This is the Formula 1 thread
- 12 Teams
- 24 Drivers
- 20 Races
- 6 Former Champions
that can actually win anything
Red Bull Racing
The 2011 season saw Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel (on the right), who snatched the 2010 Championship title at the last Grand Prix of the season, continue their rule with a dominant performance leading the championship from Melbourne to São Paulo. But while Vettel became the youngest double champion in the history of Formula1 his teammate, Mark Webber, found himself unable to perform to the same standard. Barely beating Alonso with a single point for 3d place, despite driving one of the most dominant cars of recent years (RBR took 18/19 pole positions in 2011), the rumors say this might be the veteran's last year driving for Red Bull.
The British duo, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, are our former champions #2 and #3. Lewis had a rough year in 2011; he fired his father from the position of manager and had rocky patch with his pop star girlfriend. The result was a frustrated driver who was punished for so many incidents he called the stewards racist after the Monaco GP. Still, he won enough races to make up for it clinching him the 5th place overall.
Button on the other hand did better, despite what many might have thought before he joined McLaren he was the best driver of the team in 2011 and the only driver to beat a Red Bull in the standings. Proving himself to be a wet weather specialist and consistent podium finisher he has become famous as a smooth driver and a smooth talker, one of my favorites.
Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso (former champion #4) are, though they seem to both wish it wasn't so, teammates at the legendary team Ferrari. Ferrari seem to have lost their edge in the last few years, their engineers have not be able to beat McLaren's or Red Bull's cars, so Alonso has had to drive his heart out to get on the podium at all. Massa didn't even manage that. Placing 4th and 6th respectively they will be hungry for 2012.
Niko Rosberg and the now 43 year old 7 time world champion Michael Schumacher (#5) drive for Mercedes. Mercedes is a relatively new team with top engineering talent that is likely to be a future top team. Though not quite ready to fight with the big boys yet they held strong against the smaller teams behind them. Took 7th and 8th place.
What has changed?
Blown Diffusers are banned
Showed good speed early in the year last season but was unable to keep up with the constant improvements of the top teams, with returning Kimi Raikkonen (former champion #6) they might have an outside chance at a podium finish or two.
An interesting team that showed some teeth last year, Paul di Resta could be champion in a few years.
Watch out for Kamui Kobayashi, one of the most aggressive overtakers on the grid. Always exciting.
Red Bull's little brother.
Former top team.
Previously known as Lotus
Previously known as Virgin
Last year saw the rise of blown diffusers. Essentially it is a way to use exhaust gases to generate down force at the back of the car. The problem was that for it to work well you needed computer controlled valves that would let the car burn fuel (and therefor generate down force) even when the driver takes his foot off the throttle. This required complicated software that the smaller teams couldn't compete with. So in effort to 1) keep computer controlled systems to a bare minimum and 2) even the playing field, they were banned.
This might prove crucial, some experts say the reason Red Bull managed to make such good qualifying laps last year was the huge amount of down force and speed they managed to get through the corners. With that advantage gone Red Bull will have to think very hard to keep their title.
New safety rules mean the noses of the cars must be lower to reduce the chance of cars climbing over each other in a crash and taking the head of the poor soul who ended up underneath. This will be immediately apparent when we look at this year's cars.
This year has 20 races which is the most ever. The new track is "Circuit of The Americas" for the American Grand Prix in Austin. The track is not finished yet (as far as I know) so it might not actually happen until next season.
New to Formula1?
Here is a crash course.
The Grand Prix Weekend
Practice 1&2. Completely uninteresting to all but the most die hard fans. Allows the drivers to familiarize themselves with the track and allows the teams to let their young Test Drivers out in a real F1 car so that they at some point in the future can start competing.
Practice 3 & Qualifying. Qualifying is where the fun begins. There are 3 qualifying heats; the first is 20 min, the second 15 min and the third 10 min. In qualifying each driver tries to set the fastest lap time they can, there is no racing against each other just against the clock (though many cars might be running at the same time). After each heat the 7 slowest drivers are given their starting position with the slowest at the back and the times for the cars fast enough to continue are wiped. The 10 fastest drivers, that run in the last final qualifying heat, will have to start the GP with the same tires they set their fastest lap.
The Race: Exactly what it sounds like, the actual race.
Tire choice and pit stop strategy is one of the most integral parts of F1 racing.
All the teams have access to the same 6 kinds of tires: 4 slicks -[Super soft, Soft, Medium and Hard] and 2 treaded -[Intermediate and Wet].
Of the slicks each team has to select 3 sets of 'prime' tires (Medium or Hard) and 3 sets of 'option' tires (super soft or soft) for each driver. These 6 sets are the only tires a car is allowed to use during qualifying and race. As mentioned previously the front 10 on the starting grid has to start with the same tires they set their qualifying lap. Both 'prime' and 'option' must be used during the race.
(If it rains almost all this can be ignored, any car can always use wet or intermediate tires for no penalty)
The different tire types function differently, each one gives its maximum amount of grip when they are at their boiling point (if you will) which means that different tires are better in different weather and on different tracks. On slow speed tracks softer tires are better while at high speed tracks harder tires might be better.
The tires also degrade at different rates, a set of super soft might make you go 3 seconds faster each lap but might only last half as long as a set of hard tires.
Which is where pit stops come in. Choosing the right time pit dependent on things such as changing weather conditions, tire degradation, the traffic on the track etc. can win or lose a race.
Put on super soft to catch up with the cars ahead of you before they pit? If you come out from the pit lane behind a row of slower cars suddenly you can't make up the seconds you wanted and instead sit on a set of fast degrading tires without getting the speed you needed. Do you go for 2 stops or 3 stops? Maybe even 4 or just 1? Different teams and different drivers run different strategies which makes the races dynamic and exciting.
There are two bits of technology that might be good to have a handle on.
"Kinetic Energy Recovery System". A battery that stores energy when the car breaks. That energy can then be used to boost the car with extra power and acceleration when the driver presses a button. That KERS button can only be pressed for a set amount of time each lap.
"Drag Reduction System". Its a flap in the rear wing that the driver can open up to reduce drag (and down force) to increase top speed. Is only allowed to be used on certain straights when within 1 second of the car in front. Closes the moment the driver start breaking.
Star your engines
The first Grand Prix of the season will be on this Sunday the 18th of March in Melbourne Australia. The first race is always interesting because it is the first time that the new cars will be run in anger, as they say. There is only a handful of controlled and open sessions in the pre-season for teams to test and revise their new designs outside of a wind tunnel. Which means some teams, particularly at the back of the grid, are holding their thumbs that the car will even finish the race before breaking down. And the top teams are so secretive about their true performance that they can't even be sure how fast they are themselves, and have no idea about their rivals.
In short it is all up in the air right now but this weekend is the moment the rubber meets the road. Will the stepped "platypus" noses work or is McLaren doing the right thing with their traditional design? What are the teams doing with their exhaust gases with the new rules? What is that slot in the step of the Red Bull really
for? Why does the Ferrari look like its made of lego? Nobody knows. Yet.