Formula 1 Insight

Musing on Monaco

Before I look at the Monaco GP, there is something that has been boiling up within me all weekend and I just have to say it. As I have explained before, my main problem with Sebastian Vettel is the exaggerated praise he receives for what amounts to a short career with a few highlights. Sure, the guy is pretty good but he has much to prove yet.

Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel in Monaco

When Vettel claimed to have missed pole in qualifying thanks to Nakajima getting in the way on his last quick lap, I had to laugh. The most obvious fact of the weekend was that Red Bull were not as good at Monaco as they have been in the last few races and the only reason Vettel managed to grab fourth on the grid was his extremely light fuel load. The true pace of the RB5 was indicated by Webber's eighth spot with the same fuel load as Button's.

In fact, Webber was generally quicker around Monaco than Vettel so the lad was lucky to put in as good a time as he did. What surprised me most over his optimistic statement was the way in which it was pounced upon by F1 commentators. For them, it explained everything and led them on to talk of Vettel getting the jump on the three cars ahead of him on the grid and going on to win. I marvelled at the collective blindness that seems to descend on F1 fans when Vettel's name is mentioned.

It came as no surprise to me that Vettel was unable to improve upon his position at the start of the race and that he formed a useful buffer for the Brawns and Raikkonen for the opening laps. Admit it - you thought of the Trulli train too as he held back half the field until his tires went off and the others started coming past. His race was run at the moment of his early pit stop and his subsequent crash merely underlined the fact that he would get no points this time.

I do not know whether it was a team decision to put Vettel on a light load in qualifying in the vain hope of securing pole or whether der Seb came up with it on his own. But it was abundantly clear that the Red Bull to watch in the race would be Webber's, not Vettel's. In the event, Mark kept the Ferraris honest (apart from some dubious chicane-hopping) and deserved his fifth place.

The sad thing about Vettel is that I think his team have fallen for the hype and are putting him on unworkable strategies as a result. There was no way the RB5 was good for pole in Monaco and it was fantasy to think the lad could overcome such a disadvantage. It would have been better to accept that this was one race where they could not challenge the Brawns and the Ferraris and to put Vettel on a sensible fuel strategy.

Okay, rant over; what else stands out about this GP? There was Raikkonen's failure to make a start good enough to contest the first corner with the Brawns. Both Button and Barrichello made good starts and slotted into first and second places, thereby proving the obvious again - that KERS was going to be no help in the short run to the first corner. Kimi himself explained the more important factor of the Brawns' better traction on soft tires and the cleaner side of the grid.

That left us with a situation that provided interest in a race that is so often condemned as processional and boring, however. Once Barrichello's soft tires had gone off a bit, Raikkonen was quicker and had a good chance of grabbing second spot through the first pit stops. That was stymied by Ross Brawn calling in his drivers immediately after the Ferraris stopped, thereby not allowing them to build a lead on Rubens. The old fox plays race strategy like a chess master.

The two Ferraris remained close enough to Barrichello thereafter to have capitalized on the slightest mistake and so the interest continued almost to the end of the race. By then Button's lead was sufficient to ensure he was beyond reach, however, and he duly delivered a victory that sees the team edge even further ahead in the championship.

Which brings me to another common gripe about this season - the likelihood of Button and Brawn securing their respective championships by the halfway point of the season. I can understand why some think that F1 becomes boring as a result but that is mainly because we have been spoiled in the last couple of years. Seasons that go right down to the wire with the ultimate victors decided by a point or two are rare indeed in F1. If that is what we want, we are probably watching the wrong sport.

It is inevitable that one or two teams will produce a better car than the rest in any season; that is the point of the competition between designers after all. I will admit that long periods of domination by one team become boring but a single season is not too much to begrudge so excellent a combination of car, drivers and strategy as Brawn GP have become this year. Instead of complaining about one team winning too often, we should appreciate the skill and expertise of that team and take our enjoyment from each race individually.

Brawn's advantage is not so great as other teams have enjoyed in the past anyway. Think of the many years when McLaren crushed all opposition, or Williams streets ahead with their active suspension and Ferrari unbeatable with their combination of the talents of the dream team. In contrast, Brawn has already had stiff competition from other teams with Red Bull looking to be their equal, now Ferrari catching up quickly and Toyota sometimes a threat. If and when Brawn win both championships, they will have earned it indeed.

