F1 Winter Break
The paddock buzz in Melbourne
McLaren Honda
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Mar 2012   |  2:37 pm GMT  |  139 comments

The F1 paddock was in full swing today as the new season got underway in Melbourne. The atmosphere was positive, with everyone looking forward to what should be a closely fought championship. But as always there are undertones of problems in the offing. And the weather threw up some surprises with rain storms in the afternoon and evening. More are forecast.

Whatever happens from here this is an historic season already for two reasons; it’s the first time there have been six world champions in the field and it’s the longest ever F1 season with 20 races.

Although there are voices in the paddock still saying that next month’s Bahrain GP will not happen, people on the ground there have told JA on F1 that the situation is quite different from last year. One neutral reader with no axe to grind, who lives in the Gulf and visits Bahrain regularly, told me this week, “The security threat is nothing like it was 12 months ago, and as far as the race being a ‘political statement’, I don’t think normal people, even those with strong opinions on such matters, see the race as such.” However FIA president Jean Todt said after the recent FIA World Council that they “will take the right decisions at the appropriate time”, which suggests that there are still decisions needing to be made.

Other threats are everywhere; the teams are divided with the FOTA seven on one side and five teams on the outside in Ferrari, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, HRT and Sauber.

They are working together to try to control costs and the signs are that this process is about to enter a new phase where the policing of the Resource Restriction Agreement will fall under FIA management. This is something that all the teams, with a couple of exceptions, are in favour of. Ferrari support it as do Mercedes and McLaren. For it to become part of next year’s regulations it needs to be passed by a majority and that is something being worked towards at the moment.

This way, should anyone be found to have overspent, there would be the possibility of some sanction from the FIA, which FOTA did not have and which therefore made it pointless in the eyes of Ferrari.

Smaller teams running out of money is another threat, with suggestions that not every team will make it to the end of the season.

The paddock was full of the usual hubbub, people reuniting after four months apart, drivers doing a frantic round of media interviews. I spoke to Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Raikkonen today, four of the six world champions, who are ready to dive into this new season.

“F1 is about improving the car every race and it’s something we will have to do better than the others if we want to win the championship,” said a cheerful Alonso. “But I’m in the best team, I trust the team and I know that if everything goes well, before long we will fight for victories and hopefully it will not be too late. We want to be world champions in November, so let’s see how we start in March. We have managed to maximise the Pirelli tyres over a single lap, so that’s good news for qualifying and the first lap. After that it’s all about aerodynamics.”

The word in the paddock is that Ferrari has a heavily revised car under development for the Spanish Grand Prix in May. It will require new crash tests and will be designed to make the external exhaust concept work and the set up be more consistent.

This evening FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting gave a briefing on new rules and answered any questions the media had. He said that the FIA is currently satisfied that the exhausts on all cars here in Melbourne are legal,

“All of the systems we’ve seen so far comply with the extensive new regulations so our position is simple: we are not in a position to be able to say exactly how much aerodynamic influence each individual system has,” said Whiting. “The aim of the new regulation was to ensure that we don’t have to do that. We have no idea how much aerodynamic influence each individual system has, nor really at this point is it anything that interests us. As long as they comply with the rules, we are happy. And as far as we’ve seen so far, they all do comply with the rules.”

He also clarified that the FIA has never said that F Ducts are banned, however driver operated systems, such as McLaren pioneered in 2010, are banned. Another point he made was that DRS Wings are in the 2014 technical regulations, which herald a new era of F1. In other words, DRS is here to stay.

A final note from the Whiting briefing; he said that the Technical Working Group discussed in October the ugly stepped noses on the cars, but it was considered too late in the design cycle to change it for 2012. He did imply that there would be efforts made to improve the situation with a tweaking of the rules for 2013.

Practice gets underway tomorrow. All eyes will be on the Mercedes who have a clever device on the rear wing which acts like an F Duct, but is not driver operated. Whiting alluded to it today, “What it appears some teams are doing is that when the DRS is operated, it will allow air to pass into a duct and do other things,” he explained.

“That is all I can say – you will probably have a pretty good idea of what it might be doing, and other teams will as well. But it is completely passive. There are no moving parts in it; it doesn’t interact with any suspension. No steering, nothing. Therefore I cannot see a rule that prohibits it.”

The usual cut and thrust of F1 life is in full swing, in other words.

For any readers in the UK, here is the full schedule of the BBC coverage of the weekend. Jaime Alguersuari, Jennie Gow and myself will do the commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and on BBC Online (practice sessions).

Friday, 16 March: Practice 0130-0300 and 0530-0700. Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live. Live text and audio commentary on BBC Sport website
Saturday, 17 March: Practice 0300-0400. Qualifying 0600. Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live. Live text and audio commentary on BBC Sport website. Extended highlights on BBC Two 1300-1415
Sunday, 18 March: Race 0600. Live commentary on 5 live. Live text and audio commentary on BBC Sport website. Extended highlights on BBC One at 1400-1600

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Shame about DRS, it is a free pass back to the front for the big teams if they make a mistake, an absolutly terrible invention, never again will we see a Boutsen hold off a Senna lap after lap or a dogged but slower car hold up a faster car and make things interesting.


you are 100% correct...


