2008 Predictions – Part 2

February 27, 2008

Here’s the next prediction list consisting of the next 5 teams in the order of ascending pace.

 

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In my view, this is a team that lacks nothing. Well, almost. The resources are plenty, no lacking in the technical department too. The drivers? Enough for the moment but probably may need a replacement once they start sticking to the tails of the top-runners more often. So? A regular Renault challenger this season? You bet.

 

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The biggest news bearer this season with the return of the much-hyped Alonso. And all the Alonso-brings-5 tenths-to-Renault is, frankly, laughing stuff. I do think that they can fight season-long with Williams, however. Challenging Ferrari and McLaren? Pah.

 

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They seem to be getting back to where they belong. This is one team that I respect a lot. No manufacturer support, relatively limited budgets but still they take pains to design their own chassis and this is most admirable. This is one of the reasons why their way back to the sharp end of the grid is impressive.

 

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Like Toyota, BMW Sauber are cash-rich. However, they put it to very good use, unlike Toyota, if I must add. Having gained a reputation for adopting the most aggressive developmental approach, BMW Sauber might make small slip-ups when they push hard targeting the bigger picture. Case in the point, their less then impressive initial pre-season testing form. But, overall, I would say they are the strongest contenders for the last podium spot. I don’t expect them to trouble the red cars but, depending on how McLaren develop throughout the season, might have a sniff at the silver cars.

 

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The team that almost pulled it all off last season, if not for one Alonso. Actually I’m quite surprised by how competitive McLaren is showing themselves to be this season. McLaren have, in recent years, had only zig-zaw seasons; one ultra-competitive year followed by one mega-ultra-disastrous year. Last year was great (in terms of performance) for the team. Wonder what this year holds.

 

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The 2007 World Champion Team. They’ve so far set frightening pace in testing and start the season as one of the favourites for the title. I think Ferrari will not have a fight on their hands to defend their title. This sums it all. 

 

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2008 Predictions – Part 1

February 26, 2008

We’ve been spectators to a number of pre-season tests from which very little can be deduced as to the true pecking order of the teams. But still, predictions are meant to be just that. Predictions. The real thrill is in finding out if things go as predicted. So, here’s my expectations ahead of the new F1 season.

 

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They’re definitely not the dark-horse of the 2008 season. The fledgling team, with its highly limited resources and development time, are not going to see another 2007 season. Their biggest undoing is going to be their chassis, which is last year’s Honda RA107 and that car was not too popular for its pace. If, even Honda, with its mega-everything resources couldn’t turn their car into anything more than an also-ran, what can Super Aguri do? And I do not have a soft-spot for Super Aguri as I did for Minardi. They’re, in the end a customer team and I’m sorry to say that they may as well save time and money by watching races in their TV. Customer teams are not what F1 needs.

 

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Ross Brawn is there but it’ll take its time before his influence is felt. Which means, we can expect to see Honda ahead of Super Aguri. Only.

 

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This prediction is about where teams will be, at the end of the season. For this, one year’s development work will have to be taken into account and I don’t see this team going too far. Unlike according to its winter testing promises, I do not expect STR to worry any other team other than the preceding two and the following.

 

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What this team lacked in the past was resources. And they’re getting it now. There’s no questioning their technical department’s prowess. I expect Gascoyne and his team to work their magic.

 

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I believe that the lack of a ‘small’ technical team is what is holding Toyota firmly near the back of the pack, despite their endless pocket. I’m not sure that Toyota will move up the ladder any further this season. We’ve to see how it goes. 

 

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Dear Indians

February 21, 2008

Ahead of the launch of the definitive 2008 Force India car, I’ve got something to share with my fellow Indians. We might be expecting a lot out of ‘our’ new team–regular points etc. However, we’ll have to keep reminding ourselves that this after all is a team that’s still on the recovery. The resources have just started to flow in and it’ll be a while before the effect will be more pronounced. I would put my money on a year and a half, may be, for assured points finishes. The team definitely shows a strong sense of promise–promise that they are, passionately and enthusiastically, after bigger things. Back to the Jordan ’99 days? I wouldn’t bet against it.

Vijay Mallya is hugely motivated, Mike Gascoyne is finally getting to get hold of resources with which he could start to work his magic and the drivers are promising. Go Force India, Go!

 

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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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Renault|Tyre Switch

January 20, 2008

“Renault exploited the Michelin tyres to its fullest–more than any Michelin team. That’s why they struggled to make a successful switch to Bridgestones”. This was a popular statement in the F1 media last season. I doubt even Renault would accept this. I cannot understand how using Michelin tyres to its best (do not misinterpret me. The stress here is in the way the tyres are used. I fully accept changing tyres will cause problems) would prevent Renault from a successful adaptation to the Bridgestone tyres. McLaren too used the Michelin tyres for the 2006 season yet, they had a successful campaign last season. Ok, Renault said the two tyres have very different mechanical and aerodynamic characteristics and that was one of the reasons why they struggled with the R27. This statement is acceptable. Note that they’ve not talked a bit about “exploitation of the tyres to the maximum”.

It’s the switch from one tyre to another tyre that’s at question. The success of the switch depends on, efficient interpretation of the tyres’ requirements and incorporating the data into the car’s setup. It does not depend on how well or how bad a car used its previous tyre. Anyway they’re going to leave all the Michelin data behind and take aboard the Bridgestone data. Where’s the “degree of usage” in this?

 

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Renault|Budget|Domination

January 20, 2008

A lot is being said about Renault. That they manage to win Grands Prix and championships with one of the lowest budgets amongst the teams. And Flavio Briatore himself doesn’t miss a chance to pride his management style on that. It all looks awe-inspiring until the question “how much and for how long” are brought into the equation. Look at Ferrari. They are perceived to be one of the highest spenders in the sport and they’ve duly won, in the past decade, 13 world titles. Or put it this way. Since 2002 (the year in which Renault took over Benetton) Ferrari have won all the titles (both drivers’ and constructors’) except in the 2005 & 2006 seasons. Renault in contrast, in the same period, have only the four titles to their name. Immediately after they took the honours in the 2006 season, they struggled to a finish on the podium in the 2007 season. Ferrari? They took both the titles.

If you ask any Renault fan the reason for Renault’s downfall, they’ll say, fighting until up to the last race of the 2006 season was the reason why they couldn’t produce a competitive car for the 2007 season. If you ask some of the F1 media, their answer would be, “Renault understood their Michelin tyres better than most. So, it’s natural they got affected the most because of the switch to Bridgestone.” None of these is the answer. None. (Why I say this? Coming in the next article)

The answer is, I believe, lack of resources. By resources I mean budget. Ferrari had the budget to simultaneously devote all the necessary efforts to their new car while at the same fighting hard for the championship with their old car. But, if what Flavio Briatore keeps priding himself on is true, Renault didn’t have the capacity to develop two cars, simultaneously, at full swing. This is definitely not something to be proud about.

What all I’m saying is, Renault can consider priding themselves on low-budget-championships only after they’ve won another 10 world titles (drivers’ + constructors’). Until then, Ferrari will be the benchmark. For consistency in winning. Simply because no other team have yet managed to match them let alone beat them for numbers.

 

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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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