I guess that is another rant. Monaco seems to have set me off and I cannot guarantee that we will get to the end of this post without any more. Let me see if I can run through the rest quickly without sudden rushes of blood to the head.

Rosberg had a good race although Williams strategy still managed to lose him a place or two, Alonso produced his usual fiery performance in a car that did not really want to compete, and Bourdais at last did a better job than the young Buemi. But McLaren had a weekend to forget, Kovalainen's error throwing away what should have been a finish in the points and Hamilton unable to gain many places from his tail end grid position.

Fisichella did well for Force India, competitive throughout the race and just missing out on a point, Toyota and BMW did as well as they could expect at a circuit that did not suit their cars. Heidfeld kept his nose to the grindstone and was rewarded with yet another finish, Kubica retired to compose his next complaint about the team's performance. There is talk of BMW dropping Heidfeld next year but I think that a mutually agreed parting of the ways with Kubica is much more likely.

Oops, nearly started another rant there. Perhaps I had better stop now while the going is good! Allow me one final word about the Monaco GP itself, however. Take a look at the list of finishers and ask yourself whether it is just coincidence that the highest finishing "almost-rookie" was in eighth place. In fact, where are all the rookies in that list? The thing is, Monaco is a test of driving skill...


Roger Carballo AKA Architrion
Clive. While I almost agree with you on your postrace analysis, I think you are forgetting one crucial fact about this boring season and the Brawn cruising-crushing time we are living now. The fact is this is all result of an artificial use of rules and laws by the FIA. You know as I know that double diffusor was allowed because it could open a breach on the FOTA unity, as it finally did. For sure Brawn would have been a quick car, maybe the Williams and the Toyotas too. But what I'm certain after watching this six races and the whole panorama of moppet's show is that this silly drama has a name: fraude. And I'll explain myself:

1. The Brawn domination underlines and confirms FIA crusade about an expensive F1. Legalization of double diffusers made the old Hondas just invincible this year with a low budget profile.... and the result is what we have, with Bernie-Max trying to sell us and impose to the teams a Formula 1 with toy cars.

2. The diffusor gate has made room for Toyota to win their first race. Remember the threaten they made that they'll leave if they can't win a race this year. After Honda exiting, Max and Bernie couldn't let it happen because it could be 16 cars on the grid and the TV's won't pay for that show.

3. Max has made what he can and more to put it clear that he wants to be resigned FIA's president. And he has send a simply message: with or against me. With my support any team (even one without sponsors and with money only for three races) can be champion. Against me I will crush you, even if your name is Ferrari and worth tons for F1 fans than me and my sadomasochist choir of nazy babies.

4. And just to say that this isn't a rant because I feel ill due to historical teams not on the top notches. Without all this legal mess the team that would be crushing would be Red Bull (well, this is what is being said between engineers, as De la Rosa said today). And I would be extremely happy, brother.

We are under the most spectacular theft of the last 30 F1 seasons that I can remember. Balestre and his support for Prost was just a kids game.
Date Added: 24/05/2009

Steve Ellis
Hmmm, is this waving the red flag at me Clive? I actually agree with your Vettel assesment in this column. I won't go so far as to say Webber would have beaten Vettel but I can't say that he wouldn't have either. We'll never know.The light fuel load was ridiculous. Red Bull's strategy lately leaves much to be desired. My personal hope was that he could beat Barrichello off the line but I wasn't confident. I haven't read anyone who thought he could come out first in the opening laps. Who claimed that? In the end he made a mistake and paid for it as he readily admits.

I don't think Button can be caught barring a catastrophe. He is doing a fabulous job and will reap a just reward as long as he keeps it up.

I think this is the end for Toyota. I can't see them staying in F1 anymore and I noted Mosely stating he thought one or two manufacturers would leave at the end of the season. My guess is your favorites are the other although I won't rule out Renault.

Finally a word on Monaco. I hate it. It is always the worst race of the season. I don't care about glamour, I'm interested in good racing. Something we rarely see around the Principality. I long for the day this race is off the schedule but I have a better chance of the FIA making sense then Monaco leaving.
Date Added: 24/05/2009

Roger: I think you credit Max with too much foresight. No one guessed that the Brawn would be as good as it is before the season started and so the rules cannot have been formulated to help the reborn team. In fact, the other teams felt so sorry for Brawn that they allowed it several concessions (which Flavio later repudiated when it became clear how good the BGP 001 was).

