Archive for category: ☯ Best Of

Fantastic Fernando

Fantastic Fernando

In a season of unpredictability, mixed fortunes and incredible results, Fernando Alonso has been in a league of his own; showcasing an absolute masterclass in driving and standing head and shoulders above the others. Last year, Sebastian Vettel simply dominated from the outset, giving the perfect of representation of a car and driver in perfect synergy leaving the opposing field trailing in it’s dust. Alonso lacks a dominant car to mirror Vettel’s efforts but has utilised his skill, tenacity and dogged determination to give himself a lead of forty points.

He has amassed 164 world championship points. To put that into perspective, if he were a one man team 1, he would be forth in the constructors championship and less than his lead margin (40) behind being second. He’s achieved this with a car that featured snap oversteer around the slowest of corners, instability under braking and general incompetence overall at the start of the year.

Transcending the car’s ability

As a double world champion, it’s safe to call his as one of F1’s greatest drivers. The BBC ranked him the tenth greatest of all time and AUTOSPORT ninth. Great drivers possess one characteristic ability, one unique skill coupled with inherent pace that separates them from the others. For Aryton Senna, it was pulling out unbelievable qualifying laps day in and day out. For Michael Schumacher, it was his wet weather expertise. For ‘The Professor’ Alain Prost, it was his attention to detail & decisiveness.

For Alonso, it’s his ability to extract performance above and beyond the car’s capability. Ironically, the flailing F2012 provided Alonso the ideal platform to showcase his skill. In retrospect, his performances this year shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who have followed his career and it’s exploits.

Alonso made his debut in a Minardi and went out to out-qualify his then team-mate Tarso Marques by 2.6 seconds in his very first session. He put the car most analogous to a modern day HRT on provisional pole (YouTube link). His team boss described his pace during races as “53 laps of qualifying”.

At the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, Alonso put his R26 that lacked the majority of it’s rear bodywork on an incredible P5; almost a second faster than his team-mate Fisichella 2. His own data engineers couldn’t comprehend what he had managed to achieve in a car that had next to nothing rear grip.

Maximising every opportunity

In a BBC interview in 2009, he said:

> “Maybe I’m not the quickest driver, maybe I’m not the most talented, maybe I’m not the hardest working, but I’m very consistent. I will always be there.”

Relentless dogged determination and consistency. That is what separates him from the other, more flamboyant drivers on the grid. It’s about maximising every opportunity and minimising errors 3; capitalising on others mistakes & misfortunes whilst giving it your very best day in and day out. It’s about digging deep, understanding all the variables (links to great article from Peter Windsor that highlights Fernando’s’ brilliance at Hockenheim) and making hay when the sun shines (or in his case, when it rains…)

Rain, the great equaliser. One that can diminish his F2012’s inherent lack of pace. Both wet qualifying sessions (at Silverstone and Hockenheim) have ended with Alonso on pole. The singular wet race in Malaysia ended in the most unexpected result of them all – a win for the Spaniard, piloting the F2012 akin to a Matador taming his beast. He lapped his team-mate, who was driving the very same car.

Going into Valencia, it had almost become the norm for Fernando to challenge what as perceived as the established norm. After not even making Q3, he took a scarcely believable victory at a track where the mere prospect of overtaking was dismissed as a myth. He was aided by alternator failures for Vettel & Grosjean but he was the one who made the daring moves and overtakes early on to put himself in a position to capitalise their misfortunes in the first place.

Leading from the front

Fernando’s determination galvanised Ferrari into a squad after they were left meandering in tatters early on. It’s easy to panic and lose control when faced with adversity but Alonso’s on track performances provided much needed hope. He became the leader, the captain, steering the ship away from early season rough waters. A hallmark of a good leader, he become a figure to look up to as one to follow by every engineer at Maranello. To work in unity, to tackle the adversity. For every uncomfortable question asked at every press conference early season, Fernando kept calm and asked for nothing but time, having full faith in his team’s ability to keep improving the car.

At the halfway point in 2010, Alonso was 47 points behind the championship leader and in competition with a much faster Red Bull. Yet he went into the final race at Yas Marina the championship leader. That’s what he could do in his first year at Ferrari with 40 points down.

The second leg this incredible season will show us what Fantastic Fernando can do with a 40 point advantage. If I were a betting man, I’d bet on the gladiator from Asturias walking away with his third world championship crown.

Writer’s note: Dear readers, hope you’ve all had a great summer break. As you must have noticed, I haven’t published anything new over this F1 hiatus. I decided to take a break, travel and enjoy summer myself; to recharge my batteries. As the F1 season roars back to life, so will this website. I’m writing again at a fervent pace and will be covering other drivers.

Liked this article? I sincerely thank you for reading it all the way through. You can read some of my best articles here and you can follow me on twitter at @literalf1. I’ll be writing many more like these so I’d like it if you check back here for new ones or if you prefer immediate updates, subscribe to the RSS feed.. Lastly, if you want to know more about me or this website, visit the About Page.

  1. It’s debatable that he already is at Ferrari thanks to Massa’s paltry performances. Alonso’s attained 77% of Ferrari’s points, gathering 650% more than Massa. 

  2. Who had all his car’s rear bodywork in tact. 

  3. On my count Alonso has made just one ‘major’ error: losing the car in Q2 at Australia. That didn’t cost him much, he ended up P5 after starting P12. 

August 28, 2012 2 comments Read More
Talking Tech with John Iley

Talking Tech with John Iley

John Iley is the Performance Director for the Caterham F1 team. He’s in control of all the aerodynamic and computational fluid dynamic (CFD) aspects of development as Caterham work hard to mix it with the established mid-field teams.

