Tuesday, December 14, 2010

[F1] A new slate for IndyCar in 2012

With the new engine requirements for 2013 out for F1 and Indy debuting its new formula in 2012, I think newly re-branded IndyCar, formerly the IRL, deserves another look from F1 fans. From what I understand so far in 2012 Indy cars will be just as light, just as powerful, have custom aerodynamics on each car, most likely also include KERS, and will be significantly cheaper then F1 cars.

In 2012 each chassis will be provided by Dallara much like today. The chassis comes with no aerodynamic pieces applied to the car and each team will be responsible for purchasing or developing their own aerodynamics for their car(s). These aerodynamic kits include but are not limited to sidepods, engine covers, front wings, and rear wings. This will add a unique look to what has been a very generic field for far too long. Each rolling chassis will cost $345,000 and will include everything except the aerodynamics and engine.

For years Honda has been the sole engine provider for the IRL(know as IndyCar) but in 2012 that is going to change. IndyCar has announced a new open engine formula that allows for any turbocharged engine up to 2.4L and 6 cylinders to run provided it can be tuned to produce the full range of 550-750 HP. They are also allowing hybrid systems like KERS used in F1. The current push to pass function of the sport (which has worked very well over the past two years) is being boosted from 20 HP up to 100 HP.

Also with the arrival of all these significant changes to the sport returns some major names and manufacturers. Lotus returned in 2010 to test the waters and found them very much to their liking and has committed to a three or more car team for 2011 and has committed to making their own aerodynamic package and engine for 2012. Chevrolet has also thrown their had in the ring as a 2012 engine supply with the backing of a major team in the sport, Penske. Including the current engine supplier (Honda) who has also committed to staying in the sport, that makes three engine suppliers for 2012.

When the IRL was started in 1996 it was to raced exclusively on oval tracks. 2011 out of the 17 races 9 of them are road and street courses. Some of the road and street courses include classic F1 venues such as Long Beach. The competition and talent on road courses in IndyCar has picked up greatly over the past two years as driver have been forced to evolve with the sport. There are now three championships in the series, one for road courses, one for ovals, and a combined championship.

With many of the major teams expected to create their own aerodynamic package, new more powerful engines, manufacturers returning to the sport, new bright talent, and a whole season stuffed full of road and street courses what's there for a F1 fan not to enjoy?

On a side note some oval races do bore me but I do enjoy a close oval race such as Texas or Chicago from time to time and enjoy the magic of May at Indy in person every year but I recognize that it isn't for everyone ^_^ Thanks for reading F1 fans

[Indy Car] Ganassi, the new Penske

With the 2011 season quickly approaching and the silly season starting to solidify I think its important that we take a second and look back at the 2009 and 2010 season and the struggle between the two great forces of the sport. Where they came from, where they are at today and how they are looking going into the 2011 season.

In 2009 we saw a brilliant battle for the championship between Ryan Brisco and Scott Dixon which a beautiful steal from Dario at the end in a brilliant show down. However both championships where the Penske's teams to lose, and lose they did.

As I watched Will slide up into the wall at Miami in 2010 I could not help but think of Brisco tapping the wall in Japan in 2009 exiting the pits one year prior. This pit stop was a amazing break for the team, sneaking in right before a yellow that would have allowed them a great margin and a very likely podium or victory even that day solidifying their chance at the championship.

Will Power made his contact with the wall on lap 137 of 200 that would eventually put him out of the race. His massive lead coming into the last three oval races had been slowly erased by a fueling error and then a very costly DNF. All Dario had to do new was finish 10th or better, which he did at 8th.

Twice Penske has thrown away the season to a simple mistake that his main rivals where there to capitalize on. We all know the Captain (Roger) to focused and disciplined, so how do you let your drivers make two season deciding mistakes that cost you the title?

Chip Ganassi has shown amazing prowess in the last two years, working with Dario in 2009 knowing the possible out come of the race up front between Scott Dixon and Ryan Brisco allowing him to save enough fuel to steal the championship from the two fast front runners, led by Penske's Ryan Brisco. In 2010 we saw a beautiful deception as Ganassi gambled on doing a double stint on tiers that put them ahead panicked team Penske who failed to fuel their car costing them a lot more then just a win.

Dario lead a majority of the race in Miami in 2010 which put pressure on Will, but Dario would not be up at the front in the end. Due to some off rotation pit stops a large portion of the field would be out ahead of Dario who would eventually finish 8th. Will would only have had to finish 11th or better if he could have held in there.

In 2009 if Brisco had gone on to win in Japan all he would of had to do is place in Miami to become the 2009 champion. Even if he had not won he still would have likely had a lead going into the last race.