Hate to burst your bubble but the new rules on defending are gonna kill that more than any DRS use will, there were several instances of known overtakers (not naming names) getting bottled up behind slower cars this year. And don't for one minute whine about Schumacher in monza, you honestly think some of those famous names you mentioned above only made one move when they were defending? You got some pretty rosy glasses on if you do.


The new defending rules are quite frankly, too strict to allow F1 to be the true high speed dog fight that it deserves! Look at Arnoux vs Villeneuve....would this have been allowed by the stewards with the current overtaking/defending regs?

I'm all for safety but we want excitement and that inevitably has to involve some heavy defending of positions.


I don't think the Arnoux-Villeneuve situation is applicable. It is one move per corner for starters. There were a few instances where Arnoux moved half a car width off the ideal line, but the majority of the inside line was always available. Hence Villeneuve was able to dive to the inside three times. I would say that the answer to your question is that there would be no issue with the 1979 French GP.

The key change is that if a driver defends, as is much more common than in the 70s, then they can't exploit the short braking zones to recover to the racing line so that the corner isn't compromised by a tight entry. It will mean that there is a much greater likelihood of the battle being carried on to the next corner.

You can make a good case that DRS makes it too easy, but I think, if you are after a "high-speed dogfight" then the blocking rules will help not hinder. If you consider Hamilton's tow-breaking efforts in Malyasia 2010, he was trying to prevent Petrov re-passing him in a slower car before he could get away on the rest of the lap. All he was doing was killing the action. You could call it dramatic in its desperation. If the faster car is the one behind then tow-breaking attempts is likely to be futile.

The car performance is such that opportunities are rare and multi-move blocking just kills them off.


Yes, I yearn for a Bernoldi - Coulthard snooze fest every race.


I agree totally, I think they did enough with tyres and kers last year, the leaving DRS out the game would have gone down well, though would we have seen a drive like Button last to first without it ?


The simple answer to that is no. It created the situation for passing Webber, lead to the pass of Schumacher and Vettel would have been well out of reach.


I simply could not agree more.


It all depends on how DRS is configured.

Let's not forget how Schumacher held off Hamilton in Monza, of all places.

Agree though, I love seeing a sustained battle and passes that are planned over many laps, rather than a point a shoot affair that is devoid of any tension and strategy (eg Turkey 2011).

But equally I'd hate to go back to the days of processional races where drivers can't get closer than 5 car lengths to the guy in front.

I'm optimistic good lessons have been learnt with DRS from last year. We'll see.


Its only been 1 year, be patient. I agree with you that last year, sometimes it was way too easy(Spa) but they will tweak the lenght of the DRS zone this year and it should better.

It might be fun sometimes to watch faster car/drivers stuck behind slow cars if it last for a few last but its quite boring if its for a full race.

Abu Dhabi 2010 was the perfect example. Hamilton & Alonso stuck behind the 2 renaults for most of the race. IMO tis a lot worst than DRS.


Another brilliant article the likes of which can be found no where else. I completely agree with Ferrari about the RRA and think that the BBC coverage schedule included here is incredibly helpful.

I find it ironic that everyone is saying that they will not know where they are until Melbourne..... Australia is a bit of an anomoly in terms of circuit design, perhaps they should really wait until the next race to get a better idea!


Agreed. We have seen it for years that too many unusual things happen in Aus to be considered useful. Plus cars that are designed to run well on certain circuits may not work to the utmose around Melb Park.


People say its an anomaly but 5 of the 6 most recent winners have gone on to be world champion, the exception being 2010 when Vettel crashed out of the lead.


Hi James,

Could you confirm who currently doesn't support the proposals to allow the FIA to police the Resource Restrictions? Red Bull perhaps?

Looking forward to another great season of F1! 🙂



Delighted as I will be to listen to JA on the radio, I am miserable about not being able to watch the race live. First time in 20 years.


Yep. As far as I'm concerned, it's the shortest season for decades, with 10 races.

And athough I predicted it, I'm surprised - and rather dismayed - at how easy I'm finding it not to care after 25-or-so years. I might not even bother with the GPs I can see live. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.


Same here.


Internet searches can be your friend, vip box.


Thanks! 🙂


Best of luck on your return to commentator duties on F1 this weekend James.

Let's hope its a cracker.


I predict the most boring F1 season in a long time.


What a worthwhile, positive contribution on the eve of a new season!


And who elected you THE DECIDER?

A boring season - well I hope, and I suspect, you hope, you're wrong. Cheers


You havin a laugh?


2011 was not that long ago.

2012 should be fine.


Would love to see a post first race round-up of clever gadgets and sneaky legal 'work arounds' of new devices on cars this year such as the device on the Mercedes rear wing mentioned in the above article.


