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Honda’s Woes

I don’t know who “Helios” is (which is the idea, I think) but he appears to be a member of the Honda team. Certainly, his article for Pitpass today is written from an insider’s viewpoint. And it makes pretty depressing reading, especially if you were hanging on to the last shreds of hope that Jenson Button might yet get the chance of a few decent results this year.

Hondas

The way Helios tells it, Honda’s problems stem from a lack of leadership and too much interference from board room level. It is an all-too-familiar scenario to me, having worked for a few companies that suffered from the same disease. Racing teams need to be small, closely-knit groups of people utterly dedicated to their task and not subject to the whims and theories of people who know nothing of F1.

Saddest of all was to hear of Button’s attempts to re-inspire the team. He is trying, apparently, but his body language shows that he does not have much hope for success this year. It reminds me too painfully of Bernie Ecclestone’s assessment of Jenson last year.

Can you see Michael Schumacher in such a situation? I am no fan of Michael but I know that he would have insisted on the team being allowed to work the way he required and he would have brought about a unity of thought and ambition that would have seen them conquer their problems by now. It seems that Bernie was right and Jenson lacks the ruthlessness and singlemindedness to create an efficient winning team such as the German did at Ferrari. As does Rubens Barrichello, it seems.

Helios is in agreement with all the other Honda-watchers in citing Nick Fry as the source of their weakness. And one cannot argue with the fact that the buck stops at the desk of the team manager – he is the only one with the power to make changes in the team in the quest for greater efficiency. So far, that does not seem to be happening.

It’s a picture of a team in disarray, unable to explain the deficiencies of the car this season, embarrassed by the greater success of their tiny sister team, Super Aguri, and unhappy with the management. I have to say that, on this evidence, Button can forget any chance of winning a race this year and he will find it hard even to score points.

So much for my hopes of a championship for him this year.

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Drivers Online

Some time ago I compared the F1 team websites, ranking them for ease of use, information, news, design, etc. Keith Collantine, of F1-Fanatic, reckons Felipe Massa’s blog is the most tedious in existence, so I thought I’d have a look at the what the other drivers offer online.

Scott

Scott Speed – the winner online!

I went through each one and was quite surprised at the variety of styles and presentations out there. Massa’s may be boring but Raikkonen’s is still under development. Does it mean anything that one of the fastest drivers is also the slowest to have an online presence? If so, Nico Rosberg can feel pleased – his site has yet to go live too. Fernando Alonso’s is very lacking in information but Lewis Hamilton just has a page that redirects you to the McLaren site. Maybe he really is the quickest of them all…

Generally, the drivers’ sites are pretty ordinary, with little imagination and sparse information and news. There are a few that excel, however, with good graphics, videos, personal messages and interactivity. BMW won my previous tour of the team websites and Robert Kubica uses the same web designer, so his site looks good, although it is a bit sparse on actual information and has no news. Nick Heidfeld’s is also clear and efficient but could do with a little more information.

You’re going to think that I have a Scott Speed fixation but it just happens to be true that his website is by far the best in terms of looks, information and real interactivity with the viewer. Thanks to the provision of several videos, it is possible to get to know Scott to a greater extent than other drivers and he comes across as a very likable guy. How you react to his informality is up to you, of course, but I like it.

Another driver from the wrong end of the grid, Christijan Albers has a good-looking site that has the interesting innovation of scrolling news updates from f1.gpupdate.com but, unfortunately, his own news is out of date and there is no photo gallery. Adrian Sutil’s is by the same designer but has even less information, perhaps because he is so new to the sport.

Jarno Trulli has a good site with plenty of info, lots of of photos and some quotes, but the news is sparse. Perhaps the strangest is Alex Wurz’s, with a very flashy intro but news that is hopelessly out of date. He gets bonus marks from me, however, thanks to his use of classical music.

The others are average, although there are one or two that deserve special mention as examples of how not to build a website. David Coulthard’s looks as if it was designed when he first entered F1 and the lack of news is a definite loser. Mark Webber’s is marginally better but his news has not caught up with testing in Paul Ricard yet.

Wooden spoon goes to Jenson Button, however. The site looks reasonably good at first but requires registration before you can get to anything really interesting. Try to join up and you will find that the Country of Origin scrollbar doesn’t work – making it impossible to register! Maybe the dreaded Honda disease is spreading…

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Today’s Times at Paul Ricard

These are the times for the simulated Canadian circuit at Paul Ricard today. The configuration was run yesterday as well so I have added the times from both days as a rough guide to how the teams fared.

Kimi

Kimi Raikkonen

Although testing times are notoriously poor as predictors of race performance, it is interesting at least that Scott Speed remains the second fastest driver of the two days. It must be said, however, that Liuzzi may have encountered problems as the team did not run this afternoon.

