F1’s dysfunctional relationship

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Picture courtesy of Darren Taylor

You know when you’re having an argument with someone and you realise that you just cannot be bothered to even fight your case anymore, so you just sort of roll your eyes and say “whatever” just to shut them up? That’s a strange, yet accurate comparison to F1’s governing body and its strategy group. A very dysfunctional relationship, that even marital counselling could not recover.

In a weird twist of events that saw the old qualifying return for a matter of hours (yes, Katy Perry’s ‘hot n cold’ song comes to mind), a letter from the GPDA and a response agreeing with the said letter from Bernie himself, the new elimination qualifying is back for another trial; albeit unchanged. Move over Ross and Rachel, this relationship is far more complex than you ever were.

The Australian Grand Prix weekend was heavily let down by the rushed inception of this new format. The race itself was a good opener and if Ferrari had played the game right, it may have been a different victor crossing the line first. Max Verstappen also qualified in fifth, not that anyone noticed because we were all too busy slating this new system; not many even congratulated Lewis Hamilton for his stunning lap. Both of those performances shadowed by a monumental mistake, that potentially could have been avoided if 1) they hadn’t rushed or 2) they didn’t even try to alter it.

That being said, I do grudgingly like the idea of the elimination qualifying. No, there isn’t a problem with the old system, but, whether you admit it or not, a whole bunch of you disliked the old version when drivers were sat in the pit lane or when they didn’t go out at all. As someone who has sat trackside for a few years, there is nothing more boring than sitting in the rain or sun with absolutely nothing on the track in front of you, apart from a stray marshal or bird if you’re lucky. Talk about excitement…

In a previous blog post, I spoke about another idea for this qualifying, read that here. But, from a lot of deliberation, most people were fine with Q1 and Q2 – though, the 90 second intervals need to be increased more than anything. It is Q3 they have a problem with. A lot of ideas stem from using the old version of qualifying in the final qualification, but after a lot of thought, I don’t think it would make much of a difference. The whole tyre conservation will just come to play, again. Surely you want to see a Dany Kvyat or a Nico Hulkenberg having a go at beating the usual top four? They are not likely to waste a tyre trying to beat a time they probably won’t top.

What we want is a shock. Like you get in some wet qualifying sessions. Someone to get their timings wrong and someone to get it spot on. Someone to make the jump onto the softer tyre and spring a surprise catching others out.

The system should have been simulated hundreds of times before Australia, that’s blatantly obvious. It was a shambles, a mess and embarrassing that our sport came up with that idea. On the other hand, I think they’ve laid the foundations down. Now it’s time to build on it. Formula E tried something new with their super-pole – it worked.

I think Q1 and Q2 should stay as the elimination form, with the adjusted time intervals. I also think the graphics for viewers needs to change. A big countdown clock needs to be on the screen somewhere with a noise to count down the last ten seconds. I don’t think drivers should be allowed to finish their lap; if that was the case, qualifying would last too long and there would just be a train after every knockout.

Esteban Gutierrez was on a lap that would have promoted him to fourth in Q1. But tough; he should have gone out sooner. Simply put, they were told that they’d only have 90 seconds and you can’t finish the lap. Don’t blame the system for your mathematical error. Gene Haas even admitted to knowing where the team went wrong.

Q3 should be a one-lap shoot out. It should last for about five minutes, so no one has time to mope around in the pits and it should be compulsory to set a competitive lap time. You’re probably thinking “er, what?” but, picture that system in Monaco or a wet Canada. I don’t know about you, but I am rather bored of all of the conservation in Formula 1. I want them to go all guns out and show us what they can really do. F1 is supposed to be the fastest sport in the world, so let it be that. These drivers are supposed to be the fastest drivers in the world (debatable), so let them show us. If they lock up? Tough. If they run wide? Tough. If they screw up? Tough. That’s the pressure and intensity of a one-lap shoot out.

The other option I see, is scrapping Q1, Q2 and Q3 and just having one 45 minute qualification like GP2 and GP3 have. Every two minutes a driver is knocked out until it’s just the final eight left out on track to do their final lap.

Bahrain will probably be the exact same as Australia, there’s not really a doubt about that. And it’s all well people like me having a good grumble or suggestion, but if the GPDA can’t even make a difference, then there’s no hope for anyone else.