James, can you give any more info on the Mercedes F Duct?? Really interested to know what they trying to do.


Yes, what is going on? Why do they need it when it activates only when the DRS flap is activated? Surely, the job is already done when the flap is activated so what is the F duct feeding air onto?


I don't see how the benefit could be that big ... the 2010 F-duct stalled a fixed rear wing for the straights. DRS removes the fixed rear wing drag.

I think they'll all copy it, but I don't think we're talking big heaps of time at all.


Visit scarbsf1 website. Great technical articles on there


Just a quick note to wish you and your team all the very best for your maiden radio commentary.

I'm really looking forward to it. That, coupled with the satellite dish that I've got pointing vaguely in the direction of Austria, have worked wonders in softening Sky's blow.


So its all go for a new round of F-Duct development. I'm sure the others must have proptypes on this its just how long before they are race ready?


Can't wait to see what Merc have done with the wing. I hope it will bring them on par with the leading teams and will give them some chance to win (fingers crossed).

James, any insights on how it works and possibly what advantage it can give per lap on avg?



This seems interesting, but I really cannot say what that would translate to in advantage per lap. It doesn't seem like it would make a huge difference though.



If Bahrain doesn't go ahead this year, could there be a move to strike it from the schedule completely in 2013?

It's not good for the country, or for F1, to have this debate every year for the next 2-3 years (or however long the conflict continues for).

Surely common sense would dictate that the GP being cancelled 2 years in a row shows that the region just isn't ready for F1 to return yet.

I know money > everything else in F1, but it would be nice if this was the exception.


James, given your 5live commitments will you be appearing here on Ten/One screens and will it be similiar to last year? Both this weekend and the future?/non-Australian GP weekends?



Yes, as before through the year, but not as much this weekend


Thanks! Watching you on it now with beattie


No Live practice or Qualifying coverage from the Beeb for all the races either, looks like its time Abscond to SKY TV all together little point in looking into/working out which races the BBC are covering just seems like hastle!!


might be worth spending the £35 a month on a spellcheck lol

Robert in San Diego

WOW! At last we are getting this historic season under way. I really hope it lives up to the hype.


Happy days are here again and from the looks of it, they're here to stay.

Glad to see the circus back up and running for real this time & just like everybody else in the paddock, we arm chair experts are all dying from the anticipation of what awaits us on what may turn out to be the last season of F1 seeing as the world is slated to end on December 21st.

So many interesting things that am happy about I see have been happening in the world of F1 such as;

Glad to know JA on F1's sources confirm that the situation in Bahrain isn't dire and thus disputing the noises of those anti-Bahrain forces in the paddock.

Also, I agree with the teams making the FIA keep an eye on teams spending for we can't have teams break the rules in broad day light & thus have the audacity to build B spec cars & think we the experts wouldn't notice ---> Enough is enough.

And last but not least, am really happy to see DRS is here to stay for with the Pirellis becoming rubbish each & every race, we sure are going to depend on DRS forever.

Now I don't know if its just me but Charlie Whiting seems to me like someone that's confused by his own rules, one time he says something is legal/okay, then turns around and contradicts himself or gets overruled by the stewards the next moment ---> Maybe it's time for new blood, No?

As for Alonso, I wonder where he has got this new found cheerfulness from? Could it be that he's begun believing his own press but it's good to see Ferrari pulling out all the stops to be competitive, they at least owe it to the Tifosi.

Alright boys & girls, see you on the tarmac for we have so many pending issues to resolve



*Food for thought*

Say, I have been crunching some numbers.

As this winter testing has been enigmatic at best, I was thinking, maybe the Abu-Dhabi race result can give us a clearer picture of which team will be the fastest & which teams are likely to be competitive considering the Abu-Dhabi track (just like Barcelona) is a perfect test track (i.e. hard to overtake) and also the fact that it appears towards the end of the season = Teams roll out their new components to appear on next year's cars.

For example:

1) Abu-Dhabi 2009 result ---> Vettel won, Webber 2nd and Jenson (Brawn/Mercedes) 3rd

Even though Lewis begun on pole he was the second fastest car on race day & thus Vettel was all over him in the first stint before overtaking him in the pits & Lewis retires

2010 foam

a) As it turns out, the winner of Abu-Dhabi 2009 went on to win the 2010 title + the winner of Abu-Dhabi had the fastest car.

b) Just like Abu-Dhabi 2009, Mclaren had the 2nd fastest car in 2010 (at least in the first half of the season before the upgrades)

c) Brawn/Mercedes were able to score podiums in 2010 just they did with Jenson in Abu-Dhabi 2009.

2) Abu-Dhabi 2010 result ---> Vettel wins with Lewis second & Jenson 3rd, Rosberg 4th, Kubica 5th, Petrov 6th, Alonso 7th, Webber 8th, Jaime 9th.