Today:

1. Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1:28.624
2. Fisichella, Renault – 1:29.209
3. de la Rosa, McLaren – 1:29.249
4. Montagny, Toyota – 1:29.312
5. Coulthard, Red Bull – 1:29.834
6. Rossiter, Super Aguri – 1:29.869
7. Sutil, Spyker – 1:29.869
8. Heidfeld, BMW – 1:29.978
9. Button, Honda – 1:29.989
10. Nakajima, Williams – 1:29.990
11. Liuzzi, Toro Rosso – 1:29.993

Best Times for the Last Two Days:

1. Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1:28.624
2. Speed, Toro Rosso – 1:29.039
3. Kovalainen, Renault – 1:29.070
4. Kubica, BMW – 1:29.157
5. Webber, Red Bull – 1:29.179
6. Montagny, Toyota – 1:29.205
7. Fisichella, Renault – 1:29.209
8. de la Rosa, McLaren – 1:29. 249
9. Wurz, Williams – 1:29.359
10. Coulthard, Red Bull – 1:29.834
11. Rossiter, Super Aguri – 1:29.869
12. Sutil, Spyker – 1:29.869
13. Heidfeld, BMW – 1:29.978
14. Button, Honda – 1:29.989
15. Nakajima, Williams – 1:29.990
16. Liuzzi, Toro Rosso – 1:29.993
17. Barrichello, Honda – 1:30.108
18. Klien, Honda – 1:30.235
19. Albers, Spyker – 1:32.245
20. Winkelhock, Spyker – 1:32.756

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On Giving the Drivers a Break

I have written before about the pressure the arrival of new and talented young drivers puts on the old guard of F1. Even recent arrivals like Mark Webber must be looking at the hype surrounding such hotshoes as Kubica, Kovalainen, Sutil and Hamilton and wondering where their next drive is coming from.

Lewis

Lewis Hamilton

The first few races have put some of this into perspective, with Kovalainen and Kubica struggling to make an impact at first, but Hamilton’s amazing form has upped the ante for everyone, including the young ones. Suddenly every team owner wants another Hamilton and the pressure transfers to the new arrivals to prove that they, too, can work miracles.

No doubt reality will break through eventually and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief as Hamilton makes the occasional mistake or suffers a run of bad luck (he had both in GP2 – it will happen in F1 too). But the benchmark for new drivers has moved higher than ever before and will stay there.

Like him or loathe him, Michael Schumacher has become the model for drivers to be measured against now. The extreme levels of fitness, commitment, technical ability, tactical astuteness, public persona and speed he demonstrated are now expected of all drivers and we may have seen the last of the drivers who rely only on a God-given talent to see them through.

Hence the pressure on Raikkonen at the moment; he is seen as supremely talented but uncommitted to his task and his early departure from the Barcelona GP is cited as evidence of this. Rumors abound that Scott Speed is about to be replaced at Toro Rosso (by Vettel, of all people) and the denials by Berger and Tost do little to quell speculation. The pressure on drivers mounts to the point where the message becomes “deliver the goods by mid-season or you’re history”.

It is all faintly ridiculous and ignores the fact that many champions have taken time to find their feet in F1. Nigel Mansell was one and it took Keke Rosberg years to be offered a competitive drive. We need to face the fact that not every potential champion is a Schumacher, that many great talents of the future will have other approaches to their task.

All of which is leading up to another plea for Speed not to be dismissed. I have already pointed out his excellent performance at Barcelona, in spite of bad luck preventing any fulfillment of the promise. Here now are the midday practice times from today’s testing session at Paul Ricard:

1. Webber – Red Bull – 1:29.687
2. Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1:30.051
3. Speed – Toro Rosso – 1:30.053
4. Barrichello – Honda – 1:30.108
5. de la Rosa – McLaren – 1:30.457
6. Montagny – Toyota – 1:30.478
7. Rossiter – Super Aguri – 1:30.575
8. Kovalainen – Renault – 1:30.917
9. Kubica – BMW – 1:30.931
10. Wurz – Williams – 1:31.324
11. Winkelhock – Spyker – 1:32.756
12. Albers – Spyker – 1:32.960

Enough said.

Update – Final Times from Paul Ricard, 3rd Day:

Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1:28.833
Speed, Toro Rosso – 1:29.039
Kovalainen, Renault – 1:29.070
Kubica, BMW – 1:29.157
Webber, Red Bull – 1:29.179
Montagny, Toyota – 1:29.205
Wurz, Williams – 1:29.359
de la Rosa, McLaren – 1:29.528
Barrichello, Honda – 1:30.108
Klien, Honda – 1:30.235
Rossiter, Super Aguri – 1:30.286
Albers, Spyker – 1:32.245
Winkelhock, Spyker – 1:32.756

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