The Drood Report

Nick Fry is a jerk.

Trouble at the Top.

Originally I was not going to comment on this. However, having given it some thought I felt it would be remiss to not at least mention it as it is potentially a very big story. However, I will not be taking the opportunity to make cheap jokes at his expense despite my personal distaste for the man. The story is only tangentially related to Formula One, but the implications regarding the future leadership and direction of the FIA could be huge, especially with Mosley hinting only recently about staying around for another term.

Yes, Max Mosley is in a bit of a trouble.

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March 31, 2008 Posted by | f1 | Leave a comment

The bright side of hypocrisy

Formula One is on the brink of making some serious changes to make the sport more environmentally friendly. Whether you believe in global warming or not, less crap being pumped into the atmosphere, into our lungs and less energy being used is a good thing. There’s more awareness than ever of energy issues. Honda ran their Earth car last year and had people sign up and pledge to be greener. In fact my name was on Rubens’ car last year as I signed up. (I already use public transport etc…) This year Honda have lowered the volume on the message, but it’s still there. The sport is making a very real effort to do something constructive for the environment before governments force their hands.

So at a time when the sport is trying very hard to become more environmentally sound, it makes it all the more ridiculous that we have the first ever nighttime F1 race this season. At a time when many believe the planet to be in crisis due to our energy consumption, and our beloved sport is trying to make positive strides, we have a race that requires the installation of hundreds of new lights that burn many magnitudes brighter than regular streetlights and will burn a completely unnecessary, not to mention ungodly, amount of energy, and for what? So Bernie can have his race at a more sensible time in the European market.

Am I alone in finding this double standard absurd?

Hypocrisy, thy name is Ecclestone.

March 30, 2008 Posted by | f1 | 4 Comments

Qualifying tweak coming

After the debacle of Pinky and Perky at McLaren mucking up Nick Heidfeld’s lap, as expected the FIA are planning to make tweak to the rules.

The number being put forth right now is the slowing down lap must be without 120% of their “normal” time. Which of course leads to a nice grey area of what “normal” actually means.

Disappointed they didn’t go with 107%. Of course they could solve all this nonsense by getting rid of the stupid requirement for race fuel in qualifying.

March 29, 2008 Posted by | f1 | Leave a comment

Former head of the FIA, Jean-Marie Balestre, passes away

Very sad to report the passing of Bernie’s former nemesis at FISA and the FIA. Max Mosley has paid tribute to the man, which is rich given how he shafted him to take his power. I remember reading an interview at the time with Max when he had just taken over and thought “What a nasty little man”. My opinion has not changed.

Autosport has more on Balestre for those who don’t know his place in Formula One history.

March 28, 2008 Posted by | f1 | Leave a comment

Random train of thought now departing…

Not much going on in the F1 world right now. Certainly nothing interesting. No big news coming out of Sepang. Nothing major elsewhere. There’s legal shenanigans with Eddie Jordan. He’s blocked entry to Farce India’s facility. It’s an argument over some land Eddie owns. Seemed like petty nonsense from what I could gather. Rich men seeing who has the bigger package I guess. My support for Eddie Jordan was mostly dead after the way the team treated Damon Hill, but died entirely when he shafted Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Eddie is irrelevant. I hope Farce India get Giancarlo to take a car out and write “Screw You” on his grass in tyre tracks. That’s the only ending to this that I will find amusing.

Was watching the GP2 Asia series earlier, the Sepang round. The first race was wet. Dammit, we wanted wet F1, not GP2. Though the GP2 guys bought the excitement as always. There’s three notable GP2 graduates in F1. There’s Hamilton (I dislike him), Rosberg (I like him), and Piquet (I nothing him.)  Nobody in the GP2 Asia series leaps out as a sure fire F1 driver. Bruno Senna may make it on name alone. He’s not untalented, but he’s no Ayrton either. I’m wondering if the drivers, since most will be in the regular GP2 season, are simply using these races as extended test sessions, and not putting in 100% effort.  Regardless, more often than not for the last few years, GP2 (or F3000 as it used to be) was a lot more interesting than the Formula One.

