbos and manual boxes. Surely KERS does exactly what the turbo boost button did. The manual gearboxes meant that drivers could sometimes miss a gear and damage the car/engine and/or lose a place.

I cannot see F1 ever going back to manual shift gearboxes - it would be wrong and like expecting us to go back to old dial phones with pulse dialling. We cannot uninvent new technologies. At least the Pirelli tyres have mixed up the order.

There is a saying that "luck will out". It is a bit like an unexpected driver winning a wet race out of the blue. It happens when drivers in front make mistakes. But for it to happen regularly like it does for Button takes skill.

We are far too early in the season to complain. Another few races and we will start to see some real form. This season could be won by a driver with only a few wins.

The real winner is the real fan - much better racing. The last thing we need is another season like the borefests we endured when a good driver won too many races in a season.

191

Not a fan of turbo. Much prefer naturally aspirated engines.

While I would love manual shifter, it would make current F1 cars almost impossible to drive or much slower. Also, wasn't there a driver, back in the manual shifter age, who could shift so much quicker than everyone else and thus had a big advantage?

192

+1 on the manual gear changes

194

I thought turbos were on the way back !!

195

I think for the last 10 years the term pay driver, as it's traditionally been used, has been rather a misnomeaner. We have drivers that have won races and titles in major international single seater championships filling every seat on the grid, and it's been like that for a few years at least (even Ide, who came to the sport woefully underprepared, was a front runner in Formula Nippon). The days when a Ricardo Rosset or a Tarso Marques could take a seat on the grid are long gone, so I comfortably predict that we wont see Walter Grubmuller in F1 at all (though it is worrying to see Max Chilton getting so close).

To get to F1 you need backing, so you've got to show you can get results. Big companies like PDVSA and Telmex might be backing local drivers but they've both made sure to find someone with real talent first and F1 is better for it.

History has proven one thing though, any good driver can win on his day, and there's a good many drivers that could do just that this year, but only the really good one's can mount a consistent title challenge and that's a more important skill this year than ever before.

196

Narain Karthikeyan......

197
Andrew Carter

Has won races in British F3 and Superleague Formula. OK, he's definitely the worst on the grid but he can turn on a bit of speed and is miles ahead of the no-hopers I mentioned in my first post.

198

I agree, and I'm glad to do so. I can actually remember the bad old days of the 1980s, when a series of rich playboys whose vanity outweighed their skill by about a factor of 1000 would buy themselves into a race seat, and then crash into a real driver. It was incredibly frustrating to watch. Nowadays, Karthikeyan aside, you need to be at least very good to get the backing to get into F1, and the sport is much better for it.

I suppose maybe a new type of driver is a 'placed driver'.

199

And what exactly has Karthikeyan done to deserve your ire?

Like Andrew mentioned, Karthikeyan has been a race winner in every single seater formula he competed in.

While his days in WSR( back then World Series by Nissan) and British F1 were in late 90s and early 00s

But it was as recent as 07-09 some the current drivers (albeit younger) have competed against him in A1GP and Superleague formula and the Indian racer has won races in those series.

So even NK has worked and proved that he can win races in single seater categories, and its not just the Fat checks from Indian Sponsors have got him here.

200

Dear James,

yes F1 is an exclusive and expensive motor sports. While 2012 has been the year a show case of talent and perhaps depth for the sport, coz with Perez and maladonodo, we can take F1 to South America and the Mexicos.Just broadens the sports base.

But what worries me is 2012 is fast turning out to be a event where the circuits either are good for some or bad for some.

While Alonso hangs in there and squeezes something out a ferrri, the red bull goes from a victory to a top 10 finisher, button struggles, and rosberg is perhaps taking solace in the fact that at least won once.

Is there a trend somewhere in there James?

Lotus has shown consistency and perhaps is only a race from top podium finish.

But the errors in Mclaren are beginning to baffle many.

Sincerely,

SK Anand

201

I think too much is being made of the tyres. Yes they play a BIG part, but the teams will get to understand them better and second half or last third of the year will stabilize.

Same tires + more testing = better understanding and more "consistent" results.

I think the fact that diffusers have been banned along with some other aero tech has brought the field closer and that's ultimately why we see the Topsy-turvy season.

Think about it this way: when RB was that far out front they could still have a bad race and win or finish on the podium. Same in the dominant Ferrari years when McLarens were faster but not reliable enough.

I'd rather tune in on a Sunday to see WHO wins than to see HOW one or two teams win. And I'm not talking about strategy.

THEN: teams are not really THAT up and down. The difference again comes in with the field so close together. At some races this year the TOP10 was covered by the same gap as RB beat their closest rival to in 2011! Super! Again, last year RB could botch qualy and still be on the front row by close to a second. This year, if you're down 2 or 3 tenths you don't make Q3!

So nail the lap or get knocked out! BRILLAINT!

202

I have no problem if some cars are brilliant at some circuits and not so good at others. It means the top drivers have to fight to get the most out of a poor weekend. With so many cars and drivers capable of getting podium places and the title race being so close it means that even at a circuit their car doesn't suit drivers are fighting for 8th rather than 9th place because those points from a bad weekend are going to be very important.

203

Also, surely a car being good at some circuits and not others is what makes the constructors' championship important? The teams have to build a car that is reliable and is fast on as many tracks as possible, if not all. It's then up to the drivers and engineers to get the maximum out of the car over the course of a weekend, overcoming the challenges of tyres, weather, competitors, adapting to changing conditions etc.

I like that a bad day for Red Bull and Vettel doesn't mean that he finishes third, but tenth, and that a good day for Sauber and Perez is a podium, rather than a few points.

204

Well look at 2009 when Brawn was out front because they found something. McLaren and Ferrari, the top teams at the time, were nowhere. Same as the picture you paint re RBR.

Red Bull has lost something this year which gave it a big advantage last year (blown diffuser) and they are playing catch up. They also haven't found their way on tyres yet and it's frustrating them.

But the tyres work, clearly, as Hamilton did 21 and 31 lap stints yesterday and Maldonado did a perfect job, pushing very hard when he needed to. Isn't that F1? Adapt and overcome?

205

James,

If you can let us know, had Hamilton's pole position time being removed and he had to start 10th, could he have won the race with more or less the same drive he drove?

This could let us know whether he has mastered the adaptability to win or to be content with damage control.

Thanks

206
James Clayton

A more interesting question should be if Hamilton had brand new sets of tyres available to him, would he have been able to win from the back.

I'd really love to see a top team, who've had a clear pace advantage on a Friday, take a gamble on not running at all in Quali. That's the only way we can finally put an end to this 'are the tyres too important' debate, one way or another.