The decision in favour of double diffusers may have had something to do with the FIA's wish to split FOTA but it was always likely, Max and Charlie Whiting having said before Melbourne that it was legal in their opinion. We also need to remember that the car was not developed with a low budget - Honda spent millions on it in 2008 but were not confident of its success, as evidenced by their withdrawal from the sport. Only Ross Brawn had faith in it and the success of his team is thoroughly deserved thanks to that.

The teams that have some right to feel hard done by are Red Bull and, to a lesser extent, BMW. Both were competitive in spite of having no DD and had obviously designed the best cars without it. But F1 is about innovation and the DD is legal by the letter of the law; it is Red Bull's and BMW's bad luck that they didn't think of it first.

The tragedy of Toyota is that they still haven't managed to win a race and their opportunities may have gone. It is likely that the other teams will close the gap from now on and a win prove impossible for Toyota as a result. If Max guessed that he could engineer a win for the team through the DD, he was a long way from being correct.

Max may think he is powerful enough to crush all opposition to his reign but, again, I think he has it wrong this time. Only today the teams sent him a letter demanding that his rules for 2010 be rescinded before they will talk further - and they all signed it, even Sir Frank Williams. They want him out and he either gives up on his budget cap or he will lose all ten existing teams.

I do not see the established front runners as having a divine right to win races. It is a sport and, if some little team run from a backyard garage comes along and shames the big boys, I say good for them. Ferrari's and McLaren's experience and muscle will see them come to the front again sooner or later and, in the meantime, I am going to enjoy their embarrassment!

Must admit that I agree that Max has proved a worse president than Balestre, however. The guy is joke.
Date Added: 24/05/2009

Steve: My impression that far too many fans were expecting Vettel to produce a win at Monaco comes from reading the comments to Keith Collantine's blog, F1 Fanatic. I resisted answering them there because I was likely to insult their intelligence by pointing out the obvious and hey, everyone is entitled to his opinion, I guess. But pressure was building in me as a result and it just happened to explode when I sat down to write about the race. It wasn't meant to annoy you, honest. :)

You're certainly right about Button being as good as uncatchable in the championship race now. As long as he keeps finishing and picking up the points, he'll get there even if the Brawn falls behind Red Bull, Ferrari and perhaps McLaren in development. The fact that his competitors have been sharing out the meagre remnants from his table in these early races means that no one (apart from Barrichello) has amassed enough to mount a serious challenge.

Considering the surprising reliability of the Brawn, Button has it in the bag.

I don't see this as being quite the end for Toyota, however. So the car didn't like Monaco - big deal. It will still be good enough to contest the win in future races. As long as the possibility of a victory remains, there is a slim hope for survival of the team into next year.

Have had an uneasy feeling from the beginning of the current political drama that the team will be gone for financial reasons at the end of the season, however. And that is even if they manage to get a win or two.

As for Monaco, what can I say? I love the race and the clever strategies it produces, the desperate defences of position, and the precision exhibited by the best drivers. May it continue forever. :)
Date Added: 24/05/2009

Steve Ellis

I didn't base my Toyota prediction solely on todays race although it played a part. Toyota wasn't too good in Spain either. Have they fallen off the map? Toyota is also unhappy with the way Max & the FIA are behaving. Don't forget the strong show of support they had for Ferrari.

Do you think BMW will stay?

Sadly I think your wish for Monaco will come true at the expense of mine :(
Date Added: 24/05/2009

Steve: True that Toyota weren't exactly brilliant in Spain. I just think that neither Barcelona nor Monaco were suited to the Toyota chassis and that their upgrades will put them near the front again in Turkey.

It is Toyota's strong support of Ferrari that makes me think that they will be off at the slightest excuse. The only thing that could prevent that would be a very strong showing from the team in the races that remain and that is a pretty tall order, given the way it has missed perfectly good chances so far. I hope they stay but it begins to look as if they won't.

As for BMW, Dr Theissen isn't giving a thing away, is he? I think they are waiting to see how the political fight pans out and they will stay if the result suits them. They're just not going to get as heavily involved as are Ferrari and Toyota - it's called letting others fight for you.
Date Added: 24/05/2009

If you look at Dr. Mario interviews on German television, RTL, and elsewhere then you actually get the feeling that they might accept a budget cap. They support Ferrari but all words are chosen like a politician so I don't think Dr. Mario is planning to pull out.