Two years, two very costly and unnecessary mistakes. Very un-Penske like. While Ganassi took two titles that looked like a long shot and did so with cunning and amazing strategy. Currently Target Chip Ganassi Racing is looking a lot more like the Penske racing I watched growing up back in the day then the Penske racing of 2009 or 2010.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

[Indy Car] Graham Rahal 2011, he has the money now where to?

Graham has driven for four different teams over the course of the 2010 season after losing his ride with Newman/Haas due to a lack of funding over the winter. He started in only 12 of the 17 races but placed in the top ten seven times with a season high of fifth in Toronto. But in my eye's his most impressive drive came at the second race of the season at St Pete when he managed to place the Sarah Fisher Racing Dollar General car ninth.

I have been following this for several weeks now since a few random tweets (rumors only) from the paddock suggested Graham to Ganassi in 2011. Also on Graham's twitter page he seemed very light hearted about the end of the year coming up and it was no surprise when he announced at Homestead Miami that he had already secured funds for the 2011 season, which great for him, but now we all have to wonder what team and are the rumors true.

"TBC Corp.’s Retail Group will back racer Graham Rahal for the next two years in the Izod IndyCar Series with its ServiceCentral, Tire Kingdom, NTB, Merchant’s Tire and Big O brands, although Mr. Rahal has not committed yet to a team for next year."

With the rumors of Ganassi floating around I did manage to find an interview with his agent John Caponigro who said “You’re darn right, we are talking to Ganassi. We want to get Graham on one of the top teams in the series and that team is certainly at the top of the list.”

Bob Crostarosa, senior vice president of marketing and advertising for TBC Retail Group commetned that they were "still interviewing teams and having discussions with teams. We have narrowed it down to a couple and we have a couple that we prefer but we are continuing to discuss that. We will jointly decide that team."

One of the other teams that was directly mentioned was Rahal Letterman Racing (RLR) which has been out of Indy Car racing since 2008 due to lack of sponsorship with the exception of running the 2009 Indy 500 with Oriol Servia and 2010 Indy 500 with Graham Rahal. They have however been competing in the ALMS series winning the 2010 ALMS Manufacturer and Team Championships with BMW. It would be interesting to see this team attempt to make a comeback into the sport with a strong young talent like Graham Rahal but I don't know if it would be the best decision for him as far as progressing his career.

Graham Rahal commented “Again, we are talking to a lot of teams. Dad’s team did a good job for me at Indy but the best thing for me to do is not be in my father’s shadow. I need to do it on my own. We have not canceled anything out but we have a lot of teams in play.”

Big thanks to inRacing news for the interview comments above.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

[F1] Kamui Koayashi

I wont be shy about it, Kamui is my opinion is easily the best of the new drivers giving us surprise after surprise. Although he started the year with 4 straight DNF's and began to give doubt to Saubers decision to sign him after his brilliant debut for Toyota (stepping in for the injured Timo Glock in 2009). He then came back for several top 10 finishes including a very surprising 6th at Silverstone. He has also sneaked into Q3 three times this year although never able to qualify higher then tenth. The young Japanese driver has a 2010 average finishing grid position of 9th, higher then a certain seven time world champion this year.

In his recent interviews he has leaned the importance of just being consistent and making sure to finish races. I think Sauber was struggling with some issues with the car early in the year and some of his credited accident DNF's may have been results of that. But in spite of those and specifically a front wing mishap that was very much nothing he could control that took him out of the race he commented upon asking if the cars front wing failed "I will have to look at that data." Obviously to the driver it was a very clear failure but the driver was not about to toss the blame on the team and make them look bad.

Another thing this young Japanese driver has done that his older experienced (ex) teammate has not managed to do, is show that he can take care of the car and his engine. The reliability of the Ferrari engine has been a huge talking point of the season and with only four races remaining, Kamui still has two unused engines.

It also bears mentioning his up bringing in Japan and where he would have likely been if not in F1 this year. Many drivers would have gone to lower series of racing or become a backup driver for another team but Kamui, well he most likely would have ended up back home helping out in his fathers sushi shop. Kamui best explains his experiences growing up in Japan carting himself here in an article on F1 Fanatic (my personal fav F1 website).

His results and his speed speaks for itself and he has learned he needed to prove consistency after a rough start to the season. With new sponsors coming to the team in 2011 I really hope good things for the Japanese driver and also a good showing at his home grand prix this weekend. I make no effort to hide the fact that Kamui Koayashi is one of my personal favorite drivers in the sport right now and my favorite among the young guns in the sport.

[Indy Car] Finally at Homestead

It was an interesting race that started off simple enough. Dario with his impressive qualifying run took off with his teammate and Will and Brisco in pursuit with TK sneaking up to throw a little bit of a curve ball but then it all went south very fast.