207

He had 2 news sets of hard tyres and used them at his 2nd and 3rd stops

208
James Clayton

Martin Burundle made the point that Hamilton was with the front runners by the time they had started making their first pit stops. Therefore starting at the back had cost him 'about a pit stop', which is 25 odd seconds?

He finished 78 seconds behind the leader. Obviously Hamilton's hand was forced by a 2 stop strategy, so I guess we'll never know if he would have had the pace to win from p10.

209

If they'd just taken away his Q3 times he'd had started 7th and yes, he could have won from there, with a decent start

210

Dear James,

I think you are spot on.

This season is it safe to say one team that has two cars and are doing well for both the drivers.

SK Anand

211

Well put James. F1 adapt and overcome.

212

The tyres appear to be very inconsistent, or at least only work in a very narrow window. Whilst as you pointed out earlier, my chosen team is Red Bull (a hangover from days as a Jag Rac fan), the lack of a logic to the multiple winners and relative performance is baffling.

Lewis did indeed manage long stints yesterday, yet his team mate (known for being gentle on tyres, and having been faster in every free practice session, and driving the same car albeit with some different set-up tweaks) struggled throughout the race with grip despite running a 3 stop strategy.

Yes its good to see a few less obvious drivers showcase their talent, but for me F1 is about the performance of the team as a whole - who has designed the best car, exploited the letter of the law to the maximum, made the most effective use of development resources, improved the set-up of the car throughout the weekend, and finally the driver delivering when it counts. Whether this is Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren or HRT is really irrelevant. watching this develop through the season whether the battle is for the podium positions, or seeing who comes out on top of the midfield battle is what I like about the sport.

This season (so far at least) the variations in team performance from one race to the next, and indeed from one driver to the other indicates factors at play beyond the teams understanding or control, and therefore robs us of genuinely evaluating which team is doing the best job.

213

They worked for certain drivers yesterday. I'll bet my house it'll be different drivers at each of the next few races. And why? Purely through luck.

Even if those same drivers/teams do exactly the same 'good job' at each event, they could easily find themselves out of the tyre's working window at certain times - purely due to changes in track temperatures on race or quali day. That's the real problem with the unpredictable pirellis.

214

Where can I place my wager.....?

Be careful. Many posters have had to eat their words and their hats for posts they made in haste.....

215

I disagree - even Adrian Newey put it right yesterday - he said 'the tyres are perfectly predictable, we just haven't worked out how to predict them yet'.

It's an engineering difficulty and engineers will solve it! The thing is it's normally one team that really gets that problem solved at the start - this year everyone is tottering around the edges. Just the fact that the engineers in their brilliance have been stumped so far makes it lively for the viewer.

To be honest the drivers and engineers would love boring predictable races - that's their job to out calculate and dominate everyone else. That might be a purer engineering demonstration but it'd be boring as hell to watch.

216

I don't understand this "purely through luck" argument that keeps coming up.

The McLaren has looked consistently fast on all the tracks. Perhaps not the fastest, but up there with a chance. So too the Lotus and the Williams and to a lesser degree the Sauber. Red Bull seem to have struggled a bit more to be consistent, as have Mercedes.

But what I think completely debunks any and all credibility the "sheer luck" argument might have had, is the situation at Ferrari. If it was luck alone, Massa would have shone at least at some point during the 15 practice sessions, or 5 qualifyings, or anywhere in the 5 races. But he's been consistently slower than Alonso and only the amount by which he's been slower has varied. So it's not luck. There is a difference there. And for all you "purists" out there whinging about the lack of difference the drivers can make with these tyres, Ferrari does make it look a bit like it is in fact the driver.

217

I think Raymond YZJ couldnt be further from the mark.

Maldonardo and Perez have shown this year that maybe these drivers that everyone had written off as lack luster drivers that have paid to get a seat actually do have the talent and ability to compete at the top level and the midfield teams that most had written off are back and competitive.

Would you rather a return to the absolute dominance of one team over the whole season like the Schumacher/Ferrari years or more recently Vettel/Red Bull?

What we are seeing now is a return to the golden age of Formula 1, where a driver or team doesn't win a championship in the first 5 races. They win them by driving their cars against competitive cars and fighting for the points on offer.

I would rather see a driver win a championship during the last race of the season.

Take a look back at the seasons during the 70's and 80's and compare them to the mid to late 90's and early 00's, which were the more competitive and exciting to watch?

218

a worthy tribute to all the F1 drivers...it's easy to forget how much talent is required to reach the top level of a genuine international sport with only 20 or so coveted positions available - compared to golf, tennis, football etc where even the elite leagues support several hundred competitors.

219
Tom in adelaide

Pastor seems like a good guy and it's nice to see someone new on the podium.

Here's hoping Lewis and Webbo win the next two races and keep this crazy season going!

220
Craig @ Manila

Some semi-interesting data somewhat off topic :

In 2010, 68% of races were won by someone that qualified on the front-row.

In 2011, 79% of races were won by someone that qualified on the front-row.

In 2012, 80% of races have been won by someone that qualified on the front-row.

Let's see if Monaco changes things.

221
Matt Devenish

I was just about to post that with the exception of the Malaysian GP (which also happened to be a wet race), every race in 2012 has been won by a driver who started on the front row. But I see you've beaten me to it 😉

I would be very surprised if this trend was broken in Monaco unless it's a wet race or affected by a safety car.

But it poses yet another question about how much influence the Pirelli tyres are having on the race results because whoever leads into T1 has far more of an advantage now that at any other time.

Webber and Perez were very quick in the early stages (and faster than the leaders) but were hampered by track position. I do wonder if the tyres had the durability of the Bridgestones*, if drivers would be able to press on a bit more than they can at present, without the fear of the tyres falling away completely later in the stint, resulting in earlier stops, which exasperates the problem further later in the race, the other alternative is switching strategy to accommodate more stops.

Having watched the race again, there was no way that Alonso was getting past Maldonado or Raikkonen getting past Alonso unless the driver in front made a mistake. The gaps were too big and in order to reduce them the chasing driver had to take too much life out of the tyres. In the last stint I think it was 5 or 6 laps where Alonso was catching Maldonado and then the Ferrari charge was over and he began to fall back. This was at the same time Maldonado was being told to look after the tyres – so was Fernando pushing too hard and used up all of his tyre performance too soon? Did Maldonado cruise to the finish? I don’t think either statement is true, but it’s a shame that at the pinnacle of motorsport we aren’t hearing about drivers pushing the limits of performance for lap after lap until the finish of a Grand Prix anymore. Instead it’s about managing that performance. Which is better? I’m not sure I know.

*I accept that the Bridgestone philiosphy compared to the Pirelli is completely different and if Bridgestone were still supplying tyres there would be no such thing as “the undercut”. I also think Pirelli have created some fantastic races and this isn’t an attempt to

On a side note, I can't wait to see the UBS race chart, I really think Lotus Renault left it 3 or 4 laps too long again to pit Raikkonen for the final time, in order to have a proper shot at Alonso's 2nd place - they were really spooked by what happened in China!