I really hope Toyota will continue, but I also think it is the team Max is talking about.

About Vettel. I rate Vettel high, but I must also admit that he needs to show something more. When I think about it, did we ever see a really good overtaking from him - in dry conditions?
Anyway I still like him and his unspoiled personality and rate him higher than Webber.

How much of a F1 championship is won by the engineers?
I think Red Bull will come very strong in the coming races, when the new rear end is futher developed and adjusted.
So it is like the fight from past, cars from Adrian Newey and Ross Brawn fighting for podiums.
That make me think, Ross Brawn, is now showing the world that he can win without Schummi.
Would Michael Schumacher be able to do the same with a new team?

Date Added: 25/05/2009

Hello Clive - loved your rant! Do you remember back in the days when Vettel appeared as a BMW test driver. I think he was what 18 or 19. He appeared and showed a matured frame of mind and to that was quick as a lightning bolt. It was exactly then when I thought/ felt this guy is going places. Just look at Buemi him jumping straight into a race seat and blowing poor Bourdais away. This type of excellence must remind us of a few great ones for sure or not?

Now here is where I think we are being unfair to Vettel's Monacco strategy. There is another team - one I would never had thought to show up with as stupid an idea as they did in Monacco. McLaren. Clive your arguments regarding Vettel's strategy and hype can be mirrored to Whitmarsh putting Hamilton on an "agressive" strategy thereby forcing him to make silly manouvers. I guess here too the hype was "Hami will make something work". I am gutted at this because I felt this weekend was as sure a bet for Hamilton to make some damn good points plus a great showing same as was his 2007 championship in china sandpit :-) who knows if 2009 will ever give him the chance - hungary maybe.

DD plus all the nonsense
I am now remembering a while back why Newey requested to quit McLaren and go for Jaguar. (He had no real freedom - and would rather design speedy sailboats) Well, just look at the RB's now. They are blisteringly fast and its design is beyond aggressive without the DD. Put the great FIA cheat BRAWN GP aside and they would actually be doing the knocking-down. So Adrian was able to do what he does best whereas McLaren are left whith an outdated blueprint of his past work and now show up with a dog of a car that will remain a dog. Clive, Ron's desire to make all things equal will it misfire in their design department? And who actually does the designs at McLaren also Clive do you really believe they will come back in time without hiring a designer with the qualities of a Newey?

Williams and strategies
They made the point in Damon's era and are still making the point to date. If there ever was a team that genetically goes backward during a race it is Williams.
Date Added: 25/05/2009

Michael, I actually agree with most of your points, except this one:

"Put the great FIA cheat BRAWN GP aside and they would actually be doing the knocking-down."

Why call Brawn GP a cheat? If it's because of the DDD, then you'd have to include Toyota and Williams there too. And no, I don't think any of them cheated.

"And who actually does the designs at McLaren also Clive do you really believe they will come back in time without hiring a designer with the qualities of a Newey?"

They will. Why? Because of the LACK of change. That means that those who weren't doing so well (McLaren, Ferrari) can catch up (thanks to the sheer amount of resources they have). Newey only came good again now because of the rules change which allowed him to show off his technical creativity. But when there are no more big loopholes, will they still be as good?
Date Added: 25/05/2009

I am being dragged off to a picnic, it being Memorial Day in the States today. It will be a while before I can answer the latest comments, therefore, but it will happen, I promise!
Date Added: 25/05/2009

The World Champion tossed away his best opportunity for a podium so far this year in qualifying and could make zero progress during the race and you write about Vettel?

I would think the World Champion getting lapped yet again at a race where he is the defending winner would warrant some mention.

Another huge story was BMW not even showing up at Monaco and yet Vettel is the topic......hmmmmm.