John started in F1 with Jordan in 1995 and worked his way up to chief aerodynamicist in 1998. He then worked at Renault during their double world championship glory days before moving to Maranello. He worked for 6 years at Ferrari as a chief aerodynamicist before briefly joining McLaren.

His vast experience with the established and multiple championship winning teams makes his insight and input extremely valuable for an upcoming team like Caterham. It also makes his insight into F1 incredibly fascinating and one that I’m proud to be able to share with the readers of my website.

Q: You joined Caterham this year from McLaren. What are some of challenges of going from the likes of established teams McLaren and Ferrari to a new team and how has your experience been at Caterham so far?

Fundamentally resources. In larger teams there are normally tools, software, people and infrastructure that has been built up over decades that are just there, but with a brand new, from scratch, three year old team you are starting everything from the very beginning. This is part of the appeal to build the right foundations with the right people the right way, but you have to appreciate what the most critical items are in order and who is going to cover them as you do not have the luxury of relying on ‘others’ to pick things up. The experience so far has been really really good. Support, enthusiasm, dedication, teamwork, humour and clear signs of progress everywhere both at base and the track. It is a pleasure for me to be part of it.

Q: You introduced a massive upgrade package (more than 21 parts!) at Silverstone but unfortunately had a tough grand prix. How much of a step forward you believe you’ve made from the period of on track testing you’ve had?

After the upgrades we made at Valencia, the Silverstone package was another very large revision, more than 21 areas and no I am not going to tell you how many! I sit here with time to be answering as we have just had the third postponement of our Kemble aero straight line test, twice for rain and once for an unfortunate aircraft accident. Therefore the only full scale comparison data we have was from those soaking FP1 & FP2 sessions on Friday at Silverstone, enough to get clear direction on the package and options, but not good enough to fully map and confidently measure the difference. Our development tools indicated it was at least half a second a lap improvement, but you have to correlate and deliver these at the track. With lack of dry running, set up time and incidents on the to grid lap (PET) and turn 6 Lap 1 (KOV) in the race we still need some more time and more luck to show the progress we are making.

Q: This year Caterham procured Renault engines and gearboxes from Red Bull Racing. How helpful has that been? My theory is, for a new team, using trusted mechanical parts would mean less resources spent worrying about mechanical reliability and thus could be dedicated to aerodynamics, where I believe most of gain in performance lie?

Both of these are the best suppliers, reigning World Champions and current Championship leaders, it allows us to concentrate on other key areas knowing you have the optimum benchmark in the car already. By the same token you know car aerodynamic performance has already been carefully considered in the architecture and layout of these components so adding more performance in this and other areas will have the strongest baseline.

Q: How long does it take for a component to go from idea to production? Do some parts get rapidly prototyped and skip some usual protocols in order to get them to the car?

It depends what it is….. I was once testing a component at 3am on a Wednesday morning in a wind tunnel and it was on the car full scale on Friday in FP1 in Italy, and that was @14 years ago. Manufacturing techniques and particularly rapid prototyping has changed aero development considerably over the last decade, the biggest benefits being seen on brake ducts and the ‘furniture’ on these legality corners of the car. For larger composite items like floors or wings the dependency shifts to FE analysis and geometry complexity or how many tools are required. For these you are normally looking at weeks and not days again depending on the magnitude of the change. In a perfect world you would like to sign off components making sure they had covered a race distance in testing or practice before actually racing them, but often if the gain is large enough, the lead time and the sign off can change….. By the way that part all those years ago was carbon!

Q: What is the process involved in deciding which upgrades the team should develop? Do you have a specific design path / schedule or for a team like Caterham is it more a case of follow the leader and develop additional upgrades around that path?

There is a specific design and upgrade path, but with flexibility built into it. Some circuits and certain times of year have to be covered by upgrades: drag level, cooling, braking, aero balance, etc. As we are all manufacturers you need to develop your car and your package, what you need to improve. However you often see what I would call “pit lane fashion” where a near identical geometry is on two different F1 cars despite their differences. At that point you must lose your pride and be quick as that device is almost certainly F1 car transferable and fairly soon every car will have one. Eg. Barge boards, Side pod forward vanes, wheel drums, etc, etc. In summary we have our own path, but we keep our eyes and options open.

Q: You’ve gotten into Q2 a couple of times with Heikki and were running as high at 10th during the safety car period with Vitaly. How important are performances in boosting the morale of the team and providing motivation to keep working on closing the gap?

For us it is now a question of when and not if. We still have the challenge of a Factory move next month, another important point on our path, but we are encouraged and can see and feel the progress being made. It will come, we just have to be patient for a little bit longer, for 2012 realistic goals, upgrades that deliver, two cars into Q2, then our first point, but also enjoying being part of the journey. It’s a momentum thing, once you get the ball rolling it tends to pick up speed, motivation from that is quite easy.

Q: Looking back, if you could have any innovation from F1′s past return what would you choose?

A very interesting, but difficult question…. One which is coming is turbo charging, more power from smaller engines is an opportunity for both better packaging and energy recovery, however in my opinion we should have gone for an in line 4 rather than V6 configuration, simply because I feel this is the direction the motor industry is going. As an aerodynamicist I would also welcome the return of ‘ground effect’ or perhaps more correctly now ‘floor performance’. Why? Because as the most efficient part of the car for generating down force and if geometrically done right one of the least effected by running in wake, this would move us favourably in two directions of car performance.

Q: Lastly John, any tips for young university students (like my flatmate) who aspire to one day become involved in the technical aspect of F1?

