Formula 1 28 Apr 2005 09:51 pm

F1 Round 4 (Imola GP) Rant

BAR-Honda was clearly cheating and deserves to be punished. The case will be heard in Paris on 4 May, and Jenson will be excluded. There’s no point crossing your fingers. Some arithmetical jiggery-pokery on the part of Nick Fry won’t change the fact that the car was fundamentally illegal (underweight). No wonder Taku was able to pass Mark. Given his unfair advantage, he should have done it laps earlier.

And I’m just starting to get wound up.

Ferrari: should be excluded from the next three races and banned from testing until the conclusion of the third race. Not only has the Ferrari team refused to sign the voluntary testing limitation (30 days during the season), they have now broken the longstanding agreement for ‘no testing in the week prior to a Grand Prix’.

I can almost (not quite) understand their arrogance in refusing to give away their unfair advantage by refusing to sign the test limitation agreement — after all, it must be difficult for Ferrari to spend all the Bernie-Bucks they get without testing 24 x 7 on three tracks at once. And this was a ‘late-breaking’ proposal instigated by the teams (especially the only man who seems to be interested in a sensible future for F1, dear old Stoddy) — so while Ferrari’s attitude is arrogant and dismissive of the sport and the fans, they are within their rights to refuse to sign.

But to break the no testing in the week prior to a GP agreement is the height of arrogance. Clearly Todt, Brawn and Schumacher have got so caught up in their self interests that they have forgotten about F1 followers around the world. What can they be thinking? When Ferrari runs F1 into the ground and all the fans (and other teams) have gone, what will their brand be worth? Where will they get the Bernie-Bucks when no-one comes to the races and no TV station is prepared to pay for TV rights? Ferrari needs to be stopped — and quickly. Mosley and Ecclestone need to show some leadership for the benefit of the sport not the interests of FIA/FOM/Ferrari (notice how all of these start with F?).

And now Williams.

Let’s not bash Mark Webber. Yet again, Williams has delivered a dud car. It lacks downforce and, as a result, it has to be driven on the ragged edge, and the consequences are mistakes and excessive tyre wear.

Take a look at some facts and figures. Williams cars (driven by Mark or Nick H or the Pizza-boy) have regularly been 2 seconds off the pace. In pre-race testing at Imola:
* Free 1: 2 secs off the pace
* Free 2: 3 secs off the pace
* Free 3: Webber was 5th fastest but STILL 2 secs off the pace
* Free 4: getting better (but the runs are getting shorter): 0.5 secs off the pace.

It’s only when Mark’s skill in the banzai 1-lap screamers comes into play that the Williams looks anything like competitive. And then as soon as there are a few laps of the race under the belt, it all goes pear-shaped. Look at the fastest laps in the race — Williams is nowhere — 3 secs slower than Ferrari. The conclusion is inescapable: we know Mark can drive a car well. It’s not proven whether he can drive a race like Schumacher or Alonso — but he is certainly not as bad as the Williams car is making him look. I bet his engine was knackered after Bahrain.

Did you see the Williams at Imola on the Variante Alte? It was all over the place, regularly stepping out at the back…

Now go to F1-live or your fave F1 photo site and check out the rear wing angles that Williams is running at Imola. Much steeper than BAR, McLaren and others. (Renault looks pretty steep too, but their car has such good aero that maybe they have low basic drag and can run a steep wing without too much penalty). Is it any wonder that Williams is running 10km/h slower than the leaders in the speed traps. And Webber-bashers need to note that top speed on a long straight is NOT influenced by driver skill.

So let’s get off the boy’s back and look at some of the team’s problems:
* inexperienced tech director (Sam Michael)
* poor aerodynamicist (after Antonia Terzi left, the job has fallen to a fellow who couldn’t even get a second string aero job at Jaguar)
* chief designer (Gavin Fisher) laid low through most of the winter test/development season after a motorbike accident.

How do we fix these things?

* Hire a new aero man. Not sure who.
* Hire a new tech director (Adrian Newey’s McLaren contract runs out some time this year — maybe he would come home; Mike Gascoyne is said to want out of Toyota at the end of his contract (end of 2006) so he can live and work in England again)
ban the chief designer from riding motorbikes (or playing ‘tennis’ which seems to be just as dangerous…).

And now some random comments:

Renault/Alonso: Bravo. Job well done. Stylish car, stylish driving.

Montoya: I bet Ron is feeling that he has spent his money well on the wide-boy…

Raikkonen: let’s have another party.

Trulli: looking good in hot weather.

Red Bull: flattered to deceive in first few races, but have now found their place towards the back (check out the bottom six qualifiers at Imola: 2 RBs, 2 Jordans, 2 Minardis, side by side in teams).

Villeneuve: get a pair of overalls that fit. And retire again. See current F1 Racing mag for good comments on Villeneuve: he was never any good. Made an absolute meal of winning the world championship all those years ago. Any half-decent driver would have sealed it 5 races before the end.

Ralf: his Williams form continues, and he retains the big girl’s blouse title.

Fisi: Was Oz a flash in the pan? I hope not. Nice guy, deserves to do well.

Qualifying: sucks. If we must have 2 x 1-lap sessions, then:
* first session in World Championship order (Alonso goes first at next race)
* second session based on times in first session: fastest goes last
* start position based ONLY on second session.

The aggregate system is a shambles.

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