And in case you missed it, Ferrari had the fastest Qualy time(Q2) and the fastest race lap.
Date Added: 25/05/2009

Like Hezla, I cannot remember Vettel putting on a really good pass in the dry. But I also agree that Redbull have put him on some poor strategies. Why on earth would you let him follow Massa lap after lap after lap and do nothing about it? I like him because he seems to say what he thinks and doesn't blame everyone else for his mistakes. Kudos to Button for driving a flawless race, as SPEED said this was Schumacheresque in it's complete domination. And finally, I love Monaco just to see the cars going around the streets. It's not always a boring race, what about 1970 when Rindt was turning faster race laps than the pole time to catch Brabham?
Date Added: 25/05/2009


Perhaps you should be looking at Maclaren as a team rather than Hamilton for your little rant. Kubica pulled a naughty move at the first corner which damaged Hamiltons wing. It took the team 3/4 of the race to work out that it needed changing! Hamilton would not have been able to see the damage himself. As soon as the wing was changed he was putting in laps pretty much as quick as anyone else. As for who was responsible for the decision to put him on a light strategy.... was it the team or the driver....? it may well be revealed in interviews but I was baffled.

On a different note, can anyone answer why the gearbox is deemed more important than the engines? Why is it that if you change a gearbox it leads to a penalty but you can change an engine without punishment? why do they not just have the same rules for gearboxes?
Date Added: 25/05/2009

Hezla: Interesting about the Theissen interviews. That would figure with the impression I get of BMW's intentions - no decision either way as yet but leaning towards staying in the sport.

I agree that Max is talking about Toyota leaving, rather than Ferrari.

Don't get me wrong about Vettel - I like him as a driver and as a person. I just get tired of people talking about him as though he had already proved himself the best.

The engineers are very important in F1 at the moment. If they get it right, the driver has a chance of winning, if not, he is fighting for points only. But the trend these days is towards design offices rather than a single engineer leading the team towards a concept of his own. Perhaps as the budgets become tighter, there will be room for star designers to appear again.

"Would Michael Schumacher be able to [win] with a new team?" Very interesting question and worth a post of its own. My latest post discusses how we assess Ross and Michael in the light of Brawn GP's current success.
Date Added: 26/05/2009

Michael: I remember Vettel's debut as a replacement driver for Kubica in the 2007 Indy GP only too clearly. His testing times in the BMW had been impressive already so I think we were all expecting something special from him in the race. And he delivered, perhaps not spectacularly, but sufficiently to gain a point. He was definitely a driver to watch in the future.

As regards Hamilton's strategy in the Monaco GP, I think it was a case of trying something different in the hope of getting a lucky break. All the cars outside the top ten, apart from Sutil's, were heavy on fuel so there was a chance that Lewis could pass them on his lighter fuel load. As it happened, we will never know, his contact with Heidfeld damaging the front wing sufficiently to take the edge off the McLaren's performance.

I don't think it was a poor strategy call. Lewis was at the back of the grid and had nothing to lose by using a different strategy from the rest. But it is true that the team probably feel that Hamilton can make up for their mistakes. He has done so in the past, after all.

I do believe that McLaren will rise to the top again, perhaps not this year but the next. They do not have a star designer but rely rather in strength in depth in their design department. So they can lose a guy like Newey and you won't notice any difference in the effectiveness of designs after his departure.

Newey left years ago and so I don't think this season's dog of a car is caused by a lack of a big name designer. It is just one of those things that happens to all teams and engineers at times - the concept doesn't work for some reason and they have to return to the drawing board.

In time, they'll be back.
Date Added: 26/05/2009

Aracer: The World Champion not being in a car able to defend his championship is hardly the latest news; it was apparent that he would struggle even before the season began. At Monaco he had a chance of getting an unlikely win but lost it in his Q1 accident. So what's to write about? We knew all that on Saturday evening.

I could have gone into detail of his strategy and how it didn't work but, as has been said already, that was stymied at the start when Lewis dented his front wing against Heidfeld's BMW. And getting lapped is what happens when you're fooling around near the tail of the field - no big deal, merely something to rectify next time round. Rightly or wrongly, it was not enough to get me excited and the Vettel stuff was pressing far more heavily upon me.

BMW too I dealt with in a sentence or three. From the practice days it was obvious that the car was hopeless at Monaco and they would have a tough time in the race. Again, not much to write about.

I get the feeling you're implying that I don't write about things that conflict with my preferences. If that is the case, I must protest - if it's interesting, I'll write about it, regardless of the light it sheds on my favorites. I just don't find obvious things all that interesting, that's all.