It’s very hard to write about F1 when nothing is going on. We’ve just had a manic couple of weeks, and now we’re on hold for another week or so until the race where they have to spray glue on the sand, which makes things far less interesting. Plus of course in Bahrain, no chance in hell of a wet race. Already checked the weather forecast. I guessed before I entered it that it would be hot and sunny. Lo and behold, the forecast is… Cold and snowy… I kid, it was hot and sunny.

Wasn’t going to post an update at all. Maybe I should dig old stuff out. In fact that’s not a bad idea. I have a huge(ish) archive of all the stuff I’ve written over the years and not had maliciously deleted, so there’s always that. Perhaps I should do that. Shall consider that this weekend. In the mean time, if there’s any massive breaking news, or something else exciting like Max Mosley suddenly standing up and saying “I’m a fish” and flopping around on the floor like… Well a fish (and possibly shouting “Spongebob Squarepants” at the top of his lungs), I shall have to manufacture content dammit. When the sport doesn’t write my articles for me (in a manner of speaking) it’s left to the imagination, and believe me, my imagination is a scary place full of numerous screenplays I’ve yet to write. (Though I did actually finish one last year. May be about to write another this year as well.)

Okay, this article isn’t going well. It’s relativity to F1 is tangential at best, so it’s best to quit before I dig the hole any deeper. We shall end with a celebrity gossip style F1 story, which I usually loathe. I loathe this one, but it’s F1, so I can at least cap this off with an F1 story.

Sir Kimi of Raikkonen has spent a million dollars… Yes, a million dollars, on a house on the beach in Thailand. Kimi’s comment? “It will be a nice place to go with my family and friends when I have two weeks off in the winter.” The F1 drivers lead such hard lives. I mean it probably took him about 20 laps to earn that!

Until next time when I’ll either bore the living hell out of you, or post an archive piece. Probably an archive piece. This article, unlike others, has not been proof read. It’s not really a random train of thought if I go back and make corrections etc… So there you go…

I’m off to see if I can find Bahrain on a map.

March 28, 2008 Posted by | f1 | Leave a comment

The future of F1 coverage is so dark, we’re gonna need night vision

F1 coverage is an embarrassment. Unless you follow the live timing online, which is obviously only possible if you’re actually following the race live, quite often you’ll be left with no clue whatsoever as to who is where, what the gaps are, or just what the bloody hell is going on. I know during the race I spent a good part of the time wondering how far Kubica was behind Raikkonen.

This is all started to be an issue when a few years ago, they felt they needed to start showing us the numbers of stops a car had made. Now clearly, a sensible person would come up with some method of adding it to the existing information. Say “1p” or “2p” after the driver name, and still leave the time. This would require intelligence and planning though. No, far better to just replace the regular timing information with “0 stops”, “1 stop” etc… ARGHHH! The sensible solution, if they insist on running seperate charts for this, would be to leave their scroller they’ve introduced ON SCREEN AT ALL TIMES. At the moment it’s useless. For starters it’s hard to read as they’ve inexplicably made it see through. I suppose this MIGHT be to prevent burn-in on televisions, but then that doesn’t make any sense as they’ve got that big old lap counter at the top of the screen at all times anyway. Honestly, it’s like they WANT it all left obfuscated so you’re wondering what the hell is going on.

It’s not like the station broadcasting the race can fix this themselves either and give you the information, as the broadcast contract with FOM is extremely restrictive about what can and can’t be onscreen during the race. Speed in the US for example, in all their other race series they run a ticker along the top constantly. When it cycles through, say, positions, it’ll then run the list with fastest laps etc… Very helpful (even if Speed’s coverage of other series gets progressively worse every season. I want to see racing you morons, not some jackass in the pits interviewing people). They’re not allowed to do it on the F1 though, thanks to Bernie’s contract. We’re stuck with whatever he or his minions decide should be onscreen, which apparently is nothing useful.

Not to mention the other pathetic addition this year, because what we really need to make coverage enjoyable, easier to follow, more interesting and cutting edge is to KNOW WHEN AND WHERE ROBERT KUBICA WAS BORN. I really do hang my head in dismay when that appears on screen. I remember the big FIA survey a few years ago, “would you like to know more personal information about the drivers”. I chose a big NO as I honestly couldn’t care less. I know their name and their home country. That is all I need to know about the guy in the cockpit. It’s what he does on track that’s relevant and important. I couldn’t give a crap when they were born, where they were born… The information is useless and of no consequence.