“If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Flawed Qualifying system thoughts

Its been four months since we last saw the V6 hybrids colour our TV screens. The anticipation of the new season dawned on us all, and after pre-season testing the wait for the AusGP was on.

In it came, all guns blazing, a new qualifying system and an updated radio ban for us to all think about. A rushed major change that was brought in, in the hope to spice up Saturday’s action (a question I’d like to know who was even asking in the first place.)

The previous system was never bad. It was actually rather good. The only real issue was the dull moments of when the drivers and teams were sat waiting in the pitlane. I’m 99.9% sure, the fans sat trackside in the rain didn’t pay over £100 for nothing to happen. Moments like those were caused by the tyre rules. Why waste a tyre in Q3 when you could start on fresh rubber of your choice in the race?

Should Pirelli and the FIA allow teams to take and use as many tyres as they want? The drought of cars on track during Q2 and Q3 would be as good as gone – since there’s no advantage for not going out. Plus the strategy in the race would hot up, with the big reveal happening as soon as the tyre warmers come off five minutes before lights out.

Picture it: LH on pole, starts on super softs. Seb in 3rd, takes the gamble and starts on softs. It’s a strategy game that often spices up GP2’s Feature Races. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails and sometimes there’s no difference.

I like the elimination form. But it needed more work. The panic to get it started for this year has uncovered more flaws. The 90 second intervals aren’t enough. Tracks like Singapore are nearly two minutes long alone so there’s not a time to reply. That needs to be upped to almost two minutes, to allow for another lap – to allow for the response. We want the “here’s what I can do, now it’s your turn” mentality. Not the “oh but if we don’t go out and stay 12th we have the tyre option for tomorrow.”

Most of us seem to like the idea of it. It’s just Q3 was so anticlimactic that suddenly it’s the worst bodge job in the history of F1. I didn’t know a sport could just pick and choose its regulations event by event, but there you go. If F1 axes it straight away, it’s nothing more of an embarrassment.

If anything, Q1 and Q2 should be kept as the elimination form. It is exciting. Imagine if Manor had got their timing right, who knows, they could have sprung a surprise.

Q3 either needs to be a one lap shoot-out, with the final eight drivers only getting one timed lap. Or, with the help of unlimited tyres, see how the elimination format works with that. They need to at least try something else. If we all failed at our first try we wouldn’t be where we are today.

What do you think?

 

Race Week London Competition

Courtesy of GP Management, I have a pair of tickets to Race Week London on Tuesday the 30th of June to give away to a lucky winner.

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Race Week enters its second year and its 6 acre site in the heart if London will be home to F1 cars, drivers and stars alike as they gather to celebrate the glamour of motorsport in a garden like party.

As well as a never before seen 360 degree immersive experience, RWL will display some of the worlds rarest F1 cars including Jenson Button’s McLaren-Honda and James Hunt’s M23.

The festival will give guests the chance to race against F1 drivers in a genuine F1 simulator. With memorabilia and other luxury brands on show there will be plenty of entertainment, including live Q&A’s from F1 team bosses and drivers throughout the day.

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The centerpiece of Race Week will be the revival of the historic cricket match played in the 70’s by legendary F1 drivers such as James Hunt and Niki Lauda. This year will be even more nostalgic with the opposing team fielded by the cricket charity The Lord’s Taverner’s who formed the stellar opposition in the original game. The highest scoring player from that original match, none other than Sir Michael Parkinson, will be our honorary umpire on the day!

RWL Features ;

– A concours of classic and modern F1 cars.

– A revival of the historic 1974 F1 drivers cricket match set up by James Hunt and Niki Lauda, featuring family, friends and relatives of the original 11.

– The other cricket team will be fielded by The Lord’s Taverner’s, the original opposition in the 1974!

– Black Book Race Forum, with Motorsport industry leaders attending

– A festival of motorsport in the heart of the city on a 6 acre historic site

– Auctions and fundraising for the leading disability sports charity The Lord’s Taverner’s.

For your chance to win; ensure you are following @katehewif1 on twitter and like katehewif1 on Facebook and simply share this post on either form of social network – Good luck!