222

"whoever leads into T1 has far more of an advantage now that at any other time."

Maybe true - but obviously not this weekend.

"Having watched the race again, there was no way that Alonso was getting past Maldonado or Raikkonen getting past Alonso unless the driver in front made a mistake."

Simply untrue.

In Raikonnen's case it was his mistake - if he hadn't run the stint on options rather than the primes everyone else changed on to, he would probably have won the race.

In Alonso's case, he only got close to the Williams in the last stint because its tyres were older than his. The Ferrari was simply a slower car than the Williams. Williams were even able to get away with pitstop error which cost a few seconds.

If all the Pirelli tyres had the same balance between being able to race and having to manage degradation as the hard tyre does, they would be just about ideal.

223
Matt Devenish

Apologies, I should have written that starting on the front row is more advantageous than in previous years, rather than solely leading into T1, although that in itself is a massive advantage! Of the first five races three out of five winners lead into T1 and of the first five races four out of five winners started on the front row.

I think Alonso and Ferrari likely failed to capitalise on the delayed Williams pit stop because they didn't pit on the following lap. Maldonado lost about 2.2s (when you compare his slowest pit stops with the other Williams pit stops) and before the stops he was 0.9s ahead of Alonso. I think Ferrari extended the middle stint by 2 laps (from memory), either because they weren't confident Fernando could go 24 laps with his tyres “falling off the cliff” or because they felt the best chance for victory was to have slightly fresher tyres towards the end of the race and gambled on Alonso catching and passing Maldonado, which he was able to do for 6 laps before the tyres went off. Of course this is moot because Maldonado was a lot quicker than Fernando in S3, even while trying to conserve tyres, so you could argue that had Fernando pitted the lap immediately after Maldonado then he would have emerged ahead and still had the benefit of 1 lap fresher rubber for the remaining laps. It would then have been on Maldonado to use his tyres more aggressively to try and catch Fernando.

“Simply untrue.

In Raikonnen’s case it was his mistake – if he hadn’t run the stint on options rather than the primes everyone else changed on to, he would probably have won the race.”

That’s too general a statement, if Lotus/Raikkonen took the hard tyre instead of the soft at the first stint they would have still emerged behind Alonso. Assuming that later in the race he did manage to pass or jump Alonso then potentially he might have had a shot at victory, but I still maintain that Lotus were/are too scared to suffer a repeat of China. They dithered at the last stop and should have brought Raikkonen in earlier, possibly as many as three laps earlier.

224

Small data set, of narrowly defined metric.

If Kimi had overtaken Vettel in Bahrain, your 80% would have been 60%. Would you have drawn the opposite conclusion?

That's not to say Kimi could or would have won. What I'm saying is that implying that the races are predictable or race outcomes are overdependent on quali, based on data that says "look at (eg) Bahrain, Vettel pole to flag, QED" kind of overlooks the fact that the other two podium places went to the guys who qualified p7 and p11, no?

225
Craig in Manila

Hi Toleman Fan,

As I have not drawn any conclusion it is somewhat impossible for me to draw the opposite conclusion.

Re the races : I don't agree that they are predictable (far from it) and I don't agree that they are overdependent on quali (except maybe on certain tracks).

I do however think that anyone who likes to bet on the winner of the races should look no further than Row 1 irrespective of what tyres have been saved by drivers starting further down the grid !!

Cheers,

226

@Craig has stated facts. He was talking about winners - not podium places and not "what-ifs" - just plain facts.

His stats - albeit small and narrowly defined, are totally valid.

227

Indeed so. I thought I'd conceded that quite explicitly.

They just happen not to mean very much.

228

Well the reason is very simple! It is to do with car balance and set up relative to the tyres in a given environment. The driver actually represents the smallest part of the equation. That said some drivers can influence their own results more than others, and I put Alonso currently at the top that list. He seems to be always there or thereabouts to take advantage. While all of this makes for an exciting spectacle, I cannot help feeling bemused about a formula that is decided by over sensitive tyres, and where overtaking is done mainly because your opponents tyres are falling away. Worst still drivers have to run with their tyres within a narrow operating temperature range; too low and the grip is not there; too high and they degrade rapidly. The reason that we are seeing different winners each GP is that it has become a black art to get the set up and balance to suit the tyres at the track, and it is a fact that none of the teams fully understand what is going on. The analogy is like trying to hit a very small moving target with a short sighted marksman.

229
Craig @ Manila

Nice summation.

230

I'm glad you haven't done what everyone here has ans said it's 'luck'. Although 'black art' is close!

The form guide will become clearer as teams begin to understand the tyres. Cars will probably become a bit more compliant as the championship progresses. I just hope Pirelli don't change the compound of the tyres again next year because they've caused a real headache and drivers and engineers this year.

231

Black art is a term used to describe something that is not understood usually because of it's complexity. I suppose the question is will the teams get on top these issues, personally I think it unlikely and the unpredictability will continue throughout the season.

232

I agree totally - we have the illusion of exciting races, but what has really happened is that we have introduced a HUGE volatile factor (flaky tyres). The key to winning a race is pitting on the right laps. Couple of laps too early or late, and your race is ruined. And since the tyres are so variable, none of the teams has very good data to decide when to pit, so it comes down largely to... luck.

What we have no is really poker - over the long term the best drivers will probably prevail. But in the mean time, average teams and drivers can get lucky.

Maybe it is more unpredictable, but is it more exciting? Perhaps Schumacher (of whom I am not a fan) was right when he said it wasn't satisfying - I'd sooner see drivers doing 3 sprint races and driving on the edge, than having to drive cleverly at well below the limit.

For the next generation of cars, lets have better tyres, less downforce, less aero disruption and make it so the fastest way round is to hammer out qualifying style laps on every lap.

233

Hi James,

I was going through the lap times from the race and thought of a theory.

Button stopped on lap 38 for his last stop and set his fastest lap on lap 41,

Hamilton stopped on lap 35 but didn't set his fasted lap until lap 50.

When Hamilton stopped Button was less than 3 seconds behind but was over 7 seconds by the end of the race.

I'm not sure if Button was using a set of used hards from Q1 in this stint but it does suggest drivers can't make full use of the tires in the openning part of a stint or they just go backwards by the end.

This may explain why Alonso fell away at the end of the race on newer tires to Maldonado.

Sorry it's a bit off topic

234

Thanks. Traffic has a huge part to play in it. They degrade faster when following another car

235
James Clayton

This is probably the area the big P need to work on. If we didn't have this issue then we could still enjoy some of the close racing that we hanker for.

