Lewis In Malaysia

March 30, 2008

It was really nice to see Lewis driving as he did in Sepang. His charge from the middle of the pack showed to me that he is not intimidated by his hugely complex and powerful machinery. The way he hustled his McLaren on to the kerbs, opposite locking it, out braking and then recovering to get the car going was all a treat to watch. It’s really something special to see such an young man having total control of his car at those speeds.

I could very often see Lewis giving a tinge of opposite lock to the steering wheel when he was hard on the power with his outside rear wheel on the kerb. It was purely on the limit correction and driving and was really fascinating to watch. It was so much on the edge that even a split second of missed corrective action would have spun him around leaving him beached.

I think having traction control around would’ve been an injustice to the likes of Lewis or Kimi who have stunning levels of car control. Car control is not just about bringing your car home safely without making any mistakes. Many other drivers on the grid can do that. It’s about taking your car beyond its limits and then stepping back to exactly on the limit when it bites back. And doing this for the whole race distance. That’s what differentiates a champion driver from a good driver. In the process, you will have extracted a lap time that the car simply doesn’t deserve and at the same time would’ve provide a spectacle to the spectators.

A little bit more technical brief on why Lewis did so many opposite locks in Malaysia on the kerbs:

The kerbs have lesser grip levels than the tarmac. Also, the outside rear wheel, which is accelerating on the kerb, will have extra burden in the form of the car’s weight in addition to the accelerating force. Naturally, the tyre will tend to slide away as a reaction to these two loads. One effective corrective action that can be given by the driver is to take some of the car’s weight away from that tyre. This is done by turning the steering wheel in a direction opposite to that of what is required to negotiate the corner and this is what we call as the opposite lock. When this is done, the weight starts transferring to the inside wheels and the car starts to get stabilised. This prevents the car from spinning.

   

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Briatore|Alonso|Piquet Jr.

February 2, 2008

I do not know if Ferrari will take the crown this year, yet again. I do not know if BMW can win a race this year. I also do not know if Force India can establish themselves as mid-field contenders. But, I’m damn sure of one thing. That Alonso will not be frightened by Nelson Piquet this season at Renault.

You don’t need to go any further than Briatore’s own words to understand what I mean. His Q&A’s, thus far, have contained all or atleast one of these sentences: “Nelson is a clever guy who loves to be in F1”, “Nelson is looking forward to learning from Fernando”, “He (Nelson) knows his place”, “There won’t be any repeat of the problems Fernando faced in 2007”

When directly confronted with questions on No.1 and No.2 status of drivers, he laughs off at those but then comes up with this: “We don’t need to forget that Fernando has the most experience, he is twice a world champion with us. And Piquet have a lot to learn, and is very smart, very intelligent. He is the future for us as well, he is 22 and very young – and in a fantastic position to learn from Fernando.”

Briatore need not talk about team-orders anymore. After all, its team-orders at Renault that’s going to keep Alonso going.

 

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Alonso|Renault|Ego

January 16, 2008

I cannot comprehend why any team, using an OLD car (the stress is in “old”),  would want to run pseudo-qualifying laps in a pre-season testing event. But that’s exactly what Renault have done. Just to give a boost to Alonso’s image, they allowed him to run “empty tanks” and set a time that was anything but a mockery. An eye-wash for the innocent. You could say, running quick laps is part of their day’s program. Plausible if they are running with a NEW car. They’re using the R27, which is last year’s car, running for some 70 laps and at the end of the day, with just a few kilos of fuel, helping Alonso pretend he is still the man to beat.

This serves to cement the fact that Renault are definitely a team that has understood Alonso as well as no other can possibly could. See, they make him feel important even in testing. All to keep him happy and his, I’m extremely sorry to use this word, ego satisfied. Here’s another interesting quote from Alonso after yesterday’s testing:

{     I haven’t really got to know Nelsinho yet, but he seems to me to be a normal, nice guy who wants to enjoy his time in Formula One: no different to Marques, Button, Trulli, Fisi, Montagny or McNish, all of whom were my team- mates, all of whom I got on well with and who are still friends. For 2008, I don’t anticipate problems with anybody, and Flavio has always demonstrated that he can manage these situations very well.    }     

Alonso makes it clear that he WANTS Piquet Jr. (his team mate) to be NOT LIKE Hamilton. He also adds, should he (Piquet Jr.) prove to be another head-ache to him (as was Hamilton last year), Flavio Briatore is there to ensure Piquet Jr. DOES NOT beat him on track! Shame on Alonso.   