And yes, I did notice Ferrari's fastest laps. They're welcome to as many of them as they want - as long as they don't start winning! :D
Date Added: 26/05/2009

Lee: I think the answer regarding engines and gearboxes is historical. The FIA first decided that engines should last two races and any failures requiring replacement engines within that limit would be penalised. The idea seemed to work well so they extended it to gearboxes. Then they wanted to extend engine life even further but tried it a different way this time - allowing only eight engines per season. Theoretically, you could use a different engine for the first seven races and then make the eighth last for the rest of the year and have no penalty therefore.

Meanwhile, the rules for gearboxes remained unchanged. It as as though they experiment with new rules on the engines and then extend them to the gearbox if they work. Which leads to the anomaly of gearboxes apparently assuming more importance than engines. But, towards the end of the season we will see the strain beginning to tell as teams run out of engines they can use without penalty. That is why it was remarkable that Button's engine for Monaco was on its third race. The team appear to be getting the pain over and done with quickly, thereby extending their options for later on.
Date Added: 26/05/2009

Interesting, I thought Luigi Hammy could the most out of a bad car, ala Fernando????????? No brilliant passing maneuvers either? I guess that is not always the case.

I do know if the red team had suffered a race so pathetic, it would have brought numerous paragraphs on this blog. Yes, you certainly could have gone into detail and would have if it were a car of another color(no 'u', it's Memorial Day!)

Classic British deflection.

Let's just hope a team so big and powerful doesn't get lapped again in Turkey.

Date Added: 26/05/2009

Aracer Isn't that exactly what Hamilton has been doing this season - getting the most out of a bad car? In Monaco he made a mistake that ruined his chances in the race but I'm hardly going to rubbish him for just one error. He did pass several cars in the early laps of the race and otherwise he did the same as Fernando in retaining his position.

As for Ferrari, you know that I predicted their fall from efficiency over two years ago. In 2007 there were many occasions when I could have pointed out the first signs of this but I did not. Last year the mistakes became so obvious that I did refer to them but never reminded you that this was merely confirming my prediction. Maybe I am being blinkered but I cannot see that I have been unfair to Ferrari or overly protective of Hamilton and McLaren.

Unlike many commentators, I do not think one race or even two amounts to a meaningful indicator of real form. People are talking as if Toyota and McLaren have really blown it and are going to be useless from now on. That is laughable and we will see in Turkey how wrong they are.

But, looking at Ferrari's strategy and pit crew performance in the last two years, it would be a safe prediction to say that we have not yet seen the last of Ferrari's embarrassing errors this season. There are reasons for such events that cannot be solved by a pep talk or shifting a few personnel around.

And I suppose that's just more classic British deflection. Tell you what, Aracer, instead of putting what I say about Ferrari down to my bias, why not explain to me why I am wrong? Show me that what I say about Hamilton is in error and where I am making my mistakes.
Date Added: 26/05/2009

Thanks Journeyer and Clive for the response.

Guess i am just a disgruntled f1 fan:-) Brawn is not a cheat but what the FIA has made out of the whole situation makes me feel cheated. so much to my rant.

Clive on your final point in response to Aracer: Now that was a classic ;-)


Okay, I will hedge my 'hopes' for McLaren showing up with all guns blazing in Turkey. Afterall - why is it that Ferrari can make giant leaps whereas McLaren blablabla

Having heard of the special treatment Ferrari recieves I must ask because this is what went straight to my mind. Where would the these people make a full stop on their Ferrari International Aiding? sorry that was intended. How far would they go? I mean - the damn is already broken was it not? It was kept secretive to some extent - so, us being humans (corrupt) how far reaching would this type of let's say human failing be? I guess I am asking all of you ... Technical blueprints Inside Scoop etc...?? Again, I am only asking because it seems so obvious a follow-through once that particular unsporting damn is ruptured - am I wrong?

Michael Schumacher as team manager a success? NOWAY Jose. Look at Michael Jordan hopping from the Wizzards to the Bobcats. I would guess Michael is far too much a driver as that he would actually emulate Jordan's mistakes made when handling Rip Hamilton an actually good player and their former first draft pick "Lazy" Kwame Brown. But in all respect I guess Schummel-Schumi is far to clever to have himself caught out in such a venture. In ten, fifteen years time maybe once he has put enough distance to the matter but not now. Maybe then he will make a Gerhard Berger move (Something he is doing now with Ferrari) and then proov himself feasible outside of a car.

Being lapped in car that is a dog especially when starting at the back of a processional race is not worth any mention. being lapped in a 2008 McLaren starting at the front of the grid in a 2008 race is worth all the pounding you can pounce.

