Syntagma Digital
21st-Century Phi
Stage Latest
  • Auto Insurance
  • Nascar Tickets
  • Facebook Jane Von Bothmer

Red Bull and Honda

Well, there ya go – what did I tell ya? No sooner do I mention that the teams seem to be taking it in turns to go fastest in testing than Red Bull hit the front. Okay, it may have been a stunt for the visiting Dietrich Mateschitz, owner of the team, but at least it proves that the RB3 can go quickly when it’s light on fuel and has new tires. And it must have been pleasant for David Coulthard to grab the best time – it’s been a while since he did that.

Joking aside, Red Bull have got to be a little worried about the pace of the RB3. They know what had to be done to give DC the chance for top spot and that it has no relevance for the actual races at all. Much more telling is the car’s consistency in being a low midfield runner in testing, just as the BMW has been consistently near the front. If there is a pointer to race performance in testing, it is consistency, not single lap times.

RA107

Honda RA107

What worries me, however, is Honda’s apparent lack of pace. So far their testing times have been nowhere near the front and my prediction of Button for champion begins to look very optimistic indeed. I console myself with the thought that in previous seasons they have looked good in testing, only to disappoint once the races started. Maybe this time they are getting things the right way around.

It is also true that the early races can give a false impression of what is to follow. Time and again we have seen a team do well at first and then fade away once the circus gets to Europe. My hope has to be that Honda are concentrating on quiet development and will come good once the season gets into its stride.

That might be the case for Red Bull as well, of course. But I have my doubts on that score. The team is hungry for success and has two drivers who are starved of good publicity – if they could put in a few good times, I feel sure that they would. Honda, however, have been there, done that, and know that it counts for nothing in the long run. If anyone is sandbagging, they are.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself…

Do you have a view? Leave a Comment

Helmet Design

Williams quietly unveiled their FW29 today and kept the hype very low key – the car must speak for itself on track, they advised. It is visibly a Williams with colors not much changed in spite of their new sponsor, Lenovo, but it appears to have grown a splendid mustache this year, the upper component of the front wing assembly curving up and away from the lower element. Messing around with the nose of the car is almost becoming a Williams tradition.

Helmets 1

As I was looking through the photographs, I came upon the standard portraits of the drivers and was struck by the complexity of their helmet designs. Much of this is caused by the profusion of advertising, of course, but there does seem to be a trend towards increasingly confusing designs. These days it isn’t easy to identify the drivers as they whoosh past, hunkered down between their high cockpit sides and its shoulder bulges, and these modern helmets don’t help with their profusion of colors and strange shapes.

Even a driver as recently arrived as David Coulthard has a clear and simple design for his helmet, based on Scotland’s flag without embellishment and instantly recognizable as a result. Compare this with Kathikeyan’s, also inspired by his nation’s flag but managing to appear similar in its spiky Indian wheel to Wurz’s red and white zigzags. Considering how much of the helmet is obscured by adverts, it hardly seems worth going into such detail with the design.

Helmets 2

Back in the good old days (said the old fart) things were much simpler. Nelson Piquet’s red and white teardrop and stripes were easily identified and Senna stuck with an even plainer theme of green and blue stripes on a yellow background.

Speaking of yellow, it does seem to be the in color of the moment – most new drivers use it somewhere on their helmets and Lewis Hamilton favors it almost to excess. I wonder if this is a subconscious hope that Senna’s magic might have come partially from his helmet colors. Don’t laugh – the F1 drivers are a pretty superstitious bunch.

Take green cars, for instance. There is a tradition going back over fifty years that green is an unlucky color in racing. That might have come from the fifties, when all the British cars were green and were routinely thrashed by the Italian red, and it should really have been exorcised by Lotus in the sixties and Benetton in the nineties. But I suspect that the myth lingers on, perhaps given new life by Jaguar’s brief return to F1.

To return to helmets, the fashion for complex designs certainly doesn’t help commentators and could make Murray Walkers of them all. Which is bad news for young drivers trying to make a name for themselves. If I were a driver just entering F1, I’d buck the trend and go for the simplest helmet design imaginable.

Oh, wait a minute – wasn’t Mark Webber wearing an unadorned white helmet in one of the recent test sessions…?