Even though Alonso finished 8th, the Ferrari was the 3rd fastest car on the day as shown by the fact Alonso was able to qualify P3

2011 Form

a) Vettel wins the title & Red Bull were the fastest car just like the result at Abu-Dhabi 2010.

b) Mclaren turn out to be the 2nd fastest car while Ferrari the 3rd fastest

c) Webber's poor showing in Abu-Dhabi 2010 was another sign of his poor form in 2011

d) Renault were the first of the midfield to be competitive just like the result of Abu-Dhabi 2010 showed but a re-think of their design (and the loss of Kubica) threw them off their stride

3) Abu-Dhabi 2011 result ---> Hammy 1st, Alonso 2nd, Button 3rd, Webber 4th, Massa 5th, Rosberg 6th, Schumi 7th, Sutil 8th, Di Resta 9th, Kobayshi 10th, Perez 11th, Maldondo 12th, Jaime 13th

Now even though Vettel planted it on pole after a wonder lap, it was clear Lewis' Mclaren was faster all weekend & only got caught out by the falling track temperatures.

Okay what the Abu-Dhabi 2011 result tells me what the teams have been hiding during the winter is;

a) Lewis Hamilton has the 2012 title in the bag

b) Mclaren have the fastest car (by a tenth or so) from Red Bull

c) The 2012 title will be fought out by Alonso (who will be in a close third fastest) & Hammy, just like the race result in Abu-Dhabi 2011.

As for Vettel, he will be out of the running due to the unreliability of the Red Bull B spec car as shown in Abu-Dhabi 2011 & Brazil 2011.

d) Webber & Massa wouldn't be able to raise their game by much

e) Mercedes to be the 4th fastest team just like the result in Abu-Dhabi 2011.

f) Lotus - 5th fastest thanks to new better drivers

g) Force India - 6th fastest team

h) Sauber - 7th fastest team

i) Williams - 8th fastest team

j) Torro Rosso - 9th fastest team


Even though Williams & Torro Rosso will have faster cars, my calculations state that Caterham are to finish ahead of them both in the WCC thanks to the pay drivers & rookies of the former two teams.


My favorite feature of your 'in depth' analysis is even when the previous seasons race results dont correlate to your theory you simply state that those offending results shouldnt have happened anyway.......'lewis was caught out by track temp so ill just put him where he should have qualified!!' ABSOLUTE GOLD.

I was going to ask you to clear up 5 other 'over sites' that i saw that didnt align with your 'Abu Dhabi tells the future theory' but thought better of it.....im not ready for the answers




Interesting analysis. I'll keep an eye on this throughout the season to see if you were spot on.


You are trying hard to predict every possible outcome this season. A couple of weeks ago you had Lotus in 3rd and Torro Rosso "top of the mid field" in 6th.

Grayzee (Australia)

Goferet!? You have WAYYYYYYYY too much time on your hands........to come up with all that!

Yet, it seems to make sense......

I do so enjoy reading your posts! 🙂


Whoa... your piece is probably longer than JA's article LOL!! 😀


"Lewis Hamilton has the 2012 title in the bag"

He could win it but one thing is sure.. he doesn't have it in the bag.. 2012 is his comeback year, time will tell if he's back or not. Who knows, maybe Jenson will be even better this year.

Your prediction based on your number crunching was a joke right?


Keep chasing your tail


My eyes are hurting.


I can't wait for the season to get started!!


Pre-seoson has promised so much that I fear F1 will fail to deliver on every battle that is shaping up Vettel v Everyone

Vettel v Webber

Hamilton v Button

DiResta v Hulkenburg

Verne v Ricciardo

Redbull v McLaren v Ferrari

and countless other battles out there. The season is promising a bunched up grid on raw speed and thats all I want. Everything else will take care of itself after that. The weather wont matter so much after that but for driver skill. Neither will tyres that a Jenson type of driver rely on so much, although its only because they can't drive as fast in the first place not because of superior brains. No driver wants to drive slow.

If its as close as it is looking then I tip Lewis to win the WDC because that is all he wants unlike Jenson who somehow managed to convince himself, his fans and the media that beating Lewis after the season he had was a tremendous achievement, even though he only came second in the championship.

Who remembers second place?


Lewis doesnt care about squabbling for 2nd place. He wants the Holy grail!

If the car is there for McLaren to just be even within 2 tenths then the Redbull rein as the dominant team is over and Lewis simply back with a bang.

Lets face it, he is simply a more exciting driver than vettel even though you can argue both ways on raw speed.

F1 fans simply want to see Lewis race and dont take my word for it. Just take a look at the F1 forums and you will notice that no other driver is discussed more, whether its bashing him or praising him

Granted, no other driver has several websites dedicated to trashing him, but thats my point. He simply demands a reaction from you becoz of the action he brings to the track!

So go Lewis, this is your chance son because the only other driver (Alonso) who can beat you ia a wheel to wheel battle is in a 'complex' car this year.


Well one second place is very well remembered by majority here: Felipe Massa 2008 😀

Bad luck tho LOL.