All the best to all of you

Date Added: 26/05/2009

Alianora La Canta
Vettel lost the race when he didn't get pole. If he had, he might have got a win and almost certainly a podium despite the Red Bull not being ideal for Monaco. Since he was fourth, he was doomed to a tough race. When the tyres started going AWOL, he first ran out of pace, then ran out of control.

Next race will be better as long as the double diffuser brings more advantage than was taken away by de-optimising the pullrod suspension arrangement. This race will not be one that anyone at Red Bull (except possibly Mark Webber) will want to remember.

Brawn is doing a Renault of 2006; occasionally matched or even beaten by other teams, rarely when it counts and never headed for long. It looks good for the championship... ...but then Renault lost a 25-point lead between Canada and China in 2006 despite being virtually unbeatable for the first half of the season. Defeat in the championship is unlikely for Brawn, but they certainly can't afford complacency - or to not know where next season's budget is coming from.

As for BMW, I could see it losing both its drivers for next year... ...and not because it intended to throw either out. Heidfeld might not be an obvious choice for another team, but then he never is and still manages to quietly impress bosses with his studious, consistent approach to racing. Kubica is an obvious choice despite how 2009 has gone so far, so he'll be on shopping lists too. This silly season will be a frenetic one, especially for this team whose line-up hasn't changed since the middle of 2006.

To be honest, it didn't help that there were only three rookies/near-rookies on the grid this year and that one (Buemi) used another (Piquet Jr) as a braking point (parenthetically, I told Dad before the start that I hoped everyone remembered where to brake and that they didn't use another car as a braking point!) Even so, Monaco is a challenge that should remain on the calender, even if it does produce turgid racing at times. It tests a different part of the skills a driver needs to be a good champion to other tracks, with particular emphasis on concentration, precision and patience. Being a foot off the ideal line would cost maybe a tenth or two elsewhere, but here it cost Lewis Hamilton a shot at pole and podium.

Max may have allowed the double diffuser to open a wedge in FOTA, but in reality that says more about Max than the regulations. Ross Brawn knew for over a year that the regulations supported his interpretation of the regulations because he offered to close the loophole early in 2008. Psuedopolitics are unseemly in F1, especially to the extent that Max engages in them. This is why there's a massive #maxout campaign on Twitter - not that Max would pay the slightest attention to it unless he thought he needed to belittle F1 fans' intelligence for some reason.

I can't see Toyota staying in F1 whatever happens. There's a restructure in progress in the larger company and how F1 is meant to survive that restructure - even if it wins every race from now until Abu Dhabi - remains a mystery. New brooms are sweeping clean but cannot augment Toyota's dour and mediocre reputation in the world's most expensive sport.

BMW, I think, are undecided. Mario Theissen is cannily putting himself in a position where he can put his team wherever it needs to be in F1, whether that's in, out or "shake it all about" (i.e. being neutral and vacillatory in order to look weaker than it is). Likewise with the budget cap - it's not clear what funds BMW would submit to their team and that will affect whether a budget cap has any appeal to Mario. Until he gets instructions from above, expect BMW to remain calm, cool, and apparently above the fray.

The budget cap and future team presence situations are worrying. But it's difficult for me to feel particularly worried when I've spent most of Sunday afternoon divided between the riveting battle for the last point and practising putting up a tent in readiness for the British Grand Prix.
Date Added: 26/05/2009

Michael: I think when comparing McLaren's and Ferrari's response to having a poor car, we have to remember where they started from this season as well as where they are now. In Melbourne, Hamilton qualified in 15th which gives some idea of how much off the pace the McLaren was. Massa managed seventh for Ferrari. So McLaren were starting the season with a car that was considerably weaker than Ferrari's.

In the ensuing races, both teams worked hard to develop their cars and both saw improvement, with Hamilton managing to score a few points to encourage McLaren. It was only the Ferrari team's mistakes in the races themselves that prevented them from posting a similar improvement. But Barcelona saw most of the teams introduce a lot of upgrades; McLaren had fewer since they were introducing theirs from Melbourne onwards. Suddenly the McLarens slipped down the order again.

