Formula 1 14 Mar 2006 03:20 pm

Flying Nerd presents biased Bahrain GP review

After what seemed like years without a Formula 1 race, Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix was a cracker. I have one-eyed comments on various aspects of the event, the coverage and a team-by-team look at the results.

QUALIFYING: The new qualifying format was fun. It was great to see lots of cars out on the track. In fact, it was great to see qualifying at all. Save for the Australian GP, we (in Oz) don’t usually get to full TV coverage of qualifying at all!

I liked the intensity of the first two 15 minute sessions, when everybody had to set a good time or be knocked out. Ralf Schumacher continued his Big Girls Blouse (BGB) act by being the first of the ‘name’ drivers to be knocked out without experiencing an accident or car failure. Poor Kimi Raikkonen had another mountain to climb after suffering a spectacular suspension failure.

I thought the ‘economy run’ aspect of the final 20 minute session was a bit odd. As suggested by young Cochrane (Honda’s number 1 fan-boy), it’s not a great look for F1 to have all the cars driving around burning off fuel before making a quick run. Ever the helpful type, let me offer two suggestions for alternative approaches.

    Option 1: forget about the idea that the cars must qualify on race fuel. Let them run hard, fast and light, and then start with whatever fuel they like. We’ll know who’s really fast and there’s still scope for varying the fuel strategy.
    Option 2: if we’re committed to qualifying on race fuel, then make sure that every time the car leaves the pits during the final 20 minute session, it has the same amount of fuel on board that will be used to start the race. Under this arrangement, a new set of tyres would be partially negated by added weight of replenished fuel. (The rule can be enforced with a set of scales in each pit, and whenever a car leaves the pit lane it is weighed. If it’s too difficult to manage the situation by adding accurate amounts of fuel, then add ballast instead, using calibrated weights in the same location on each car.)

As mentioned above, it was great to SEE the qualifying (thanks, Channel 10), even if the coverage was produced by the Work Experience Kid.

I reckon that part of the problem came from the fact that the host broadcaster (FOCA TV, I think) didn’t have a good plan for covering qualifying in a way that made sense of what was happening on the track. But the other part of the problem was that Channel 10 was trying to squeeze too much into the allocated hour. The result was that we never saw a graphic to show who was eliminated after the second session, and we never saw a graphic to show the final qualifying order.

You know, I reckon the coverage would have been better if Channel 10 had allowed Neils-on-Wheels and Leigh Diffey to stay in bed, and just showed the ITV feed. The ITV team duplicated the explanation of the new system (that Neil botched), so we didn’t gain much from the local overlay.

But that’s probably all a bit moot, since it seems that there are no plans to telecast qualifying for future Grands Prix. This is a huge shame as the FIA has done a pretty good job in providing a spectacle for the viewers, but we can’t see it.

Get those letters in to Channel 10 asap.

RACE COVERAGE: The race itself was covered pretty well. The Director managed to get most of the action and, as usual, Channel 10 ‘paused’ the coverage for the ad breaks so we saw every lap. Which is A Good Thing.

My biggest complaint here is that the coverage is in old-fashioned 4:3 narrow format. As has been said by many others in other places, F1 is the pinnacle of world motorsport, and sees some of the fastest-moving technology in any sphere. But the telecast format is bogged down back in the 1990s. If you want to see how good widescreen is for motor racing, just tune in to a V8 Supercar round some day. Channel 10’s V8 coverage makes F1 look very lacklustre.

TEAM BY TEAM COMMENTS

RENAULT: A great outcome for Alonso, who picked up where he left off in 2005. It was tremendous to see some racing at the front, with Alonso and Michael Schumacher dicing for the lead. When you think about it, we haven’t seen much action involving Michael in recent years (Japan and Imola 2005 excepted). Prior to 2005, Michael was mostly disappearing into the distance, and no-one could catch him. Last year, he was mostly languishing at the back. More on this later.

I was sad to see Fisichella yet again suffering bad luck. Starting the race with sad electronics was bad enough, but his hydraulic failure was a cruel blow. I hope we can see more of Fisi up front in the next races.

FERRARI: Ferrari has signed a testing agreement in 2006, so I have resolved to start the year thinking the best of them until they prove otherwise.

I now think otherwise. (That didn’t last long, did it?) There’s a bit of a stink on about the Ferrari’s rear wing. Apparently it has been cleverly designed to pass the static load deflection tests, but on the track it flexes in ways that the rules disallow. We will hear more of this in the weeks ahead.

Michael Schumacher seemed to enjoy his race in Bahrain. His performance indicated that the Bridgestone tyres aren’t too bad after all.

Returning to my earlier theme: I have great hopes that we’ll see more of Michael racing at the front this year. I wonder whether his ‘old ways’ (nerfing his competition out of the way) will return.

Massa did OK, but clearly failed to fully follow the team’s instructions in that he missed Alonso when sliding across the track early in the race. Sure, he can be quick – but he now has to prove that he can hold it all together for a race.

HONDA: I was disappointed by Honda in Bahrain. They came to the race claiming to be potential winners, but never really troubled the top 3. OK, Jenson had a clutch problem on the start – but you have to sort out things like that if you want to win.

Rubens Barichello tooled around at the back for most of the race (after giving Jenson a run in the early laps) with a failing gearbox. Will that mean that he has ‘saved up’ some engine performance for Malaysia? Will he come to the fore in the heat of Sepang? Or will the team get disqualified for running two engines (or for some other ‘difference of interpretation’ of the rules)?

(And will Mr Cochrane bite?)

MCLAREN: Ooohh boy, Kimi was fast. He could easily have won if he started at the front.

McLaren is stating openly that they need to convince Kimi to sign on again for 2007. They’ll need to get failures like Saturday’s behind them if they hope to achieve that aim. If they can make it all hold together, then they have a FAST car and Kimi can win some races this year.