 

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Button and World Championship

January 13, 2008

Button sees himself challenging for the title in the 2009 season. Is it tall talk? It might look nothing other than just that. But not according to me. Outwardly, the gap between where Honda were last season and the world championship looks to be an enormous chasm. If we take a little bit of a deep look at he team, it will be crystal clear that they, undoubtedly, have the potential to reduce the chasm to a small crack. Yes, in my opinion, Honda can bridge the gap to the top teams in one season. As I’ve already discussed elsewhere in this blog, technical ability of the personnel, infrastructure and drivers are the basic things that need to be sorted out for a successful campaign. And now, Honda Racing have got it all. For the start, to lead the technical team, ex-Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn is there. Honda Motor Co.’s whole financial might is there. And, Jenson Button himself is there. Frankly, he is a lot better than his results show. He needs a car to demonstrate that and I hope Honda gives him that car in the coming season. I’m being selfish here because, I badly want to get treated to a fight between the top drivers of the F1 grid–Raikkonen, Button, Hamilton, Rosberg.

 

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My Fav Circuit

December 30, 2007

I’ve always asked this question myself. “Among the Grand Prix circuits all over the world, what’s my favourite?” Initially, I thought the answer would be easy enough to find. Far from it. First, I looked at the (real) drivers’ picks. Suzuka, Spa, Monza, Monte Carlo, Silverstone. I drove all these circuits (in the computer, of course) and I liked, er, all of them! I couldn’t pick one as THAT circuit. So, I tried the other group, Barcelona, Montreal, Hockenheim, Interlagos. Again, there was no clear answer although I’ve to admit that Interlagos emerged as by far the circuit which I liked most of the lot. Undeterred, I looked at Sakhir and even the testing circuits, Jerez and Valencia. For the first few laps of Jerez I thought, “Whoa, this is it. The Best Circuit”. After 50 laps, “Yuh, this is another nondescript circuit. Nothing more”. Now, I’m trying out the Hermann Tilke designed, “spectacular” Sakhir circuit at Bahrain. Notice the word “spectacular”. I don’t know if I’ll associate this word with Sakhir after another 50 more laps of F1-car-thrashing!

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Lewis Hamilton? (Instalment 2)

November 3, 2007

Lewis Hamilton’s style is to keep the car pointing straight for as long as possible in preparation for a corner. The advantage of this style is that Lewis has a more obedient car, when he eventually turns-in, that will respond to his steering inputs in a controlled manner without overloading the outer wheels. By having the car straight, he has the dynamic weight of the car more evenly spread out between the inner and outer tyres. One obvious advantage of this technique is that he has a larger contact patch from the four tyres that he can use for braking with maximum force without fear of locking up – that is so easy to do at the turn-in.

Another very unique thing that you notice about Lewis’ style is his steering input. It’s not so much about the point of his initial steering input as it is about the rate of input. He just ever-so-slightly squeezes his ‘wheel into the corner, takes some amount of positive lock out of it, almost immediately again gives the positive lock back again. All these happen between Lewis preparing his car for the turn-in and the point when he hits and crosses the apex of the corner. Why is Lewis doing that? Again, he always thinks in straight lines. He wants to make sure he has a perfectly dynamically balanced car at all the points of a corner.

Follow this link to read Lewis Hamilton? (Instalment 1).


Lewis Hamilton? (Instalment 1)

October 30, 2007

The F1 circus has sat up and looked at the boy-wonder in the name of Lewis Hamilton with an awe in its face. What’s that he’s doing to make him the most happening person in Formula 1 right now? Well, the answer is quite simple. He’s fast. Truly, madly, insanely fast. Yes. Faster than your twice World Champ Fernando Alonso. I’m not saying this just ‘coz I’m no fan of Alonso. When you take the time to study both of their laps over the course of the entire season, you’ll arrive at the same decision. Even Alonso accepts that he’s slower than Hamilton. Albeit indirectly in the form of his whining about McLaren and Hamilton.

Racing drivers are basically of two varieties. Some drivers are the seat-of-the-pants kind while some others are analytical. The drivers who best manage to exhibit both these characteristics are the ones who rock the stage. And a certain driver by name Lewis Hamilton is that kind of a driver. We’ll see what he does on the race track in the second instalment of this feature.