But in truth it started to go south much sooner then the start of the race... from the second Will was interviewed after qualifying it was vary obvious to me and the rest of the world that this was not the same Aussie that we had gotten to know this season, he seemed unsure, shaken even... You could see it in his body language and even before the start of the race that he was not himself and did not have his normal feeling of confidence and as the race continued on he started off well but made mistake after mistake falling further back until finally he found his way up in the wall.

The press surrounded Will as he came in as his team tried desperately to make the repairs needed to get the car back out, and I for one am not entirely sure that there was something crippling wrong with it the second time he brought it in, more that he just wanted out of the car, that he was done. It make me think of Days of Thunder, when a racing car driver has lost it you can't make him race.

If Will would have played it cool and hung in there and Dario ended the race where he did, the championship would have come to him and he could have just driven it home to the championship.

I for one think Dario's cool bravado and hard hits to Will's overwhelming lead in the championship whittled away at the Aussie's lead and confidence till he had nothing left.

To 2011 and a two car Lotus team, and 2012 with new lighter cars and a more powerful engine. This chapter is closed and Dario may very well have proved that he may be the best of this generation...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

[F1] Singapore GP and Ferrari

I would like to take a minuet to talk about Fernando Alonso and the "grand slam" of racing he performed. From lights to flag he ran, never going faster then he had to and even at the end when Vettel turned up the heat so did he. This was Alonso's day again and truly the new man in red that was subject to so many question marks after Ferrari fell off the pace after Bahrain has show what the prancing pony has to offer at the end of the season. If you had told me Ferrari would come back with a vengeance at the end of the season I would have to laugh and asked you "how?" but Alonso has done just that. The new man in red has set the stakes that he is truly a force to be reckoned with and to NEVER count him out, but what about the other man in red?

Felipe Massa did not have the same great day that Alonso did but a little bit of safety car luck paid off his way. An early gamble paid for for Masa in what is considered a difficult track to pass on (unless your name in Robert Kubica) after changing tiers after the mandatory two laps he had to spend on his first set. It was a super smart gamble considering he wouldn't lose much because he would very quickly catch the back of the field and the time that he lost and with the safety car coming out he gained a lot more then just a 22 second delta time (time to pit in and pit out lost in the pits compared to track) and gained a lot of positions under caution. He finished 8th with a new engine that he can hopefully use for another race, although there is some question on to whether or not being held up in traffic damaged that new engine. All and all Masa has done a decent job this season but not great with the exception of Hockenheimringin and the season opener of Bahrain. With Masa's over all sub par performance as far as the prancing pony goes it makes me wonder if they are going to pull a Kimi(have you sit out a whole paid season) and try and find someone else for that seat next year?

[Indy Car] What lies ahead this weekend at Homestead-Miami

Going into the last race of the season we have a very interesting situation, not just how close the championship is but the two men who are racing for it and the situation they are in. I will begin by outlining the situations below.

If Dario gets pole, wins, and leads the most laps no matter where Will finishes, Dario wins the series championship.

If Dario wins and Will finish second without Dario winning pole AND leading the most laps Will wins the series championship.

If Dario comes in second without leading the most laps or winning the pole Will must finish 6th or higher to to win the series championship. However if Dario finishes second and leads the most laps OR wins pole will must finish 5th or better.

If Dario finishes 3rd Will must place 8th or better unless Dario for some reason leads the most laps, then he must place 7th or better regardless of pole...

...and from there it gets less significant, but the real interesting thing comes down to these two men. Will Power is a master on the street and road courses taking all of his wins there this season and only finishing a career best 3rd on a oval last race. Dario is a seasoned veteran of Indy Car clinching the AJ Foyt Trophy for oval racing this year and still being quite formidable on the street and road courses as well. He has finished 1st 5th and 2nd on the past three ovals while Will has struggled and cut Will's massive lead going into these ovals down to almost nothing.

The technical advantage goes to Will Power with a slight points lead that puts the pressure on Dario however experience advantage goes to Dario with his two prior championships and his mastery of the ovals. The way its stacked up I am actually inclined to say the advantage goes to Dario with one exception, team mates.

I would not dream of dogging the Iceman (Dixon) however he has not been nearly as much help to Dario as Heilo and Ryan have been to Powers. If Heilo and Ryan can continue to perform as they have and keep Dario from the front of the field its going to make Wills job a LOT easier. In the past 3 Races Ryan has held one pole and was able to yield a position to Powers in a race allowing him to finish third to reduce damage. Heilo has finished ahead of Dario twice denying him at least 12 points. Dixon has only placed above Powers once denying him only 2 points.

Bottom line, its going to be interesting this weekend. Will has to perform enough to put the pressure on Dario, so its anyone call who has the advantage.