236

James, I get the feeling that the traditional midfield drivers who are used to running long stints and tyre management to make their strategies work are coming into their own this year with the closeness of the field and the 2012 tyres. I felt Maldonardo demonstrated this perfectly in his last stint yesterday. Would you agree this is a factor?

237

Yes, it worked for Di Resta in Bahrain.

Alguersuari was very good at this last year for Toro Rosso. He'd be going well this year in one of these cars

238

Haha, is he looking over your shoulder while you're typing this?

I kid of course, he would be an asset for a few teams this year.

239

Luck is always an element in F1. I however do not agree that it's a lottery or pure luck to win a race this season. I remember Williams in the hand of Maldonado showed great pace from the first race. Secondly, MacLaren can not translate their pace into victory and I have a feeling that Martin Whitmarsh is in a very tough spot right now. Thirdly and most importantly the field has been levelled successfully.

James, do you think Michael Schumacher has lost it? I was really think he would have blown away Rosberg. Is he trying too hard right now? I hope him to win races this season.

240

No, he's been doing ok, but the races haven't worked out and the quali in Bahrain didn't work out

241

I have always felt that the measure of a great driver is what he does on the bad days. Easy to win a race when it all falls into place (car working just the way you want it, pitstops are sweet, traffic kind, rivals have problems) but on the bad days it is easy to lose one's head, make mistakes or just give up. Alonso has been mega this year for me. That Ferrari was way off the pace and still is not up to standard but here he is leading the championship with Vettel.

242

I, for one, think that it's fantastic to see different drivers winning. It's finally showing that F1 is ultimately 90% about the cars and 5% about the drivers and how good ALL the drivers who make the grid really are...and what it really takes to stand out a champion like a hamilton, alonso or vettel....to be better than the best.

243
James Clayton

what about the other 5%?

244

Don't you mean 90% about the tyres?!

245
Pranav Haldea

Ha...If it were, shouldnt we have also seen the HRTs and the Caterhams right up there?!?

246

The current F1 'formula' really is producing some great races at the moment. Although I suppose many will argue that it's too contrived and that the rules are too restrictive. But surely that is what a 'formula' is, it's a set of rules!

Engines are now relatively closely matched, the cars are much the same shape, reliability is better than ever, everyone gets the same tyres and so the most pronounced variables now are how cars react to different circuits, pit stop strategy, and of course - weather! Driver skill does seem to be playing more of a role this season - mainly 'tyre-care' I admit.

We can all remember seasons where only 2 teams could win a race and drivers would line up 2-by-2 in team order on the grid, but now you get the feeling that the driver (coupled with his engineer) is an important factor rather than just the car, and isn't that good for the sport?

This convergence is good for entertainment, although perhaps at the expense of innovation in some areas. However, as a fan since mid '86 that really doesn't bother me too much. I was in favour of the resource restriction agreement (or whatever is left of it) and if the racing we are now getting is partly a product of that, long may it continue.

To add variety back to F1, wouldn't it be great to see some slightly more atypical circuits being used again, allowing cars with certain characteristics to have an advantage. For instance a fast circuit like Paul Ricard which would favour cars with fantastic straight line speed.

To add yet more interest, national representation and colour, wouldn't it be great to see more teams (30 cars) competing in qualifying again. That would re-introduce the dreaded DNQ back to F1! (Safety rules mean only 26 cars can race if I remember correctly). Having 30 drivers in Q1, with 4 going home early really would be exciting. However considering where the slowest 3 teams are after 40 races, it's unlikely that we could have 26 cars all getting well inside the 107% rule, which is a shame. (I'm against 3-car teams and never understood why 1-car teams were outlawed). I had been hoping that cost restrictions would make having 30 cars viable again. Perhaps not.

To sum up, I think closely matched racing as a result of the tighter set of rules is working well at the moment.

Anyone agree?

p.s. Perhaps I'll be eating my words if Williams dominate for the rest of the season!

247

Just when I thought level headed, unbiased evaluation by "F1 pundits" had finally showed up in F1 circus and how the article was about the mid-field drivers are not bad as the fans/pundits simplistically reduce them to and it has to do a lot with the circumstances in which they and their teams operate.

The British flag on the sleeve sprung up in paragraph 9 with reference to 2009 season.

Honestly 2009 was all about the trick diffuser that 3 teams on the grid had and rest of the grid never came to terms with it.

While Williams and Toyota never developed the idea fully, thanks to severance deal with Honda, Brawn-Fry were able to develop that car to its maximum potential.

While what Button has done in McLaren has to be applauded, 2009 is not exactly the season that vindicates his capability as a driver.

2009 was about the randomness with which FIA (under Moseley) governed the sport. Logically the trick diffusers were breaching the specification, its just because an underdog team had exploited the condition and was in sitting pretty in Championship after the quarter of a season WMSC decided to pander to the need for "feel good" story and Brawn/Button got a free pass.

If the author really wanted to justify Button and his potential 2010-11 should have been used as example of how "Every driver needs all the right conditions to thrive in F1", in case of Button lot has to do with the personal choices he made in terms of lifestyle in recent years that has contributed to his on-track performance.

If one has to look at Button till 2008 season, if not for his nationality the British media associated with F1 would have never given him the long rope that he got.

Better drivers have fallen prey to system malignant press attack resulting in eventual exit from F1 all of which starts with underhanded praise, tongue in cheek insults and so on.

248

Schumacher wasted 10 good years of my life storming round on bespoke tires at qualifying pace whilst Ross Brawn fed optimum sector times into his ear ( don't get me wrong I'm not a hater, Michaels talents are beyond debate), if the past 2 years slightly contrived tyres and DRS rules are the solution to reintroducing an element of uncertainty and variety to F1 then so be it. Before F1 turned into a multi billion dollar pursuit of diminishing returns and Tilke dromes the random nature of reliability, track characteristics and driver form fluctuations threw many challenges at teams and drivers, funnily enough the cream still rose to the top as a brief read of the list of World Champions over the years reveals.

Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and dare I say it Pastor Maldonado yesterday proved that a top flight driver is good for more than just hammering in a consistent string of lap times, they adapt and they adjust to the circumstances, throughout a race it will be interesting to see which drivers and teams are able to do this most regularly this season. I hope that the slightly random nature of F1 this year allows more opportunities for lesser known drivers and race engineers to have the chance to show what they can do.

249

100% agreee with you one this one, James. I am an Alonso fan but it is great for the show to see a wider range of drivers and teams having the chance to fight for wins.