The argument can be made that new fans may find it interesting, but why pander to them? No other sport does. They don’t explain the rules of football at the start of every game. It’s up to the commentator to give information they think is relevant. Mentioning where a participant was born or commenting that it’s their birthday is the sort of filler you expect in a quiet stretch of the event. When watching any other sport they don’t pop up a screen with personal information on it. They put up relevant information. Where a driver was born has no bearing on whether he’s any good on track, so why even bother? It’s an asinine change that adds nothing of any consequence, but can be held up as evidence that they’re trying to “improve” coverage, when in reality it’s a dumbing down of F1 for the “Big Brother” crowd.

So we’re left with what at best qualifies as early 90’s coverage when it comes to information. I used to hold up NASCAR as the example of how F1 SHOULD be with it’s on screen data, but it’s been so long since I’ve watched NASCAR I have no idea if that would even still be accurate. Even Montoya’s arrival wasn’t enough to get me to watch NASCAR as it’s still largely a grid full of rednecks, Bush supporters and racists. However, F1 DOES need to improve significantly. We are quite often left completely in the dark as to who is where, and what the gaps are. If I’m watching the race and I’m left wondering for more than 30 seconds as to how far behind Raikkonen Kubica is, the people in the broadcast truck have failed at their job.

Of course it doesn’t help matters that when we DO get gaps on screen, they’re completely pointless. Why, in the name of all that’s holy, do we care about the gap between Kimi and Lewis? We had that on screen quite a lot. Yeah, screw Kubica, Kovalainen, you know, the guys actually chasing Raikkonen. We don’t care about them, what’s the gap to golden boy? Even dumber than that was later in the race when they felt the need to keep informing us of the gap between Kimi and Fernando. Yes, because it’s vital we know the gap between the leader and someone who doesn’t stand a chance in hell of being champion this year. It’s back to 2005 where for the longest time they’d insist on telling us where Schumacher was in relation to everyone, when he was busy tinkering around in 8th on his crappy Bridgestone tyres.

I’ve been condemning F1’s coverage for years now. And aside from a few minor tweaks, it’s still just as pathetic as it was ten years ago. Big deal, we get a g-meter now. Fascinating but pointless. In fact the only decent addition to coverage in recent years has been the team radio. However it’s of limited interest as we rarely get it, and when we do the information is out of date as it’s delayed. In practice it’s interesting as you often hear them discussing changes to the car, handling issues. During the race it’s a lot less useful. Especially when it consists of the race engineer bitching at the driver to go faster. Not only that, several teams won’t even allow their radio on the air (Ferrari for example) thus making a farce of the entire thing. Still, at least they added that pretty flashing bit to the caption last year. THANKS BERNIE!

As much as I hate to bring up NASCAR again, the fact is NASCAR’s online presence is stellar. For a monthly fee you can get access to a ton of good content if NASCAR is your thing. I’m stuck without cable right now as it’d cost me $50 a month just for F1, since I never watch anything else. So I’m stuck with grainy French coverage on TV, or trying to track down coverage online. (Which isn’t as hard as you’d imagine actually.) This past weekend I was wishing Bernie used the official F1 website for something DECENT and had it so I could pay $20 a month or similar to get online streaming of every session, archived coverage (so I don’t have to sit here at 5am to watch qualifying and can watch it when I want.) I’m not even that picky on quality so long as it’s reliable. My only caveat to all this is I MUST have the option to not have any commentary. Having watched all Friday practice sessions this year so far with just the trackside sounds it’s been absolutely wonderful. It makes things far more captivating and enjoyable, not to mention the atmosphere comes across much stronger. F1 with no commentary is a truly beautiful thing.

There is so much great technology out there they could use, as highlighted by NASCAR, Major League Baseball etc… Not to mention FOM has the rights to a massive collection of archive footage that will never see the light of day, at least until Bernie croaks. That leaves hardcore fans like myself in the position of relying on people making copies of their own tapes and letting us download them from secret websites. (And believe me, I do. I’m acquiring quite the archive when I could have been giving my money to Bernie to actually pay for this stuff.) Anytime something pops up on a more popular site, like YouTube, it’s gets cease and desisted almost immediately. Last year when a fan in Japan uploaded the footage of Lewis driving like a cretin, leading to the Webber/Vettel accident that they’d filmed themselves with their phone, FOM even got THAT pulled off YouTube.