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Monaco ePrix experience

The last time I went abroad was three years ago with my friend, Laura, when we went to Ibiza. However a couple of months ago, I had an email from my friend and colleague Chris suggesting a trip to Monaco in aid of his charity, “Zoom”. Most of you reading this may only recognise the name because of its association with Formula 1, but this year Chris and Caroline decided to move the idea forward and have a similar event for the brand new series, Formula E.

Zoom allows drivers, key personnel and personalities to take photographs of absolutely anything to then auction off in a bid to support its participating charities. Zoom raised thousands of pounds for Great Ormond Street Hospital back in January for its F1 event, and hopes to do the same for the Prince Albert Foundation and One Drop. Though instead of auctioning off the signed images individually, the Formula E snaps will be put in a collage and sold as one big image instead. Be sure to check out @ZoomAuction on Twitter for a glance at some of the photos including Nelson Piquet Jr’s underwater selfie!

Obviously, I forgot to replace my cameras SD card so I was without a camera on the Wednesday. Nonetheless I took lots of photos that I thought I would share. It’s almost like the Monaco you don’t see on the TV with cars racing around its streets.

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Did you watch the Monaco ePrix? What did you think?

The blog, the future and the mental illness.

For Beth, Katie & Caitlin.

I wasn’t sure whether to post this sort of blog, but it would seem that sometimes you just need to be honest with yourself before others can start to believe in you. I never wanted this to happen, I never asked for it, and I certainly don’t think I’ve ever done something to deserve it; but three years ago I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. An illness I’d actually never heard of and couldn’t understand.

Before I knew what was happening I was having up to seven panic attacks a day. Mix that with a bit of asthma and it became unbearable. I felt like I was trapped. I couldn’t go to college, I would convince myself that I was actually stupidly ill with the flu or something until my mum or dad told me to have the day off. There were times that I was fine until I got out of my dad’s car and ended up running back to him and telling him to quickly drive away.

I ended up quitting college. My attendance was poor anyway – I think the highest it had been for the two years I’d been was about 88% and that was only because it was the first week. I quit because the course bored me. I was studying health and social care in the hopes of becoming a social worker so I could help others in similar situations to me (something I won’t go into). But I realised that if I couldn’t help myself, there was no way I could convince others to take my advice. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t have been able to manage.

I was at home for a year. Unable to leave the house, unable to leave my room, I may as well have been in a prison. I can’t imagine what my parents went through. I was unresponsive – locked inside my own head. The only way to get out was to stand on all of my worries and insecurities, pretending like they weren’t there, to only fall off and be right back where I started. It was a never-ending cycle that I couldn’t complete any longer.

My GP offered counselling and therapy. Both of which I tried and hated. I don’t particularly like talking about my problems. I felt like I was reminding myself of everything I wanted to forget. It was simply pointless. At that point I was my own therapist – if that’s even possible. I knew the only person who could help me, was myself. I was the one that knew when I was having a panic attack and how I could stop them or at least tone them down. I was the one who knew when I was feeling anxious.

Just when I thought I was getting on top of everything, it all went pear shaped. A ‘friend’ of mine told my best friend that it seemed like I was lying. That I’d missed another friends 18th birthday because I couldn’t be arsed to go. That hurt. The trust I had in anyone fell through and I couldn’t talk to anyone about general feelings let alone the anxiety, so I shut myself away – again.

The panic attacks came back, ten times worse this time and another half year had gone by. I was bored. I was bored of being home with nothing to do apart from paint my nails and brush my hair. So I did the only thing I could, and the only thing that I wanted to. I blogged about F1.

It seemed stupid at the time. “No one would read this”, “This is pointless” I would tell myself. Yet I carried on because it was keeping me occupied. My mind was focused on something other than negative thoughts. Soon after I dragged GP2 and GP3 into it and became pretty much obsessed with writing. I wanted to do it every day. I then got offers from websites asking to write for them freelance, so of course I said yes. It was almost a job.

Then I got my big break. I saw a careers advisor because my grades from high school were shocking. To give you a rough idea I only passed about 5 GCSE’s and failed science so badly that I only just scraped an overall E grade. The careers advisor forwarded me to a friend of his who was a sports journalist and worked at Staffs Uni. I emailed him, telling him everything and then went to meet him.