250

Everyone loves the underdog

251

Well, there are drivers and...drivers. You put wrong foot naming elite drivers. Not the same those drivers who are struggling all his life step by step to get the same stuff than privileged ones that they had the chance to begin F1 in a big red carpet. Remember Minardi? You are pointing out a driver after a great race, what a discover? Nope. An elite driver is a guy who are ready to maintain peak levels all season. A privileged brain with a natural skills to defeat the others all his career. Justice with drivers skills is another story. Marketing, publicity, media interests, Ecclestone "touch" for the spectacle, etc. A large number of things very far from the sport. The elite guys are products. The left guy of the photo is a real warrior, he fight & fighetd with FIA (Tony Scott Andrews, Max Mosley, Charlie Whiting), English Media lobby, Ron Dennis, even Bernie Ecclestone & his biased FOM. Please talk to me of "elite drivers" but begin to named correctly and avoid this photo as an example.

252

I have been an F1 fan since the late seventies. What can I say but the current season is fabulous. Part of the skill of an F1 driver is managing the package. The current set up is bringing an element of uncertainty and it is great to watch the different car and driver strengths and weaknesses play out.

This is much better than a season dominated by one team. Drivers and cars slip up and down the order as things develop and the fractions that matter get smaller. Look at qualifying this week, soooo close that 6tenths of a second separated hero and zero.

That closeness is reflected in the race wins. Manage the package = win.

Overdrive = fall off a cliff.

Much as i love watching cars right on the edge this is more entertaining and more rewarding.

253

Perhaps we could do the same thing with the Tour De France by giving the riders handle bars that bent or broke if they pulled on them too hard? Or if they chose the wrong bars for a 2 degree C race day temperature swing?

254

"Manage the package = win.

Overdrive = fall off a cliff"

Amen, great season. And to take your point a bit further....there's one guy in particular that is smarter at managing the package and better driving around equipment problems then the others. Alonso. IMO the best driver in F1 at the moment and has been for quite some time. I think it becomes lost on many just how good he really is.

255
Offshore Scott

No one seems to be considering the positive impact this will have on the midfield teams' abilities to gain (and retain) sponsors. With any luck the extra exposure these teams are now getting will help them remain competitive in seasons to come. I'm loving the randomness of the season so far.

I'm sure as the season progresses the leading teams will learn what it takes to make the tires work on any given day. It is just taking longer than usual this year.

256
James Clayton

Yea maybe they could run like this for a couple of years so sponsorship deals are spread around more and there are more teams running with bigger budgets. Once that's sorted, we can have some decent tyres back!

257
Darren Leslie

It seems to me as though a great many people want a return to the Bridgestone indestructable tyres, where they could drive 100% all the time. It would be well to remind people that that period was not representative of F1 through the years. F1 before that time was all about managing the car, the tyres and even the driver himself through fatigue. It's just now that we've returned to the norm after a long period of flat out racing.

258
James Clayton

People have probably talked more about tyres(one way or another) in the last five races, than they probably did over an entire season when we had tyre wars between 2 different companies.

Something must be wrong if that's the case.

259
James Clayton

And I'm pretty sure having 2 manufacturers is the only way we can get good tyres having a *genuine* impact on the race.

260

"It seems to me as though a great many people want a return to the Bridgestone indestructable tyres, where they could drive 100% all the time. "

It seems to me that almost no one wants this.

Those who aren't very keen on the current Pirellis just want a small step in that direction. At the moment it is impossible to drive 100% any of the time on the softer compounds.

261

Forget all the technical stuff about the tyres - can't we just appreciate the huge skids when the tyres go off 🙂

How was Alonso'd huge drift on (IIRC) the 3rd to last lap. I want to see that repeated ad nauseum in super slow mo.

Now, how can we get all the drivers to start on a set of totally shagged out tyres? Would probably suit Kimi being an ex-rallyist.

262

F1 is not a lottery ... Races are won by teams who setup their car to the track best and drivers who adapt to the situations they find themselves in.

Williams proved this beyond doubt yesterday and I for one, am happy to see the likes of Rosberg and Maldanado stand on the top step of the podium as F1 winners.

Consistency wins championships. 2012 will be no different.

263
Carlo_Carrera

Great article James. The history of F1 is littered with possible great drivers stuck in mid-pack cars their entire careers. Jenson Button was almost one of them. Nico Rosberg is trying to escape the same fate.

264

Each winner from the first 5 races of this year have earned their win with fantastic, world beating performances on the day. And whilst the top step isn't being traditionally monopolised, the top talents are still shining through.

If anything, the tyre influence and unpredictability race to race, is perhaps forcing the championship contender wannabes to earn their title more than ever. I love the fact that Alonso is now jointly leading the championship in a Ferrari that really shouldn't be in such a position. In previous years, Fernados elite/exceptional drives would only see him breaking into the top five or maybe the odd podium in such a car, whereas this year he has been able to stubbornly earn his place at the top of the drivers championship, as his ability to ring the neck of the car at every race counts more than ever.

265

Forgot to begin previous comment with an "Agreed." Sorry!

266

Randomness (NOT the case) is very different from unpredictability (now THAT is the case). Unpredictability can be handled and is being handled. That's how I see the tyre influence on the results. The best drivers will still be the best drivers and get the best WDC positions. See Raikkonen, Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel performances this last race and you will understand my point.

267

James, who do you think will have a shot at Monaco? Another different winner? Hamilton? Raikkonen?

268

If it's warm I think Kimi can win. The McLarens will be there. Tougher for Ferrari which isn't quite there on traction out of slow corners yet.

Maldonado is exceptionally fast there and this Williams isn't a bad car now, it was strong in sector 3 in Spain which is mainly slow corners.

269

Presumably it'll be interesting to see how far a set of tyres can get around Monaco. The Lotus is pretty good on its tyres everywhere else, do you see Kimi trying a one stopper and just packing the grid up behind him in the last 10 laps or so? Or am I totally underestimating tyre wear around Monaco? Presumably a lot of teams will try 2 stops...?

270

Temperature will be vital for Lotus, they need it hot. Looks like it'll be low 20s next week, so maybe not quite enough for them.

Williams were fastest in Sector 3 in Spain, which is all slow corners, like Monaco. They always have a good car in Monaco, so I'd tip Maldonado and Hamilton to fight for win there

271

Yes , warm weather is a significant factor when it comes to Lotus but from that we've seen even Lotus has work to do on traction out of slow corners.

It might be a fight between mclaren,williams,sauber(hasnt been able to convert potential into race wins .. consistent in most weather conditions) and with luck even mercedes

272

Excellent piece James. This is what we come here for. What was even more impressive yesterday was that Pastor was quick all through the weekend and there weren't sudden changes in the weather or incidents on track which gifted him the win. Thoroughly deserved victory for a well round performance.

273

Mr James.

Will you be kind enough to perhaps advise

what is the state of Mr Kubica? will he race

again in F1 and the chances him replacing Massa

at Ferrari before current seasson end.

Thanking you kindly.

Onko.

274

Man how I miss having Kubica out there.

It's just such a shame and waste of talent.