For a great example of what CAN be achieved in online sports coverage, check this out. That’s what Major League Baseball offers to fans for the season. For those unaware MLB is acknowledged as being the leader in how to deliver sports content online. Now i’m a baseball fan. Not a rampant fan by any means, but a fan. (I love the SPORT, but am largely indifferent to MLB). When there was a free trial last year, I signed up to see if this claim was correct. Were they really that good? In short, yes. One of the best features is the Mosaic application. You load the app, log in, and then you have small windows on screen showing every game that’s on currently, with the score underneath, who is at bat etc…. There’s various screen layout formats. Basically whatever you want to do, whether it’s watch one or two games, jump around from game to game, or just have an overview of the nights proceedings, you can. You could also set up a list of players you were interested in, and it would alert you when they were up to bat so you could focus on that specific game if you wanted. It wasn’t without it’s minor technical problems, but in fairness it was in beta at the time.

Now imagine this technology applied to F1. You have a small window showing the onboard feed from every car. Click Trulli’s window, it pops open on a larger screen and you can watch what’s going on. Want to watch someone else? Click and their feed opens, Trulli’s closes. Change the layout and you can now watch two or three onboard feeds at the same time. Or perhaps have it so you have the world feed running in a bigger window, but in the smaller windows you can see what every trackside camera is looking at right now. Or have the world feed, several onboards, and a camera in the pits. Literally the combinations could be endless.

F1 has SO much potential to be at the vanguard of online sports coverage. So many tech companies are involved in the sport in some fashion that the infrastructure could be provided easily. For a sport that prides itself on technology and innovation, it’s logical to expect it to be at the forefront of new media. Instead that mantle is held by a sport that many people find intensely boring, that’s barely changed in over a hundred years.

F1 should have a great online presence. So what do we get through official channels? A crappy news site, some tiny pictures (I pay Autosport $5 a month for, among other things, for the ability to view high resolution pictures in their online gallery), and a pathetic Java application that gives us live timing, and even that’s crap. If you’re trying to compare split times it’s a nightmare. It doesn’t store information. It just lists the CURRENT time when the driver is on track. During practice I was trying to compare peoples laps, and invariably one driver would be on a slowing down lap and obliterating their split time information making comparison impossible, leaving my swiss cheese memory to try and recall what the split had actually been. There’s no way to see previous laptimes, splittimes or ANY other pertinent information. While the app does give you a broader overview it, like pretty much everything else available through official means, is largely useless in comparison to what other sports offer.

March 25, 2008 Posted by | f1 | 6 Comments

Malaysian Notes

So race two is in the books. Not as fun as the first race, but not dull either. Not one I’ll be archiving, but not one I’ll be reliving in moments of horror either.

While I believe demoting the McLaren’s for their ridiculous behaviour in qualifying was the only fair outcome to the situation, sadly it did deprive us of a battle up front in Malaysia. Allegedly. Think back to last year. How many times did we have all four cars up front and stagnant, dull races? So in the end it probably made very little difference. Of course I do find it hugely ironic. Nick Heidfeld’s final and quickest lap was compromised. The Mclaren boys are demoted. Heidfeld starts further up the grid, which means if he’d not complained, he wouldn’t have been up next to Trulli and his teammate at the first corner and wound up sliding down to tenth. A great example of “be careful what you wish for” perhaps.

Felipe Massa showed who his mentor is at the start chopping across the track in front of Kimi who thought better of it, probably realising that A) he’d do his legs at the pitstop anyway, and B) the chucklehead would invariably bin it at some point. Well put two big old ticks in those checkboxes as both happened. I continue to be amazed that Felipe is still gainfully employed by Ferrari. Two races. Two pathetic errors. Melbourne he was dumped down the field after his error, and it’s remotely possible his minor shunt damaged something on the car ultimately leading to his retirement. That is open to debate. What isn’t open to debate is the fact that in Malaysia he threw away a certain 1-2 finish for Maranello. I notice that the team, unlike in the past, have not leapt to his defense so far this year. No excuses have been forthcoming. No votes of confidence. They remain oddly silent. If Mclaren bring the fight back, come seasons end, and yes I know it’s a cliche, the 8 points Massa threw away could come back to haunt Ferrari.