Do you have a view? 1 Comment

Hill on Coulthard

In a speech at the Autosport International Show, Damon Hill has answered David Coulthard’s recent comments about Lewis Hamilton being thrown into F1 too quickly. He thinks Coulthard’s doubts are caused mainly by the approaching end of the Scot’s career.

Ds

Teammates! Coulthard and Hill

Even more interesting than Damon’s speech is the way his own status has changed gradually since he left F1. As a driver, he was always regarded with suspicion, even after he won his world championship. Everyone tended to credit the car rather than the driver and Damon remained the “son of Graham” no matter how well he performed.

Since his retirement, Damon has been asked for his opinion more often and what he says is taken much more seriously. These days he has emerged from his father’s shadow and his championship counts for more than it did when he first won it.

It’s an interesting phenomenon. Guys like Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss have always had an air of authority about them and even James Hunt was listened to respectfully, but only lately has Damon reached that sort of stature. Perhaps it’s because the fact remains that he did win the championship and was the last Brit to do so. In the end, who cares whether he had the best car or not?

I think Damon is a little hard on Coulthard, however. David may not have won the championship yet but he is a consistent points scorer, often in an uncompetitive car. His motivation seems as strong as ever and he could still win races, given the right machinery.

Okay, he didn’t have that immediate impact that the really gifted drivers had on entering F1 – Schumacher, Prost and Senna, to quote the speech – but neither did Damon. Not all future champions give notice of their potential in so spectacular a fashion, after all. Who rated Fernando Alonso when he was driving for Minardi? Very few, I suspect.

Jackie Stewart pointed out recently that there are usually only one or two supremely talented drivers in any generation. If that is so, then Raikkonen and Alonso would have to claim that status at the moment. But that doesn’t mean that all the other drivers might as well pack their bags and go home; with hard work and perseverance, they can overcome the gap in sheer talent and win championships too.

Damon ought to know that, since his father had to fight against Jim Clark and then Stewart himself, both the supreme drivers of their day, and still he managed to steal races from them. David Coulthard has many of the qualities that brought Graham Hill his triumphs and, when it comes to hard work and determination, no-one beats David.

Do you have a view? Leave a Comment

Testing in Jerez

Just as I waver in my prediction of Button for champion in 2007, the Honda team get it all together in testing at Jerez, with Barrichello fastest and test driver James Rossiter very close behind him. Clearly the team have got the measure of the Bridgestone tires and that bodes well for the coming season.

Rubens

Rubens Barrichello in testing with a black Honda

Autosport magazine has a full list of the times from the final day and they make interesting reading, even though they should be taken with the usual pinch of salt. These are not next years cars, after all, and each team is trying out different things, not necessarily competing for the quickest time.

But they are racing teams and I refuse to believe that they can ignore the times completely. Competition is in their blood.

Mark Webber and David Coulthard must be a little disappointed to be down in 12th and 14th places, even though they are still running the RB2 with Ferrari engines. How they must long for the introduction of Adrian Newey’s RB3. Scott Speed must be looking forward to the new Toro Rosso as well, especially as there are suspicions that it will be an RB3 too, albeit with a Ferrari rather than a Renault engine. And that’s if the other teams do not manage to put a halt on Toro Rosso’s plans – the protests against their using what amounts to a customer car are beginning to gather.

Lewis Hamilton was third fastest although de la Rosa wasn’t far behind him this time. The young Brit looks as convincing in testing as did Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel.

Toyota and Renault make quiet and confident progress, going fast enough yet without setting the world alight. Steady is the word that springs to mind and that is just what is needed at this stage. The Ferrari times can be ignored – they had a bad day, that’s all.

Note the speed of Anthony Davidson in the Super Aguri, however; he was only half a second slower than Barrichello. That’s not bad considering that Aguri were the bottom team of 2006. I guess it shows one of two things: either Aguri are really getting it together and could be looking at the mid-field next season, or testing times don’t matter at all!

Away from the track, the World Motor Sport Council have issued their take on the changes to come in F1 according to Max Mosley and Burkhard Goeschel. Essentially they agree completely and have added a few tweaks of their own. For instance, for the first time “standardized aerodynamics” has been mentioned. Couple this with the intent that any new technology introduced will be for sale to everyone, and you have a standardized formula. Lola are good at that – why not just get them to make all the cars for the teams?

Do you have a view? Leave a Comment