The same applied to Ferrari but it was less noticeable since, as we saw in Melbourne, the F60 is a better design basically than is the MP4-24. And Monaco is a strange race that some cars like and others don't; no one knows why but everyone has a theory. Toyota, for instance, found out that the TF109 doesn't enjoy street circuits, whereas the McLaren looked very good in practice. Moral of the story: don't base predictions on performance at Monaco!

I think any preferential treatment for Ferrari ended when Luca became head of FOTA and led it on a collision course with Mosley and the FIA. It would not surprise me in the least if we see a few stewarding discussions going unfairly against Ferrari this season as a result. And that would be equally valid evidence of the unsuitability of governing a sport as is the secret Ferrari/FIA agreement - sporting decisions should not be made on the basis of preference or dislike of any team.

As regards Michael Schumacher ever taking charge of an F1 team, I think he has looked at the possibility and decided it is not what he wants to do. Few drivers make great team managers and Michael seems to have been wise enough to recognise his limitations in that area.
Date Added: 26/05/2009

Alianora: My point on Vettel is that the RB5 was never capable of getting pole at Monaco. This was adequately illustrated by Webber's grid position on the same fuel load as Button's. With much less fuel on board, Vettel was only able to be four tenths of a second quicker than Webber - good enough for fourth spot but still well short of the quickest time. It did not look to me as if Nakajima slowed Vettel at all on his quick lap but, even if he had, it did not make enough difference to the German's time to put him ahead of Button and Raikkonen. If it made a measurable difference, you can bet that a protest would have gone in; instead we had wishful thinking from der Seb.

Red Bull were dreaming when they thought they had a shot at pole and I think it was Vettel's exaggerated reputation that blinded them to the facts in Monaco.

As regards the similarity between Brawn in 2009 and Renault in 2006, let us not forget just why Alonso was not so competitive from Canada to China. The FIA's decision to ban the mass damper destroyed the Renault's advantage over the Ferrari and left Fernando with a hard fight to bring home the title. Let us hope that the FIA do not repeat their blatant meddling with the championship this time!

You may be right about BMW, although I think Heidfeld will continue because he represents continuity to the team. No better team is going to offer him a seat and so his best bet is to stay with Dr Theissen and the boys. I agree with you totally about BMW hedging their bets over the political storm, however. We will know one way or the other when the good doctor is ready to tell us. ;)
Date Added: 26/05/2009

Simple stated, what keeps Lewis from being a 'Great' driver is his inability to assist in the development of the, the technical side of the sport.

Does it not seem odd that a team so resourceful has made almost no progress in developing their car while other teams had?

Much gets said as to who gets the credit for Michael Schmacher's success. Ross Brawn, Jean Todt, Ferrari as a team....etc. Let me tell you something, all those World Championships do not just jump onto your mantle without earning them.

Schu was a complete driver. Capable of being the fastest car on the track at any time. The opening laps, his 'in' laps, his 'out' laps, the closing of the race, etc.

The skills that never get mentioned are the technical skills he has. Being able to work hand in hand with the engineers to make a better car throughout the season.

I just do not see that with Hamilton. Is he fast? Yes. Can he drive very well in the rain? Yes. Can he develop a car throughout the year? I haven't seen it yet. This would be a great year to show what he can do, technically speaking.

In my opinion, Hamilton will not achieve the success of other multiple World Champions because he lacks technical knowledge. If he is given a great car, he does great things. If he is given an average car, he does average things.
Date Added: 27/05/2009

Aracer: I think the jury is still out on Hamilton's car development skills. It seems to me that we have no good reason for thinking either way as yet - we just don't know.

Your suggestion that he is not helping with this year's car ignores the fact that the MP4-24 has improved greatly from its first race, as illustrated by its steadily improving results until Barcelona. In Spain the upgrades of the other teams, all coming in at once instead of gradually from race to race as McLaren had done, put the car back a few places, as one would expect anyway on a track that has never suited McLarens. And then Hamilton's accident in qualifying for Monaco meant that we never got to see how good it could be. There is no doubt that it was one of the better cars on that circuit.

So you are basing your assertion of "no progress" on the memory only of Barcelona and Monaco. The reality is the the MP4-24 is already a much better car than it was and it will continue to get better. How much of that is thanks to Hamilton is unknown, however.

No doubt in time we will find out how good Hamilton is in all the various areas that a great champion needs to excel in. It is a bit early to assert that he is not a great driver or even that he is at this stage. I just think the signs are good, that's all.
Date Added: 27/05/2009

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