You have to remember F1 is so so competitive, very hard to get into and then despite its glamorous image massive amounts of hours and work, truly survival of the fittest. Clearly choice of course and University is important, but F1 teams receive many many applications from very talented students from the right schools, so you need something extra that helps you stand out. I find practical experience, putting all that hard learned studying into practice is a good differentiator. Have you race engineered a slicks and wings car, often for free on your own initiative showing abnormal levels of commitment, have you built a prototype in your garage and raced it, how much effective practical application of your motor sport technical skills have you demonstrated? Strong exam results and grades are important, but the ability to turn that into design or technical problem solving when a pit lane closes in five minutes or you must pass a crash test to race is something else entirely.

John was very gracious to answer the questions in such great detail and I can personally say his answers were a joy to read. They give a great insight into the challenges faced by a new team and clearly show the dedication Caterham have. I love it how John says it’s simply a question of “when” not “if” that they’ll start mixing it up with the midfield teams. It’ll be great to see them fighting for points and I was certainly cheering when I saw Petrov running P10 in Valencia. I feel it’s important for F1 to be receptive to new teams and for them to be able to succeed. It’s great to see Caterham’s development and I hope HRT and Virgin follow suit.

I’d like to thank John for giving me this incredible opportunity to share with you all. I’d also like to thank Tom Webb, the Head of Communications at Caterham for making this possible.

Liked this article? I sincerely thank you for reading it all the way through. You can find some of my best, written articles here and can follow me on twitter at @literalf1. I’ll be writing many more like these so I’d like it if you check back here for new ones or if you prefer immediate updates, subscribe to the RSS feed. Lastly, if you want to know more about me or this website, visit the About Page.

July 17, 2012 1 comment Read More
☯ Why is Vettel so fast?

☯ Why is Vettel so fast?

It’s often easy to lose realisation with the fact that F1 drivers are in fact, humans. Sure, they achieve super human feats but strapped in, bound in synergy with and piloting the amazing machinery built by hundreds other humans is a driver. Far too often in Formula One, we give too much credit to the technical achievement of the car whilst neglecting the most crucial component – the driver itself. This has happened multiple times throughout history and the most recent case is that of Sebastian Vettel. On twitter, there are loads of comments made around “Newey’s the reason Red Bull is winning” not the primary, principle component – the driver itself after every race victory and especially after every pole position. If that were the case and Newey was in control, we would never have had Turkey 2010 and arguably, never had the sheer number of pole positions and victories Vettel has amassed. In this article, written over weeks of research, thought and editing and published on the day Vettel equal the world record for most pole positions in a reason (14, with Nigel Mansell) I discuss the reasons for his qualifying dominance:


A Formula One driver, just like any other human, is affected by his own self belief, emotional state and confidence. There has been a lot written about the problems Lewis Hamilton has faced and how that has contributed to his lacklustre season. The very opposite is true for Sebastian Vettel. He ended 2010 on an immense high, coming from behind to clinch and steal the championship away from his team mate and double world champion Fernando Alonso. He made mistakes aplenty and never once lead the championship, until the very last race. Let’s remind ourself Vettel’s end to 2010:

Singapore – P2 after following Alonso all race long. He qualified seconds thanks to a mistake which saw his brush the wall.

Suzuka – Dominant display of pole position and race win.

Korea – Dominant pole position and continuous lead in conditions Fernando Alonso described as “the worst conditions I’ve ever driven a car” until his engine failed.

Brazil – P2 qualifying behind an inspired and applause worthy performance from Nico Hulkenburg on a tricky, drying track and race win.

Abu Dhabi – Pole position, race win and world championship.

Vettel must have got such an incredible boost in confidence from the result, it’s hard to describe or put into words. He must also reflected and realised that 2010 was definitely not his best. He made rookie and downright silly mistakes like trying to overtake Webber in Turkey and crashing into Jenson at Spa. Neither did he have the best reliability from his car. He lost 3 potential victories on races he was leading down to problems – Bahrain, Australia and Korea. Surely, Vettel would be more determined than ever to cut out silly mistakes and with some reliability luck to march to another championship in 2011? He’s ridden the crest of the confidence wave and that’s exactly what he’s done.


As a corollary of the confidence he posses, he is also a remarkably brave man, as all F1 drivers have to be. Two occurrences repeated throughout the year highlight this-

  1. DRS Usage: DRS added another challenge to 2011. Who can get it initiated the earliest out of a corner and who can take extremely fast corners like Blanchiomont at Spa with DRS wide open? We saw in the very first qualifying session of the year Adrian Sutil spin out on the final corner on a hot lap by trying to engage DRS early off the corner. Looking at his pole position laps (which sadly I can’t link to because of copyright issues but YouTube is your friend) he has engaged DRS before the third apex of Turn 8 in Turkey, ever before halfway of Turn 10 hairpin in China and fully in Blanchiomont at Spa. Engaging it that early on under the pressure of a hot lap takes supreme bravery.
  2. Wet weather qualifying: In every single wet qualifying session, Vettel has actually increased his usual advantage to P2. The best example of this I found was at Spa and I highly recommend you watch this particular pole lap (again, YouTube). Coming down the long Kemmel straight to Les Combe with slick tyres on for the first time, Vettel takes the whole wet kerb full throttle without any hesitation. This weekend in Abu Dhabi we’ve seen what can happen when you take too much kerb, forget wet kerb. Again, the most impressive bit, like with the DRS usage is the bravery to do this under pressure on that one, crucial lap in Q3.