As for Montoya (the Dummy)… he drove a fair race with a down-on-power engine. Hard to assess either his performance or that of the car. But given that Ron Dennis has openly stated that he’s trying to get Kimi to sign on alongside Alonso for 2007, how bad will JPM’s motivation be this year? I expect to see him falling away from Kimi – and of course there will be the usual spate of blunders (intentional accidents, failure to stop at red lights, stopping at the wrong pit bay, driving off before the fuel is all in the car, going the wrong way around the track, breaking arms while Sumo wrestling, etc.).

WILLIAMS: The hardest-working team in F1 had a pretty solid weekend in Bahrain. Sixth and seventh places were probably about what was expected.

Our Mark Webber drove solidly but unspectacularly. As usual, he qualified well, but I do wish he could get better at overtaking. He spent too long behind Fisichella early in the race, and too long behind Klien. Come on Mark, brake later and pass more cars on the track.

Nico Rosberg made a stunning debut. He was slower than Mark in qualifying, and made a mistake in the first corner – but he somehow managed to run fastest lap of the race (eh?), which was quite an achievement. Big things await this young man.

As to the cars, I’m a bit confused. They both seemed capable of good pace (Webber had the fourth-fastest lap on the day, beaten only by Rosberg, Alonso and Michael Schumacher), but neither was challenging at the front. Looks to me like the tyres are quite ‘peaky’, and maybe the Williams team is still figuring out how to get the best from them over long runs.

I’d also be interested to know whether either (or both) of the drivers ran the race with the transmission in the new ‘seamless shift’ mode (which is said to be good for 0.4s per lap).

RED BULL: A strong performance, especially from Klien, who passed Webber on lap 2 and ran in the top 10 all day.

David Coulthard had a rough day, which included being run off the track by Nick Heidfeld.

Red Bull cars have had cooling troubles all winter. The next race (in Malaysia) will put their new cooling arrangements to the test.

BMW-SAUBER: A solid but unspectacular start for this ‘new’ team.

Jacques Villeneuve gets the award for best engine blow-up of the weekend (and baggiest overalls – but he always gets that one).

Heidfeld was reprimanded by the stewards after the race for running DC off the track while passing him.

TORO ROSSO: A good showing, but it won’t last. There is enormous political pressure to put this team back to the rear of the field where they belong (Liuzzi ran as high as eighth for a number of laps). It’s clear that the ‘restricted’ V10 that STR is running this year isn’t restricted enough. Look for a reduction in rev limit or in the size of the air restrictor in order to slow these boys down.

TOYOTA: An unexpected disaster. Too slow, too slow, too slow.

Team performance was not helped by Ralf Schumacher’s woeful qualifying, but overall these guys are in trouble.

Tech Director Mike Gascoyne says the car is basically OK, but it isn’t using the tyres correctly (insufficient heat in tyres generating insufficient grip). Maybe Malaysia will be kinder to them — Trulli ran second there last year – but it’s difficult to see Toyota battling at the front for at least the next couple of months.

MIDLAND: Unspectacular, as expected.

Monteiro continued his great finishing record. Doornbos had a technical failure on the grid.

‘Nuff said.

SUPER AGURI: Would be better off called just ‘Aguri’.

This was an expected disaster. This team really doesn’t deserve to be in F1 in 2006. I’m not saying it isn’t good to have another team – it is. But Aguri Suzuki should have started earlier with this exercise so that he could bring a proper car to the races.

Even after the new car arrives in mid season, I doubt that we’ll see a Super Aguri finishing higher than ANY other car that’s still running at the end of a race.

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Well, what do YOU think about what happened on Sunday. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

6 Responses to “Flying Nerd presents biased Bahrain GP review”

  1. on 14 Mar 2006 at 16:02 (Sydney) 1.Ankit Sud said …

    I think it was a wonderful race. This year so many teams are in the reckoning that makes it exciting.

  2. on 14 Mar 2006 at 17:57 (Sydney) 2.Pete said …

    I thought both the qualifying and race was great. If the make-up of the podium is a portent of the season – 2006 should be one to remember.

  3. on 17 Mar 2006 at 9:47 (Sydney) 3.The Flying Nerd » Blog Archive » Further thoughts on fine tuning F1 qualifying said …

    […] « Flying Nerd presents biased Bahrain GP review […]

  4. on 17 Mar 2006 at 16:02 (Sydney) 4.Darren Leffler said …

    Another great race review from the Fying Nerd, and a growing list of comments from F1 fans, even from the family now I see!
    On qualifying – your option 1 gets my vote. Forget fuel, let ’em go hard, fast and light. As you say, in the race there is still an option for fuel, tyre and stop strategies. Does it matter if a car on the front row of the grid ends up running slower with a full tank than a light car on the second row? No – we will just see more overtaking which can only be a good thing in F1. As as for Mark W your comments reflect other fans that I talk to – he needs to do a bit better on race day. He will be measured by Roseburg Jnr’s performance so that will be very interesting.
    And as for Channel 10 & the work experience kid – that would explain it! He/she must be back at school this week. Does Channel 10 have an email address?

  5. on 17 Mar 2006 at 21:25 (Sydney) 5.Richard said …

    Darren asked: Does Channel 10 have an email address?

    Try tv@rpmlive.tv.

    FN.

  6. on 18 Mar 2006 at 11:20 (Sydney) 6.experiment626 said …

    I liked the race and the QUALIFYING session, screw the fule rule an the 2 race engine rule. Other than that this could be a really great season. If Mclaren wants Kimi at year’s end they better give him a car that can complete qualifying rounds and races otherwise money is not going to work.

    Let’s all have a gerat season.