What a load of rubbish, why people believe that if the cars are equal Lewis would win baffles me.

The guy barely won the championship when fighting with just Massa but people believe he would beat Vettel. Wake up from your slumber while drivers with Vettel or Alonso's consistency are on the grid = no championship for Lewis am afraid as since 07 he bottles it every season with ! excuse or the order compare his development with the above mentioned and he has been on a downward spiral since then while they have been on the way up!


Alonso has been on the way up? What a load of rubbish!!

The whiner had the 2010 championship in his hands, and he couldn't pass a much slower car and bottled it. Afterwards he blamed everybody else but himself and got a few people fired, hence I stopped supporting him.

Vettel has not been on the way up but rather Redbull have been. The kid got a fast car, what did you expect him to do with it once he learned the art of not crashing?


Has Lewis put on weight or is it just those cutlass-like sideburns making it appear so? If so, I wonder what effect it might have on his driving.


Bang on. Reggie Jackson (Mr. October, back when the World Series was in October) used to say, about himself, that "some will like me, some will hate me. What they cannot do is ignore me."

It's the same with Lewis in F1. He is simply the most compelling figure in the sport right now.



Your column just gets better and better. there is no where else on the web that has such great insight and passion for the sport. I wait for each new article with almost the same anticipation that i have for this new season!

So the big questions? I would say 1 is how far ahead are Red Bull with their new trick B-spec car? 2 has got to be how close are Mercedes to breaching the the top three? and 3 is it all as bad as it seems at Ferrari and to a lesser extend the two tail end charlies. We will know very soon and I for one cannot freaking wait!!!!Thanks again dude!


We'll find out on Saturday


Hi James only new to the site, looks great and really enjoyed the podcast. It's always very interesting your insights and behind the scenes interviews. I'll be at the track on Saturday sitting with the plebs, so welcome to Melbourne, hope you enjoy your stay!


In that case it's likely that Mercedes will have really good straight line speed which is something, but of course what all teams really want is increased downforce on the bends, and that's much harder to achieve given the change in regulations.


The Mercedes 'f-wing duct' sounds as if it's to allow them to open the DRS for longer into a corner and earlier on exit much like Vettel achieved in the Red Bull more often. It assumes this will give Schumacher and Rosberg a bit more of a chance in qualifying where they struggled.

The descriptions of this system sound more as if it's to correct the disadvantages of the Mercedes short chord DRS (which had more advantages in other areas).



A very good article.. As usual. A question for you. Do you think mercedes are suffering from excessive heating? I saw that they have Shark fin like Gills on the sidepods. I just hope they would be part of the malaysian race(usually searing hot) and they might want to test it in practice here. Any info on that would be more useful.


Ooo now that's interesting!

I thought any aero devices aren't allowed on sidepods since 2009?

Though I'm not sure if fins are counted, someone correct me if I'm wrong =)


Good spot. I'll take a look


Didn't they have the same in 2011?



I think it would be great to have an article on the differing lifestyles of drivers up and down the grid. For example how does the salary, bonuses, perks compare for say sebastian Vettel and Narain Kartikyan. Things like seeing who gets first class flights etc paid for by the team and who has to pay out of their own pocket sort of thing!


So the Mercedes Mystery Device only functions when the DRS is open?

So, more straightline speed, esp in Qualy.


Graham Passmore

I've got a question regarding the Resources Restriction Agreement and how it might be policed. If a line of research & developement might cost a team a substantial amount of money (say some millions of dollars)out of pocket, but the team could find a "sponsor" to fund that R & D in return for a promenant decal on each car, thereby giving the team the benefit with no capital outlay, would that R & D be valued by the FIA and added onto what the team actually spent or would that team have an advantage over the competion? If all teams spent only up to the Agreement limit but one or two teams had the benefit of additional resources in the guise of sponsorship,the playing field could be argued to be not level & fair.


Well I have a question somehow out of context. I guess that it would be better suited to the strategy report article. Anyone know how much the use of DRS is supposed to be worth in terms of lap time in qualifying? I guess it differs from track to track, but what is a rough guideline?

I remember reading this information last year many times, but I forgot and I cannot find it again on the web through google. I remember f duct was supposed to be worth 0.5 seconds per lap and I think drs is 2-3 times more powerful so maybe this would give something between 1 and 1.5 seconds I guess. Can anyone clarify?



it is like the more efficient DRS.

the 2 or 3 Time more power of the DRS doesn't mean it will reduce 3 more time on the laps.

I think the new DRS+Duct will reduce another 0.1 or 0.2 at most.


As you already said, differs from track to track, not to say it also differs between cars, so there is no 'rough guideline'.

Say Australia for example, few straights, you don't get much difference. With Monza the effect would be amplified. Cars with better aero would also have a huge effect in the time difference.


