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Archive for the tag “Sebastian Vettel”

How good is Sebastian Vettel?

In Part Two of this week’s episode of The Racer’s Edge I wanted to chat to a few friends about Sebastian Vettel. Where does he sit amongst the all-time greats? What’s he like as a driver and as a person? How much more does he need to prove? And this provided me, of course, with an excellent opportunity to talk again to one of my heroes – to John Surtees, OBE.  A lovely man and an F1 icon, John (or “Sir John”, as he would be if there was any justice amongst politicians) spoke with all the humility, knowledge and enthusiasm that befits the only man ever to win both motor-cycle and F1 World Championships. I was lucky to catch Sir Jackie Stewart as he was walking his dogs near Lake Geneva; and the phone connection wasn’t bad to Italy, either, where I tracked down one of the wisest of all journalists – Giuseppe “Pino” Allievi.  A Ferrari expert – an F1 expert – Pino did not disappoint.  As well as some intelligent thought about Seb and his place in history, Pino also gives us his view of Ferrari’s driver line-up in the medium-term.

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In a slightly-changed format for The Racer’s Edge, and to give you more immediate access to what we’re filming and saying, we’re beginning this week with segmented, advance-view YouTube posts of the show.  Whilst the full-length iTunes download version, now watched every week by over 60,000 fans around the world, remains unchanged as an on-demand production available late on Thursdays, YouTube viewers can now  enjoy the show as “preview” segments, posted virtually as they happen.  And don’t worry about keeping track with the show as it evolves:  each episode by Thursday night (UK time) will be archived in “playlist” form on our YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/peterwindsor) for easy, follow-on viewing.

In this first part of Episode 35 we have a lot of fun with Remi Taffin, the Head of Trackside Operations for Renault Sport F1.  We caught up with Remi just after he had returned to Viry Chatillon from India and I think the tone of the conversation captures something of what winning a World Championship is all about. In the upcoming segments of the same show, to be posted on Wednesday and then again on Thursday, you’ll also be able to hear from Sir Jackie Stewart, John Surtees (in the studio), the respected Italian journalist, “Pino” Allievi, the GP2 Championship leader, Fabio Leimer and, also, in the F1 Racing studio, from Anthony Rowlinson and Tom Gaymor, the former driver who is now carving a name for himself with Eurosport and as the commentator for F1’s new livesteam, smart-device app.

Here, then, is Part One of Episode 35, The Racer’s Edge.  Enjoy.  Parts Two and Three will follow over the next 48 hours, together with a YouTube-only bonus Abu Dhabi GP preview video.  To stay fully informed about all the new content, remember to subscribe to our YouTube Channel by clicking the (free) subscription widget on the right.

 

The beauty of Suzuka’s Esses

2013 Japanese Grand Prix - SaturdayIt’s always a pleasure to watch the uphill Esses section at Suzuka during qualifying – particularly during qualifying because race conditions frequently restrict a driver’s pace and movement to the car he is following. In qualifying, though, when usually the air is free, it is different.  And, for the most part, they’re all trying pretty hard.

I love this section of road not because of one particular corner, although Turn Six is, of course, critical: a perfect exit from T6 sets you up nicely for the straight that leads down to the two Degnas. I love it because it is impossible to be perfect through T6 unless you correctly manipulate the exit of T2, T3, T4 and T5.  The usual errors are to be too quick in these preceding places. We saw Nico Hulkenberg be consistently so on all his runs: he was either a fraction too fast out of T2 or having to use too much road out of T4.  He caught it all, of course;  Nico does that.  In a millisecond, though, he had “asked too much of the car”. Additional energy had poured into the loaded front or rear Pirelli (depending upon steering angle). Momentum, fractionally, had gone.

Romain was similarly slightly-over-the-top. He has this sumptuous way of being able to use the rear of the car to re-set the values but, in doing so, he also creates too much excess energy. He’s got torque and twist going on at the rear in the middle of, say, T4;  the E21 looks perfectly-poised…but in reality it’s not “flat” on the road. It’s a subtle thing, only visible when you see the car on the corner as a whole. You’d never touch it via the on-boards or via close-ups. Kimi?  Kimi on Saturday to my eye looked to be a slightly edgier version of the real one. He never demanded too much from the tyres but his inputs seemed strangely more angular than usual. Perhaps it’s just a Kimi thing these days:  the “real” guy gets out of bed on Sunday.