I was offered a position to do the Sports Journalism degree on the spot.

I ended up deferring a year because I simply wasn’t over the worst of my anxiety. The thought of being in lecture halls with hundreds of people freaked me out and I just couldn’t go.

The next year, or should I say this year however, has been totally different. I decided to live in halls so I had no way of leaving and so I wasn’t depending on my parents. The first week was definitely hard, but the first week is always scary. After that I seemed to forget about everything. I love my course, I love my friends, I love this University.

Since the New Year, I’ve had some pretty amazing opportunities. I attended the Zoom F1 charity auction, I’ve written in The Times and The Sunday Express. I’m due to fly to Monaco in May for the Formula E to help Chris with the Zoom event. And I’ll be going to Belgium, Hungary and potentially Italy to cover GP2 for Rumble Strip News. That’s four Grands Prix if you include going to Silverstone as a fan – everyone has to sit trackside for once and remember why they want to work in the sport, right?

The reason I decided to write and publish this is because mental health is a growing illness. More people have it than you know. It’s not ‘cute’ or ‘fashionable’ and it’s certainly not something to brag about it. Anyone suffering from anything from depression to anxiety should know there is a way out, but you need to trust and believe in yourself before you’ll find your help. I wish I could tell you that it’s easy, but I won’t lie to you. I wish I could say I’m completely over it, but truth is I still have days where I feel like anything and everything is going wrong. I get stressed and anxious about even the teeniest of things, but you learn to manage and cope. It just takes time and you have to be patient. You don’t have to go through anything alone.

“Give the fans a greater experience of motorsport.” – David Brabham

 

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Sir Jack Brabham remains the only man in history to have ever designed, built and raced his own championship-winning car. He is also the only man to have ever won the championship by pushing his car over the line, which saw him become 1959 champion – but that’s another story.
After a successful stint in Formula 1, Sir Jack’s team was sold; but now his family want to bring back the all-familiar race team; and bring back the illustrious name that is: Brabham. If one person can bring the name back to life, it’s the son of the three-time world champion, David. Getting help from outsiders like fans is a new, modern approach that may take some time. But despite the mammoth challenge that Project Brabham faces, within just seven weeks of the start-up the project raised £278,000 – more than the original target had set out – with donations coming from supporters of over 60 countries around the globe.

Autosport International was Project Brabham’s first public appearance where the team could truly showcase the project’s goals to the sports community. With the aim to include just about everybody, from fans to race drivers to business owners to engineers, the project fits the need of anyone wanting to be a part of something new and something different.

Speaking to David, he said: “I just felt that there was an opportunity for Brabham as a brand to come back into racing, but we’re going to do it differently. We’re going to open the door up completely. Lets give the fans a greater experience of motorsport with what goes on behind the scenes, but also for them to be engaged. So we’ll go to the community like we have already and say ‘hey look, we’re thinking of A, B, C and D, what’s your vote?’ so the community vote on it and then we move forward, but then we move forward together, not just our own little team moving forward to doing our thing.”

Several key ingredients of the project are waiting to be finalised, including Brabham-Digital which is effectively a fan portal of getting unrivalled team access. Brabham-Driver which helps drivers learn and grow and Brabham-Engineer aims to inspire the next generation of engineers.

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In just a matter of months the project has transformed from an idea to reality. “The response from the media, the fans and people even within the industry has been great, they have said what a fantastic, refreshing, new idea it is going. Its been phenomenal since we started launching what we are doing, to where we are today.” David said.

Reaching Formula 1 is the ultimate goal, but David knows that may be far into the future and is just focusing on the small steps. He says that the next goal is to be racing in the World Endurance Championship in LMP2 and added: “In LMP2 we can go and buy a chassis and we can go racing. And, it’s on a world stage; we have 64 countries contributing to our campaign, so we really should be out in a world championship.

And the idea is to move then into LMP1, where things get a little more exciting because then we’ll start to develop our own car. But we’ll use a community of engineers from around the world to help develop that car.”