Precision and Perfection

Vettel and his race engineer (Rocky) go into qualifying with a set plan. Like this weekend, we’ve seen Mark Webber complain how at times his qualifying plan doesn’t work out as planned but we haven’t had the same from Vettel. Notice how he is always either the first driver of the “pole challengers” to take the chequered flag in Q3 or the last. By going first, like he did in China and Turkey, he sets his marker and puts pressure on the other drivers. By going consistently last and always getting pole position he gets two advantages -

  1. He gets to cross the track when it’s got the most rubber on it, at it’s most grippiest and most “ideal”.
  2. He’s now imbedded a mental note in every driver – I’m coming to beat you. This has been slowly done through many, many session when a driver might thing he’s done his very best, only to be pipped and beaten by Vettel on the last few seconds of qualifying. It’s what has happened to fans and even commentators. Qualifying has now become into a show of “Who can beat Vettel?” instead of “Who can get pole position?”. It’s a psychological advantage Vettel holds over the rest of the field and probably most so over his team mate, Mark Webber, who lead the championship for the longest time last year.

Other small, perfectionist, but vital detail is taking the shortest line to the chequered flag in qualifying. This is not necessarily the normal racing line. It’s faster in places like Canada, Spa and Suzuka to not follow the “straight” racing line down to the first corner and instead take a “diagonal” line, which will be the shortest distance to the line. The best example of this is Suzuka this year. If you looked at the BBC comparison video (YouTube), Jenson was ahead until the final Casio chicane but then took the normal racing line, not the shortest line to finish the lap. Vettel took the shortest line. The result? Vettel took pole position by 0.009 seconds, or 50/60 cm on the track.


The best part of the qualifying coverage in Abu Dhabi was the shot of Sebastian Vettel’s eyes (visible because of the clear visor they use under lights) showing him absolutely absorbed and his concentration on the lap itself. He wasn’t even blinking! Maybe he has the chance to quell his competitive spirit by taking on the World Staring Contest (there has to be one!) once he retires from F1.

Here’s a question that was touched on in FP2 yesterday by Karun Chandhok that made me think as if he read this article/my mind earlier! Since this bit was written about a week before now: The question was “When was the last time Vettel made a mistake in Q3?”

Perhaps the most remarkable bit about Vettel taking all these risks in Q3 and continuously coming in on top without being undone is the fact the has hardly ever made any mistakes under pressure when he needs to deliver. Drivers only have that one lap where you’ve got the trio of absolute bare minimum fuel, ideal tyre grip and track conditions.

I looked back, researched and found that it was the infamous race weekend of Turkey 2010. Vettel was 3 tenths up in the first two sector, on way to set pole and with only the tricky slow turns of the final sector to deal with, Vettel blew away the lap to hand his team mate Webber pole. He was clearly agitated with himself and made it clear in the post qualifying press conference. Webber even admitted that he perhaps didn’t deserve pole! By “mistake” I mean a serious error that would destroy a challenging lap time, not “not perfect” laps. Incidentally, we haven’t really Vettel recite “That was the best lap of my life and I got everything out of the car” which has sadly become some what of a phrase of Lewis Hamilton.

Inherent Ability and Dedication

With the myriad of tyre features Martin Brundle has filmed for BBC F1 this year, you’ll know that tyres are arguably the most crucial important factor when it comes to delivering lap time. Who was the only driver to visit Pirelli before the season started? Vettel. That shows the kind of dedication and determination he has for the sport. He even stayed back for the Pirelli tyre test last year in Abu Dhabi instead of celebrating his world championship victory!

Natural talent and ability also comes into the question. Some drivers are just gifted and have an ability to do super human things that shadow others around them. Whilst I’m certainly not making a comparison here, but the ability to squeeze every last bit in qualifying to keep getting pole position was last only seen by the great Ayrton Senna.

Vettel’s ability to set a fast time was obvious from his very first entry into Formula One limelight. On his testing debut for BMW Sauber in the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix he set the fastest time in the Friday free practice. On his second test session at the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, he set the fastest time in both the friday test sessions! One can clearly see he loves being fastest and has goals in mind when he goes onto the track.

Whether it’s the ability to slow speed and time down, which Nigel Mansell discussed in The Flying Lap, the ability to relentless go fast, or to have the mental capacity to be a thinker in the car, Vettel certainly seems to have something that others lack. [No, please, if you've read this article this far: it's not just the car]. His ability to slow speed and time down was evident this season when he was radioing his team information of the state of blistering on his tyres at Spa and how he noticed Team Lotus’ pit release red light in Singapore. As for thinking whilst driving flat out, after todays’ (Abu Dhabi 2011 pole) qualifying he said how he tried to go as clean and fast in the first two sectors to gamble and buy a cushion of time to take risks in the third sector. The fact that he’s thinking like that is just astounding to know.

Out of all these things, perhaps the thing that impresses me most about Sebastian Vettel is his love for the sport which is evident whenever he speaks. He’s a F1 history buff and knows the records by heart. A heartwarming moment was his interview after he won his second championship in Japan this year and later when he got tears in his eyes as the gravity of his achievement hit him as he saw a BBC F1 montage on double world champions. His respect towards Michael Schumacher and F1 idols is great to see. He hasn’t indulged in any controversy like some of his fellow world champions and above all, he’s a fair, likeable and thoroughly nice guy, as everyone in the paddock will agree.

If you think about, there haven’t been many “likeable” dominant drivers in history of this highly competitive sport. I’d like to end on that note.

Hope you enjoyed reading this article. I’ve done my best to be unbiased on this article and backed any comments with stats and facts from history to take a holistic view on Vettel and his dominance.

Liked this article? I sincerely thank you for reading it all the way through. You can find my other articles hereand you can follow me on twitter at @literalf1. I’ll be writing many more like these so I’d like it if you check back here for new ones or if you prefer immediate updates, subscribe to the RSS feed.. Lastly, if you want to know more about me or this website, visit the About Page.