I’ll talk more about all this on next week’s show. Here, I’d like to say “chapeau” to Mark Webber. He consistently – from Friday onwards – found exactly the right balance between short-term, up-the-hill pace and perfection by T6. This was classic Webber, back where he used to beat Seb on equal terms. No pesky, dumb, chicanes; no boring corners. (The Suzuka Chicane, with it’s downhill, open-space approach, is actually quite an interesting section of road:  the key, after the rush of 130R, is not to brake too early.) Just a lovely section of medium-speed road with blind entries. Lewis similarly threaded the needle – and so, but to a slightly lesser extent, did Seb Vettel, Jenson Button and Valtteri Bottas, although Jenson seemed to want a little more from Ts 4 and 5 than they were ever going to give him. Perhaps that’s why he later described his laps as “fun”. I also liked Lewis’ “feel” for the wind change on Saturday at Suzuka. Trust him immediately to use this to his advantage; trust some others to use it as some sort of explanation as to why they were less-than-perfect.

Image of Mark Webber, Suzuka, Saturday, October 12: LAT Photographic

On taxi rides and slow chicanes

In this week’s post-Singapore episode of The Racer’s Edge, we talk to Derek Warwick about those reprimands; to GP2 winner and Mercedes F1 Third Driver, Sam Bird, about his success this year and the styles of Nico and Lewis; and Rob Wilson, our favourite driver coach, analyses Sebastian Vettel’s approach to those most boring of corners – the slow chicanes.  Hope you like it.

On Pirelli and glass houses…

The FIA today announced that the  Young Drivers’ Test at Silverstone on July 17-19 would be opened up to regular F1 drivers “to allow teams to use drivers they deem fit to carry out tyre development work in a bid to solve the problems we saw at the British GP”.  Even more significantly, the FIA says it will seek approval to “change the Technical Regulations to allow modifications to the specification of the tyres during the season without the unanimous agreement of all competing teams”.  This, I think, is to be applauded, bearing in mind that Pirelli wanted to revert to Kevlar constructions after the first Bahrain incident and were forbidden for doing so by the teams, who could not come to a unanimous agreement.  (Lotus and Ferrari were going well at the time and understandably did not want to see any major construction changes at that point.)  It also seems likely that the ridiculous (current) requirement for Pirelli to define its 2014 tyre specification by September 1, 2013, will be re-written.  Less comforting is the closing threat in the FIA statement today: “the FIA has asked Pirelli for an assurance that there will be no repetition of the tyre problems at this weekend’s German GP or at subsequent grand prix (sic).”  I may be reading too much into it, but that to me sounds like a governing body potentially wanting to discipline a tyre supplier – the only tyre supplier that would step into the void left by Bridgestone – for making future mistakes.  What would happen, for example, if Sebastian Vettel in Germany this weekend suffered exactly the same sort of tyre failure that took him out at the first corner at Abu Dhabi in 2011? Does anyone outside Red Bull Racing and Pirelli know exactly what happened on that occasion?  Judging by the number of different opinions in the pit lane to this day, I think not.  Surely the role of the FIA at this time – when Pirelli have been subjected to massive criticism from all quarters – is to re-assure the F1 tyre supplier that it has the support of the people who matter.  Pirelli have made mistakes – and will continue to make mistakes – because that is the nature of the F1 business.  Indeed, it is the nature of life.  I make mistakes – plenty of them.  The F1 teams make mistakes. The drivers make mistakes. And so, come to think of it, does the FIA.  I seem to recall some FIA fuel rigs under-performing a few seasons back – and who ratified the regulations that are now being changed mid-season?  Of course Pirelli have had a bunch of problems – but then so did Michelin back in 2005, at Indianapolis.  I think it’s interesting that a number of F1 people who now dream of a Michelin return were the same people who refused to race at Indianapolis that year (when some sort of race could have been put together to save Michelin’s face in its biggest market) and who in 2006, at Monza, openly accused Michelin of cheating.  Pirelli spend several hundred millions of Euros per year supplying tyres for F1;  they don’t have to do it – and I’m sure that at present they wish they weren’t doing it.  In the absence of Goodyear, Bridgestone and Michelin, though, the alternative three years ago was for the F1 industry to produce its own tyres, with the vague hope of a sponsor branding the sidewalls.  Instead, Pirelli stepped up to the plate and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. In my view, it now behoves the F1 industry to stand squarely behind Pirelli, to give them the scope they need to do the job and not to threaten them with some sort of discipline if/when something again goes wrong.

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