275

Very quiet on Kubica front. He won't replace Massa, no.

Will he race in F1 again? I doubt it, from what I hear, but never say never.

276

Well... I still think we do not know anything about Kubica. Somehow we hear in Poland he's in better shape than people think (like his co-driver saying on tv his hand is ok). He does various things and after one or two months we learn about them (like karting, ralling or gp2 symulator).I know it is not a popular guess, but I still think we'll see him back in 2013. Him joining the exciting 2012 F1 would make the season unforgettable.

277

Thank you Sir,I find you always worth listen

to, be it on the air or a print.

Hopefuly the " fat lady" does not sing as yet

I like the guy bit of Allonso mould never

give up.

Sincerely Onko.

278

James, your in a better position than most for insight into Kubica's condition, that being said it would be great to see him back. Even from a fans perspective it doesnt seem likely given what we've heard...let alone what we've NOT heard. Thanks for chiming in on this, been wondering the same thing.

279

Is it a mere coincidence or is there much more to it - the fact that the races are getting so unpredictable during a time when F1 is getting ready for its floatation.

All these results feel so surreal.

Perez hasnt matched his Malaysian GP performance again.Would love to watch what Maldonado does post Spain

280

People keep going on about 'how we've forgotten how dull previous seasons were'.

Okay - so why were they dull? People couldnt overtake. Why couldn't they overtake? Because they couldnt get close to the car infront due to turbulence.

Ok....now we have DRS - which solves that problem. Some circuits its too powerful, some circuits its not enough, but overall, it works.

DRS + refuelling + durable tyres = flat out racing, at almost qualifying pace, from start to finish.

it would be an awesome spectacle. instead we're left with this complete lottery, based on air temperature, based on whether a team might have accidentally stumbled into a setup window which happens to agree with the track temperature on any given sunday.

now the drivers have even LESS influence than before!

281

DRS is NOT the solution to the problem of following closely another car. It is merely a band-aid. Cars are still thrown out of balance when following each other and overtaking still remains very circuit dependant because of that. If not for the tyres, we wouldn't have seen a single overtaking this weekend.

Despite the success of the current formula in increasing the spectacle, rebalancing the importance between mechanical and aerodynamic grip should remain an objective of the regulation makers for future years. Ultimately DRS is STILL a gimmick, more so than the fall off the cliff tyres, and there must be found a way to get rid of both while keeping the level of spectacle. For now, I'll take this formula over any other I've seen since I started watching the sport.

282

2 thumbs up

283

It's been bugging me for a decade or more and now Williams are back it seems like a good time to ask.

Who was the blonde haired lady who worked for Williams in the early 90s, you see her in all the team shots from that era, what was her role in the team, what became of her ?

Sorry if a little off topic.

284
Andrew Carter

To those that think the tyres are nothing but a lotery, has it escaped everyones attention that Lotus seem to have been competative at every race this year, and arguably could/should have won the last two if they'd done everything right tactically/operationally, not to mention a podium in China. I hink someone may already have found the secret to getting the best out of these tyres, and they're not sharing.

285

So why did they choose the wrong compounds during Sunday's race ?

286
Andrew Carter

Can't get it right all the time, but even with the wrong tyres, they were still faster than everybody except Maldonado and Alonso. That really does suggest they have a better handle on the tyres than anybody else.

287

but common senly...why would the team pitted kimi earlier while he was on fresh stint of medium and later put him on used medium and expect him to last 28 laps???

288

So why did Raikkonen finish 14th in China? Lotus has a very quick car, perhaps 2nd quickest after McLaren, but their understanding of the tyres is about the same as other top teams (bar Merc, they clearly have no idea). If you really understand how the tyres work, then you should be able to make them work 'all the time', that's the whole point of understanding. If you sometimes can and sometimes can't - that's the definition of a lottery.

289

No, Kimi dropped at the end not because of the tyres, but because he went off line defending from Vettel and got marbles all over his tyres. This killed them

I got this from Lotus engineer - he'd have finished behind Vettel if he'd not done that.

There are a lot of wrong assumptions out there about this subject

290

Had the same thought, you dont hear those that are performing grumbling about the tires do you?

291

GPUpdate had this list. Seems that while some spoils have been given to the "minnows" it's clear that this club is still quite elite. 65% of wins held by top 5 countries. Go top 10 and you have 87%. So odds are with you if you're from the top 10 coutries. Not so much if you're not.

List of Grand Prix wins by driver nationality:

1. United Kingdom – 220 wins, 19 drivers

2. Germany – 126 wins, 7 drivers

3. Brazil – 101 wins, 6 drivers

4. France – 79 wins, 12 drivers

5. Finland – 44 wins, 4 drivers

6. Italy - 43 wins, 15 drivers

7. Austria – 41 wins, 3 drivers

8. Argentina – 38 wins, 3 drivers

9. Australia – 33 wins, 3 drivers

10. United States – 33 wins, 15 drivers

11. Spain – 28 wins, 1 driver

12. Canada – 17 wins, 2 drivers

=13 New Zealand – 12 wins, 2 drivers

=13 Sweden – 12 wins, 3 drivers

15. Belgium – 11 wins, 2 drivers

16. South Africa – 10 wins, 1 driver

=17 Colombia – 7 wins, 1 driver

=17 Switzerland – 7 wins, 2 drivers

19. Mexico – 2 wins, 1 driver

=20 Poland – 1 win, 1 driver

=20 Venezuela – 1 win, 1 driver

292

Once upon a time the Indy500 was classed a Grand Prix race, so it really skews the results of US winning drivers.

293

Don't worry, US will get bumped out of top 10 soon enough.

Whoever that 1 driver is that got the 28 wins for Spain is in a good position to get it done. 🙂 And he will be the only solo country effort to be in the top 10.

294

What a weekend: The deaths of two sports in just one day!

I am fairly sure I heard a Mancunian lecturer tell 5Live that we had witnessed the demise of professional football because a team assembled with the private fortune of an Arab pontentate had finally proven that you could indeed "buy" the Premiership.

And now your "elite" correspondents on JAF1 are saying that just hours after the Manchester debacle on the other side of Europe a lethally dumbed-down racing formula (formerly known as F1) had yielded another shock result. For shame!

Next you will tell me those 70000 crowds cheering on the IPL are killing cricket too!

So what is wrong with me, doc? Because I am absolutely loving it.

295

It can't all be down to the tyres in a race.

If you look at the qualifying times when all the drivers are pushing as hard as they can there is not much between them, e.g second qualifying in spain there was only 1.3 second between the top 17 drivers, and in the previous race half a second between the top 15.

So that means if one team doesn't have the perfect setup or a driver makes a small mistake they are going to be a lot further down the field than they would be if they were more spaced out.