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November 12, 2011 2 comments Read More
☯ Kubica: Medical Perspective

☯ Kubica: Medical Perspective

The 2011 season got off to a horrendous start for most devoted F1 fans. I’m not talking about Bahrain and the delayed start, but the accident of Robert Kubica in a rally Ronde di Andora. Kubica is a very intriguing driver, he’s won just the single race but is mentioned in the same league as Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and so on. And rightly so. Anyone who has followed F1 knows Kubica is an immense talent, outperforming his midfield cars and challenging at the sharp end.1 All he needs is a championship challenging car. It was hotly rumoured he would be joining Ferrari in 2012, if he had another brilliant season in 2011. This accident happened just at the worst moment. The Lotus Renault car had early season pace, with both Petrov & Heidfeld bagging podiums. One can only image what Kubica could have done.

Understandably, there has been a lot of coverage on Kubica’s recovery. Understandably and sadly, there have also been a lot of incorrect presumptions about his recovery and his possibility to race again. Over the usually news devoid F1 summer break, there seemed to be contradicting stories published every week about his condition. In this article, I intend to give all F1 fans an insight into his injury from the medical perspective I have.

The first place to start would be this video from YouTube, where his doctor briefed the media about his injuries. The crucial words are “damage to the ulnar and radial nerves”. This is bad news. The Ulnar and Radial nerves are two of the main nerves that branch to enable precise and nimble hand and finger movements. In February when I heard this followed by the reports he had been in the car for 45 minutes, losing blood, I was immediately very concerned and saddened. Whilst the reports that his hand could have been amputated were considered by optimistic, passionate fans as incorrect rumoured spread by a narcissist, I am here to tell you that judging by the medical reports, it certainly could have been a possibility with the sustained, prolonged blood loss.

The human hand is beautiful. Anatomically, it is an intricate mixture of muscles starting as far as above the elbow, cross linking ligaments and intertwining nerves, arteries and veins. The opportunity to dissect it during my medical education was a joy. The complexity and tight packaging of crucial elements means good hand surgeons are as hard to find and as skilled as Adrian Newey and his designs. Kubica was operated on by one of the best, Dr Rosello and the operation was reported to a success, much to my delight.

Many fans are wondering why is taking so long to get any concrete indication of his chances of a successful for return. The answer is simple: nerve damage. Nerves are wonderful, they generate micro electrical impulses that stimulate muscles to act much like how wires enable electrical applications to perform an action. However, that’s when the metaphor ends. Nerves can’t be replaced like wires. Neurones (nerve cells) are not like blood cells that are continually produced and replenished & their growth is extremely slow. What makes it more complicated is the fact that nerve cells “grow” from the site of damage and not necessarily to the correct, previous site of attachment. In a compact place like the hand, the chances of nerves interconnecting in a haphazard and incorrect manner are significant. Imagine if you switched on the toaster but the kettle came on. What doesn’t make it any better is the need for very fine, delicate and coordinated movements needed to have smooth, predictable and reliable muscular action.

With the plethora of buttons, gear changes and adjustments driver’s need to accomplish (not to mention threading the steering wheel itself in street circuits) in the cockpit, all under high lateral and vertical forces, reliable and fast hand movements are absolutely crucial and vital.

As I mentioned earlier, because of the unpredictable nature of the recovery, the response time to actions will not be known until significantly after the crux of his recovery, until he drivers the simulator. That will also test his endurance and physical muscle strength, which I don’t at all doubt he will struggle with. Physically and mentally, Kubica is strong. Most F1 fans can remember his horrific accident at Canada in 2007. It’s probably the most visually gruesome accident I’ve watched. What did Kubica do? He missed one race (which introduced to us and gave the current reigning double world champion his debut) then next year, won the grand prix. His resilience comes from his earlier, less publicised past too. Although usually a quiet personality, he has mentioned how leaving his friends, family and country to participate in racing was mentally very challenging when he was coming up the ranks. He also suffered from another crippling crash in Formula 3, where he had to have metal plates inserted to provide structural support. He’s tackled and recovered from both brilliantly.

It’s important to stress this article is indeed a best guess. I do not know any concrete details of Kubica’s injury or condition and that’s the way it should be. In times like this, I really wish people respect his and his family’s privacy to let them deal with his no doubt, tortuous time together. In conclusion, nervous injuries are extremely hard to predict the progress and recovery of. As one of his devoted fans, I sincerely hope he makes a full recovery and gets back to his very best as soon as possible. I wish a top team picks him up so he can get a better platform to showcase his talent. However, it’s important to also be a realist and understand the magnitude of what he’s been through. I hope this article has been insightful read for you which gives you a better understanding of the medical aspects of his injury.

Liked this article? I sincerely thank you for reading it all the way through. You can find my other articles hereand you can follow me on twitter at @literalf1. I’ll be writing many more like these so I’d like it if you check back here for new ones or if you prefer immediate updates, subscribe to the RSS feed.. Lastly, if you want to know more about me or this website, visit the About Page.

  1. If you have a copy of the official Formula One 2010 Review DVD, watch the extra where Kubica rips through the midfield at Singapore (in the era where overtaking was next to impossible. 

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October 14, 2011 0 comments Read More
☯ The Curious Case of Felipe Massa

☯ The Curious Case of Felipe Massa

Imagine the last few laps of Brazil 2008. No one gave Massa any chance in 2008. His team mate, Kimi Raikkonen won the world championship in his first year; everyone expected him to be submitted into a ‘number two’ driver role. Massa did not relent. He crosses the line, wins his home grand prix. He, his team, and his adoring, passionate Brazilian fans thinks he has become world champion in a dramatic title fight where two men gave it their all, rain or shine. As we all know, this was taken away from him in the last few corners and Lewis Hamilton became the 2008 world champion. All the emotion can be summarised in this video, which is highlyrecommend you watch. The greatest moment of that day however, wasn’t the great racing, it was Massa’s professional gratuitousness on the podium. It was the behaviour of a champion. Even now I wonder how F1 would be different had Massa indeed won the championship that day?