I think it will vary from team to team. The efficiency of the particular car's DRS will vary between manufacturers, but the bigger difference will be the overall aero package - a car producing high levels of downforce will be able to open the DRS more often and for longer periods during qualifying. This was a major factor in Red Bull's dominance last year - Vettel was able to open his DRS much earlier than other cars, even taking some corners with the DRS open. McLaren have talked about optimising their system for stronger use in qualifying for this reason and I suspect the gains will be similar for groups of cars as you look down the grid.


So... does anyone think this Mercedes wing will give them a heavy top speed advantage? I know at Monza Red Bull were slow through the speed trap but quickest over a lap, but... are Mercedes onto something? Also, James Allen only interviewed four world champions today? Come on man, try harder...

Grayzee (Australia)

Oh, Dave, you are cruel..... 🙂


JA can't do anything about it if some of them do something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MlsMVzrp2o

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀


I saw a feature on yahoo-sports-FI where you can visually compare cars by seeing them side-by-side. The rear wing of the Mercedes was much higher the those of Red Bull and McLaren.


Big Game James-

Reading between the lines, are Red Bull not in favor of the FIA policing the Resource Restriction Agreement? Looking forward to this weekend.


I wonder if the DRS F-Duct on the Merc reduces drag more effectivly during cornering.

Another theory of mine is that it regulates how much downforce is being shed, making the use of DRS even more valuable in qualifying.

This could propel the Merc way forward in qualifying, but it won't do much for the race.


All the best with FiveLive this weekend James!

However, I will admit that I have cracked and paid for Sky as I need to see all races live. Unfortunately, I don't see extended highlights as really cutting it if you're a true F1 fan.


I really wish people would stop saying that just because you can't afford it, can't get it where you live, or whatever other reason you have preventing you from watching on Sky that you are not a true fan. You've got it, well done you, but why the need to have a go at those of us who are missing the races live for the first time in 20 years. I'll still be up watching live text and listening to 5Live because I'm going to follow as much as I can however I can. I guess you're right, I lack dedication to the sport I love.


Its great to hear Alonso being so optimistic! From what he says, Ferrari should perform well in qualifying. Let's hope the car can be consistent all race long, it was so frustrating to see him go down the field when he put hard tires for the last stint last year.


Agree with you on Alonso being optimistic.

I dunno why but I feel Ferrari may have something up their sleeves and pants and stuff...

I recall last year, the Ferrari engineers said something based on history like if everything goes smooth in testing, then it won't be a great year for them, and vice versa.

Maybe they were sandbagging and had something hidden from rivals in February testing? =) At least I hope so anyway.


Scarbs F1 blog has a very good explanation of the Daimler F duct and blown front wing. Pretty cool stuff.


Yep, just read that too. If all the theory works, Mercedes could have a huge advantage in qualifying with the unlimited DRS use...might make gear ratios an issue in the race though. I'm guessing the Mercs will be popping away on the rev limiter in qualy like Red Bull at Monza last year.


who will be doing the commentary for the extended highlights, DC?


Yes with Ben Edwards


The opening race is always exiting,

new cars, drivers and rules

I can't wait,



ummm... maybe im missing something, but isnt DRS a driver operated movable aerodynamic device?

why is it legal but the driver operated f-duct isnt?


I guess that the the top wing of DRS work as a door to opan or close the duct, so it will be legal becasue there is no activator by anything else, just the wing itself.

without DRS, this system would not legally work


Quoted from Autosport (http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/98035):

When asked by AUTOSPORT to clarify the situation, the head of the FIA's F1 technical department Charlie Whiting said: "Some teams are questioning it on the basis that they thought F-ducts were banned. Well, F-ducts are not banned.

"At the end of 2010 everyone was using driver operated F-ducts and the regulations that were changed specifically banned the use of driver movement to influence the aerodynamic performance of the car – that got rid of that generation of so-called F-ducts.

"At the beginning of last year, with engineers being unable to unlearn things, they wanted to try and get the effect via different means, and they talked about opening and closing a duct by having interaction with the suspension. We said no, you cannot do that because that is not the primary purpose of the suspension system – which is to insulate the car from undulations in the road.

"There was then a lengthy discussion in the TWG at the beginning of last year about that, to make sure everyone was clear about it. It seems a couple of teams went away from that meeting with the impression that F-ducts were banned in general. Whatever an F-duct is. But they are not."

Whiting would not reveal further details of how the Mercedes system works, but said that he viewed it as completely passive.

"What it appears some teams are doing is that when the DRS is operated, it will allow air to pass into a duct and do other things," he explained.

"That is all I can say – you will probably have a pretty good idea of what it might be doing, and other teams will as well. But it is completely passive. There are no moving parts in it; it doesn't interact with any suspension. No steering, nothing. Therefore I cannot see a rule that prohibits it."


Yes you ARE missing something.

DRS, "Drag Reduction System" suggests nothing of driver-operated device, it is not "Driver Operated Drag Reduction System". It's a system that reduces drag, not necessarily driver operated. JA already mentioned quoting Charlie that it's a passive system, no driver input.