One thing that did irk me this weekend was Alonso. Now the feed I was watching was rather poor, but he seemed to make some very UnAlonsolike moves. He moved on DC so far they seemed to touch, and he had a couple of other questionable moments. I am still a big fan of Alonso, but have a raised eyebrow right now.

Golden boy Lewis had a bad day, though at least in part has to take some of the blame. I’m seeing a Hakkinen type quality in him. Mika was a terrific driver when he had the equipment and was in the right place. Often though, when the chips were down, he’s lose interest and phone it in, poodling around and not really putting any effort in. That describes Lewis’ drive this past weekend. Sure he had the pitstop issue that cost him 9 seconds, but he spent a good chunk of time completely unable (or unwilling) to do anything about Webber. He started chasing down Trulli toward the end, but wound up finishing a largely discreditable 5th.

Speaking of Webber I’d like to just go on record here and say I WAS WRONG ABOUT MARK WEBBER. Over the years I’ve gotten into debates about various drivers, as all fans probably have. I watch a LOT of F1. From onboard footage, of all the drivers it seemed the one who abused traction control the most was Mark Webber. You’d always hear it kicking in. I always said that when TC was banned, I expected Mark to slide down the grid as he just couldn’t cope. Well I was wrong about that. Very wrong. Webber is like a new man so far this season. I always assumed Mark was using TC to make up for a lack of ability. It would appear he was merely using the tools available to him and has had no problem adapting to the driver aids being gone. I’m actually quite pleased. While in the past I’ve felt Webber was a bit of an idiot, I’ve always had a soft spot for him due to his debut points finish for the now sadly departed Minardi. I was wrong about him, and you know what? I’m actually kinda happy about that.
Back to the race though, while everything else was going on, Massa binning it, Lewis unable to pass Webber, Robert Kubica quietly circulated around, mostly unseen, to take a fantastic and well deserved second place. BMW are looking very dangerous this year. If we reach the end of the season without them winning a race, I will be extremely surprised. Another driver doing a stellar job in inferior equipment was Trulli. I was dearly hoping one of the top three would retire (preferably Kovalainen. I like the guy a lot, but for various reasons do NOT want McLaren to win either title this year) elevating Trulli to the podium. Fantastic to see Jarno back up there. Hopefully it’s a genuine increase, and not some weird thing like we used to get with the March team in the late 80’s, where they’d be up the front one race, and struggling to qualify the next.

Finally, we also had another apparent Ferrari engine failure in the STR team. Curious.

All in all, not a bad weekend.

March 24, 2008 Posted by | f1 | 4 Comments

Stewards not gutless after all

So both McLaren’s have been docked five places. Now that seems fair to me as that was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. Of course Martin Whitmarsh, who showed what a complete two faced hypocrite he was last year when he said how unfair it was of Ferrari to try and win the title in the courts, only for McLaren to turn around and do exactly that after the Brazilian Grand Prix, defended his drivers.

[…]Nick was in fact quickest in all three sectors on that lap and I don’t think he was unduly or physically impaired[…]

Now if you take that literally, to me that sounds like he’s saying Nick was on the for the pole, which he clearly didn’t get. I think he means Nick was on his personal fastest lap. Well clearly he WOULD be faster, even if baulked. The fastest laps are always set near the end of the session with fresh tyres and a lighter fuel load. If I recall, Heidfeld was in 9th place before his final lap. Now Alonso is 9th with a 1:38. Heidfeld did a 1:36 on his final lap. Clearly there was more pace in the car than he’d shown earlier in the session. 15/100ths of a second seperates 3rd to 7th. There were 44/1000ths of a second between 4th and 7th. If there was a gap of, say, half a second or more to 3rd, then BMW’s claim may be open to debate, but clearly Heidfeld was blocked and had to go off his preferred line. Slowing him a mere 1/10th of a second cost him three grid places. According to Doctor Mario, the speed differential between the McLaren’s and Heidfeld’s BMW was 200kmh!

As for Alonso’s complaint, looking at his time, I doubt it hurt him that much. He needed to find almost 1.5 seconds to bump Webber out of 8th, and in that dog of a Renault, that was clearly never going to happen if the McLaren’s hadn’t been there.