Now imagine Hungary 2009. Ferrari have had their worst season in years, the car is horribly out of pace and Massa has the huge psychological impact of last year’s loss to deal with. Massa’s done very well so far, out pacing and out scoring Kimi. He’s just had his first podium the race before in Germany. One instant he’s going for a quick qualifying lap, the next he is waking up from a coma. His first words were “What am I doing here?”. Almost everyone has given up on him being to race again or ever make a full recovery. Massa proves everyone wrong.

Now, yet again imagine, Bahrain 2010. Fernando Alonso has finally quelled the rumours of replacing Massa and joins Ferrari alongside him. Massa goes and out qualifies Alonso after what is quite literally, an unbelievable comeback. Had it not been for him losing the position to Alonso down into the first corner, Massa would have won on his comeback. Imagine what must have gone through his mind. The whole year Massa was a chess piece and Alonso the brutal chess master who would sacrifice the piece to win the game. Alonso gave him no respect in Australia (collided to give a puncture), was brutal in China (overtook going into the pit lane) and in Germany… well… we all know what happened. When I went to Silverstone, I saw a shirt with “Fernando is faster than you” written as a slogan. This is not a criticism of Alonso; it’s just Fernando Alonso being Fernando Alonso.

Just looking at Alonso’s previous team mates such as Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella, the pressure and resultant effect of that exerted by Alonso is telling. Massa’s actually done a good job compared to others 1when others usually crumble. Whilst the psychological impact is officially ignored by both Massa and Ferrari, it’s obvious to see it makes quite a difference. Drivers will tell you they perform best when they feel psychologically the best. It’s why Jenson’s currently on a roll against Lewis and Vettel’s dominating Webber. The reason given in the end, was the lack of grip of the 2010 front Bridgestone tyres.

Finally we come to the present, 2011. I can’t think of one race where Massa hasn’t had something unfortunate happen to him. In the first few races of the year, there wasn’t a race where he did not have a bad pit stop. Think of the last three races – Spa, Monza and Singapore. All three races where Massa was running at the front at the start of the race. At Spa, we got mugged by Lewis and Alonso then had a puncture. At Monza, he got hit by Webber. At Singapore, Lewis gave him yet another puncture. Yet he has been remarkably calm over all the incidences, given the monumental amount of pressure that is on him. Already, the press and everyone in the paddock are rooting for his exclusion from Ferrari at the end of next year and these string of unfortunate incidents would normally drive a driver up the wall.

Felipe Massa is one of the most under rated 2, overlooked and humble drivers on the grid. He’s had the hardest of team mates – Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. – Whenever he’s been given a winning car, he has delivered.3 Massa’s always had to fight and win appreciation instead of demand it, he’s had to swim against the tide; battling team mates, horrendous accidents and the finest crop of racing in the history of Formula One. Whilst I agree he is not in the same league of Schumacher, Alonso4 or Vettel; he’s truly a great driver that came 2 corners close of being world champion, and no one can take that away from him. Above all the driving, Massa is a really nice, open guy, one of the best in Formula One and deserves to drive the scarlet Ferrari as he has done for 6 years.

Liked this article? I sincerely thank you for reading it all the way through. You can find my other articles hereand you can follow me on twitter at @literalf1 and at tumblr as literalf1. I’ll be writing many more like these so I’d like it if you check back here for new ones or if you prefer immediate updates, subscribe to the RSS feed.. Lastly, if you want to know more about me or this website, visit the About Page.

  1. Apart from Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton in 2007 was special. 
  2. Think of Massa as the opposite of Daniel Ricciardo in terms of hype. 
  3. Barring 2010 technically. Germany was Felipe’s. Fact. 
  4. It’s worth noting that Alonso is a fantastic qualifier. One of the best on the grid. Comparing just qualifying times with Alonso is like comparing total race wins with Schumacher in a game of top trumps. 

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October 1, 2011 1 comment Read More
☯ Singapore: The Ultimate Challenge

☯ Singapore: The Ultimate Challenge

This is the article I wrote for the nice guys at Final Sector Magazine. I recommend you have a look at the Singapore Preview Ezine, a fusion of great design and writing.


Electric atmosphere, an awesome setting and an extremely challenging circuit. When people think of Singapore as a race, they often think of the glitz and glamour, the 1600 lights three times brighter than stadiums illuminating a setting viewed from the vantage point of a corporate penthouse atop a skyscraper. What I love about Singapore is how it can do all that, yet give us what’s numero uno – exciting and exhilarating racing. This article covers the unique challenges Singapore presents and how only the very best drivers are able to overcome them to relish victory. Marina Bay gives drivers a true trial by fire and differences between team mates are often over a second.

The first challenge is one of time, and not the traditional race against the clock to post the fastest lap time. The race follows the European round and offers a huge time shift to deal with – quarter of a day or six hours to be precise. This disrupts your body clock and gives you quite a jet lag to deal with, having being nice and cosy in Europe for the last six months. Teams adapt their working schedule, waking up at mid day and working until 4AM in the early morning. The race itself starts at 8PM local time whilst celebrations keep going long after midnight.

The second challenge is acclimatising to the weather which would even test Kimi ‘Iceman’ Räikkönen’s cool. From the pleasant Spa and the glorious sunshine of Monza, you come to the muggy, humid heat of Singapore where 30°C and upwards of 90 percent humidity is practically a guarantee. Drivers need to keep their core body temperature cool and whilst they wear ice vests in Monza, they literally take the air conditioning unit used normally for cooling the sidepods of their car, into their cockpit. The grand prix itself coincides with the end of the second, southwest monsoon season so rain showers are possible in the late afternoon, often affecting the practice sessions. Once water is dispersed around the track, it often stays there thanks to high humidity and no sunlight. Everyone knows water on the track makes negotiating it more tricky but possible reflections from the lights into crucial braking points makes it even harder. Any slip up and it’s a date with the solid concrete walls which will most certainly end your session.