296

Sorry, but the fact that in one race a driver shines and in others he is NOWHERE to be seen does not emphasize his qualities but rather attributes a good result to luck with this years tyres and setup.

Besides, in previous seasons drivers who were able to get results beyond the cars capabilities have always been acknowledged for their skills and talent. (Rosberg at Williams, Massa at Sauber, Kimi at Sauber, Schumacher at Benetton, Di Resta last Season etc)

I dont like elite clubs and love the idea of the RRA but this F1 should not be about who has 'Deep Thought' on his side

297
James Clayton

Maldo nowhere to be seen?

He has been dead impressive all season, aside from his silly mistake in Australia.

Clearly the Williams was a much better car here than it has been so before, but that's normal in F1; teams improve and dip as the season goes on.

It's totally unfair to say Maldo was nowhere, though.

298

My comment was not aimed at Maldonado directly, but a generalisation of the situation. You are right, in fact Maldonado is one of the few "consistent" drivers this season. The examples I am thinking of are Button, Rosberg or Perez. I like new winners, I like more than just 2-3 teams at the top but I dont like the lack of consistency. Imagine all the 5 winning teams batteling it out at the top but not with dramatic performance drop offs as we have seen so far but rather the top 10 reaching the finish line within 10-20seconds. I know thats never gonna happen though 🙂

299

Some observations.

Mostly stable regulations has allowed the less wealthy teams to catch up with the big spenders. Lotus,Sauber and Williams have been quick all year including pre-season testing. Also the top teams haven't got an engine advantage over the mid-field anymore. The engine and kers system in the Williams is the same as that of the Redbull and the Lotus.

The competition is so fierce out there, if any of the top teams/drivers have an off day they are going to get punished. Really if not for Mclaren's screw-ups, Lewis should be comfortably ahead in the championship. Whereas you get the sense that Alonso and Ferrari's teamwork is maximizing every opportunity they get.

Pastor's win was the first real upset this year, whereas Sergio's second was more of a freak result due to conditions. If Lewis had started at the front, I believe he would of easily won this race.

The cream still rises to the top. A look at the championship table and the first four are all world champions.

I for one have thoroughly enjoyed each of the races this year, and hope it stays as competitive as this all year. Whoever wins the championship this year would have to of earned it.

300

Great point James. Despite all the grumblings of the uncertainty over predictable tire performance (tiresome discussion already...just drive the damn car) I couldnt agree with you more. There are F1 drivers who have come and gone who's names may not be so easily forgotten had they been driving in a season such as this.

301

I actually disagree with your analysis, James. There have been many instances when drivers in the smaller teams have done a fair bit of giant killing, but then perhaps they just get ignored by journalists who seem to only focus on the top teams or the more hyped up-and-coming drivers. These are balanced by those who take a more holistic view and look at the whole grid's performances.

302

I don't agree with this article. Although JA says that the cream rises to the top (citing their salaries), the elitist always do better than ordinary drivers even in a poor equipment. Alonso-Massa (post accident), Raikkonen-Fisichella, Raikkoen-Boader etc. are examples. The difference between them is staggering. Perez, Maldonado or whoever even if given a very good car, need not necessarily win WDC as it is not easy to perform consistently well over the full season. The teams know when they spot a special talent - like they did with Alonso, Hamilton, Kimi, Vettel when young. They were given good cars and because they were special and they displayed those skills and not the other way round.

"It was a similar story in 2009 when Jenson Button showed that his poor results with Honda were to do with the car, not him and that he was capable of winning a championship."

This is in fact a perfect example that if Button is not an elitist driver. He could win only when given a much superior car. If he is given a Ferrari or Lotus of this year, would he have done similar to Alonso or Kimi? With a superior car like McLaren, he still lags behind these two. Hamilton's opportunities got scuppered due to team mistakes, otherwise he would be performing what was expected of the car by leading the WDC. Last year his head was not right, otherwise Button could never have beaten him.

In F1 currently there are only 4 drivers who can be called the extra-ordinary - they are all WDCs and they are the top-4 in the table currently for a good reason.

Perez or any other driver need to perform consistently well over a full season. Perhaps they will then be recognized and given a good car (by top teams) and then they will be branded elitist too consequently. So it is talent that brings the eliteness!

303

While I fully agree with your logic here. How will you explain the state of affairs with seven time driver's champion who is not coming to term with the Pirellis since last season?

2010 his excuse was - a) Brawn car was designed for Button b) The regulations have changed with non-grooved tyres, end of refueling (which was introduced in 2010) and change in dimensions of front and back wheels ( which was again 2010 introduction)

2011 - the Pirellis hounded him through the first 2/3 of season. last 1/3rd (around Italian GP) Mercedes put in lots of technical people to work with him to help alleviate his tyre troubles - and he did show bit of comeback in the final phase.

2012 - Pirellis have become more unpredictable and their performance degradation is more unpredictable than ever, and he has come all guns blazing against it in recent races.

Incidentally the driver who modeled himself on Schumi is having same troubles as his mentor. I am referring to Massa, but ofcourse Massa doesn't have enough pull in the Ferrari team that he used to have till his accident. so currently he is just living on dole.

Anyways main point is of Schumi. If indeed cream rises to top and the elites do differentiate from the riffraff, why is Schumi not coping well with F1 since his return??

304

Schumi is almost like father figure to some of the drivers. Age does matter in any sport. The reflexes are a bit less, the strains in the sport cannot be coped as easily as a younger person and the aggressive skills are a bit tempered - in this case, compare Schumi now with Schumi old not with other drivers as Schumi now is a bit more aggressive than say Button or Kimi - Barrichello's incident comes to mind.

305

Too many rules making the cars too similar. The tires are all the same, no refueling so the cars all have to be WAY heavy for the majority of the race. Variety is the spice and F1 is losing it in hoards. I find myself dozing during F1 now like I used to when I would watch NASCAR, now I don't watch NASCAR, wonder if F1 is heading the same way.

306

this is my first comment here so let me first congratulate james for creating such a wonderfully objective and insightful website for all f1 fans. although sometimes we are less objective and make mistakes we shouldn't stop trying. keep up the good work james.

regarding the article, i am very happy because i always wanted to find out who the best drivers were and it can ONLY happen when given equal machinery. f1 2012 is as close as it gets. it confirms that the differences are marginal and so called midfield drivers is just a perception created by fanboys. every driver deserves credit when done well.

307
Tornillo Amarillo

You put Maldonado up, so also Senna is down,

like Button was OK in 2009 but not Barrichello.

So it is like the elite is wider, but still an elite IMO.

308

Barichello won twice in 2009. If not for the "mystery gearshift issues" that messed up his race starts in first 4 races that season, he wasn't that shabby. Of course the first race his "mystery issues" were resolved, Brawn played the "strategy switch" trick and the message was delivered to the Brazilian, whom the team was backing for the driver's title.