The big question is who will be driving for the team, but David was quick to say that there are no guarantees in terms of driver line-up. David’s son Sam, whose plans for the upcoming season are yet to be announced, jumped in and said: “I better be…”. Though all of the family in the team sounds like a dream, David remains level headed and explained: “All three Brabhams in the car, together, racing in a World Championship in Le Mans, it sounds great, but at the end of the day I have to put my team principal hat on and say, you know, is it going to work for us or not? And if it does, then great, if it doesn’t, then we’ll have to do something different, but there’s no guarantees at all in terms of driver line-up.”

It’s a long road from here with talks with more investors taking place, but the more fans that get on board the better. Brabham Digital is at the forefront where fans will be able to see what’s going on backstage at Project Brabham and by this time next year, the campaign may well be in full swing. “There’s a lot of work to be done” said David, “the main prospect is Brabham-Digital, because what we want to do is for our community and as we said, when we launched it, fans will get to see how we built this, you know, step by step so they’ll be able to log in on the website and be able to see what’s going on behind the scenes and contribute in ways that you can’t really do in today’s world of motorsport.” Project Brabham takes pride in engaging the fans it has and continues to build its foundations on the self-subscription model it has made work with great effect. He also added: “When we grow and learn and we get better, people can also share that journey with us and maybe they’ll learn something that they’ll be able to adapt into their own lives and make that a benefit.”

David Brabham (AUS)

Images courtesy of Jakob Ebery
To sign up to Project Brabham click here

Autosport show 2015 guide

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In just over a week hundreds of motorsport fans will gather to the NEC in Birmingham for the annual Autosport show; which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Special guests include former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard, BTCC champion Colin Turkington, WEC champion Anthony Davidson along with last year’s champion and former F1 pilot Allan McNish and of course, Rallycross champion Petter Solberg who is set to perform some stunning stunts in the live action arena.

SkyF1 commentator, David Croft will once again host the action in the arena as well as conduct interviews with the aforementioned personalities on the Autosport stage.

As the winter break takes place and the withdrawal from watching your favoured sports kicks in, the timing of ASI15 could not be any better. You can meet up with friends, see some of your favourite cars and drivers in the flesh and even get to meet some of the biggest names in motor-sport.

Top tips:

– Wear suitable clothing. Despite the freezing temperatures outside, once busy, the NEC can get rather warm. For the ladies reading this, I wouldn’t advice wearing your new six inch heels, instead pop on some comfy shoes as you’ll be walking around a lot!

– Take a notepad. Not all of the guests will have time to have pictures taken with every visitor, so take a notepad or something for them to sign and you can leave with a just as good, hand-signed autograph.

– Bring a camera. With so much on show, there’s so much to see, so take a camera and capture every angle.

2015 marks 50 years since Jim Clark became the only man to win the F1 title and the Indy500 in the same year. As a tribute, Lotus are displaying his Lotus 33 at the show – they are based in hall six at stand 6730.

Also in hall six, F1 racing are showcasing all the challengers from the 2014 season, including the dominant Mercedes W05. Autograph sessions are held just next door to the F1 racing stand, but don’t be last in the que!

The BTCC display is at stand 6440, not far from the F1 display at all and is even closer to the F1 fan village. Be sure to catch Andrew Jordan, Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden as well as Turkington whist you’re there.

Popbangcolour, Pirelli, McLaren, a driving simulator and Mercedes are close to the previously mentioned stands too.

Car fans will enjoy halls 19 and 20, which boasts several popular stands including the Historics, Mayfair Insurance Supercar display, Motorsport magazine (2670) and MotorsTV amongst others. And if you think you and your friends would make a good pit crew, you can try your hand out at the Alcatel Wheel Change Challenge (2750) which is very close to the Autosport entrance.

The Sean Edwards foundation and Project Brabham are both in hall 7, be sure to visit both of those. Also, it’s a good idea to look at the programme times when you first enter the show; just to check who’s on the Autosport stage when and what’s happening in the live arena at specific times too.

I won’t babble on about where anything else is, you can get lost on your own – all part of the fun! However the floor plan is on the Autosport show website, so if you want a nose of where everything is, head on over there. Don’t forget to join this Facebook event if you’re going, you may know some in attendance and send any photos, video’s or tweets to @autosport_show.

See you there!