Monthly Archives: November 2016

F1: Flashback to the 1997 Japanese Grand Prix

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When Lewis Hamilton backed Nico Rosberg into the pack during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix it wasn’t the first time someone had tried that tactic in Formula One. Jacques Villeneuve did exactly the same thing at Suzuka in 1997 but on that occasion Ferrari developed a plan to reclaim the upper hand.

Jacques Villeneuve started the 1997 Japanese Grand Prix from pole position knowing he would almost certainly be disqualified from the race. It was a highly unusual situation. Villeneuve came into the weekend carrying a suspended race ban for repeatedly ignoring yellow flags, so when he ignored them AGAIN during practice he was promptly banned from the Grand Prix. Williams (Villeneuve’s team) appealed the stewards’ decision and although it was never going to be successful it was a suitable delaying tactic because it meant Jacques could at least start the race.

Any points that Villeneuve scored would be taken away from him when the Williams appeal was rejected/withdrawn so, with nothing to race for, Jacques took aim at Michael Schumacher instead. The two were locked in a tight championship battle and Japan was the penultimate race of the season.

Villeneuve held the lead from pole position and, with Schumacher right behind in second place, Jacques promptly started pushing Michael’s Ferrari back into the field. Villeneuve was hoping that other drivers would attack Michael and steal points away from him so the opening lap was slow enough for the field to cross the line nose-to-tail as if it had been run behind the Safety Car.

Before Schumacher lost any positions, Ferrari started implementing a brilliant plan to neutralise Villeneuve’s tactics.

Schumacher purposely baulked Mika Hakkinen in 3rd place through the sweeping esses to allow Eddie Irvine in the other Ferrari to overtake them both. Irvine then went after Villeneuve like a battering ram and quickly forced himself into the lead. Villeneuve continued delaying Schumacher, so whilst Irvine disappeared into the distance, Ferrari moved onto the next part of their plan.

Schumacher was short-fuelled at the end of his first stint so he could jump Villeneuve in the pitstops. Although that strategy would’ve usually left Michael a sitting duck at the second round of stops, Irvine came back into play. Ferrari told their ‘number two’ driver to slow down, hand first place to Schumacher, and hold up Villeneuve so Michael could build the buffer he would require later in the race. Irvine played his role to perfection and gave Villeneuve a dose of his own medicine. Jacques made an early stop himself to avoid being help up for too long, but by that stage Ferrari’s drivers had cleverly worked together to seal a rather brilliant tactical victory.

The race is summarised in this great highlights video.

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F1: Yas Marina is a poorly designed racetrack

$1.3 billion & a blank canvass resulted in three daft chicanes and a mistake on the back straight (they had to add a kink because it didn’t line up with the grandstands). Although most of the track could do with a redesign, a very simple but effective improvement would be removing the chicanes from the overtaking zones. That would give drivers more chance to overtake by performing a ‘switchback’ on the corner exit which they simply can’t do at the moment.

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A collection of interesting videos from Macau

Laurens Vanthoor had a spectacular weekend in Macau winning the 2016 FIA GT World cup after flipping onto his roof. Vanthoor’s frightening high speed accident brought out the red flags and, since the race as not restarted, the result was taken from the previous lap. Vanthoor was declared the winner which created an unusual situation that guaranteed him plenty of attention.

In case you missed it, here’s Vanthoor’s lucky escape. He travelled an awful long distance on his roof.

Stefano Comini also had an eventful time in Macau. It was the final round of the 2016 TCR International Series and Comini had an outside chance of winning the championship if something went horribly wrong for his main rival, James Nash. Incredibly, that’s exactly what happened. Nash was caught up in a collision with another driver which took him out of the first race and forced him to start the second near the back. Comini (whose hipster beard is now so long it sticks out of his balaclava) took full advantage and scored enough points to claim a surprise championship victory.

Comini had earlier put on a show during practice and qualifying by taking an unusual line through the tight Melco hairpin.

Stefano’s slide into Melco wasn’t a one off in the wet. He tried the same tactic in the dry as well.

Comini certainly isn’t the first to take the Melco hairpin with a handbrake, and perhaps he took some inspiration from Sebastien Loeb’s efforts a few years back.

Some claim Melco is the tightest corner international motorsport so whilst it lends itself to handbrake turns it’s also a great place to stick a 360 degree spherical camera. Here’s a rather unusual interactive view from right on the apex.

Macau is a brilliant circuit and although this last video isn’t from 2016 it’s a great illustration of how crazy the place can be. Enjoy a lap onboard with Peter Hickman’s 999cc BMW.