C'mon read the stuff!


What are you gibbering about all the F1 DRS systems are Hydraulicly operated by the driver via button


Because 'they' wrote it into the rules.


It's all about interpretation of rules looking at primary and secondary functions of parts. Scarbs has a really breakdown of it.


Because there's a regulation to include the DRS system. That makes it legal!

Although to be honest the F-Duct doesn't seem to be banned specifically, it was more the fear of drivers taking their hands off the wheel to operate it and the threat that drivers might end up having to operate more and more insane and expensive duct systems as well as drive at top speeds.

I'm not sure but much like the year without KERS, this was as much an agreement between teams as opposed to a defined ban on KERS.

Accidental Mick

I kmew that I wouldn't be watching F1 this year as I cannot afford Sky. I have found before when, for various reasons, I couldn't see all the races that one would lose touch with the background stories and this took away a lot of the interest.

I did want to see Melbourne - it being the opener - but from your above itinery it seems that the BBC are not screening practice or qualy and are not even showing the whole race.



This bitter feeling of being robbed of full taste of F1 thanks to Sky deal is back((( Means I will have to find other options online to see practices, qualy and the race. For at least this first race of the season, they could've given it to us!


Hi there. I've asked some of the readers here of some website which will show the race live and got couple of suggestions.

In the end I got my hands on a username and password for SkyGo from a friend.

I will keep it on mute and listen to James. I don't think I ever heard James as a commentator and since I absolutely love this wensite and his articles I must hear James in action and I have no doubt I will not be dissapointed with someone with so much F1 experience.

Here's the suggestion from our fellow readers in regards to possible online feeds

http://one.com.au/ or if u can get ur hands on a sky id from a friend you can watch it online on sky.


It took me all of 5 mins to find an online feed...


I am a daily reader to this website, enjoying the informative information and very interested in the views from other readers. I also stayed quite up until now on the whole business of the bbc/sky deal, as I wanted to see how I felt closer to the start of the season, and wondered for the pass few months if it was worth getting the sky package and upgrading my dinoasur of a TV to a 21st century HD model!!

Alas I didnt get the shiny new TV or sky package, for cost reasons as well as knowing that you where always able to watch for FREE, (IN THE PAST) but as the days are ticking down to the start of the season, I NOW REALISE how bad this has all become!

I have followed F1 since 94, and every year you would feel a BUZZ, counting down the weeks then the weekends and then the days until the new season starts, reading magazines and newspapers with the full contents about all the teams etc, then having the chance to watch all the new cars with their new colours and drivers and be apart of the sport.

BUT THIS YEAR I FEEL VERY VERY DISSAPOINTED. There is no BUZZ in my household, NO excitement, NO feeling of being apart of the sport.


In the words of the BBC from their website:

"BBC viewers will not miss a single important moment of on-track action all season."

Yeah thanks for that!!

Even that information was only just released the other day from the BBC, its like they knew they had F*** UP, and kept quite for as long as they could before the season started.

But I feel that this is the whole point to this, THEY think THEY are doing good that WE as VIEWERS will not miss a 'Single Important Moment', but it does not say anything about the excitement, the anticipation and especially the BUZZ, the VIEWERS have felt at the start every year, instead OUR start will be 4 weeks later when the Chinese Grand Prix weekend starts.

Time is almost up on MY soapbox, and I would love to hear about other peoples views on how they feel now that the season is only days away from starting, but as this article says;

"The Paddock Buzz in Melbourne"

Its just a shame, I suppose there will be a lot of people not feeling the same BUZZ.



The driving force behind channel 10 in Australia is a young bloke by the name of Lachlan Murdoch, perhaps you have heard of his father and brother in the UK?


I have a feeling that what Ferrari is referring regarding the budget cap, is obvious benefit that Red Bull has from Torro Rosso. I for one can not believe that there is no information going from Torro Rosso to Red Bull. If anything, I'm sure Helmut Marko has access to telemetry, which is one of the means of judging drivers' performance.



What makes you think TR has better information than RB when RB makes the best and fastest car out there with TR in the middle??

It's like saying you can't believe there nothing from a D-grade student going to an A-grade student.

Why would an A-grade student need anything from anyone else when he's already getting the marks?


Wow, well that's an weekend-F1-fan kinda look at F1.

It's about information and mileage. Also, hypothetically speaking, does this mean that today McLaren couldn't learn anything from Ferrari's technical data, because it finished 2011 season in front of Ferrari?

You are suggesting also, that one for one, there's not a single tinny component or idea about Torro Rosso that is better then Red Bull counterpart? There probably isn't because Red Bull knows about it and it develops it's own car having both approaches/ideas in mind.


I think it's probably the insistence that Red Bull just spends what it likes and justifies it through it's very complex corporate structure and private slush fund from the brand. McLaren and Ferrari are not poor teams but both have complained loudly before about the RBR finances.