“It is a very physical circuit, more than I expected actually. You need to put a lot of work into the car to get a good lap. I would say it requires double the energy of Monaco over a single lap. One lap around here is like two laps around Monaco.” – Lewis Hamliton

The third and biggest challenge, as it should be, is the track itself. Marina Bay is one the few anticlockwise circuits in the F1 calendar so it strains the muscles in an altogether different way to regular, traditional clockwise circuits. The strains themselves are higher. Grip levels evolve across the sessions and the street circuit rubbers in so the ideal car setup itself is a moving target. and the track is known to be very bumpy under crucial braking areas. The layout has 23 “real” (no kinks needlessly counted as) corners, the most of any track in the calendar. Brakes undergo their hardest test as precise braking points precede corners and cooling them is vital. Brake failures are common as Romain Grosjean in 2008 and Mark Webber in 2009 demonstrated. The braking exerts high vertical G forces whilst the corners themselves exert lateral forces. There simply isn’t a breather.

“Singapore’s composition of 23 mainly slow corners means that engines will be worked continuously with little time to breathe throughout the 5-km lap. Cooling of the unit will therefore be at a premium with the situation exacerbated by the region’s hot and humid climatic conditions.” – Cosworth.

If the engine’s having a hard time, imagine what the driver strapped in 4 layers of fireproof clothing in 30C ambient temperature would be feeling. He has to complete 61 laps of this gruelling circuit. 1403 corners bombarding his body with immense force.

To master the challenges and win around here, you need to be one of the very best. The standout performer has been Fernando Alonso – he won the inaugural GP in 2008 (albeit a pyrrhic victory for the Renault team), finished third in a thoroughly uncompetitive Renault in 2009 and gave it the mighty hat-trick of pole position, fastest lap and race win in 2010. I’ve found a good correlation between qualifying performance and Singapore performance. Drivers who are good qualifiers often do well at Singapore. Vettel, who was the only Red Bull/Torro Rosso driver to reach Q3 in 2008, finished P2 in 2010 and was challenging for the victory in 2009 until his pit lane speeding incident, is undoubtably the best qualifier on the grid. Rosberg, who has consistently out-qualified Schumacher, has a 3rd and a 2nd place finish to his name. Hamilton, known for his qualifying speed, has a victory and podium. Singapore requires the utmost concentration to perfect every braking zone and each corner. In qualifying, you have to do this for one lap. In Singapore, you need to do this for every lap.

Whilst it’s easy to overlook the race as a “money-money-money” glamour spectacle, it’s gone more the way of Monaco than Abu Dhabi. Just like Monaco, the actual circuit on which the real racing and punches are thrown is an incredibly gruelling challenge. Racing comes first and the glamour is only a setting for the action on the track.

Liked this article? I sincerely thank you for reading it all the way through. You can find my other articles hereand you can follow me on twitter at @literalf1. I’ll be writing many more like these so I’d like it if you check back here for new ones or if you prefer immediate updates, subscribe to the RSS feed.. Lastly, if you want to know more about me or this website, visit the About Page.

September 21, 2011 0 comments Read More
☯ Vettel doesn’t make F1 Boring

☯ Vettel doesn’t make F1 Boring

Let’s be honest. There wasn’t ever a championship challenge; only the allusion of one.

Vettel increased his lead at the front after every race save his home race and it was only a matter of time until mathematically he won it. Whilst he is certainly close to clinching it now, there is no difference between now, and after 6 races by which he had the best start in F1 history . His record was – Win. Win. Second. Win. Win. Win. Vettel won the title long ago, now it’s just the formality of handing him the trophy. No other driver, not even 4 other world champions, came close to challenging.

Is that a bad thing? Formula One is a the pinnacle of Motorsport where quintessential quest for perfection is sought; where passions, emotions and money flow; where thousands of dedicated engineers work tirelessly for countless hours to give that tenth of a second in advantage. If one team, Red Bull in this instance, manages to attain this perfection with their RB7 in the hands of a driver buoyed with a world championship, should we fans make noise?

There certainly was a lot of noise during the last “domination era” – disgruntled fans sadly concluding their sport had become boring because one man kept winning. TV ratings plummeted. General public coverage and excitement vanished. Does this sound like 2011? Absolutely not.

In 2011 whilst there is no denying the fact it’s been completely dominated by the trio of Sebastian Vettel, his Kinky Kylie and his pointy finger, there is also no denying the fact this season has lead to the most exciting races. We’ve had last lap lead changes, countless overtakes and breathtaking racing all along. If someone has reigned supreme despite all the changes and challenges, we must appreciate and applaud their efforts.

It’s not like what Vettel has done is “easy”1. He’s nailed pretty much every qualifying lap, made overtakes like the one on Alonso at 300km/h and even driven 60 laps on Pirelli soft tyres. He doesn’t have the benefit of race with non degrading tyres or refuelling where the recipe to make up places having a fast car were simple – have a longer stint, pump in quick lap times and overtake others whilst they stop. He’s even convincingly outperformed his team mate who led the championship for the longest period last year.

If Vettel does wrap up the title in Singapore or even in Japan, I shudder to think the headlines – “Vettel’s made F1 boring”, “Vettel kills excitement”, “Vettel spoils inaugral Indian GP” so on and so forth. I’m willing to bet there will be more complaining than acknowledging the incredible job Vettel had done.

