Wednesday 30 June 2010

Webber Lucky to Walk away from 200mph Crash

The issue of safety was raised again on Sunday 27 June when Mark Webber's Red Bull hit the lotus of Heikki Kovalainen at high speed into a breaking zone on lap 8 at Valencia.

The debate on the day was about the difference in closing speeds an the differential pace of the so called A and B teams. For me that debate is about drivers having an awareness of all the conditions on the track and many racing series throughout the world have slower cars on the back of the grid and even multiple categories in the same race. This debate will run on but I want to explore track safety.

Webbers car just before contact with advertising sign
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Webber's Car brushing the fence before landing
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There may be many variances depending on the type of damage and the effect of the impact on the initial impact speed, but Webber's car lifted in a classic back flip scenario. when almost vertical the bottom of the car struck an overhanging advertising banner and was very close to the top of the the perimeter fence meaning that it may not have been contained if it had struck the fence. In most instances I can't see a problem, but there is a risk particularly at the street type circuits of Melbourne, Monaco, Montreal,Sinapore and Valencia where the tracks are narrower. The other perhaps bigger issue is bridges. Webber was immediately unsighted and said he feared hitting a bridge. Most tracks have them and whilst the closing speed to a bend can be dealt with, by providing more run off or higher fences, bridges ar often built over straights where speeds are much higher.

I am not a jobs worth Health and Safety person, However, there would seem to be a risk that needs some investigation. The FIA will no doubt be considering every detail of the accident in terms of rules and also car/track construction. It was a credit to the FIA and constructor's previous work over the years that Mark was able to walk away from a fuel heavy car which also retained all of it's wheels right up to the final impact.

The race itself was great and provided more drama in the shape of an overtaking manoeuvre by Hamilton who overtook the safety car as it left the pits. This resulted in an advantage not shared by alonso who finished 9th with Hamilton retaining second even after serving a drive through penalty on a slow pit lane. 9 drivers were awarded a 5 second penalty for going too slow in the 3rd sector retuning to the pits. This rule prevents cars from speeding in after clearing the safey car. The penalty variously affected drivers with Button, Barrichello, Kubica and Sutil retaining places and Alonso and Rosberg being promoted whilst Buemi and De La Rosa were demoted

Saturday 19 June 2010

Valencia Preview

As we look forward to the next round, the talk on the street continues to be, just what is going on in Red Bull. Just what happened in Turkey on lap 40 when the team-mates clashed? The media continues to support Webber and there continues to be speculation that the team is supporting Vettel.

For me it was a 50/50 split a case of young and impetuous verses experience dogged determination. Both drivers share the same passion and determination to win. Ask any driver were they are there and it is to win. They live in a world where nobody remembers second place and it doesn’t matter if it is your team-mate, best friend or arch enemy the result is the same. Only Barrichello and Eddie Irvine seem to have been the exception when racing for Ferrari, and even then Barrichello would put on a demonstration of protest before giving way.

I do not condone team orders and watching Schumacher overtake a clearly faster Barrichello during those years was no good for the sport. F1 was the overall winner in Turkey and the tussle by the Mclaren team a few laps later went on to reinforce the point. There is a debate about what was said to each driver.... Just let them race. Give them the information about the fuel and engine condition and let them make the decisions. The reality is of course that it is a team sport as well as an individual sport and if you did leave it to the drivers most would fight all the way to a crash or run out of fuel 2 laps from the end.

So we then moved to Canada and what was the most exciting race of the season so far. Both sets of tyres were rubbish and contributed to a fantastic spectacle of team wrong footed by the unpredictable conditions. Firstly the track had not been used for two years. Mclaren went for the soft gambling on a Safety Car which did not happen. Then the harder compounds started to also go off meaning buy the end of the race most had stopped at least three times and used their allocation of tyres. The nature of the sport is that all the data will be dialled into the computers by the teams and tyre manufactures so that next year will become more predictable. The future saviour for the sport is of course the possibility that a second tyre manufacturer will enter the sport is rumours that Pirelli or Michelin could enter the race.

So on to Valencia on 27 June and the track that caused controversy in 2008 when the Renault team were accused of race fixing.