Obviously RBR deny it entirely but I suspect Ferrari would be willing to throw more cash at their team if it wasn't for their hatred of aerodynamics as king and no ability to push the Ferrari engines and mechanics.


ofcourse there is collusion btwn the 2 teams, after all blood is thicker than water.

They are essentially the same team, so basically they have 4 cars on the grid which has to be an advantage at some point.

When there are interchangeable conditions at a race its always Torro Rosso who change tyres first to gauge conditions for Redbull.


Are you really suggesting RBR get their technical prowess from Torro Rosso.



You need to be naive to think that RBR knows everything and other teams like TR, HRT, FI etc have nothing new.

Just getting some telemetry data from TR could help the RBR engineers to figure new things up.

Since each car is pretty much unique, RBR could understand how having or not having a certain "plate" on the front wing might affect the performance in a corner..or at least give them an idea if not precise information.

another example that I can think of is TR running a front wing..get the data..and then change the possitioning of a plate on the wing..get the data and then check the diferences and what the new wing design did to their performance. If RBR have that info, they can probably work out what their performance will change to by having a similar pasition of a plate on their wing.

Come on Vipbox, you don't have to be a genius to work out that every bit of information you get your hands on is very helpful.

I am not saying this is happening..but I believe this is one way to look at it.


Was testing the water there James i did not think you would post it up, thought it was supposed to be a freedom of speech site as long as there was no direct personal insults?? lol 😉


You cross the line too much sometimes. Mod is very busy as it is without having to deal with that



Chauncey Gardiner

All the best for your new commentary role


So looking forward to the mid field battle 🙂


No Free-TV Live coverage of Friday's paractice here in Germany. What a shame, the first time in F1 history, what's going on? Bernie money?


We've been paying for years, nothing is free anymore. Get use to it


Yip, I've been paying since 2000 or 2002 (can't remember exactly) I know it must suck for those that have been getting it for free all this time having to now pay but I'm sure none of them spared a thought for those of us that have had to pay all along ;-). Ultimately it's a business and businesses have a habit of charging you for their services.


Can't wait for this season to start like everyone else.

James given how the front pack appear to have tightened up in terms of pace do see this year having more collisions at the front giving viewers more chance of seeing an unpredicatble result, like a Mercedes or Lotus victory?

Last year was pretty sterile in that the same teams were on the podium race after race. More aggressive driving both in defence & overtaking at the front will be key to attracting inroads in that massive potential US audience. Gentlemen start your engines!!!


James! Nice to hear your voice again.

Listening and watching FP1 sky sports New Zealand

Grayzee (Australia)

All work cancelled :check!

Lounge chair ready: check!

Remote control: check!

Beverages cold: check!

Chips and nibblies: check!

USB stick in, ready to record: check!

Family members on notice: check!

Okay, BRING IT ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


perfect checklist, will be using it on race days 😉


hahahhaha. Love your comment. I'm already jealous since I'm still at work 🙂

And since I'm in the UK, I will be up all night tonight and then going karting in the morning. I'm not expecting to win tomorrow haha :))


Whats all this I read in the local media down there about it costing too much and not getting enough benefits from the race. And maybe it won't be renewed next time?

part time viewer

Great to see the "propper fans" still moaning about the sky deal.

If your a proper fan then pay up and enjoy, the coverage sky are showing looks like more than weve ever had before, personaly im looking forward to it.

I know its a change from the norm but alot of things change in life, often for the better.

I wander after the weekend how many people will be saying how great the sky coverage is????


Fantastic first session with very quick looking McLarens and from what I can make out, they lead the order of play from Mercedes. I think Red Bull are playing games and are not as slow as they look. Meanwhile, Alonso pulls the most out of the ill handling Ferrari and must be looking to another team next year if he wants to win WDC's. Alonso to Mercedes??? Red Bull??? Discuss


You left a discussion point out ....

Or just maybe Ferrari is fast and he he won't have reason to leave ??? Now Discuss ... 😉


Yep... Kind of agree with McHare. Depends on how ambitious Alonso is. I'm sure he'll get paid well no matter where he goes so if he wants to win the WDC, then he'll need to get a different drive next year.


No Ferrari need to re-structure and will be many seasons before they are in a position to challenge


Whats with the new plastic/perspex pit wall fencing at Melb?

Is it for safety reasons or just cosmetic?


I think the advantage of Mecedes F Duct will disappear quickly as all the team wil copy the concept very soon.

with the knowledge the teams had with the F Duct in 2010, they will make it work quite easily.

I guess the concept is that the air duct will be behind the top flap wing and activate when the flap is open, the duc t will see the air and wind go to the duct and blow to the wing to further reduce some more drag. it is like the more efficient DRS. it would also be better if they can make the pipe back to the blow to the frong wing.

I guess it would give 2-3 Kph more, and 0.1-0.2 at most in Qualify. But in the race, there will be a big help to make the car to easier pass the car in front .

if my guess is right, it quite easy to copy and make them work.


Whooo hooo, Sky F1 is amazing. Good bye BBC

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