When Jenson was off his game mid season, Rubens was briefly back in game with wins in Valencia and Italy. But by that time the noise from British Press about backing "younger" driver for longer term prospect of team was already muddying the waters.

Press plays these songs, changes tune on how things suite them and F1 becomes a perfect pot boiler.

2007 the tune was back Lewis, the young hot shoe.

2009 - back Jenson, the younger of the two drivers for long term future of Brawn GP

2010 - Back Webber, Vettel has life ahead of him to win title, for Webber its probably one last chance, so RedBull should repay Webber for his service.

F1 and its funny ways, full entertainment.

309

My view is that the top drivers are top for an additional reason. They perform under high pressure without "cracking" they are consistent and they always (or almost always) deliver. A talented driver provided with a competitive car is prone to mistakes or misjudgements due to lack of the above elements. Both Perez (less) and Maldonado (more) have shown that this season.

310

Hello James, nice article.

I think F1 drivers, with few exceptions, are very evenly matched and the current situation shows it clearly - most is capable of shining when circumstances allow them to but only the elite will constantly get the maximum out of the car in every race (of course, sometimes their efforts can be ruined by wrong tactics or a bad stop - let's not forget F1 is very much a team sport). Look at Alonso - the guy's been incredible from the second half of 2010.

We have a very close season but is it really the tyres or is it teams being much much closer this year? It looks like it's a bit of both but does anyone know the proportion?

Before we start criticising Pirelli, I think we should never underestimate the fact that different teams came up with different (and interesting) solutions on their cars this season. What do you think, James?

Cheers, Bart

311

It's both, but the teams are definitely a lot closer and that's good for everyone (except the top teams who have to work harder!)

312
Stone the crows

I do not understand all of this talk of F-1 being a ‘lottery,’ or of a driver being on the podium by ‘luck’ and the ‘F-1 is all about the tyres’ complaints. For years fans have complained about F-1 being a parade with the same teams winning every Sunday, and so the FiA listened and instituted changes and now we’re complaining that the ‘elite’ are not being permitted to win. Has anyone taken a look at which teams are at the top of the points right now? Are they there by accident? Are they there by luck? Or is it by skill and consistency? In my opinion F-1 has always talked more about tyres than any other motorsport. And I daresay that historically the compounds, size and architecture of the tyres have been manipulated more in F-1 than any other formula. Not so long ago the FiA led by Max Mosley mandated the switch from slicks to grooved tyres to reduce the contact patch for safety reasons, and everything about the cars changed. It was all about the tyres during the tyre war between Michelin and Bridgestone and we cheered as one team would do better on a particular compound than another team with a different brand of rubber. It was all about tyres in the abysmal 2005 season that required one set of tyres to last an entire race; which reached its apex in the fiasco at the USGP. If you were at all paying attention to the dominance of Ferrari during the Schumacher/Brawn/Todt era you would know that along with their pioneering work in engine mapping and traction control Ferrari was running virtually bespoke tyres. It was all about tyres when the FiA decreed a switch back to slicks because they had regulated away so much down force; and the teams had to sort out a completely new tyre that worked differently from anything they had used in a long time-to the advantage of some and the detriment of others.

I think it’s an insult to the zeal intellect and ability of the teams who are winning races this year to say that they were simply lucky to be where they are. Pastor Maldonado drove wheel to wheel with one of, if not the greatest driver of the current era and prevailed, he didn’t buckle under the pressure, showing great not only skill but mental toughess as a driver. Williams as a team pulled together to exploit the circumstances better than the others, that’s not luck that’s professionalism and skill. We’re seeing epic drives by young talented drivers and we’re grumbling about the sport being ruined. Yes, sometimes a driver needs and gets a bit of luck to go his way along with his ability and his team’s preparations, isn’t that also what makes a race interesting?

313

Of course it's a bit of a lottery with the tyres ! Otherwise mclaren, rbr, Ferrari, would win more races. That's the point -the f1 management want it this way.Yeah it's entertaining cause now you have millions of fans watching that know nothing about motor racing- I heard it from people over the weekend. Great for the sport yes. Is it right for Sport-- I say no way! All of us here say its great to see so many diff winners but we're all guessing whether the tyres are predictable .Teams can control their cars- engines, box ratios, diff, aero. But they have no control on the most important contact with ground. I can tell you if the top teams are struggling to understand the operating window of the tyres by now -none really does. And no not even Lotus ! As they would have won easily if they did- that's the point. When the operating window is marginal and very variable according to temp, track conditions. How consistent can they truly be ??

I hope James can ask this of Paul hembrey next time !

I would much prefer to see the fastest drivers drive flat out in the fastest cars on tyres lasting a race on light fuel than what we are seeing. The rules and financial restrictions are such that we have equalizers in drs and kers anyway. If a team dominate others can catch up in following season eg RBR blown diffuser.or mclaren f duct.

314
Stone the crows

So you'd like to go back to 2005? I mean no offense, but do you think that if Michael Schumacher wins a race this year he's going tell James in the post race interview that he won a tyre lottery and not a race? Is he going to say his win was a happy accident? Of course not, he would attribute the win to preparation and skill taking advantage of every opportunity?

315

This isnt about Michael or 2005. We actually have rules now which are the same for everyone(laughs). Budgets are probably less than half what they were. People can now overtake with KERS and DRS, DDR's, Engines lasting X.no of races, Gearboxes lasting x no of races. All the things that were a handicap to smaller teams are not as much anymore, Innovations are copied within 5 or so races. I dont get how people say "its still early" we are 5 from 20 and the worlds best engineers and best drivers still dont know whats happening with the tyres. Sure they will get it by August but more than half the season will be gone and only then we will see all that talent let loose each in their own way !

This all about appealing to new f1 fans with close racing but if you really understand the sport you cannot be convinced regardless of the results.

316

Gosh let's go round In circles did we have drs, KERS etc.. And yes I would prefer the fastest team driver regardless.. Lotteries are for the average joe blow..

317
Stone the crows

I based my question on your two statements; 'of course it's a bit of a lottery with the tyres,' and, 'I would much prefer to see the fastest drivers drive flat out in the fastest cars on tyres lasting a race on light fuel than what we are seeing.' In 2005 we had one tyre for the entire race in which refueling was allowed and that requirement lasted one season. I speculated that if it is a lottery then would the winners call it that? It is early, 5 races does not mean the season is over, far from it. Much is still to be learned, just as it is with any new technology introduced, such as KERS, or DRS, they had to be explored and improved. I don't see it so much as appealing to new fans as it has been satisfying the experienced fans who've complained for years about races that were nothing but processions and the only changes in position happen in the pit stops. Remember they had an overtaking working group to make these changes.