Let me ask you three questions -

  1. We champion 2010 as “the best year in F1″ thanks to the close championship fight. Would you rather have (if you could have just one) a close championship built over a year or close races every weekend?
  2. Have you, at any point, during a race gone “Wow this is boring”?2
  3. If any other driver did the same (with or without pointy finger) would you feel differently?

If you’d think differently had it been another driver, you need to think intellectually and objectively instead of passionately towards your favourite driver.3 If you’d rather chose exciting races every weekend, which is what you will get for all the remaining long after Vettel is champion, you should take your hat off to Sebastian Vettel. He’s pulled a blinder this year and deserves applaud, appreciation and acknowledgement.

Liked this article? I sincerely thank you for reading it all the way through. You can find my other articles hereand you can follow me on twitter at @literalf1. I’ll be writing many more like these so I’d like it if you check back here for new ones or if you prefer immediate updates, subscribe to the RSS feed.. Lastly, if you want to know more about me or this website, visit the About Page.

  1. Easier in comparative terms – driving an F1 on it’s limits is one of the hardest things one can do. 
  2. Apart from Valencia. Valencia is… Valencia. 
  3. I am not a Vettel “fanboy”, to some which I might have across this article. I’m intellectually objectively giving credit where it is due. 

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September 20, 2011 0 comments Read More
☯ Jenson’s Effect On Lewis

☯ Jenson’s Effect On Lewis

Lewis Hamilton has been all over the radar recently, but it’s his team mate Jenson who has had the applause for his driving. Hamilton’s been criticised for his mistakes and manoeuvres, for his “celebrity” lifestyle1 and even his mannerism.

This is a fact to note right at the start of this article: Lewis has never been beaten by a team mate. Not even by reigning double world champion Alonso when he was a rookie. Lewis’s driving on track normally is full of confidence, he pulls off moves and takes risks that few drivers will ever take. His whole driving style is double-edged sword – it will win him races and it will make him instantly DNF.

There is no shortage of Lewis’ moments but perhaps the most recent one that comes to everyone’s mind is hisovertake on Jenson at China this year which enabled him to go on and take the victory. His overtake of Alonso around the outside of turn 2 at the Nürburgring gave him the lead to secure his victory.

On the other side of the coin, his unnecessary crashes at Monza with Massa and Webber in Singapore derailed his 2010 championship challenge. His driving in Monaco this year led to two drivers getting DNFs, him getting penalties and his reputation widespread negative press. His bizarre crash with Kobayashi at Spa took away a possible race win, in a race where his team mate came third from 13th on the grid.

So we can conclude that this is nothing new with Lewis. He always has his moments of brilliance as well as lack of judgement. However, this year is unique for Lewis in that he faces additional pressure as competition from his team mate. In his first year, he was just a rookie so had no pressure when it came to facing Alonso; beating the reigning double world champion was not expected and any victory was a bonus. Kovalainen never really challenged Lewis, to the point Lewis got car upgrades earlier in 2009.

With Jenson, he has a British world champion to compete with. This on paper, gives them equal footing at McLaren and it’s large number of British fans. Yes, there are differences between them, other than driving style and those apparent on track. Lewis established himself very early on in F1 to become one of the known faces whilst Jenson spent many years ignored, even in the shadow of Lewis in 2007 and 2008. Even Jenson’s 2009 championship didn’t silence some of his critics, saying it was a product largely of the early dominance of the car. In 2010, many didn’t give him a chance to challenge Lewis, such is his reputation. Jenson put the pressure early on with two wins in the rain but his challenge soon fizzed out thanks to his under-par qualifying efforts. Lewis could use his speed to out qualify Jenson and then finish higher.

In 2011, there were huge changes and the balance shifted. No longer was qualifying prime because a lot of the racing had to be done on track. Tyres were delicate so Jenson’s famed “delicate and smooth” driving style became an advantage. Lewis had to do more on track racing than ever before. This meant he would certainly make a lot more passes but also make a lot more mistakes.

Whilst Lewis’ DNFs have been due to his own mistakes, Jenson’s DNFs have been outside his control. In Silverstone his wheel was not fitted correctly whilst in Germany he suffered a hydraulics failure. Things would be looking a lot worse for Lewis if that bad luck didn’t haunt Jenson. And Lewis knows this.

This is the first time Lewis has genuinely been put under competitive pressure2 by his team mate. This is the first time where the momentum has been on a McLaren driver other than him. This is the first time the press andBritish press favour a McLaren driver other than him.

Martin Whitmarsh has pretty much admitted they plan to sign Jenson on a long term contract and move the team forward with him thanks to the input he provides. Infact, I’ll go as far as to say maybe one of the reasons Jenson’s contract has not been signed and declared is because of the psychological impact it might have on Lewis who is currently downtrodden.

Lewis has done well to deal with external pressure, from Fleet Street, away from his ‘home team’ he has been with since he was 12. This time, the pressure comes from within his ‘home’, applied by an amiable team mate on the top of his game. Lewis will do well to come back but this will be his hardest challenge yet.

Liked this article? I sincerely thank you for reading it all the way through. You can find my other articles hereand you can follow me on twitter at @literalf1. I’ll be writing many more like these so I’d like it if you check back here for new ones or if you prefer immediate updates, subscribe to the RSS feed.. Lastly, if you want to know more about me or this website, visit the About Page.

  1. I find this one ridiculous. Lewis Hamilton’s face stares at me when I walk into my Santander bank. Of course he is a celebrity. A young one and actually, he’s dealt with it pretty well. 
  2. By “competitive pressure” I disregard his rookie year with Alonso where there were many other issues in the air rather than just performance on track. Here Lewis is being challenged tooth and nail, fairly by a British world champion. Also, Lewis largely led the championship from Alonso all year until his misfortunes in the last two races. 
September 19, 2011 2 comments Read More