So far none of the threatened rain has come. Was endlessly amused by the captions on TV. “Prediction: No rain for next 30 minutes.” Then 20 minutes. Then 10 minutes. I was expecting it near the end to say “Prediction: No rain in the time it takes you to read this caption.” A wet race will make things very interesting. Here’s hoping. The sad thing is while Lewis and Heikki deserved to be spanked for their idiotic driving (Massa at least stayed as far off the line as he could get), what it ultimately means is there will now be almost no battle up front. A wet race is about our only chance of not having the Ferrari’s romp off into the distance, because you can guarantee if the track is wet, Massa at the very least will most likely run out of talent again and do something stupid for our amusement.

To prevent this nonsense being a problem again, the FIA should perhaps give a “rule clarification” (aka a “rule change” dressed up in lawyer speak) and make it so on their slowing down lap, if the session is still green, the driver has to stay within 107% of his fastest lap. The FIA always seemed to love that number. Just a thought.

March 22, 2008 Posted by | f1 | Leave a comment

After Qualifying…

That was despicable. Drivers slowing down before the session was done because they weren’t doing another lap completely screwing over several guys who were putting in their final flying lap. It appeared both McLaren drivers were going slow on the racing line, as were several others, and both Heidfeld and Alonso were slowed. That’s extremely bad. That’s almost up there with Schumacher parking it at Monaco. Only thing absent, one assumes, was malice.

The stewards stick their nose where it doesn’t belong all the time. Let’s see if they actually step in and at least issue a warning to those drivers who blithely drove their crawling lap to save fuel while others were still trying to set a time.

I won’t hold my breath…

UPDATE : Heikki and Lewis have been summoned to see the stewards for the incident.

Though I’m still not holding my breath on them being penalised.

March 22, 2008 Posted by | f1 | Leave a comment

Qualifying soon…

Had trouble making time to update the site the last couple of days. Uninvited family has turned up bringing to mind the old adage “Some people are only alive because murder is illegal”.

Anyhow, I’ve managed to catch all 3 practice sessions for Malaysia. Coulthard’s suspension falling apart on Friday was rather worrying. For those who haven’t seen it, he basically straight lined a corner when there was a minor suspension failure. When he hit the kerb, the suspension blew itself to pieces. Complete devastation at the front end. Very scary accident. Mercifully DC was okay, though there was no reason he wouldn’t be really. Apparently he was going for the “Timo Glock Destroy The Car Without Hitting Anything Award” (Timo is still the champ there incidentally).This of course led to the FIA blathering about Red Bull maybe being excluded from the event, citing DC’s suspension in Australia as another failure.

Given his suspension failed AFTER Massa had driven into the side of him, that seems a bit unfair. While the team were allowed to take part in practice Saturday morning, the FIA are still making threats. Guess if Webber or Coulthard get up ahead of a Ferrari, the team will be deemed unfit to race…

Practice is always hard to fathom as there’s always some surprises. Hopefully Slick Nick is on top properly, and not some bogus low fuel run. There’s a nice mix of cars up the front. BMW, Red Bull Honda and the like. Nice sight. One thing that makes me extremely suspicious is close to the end of the session, Massa seemed to be on a quick lap, and pitted before the end. Hiding Ferrari’s real light under a bushel perhaps?

Qualifying is in about 90 minutes at time of writing.  Not sure if I’m going to be able to catch it live. Hopefully I can. In reality, I expect the usual McLaren and Ferrari nonsense at the front, but I am REALLY hoping Heidfeld’s barn burner at the end of free practice was genuine, and we’ll get a BMW on pole.

Time will tell. Incidentally I’ve been keeping track of the weather forecast all week for Malaysia. Storms and rain EVERY day have been forecast. I think someone has been lying. I’ve see not one drop of rain through four hours of practice. Disappointed to say the least. I’m hoping for rain so we can stop the drivers whining about raining being unsafe now TC has gone. Not denying it might be more dangerous, but I just want some rain so we can see for sure which way the cookie is going to crumble, so those complaining will shut the hell up, either with smug satisfaction, or the silence of humiliation.

March 22, 2008 Posted by | f1 | Leave a comment