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Flashback to the 1990 Macau Grand Prix : Schumacher vs Hakkinen

The Macau F3 GP takes place this weekend so here’s a great flashback to the 1990 event when Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen crashed whilst fighting for the lead. Neither driver accepted full responsibility and the incident planted a seed that grew into a legendary F1 rivalry. One story claims Schumacher spoke to Hakkinen quite nicely after the Macau race but was later very critical of Mika in the press. Hakkinen didn’t appreciate Michael’s approach to the media so when the two drivers clashed again at Spa Francorchamps in 2000 he did the complete opposite (lecturing Michael in private but remaining calm and friendly for reporters).

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A suggested change to NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup format

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Since 2004 NASCAR has used a points system that is rather unique in the world of motorsport. The championship winner is determined by the ‘Chase for the Cup’ which is currently a series of elimination races that work like the finals of a football competition. The format ensures four drivers go into the last race of the season with an equal chance of winning the championship so there is guaranteed to be drama up until the very end.

However, there are critics of this format (which was updated in 2014) who feel there is no reward for the driver who scores the most points during the regular season. NASCAR bosses have listened to this feedback and there is now an appetite to change the system.

NASCAR racing chief Steve O’Donnell said “One of the things we’re looking at is the first 26 races … I think that’s certainly fair for us to look at and we are. I’d say very serious consideration.”

CURRENT FORMAT

The NASCAR season is 36 races long and is split into two parts. The first 26 races make up the regular season whilst the last 10 races are part of the Chase.

Before the Chase starts the top 16 drivers (based on wins) have their points tally boosted to roughly the same level. This gives them all a relatively equal chance to win the championship at the expense of everyone else. They enter the first of three elimination rounds which each consist of three races. At the end of each elimination round the four worst performing drivers are dropped and the survivors have their points tally reset. The end result is that four drivers go into the final race of the season on perfectly equal points and whoever among them finishes higher in that race is champion. Simple as that.

CRITICISM

One key criticism of the current Chase format is that it doesn’t offer any reward to the driver who scores the most points during the regular season. In the 12 seasons that a Chase format has been used in NASCAR, there have been 7 occasions when the champion would’ve been different under a more conventional points system. There is little incentive to perform consistently or fight for championship position in the first 26 races. Kevin Harvick had a decent points lead after the 2016 regular season but was eliminated during the Chase and will not go into this weekend’s final race with a championship chance.

To highlight how little the regular season races impact the title fight, Kyle Busch won last year’s championship despite missing the first 11 races. Although he was sitting 27th on points before the 2015 Chase started, Busch was able to scrape into the elimination rounds, make the final race, and claim the title.

Drivers have suggested awarding a trophy or some other arbitrary prize to the regular season winner but perhaps the best idea is a simple one.

REWARDING THE REGULAR SEASON WINNER

An easy tweak to the Chase format would be giving the driver with the most regular season points automatic entry into the final race as a championship contender. That driver couldn’t be dropped from the Chase during the elimination rounds and would remain eligible for the title until the very end. The other 15 drivers in the Chase would fight for remaining three contender positions using the same elimination format.

This idea offers a substantial reward to the driver who scores the most regular season points, it doesn’t take away from the entertainment value of the chase format, and it requires little rework to the current rules. In addition to making first place on the points table worth fighting for earlier in the season it also creates an interesting story-line for the sport with the regular season ‘champ’ having to fight off three title challengers in the final race.

If you score the most points in the first 26 races you surely deserve some sort of advantage heading into the Chase.

The 2016 NASCAR finale is this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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Felipe Massa’s farewell in Brazil was a fantastic F1 moment

Sport can be beautiful sometimes. Felipe Massa’s final race in front of his passionate Brazilian fans was always going to be emotional but it went up a level when he crashed out in Sao Paulo. As the fans gave Massa a standing ovation, he draped himself in a Brazilian flag, walked back to the pits in tears (hugging marshals along the way who were also crying) and was greeted by mechanics from several different teams who came out to applaud him. Felipe eventually finished in the arms of his family, in the middle of pitlane whilst the race was going on around them, and it was fantastic.

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Red Bull teammates come together … again

Jamie Whincup hit Shane van Gisbergen in the latest Supercars round which continues a fine motorsport tradition of Red Bull teammates crashing into each other.

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F1: Sebastian Vettel loves a good rant

After Sebastian Vettel’s sweary outburst during the Mexican Grand Prix, Christian Horner from Red Bull said “it is not an attribute that he had when he drove for us”. However, Vettel has always loved a good rant and this compilation spanning his Red Bull years provides a fascinating insight into his racing mindset.

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